Boston Flower Show 2018: Floral Displays & Selected Vendors

Boston Flower Show 2018 posts:


[For introductory information on the 2018 Boston Flower Show, please check out the Intro post!]



There are always about a dozen floral design competitions hosted by the Garden Club Federation of Massachusetts, plus a judged photography exhibit overseen by Mass Hort, both with set themes such as — this year — Swan Boats, Opening Day!, Field of Green, St. Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day Breakfast in Bed, and so on.

These were my favourites.

“Boating on the Charles” Cascade design
“Boating on the Charles” Cascade design – clever use of foliage (I think) to suggest the boat
“Mother’s Day Tray for One” with a retro French coffee press
“Swan Boat” display — those veronicas or veronicastrums perfectly suggest swan necks, and the overall effect is gorgeous
St. Patrick’s Day – two of the displays have hardly any plant material in them
Potting Shed competition entrant
another Potting Shed competition entrant
yet another Potting Shed competition entrant



I don’t spend much time in the vendor aisles (which take up more floor space than the garden exhibits unfortunately), except to taste the wares, which this year included delectable cracked green and kalamata olives; sweet and savory jellies; interesting sweet, savory, and salty cookies; dried cranberries; herbal dips, dressings, and marinades; olive oils and vinegars; honey. Usually there are also teas, smoothies, and wines but there were no drinks to sample this time, .

Herewith, the handful of vendors (besides the seed company I noted in the edible gardening section) that amused me or offered something I thought was interesting, delicious, or useful:

Rocky Hall apiaries
Savor (that’s the company’s name): sweet, savory, and salty cookies with ginger, lime, chai, hot peppers, coconut, and so on. Quite good!
mushroom inoculation kits
Dafni cracked green olives at the Lakonia Greek Products booth … yum!
the folks selling rain barrels had this interesting and attractive idea
Beverly Bees (Beverly MA) — They come remove bees from your attic or shed! Also wasps, but they’re not so friendly to the wasps.


Finally, these roses for sale were just sweet.



Featured image at top of page: painting of Narragansett lager beer for sale: Made on Honor, Sold on Merit. 

Boston Flower Show 2018: Garden Exhibitor Displays

Boston Flower Show 2018 posts:


[For introductory information on the 2018 Boston Flower Show, please check out the Intro post!]


On to the 2018 Boston Flower Show displays themselves:

The New England Hosta Society display — “We’re Not Your Grandparents’ Hostas” — was of particular interest to me; there are 3,000-4,000 host varieties registered in the U.S. and the sometimes subtle differences in them fascinate me. The Society’s statement in the show’s booklet states, in part: “[Hostas] transform into an eye-feast of leaf color, variegation, size and form. Savor the colors: green, blue, gold, white. Relish the sizes: from minis to giants. Partake of patterns: variegations, streaks, wavy margins.”

path to bench, New England Hosta Society display
hostas with heucheras, rhododendron, hellebores, evergreens, New England Hosta Society display
diminutive ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ hosta, New England Hosta Society display
‘Island Breeze’ hosta, New England Hosta Society display
‘Luna Moth’ hosta, New England Hosta Society display
‘Rocket’s Red Glare’ hosta with red stems, New England Hosta Society display
tiny (real) trillium with tiny ceramic fairies in the New England Hosta Society display

I am a big shade garden fan; in my ideal garden, about half the land would be flat and in full sun for edibles, the other half with a more varied terrain in part-shade or even deep shade for shade plants, of which hostas, Rodgersia, carex and hakone grasses, bottle gentians, and woodland plants — gingers, ferns, columbines, bloodroot, et al.) — would constitute the lion’s share.

The hosta society offered a very useful handout, A Guide to Hosta; here’s one page from it:



The Heimlich’s Nurseries (Woburn, MA) display, inspired by a poem written by their grandfather, featured a waterwheel in a pond, lots of trees (as usual for them), some forced shrubs and weeping trees, azaleas/rhodos, heathers, bulbs, and perennials.

pond, waterwheel, conifers, hyacinths, shrubs – Heimlich’s Nurseries display
forsythia, hyancinths, heathers, trees, Heimlich’s Nurseries display
another view of the pond and waterwheel, Heimlich’s Nurseries display
array of pink heathers, Heimlich’s Nurseries display
Lewisa cotyledon flowers – a new one for me!, Heimlich’s Nurseries display
hellebore flowers, Heimlich’s Nurseries display
tulips, Heimlich’s Nurseries display
orange-red tulip, Heimlich’s Nurseries display


Besides the nasturtium water feature mentioned above —


— the Minuteman Regional High School (Horticulture & Plant Science Dept.; Lexington, MAdisplay — “An Edible Oasis” — also included deutzias (a plant I had in the Maryland garden but that’s not quite hardy enough for NH except in a reliable microclimate), a witch hazel, and some lovely watercolour-hued hyacinths.

Deutzia x Yuki ‘Cherry Blossom’ – Minuteman Regional HS display
witch hazel – – Minuteman Regional HS display
‘Delft Blue’ hyacinths – – Minuteman Regional HS display


Miskovsky Landscaping (Falmouth, MA) & Haskell Nursery (Fairhaven, MA) teamed up for this display, which includes a garden shed with window boxes and a living roof, an outdoor living space with high privacy fencing (a trellis arbor) augmented by bamboo plants, and a combination of interesting tree, shrub (a few topiaries), perennial, bulb, and container plantings.

shed, walkway, topiary – Miskovsky Landscaping & Haskell Nursery display
shed with landscaping, including rhododendrons – Miskovsky Landscaping & Haskell Nursery display
pink dogwood tree flowers, Miskovsky and Haskell display
outdoor living room with palm, rock – Miskovsky Landscaping & Haskell Nursery display
I like the hyacinths and grasses on the shed roof, though I wonder about the weight — Miskovsky Landscaping & Haskell Nursery display
wooden structure around outdoor living area, with bamboo planted alongside — Miskovsky Landscaping & Haskell Nursery display
‘PJM Agio’ rhododendron – Miskovsky Landscaping & Haskell Nursery display
lily of the valley in flower – Miskovsky Landscaping & Haskell Nursery display


The Joseph Gray Stonework (Stratham, NH) & Pleasant View Gardens (Loudon, NH) display — “Zen Garden” — showcased Gray’s sculpture and stonework and included a sandy zen garden and some pretty “Proven Winner” annuals. Their statement on the Zen garden, in part: “This is a Zen garden discovered in the mountains of Eastern Asia.  It is designed to bring peace and harmony while living in an unsettled world. … The garden allows you to be still with the world, escaping the everyday stress of work, life, and the overload of news from our social media existence.”

statue, stonework – Joseph Gray Stonework & Pleasant View Gardens display
view of zen garden (and other booths) with statue and heron – Joseph Gray Stonework & Pleasant View Gardens display
heron in zen garden – Joseph Gray Stonework & Pleasant View Gardens display
I like this ‘Blood orange’ Nemesia, which I had never heard of — it’s an annual in the Proven Winners Sunsatia ™ line — and the sculpted head — Joseph Gray Stonework & Pleasant View Gardens display
turtle mosaic in stone – Joseph Gray Stonework & Pleasant View Gardens display


The gardenUP (Boston) display — “A Taste of Spring in Form, Function, and Beauty” —  offered four designs: a border garden, privacy planting, foundation planting, and island garden. I didn’t realise that as I was looking and photographing.

landscape with walkway, bench, trees, shrubs, rosemary – gardenUP display
pink heathers against rhodos/azaleas and boxwoods, I think — gardenUP display
red primula flowers – gardenUP display
plantings – gardenUP display

gardenUP seems to specialise in developing computerised, detailed garden plans like this one:



Artistic Landscapes‘ display — “Designed with Nature and Function in Mind” — is meant to emphasize “the importance of local harvesting, repurposing and upcycling while creating a gathering space that complements our interests, hobbies and lifestyles.” It includes an edible garden near the serving/prep area (see previous photo of a vertical herb garden); a pergola made from Alaskan yellow cedar from decommissioned high-tension electrical poles; and “zoned, dimmable, color-changing lights that can be controlled from your smartphone.”

patio with lattice structure, dining table, grill — Artistic Landscapes display
closer view of dining table, seating — Artistic Landscapes display
table setting, grill — Artistic Landscapes display
Love this red tulip, ‘Pinocchio’ — Artistic Landscapes display
close view of a Korean spice viburnum flower bud — Artistic Landscapes display


Samantha’s Gardens (Andover, MA), already mentioned a few times in the edible gardening section, titled their display “Backyard Family Retreat”: “Our idea for this garden was derived from a yearning for a new outdoor experience and living area.” They made the most of the display area with a large tipi (teepee), fire pit with s’mores, bee box, and an array of trees, shrubs, and perennials.

tipi, otter or fisher, landscape, Samantha’s Gardens
view of tipi and gardens from another side, Samantha’s Gardens
and tipi from yet another angle, Samantha’s Gardens
you walk through the handmade arch along a path to the tipi entrance, Samantha’s Gardens
looking inside the tipi (Samantha’s Gardens)
seating area in tipi (Samantha’s Gardens)
desk area in tipi (Samantha’s Gardens)
a little patio with a firepit and s’mores’ fixins (Samantha’s Gardens)
mmmm, s’mores! (Samantha’s Gardens)
mmm, backyard campfire (Samantha’s Gardens)
wider view of gardens with tipi (Samantha’s Gardens)
bee box with bee etiquette (Samantha’s Gardens)
close-up of bee box etiquette – don’t even think about swatting bees! (Samantha’s Gardens)

I like their Carex comens ‘Amazon Mist’ grasses:



Oakwood Landscape & Construction (Millis, MA) built a patio from some kind of pavers, an imposing stone chimney, patio edging, and a pretty little shed — an outdoor spot that the whole family can enjoy.

patio, stonework, chimney, pretty shed – Oakwood Landscape & Construction
patio, chairs, chimney – Oakwood Landscape & Construction
chimney with plantings – Oakwood Landscape & Construction
side view of pretty shed – Oakwood Landscape & Construction
spouse ducking out of pretty shed – Oakwood Landscape & Construction


The New England Carnivorous Plant Society (Dracut, MA), a non-profit group, gave showgoers the opportunity to watch insect-eating plants at work, including pitcher plants, Venus flytraps, sundews — and neon-hued butterworts, as seen below:



Berry’s Greenhouses (Natick, MA) brought lots of succulents to the party. I enjoyed them.

succulents – Berry’s Greenhouses
“Mint Chocolate Chip” agave, among other succulents – Berry’s Greenhouses
rectangle of succulents – Berry’s Greenhouses
“Pineapple Express” agave, among other succulents – Berry’s Greenhouses


Not a garden at all, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield, MA, was nonetheless part of the garden exhibit area, giving out free or discounted tickets to people with children (not us). The booth was decorated with floral displays from the Mass. Florists’ Coalition.



Finally, not in the official guide but certainly a garden exhibit on the floor was Currier Landscaping (Medfield, MA). I was taken by their hellebores.

formal landscape – Currier Landscaping
hellebores and rock – Currier Landscaping
hellebore flowers – Currier Landscaping


The only photo I took from the Urban Homesteading Pavilion this time was of the goats who weren’t there on Wednesday:



All in all, a lovely way to spend a few hours on a cold, snowy winter day.


Featured image at top of page: Signage at the Mass Hort Society booth. They sponsor the show and manage some of the competitions (floral design, photography, ikebana, amateur horticultural).

Boston Flower Show 2018: Edible Gardening

Boston Flower Show 2018 posts:


[For introductory information on the 2018 Boston Flower Show, please check out the Intro post!]

The theme for the flower show this year was “Savor Spring”: “Colorful gardens and floral designs will incorporate elements of the popular food gardening trend including organics, small-space gardens, homesteading hobbies, edibles as ornamentals and family-friendly spaces for outdoor dining and entertaining” [italics mine]. I had to laugh at the “food gardening trend,” as if people and cultures have not produced food in their yards and in communal garden farms for centuries.


Some examples of edible gardening: Spinach and chard mixed in with ornamentals in window boxes in the Miskovsky Landscaping &  Haskell Nursery display:


Planters with basil, oregano, and other herbs in the Artistic Landscapes display:


An orange tree as part of the Windowbox Invitational “Space Savors” display: “Window boxes are the perfect place to combine edibles and ornamentals for a convenient and colorful crop!” The orange tree was not actually in a window box but below them:

There were only a couple of window boxes ready on this first day and I didn’t notice any edibles in them. Succulents, yes:


The Heimlich’s Nurseries display was one of several this year to showcase rosemary:

rosemary and heather
rosemary in bloom

Samantha’s Gardens, with its teepee and birch-bark canoe, also highlighted edible plants, like cabbages, rutabagas, snap beans, raspberries and blueberries, basil, sage … plus a beaver to eat them all:


Minuteman Regional High School included swaths of nasturtiums, an edible flower, in an unusual table-top water feature:


The Massachusetts Horticultural Society, sponsoring the show, interspersed figs, nasturtiums, greens, green beans, and a few herbs among non-edible plants in its display:


Note the matching outfits of the couple in the photo!


Hudson Valley Seed Co.’s display, “The Art of Seed,” was artful and oft-edible, showcasing art from seed packets for tomatoes, flowers, cucumbers, lettuces and other greens, and lots of others I’ve forgotten now.

Edible Flower Mix, Silver Slicer Cucumbers, and Mikado Tomato seed packet artwork and text
closer view of the Edible Flower Mix seed packet
original art for the Edible Flower Mix seed packet
closer view of the Mikado Tomato seed packet artwork and text, with a Kitsune (divine fox)
original artwork for the Mikado Tomato seed packet — Kitsune (divine fox)
wild arugula seed packet artwork and text
wild arugula itself — look at the large leaves
artwork and text for the Paul Robeson Tomato seed packet; I enjoyed these at a tomato tasting last summer
I’m not sure how this underwater diorama scene relates to the seed packets but I like the 3D crab
a healthy looking borage plant with seed packet
purple nicotiana flowers sans seed packet


Speaking of seed packets, one of several seed vendors at the show, Harvesting History,  had some interesting varieties, including a bunch of Asian seeds (Kitazawa Seed Co. brand) for vegetables I’ve never heard of or seen, plus some of the radishes I’ve been enjoying this year in my winter CSA.

Asian seed rack — Kitazawa Seed Co.
Kitazawa Seed Co.’s “Beer Friend” seeds in the Asian seed section  — a kind of soybean, apparently, as is Kouri, next to it
Heirloom Seed greens, plus kohlrabi, eggplant, gourds, at Harvesting History — I took the photo for the blue kale!
radish and pepper Heirloom Seeds for sale at Harvesting History

I bought some salad burnet seeds, which are hard to find locally; some watermelon radish seeds, because I’ve so enjoyed the winter CSA watermelon radishes these past few months …

watermelon radish from my winter CSA (Brookford Farm, Canterbury NH)

… as well as seeds for Gomphrena (globe amaranth), “an outstanding pollinator plant,” but when I got the packet home I read that they are difficult to start from seed and should be started indoors, which won’t be happening — anyone local want these seeds? I also bought a packet of Red Stem Malabar spinach (tsuru murasaki), which is a vining spinach, in the Kitazawa line.


The only demo/lecture I attended this year was the very first demo of the show, Trish Wesley Umbrell’s “Local Farms, Local Foods: All the Great Stuff You Never Knew You Could Raise in New England.” She is farm administrator of the Natick Community Organic Farm in Natick, Mass., and a dynamic, fun speaker who engaged the audience. I knew about most the vegetables she suggested, so I especially appreciated variety specifics (including dry land rice), descriptions of the plants (kohlrabi looks like a satellite is growing in your garden!), and ways to use some of the lesser-known veggies. The vegetables she named were garlic, okra, sweet potatoes, popcorn, rice, shallots, edamame (soy beans) and dry beans, and kohlrabi. Below, Trish with photo of okra pods.



While we’re in the realm of the edible, I should mention the booth with pet-friendly plants, including rosemary, rose, basil, sage, Gerber daisy, African violet, and of course cat (oat) grass, which our cat won’t touch.



I’m glad that the show is incorporating more food crops, kitchen and window box herb gardens, and more lectures and demos about local and edible gardening. The priorities are still ornamental plants; flower arranging, floral design, and conventional concepts of horticultural and floral beauty; and to sell garden construction services, garden design services, and other gardening products and services locally; but it seems that education and demonstration of botany, the importance of pollination, the concept of eating locally and planting natives, and food cropping are becoming more significant.


Featured image at top of page: artwork for Wild Arugula seed packet, Hudson Valley Seed Co. Exhibit.

Boston Flower Show 2018: Intro

Boston Flower Show 2018 posts:


The Boston Flower Show this year, held from 14-18 March, was even more welcome than usual. We have had more than 80 inches of snow so far, compared with an average of about 55 to this point. I like snow, but it’s also been cold, unrelentingly cold, with only eleven days in the 50s since October and one day in the 60s (68) on 21 Feb., over a month ago.  Needless to say, there are no flowers showing in my yard or anyone else’s around here, except in a microclimate.

front yard, two days after the Boston Flower Show


But in the flower show space, there is a sort of suspension of disbelief: first, we agree we are enjoying beautiful gardens, complete with trees, shrubs, cute little houses, contours, patios, soil and mulch, and water features, when actually we are inside the rectangular box of a fairly ugly convention center; and second, we agree to pretend that spring is right around the corner and that crocuses, daffodils, maples, witch hazel, trillium, and hellebore — to say nothing of tulips, azaleas, roses, primula, heathers, Korean spicebush,  lily of the valley, and orange trees — are just about to burst, in our real lives, into colourful, fragrant bloom or fruit, and we allow ourselves to believe that the crisp air is on the verge of becoming redolent with humidity, warmth, soil & flower aromas. Pollinators will be here any day!, we almost believe, as we head for the restroom.


The show was presented, as usual for 5 days, at the Boston World Trade Center in the Seaport. I attended the first day of the show, for the first time ever. Usually I like the second or third day, when the kinks have been worked out but before the weekend crush. I chose the first day of the show this time mainly because it was a snowy day following snowy days; I knew that some flower show bus tours had been postponed to the next day due to weather, and most people weren’t venturing out yet, so I thought it might be quieter, fewer visitors — and boy, was I ever right! The place was almost deserted. I was there (with spouse) from about 10:15 to 2:30 and we almost had the place to ourselves. Actually, there were just enough people for it not to feel lifeless and lame, but few enough that for the first time I was able to take a giant step or two, or three or four, backward to take a photo without careening with or sidestepping anyone. We could actually sit at a table to eat lunch in the venue. It was added bliss to already bliss, a luxury to focus on the gardens without so many of the usual distractions.

Look — almost no other people!



Here’s a selection of the lectures and demonstrations offered this year:

Garden Farming: Edible Plants, Healthy Food, Seeds, Bugs

  • Apple Tree Grafting and Orchard Care
  • Growing Lavender in New England
  • Early Birds in the Herb Garden: Which Plants Will Thrive in a New England Spring
  • Small Space Kitchen Gardening
  • Growing a Food Garden That’s Right for You
  • Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix (notes/pics from Red House Garden on this lecture)
  • Native Bees: Our Unsung Pollinator Heroes
  • Backyard Beekeeping
  • Spotted Lanternfly and Other Bad Bugs!
  • The Power of Saving Seeds
  • Seven Essentials of Seed Starting (and Common Mistakes to Avoid)

Design; Suggested Ornamental Plants

  • Creating High-Impact, Low-Maintenance Flower Gardens
  • Color Gardens: How to Make Beautiful Perennial Combinations from Spring Through Frost
  • Design-Your-Garden Tool Kit
  • Spring Fling: Easy Breezy Floral Designs
  • Plants Every Northeast Garden Should Have

Specific Plants:

  • Fool-Proof Roses
  • The History of Growing and Selling Dahlias
  • America’s Story of the Tomato
  • How to Divide a Hosta
  • Designing Gardens with Peonies


Check out the next flower show post, Edible Gardening.


Featured image at top of page: Official 2018 Boston Flower & Garden Show program.

Wednesday Vignette:

There are days I’ve carried like candles
to light the rest of my life, and I will not
let the new days snuff them out, though
the new days are trying. Watch me hold
a decade-ago snow night, moon-bright
and silent, right next to my hammering rage.

(from Poem for Right Now, by Catherine Pierce)


No snow, no evening, no moon-bright (but silent); yet I hold this, over a decade ago, February 2007, against all that threatens now: a visit with my father just diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him three years later (“Is there anything you want to ask me?” as we walked among smiling orange trees), my sister undergoing an excruciating pacemaker insertion error hundreds of miles away, screaming on the phone as they urgently stick something into her lung from outside her skin, and me losing cell coverage on a spit of land near my father’s house in Florida, benign vultures everywhere, the whole world shaking, then coming to rest, and yet, soft, no rage, no real fear, just connection, just knowing what matters. I carry this day like a candle, the rest of my life.

Wednesday Vignette is brought to us by Flutter & Hum.

Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Chapter Eighteen

Continuing my highly personal notes on Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012), here’s Chapter Eighteen: Structures, Energy and Technology. Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“Besides wastes and pollution, the typical North American home produces almost nothing more than some meals and does only clothes cleaning, minor repairs and perhaps grasscutting for self-reliance.” — Peter Bane


“A farm is a working landscape.”

Primary aim of garden farms: sustenance for those who live there or who farm it. Secondary aim: supporting regional ecosystem and society, and to generate cash income for the farmers/gardeners and household.

“The structures of the home system are an extension of the human and communal
bodies. The house itself is a third skin, beyond our clothing, within the environment of the planet, helping us to regulate our temperature and to store valuable materials.”

This sunroom in our house is like an epidermis, the skin between the inside and the outside. We use it for entertaining and lounging from April to October, and storing hand tools and various gardening resources (and a stray cat), Aug. 2017

Assumptions about conventional American homes built in the last 100 years:

  • that food comes from the grocery but is usually prepared at home
  • that life needs can be met by the marketplace
  • that adults will be employed outside the home except old people, the infirm and disabled, and mothers of very young children
  • that children will be educated in school
  • that machines will perform or aid as many repetitive types of work as possible (sanitation, laundry, cooking, cleaning, landscape maintenance, transport)
  • that people will live as couples (households of two adults) sometimes with children and sometimes as singles
  • that the specialized forms of work needed at home (carpentry, plumbing, electrical and mechanical repairs, tree trimming) will be jobbed out to tradespeople.

“Besides wastes and pollution, the typical North American home produces almost nothing more than some meals and does only clothes cleaning, minor repairs and perhaps grasscutting for self-reliance.”

But the garden farm “grows, harvests, preserves and prepares food; builds soil by composting and other means; captures, stores and distributes water; cuts and processes plant and animal matter to make other things and to yield food; recycles nearly all of its own biological wastes; provides a good measure of its own energy for heating and other purposes; makes and repairs common household goods and even specialized tools and machinery; may provide medical and veterinary care to people or livestock and supports its residents to work gainfully at home at least part of the time and as much as possible.”

So other structures are needed for a garden farm than for a typical North American middle class home. Some can be adapted and some need to be built. And for labour, two adults or more will be needed.


Some structures: a large kitchen connected to a social space; and food prep and storage structures, to work with and store several thousand pounds of food: a pantry with preserved foods that don’t need electricity; a root cellar (34-57F degrees); a summer kitchen to can in, with a roof, four walls, a sink, counters or tables, a heat source, and water; structures and tools for canning, fermenting, smoking, salting, freezing (keep nothing longer than a year), and food drying.

home-canned goods in basement of an acquaintance’s house, May 2013
another use for our sunroom: letting peaches ripen, Aug. 2017

A food-related structure that Bane doesn’t mention is a maple sugaring/syruping shack, fairly common around where we live in New England. Some of our neighbours just tap their sugar maple trees and cook the sap outside over a simple fire, or inside on the stove, depending on how much there is.

Some folks get certified and sell their maple products to others from their shack, March 2015.
Here, we’re inside a small commercial farm’s syruping shack, with the steamy evaporator and buckets of maple syrup in the making, March 2015


Heating the house: Needs to be as energy efficient as possible. Capture solar energy. Gas is best for water heating and cooking fuel. Wood is best for space heating. Geothermal not so great: “Geothermal systems circulate water deep into the ground to draw earth heat up for boosting to room temperature with the use of heat pumps. They are relatively efficient but remain dependent on a steady source of electricity. [S]witching home heat from a propane furnace to a geothermal heat pump reduces the dollar cost of heating, but make little to no impact on the carbon dioxide footprint of the home.”

family room set up for a group meeting, with the woodstove blazing, Dec. 2015
our propane gas range



“We have lots of hand tools and not very many machines. If our farm were larger, we might appreciate some additional machinery, but for 30,000 square feet, we get by with a pickup truck, two gas chainsaws, a chop saw, a table saw, a circular saw, a couple of battery-driven screw guns, a jigsaw, a router and a small hand-held electric planer. We’ve borrowed a power washer, and we’ve rented a log splitter, a trenching machine, a floor sander, a cement mixer and a backhoe.”

a bobcat and sod dug up for our patio, July 2012

Can use a scythe or battery-powered weedwhacker to cut grass. Wheelbarrows are useful – they have four.

Garden tools and small machines:
Garden tools that don’t use gas or oil should be stored near house; those that do should be in a shed, barn, garage, or other outbuilding. Includes axes, mattocks, pry bars, peaveys, post hole diggers, shovels, rakes, hoes, spades, forks and brooms. Paint the outlines for the tools on the walls for easy clean up.

Hand- and electrically powered tools for repair and construction : Everything from hammers, levels, drill guns, wrecking bars, pliers, wrenches, pipecutters, voltage testers. These items are easily lost, some with batteries that need charging; store them in tool boxes and drawers or in cabinets, organized by general type (e.g., woodworking tools, wrenches there, levels on the wall or in a corner). Keep them close, in a garage, workshop, or in the house in a utility room.

tools and resources aplenty in our garage, Feb. 2017
tool shed at Spring Ledge Farm, NH, May 2012

Supplies that facilitate repair and construction, such as small hardware, caulk, lumber crayons, wire nuts, plumbing teflon, string, duct tape, lubricants, pipe glue, paint. Some are toxic or volatile, so they shouldn’t be kept in the house if there’s another spot for them.

one of our utility closets, with items for repairs and building things
our shed seen from patio, Oct. 2017


Barns: Useful to store straw bales, grain, annual gear, hoop houses, your inventory of resources:

“One of the important reasons for having a barn, a shed or more is so that you can organize your resource inventory. The industrial economy is beginning a long, slow spiral of devolution, and it’s scattering its parts across seven continents. The garden farm has to sift through some of this detritus and collect the more useful bits. A resource inventory is your storage of industrial energy. This consists of leftovers, salvaged materials, great finds and white elephants. You can’t do anything useful unless you have a stock of spare parts. That means things like scrap lumber (all sizes and dimensions), paneling, fence posts and fencing, wire of every gauge and description, hardware of course, but also salvaged window sash, an extra sink, a zillion buckets, cardboard by the bale, straw, compost, wood chips, poles, siding, pipes and fittings, irrigation line, insulation, spare gutters, sheet metal, bicycle parts, glass jars and tin cans and plastic tubs, live traps and cages and harnesses and straps and hinges and twine and rope. You can’t afford to have endless amounts of these things, but you need a little of each. In short, you need your own hardware store. … And every so often, you have to purge some of it to a bonfire, the River Styx recycling center or the scrapyard. Don’t get attached.”

salvage for art-making in a barn at Bedrock Garden, Lee, NH, July 2015
part of a friend’s barn, the site of many a party and dinner, Dec. 2011
Another use for a barn: a distillery and shop! Windsor, VT, Oct. 2016

Greenhouses: Need a large amount of thermal mass inside it. Use plastic or polycarbonate, not glass. (Bane includes much more information but I’m not building a greenhouse.)

friend’s greenhouse/hoop house with basil and peppers, Aug. 2014

Animal shelters: Sheds for rabbits and poultry together. Hogs should be separate or with large animals. (Lots more info in the book.)

friend’s greenhouse and chicken coop, Feb. 2013

Outdoor rooms: Porches, decks, patios. (We had already had our patio built when I read this, so no notes.)


“If you modify existing fences, I would strongly suggest that you consider installing gates to connect to your neighbors’ yards —all of them — wherever these don’t already exist. You may not use the gate often, but it’s insane not to be able to walk into your neighbor’s yard for a conversation, a visit, to retrieve a lost frisbee or, if nothing else, to warn them of the danger of fire or storm. There’s also the matter of chasing an errant chicken or duck that gets over the fence. Do you want to have to drive around the block to pursue?”


Final words of wisdom:

“Plant flowers thickly along the fence; use lots of color and vary the heights. Make them perennial so they’ll come back stronger each year, and keep the flower beds weeded and trimmed. Or you could just get a 15-foot pink fiberglass T-Rex and a couple of inflated palm trees, and no one will even notice the fence.”


Featured image (top image) is our shed in repose, Sept. 2016.

Book Notes: The Permaculture Handbook :: Chapter Seventeen

Continuing my highly personal notes on Peter Bane’s The Permaculture Handbook (2012), here’s Chapter Seventeen: Productive Trees and Where to Grow Them, a short chapter. Any misrepresentations of Bane’s words or work are mine alone and completely unintentional. Notes on each chapter linked here.


“No one quite understands how morels grow: they are saprophytes (wood-eating fungi) but seem to exhibit mutualism with trees as well. We have had them simply appear in our garden beds mulched with coarse shredded wood and sticks. You don’t have to be religious to consider that a blessing!” — Peter Bane


Trees and shrubs are valuable elements in the food garden, but they’re also essential or helpful in many other places: to enhance the productivity of pastures or row crops; to benefit aquatic systems, including ponds; with polycultures of perennials in orchards; as windbreaks, hedgerows, living fences; and simply for beauty and economic yields.

Living Fences, Hedgerows, and Windbreaks, i.e., “strip forests.” They can confine or exclude animals, buffer against wind, provide habitat and shelter native pollinators, provide reserves of fodder, timber, biomass, help define boundaries, screen bad views, buffer noise. Weedy, unmanaged trees can be harvested for firewood, fungi inoculation (undamaged hardwood of 4-7″ diameter), stakes, mulch, to make a hugelkultur (raised garden beds built on a base of woody debris).

hugelkultur with green beans (and weeds) at a friend’s, Sept. 2013
hedge made of Itea virginica (Virginia sweetspire), Longwood Gardens, PA, Aug. 2015

Designing Boundary Woodlands, including mixed-species borders: Shrubs and trees can make a living fence. Thorny plants welcome: quince, hawthorn, roses, blackthorn, honey locust. Thorny shrubs and trees also make good habitat.

thorn of a flowering quince, Sunapee, NH, June 2017
hawthorn tree thorns, NH, Oct. 2013

Alley Cropping Trees: “Arable crops of grain, oilseeds or vegetables are grown in broad alleys between lines of trees, called production hedges[;] … the annual crops bring in cash while the trees grow to a harvestable size. It can also be a way of supporting the fertility of the land and of stabilizing microclimates to improve yields of the arable alleys.”

Pasture and Fodder Trees: Silvopasture: “growing trees in livestock paddocks or … grazing animals in woodlands.” Trees complement productivity of pasture grasses, which die back in the hot summer months. Species to use could include mulberry, black locust, false indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa), bladder senna (Colutea arborescens), willow, alder, hazel, poplar, rose family fruits, basswood (Tilia americana), ash, and elm. You can pollard to keep the leaves in reach without allowing animals to damage the trunk. To reduce damage to young trees in a pasture, you can fencing the animals out from a block of trees, protect individual trees with some kind of structure,or spray trees with repellents to keep animals away until the trees are large enough to tolerate nibbling.

hard to see, but there are two large cows hanging out in this wooded area abutting the northern rail trail in Danbury, NH, March 2016 (one is laying down)

Trees in Aquatic Systems: Trees are useful along flowing water but problematic near ponds due to leaf fall. [We had a small pond under trees at one house and it wasn’t a big problem.] Trees that like water include willow, sycamores, southern bald cypress, alders (which fix nitrogen), birches, and witchhazel.

our pond in Maine, July 2002 — note maple leaves above it
witchhazel flowers, near lake in Sutton, NH, April 2017
alder with catkins, growing beside pond in NH, March 2016
weeping willow, Boston Public Gardens, June 2012

Tree Cropping in Orchards: Two pages on this. “Some excellent heritage varieties may be discovered in older orchards: don’t get rid of anything until you know what it is.”

old crabapple trees at the Fells, Newbury, NH, Oct. 2015

Trees for Small Situations: In pots, on wires (“cordon”), espalier (along wall).

trees planted by patio, Rutland Nurseries display, Boston Flower Show, March 2016
tropical planter, Jekyll Island, GA, Dec. 2016

Trees for Fuel: “The ethics of burning wood are first and foremost that you must plant trees. Secondly, cut no living tree for wood unless you are doing a necessary job of pruning or removing a tree that is dying, diseased, damaged, or in the wrong place. Thinning woodlands to improve the health, vigor and productivity of the remaining trees (resulting in a net increase in standing wood) counts as virtuous action. Thirdly, respect all wood” (i.e., don’t waste it, use it for its best purpose). Never put wood in a landfill. A forest can grow 1 cord per acre per year. Highest heat value trees come from hard woods: black locust, dogwood, osage orange, hickory, all of them denser than oak.

black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) trunks, Sutton, NH, March 2017
a cord of wood, Laudholm Farm, Wells, ME, June 2016

Growing Fungi: You can generate $1,600 in wholesale income growing Shitaki mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) on logs — taking up about the space of a large room, in dense shade, with just the $100 cost of incolation and diverted rainwater — that would be worth $60 as firewood or $200 at a sawmill, and more for medicinal fungi like Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), a polypore mushroom, or Maitake. Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp) also grow on logs, but they’re aggressive and pretty common in the wild. Besides Reishi’s, other stumpsprouting polypores include chicken-of-the-woods (Laetiporus sulphureus) and hen-of-the-woods (Grifola frondosa). Morels (Morchella spp) are delicious and can go for $40/lb at a shop.

a true morel mushroom (a little blurry), NH northern rail trail, May 2016
oyster mushrooms on tree, NH trail, Nov. 2014
black trumpet mushrooms (Craterellus cornucopioides), along a trail in NH, Aug. 2014
honey mushrooms (Armillaria), NH, Sept. 2014
chicken of the woods way up a tree along a bike path, Jekyll Island, GA, Dec. 2015
you can grow mushrooms in a pail, too (at Boston Flower Show, March 2015)


I did some of my own research on willows (Salix spp) in northern New England (those species at least hardy to zone 4). All willows are dioecious, meaning that male and female catkins appear on separate trees:

Shrubs and small trees:
purple osier (Salix purpurea), a shrub, 8-10 tall
coyote willow (S. exigua), a shrub, 6-15′ tall
pussy willow (S. discolor), 6-20′ tall
dappled willow (S. integra ‘Hakuro nishiki’), shrub or often grown in tree form, 4-6′ tall. We had one but it had myriad problems with pests and with leaves reverting to non-dappled state in a couple of years. I don’t recommend.

pussy willow (I think) buds, Sutton, NH, early March 2017

Taller trees:
goat willow (S. caprea), 12-25′ tall
bebb willow (S. sebbiana), a grey willow, 10-30′ tall
corkscrew willow (S. matsudana ‘Tortuosa’), 20-40′ tall
peach-leaf willow (S. amygdaloides) 30-50′ tall
white willow (S. alba), 50-100′ tall
weeping willow (S. babylonica) — Sadly, zone 6, so only in a very warm microclimate in northern New England. I see them in Boston but not in central NH or in Maine. 35-50′ tall and wide.


Featured image (top image) is a winterberry (lex verticillata) hedge, Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH, Oct. 2015.

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