black barn cocktailOur first “Cocktails in Great Gardens” event for 2013 took place this past Friday at Black Barn Farm home to Matt Larkin (our very own Chariman of the Board) and Lainie Grant.  It was amazing – (and I’m not just saying that because Matt is our board chair.)  First of all – the weather was just perfect – an amazing early summer evening in the Berkshires that we all hope for here at the office when we have these events.   Second – we had a nice turn out.  Third – there was CHAMPAGNE!

Above all this garden was just so unique that it left visitors enchanted.   The allee of trees that welcomed you to the garden and lead to the pool house and the countless, phenomenal, larger than life topiary gave the garden a refined and polished feel, yet there was something else there – a darker side that you rarely find in a garden.  The large black barn and pool house.  An arch of roots and tree stumps leading into the forest.  A stone altar covered in large animal bones.  The cherub hanging upside down from a trellis and gargoyles carved into the legs of wooden stump-stools under an arbor.  Everywhere there were just hints of something a little sinister that also felt playful.   This was “outside of the box” gardening at its finest and done in a manner that gave everyone who attended a new perspective on what is possible – exactly what these events were designed to do.  A big thank you to Matt Larkin and Lainie Grant for welcoming us into their home and being such wonderful hosts!

If you didn’t get a chance to come to this event, but would still like to see the garden at Black Barn Farm, you are in luck.  It will be open to the public on July 28th from 1-4pm as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program for 2013.  For more info, go to www.opendaysprogram.com.

IMG_1619

IMG_1635

IMG_1574  IMG_1591   IMG_1598IMG_1623IMG_1640IMG_1633

IMG_1577

IMG_1596

IMG_1593

Peony1

There is no denying that peonies (or Paeonia, the only genus in the family Paeoniceae,) are superstars of the early summer garden. Showy, fragrant, and a great cut flower, peonies, an herbaceous perennial, are very hardy and easy to grow in zones 3-8. Although relatively maintenance free, here are some helpful tips to help you grow the best peony on your block.

 

First of all, know this:
When peonies are at their peak and looking their very best, a punishing thunderstorm is going to roll through and ruin the show. Just accept it. It happens every single year and there is nothing you can do about it.

Even without a heavy rain, peonies can get top heavy and tend to droop over. You can give them a little help. Peonies enjoy being supported with a hoop-type support. Put out the support as soon as you see growth, and the leaves will cover the supporting structure in no time. If, however, your new plant is already two feet or higher, wait until next year. You don’t want to break your plant.

Thankfully, peonies have relatively few diseases. The most common one is botrytis. An excellent resource on the diseases of peonies can be found on the Penn State website.

Most likely, you are going to see ants on your peonies, maybe lots of them. Don’t worry about this one bit — it’s natural. Some think they even play a role in helping them flower and will disappear after the plant has done so. There’s no need to spray to get rid of them. They’ll disappear when the blooms open and will do nothing to hurt them (or you.)

Don’t be afraid to cut your peonies and bring them inside (especially if you know that thunderstorm is on the horizon!).
When you do cut blooms, leave at least two leaf nodes on the stem. Your plant needs its leaves to continue to produce food for the plant, so cut your vase display with short stems. After your blooms disappear, your peony plant will continue to please as a leafy bush. At the end of the growing season, cut your peony down to the ground, being sure not to cut the buds. Mulch heavily, and gently remove the mulch in the spring.

peony3If you don’t already have peonies in your garden:
The best way to get this show is to purchase and plant a potted peony right now (spring.) Plant it in a well-drained area in full sun so that the soil level of the potted plant is level with the soil you are planting it in. A soil pH of 6 to 7, but no lower than 5.5 is ideal. Do not fertilize the first year. For that matter, peonies really do not require much fertilizing at all, and over-fertilizing will weaken the leaves and produce small blooms. Too much nitrogen may inhibit bloom growth and encourage more greenery. That said, no fertilizing is better than too much. When you dig your hole, you may add bone meal or compost or superphosphate to the hole, but cover this with soil before you put the plant in, as you may burn the roots otherwise. After the first year, peonies might like a light fertilizing, ¼ to ½ cup of 5-10-10 scratched lightly into the soil at the beginning of spring, and again halfway through the growing season. Do this at the drip line and don’t dig too deeply, as you don’t want to disturb the roots.

peony2The best way to propagate peonies:
This is done by root division, which you do in October when the plant has begun to go dormant. You may cut through the plant while it is still in the ground, and either remove the whole plant and replant parts or just remove some parts. The best time to prepare your new site is in the spring. Dig a hole at least one foot deep or more and add organic matter to the soil. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of 10-10-10 per plant to the soil in the bottom of the bed. Do not add fertilizer to the soil that will touch the roots. Add soil back into hole and mark it so you can find it easily. When you are ready to plant, dig a foot-deep hole in your prepared soil area. Make the hole wide enough so the roots can spread out. Place your new plant with at least five eyes so that the eyes are no lower than two inches below the soil level. Planting them too deeply will inhibit blooms next year. If you don’t mind how it looks, you can place your supports in the ground at the fall planting time. It may take up to three years for your new plant to establish and bloom, but it will be well worth the wait.

An excellent resource on peonies this author found is here.

Thank YouPlantsalethanksPlant Sale 2Getting our annual Plant Sale off the ground is no small task.  There is a ton of growing, planning, setting up, tearing down, cooking and organizing that our staff and over 150 volunteers work on for months to make sure the Garden has a successful event.  And it was a HUGE success!  Thanks to all of you who came out, on Saturday and Sunday (rain and all) to support the Garden and all of the amazing people who help keep us going.  It’s such a great opportunity to see so many familiar faces and catch up with old friends.  It’s easy to see why Plant Sale is always one of our most favorite events and traditions.  A sincere, giant  THANK YOU to everyone who helped make it happen!

RIQOTW

Should I have my soil tested?

soil9Yes, yes and YES! For almost all of the plant health questions that we receive, the first thing that we do is to ask whether or not you have had your soil tested because, more often than not, poor or wrong soil conditions are usually the issue.

Your soil has a lot going on down there. It’s a combination of sand, silt (rock), clay particles, organic matter (poop and dead stuff), air, and water. The decaying organic matter is food for all of the creatures that live in healthy soil: earthworms, insects, beneficial nematodes, bacteria and other microorganisms. If you took just one quarter of a teaspoon of soil, you would find about a BILLION microorganisms. All of those elements and creatures create a balance that is critical to your plant growth.

One of the most important conditions that affects the quality of plant growth is ph; the measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. The soil ph impacts the release of minerals into the soil. When the ph is incorrect for the plant growing there, the minerals needed for plant growth are not released to the plant even if all of the nutrients are present. It’s like having a safety deposit box at the bank filled with gold but no key to open it. We measure ph on a scale of 1-14 where 7 is neutral. Below 7 and your soil is acidic, above 7 and your soil is alkaline.

When should I have my soil tested?

If you can, test your soil BEFORE you put in that new flower bed or fencerow of trees. Most soils will probably need amending and that can take a lot of time if you are relying on those nutrients to move through the soil from the top down. If you can mix in those amendments to the top 6-8 inches of the soil before planting, you can speed up the process.

It’s best to have your soil tested every 2-3 years. Sample more frequently if you are monitoring your fertility levels or growing crops or plants that are known to use a lot of resources.

soil1 How to take a soil sample:

1. First, determine the area where you want to plant. Find a small spot in that area and remove any turf, debris, mulch, residue, etc. that may be covering the soil.
2. Take your trowel and make a cone-shaped hole that is 6-8 inches deep.
3. Now, remove a thin layer from the side of the hole with your trowel, a “slice” of soil if you will, and put it in a container.
4. Repeat this step ten times. That’s right, ten times and no cheating! It is important to get a good sampling of soil throughout your planting site for an accurate reading. For larger areas you may even want to do more.
5. Once you have all of your “slices,” go ahead and mix them up really well, breaking up large clumps.
6. Now spread the mixture out on a paper towel and let that air dry overnight.
7. Once dry, take a ½ cup of the soil and put it in a plastic bag.  Label the bag with your name, contact info, site location, and what you intend on growing at the site.

Congratulations! You have got yourself one good soil sample that is ready for testing.
soil 2Where to get your soil sample tested:

There are lots of different places you can have your soil sampled. Most places charge just a small fee and can do sampling rather quickly.

• The Master Gardeners perform soil testing for ph levels here at the Berkshire Botanical Garden every Monday from 9 a.m. to noon for just $1. Bring a sample with your name, telephone number, and what you wish to grow at the site.
• The Farmer’s Market at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough also has soil testing on the following dates from 9 a.m. to noon: May 11 and 18, June 15, July 13, August 17, and September 7 and 14.
• In Massachusetts, mail your soil sample to UMASS for a complete soil analysis.
• In Connecticut, visit the UCONN website.
• In New York, visit the Cornell website.
• You may also want to contact your local municipality to see if they provide soil testing. Oftentimes, towns or counties will have free testing for residents or will do it locally.

Maypole

I had never been to Roy Boutard Day before but as a new employee of the Garden and a graduate of the Horticulture Certificate Program this year, I had a lot of reasons to attend and I’m sure glad that I did.  Not only was the weather MorrismenAMAZING but the activities were incredible.  I’m not sure what I thought a May Pole Dance was – in my head I pictured a mix between tetherball and rythmic gymnastics (two other things I really don’t have a clue about) but I was all set to be unimpressed.  I couldn’t have been more wrong-it was amazing.  The 5th graders from the Rudolf Steiner school did these elaborate, choreographed dances that created different patterns of ribbon around the May Pole while the Berkshire Morris Men accompanied them on the accordion.  The Morris Men put on quite the show themselves with their English folk dancing and traditional attire – bells and all.  The whole thing just made me feel good and its always great to see families in the Garden enjoying themselves.

DavidDavid Burdick (owner of Daffodils and More) was on hand as well, giving a historic tour of the garden.  David served at the Garden for many years with the beloved Roy Boutard and shared stories and Garden facts with those who came along on the walk.  It was a great way to look at the Garden – through the eyes of someone who had seed so much of its development and to learn what has changed, and what has stayed the same.

Roy Boutard Day is also when we celebrate the graduation of the particGraduationipants of our Horticulture Certificate Programs.  I might be a little biased here, but it was great to see so many fellow students there celebrating their accomplishments.  If you have ever considered continuing your education through the study of horticulture, I can’t recommend this program enough.  Classes are small and friendly and the teachers are just incredible and come from all over- Cornell, UMASS and local professionals.

The festivities were capped with a reception by the Herb Associates where they presented their popular Mai Bowl and herb cookies.  My satisfaction with this element of RBD (Roy Boutard Day) cannot be over stated.  I had at least one of every cookie that they had out and there were over a dozen.  I think my favorite were the fennel sugar cookies – or maybe the chocolate ginger snaps?  Oh wait – the snickerdoodles…I just can’t decide.  And THEN there was the punch.  The things these ladies do with herbs are unreal.  Then again, I guess 60 years of tradition and practice can do that.

MaiBowle

Gettingready

It’s Opening Day!! Everyone from our interns to the bees have been busy getting the garden in tip-top shape to welcome the public when we open our “doors” today.  We all feel that 2013 is going to be one of our best seasons yet and we are excited to share our hard work with everyone.  The Garden is open from 9am- 5pm daily.  If you want to see what plants are in bloom during any particular time of year, be sure to check out the Berkshires in Bloom section of this website.  Also, take a look at what classes, events and special programs that we offer year round.

When you come to the garden, make sure to say hello to the staff and volunteers you see on the grounds.  Feel free to ask us questions and give us your comments.  We look forward to seeing you here at the Garden!!

Garden News

box-support

Connect With Us

bbg-facebook bbg-pinterest bbg-youtube
or Sign Up for our Newsletter

Berkshires In Bloom

Be A Force Of Nature

box-support