MHS Leaflet, March 2022

Page 1





Preparing for Spring


Upcoming Classes


World's Greatest Woodland Gardens Woodland Gardening by Kenneth Cox Reviewed by Carter Wilkie


An Introduction to Gardening By Gretel Anspach


Cornus Mas - The Cornelian Cherry By Wayne Mezitt


Then & Now: Gardening for Generations By John Lee


Tackling Pollutants with Phytoremediation By Cris Blackstone


From the Stacks By Maureen T. O'Brien


EDITOR Wayne Mezitt MARKETING Meghan Connolly


PREPARING FOR SPRING... It is a wonderful feeling when we realize that the days are getting longer, the weather is not so cold and the spring birds are starting to sing. With the snow quickly melting away, here at MHS we are eager to start work on the grounds, in the gardens, on the exterior or buildings and to plan our enhancement projects. At first glance, it seems right to hang up the jacket and start working outside, but you can’t jump right in without doing some thinking first to make sure you are prepared for the season ahead. Is the ground still frozen? Is the ground too wet? Do I have all of my tools ready? Have I ordered all my spring supplies?

With early planning and constant oversight, here at MHS and in your own gardens, answering some of these questions becomes a little easier. Knowing your property and its needs is the first step to making sure we are prepared for the season ahead, so get outside and make observations. As I said before, you might be excited to get out into your garden right away in the spring—as are we—but if the ground is too frozen and compacted to work with, you may have to wait until it thaws for you to get digging. Working the earth when it is still frozen or too wet may compact the soil in areas of your garden, and plant roots do need loose soil to thrive. The first lesson to learn in this season of preparation is patience. While March is the month that brings us longer days, warmer weather, and the

long-awaited spring season, we can’t rush into our busy spring planting mode.

Here in the gardens, we focus our attention on trees and woody shrubs until the ground thaws. Cutting back trees, like the beloved Copper Beech hedges that line the Italianate, and shrubs now means you can clearly see the branches where you need to cut, and you’ll provide a fresh canvas to host new growth. Removing dead or crossed twigs stops the pieces from rubbing against each other, prevents damage and disease to the tree, and shows the growth patterns and habits of the plant. Thinning and opening the canopy will also allow light and air circulation to prevent pests and disease.

This month, MHS is working hard to prepare the gardens for the season. In less than a month, we will start to see the thousands of guests, as well as the plants, that bring life to our gardens. During this time, we rely on our dedicated volunteers and a number of supporting contractors to help us tackle the wide variety of trees and shrubs on this beautiful property. As we prepare the gardens by pruning and planning, we are also preparing an exciting and event-filled season for you. We are so excited to welcome you back and see you out in the gardens again. John Sugden Facilities Manager

Garden Opening 2022

Sponsorship Opportunities Last year we welcomed more than 18,000 guests to The Gardens at Elm Bank. With a new season packed with events, programs and of course the joy and beauty of our gardens, we expect even more. We are offering Garden Opening Sponsorships to businesses that would like to reach our incredible supporters and guests. Click here to learn more.


Guided Winter Garden Tour March 9, 10-11am

Six Week Spring Ikebana Course March 15-April 19 6-8pm

Structure and Ornament in the Garden

April 7, 6:30-7:15pm

Introduction to Gardening Series March 9-April 6 6:30-7:45pm

Botany for the Home Gardener March 10, 7-8:30pm

Gardening for Everyone with Adrian Bloom

Principles of Floral Design

Hydrangeas 360

The Hummingbird Garden

March 20, 2-3pm VIRTUAL

April 9, 10-11:30am


3-COURSE WORKSHOP April 6-20, 7-8:30pm

April 20, 6:30-7:30pm VIRTUAL


Flash your membership card for a 10% discount with any of our Green Partners.

Garden Opening 2022 We're less than one month away from open season at The Gardens at Elm Bank! Join us by kicking off the garden season through our Facebook Fundraiser! Share with your friends and start planing all of the exciting things you'll do once we're back outside!

Come work for your favorite nonprofit!

We have career oppurtnities available. Check out our website to see current openings & to apply.

World's Greatest Woodland Gardens Woodland Gardening with Rhododendrons, Magnolias, Camelias and Acid-Loving Plants By Kenneth Cox, (Glendoick Publishing,

2019, 394 pages, $67)

Reviewed by Carter Wilkie

A woodland becomes a woodland garden by the cultivation of four layers into a unifying whole: tree canopy, understory, shrub layer and herbaceous ground cover. It can take years, even decades, for slow growing trees and other woody plants and bulbs to naturalize into the desired effect. Woodland gardeners are masters of delayed gratification, planting for future generations. In his book, Woodland Gardening, Kenneth Cox begins with a history of the garden style’s development in western culture, popularized in the late 19th century by William Robinson’s advocacy of naturalistic gardens comprised of plant communities that thrive in similar conditions and sites. “William Robinson did not create the woodland gardening style on his own,” Cox writes, “but nobody had more influence, particularly on the next generation of gardeners who took advantage of the largest influx ever seen of new plants from the wild.” “Robinson’s naturalizing ideal may give the idea that wild and woodland gardening is simply about planting amenable shrubs and perennials and watching them grow. If only!” Cox states. “Woodland gardening is above all the artful illusion of non-intervention, creating a ‘look’ as if everything is just taking care of itself.” Another irony: “The ‘naturalness’ of wild gardening is also questionable, given that most woodland gardens are an assemblage of exotics: from China, Himalaya, the Andes and South Africa, transplanted to Europe, North America or Australia.”

The author of previous books on rhododendrons and azaleas, Cox is a third-generator collector and propagator of ericaceous plants. He inherited one of Scotland’s finest woodland gardens, Glendoick, in Perthshire, from his nurseryman father, Peter, and his grandfather, Euan, who made his first plant collecting expedition to Asia more than a century ago. The family’s contribution to horticulture is legendary. Kenneth Cox has led at least ten plant hunting expeditions to Asia and has visited woodland gardens on four continents for more than 40 years. With 500 color photographs, the book showcases what Cox considers the best, including here in Massachusetts: Boston’s Arnold Arboretum, Heritage Gardens in Sandwich, and Polly Hill Arboretum in Martha’s Vineyard. Others featured range from the modern Tokachi Millennium Forest in Japan, to traditional estate gardens at Windsor Great Park and Exbury, in England, Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland, and Garinish, in Ireland’s County Cork. Against this competition, Cox declares, “I have no hesitation in saying that Bodnant [in north Wales, in view of Mount

Snowdonia] is by some margin the finest woodland garden ever created, in the best setting imaginable. Here the magical combination of environment, topography, a world class plant collection and more than a century of expert gardening skills, come together” like no other.

When it comes to design, Cox says a common mistake when creating a new woodland garden, or maintaining an established one, is failing to remove enough trees to open vistas and let in light, or leaving species of trees that outcompete shrubs for water in the soil. In our deciduous forest, oaks provide just the right amount of dappled shade, send their roots deep into the ground, and generate the best leaf mold for acid loving woodland plants.

Photos by Kenneth Cox, featured in Woodland Gardening

As the subtitle of the book suggests, Cox favors rhododendrons, magnolias, and, for readers in warmer climates, camellias. Rhododendrons get bad press, he argues, because they are too often sited poorly, with a collector’s obsession to assemble one of everything. This creates a gumball machine of contrasting colors when in bloom. Cox, the Scot, won’t say it, but Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is one of the worst offenders on this score. Russell Page might have had it mind when he wrote, “Rhododendron fanatics seem content with any old mass of color. With their huge range of coloring: whites, yellows, oranges, scarlets, crimson, mauves and purples are difficult to place, and I have never seen it well done. Walking through rhododendron collections appalls me. It is about as artistically interesting as leafing through a wallpaper catalogue.”

Best to separate the subtle pinks, whites and softer reds from the bolder magentas and mauves, or from the hotter yellows and oranges, as

Henry F. du Pont, a perfectionist when it came to color harmony, did at Winterthur. Easier still to plan monochromatic schemes using different hues and saturation of a single color. Cox’s favored mantra is, “to do less, better.”

That same wisdom applies to the rejuvenation of mature gardens in need of renewal, where the challenge is more about subtraction than addition. As a consultant to institutionally owned gardens, Cox has advised decision makers paralyzed by timidity when bolder intervention is called for. Like his earlier books on rhododendrons and azaleas, this one is encyclopedic, full of pointed observations and sarcastically funny asides. It is a large and heavy book, best read at a desk. At $67 and available for sale in the U.S. exclusively from the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden online, this book would be ideal for anyone responsible for the creation and oversight of woodland gardens on a large scale, including parks and institutional campuses.

Cox’s book examines woodland gardens primarily through a wide-angle lens, Darke guides the reader through the building blocks and how to piece them together artfully and naturally, layer by layer, for four season interest, with a bias toward using native plants. The more naturalistic and less manicured, less floriferous gardens in Darke’s book resemble Mt. Cuba, in Delaware, and Garden in the Woods, in Framingham, neither of which are mentioned in Cox’s book.

Of all the ingredients required for a woodland garden, time and patience are essential. “Some believe that, if you throw enough money at it, you can have an instant woodland garden,” Cox writes. “I beg to differ. You can have a pastiche of a woodland garden, but it won’t be any good and it won’t last long.” Done right, he explains, “woodland gardens are a longterm investment and an intergenerational process: a profound and deep relationship with nature over time, true ‘legacy gardening’ which can mature for decades and centuries after Photo of Kenneth Cox. Kenneth Cox and Lionel de Rothschild, the you are gone.”

owner and grandson of the creator of Exbury Gardens, the 200-acre Cox offers a nod to woodland garden in the south of England, will be featured speakers two relatively recent at the American Rhododendron Society’s spring conference and 75th books on woodland anniversary celebration, to be held in Vancouver and Portland, from gardening from Timber May 4-8, 2022. Press: Gardening with Woodland Plants, by Karan Junker (2007), and Designing and Planting a Woodland Garden, by Keith Wiley (2014). But he neglects to mention a third that I consider a must have for Americans on the east coast who own suburban property bordered by woodland, The American Woodland Garden, by Rick Darke, a former curator of plants at Longwood Gardens. Darke’s 2002 book is out of print but can be picked up second hand. Where

Carter Wilkie, who tends his woodland garden on the Massachusetts border in Little Compton, Rhode Island, received the top garden writing award from the Garden Writers Association of America last year (in the category of magazine writing) for his article on H.F. du Pont's Winterthur, in the Summer 2020 issue of Arnoldia, the journal of the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University.




hen gardening with my friends, I think the phrase I hear most often is “next year”. Next year we’ll plant something different, start earlier (or later), mulch before the weeds cover the ground, or whatever. Then winter comes with seed catalogs, and planning begins. The trick is to include some of the practical into those plans. Certainly I’ll leaf through the catalogs and decide which tomatoes to grow among the hundreds available (Sungold, Mountain Magic, and um…), but I also need to consider how to make those plants successful. And that’s what the Introduction to Gardening lecture series is about. This course will discuss four core topics of gardening—seed starting, soil preparation, vegetable growing, and seed saving—all of which I will touch upon briefly here.

What cultivars should we grow? The catalogs have beautiful photos with exuberant descriptions, and the names are tagged with initials like “F1”, “OG”, “OP” and “PMR”. Whether those are important depends on your goals, from outlasting disease (“PMR” indicates Powdery Mildew Resistant) to saving seeds (“OP” stands for open pollinated: the plants will breed true if pollinated by the same cultivar, “F1” means hybrid: the seeds will not breed true and may not even be fertile) to maintaining organic certification (“OG” means organically grown). We also need to decide whether to start from seed or seedling, and when. We need to figure out the best schedule either way taking into account the vagaries of spring weather. Plants don’t just care about the last frost date; they also have preferences for soil and air temperature. A warm weather plant in cold soil may not die but it won’t grow either. If we start from seed, we need to manage the seedlings so they hit the garden as healthy stocky seedlings that are not root bound, and at a time when the soil and air temperature are both right for the plant to flourish. The seed starting lecture will also cover how to develop those schedules, what materials you’ll need to start seeds, and the step-by-step process for starting your own seedlings. While we’re doing all this research and planning, we also need to prepare our soil. This is the single most important thing we can do to grow successfully, whether we’re growing vegetables, ornamentals, lawns, or trees and shrubs. One year I planted a row of acorn squash – all planted on the same day out of the same seed pack by the same person at the same depth and treated the same after planting. Half the row grew as large, green robust plants. The other half were puny chlorotic plants. The difference was in the soil, pH in particular, which is not something we can tell just by looking at it. That’s why we test our soil, follow the recommendations of the soil test, and then test again. By the way, the home soil tests are not accurate enough to help with this; soil tests need to be performed on calibrated equipment, which generally means a soil test lab like at UMass. There are other aspects to soil health we can help also with - organic matter, structure, compaction, and so forth. Spring is a great time to work on all of these, because it’s when it’s easiest to get

Two squash plants, from the same seed pack, growing at completely different rates.

at the soil – the annuals aren’t in yet and the perennials haven’t leafed out. The soil preparation lecture will also explain all this and also how to estimate your garden’s size so you can follow the soil test recommendations.

You might have guessed by now that I’m mostly a vegetable gardener. There are a few tricks to setting up and managing a vegetable garden that are different from an ornamental garden. A vegetable garden is closer to being a monoculture than most ornamental gardens, with all the attendant problems – pest & disease pressure and nutrient depletion. It also spends much of the time empty, which isn’t good for the soil. Setting up the vegetable garden with a few of these issues in mind makes tending it much easier. If we grow vegetables for fruit (botanically anything with a seed in it is a fruit, like a squash), we also need to encourage pollinators to visit our garden. Having plants blooming around your garden before the first fruit crop starts flowering increases the chances that your crops get pollinated, and integrating these flowers into your garden can be fun. The vegetable gardening lecture covers all these topics along with irrigation, crop rotation and dealing with pests and diseases. As the season winds down, we notice that certain plants have performed wonderfully in the garden and we want to grow them again. There’s no guarantee that the seed producer will sell them again next year. Can we just harvest the seeds from those plants and replant them next year? Yes, but. Only certain cultivars can produce seeds that breed true to type, and that still requires that they were pollinated by the same cultivar. If you want to save seeds that breed true, the planning begins in spring when you select which cultivars to grow, and extends through the summer in controlling where the pollen comes from the fertilizes this plant. Taking these steps is less important for ornamentals, since any undesired plants can be culled out early in the season, but with edibles it may be fall before you discover that the fruit from the saved seed tastes nothing like its parent. The seed saving class will cover all these topics as well as the process for harvesting, cleaning and preserving seeds. These four areas of gardening are the foundation to growing a successful garden. Even if you don’t start seeds, this lecture will help you understand the role temperature takes in when to plant or when weeds come up. Good soil suited to the plants you are trying to grow is essential to their health and to operating a sustainable garden. If you don’t grow vegetables, that lecture will still help you think about the logistics of setting up any garden – soil, water, light and accessibility. And while many people don’t save seeds, understanding more about the plant reproduction process helps us select and manage plants in our gardens. In each of these classes, we will go in depth on the specific topic with references to how this affects related areas of gardening. If you're looking to learn more about one specific topic or get a well-rounded intro to gardening, I recommend this course as a good place to start. Reserve your spot today!

Gretel Anspach is a Lifetime Master Gardener with the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association, a Trustee of Massachusetts Horticultural Society, and a recently-retired systems engineer for Raytheon. Gretel helped to establish and maintain two food production gardens that have provided fresh produce to the Marlboro Food Pantry for the last ten years.



very year those long-awaited first flowers of spring always arouse my senses and give birth to a primal appreciation of the renewal of life. And few trees or shrubs are more appropriate than the cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) for ushering-out winter, enticing spring to begin. No, despite its name, it’s not a cherry; it’s really a dogwood, and the first of this diverse genus to flower every spring. For me the real appeal of this plant (which can be grown as a multi-stem shrub or trained to form a 15-20 ft. tree) is its display of golden-yellow flowers which appear in earliest spring, just as the days begin to warm. One of the first of the woody plants to bloom in my garden, it signals the beginning of a cascade of color about to begin. Yes, its flowers don’t last long, usually only a week or two, but that’s enough to get my senses tuned to what’s

soon to follow: the earliest magnolias, Forsythia, “real” cherry trees and the Early Rhododendrons like ‘Weston’s Pink Diamond’ and ‘PJM’.

Finishing its bloom, C. mas displays clean, dark green leaves (there’s now a yellow-variegated-leaf cultivar, C. mas ‘Variegata’), followed in mid-summer by a profusion of edible berries. Its fruit, only fully ripening after it falls or is picked off the plant, tastes a lot like a melding of cranberry and sour cherry; for centuries traditional European cultures have valued it for preserves and beverages. Hybridizers in Eastern Europe and Russia have developed some cultivars with exceptionally large fruit, and they’re only recently becoming available in the USA from specialty nurseries.

Fall foliage color is variable depending upon conditions, but most years, its leaves turn a rich wine-red

before dropping in October. Even in winter the bark on mature stems and trunks exfoliates to create a colorful contrast against the snow. Few plants in my garden offer so much visual interest in every season. It’s these aspects of year-round appeal that helped qualify Cornus mas to become a 1999 Cary Award winner--a well-deserved honor.

Top: C. mas fruiting Bottom: C. mas bark

It’s one of the most winter cold-hardy plants you can buy, thriving even in those northernmost climates where minimum winter temperatures plunge as low as -30°F. It’s also not picky about where it grows, performing well in both sandy and clayey soils, even tolerating a bit of shade at the edge of the woods.

More importantly, cornelian cherry is readily available at garden centers. For those who wait until reliably warm weather to shop for plants, the flowers of Cornus mas will have already passed. But look around your neighborhood now – chances are some savvy homeowners have recognized the value of early flowers and have chosen this plant to display its beauty for all who see it to enjoy.

Wayne Mezitt is a 3rd generation nurseryman and a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, now chairman of Weston Nurseries and owner of “Hort-Sense”, a horticultural advisory business. He currently serves as editor for The Leaflet, an electronicallypublished monthly member newsletter for Massachusetts Horticultural Society at The Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley MA, and as chair of the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG).

Then Now


Gardening for Generations

By John Lee


John's mother in the gardens at Ottershaw Farm in 1932.

y parents were restless and anxious to leave ‘cold-roast Boston’ at the end of the war. They fled to Vermont and created a new life for themselves. My dad had done the research a hundred years ago now as a child with his dad. He had spent winter holidays sledding into a favored village on the local hill-roads rolled by horses, then dragging their toboggans back up or changing to traverse sleds to fly again willy-nilly to the center of town. All this the stuff of memories; some formative, all informative. Stories, to be sure, but a framework through which we may visit the lives we now inhabit. Some of what I remember most vividly and to which I often return were the perennial gardens created by my mom and backed up by wonderful stone walls and what seemed like an enormous vegetable garden created by my father. Today, as I fondly look back on those halcyon, freespirited days, I remember that every farmhouse had at least a significant kitchen garden which fed family members at least seasonally if not year ‘round. What a comfort it was to know that everyone could and did grow their own. That alone was an important respite from their daily trials and tribulations. But as generations divide and relocate, homes and history are lost. Relationship to our sense of place is diminished because many

of us now do not stay anywhere long enough to build a relationship with our built environment which is changing quickly (never mind our natural environment which is rapidly morphing into development). There's less personal identity with the homes of our forebears, certain buildings, parks and open spaces because they have become simply ‘places.’ They rarely remain the iconic places where generations share similar memories and experience. So, those of us with a predilection for the out-of-doors, turn inward and, increasingly, we are re-viewing our open spaces close at hand.

Coming up behind us is a generation which seems to revere some portion of our ‘old ways’ especially our food and garden ways. Many seem to be fed up with the ‘go west, young man’ ethos of moving on having used up what they are leaving behind. Novelty, then standardization and efficiency, became the buzz words of the day. Lives became homogenized—colorless and characterless. Outside our “not so big houses” we paved the yard for grills, swing set contraptions and deck chairs. Today, can we re-imagine our gardens less as demonstrations of material wealth and more as places of peace and pleasure, joy and a healing, contemplative space less fraught than our daily dosing of what has become ‘life’ for so many?

Clearly, there is fresh interest in our gardens and open spaces which quietly decorate our lives. We find ourselves mining our memory banks and headsaved photo files for hints of what brought our forebears peace and comfort outside their doors. What was it about their gardens that gave them a sense of self, self-satisfaction and an aura of peace or productivity? Today, in the time of COVID particularly, we see a new and significant interest in wild, public and open spaces not to mention the many public gardens and conserved lands in our region. So how does anyone know what to plant where (other than the familiar varieties that populated our parents’ gardens)? Most likely, they had an inherited or native sense of horticultural architecture and a preference for sturdy perennials which bloomed reliably year in and year out.

in highly recommendable garden centers where one can find not only tried and true species of old favorites but exciting variations on color, form and architecture (plus a wealth of helpful advice!).

Messervey and Susanka’s Outside the Not So Big House is a bible as to how one might think about their gardening spaces and begin to envision the shape, mood and purpose of the garden they may wish to create or modify. Whether it is contemplation or recreation, to enhance colors, textures or screenings, Outside offers design ideas that will help one select the most suitable plant material for your garden, the garden that will bring you and your family yearround pleasure and satisfaction for years to come, a garden that will give your home a sense of place and the garden that will draw your children and theirs back to their roots in a culture which you have created.

One can always hire what might seem like good taste these days. But if ownership of the result is more ‘Gardener, heal thyself’ important, now is the might be the arm-chair time to dig into popular horticulturist’s call to gardening magazines arms to start doing the that cater to your homework to create John's father in the gardens at Ottershaw Farm in 1932. tastes and region. Fine and build the garden of Gardening is an excellent reference resource as one’s imagination. Check off the obvious choices: is Horticulture. Seed and nursery catalogues are pollinators, seasonal color, architecture, depth of rich in ideas and best cultural practices to assure field. Go from there. Find your path and follow a reasonable chance for success in your renovated it. Mine your memory bank: might yesteryears landscape. But your best bet is to visit the websites pleasures become tomorrow’s joys, the roots of the (for starters) of your local garden centers because past become the roots of your future? they will offer the planting material best suited to your soils and climate. Eastern MA is awash

John Lee is the recently retired manager of MHS Gold Medal winner Allandale Farm, Cognoscenti contributor and president of MA Society for Promoting Agriculture. He sits on the Governor's Food Policy Council and UMASS Board of Public Overseers and is a long-time op-ed contributor to Edible Boston and other publications.

Tackling Pollutants

with Phytoremediation

By Cris Blackstone


n 1991, the word “phytoremediation” was included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary after being introduced in scientific journals, from researchers in universities such as Rutgers University among other lab situations. Just to dial in on the way we were thinking about the world then, other words introduced that year included force quit; Arnold Palmer (the iced tea/lemonade drink); SIM card; vacay; and zoodle. A new decade brought the concept as research following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster was at the forefront

of many countries working together putting the puzzle of the post-nuclear contamination together. Using plants to help clean up soil follows successfully from that era, under the name “phytoremediation.” The Latin words for plant and remedy directly combine to result in this word, and from there, the various plants used most commonly in this process can be categorized by the ways they are storing, breaking down or converting pollutants.

The first process is specifically phytoextraction. Here, the sunflower is the star – with a specific term “hyperaccumulator” telling us it’s taking up the pollution in roots, stems and leaves. There are plants with a specialty of breaking down the toxins to non-toxic levels (phytometabolism), and others convert the chemicals to be released in the atmosphere as vapors. That final category of the plants’ process is called phytovolitization.

All in all, to understand phytoremediation is to consider the effect the pollution has on the landscape in the first place. Considered a blight on an urban area, the polluted plot can’t support a community garden nor is it a site for a playground or courtyard for a housing complex. Costs of crews operating heavy equipment to remove soils and the subsequent cost of taking that soil to a hazardous waste location is a tough burden for a property owner to bear. Considering the ecologically appealing process of using plants to help gather, contain, or convert the toxins, phytoremediation has a terrific street appeal. While we are considering the multifaceted positive effects of using plants in the phytoremediation process, there are several aspects of this process that could be considered negative. To grow a succession of plants takes more time than a full-bore crew with heavy equipment. Patience remediating a property will result in a cost that is likely a quarter of the cost of those type of crews. Another potential negative talking point is that phytoremediation can only tackle the heavy minerals and contaminants to a depth of root growth. That distance could be as shallow as a foot to a depth of 12 to 15 feet depending on the plants used. There are uses for plants in helping clean up contaminated soil, water and even air. We have grown accustomed to the idea of plants such as sansevieria cleaning up the air we breathe in our homes and offices, after research projects for space exploration helped bring those uses to practical application. Benzene, for example, is taken up by spider plants and rubber trees, both common in our indoor jungle aesthetic. Phytoremediation is commonly discussed in urban planning projects and includes plants used for water cleanup, too. Willows and poplar trees,

because of their root systems and quick growth habits, are found to be effective in helping mitigate or at lease slow down water pollution in some instances. In this first of two articles on plants’ useful roles in phytoremediation, it is helpful to understand more about some specific plants and related research in this field. Mustard plants (Brassica juncea) have an elevated capability to absorb lead from soil. When harvested after being used in this way, it can’t be used as mulch or fertilizer, but when burned, the remaining ash is lead-rich and can then be disposed of as hazardous waste. Imagine that great advantage – the mustard was helpful against erosion, while accumulating lead from the contaminated soil, and then capturing it reducing the lead to ash, taking up much less space than removing and transporting Dr. Subhash Minocha, Professor Emer lead-affected soils. in his university lab, holds a tobacco p Pennycress (Thlaspi) ally quickly, adding to its appeal in ph "pollution harvesting" means sites ca is another plant all inhabitants, including domestic an intensely researched as an effective hyperacculumlator of zinc and cadmium. For gardeners, there is a connection to one highly favored plant, hydrangeas, with aluminum. We know these shrubs absorb aluminum sulfate and intentionally affect their color by applying it around the plant drip lines to be absorbed by the roots. While not practical to think a large area will be able to have aluminum contaminants removed by hydrangeas, think of the professional designs

incorporating them with other plants using their phytoremediation abilities!

From thinking about plants in the context of helping clean up contaminated fields or city vacant lots, to thinking about the research conducted worldwide to help desalinization or pollution from oil spills or pesticide use, we can change the scope of our familiarity with this process to learn a little more about what goes on in corporate or university lab settings.

Locally, universities in Massachusetts and neighboring states are active in bringing worldwide attention to the process of phytoremediation through their biology, botany, horticulture, and landscape architecture departments as well as in urban planning and business management topics for economic ritus University of New Hampshire, development of plant. This plant grows exceptionpreviously unappealing hytoremediation projects. Quick an be returned to uses beneficial to land areas.

nimals, wildlife and us.

At the University of New Hampshire, Durham, for instance, Dr. Subhash Minocha, Professor Emeritus, has been working several decades on phytoremediation, in fact, on “all things related to plants” since he believes “pollution is not a scientific word, but simply means what we don’t want to be there, in quantities we cannot tolerate.”

Carbon dioxide is a prime example of this – too much is bad, while too little would mean there would be no plants. Dr. Minocha is happy to point out “dilution is the solution to pollution.” This is evident in the ways we are currently thinking of plants helping mitigate soil not only on the scale of a Chernobyl or more recently, Fukushima, disaster, but in ways research can help us mitigate soil or water pollution on a smaller, local scale such as a mildly polluted river or stream. With the idea that phytoremediation experts maintain, “Dilution is the solution to pollution,” we can appreciate how this research will lead to working on bacteria to break down plastics, albeit slowly, since, as Minocha points out, “. . .it’s a principal of life that everything made by living organisms is biodegradable by another organism.” The crux of using some plants to clean soil, water or air, lies in understanding how plants can tell you if there’s metal or a toxin in the soil. Dr. Subhash Minocha’s graduate students come from India, Nepal, and Kazakhstan to research biomarkers and effective use of plants such as the poplars and willows, to plants with enhanced biomarkers (notably tomato plants and tobacco plants) to become tomorrow’s phytoremediation being developed today. With plants being used like this to help reverse negative influences on the environment, we can be hopeful that as they work on the problem sites, they are also offering the calming appeal and mental health benefits we recognize now more than ever, in our society.

In the next issue of Leaflet, we’ll continue to share information about phytoremediation with a look at people, plants and projects in Massachusetts involved in this work. With sites you could visit, and a glimpse of research work on-going, Cris Blackstone’s article will offer more and will share resources you may want to check out on your own about this process.

Cris Blackstone is a NH Certified Landscape Professional, UNH Master Gardener, UNH Cooperative Extension Natural Resources Steward, and Garden Communicators International Region 1 Director. Cris is the owner of Make Scents, located in Newmarket, NH.

From the Stacks

By Maureen T. O’Brien, Library Manager

[O]n Tuesday, the 24th, at noon, … a meeting of sixteen gentlemen, the first public one of the kind, convened at the time and place mention, although the day was bitterly cold, and a remarkable snow-storm had just filled the streets to the depth of five or six feet in the city, and much deeper in the country towns. To give character to this preliminary meeting it was deemed quite an object to have the Hon. John Lowell, who then stood at the head of the horticulturists of Massachusetts preside. His health being feeble, he had felt but little hope that he should be able to be present. One of his neighbors on Colonnade Row, Cheever Newhall, however called on him that morning, with his sleigh and extra blankets, and induced him to wrap up and come down, to the great satisfaction of the company. Description of the weather in Boston on February 24, 1829, the date of the first official meeting of this Society based on reminiscences of John Brooks Russell in History of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society 1829-1878, p. 58 Winters in the 19th century were longer, colder and harsher than today. For instance, the blizzard of 1888 was the deadliest in the United States history dumping up to 50 inches of snow in Massachusetts with drifts as high as 40 feet. We have been unable to confirm the exact weather conditions in Boston

on February 24, 1829. It is likely that Russell’s reminiscences, recorded in 1870 when he was 68 years old, reflect faded memories or he may have been summarizing the cold, accumulated snow fall and the size of drifts. His point was to emphasize how determined our 16 founders to get the Society underway. Three weeks later, the Society was officially formed on March 17, 1829.

Featured Collection ― Archives: Society History Factoid:

On March 17, 1737, more than two dozen Presbyterians gathered in Boston at a dinner to honor Saint Patrick and to form the Charitable Irish Society of Boston, the oldest Irish organization in North America. Thus, began Boston’s Saint Patrick’s Day annual celebration, the longest running in the United States1. This dinner is the precursor to the Annual Saint Patrick Day breakfast held every year in South Boston.

Portrait from the Society’s Portrait Collection of Founder John B. Russell presented by his friends in 1871.

Ninety-two years later, The Massachusetts Horticultural Society was founded by sixteen men in a meeting at the offices of Founder Zebedee Cook at 7½ Congress Street in Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1829.

Historians often get waylaid in their search by extraneous facts and wanting to know more about the people behind the facts. That often happens when we work with the Society’s artifacts and historical records. We are currently working on our portrait inventory. One is an oil portrait of a handsome young man, John Brooks Russell (18011891.) He was not an officer but it turns out that he was the most foremost promoter for the founding of a horticultural society in Massachusetts and its last surviving founder. Between 1824 to 1832, Russell was publisher of the New England Farmer, a popular weekly journal and principal organ of the Society in its early years. At 52 North Market Street, near Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, Russell opened a seed store on the first floor and his publishing business on the second floor. This was an ideal place for horticulturists and agriculturists from around the country to gather and discuss their mutual interests. It was here that the seed for a horticultural society was sown and germinated. After its founding, the Society occupied the third floor of Russell’s building but soon outgrew the space.

Russell was a Founder and incorporator of the Society and served as the Society’s Agent, Counsellor and member of the Committee on the Culture and Products of the Kitchen Gardens. After selling the Farmer in 1832, Russell continued in the publishing business in Boston and then moved to New Jersey, Ohio, Washington, D.C. and Indiana. He became a corresponding member in 1847 and continued his life-long association with the Society. He was the first librarian for the United States Department of Agriculture, where he served until his retirement in 1877. Russell was an honored guest and speaker at the Society’s “Semi-Centennial” Anniversary celebration in 1879. He maintained in contact with the Society as a corresponding member until his death.

Flower Markets of the World This month we feature the mail from France here.

In the Windows – Books on Ireland & Books for Sale The Library has a wide range of used horticultural books for sale, most in the $1 to $5 range. Consider dropping by and picking out a book for yourself or for a gift. Second-hand gifting is an environmentally friendly way to reduce your environmental footprint. Used books fit that bill perfectly! Our Collections are Growing…

Thank you to Tess Tomlinson for her donation in kind.

Consider donating a book or two to the Library from the MHS Amazon Smile Wishlist. Many of them reasonably priced children’s books. Make sure you leave your name and we will thank you in the next Leaflet. Then come to the Library and borrow some books—one of your membership benefits! Borrowing books from a Library is a great green way to reduce your consumption. Come Visit…

The Library is open by appointment and when the lights are on. Please email Library Manager Maureen O’Brien for an appointment if you want a scheduled visit.

The Society’s Memorial of Russell may be viewed here.

While Saint Augustine lays claims to the oldest Saint Patrick’s day Celebration in 1600, it did not continue and was only recently revived.


The Gardens at Elm Bank Open April 1-October 31 Classes, Programs Year-round

Massachusetts Horticultural Society 900 Washington St Wellesley, MA | 617.933.4900