Good morning! I hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July and you got a chance to see family, friends, parades and fireworks and anything else that is your Independence Day tradition. And, I hope you had some strawberry shortcake. The strawberries seemed to have enjoyed their snowy blanket this winter and are producing some really sweet treats.

I took visited a couple of local gardens a week or so ago. In the process, I found a new plant, at least new to me, saw how a well-constructed garden will survive almost anything and viewed a very curious sight. You never know what is hidden behind those country stonewalls guarded by trees nor do we tend to notice the beauty right in front of us.

I set out with my camera to take a photo at Ye Olde Farm Stand, owned by George and Barbara Kennedy, on Route 4 in north Turner. As I sped by on two or three occasions, I noticed a gorgeous clematis that had been espaliered on the farm stand. Espalier is training a plant to grow flat against a wall or fence. It is a common training technique for pears, apricots and apples as well as flowering quince, climbing roses and hollies. By removing unwanted growth tips and continual light pruning, the plant will follow the desired pattern’s shape.

Well, this white clematis was in full bloom across the brown wood front of the building and was stunning in its beauty. But, unfortunately, when I finally got the camera and got there, it had gone by. I know, “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Well, that is exactly what I had done.

Did a double-take

As I turned in disappointment from that bloomless wall, a splash of bright red caught my eye. When I looked, I mean really looked, I saw a gorgeous garden tucked between the pavement of Route 4 and the farm stand parking lot. And, I realized, as I had driven by and focused on that clematis, I had missed an eye-catching display. But then, I do believe we all miss quite a lot when traveling at 60 mph on a busy road in the midst of our busy lives.

I took a picture as an example of the wonderful gardening that can be done in the most inhospitable places. This bed is surrounded by pavement and curbing on all sides and must get very hot throughout the summer. And we probably do not want to contemplate the amount of exhaust coming from all the cars on Route 4.

But the exuberance of the plants, especially the sedum growing over the berms on all sides, is a perfect example of planting what thrives in particular circumstances. Barbara has always had waves of colorful flowers around the farm, and she obviously planted well.

My second stop that day was up on a rise overlooking long expanses of the hills and vales that comprise north Turner on the eastern side. I had been talking gardens with Annette Leavitt and she invited me up to see hers. The driveway is typical rural Maine, an opening by a lovely stonewall with tree growth that comes only with years of patience. Between that stonewall and the road is a lovely patch of lupines and a pink old-fashioned rose that gives you but a small inkling of what awaits up the path.

Now, Annette will tell you instantly that she has a “crazy garden.” She says she sees a plant she likes and “I just buy it.” She leaves the “where will I put it?” to a later time. Sometimes that means she has to move plants around because one is behind another. But you can see the sheer joy that the garden brings her when you watch her face as she talks about it. So, obviously, crazy or not, her garden has accomplished the ultimate goal.

It is not a common occurrence for me anymore to look at a garden and not know what a particular plant might be. Years tend to acquaint you, at least in some small measure, with at least the look of a plant. You know you have seen it before even if you can’t remember the name. But in Annette’s garden, I had the fun of discovering a new plant – in two colors.

Annette explained they are gas plants, two in pink and one in white. They are really quite lovely and a good addition to a border because of their height. It is not always easy to find fairly tall plants for the back of a border. The pink ones are taller than the white but both are nice clumps of color and look to be quite well behaved in their spaces. It becomes tiresome to always have to restrain or control wandering plants, no matter how lovely they might be.

According to my plant book, gas plants, or dictamnus albus, are a clump-forming perennial suitable for a border and got their name because they produce oil which may ignite in hot, windless weather. Annette has had them quite a long time, she said, and she didn’t mention any spontaneous fires. However, they probably wouldn’t work really well if you lived in the desert.

It has been my experience, which this visit highlighted yet again, that you cannot rush lovely gardens. You can’t make the trees gnarled and old. You can’t make the barn weathered. And you can’t install the peculiar characteristics that make each garden as individual as its owner.

Now this is where it gets curious.

On my way back to my car, I stopped at what appeared to be a most peculiar tree. The bark on the trunk said white birch but the growth didn’t even say tree, let alone birch. I stopped and took a very good look. I still didn’t know what I was looking at, although there were a few sparks in the back of my mind that said, “I know those leaves.” I just looked at my hostess with a questioning expression on my face. She smiled.

“We had to cut the tree,” she said, “but the euonymus just made a new one.” Some euonymus shrubs had been planted under that tree, and they just proceeded to grow up the trunk and through the crevices and out the top and, well, made a new tree – a euonymus tree. Now I am aware that euonymus does climb because they are climbing the wall of my house beside my front walkway, but I didn’t know they would do it so exuberantly. Sometimes it just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Until next time, adjust and prosper where you are planted, let something peculiar have a chance because it might turn into something amazing and don’t forget to make strawberry jam. It will taste extraordinary in your Christmas tarts.

Happy gardening!

Jody Goodwin has been gardening for more than 25 years. She lives in Turner with her husband, Ike, her two dogs and two cats. She can be reached by writing to her in care of the Sun Journal, 104 Park St., Lewiston, Maine, 04243-4400 or by e-mail at [email protected]


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