"A Daily Journal" by Stella Heatley
Tuesday, June 6th Boston bound, the group of Detroit Garden Center travelers gathered at Metro Airport for their 10:00 flight, and waited, and waited.... (The weather in Detroit was sunny, cool, clear and dry; in Boston a low cloud ceiling, strong winds and lashing rain were delaying landings.) We finally arrived in Boston at 1:00 pm, loaded our luggage onto the waiting coach and set off for West Roxbury, where we picked up bag lunches. Arriving at our first private garden, the rain had lessened, but it was windy and cold. Owner, Christie Dustman, welcomed us: a landscape designer and plants woman, she guided us around the garden which reflected her love of unusual conifers in a variety of colures and forms. Huge boulders and rocks (from a local quarry) were placed singly and in groups. At the rear of the house, a boulder bridge, over a dry stream, leading to stepping stones led to the front of the house. Interspersed throughout the garden were metal artworks and sculptures made by Christie's partner.
Onto a private garden designed by Christie, smaller, tidy, intensely planted on a sloping lot. The small beds at the front of the house were planted with different colours of annuals, each "box" surrounded by a low, woven willow branches fence. (These fences had been made by the owner of the garden from materials ordered from England.) Surrounding the garden, clematis plants tumbled over trellis "walls". The colour preferences were toward cool colours with the surprise of orange from California poppies and a low button coreopsis. Boxes of annuals formed colourful "ladders" down the slope to a lawn surrounded by perennials and forty-eight clematis planted to be in continuous bloom from early Spring to late Autumn.
Onto our hotel, the Kimpton Marlowe, which proved to be very comfortable with excellent service. Shortly after checking into our room, there was a tap on the door and the young man from the reception desk entered, bearing a tray, on which was an electric kettle, two mugs, and teabags. I had not requested this, but they knew it would be appreciated.
Wednesday, June 7th Up before the birds and on the coach at 8:00 am. Cool, cloudy and dry weather greeted us, our destination Lincoln with a full day ahead of us. Our first stop was the Gropius House, home of the German Bauhaus School of Design founder. Built in 1937 on a rise overlooking meadows of wildflowers surrounded by low stone walls, the house was part of the landscape in its use of a stone foundation and chimney, with wood siding, so typical of New England houses. However, inside the home were chrome, glass block, simplicity of space and furnishings making an efficient and comfortable domestic and business setting. A screened porch for summer entertaining was shaded by a huge White Pine. tree.
Next destination, the Decordova Sculpture Park. We drove along heavily wooded roads, a few houses tucked in the trees here and there, open areas of cultivation were growing vegetables, especially onions. Many road signs for "turtle crossings". We passed Walden Pond State Park and would pass it several more times in the days ahead. Field stone walls edged the narrow road leading into the Sculpture Park. A docent-led walk showed us many of the sculptures in a park-like setting, the pieces all different in form, materials, size and presentation.
Onto lunch in Concord (the British coming again) at Merchant's Row, an interesting old building, cozy and welcoming. Excellent food and desserts. Our energy restored, next destination the Codman Estate and hurrah the sun came out to give us a beautiful afternoon. On the way there, I noticed many real free-range chicken coops in meadows, with the chickens out in the lush grasses freely moving about. The chicken huts had wheels so they could be moved around the meadow from area to area. The Codman Estate dates back to 1740 and originally covered seven hundred acres, now down to sixteen. The family were merchants, whalers, brokers and traders in the busy commerce of Boston. The house, a Federal style mansion in an imposing setting atop a hill, is clad in grey clapboard, black shutters with white trim. Three sets of granite steps led to the front portico. The multi-generational family home reflected changing tastes/ fashions, many travels abroad, a love of reading, gardening and their home collections. (I don't think the family ever threw anything away!) A short stroll led to the Italian Garden, a tranquil spot, sheltered and warm in the afternoon sunlight. A reflecting pool running down the centre of the garden held water lilies and several vivid green frogs basked in the warm sunshine. Walking across the meadow to the road, the landscape appeared to gently roll down into further meadows where sheep grazed. Upon reaching the road, you realized on one side was a deep ditch and a stone wall preventing the animals from going onto the domestic garden area around the house - this illusion is called a "ha-ha", common on the estates of homes in England.
The coach continued to our next destination, passing by thickly wooded roadsides, wet marsh and cranberry bogs, small communities and imposing large homes. Arriving at Garden in the Woods, our driver turned into a narrow road heavily wooded on each side with steep drops. Situated on glacial terrain created by the retreating ice-shelf twelve thousand years ago, the gravel left by the melting ice was removed over the years for road construction. The depleted forty-five acres were purchased for one thousand dollars in 1931 by Mr. William Curtis. He set about creating an area dedicated to growing wild plants/ flowers and trees native to this area of North America. In 1965 it was passed to the New England Wild Flower Society to preserve and conserve. Paths wound up and down around the steep wooded sides of the valleys, oak and beech trees atop the ridges, ponds and marshland along the bottom. Abundant wildflowers, azaleas, rhododendrons, shrubs, crape myrtle and a great variety of ferns covered the understory under majestic trees. The clean, sweet smell of moist air and soil, bird song and cool air were instantly calming, encouraging looking, listening, absorbing the peaceful surroundings. A treasure of a place; we are so fortunate to have generous people who share their life's work for all to enjoy. An enticing gift shop was visited before we boarded the bus to leave.
The final stop on our return to the hotel proved to be a trial to Ed, our extremely good-natured coach driver. Directions were not precise, we passed by Walden Pond coming and going at least four times, homeowners must have wondered what on earth a coach was doing parked on their street, and I would not have been surprised to see the local sheriff turn up. Eventually we arrived at our destination, the Harding's private garden. We toured their well tended large variety of plants, trees, and especially rhododendrons.
A long, thoroughly enjoyable day, with lots to think about over a welcomed cup of tea back at thehotel.
Thursday, June 8th Our coach was delayed arriving at the hotel this morning due to congested traffic conditions. We departed at 9:30 am for the Harvard Museum of Natural History to see the Glass Flowers collection. I had wanted to see them ever since reading an article about them in a magazine. They did not disappoint! It took awhile to really take in that these beautiful plants and flowers were not real, the colour, delicacy and detail was astonishing. Made in Germany, by father and son glass artists to be used as teaching botanical specimens for the university, one could only wonder at such talent and resulting beauty.
Leaving the museum we headed to the Grafton Street Pub for delicious lunch (Marcia finds the best places). The weather was pleasant with sun and cloud, light breeze and dry. Our next destination to the Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Started in 1831 by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, the cemetery quickly became a tourist destination to enjoy the beauty and peaceful setting. Today, a seven million dollar budget is their yearly operating cost. A complete record of plantings has been kept, allowing us to know that the magnificent beech tree at the cemetery entrance it one hundred and ten years old. The native oak trees on site predate the cemetery and as plantings die or need replanting, only native trees and shrubs will be used. The cemetery has its own greenhouses where they grow their own transplants and nursery trees. A guide greeted us at the back cemetery gate, leading us along a high ridge path through old, interesting and beautiful grave headstones and monuments. Enormous trees, mature, colourful shrubs and bushes covered the rolling glacial terrain. A wild turkey quietly eating among the gravestones looked at us as we passed by, chipmunks and squirrels were busy seeking food. The cemetery is an important stop-over for birds to eat and rest on their long migration journeys north and south. Many members of our group climbed the observation tower to see the sweeping city views of Boston. There are four natural kettle ponds on the site formed by the retreating ice-sheet. Many well-known names buried here, among them Longfellow, Winslow Homer and Buckminster Fuller.
Our final destination of the day, back into Boston for a "Duck Boat" tour on land and water in an amphibious vehicle. Our very exuberant guide/tour narrator pointed out buildings of interest and places of historic value from the Revolutionary War. It was a strange feeling to drive from land into the river, the boat sitting low in the water of the Charles River, at that point no longer tidal and nor current, so very smooth and calm. Many cormorants sat on pilings in the river drying their open wings in the sunshine and light breeze. A most enjoyable day.
Friday, June 9th Up before the birds this morning and on our way in the busy Boston traffic, destination Fenway Park baseball stadium, a National Historic Building. Tour guides, Lori and Bob, took us throughout the stadium, giving many interesting facts and figures on the way. The ballpark covers only eight acres and has two thousand employees in place on game days. The natural grass is grown in New Jersey, the grounds resodded every few years. The grass is cut in a pattern every three or four days, groundskeepers often starting work at 5 AM and working very long days. We sat in the seats high atop the "Green Monster" wall. Next came the biggest surprise ever: on a flat roof, near the broadcasting studios, a thriving, healthy, abundant vegetable garden. Started in 2015 on a suggestion by a member's wife, the rooftop garden covers 1,800 sq ft, grows vegetables and herbs in raised boxes that supply the many restaurants in the ballpark. Five of the original elm trees, planted in 1911, continue to shade Party Alley just outside the park entrance gates.
Leaving the ballpark, we walked the two blocks to the Victory Gardens, which cover seven acres and hold 500 gardens. Started in 1942 as a war effort, they continue to be used by about 350 gardeners. The cost is $40 a year plus required community work days. The oldest gardener is 98 years old. Two tour guides took us around several of the gardens and then we wandered on our own. All the gardens were so different, you felt like a voyeur peeking into somebody's life; some strictly business vegs to feed a family, some vegs and flowers, others all flowers ( a romantic perhaps - read too many English novels?), several had a tiny pond with table and chairs, some had a vine- covered shady nook to retreat to on a hot, humid day. A small apiary was made up of beehives used mainly to breed the queen bees to start new colonies. A large composting area supplied all the gardens as needed. An abundance of rabbits ate anything and everything in spite of six resident hawks. A newly planted herb garden attracted many bees. We loved exploring these gardens, but lunch was calling - next stop the Isabella Stewart Garden Museum. Our luncheon tables were elegantly set, staff most attentive, most attractive room and wonderful food. A docent welcomed us, explained the original and new areas of the museum, starting with the new. The museum has its own greenhouses and nursery (off site) where all the potted plants and flowers are grown for the seasonal changes in the courtyard and museum rooms. Isabella's favourite flower was the nasturtium; in honor of her birthday in April, the greenhouse staff plant seeds in March and train the growing plants to grow up and over the roof of the greenhouses to create long, trailing stems full of flowers. They are carefully transported to the museum in a truck trailer with several people needed to carry each plant into the courtyard where they are put into place on the third floor balconies where the nasturtium plants create a cascade of colour falling down to the lower levels.
Our next destination was the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, a 281 acre park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, containing trees, shrubs and vines grouped by family. A docent led tour showed us many magnificent trees, particularly their giant redwood grown from seed. Dark skies, rumbles of thunder and lightning hurried us to return to the coach before the storm broke. Our final destination of the day was a tour of the Samuel Adams Brewery named after the patriot and brewer of that name. A guide told us the history of the brewery and led us through the brewing process - passing the hops and grains and yeasts for us to smell and feel. At the end of the tour we were each given a souvenir 4oz glass and entered the tasting room to enjoy trying several beers passed down the tables in large pitchers.
Saturday, June 10th After a leisurely breakfast we boarded the coach for the airport to catch a 12:30 PM flight to Detroit. We gave a warm thank-you to our coach driver, Ed, a friendly, jovial and easy-going man who skillfully maneuvered the coach through city traffic and rural roads. Ron gave him a Detroit Garden Center Trowel which Ed was delighted with.
Read Stella Heatley's 2016 Trip Journal
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