the evolution of gardens

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Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’ Purchased from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market

A garden is a constant evolution. Mine evolves in layers.

A few years ago I planted my red rhododendrons and native deciduous azaleas along with some favorite viburnum (Brandywine and Winterthur).  Over the past couple of years including this year, I have layered in witch hazels of different colors and blooming schedules that were purchased from Rare Find Nursery and Yellow Springs Farm.

This year I have also added Mountain Laurels.   They came from the annual plant sale at Jenkins Arboretum that the Valley Forge Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society puts on –  they are the NICEST people at that society and very helpful. (I also find this person called Rhody Man helpful FYI.)  These kind folks also sold me a native deciduous azalea that is red.

I also bought two really great Mountain Laurels from Applied Climatology at the West Chester Growers Market – Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel). Species is native to North America.

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Kalmia ‘Sarah’ (Mountain Laurel)
Species is native to North America. I purchased mine at Applied Climatology and this is a stock photo which shows what my blooms will be like next spring!

And hydrangeas.  Hydrangeas are so amazing and there is such a wide array available for planting.  I have a special affinity for Mountain Hydrangeas.  But I plant them all.

I have planted layers of color as well as plants. For my shrubs and perennials, there are a lot of shades of pink and blue reds. I am not an orange red person, so you rarely see orange in my gardens.

Gardening is a favorite thing with me as everyone knows, and when I did not have as much room as I have now for me to plant, I planted elsewhere.

Many, many years ago when I was living on the Main Line and only had my tiny courtyard garden of my apartment, I used to volunteer at this little slice of heaven in Bryn Mawr, PA called Historic Harriton House. I loved walking my dogs over to there and truthfully, I have been wandering around Harriton House since I was 12 as is evidenced by this photo:

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Harriton is an amazing piece of historic preservation that works.  The land it sits on is a park owned by Lower Merion Township.  But the historic structures? Owned and maintained by the Harriton Association which I watched acquire properties over the years to sew up a good sized parcel safe from development.  The original farm and plantation was originally around 700 acres or more and was part of a Penn Land Grant (yes like Lloyd Farm and Happy Days Farm in Chester County which are currently at risk from development.)

The Executive Director, Bruce Gill, and the Harriton Association Board have truly created a very simple preservation model that works.  Part of why it all works at Harriton is the place has never been tarted up.  It has remained loyal to it’s agricultural heritage and history.

Years ago, a couple of years after the conversion of the old dairy barn into an education center and administrative offices was completed, one day I was looking at the ruins of the rest of the stone barn fragment which had been turned into a pool house, a pool, and gardens in the 1920s (I think that is when that happened).  When Harriton acquired this structure a reclusive little old lady had formerly called it home.  Before she died, it was not part of Harriton, it was a little adjoining property in the midst of Harriton, much like two other properties they raised funds and acquired.

Now this little old lady was quite the hoarder, and I remember what it was like when volunteers, myself included, help clear things out.  A lot of the decades of contents was literally garbage, but things that were salable were sold at the annual fair in the White Elephant section for a few years.  Even what had been the swimming pool was full of stuff.  It was crazy.  I had never seen what a real hoarder’s home looked like until this.

After the clean out the restoration and conversion of the barn to education center was completed, I kept looking at the ruins when had been garden spaces from the 1920s until I guess the little old lady inhabitant had gotten too old.  I saw potential for planting and I was itching to do more planting.  So I asked the Executive Director Bruce if he would buy a bunch of plants next time he was up in Lancaster,  I would totally plant up the area.

And that is what I did. It was so much fun creating something out of nothing.  After I had planted the ruin, one of the couple of garden clubs that gardened at Harriton thought Bruce had let in another garden club.  They didn’t quite believe him for a while that it was just me who had dug in the dirt and played and planted.  I never took photos back then of what I had done, which now, is close to 20 years ago if not more than 20 years ago.

But the thing about gardening is once you start, other people follow suit.  And after the first time I planted in the ruin, garden clubs took over and planted it going forward.  I can’t remember which garden clubs did this, except I think perhaps the Villanova Garden Club or the Garden Club of Bala Cynwyd.  I don’t know which garden clubs are still gardening there today.

Here are some circa 2006 -2010 photos of the garden ruin planted (again, I never photographed my work before them, sadly):

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I returned to Harriton this past weekend for their Father’s Day Ice Cream Social, which is just as lovely and old fashioned as it sounds.  I was so happy to see that the ruins were still being gardened, though not as much.  In spots it looks like whichever garden club it was lost interest. But the positive thing is it was still being gardened so many years after I dug the first plants in. And there is a community garden and the tenants garden. I do not know if any of the perennials I planted are still there or not, but after not having been back to Harriton since either 2011 or 2012 I was happy to see any continued gardening there:

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I hope whichever garden clubs are still on Harriton continue.  People change, garden clubs and plant societies are definitely groups where people age out, and not necessarily by choice. But gardening should endure. Wherever we can garden.

I close with some of my own garden’s posies:

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#tbt my history with history

The photo above has me in the center. Circa 1976- 1977. It has just been too long that sadly, I don’t remember the exact date.

Where am I? At one of my favorite historic sites on earth. Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr. I think technically, my friends and I at the time, beat Chef Walter Staib into the kitchen there by a few decades.

When we first moved to the Main Line from Society Hill, I missed the history and old houses of Society Hill. Yes, I was kind of obsessed by old houses even then. So neighbors introduced our family to historic Harriton House. And as a related sidenote, Historic Harriton House is a remarkable story of preservation. I urge everyone to take the time to go visit. The site is a little slice of heaven.

Before we moved from the city to suburbia, I also did something kind of historically minded for a kid.

At 11, I was probably the youngest volunteer tour guide the Park Service ever had in Society Hill. I gave tours of the Todd House and Bishop White House. In Colonial garb with a little mob cap.

How? Well my parents knew Hobie Cawood. Mr. Cawood was the Superintendent of Independence National Historical Park from 1971-1991. I wrote about this before.

But this is just something I have always loved since I was a kid. Our history, our architecture, our old houses.

I am not a new house person. I am a preserve the old house person. It’s just the way I am made. I am a realist and I don’t think every old house can be saved, but I think a lot more can be saved then are actually being saved.

Whenever I have these conversations with anyone about historic preservation, I go back to my childhood in Society Hill. And the reason is simple: that area was a total slum when people like my parents as newlyweds bought wrecks of old houses in Society Hill for peanuts from the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia.

My parents and their friends restored these houses with architectural details and hardware and windows and woodwork from houses that were too far gone to save. And as kids, a lot of the time we went with our parents when they were visiting these wrecks of houses to see what they could salvage out of them. And salvaging then wasn’t so much a big business as it was sort of a neighbor helping neighbor collaborative. People would give you the stuff out of the houses being torn down. It was a very different time.

It was through these expeditions that I learned about things like shutter dogs. Busybody mirrors. Box locks and more. The details of historical architecture which have traveled with me throughout my life.

This is where my love of old houses began. And it has been a lifelong affair.

A lot of people don’t like my opinions. And I’m sorry they don’t share my love of old houses and history. But as Americans we have a magnificent history. And we can’t just keep bulldozing it away.

Thanks for stopping by.

berry, berry good

When I was little, one summer I picked blackberries that grew wild along the creek at Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr.  It was a hot summer day, and a memory that stayed with me.

I am sorry, maybe it is simple, but there is something so awesomely cool about being able to pick your own berries….and guess what has been growing along one fence line that I did not notice until today?

Blackberries.

They are just starting to ripen.  I picked about a pint in the twilight.

Hopefully I missed the poison ivy :<}  And I also noticed the pear trees are actually producing fruit.

I love discovering things in my own garden.

 

a fine how-dee-do

Readers, I have been sitting on something.  I have debated writing about it for nearly a week, and that is my litmus test on writing about something.

I make no apologies for my opinions. After all, we all have them, it is what makes this country great.

A little over a decade ago I became a community activist in Lower Merion Township.  What spurred me towards something I was hardly raised to do was respect and love for my friends the Foos who own a restaurant in Ardmore called Hu Nan.

It all started one night long ago, when my friend Betty, who is one of the most serene and lovely women I know said to me with tears in her eyes “they want to take my building.”

That was it.  That was my defining moment that I could no longer just be a casual observer in the place I called home.  Eminent domain for private gain just does that to a person.

Over the years I have worked hard on issues important to me and those I care about.  I have the respect of many in municipal government and politics, some who scorn me, some who fear me.  It is what it is. Of all the amusing things there is even a regional Patch editor who has never met me but who cut my freelance for certain Patches because I was a community activist and blogger. (yes, she has never met me.)  I found that very limited in her, but then again, if you are looking for someone to photograph and write about disposable diapers, that is not me anyway, so we’re cool. But I am grateful that I have the respect of many others in the local, regional, and even national media. And ditto for many people in many different communities.

When I heard about the Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Grounds being threatened by eminent domain for private gain late in the fall of 2011, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut on the topic.  I just despise eminent domain for private gain. The Daily Local even published an editorial I wrote on December 13Main Line Media News  picked it up a couple of days later.

But being active in the communities where I live has never been all I have been about.  I volunteer not just for community activism purposes but to help out friends who do cool stuff – like my friend Molly who was the driving force behind the establishment of the now very popular Bryn Mawr Farmers Market.  I lent her my voice when she needed it and a few photos in the beginning because I believe in what she was doing.  And then there is my friend Janet, the brains behind Clover Market in Ardmore.  I love vintage and antiques, so when I can take photos for her at one of her markets, it is absolutely my pleasure. And on a monthly basis, save major holidays, you will find me in Ardmore with my dearest pal Sherry, snapping away for First Friday Main Line and so forth.

I have also spent years off and on volunteering for Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr, where my first volunteer gig was when I was 12 years old. A memorable adult volunteer experience was getting Willard Scott to wish the house happy 300th birthday a few years ago live on the Today Show.

And when I had breast cancer a year ago, these people  were among my supporters to get me through.  Paying it forward – it is what it is all about. And these people are fully and completely aware of my activism side when a crazy issue arises, and they respect me for that. And they do not judge me for it.

I just like people, and I like cool community stuff, so when I stumbled upon the East Goshen Farmers Market I was thrilled.  So I wrote about it a couple of times up here on this blog and have taken some glorious photos the past few markets.

About ten days ago, one of the market organizers contacted me about this blog and said they would like to link to this blog, chestercountyramblings.  I was so happy at that news.  But then the link didn’t happen.  The woman who had e-mailed me was very apologetic, she had been out-of-town, etc.  But to make sure to stop by their table at the market to say hi.

So last Thursday, along with taking more fabulous photos, I did.  The ladies were super nice, but the one who had corresponded with me pulled me aside and said she hoped I understood, but everything was so political that they couldn’t link to my blog.

Huh?

Aha.  I knew immediately – it was because I have written about West Vincent Township politics and the supervisors Ken Miller, David Brown, and Clare Quinn.  And I like to read Chickenman and say so. Who would have thunk the warped Mayberry of Chester County had a reach into pristine East Goshen?  Well they do, because Ken Miller’s farm, Birchrun Hills Farms sells product at the East Goshen Farmers Market.  And I have said, and I mean it, that I will NOT purchase products from his farm because of the part he played in an attempted eminent domain land grab of the Ludwigs Corner Horse Show, along with being part and parcel of what ails that beautiful community.

Now trust me, that is very tame for me.  If I decide to get my Irish up, it can often be much worse.  But because I took that position, the people who created the East Goshen Farmers Market won’t be able to  link to my blog and I doubt will ever use my photos.  That is their right, they are uncomfortable, that farm I won’t support is one of their vendors.  I am sad that they had to go all super political PTA mom on me, especially since I am now a resident of East Goshen, but hey I am different, I get that.  Some women can’t handle that.  They see what they want to see, and do not take the time to get to know the person.  It’s cool, it’s life.

So anyway, I had told some of you that the market people had approached me to link up my blog to them, but since they hadn’t, I wanted to let you know and why it wouldn’t happen.

Life isn’t fair sometimes, but for the record I am not sorry about what I have said about West Vincent because there is a big bag of wrong going on there.  With publicly stated opinions come consequences – my blog has been shunned by my local farmers market so to speak.  And that is o.k.  People have to do what they are comfortable with, and play politics the way they know how.

I will of course continue to support the East Goshen Farmers Market because I think it is simply awesome.  I will support my favorite vendors too.   And I strongly encourage all of you to do the same.

Have a great day y’all. And if the spirit moved you, remember to nominate this blog for a Blue Ribbon Blogger Award with Country Living Magazine – it is very politically correct to do so :<}