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‘The right plant for the right place’ Mosaic garden will be featured in Whately Historical Society tour

  • Cecelia Staryos and George Pappas the Caucasian climbing spinach she grows in her Whately garden. Behind the couple is a wire globe sculpture that she hopes the spinach will eventually climb. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Cecelia Staryos and George Pappas the Caucasian climbing spinach she grows in her Whately garden. Behind the couple is a wire globe sculpture that she hopes the spinach will eventually climb.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Labrador violet grows in Cecelia Staryos' garden in Whately.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Labrador violet grows in Cecelia Staryos' garden in Whately.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cecelia Staryos' gratitude garden. Each of the stone planters holds individual plants.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Cecelia Staryos' gratitude garden. Each of the stone planters holds individual plants.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • A view from Cecelia Staryos' deck reveals yellow double buttercup (Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pieno') in the foreground. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    A view from Cecelia Staryos' deck reveals yellow double buttercup (Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pieno') in the foreground.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Single-flower peonies <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Single-flower peonies
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Double buttercups (Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pleno')<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Double buttercups (Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pleno')
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cecelia Staryos and her Chow Chow, Lena, walk on a bridge in the garden that passes over a stream at the base of Stone Mountain. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Cecelia Staryos and her Chow Chow, Lena, walk on a bridge in the garden that passes over a stream at the base of Stone Mountain.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cecelia Staryos garden in Whately contains a variety of plants and trees, including ones native to China and Japan. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Cecelia Staryos garden in Whately contains a variety of plants and trees, including ones native to China and Japan.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cecelia Staryos behind a stand of bearded iris and a single creamy white Japanese peony.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

    Cecelia Staryos behind a stand of bearded iris and a single creamy white Japanese peony.
    AYRIKA WHITNEY Purchase photo reprints »

  • Cecelia Staryos and George Pappas the Caucasian climbing spinach she grows in her Whately garden. Behind the couple is a wire globe sculpture that she hopes the spinach will eventually climb. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Labrador violet grows in Cecelia Staryos' garden in Whately.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Cecelia Staryos' gratitude garden. Each of the stone planters holds individual plants.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • A view from Cecelia Staryos' deck reveals yellow double buttercup (Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pieno') in the foreground. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Single-flower peonies <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Double buttercups (Ranunculus acris 'Flore Pleno')<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Cecelia Staryos and her Chow Chow, Lena, walk on a bridge in the garden that passes over a stream at the base of Stone Mountain. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Cecelia Staryos garden in Whately contains a variety of plants and trees, including ones native to China and Japan. <br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY
  • Cecelia Staryos behind a stand of bearded iris and a single creamy white Japanese peony.<br/>AYRIKA WHITNEY

Stone Mountain, which rises sharply behind the home of Cecelia Staryos in Whately, inspired her to create informal gardens filled with unusual plants and enhanced with stone accents. Her garden is among five on the June 15 garden tour sponsored by the Whately Historical Society.

“What drew me to the property was Stone Mountain,” Staryos said in an interview last week. “There is a year-round stream, and a quiet, almost magical forest.”

Staryos is a practitioner of reiki, an Asian form of stress therapy, and some of her garden areas have an Asian ambiance. Separated from her gravel parking area by a large boulder is the Gratitude Garden, a small section with square stone planters set into the gravel. Each planter holds a separate plant, mostly sedums or lavender. Cairns of three small round stones were inspired by Tibetan prayer statues.

“They make you feel physically centered,” she said, adding that she says a prayer every time she passes this garden. On the garden side of the boulder is a bed of mint — peppermint, spearmint, chocolate-mint and Mojito mint.

A love for design

Visitors enter the main garden along a brick pathway laid by Staryos’s husband, George Pappas. He also helps with other aspects of the garden. For example, he crafted an abstract metal memorial statue for their beloved Chow Chow named Bucca that is near the parking area.

Nearby, beside the brick path, is a tiny artistic vignette Staryos made from white and gray stones accented by a large snail shell and other shells. In the center is Labrador violet with purplish leaves.

“It’s like a mosaic,” she said. “I’m a very visual person,” Staryos added. “I love design. I love creating beauty. I love flowers. I love babying things so they do well. This is my canvas.”

Pathways of wood chips meander through her gardens past her deck and lead to the stream with a simple board bridge and to a forest glen the couple are revamping to be a retreat area. Along the way, beds of colorful flowers and a variety of foliage textures delight the eye.

Staryos practices the art of finding the “right plant for the right place,” which often requires considerable experimentation.

“I can’t seem to plant something right the first time. I’m always moving plants to make sure they are happy,” she said. “However, after many years, it’s almost intuitive now.”

For instance, it took three tries to site a yellow-leafed Asian grass that does well in shade: Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’, which prefers moist, well-drained soil. Now located under the shade of an apple tree, it is paired with ostrich fern and an astilbe that will be in bloom for the tour.

Another shady garden features miniature hostas including variegated ‘Pandora’s Box’, blue ‘Mouse Ears’ and yellow leafed ‘Kifukurin ko mame’. Staryos also has varieties of epimediums purchased several years ago from Darrell Probst, who ran a nursery in Hubbardston promoting Asian species he discovered in China. Probst has since turned to breeding coreopsis or tickseed, including the much-touted ‘Mercury Rising’.

Drawing the eye

Looking out on the garden from the deck, the eye is drawn to Stone Mountain. Staryos has uncovered an area of ledge and fallen rock as a backdrop to the garden. A sinuous metal sculpture called “The Worm” drapes itself over the rocks. She can’t remember the name of the artist, who is deceased, but she found the sculpture in Brookfield and was told the sculptor’s works are also at Williams College.

Along the stream are water irises, blue-eyed grass and Anemone sylvestris: Yes, she says, she knows it can be invasive, but this is an ideal spot for it to thrive without threatening other plants. In other gardens she simply pulls it out before it takes over.

One of the garden beds away from the stream features Ranunculus acris ‘Flore Pleno’, a perennial buttercup with small double, button-like yellow flowers. She first saw it in “the American Horticultural Society’s Encyclopedia of Garden Plants,” a lushly illustrated tome which she reads nearly every night. The ranunculus is next to a long-blooming white fern-leaf bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia) and what appears to be a Filipendula palmata or meadowsweet. Farther along the path a lovely pale pink-white single Japanese peony is paired with an array of bearded iris in blues and mauves. Staryos lamented that her tree peonies, which she said were gorgeous last year, inexplicably failed to bloom this year.

The path leads to the forested area where a large tree came down over the winter and was being cut up with a chain saw by a friend. A circular area beyond the tree will become a peaceful gathering place encircled with a rustic fence of piled branches.

Year-round spinach

At the beginning of the forest is a striking dome structure made of wire used to reinforce concrete. The globe was designed by Staryos and made by her stepfather, Jim Santos of Ludlow. Soon it will support an unusual vegetable: Hablitzia tamnoides, or Caucasian spinach vine. Staryos learned of the vegetable from Lisa DePiano with whom she has studied permaculture. The perennial spinach prefers shade.

“You can have spinach year-round because it doesn’t bolt,” Staryos explained. She obtained seed from Poland through the Seed Savers Exchange. “These are my babies,” she said, cradling a flat of seedlings grown in Jiffy pots. She expects the vines to grow at least half-way up the globe which is 6 feet tall.

“We can just come out here and pick a salad,” she predicted. (For more information on this unusual plant visit www.permaculturenursery.com/trials.htm.)

She is also experimenting with a new turf grass called ‘Pearl’s Premium’, a variety bred in Massachusetts. It reportedly produces taproots and chokes out weeds. It only has to be mowed once a month. Staryos and Pappas sowed seed this spring and it appears to be doing well.

Staryos has many unusual shrubs and trees, including a Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata) whose needles radiate out from the trunk producing a very symmetrical tree. She also has corkscrew willows (Salix matsudana) and a weeping spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’), along with lovely rhododendrons. She also has a thriving katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum) and a Stewartia pseudocamellia which, she says, blooms reliably in the summer with white gardenia-like flowers.

She grows strawberries in strawberry pots on her deck, and raspberries and blueberries.

“I never harvest any of the blueberries,” she confessed. The birds get to them first, especially a persistent blue jay who cavorts in the bushes.

“He cracks me up,” she said with a laugh. One of her shrub hollies draws a flock of robins every year which strip the berries in less than an hour. “It’s a beautiful sight.”

Staryos says she hopes to add an Asian pear to her fruit orchard and a paw paw, a favorite of permaculture enthusiasts. She plans to graft three varieties of Asian pear on one tree and has found a supplier in Virginia who grows 23 kinds of the large round fruits, popular on the West Coast but less well-known in New England where they are perfectly hardy.

Staryos buys most of her plants locally, including at Home Depot, but she also surfs the Internet, where she purchased a dwarf Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium dubium). She says she’s fond of all forms of the native plant that provides wonderful structure to the late summer and fall garden.

Staryos said she loves to garden.

“I have gardened for as long as I can remember,” she said. She has mostly learned from experience but she has also taken courses in horticulture, including the program sponsored by the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association and classes in permaculture.

“If it’s daylight, you’ll find me in the garden,” she said. Obviously her plants appreciate the tender, loving care and visitors will appreciate the beauty she has created at the foot of Stone Mountain.

Cheryl B. Wilson can be reached at valleygardens@comcast.net.

Related

Whately Garden Tour: The particulars

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Whately Garden Tour is Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are five gardens on the tour including one at a bed-and-breakfast, another deep in the forest, and one designed for butterflies and hummingbirds. Several feature artwork. One gardener says that gardening is therapeutic and another notes that “gardening, like life, is a work in progress.” Tickets cost … 0

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