Who Are These Masked Gardeners?

The Driftwood Garden Club of Marblehead found a creative solution when their annual plant sale was cancelled due to the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. Wearing face masks and maintaining social-distancing guidelines, members dug and divided plants in their yards, then listed those plants available to other members. Members virtually shopped for a special plant, and arranged for socially-distanced pickup. This member-only plant sale fostered camaraderie and hope for a healthy future in the spring of this pandemic time.

Organic and Native Garden thoughts as we Stay Home

Even though it is still so cold and wet, Spring is arriving. Our person-to-person plant sale will be happening shortly and gardening will be more fun with a bit of warmth.

Beyond what we can exchange with our fellow DGC members, what kind of plants might we want to add? Are people wondering about food shortages and whether it’s time to order raised bed frames for new veggies? The first is a definite concern and latter is a real “maybe” for small Marblehead plots. Perhaps there is a solution in planting perennial vegetables that can also give us interesting landscapes.

What is a perennial vegetable, you ask? A classic example would be asparagus. I’ve tried to grow asparagus in my space but it didn’t take well at all. Luckily, there are several others to consider. Scarlet Runner Beans are a great example as well as the Walking Onion, Sea Kale, Wall-Rocket, Welsh Onion, and Sorrel. Varieties of Cress are perennial, most of which do not require bogs or ponds to survive.

Perennial crops have become a rapidly growing focus for ecological gardening and agriculture. The purpose for replacing annual crops with perennials is soil health and fertility retention — the less soil is forked and disturbed, the more the natural and beneficial organisms can function to improve outcomes. English gardeners are particularly interested in this at a personal level but increasingly our farms are starting to realize that it is more cost effective to reduce the soil disturbance.

I read about this a couple years ago and didn’t think it was more than an interesting theory until last year when I went morel mushroom picking with my dairy farmer friends. I had noticed that John had tilled one field down by the main road and planted his cattle corn but then other fields did not look tilled. As we walked between one overgrown old fieldstone woods to another across one of the untilled corn fields I asked if he was going to let this one go fallow. “Oh, no, it’s planted — see the little shoots coming up from the holes?” Sure enough, there were lines in the dirt with puncture holes. I got a gentle education — saves on gasoline (one pass through the field rather than at least 2), reduces the number and types of equipment needed ($$ saved), lowers the fertilizer needs (another set of passes and $$ resources), allows the soil to rest and use its own biology to help seedlings (carbon fixing), and keeps dust and weeds to a minimum.

So here’s the challenge — how about Scarlet Runner Beans? They grow tall up a fence, have lovely red flowers, are perenniel, and quite tasty as both new green and dried mature beans that prefer the cool climate we offer here. https://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/beans/runner-beans/scarlet-runner-bean

Or perhaps you like Kale? There are several varieties of perenniel kale that can add color and function to our gardens. https://store.experimentalfarmnetwork.org/collections/perennial-vegetables/products/kaleidescope-perennial-kale-grex

The list goes on — Egyptian Walking Onion, Garlic Cress, Sorrel, Groundnut (definite Native), Wall-Rocket, Skirret, Good King Henry (a perennial spinach), and others. Some of these are carried by Burpee and other commercial growers but most are in the Rare category and need a bit of searching to find. Unfortunately, most of this kind of seed are located on UK sites but there are plenty in the US to handle our interests.

If people are interested in combining efforts (how many seeds does one small garden need), perhaps we can pool resources on ordering a few seed packets.

Happy Gardening and Stay Safe


March 2020 Welcoming Native Plants and Insects to your Garden

Driftwood Garden Club members welcomed author and speaker Rebecca Warner to our March 2020 meeting at Abbot Public Library. Rebecca’s ‘Sustainable Enough’ philosophy recommends making environmentally-friendly changes when and where we can. Seek to add native plants and let fallen leaves stay over the winter to provide food and habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators. She recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden website to search for information on a plant’s native range, height, bloom time, leaf, sun and water requirements.  Ms. Warner signed copies of her book “The Sustainable Enough Garden” for our members to purchase.

Art in Bloom at the MFA — Canceled

Dear Members – On March 13, 2020 we received notice from the MFA that Art in Bloom has been canceled this year due to all of the concern over the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The MFA has provided this link with more information on their response to this pandemic.  https://www.mfa.org/visit/covid-19-response. Take care – there are green sprouts showing in my garden! Barbie

The MFA is once again presenting their annual Art in Bloom exhibit May 2-4. DGC has requested a Guided Group Tour for Saturday, May 2nd at 10:30. We need 10-15 attendees to be considered a Group. Advanced Payment is $35 per person which also provides a re-entry ticket per person within 10 days (May 12th).

There are options for lunch which include the casual (the cafeteria and 3 cafes) to the more formal restaurant (reservations required).

There are also several additional special events which you all might be interested in attending independently including a Member Night, the Preview, and afternoon Floral Designer demonstrations. For those interested in the Floral Design demonstrations, there 2 included in the price of the ticket (Ikebana & Designing with Flowers) and 3 demonstrations for additional cost by Philippa Craddock, floral designer for Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

Click on this image to see more details.

An Evite will be sent out shortly for you to reserve your place in the Group tour. If more than 15 sign up, we will be looking to build 2 groups of 10 each.

Welcoming Native Plants and Insects to your Garden

Join us on March 10th, 7pm at Abbot Library

Driftwood’s March Event has practical and interesting advice as we get ready for Spring!

Rebecca Warner, a home gardener in Newton, will talk about the best reasons to grow native plants which provide food and habitat for native insects in our gardens. This talk describes choosing beautiful plants to attract beneficial insects and pollinators, explains how you can strike the right balance of insects for your garden, and reveals some truths about native plants — the good citizens and the thugs. It closes with some garden maintenance tricks to make your yard more hospitable to the right insects.

Rebecca has thirty years’ experience working toward a sustainable garden. Her book, The Sustainable-Enough Garden, is the story of her quest to make a beautiful garden that’s environmentally friendly. In the last eight years she has overhauled her garden practices, from composting to mulching, lawn care to irrigation. She blogs weekly at


Rebecca has shared 5 handouts which you can download and/or print for your convenience. Even if you can’t join us on March 10th you can be part of the conversation with this information at your fingertips.

The Monarch Gardener

At the February 2020 Driftwood Garden Club meeting, Katie Hone presented a wonderful program on the monarch butterfly. Members were fascinated to learn that the monarchs that emerge from their chrysalis in our gardens soon undertake a 3000 mile journey to hidden forests of Oyamel fir trees in the Michoacan and Mexico states. While the residents of these areas were aware of the arrival of the monarchs, it was not until 1975 that Fred Urquhart, a Canadian biologist, was able to locate their southern wintering grounds. In her presentation, Katie shared with the members an extensive list of plants that support the monarchs and many of the other pollinators so important for sustaining our environment. Members received information on plant groupings to provide continuous blooming for the pollinators. Everyone left with common milkweed seeds to plant in the gardens.

Note that you can plant them immediately!

January 2020 Confessions of a Garden Fanatic

At the January 2020 Driftwood Garden Club meeting, self-described garden fanatics Linda and Fred Lipton delighted us with their presentation of creating formal gardens behind their Greek revival home in Salem, MA.

Along with their family, these avid ‘do-it-yourselfers,’ laid all the bricks in their driveway, leveled their narrow yard, and double-dug all the garden beds. Linda meticulously measured, planned and designed multiple ‘rooms’ to craft the formal space in a cool color palate.  Linda repeated the design elements of ovals and diamonds, even in her fabulous She Shed windows!

Their backyard garden was featured in the 2018 summer issue of North Shore Home Magazine, see https://www.nshoremag.com/northshore-home/salems-secret-garden/  for pictures.

Welcome to new member Susie Raviv.  And many thanks to DGC hostesses Pal Bickford, Sue McMullen, and Andrea Gregory for the tasty treats and libations, and the stunning floral arrangement.

Silver Bells at the King Hooper Mansion!

The Driftwood Garden Club pulled out all stops again this year to decorate the King Hooper for the holidays. The five garden clubs of Marblehead each decorate an assigned room and all at the same time which makes it fun! As Abbot Hall is undergoing renovations this year, several events have been moved to the King Hooper. The theme this year is Christmas Songs, so each room is decorated to reflect a song. Silver Bells was selected by DGC and decorations designed by Ginny Von Rueden and Laurie Boggis our designers extraordinaire. I must say it looks beautiful!