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Leaflet eNewsletter                                                                      January 2013 Edition 
In This Issue
Letter from the President
Mass Hort's Library Enters the Digital World
A Winter Walk at Elm Bank
Mass Hort at the Flower Show Goes Green!
Your Winter Garden
Book Review
January Horticultural Hints
In Praise of Houseplants
Mark Your Calendars for Upcoming Events

Book Club Features a Video for its January Meeting


The Mass Hort Library's Book Club will meet again on Wednesday, January 23, 2013, from 10:30 to 12:00 in the Education Building. This time we will convene with a multi-media event, as we view a highly-praised DVD called "A Man Named Pearl". It tells the story of an elderly African-American gentleman, who was not welcome in his
new neighborhood because it was thought that "Black people don't keep up their yards." He is determined to create a beautiful destination for his neighbors, with topiary as his centerpiece, and to win a "Yard of the Month" award. We won't divulge the result, but will say that the Washington Post reported that the DVD "Shapes up as a winner!"


Some of the Book Club participants will have read Elsie Venner, the 19th century novel by Oliver Wendell Holmes, in which a paradise is built among boxwood and topiary, but one should come to enjoy the DVD even without having read the book.
Light refreshments will be served, and all are welcome. We would like to know who is coming, so if it is convenient, contact Maureen Horn, the Librarian. ([email protected]; 617-933-4912.



Barbara Paul Robinson, author of Rosemary Verey: The Life & Lessons of a Legendary Gardener

Thurs., January 31st 1:30pm

Education Building


During a sabbatical from a New York law firm, where she was the first woman partner, Barbara Paul Robinson worked as a gardener for Rosemary Verey at Barnsley house, in the Cotswolds of England.She credits this life transforming experience with soon thereafter becoming the first woman president of the New York City Bar.She has written the first and, so far, only biography of the great English gardener. Rosemary Verey: The Life & Lessons of a Legendary Gardener (David R. Godine, 2012) was greeted by enthusiastic reviews, including one by Michael Dirda in the Washington Post, where he called the book an "irresistible biography".The October 10 issue of Country Life devoted six pages and its cover to it. On December 21, 2012, Robinson was interviewed by Robin Young on WBUR's "Here and Now".

There will be an opportunity to hear Barbara at Elm Bank on January 31, when she gives an illustrated lecture on her book, including a behind the scenes look at Verey's work at Barnsley and her influence on celebrities such as Prince Charles and Elton John.


On that afternoon, light refreshments will be served and signed books will be available for purchase. The cost of the event to members will be $10.00 and to non-members $15.00. To register click here.


To take a virtual tour of Barbara's amazing gardens at her home in Connecticut, go to her website at www.brushhillgardens.com.


If you have any questions, contact Librarian Maureen Horn. ([email protected]; 617-933-4912) 


Mark Your Calendars for these Upcoming February Events!

Whole Foods Cooking Demo:


February 5th - For the Love of Chocolate 



Whole Foods Market in Wellesley has teamed up with our Garden to Table program to bring you cooking classes throughout the fall and winter. 


Healthy Eating Specialist Lisa Caldwell, director of the Our Health Starts Here Program at Whole Foods Market in Wellesley, will help you make healthy choices in cooking, eating, and menu planning.

Classes will be held at Whole Foods Market in Wellesley.

For the Love of Chocolate

Tuesday, February 5th

6:00 - 8:00 pm


Need we say more? Let's learn how and why we love it; then taste some decadent creations utilizing this dark delicious treat.


Cost - $10.00 for members, $12.00 for non-members.

Reservations may be made by calling 617-933-4943 or ordering online here. You may also pay at the class.




The Talk and Tasting Event Series


The Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in partnership with the Massachusetts Horticultural Society presents:


The Talk and Tasting Event Series - programs designed to explore the health benefits of different seasonal vegetables and show how these vegetables can easily be prepared at home.


Our upcoming winter event:


Cooking with Kale!

Sat. February 9th, 2013


This event will feature a lecture on the health benefits of kale, a cooking demonstration with Chef Rolando Robledo from Clover Food Lab, gardening tips given by Master Gardener Betty Sanders, a free tasting, and chance to win a prize. All events in the series are open to the public and are free of charge.


Date: Sat., February 9, 2013

Time: 2 PM - 3:30 PM

Location: Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111 (Tufts- New England Medical Center)


Chef Rolando Robledo is the Corporate Executive Chef at the Clover Food Lab (www.cloverfoodlab.com).  He has a culinary background that includes the French Laundry in Napa Valley, the Waldorf-Astoria, Lespinasse at The St. Regis Hotel, Aquavit in NYC and Emeril's in New Orleans. He was the Foodservice Educators Network International 2010 Post Secondary Educator of the Year. Rolando is not vegetarian, but he cares deeply about the links between the food we eat, health and sustainability.


Volunteer today! Mass Hort is looking for volunteers to help run programs, events, and join committees. Use your management, marketing, and people skills to help Mass Hort deliver its mission.

Learn more about volunteering at Mass Hort


Sign up today to volunteer! 

Letter from the President
Kathy Macdonald, President of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society  
Photo by Andy Caulfield



Dear Friends,    


With fresh snow on the ground, New Year's Day was a day to celebrate winter at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society! As I drove up to the property, passing many families out for a day of sledding on the "best sledding hill around", I was reminded of my childhood in Connecticut's Litchfield hills. Sledding was important business to me and my friends. We would sled and play in the snow banks for hours, only returning home when our noses were bright red and our woolen mittens were clumped with ice. Then it was time to enjoy hot chocolate as the clanking radiators thawed out wool hats, scarves, and mittens.

"Best Sledding Hill Around!" -Quotes a Facebook Friend


Now, it's time to start dreaming of plants, gardens, and green. ONLY sixty-three days to go to the Boston Flower and Garden Show (March 13, 2013) and our first glimpse of spring. Like clockwork, Mass Hort's flower show committees are requesting that Clark Bryan, Director of Operations, and the Mass Hort crew pull the pedestals out of storage for their fresh coat of paint. The exhibit committee is busy workiFloralDesignVolunteer2013ng with our generous sponsors on the Mass Hort exhibit. Signs are being made. Floral designers and amateur horticulturalists are dreaming of their ribbons and awards. Photographers are sizing up images. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes of the show! That is what makes it fun!

Last week I sat in my office, looking out at our snow covered gardens, while reading the many comments that members submitted with our recent Member Survey. One comment made summer a little closer: "There is no greater pleasure than strolling through the gardens on a lovely summer afternoon." Thank you to all those who took the time to complete our recent Member Survey. Reading your comments is so valuable to me and to the organization, as we look at our programs, educational offerings, and the Gardens at Elm Bank, and plan for the future. Thank you for your generous support of Mass Hort.

I hope you enjoyed the holidays and I wish you a healthy, happy New Year!





Mass Hort's Library Enters the Digital World


The earliest volumes of Massachusetts Horticultural Society's "Transactions" (Society meetings, records, and reports) are now preserved in digital form! Over 700 pages of these treasures are now easily available at your fingertips here.

Go to the main archive page for more digital Mass Hort volumes. 


A Winter Walk at Elm Bank

Winter is a great time to discover color and texture in the garden.





Cornus sanquinea 'Midwinter Fire'  

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' Dogwood

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula 

Chamaecyparis nootkatensis 'Pendula'



Scladopitys veerticillata
Sciadopitys verticillata Japanese Umbrella Pine
Mass Hort at the Flower Show Goes Green!

One of the exceptional benefits of a Mass Hort Membership is ticket(s) to the Boston Flower & Garden Show, to be held this year on March 13 -17th. This year, Mass Hort is fulfilling all of its members' Flower Show tickets online with E-ticketing. This is not only a green initiative but a cost-saving measure as well.


Member E-tickets will be available online for retrieval and printing by members in February. Mass Hort will send an email to each member directing them to the Flower Show's "Buy Tickets Now" webpage, with instructions on how to retrieve and print each member's allotment of complimentary Flower Show ticket(s). 


Member Paper Tickets: Mass Hort will mail tickets to members that do not have an email on file with Mass Hort, or do not have internet or printer access. If you do not have internet or printer access, or if you have any questions, please call Amy Rodrigues at 617-933-4963. Please watch for your email in February and see you at the Show!

Your Winter Garden

by Betty Sanders
Lifetime Master Gardener

The snow has finally come to my property. Overnight I have a new garden to enjoy. The spring garden with bulbs and blooming shrubs is one garden; the summer garden with perennial flower beds and annuals and tropicals scattered about in containers is another. In fall there are fewer flowers, but the trees and shrubs put on a dramatic, colorful display.

In winter, all the hidden beauties of my garden get to take center stage. Also in winter, I have the one time of year when I can contemplate additions to my garden without distractions. More
about that in a moment. 

River birch in winter

Stop and look to see what the winter garden offers. Paperbark and river birch trees grab attention with beautiful peeling bark. Much of the year, that bark is hidden by leaves. Only with the leaves gone can these beautiful trees be clearly appreciated. But birches are hardly alone. Many Kousa dogwoods offer a patchy bark that provides a melody of colors on each branch. Trident and paperbark maples provide layers of color as bark peels, unexpected after a summer of great shade. Hornbean trees look like body builders showing off with their rippling muscular bark. Stewartia offer a patchwork of color worthy of Grandmother's crazy quilt.

In front of my home, a young oxydendron (sourwood tree) has no special bark, but it displays its classic shape and many branches decorated with the dried panicles from its mid-summer flowers.

Shrubs come out of the shadow of flowers in winter. A golden chamaecyparis and a blue juniper that sit quietly in a flower bed all summer jump out to take center stage now that the competition is

This is our Leucothoe 'Rainbow' in January
asleep. Leucothoe 'Rainbow' is a shade loving evergreen that, instead of needles or waxy leaves, greets you with waves of soft leaves that are green - and yellow and white and touched with pink. The shrub is beautiful all year but only gets the attention it deserves in winter. Amazingly, the Itea, a pretty native shrub with white flowers in the spring and green foliage that make everything around it look better all summer, is still holding onto those leaves, now red and peach and orange and carmine.

Witchhazel, a shrub your grandmother grew, is getting ready to bloom. The new varieties have more flowers, but the older varieties have a scent that will enchant you if you clip off a branch and bring it into the house. Most witchhazels bloom while the snow is still on the ground - assurance that spring will come. My Daphne 'Transatlantica' sits half-covered with snow, but on the uncovered parts, small white flowers offer up their intoxicating scent. Winterberries are show stoppers until the birds have removed the last of the bright red berries. Less showy, but equally attractive to the birds are viburnum.
Our Daphne transatlantica blooms through the winter
And speaking of birds, the bluebird or cardinal, the woodpecker and even the blue jay become show stoppers in the winter garden. You can put out feeders to attract them, but if you grow the berries they love, provide shelter and give them some fresh clean water, you will have them in your garden year round.

Your winter garden may be hidden from your window view if the shrubs were placed directly against the house. For many decades (no, it wasn't always so) many developers and homeowners planted shrubs one-deep along the foundation. Honestly, no law says you must landscape your house this way. Placing shrubs and trees out in the yard means you get to enjoy your garden - your winter garden - when the weather keeps you indoors.
Our Itea 'Henry Garnet' has great winter foliage

My two favorite winter views are of the shrubs and trees planted around our front yard and the 'back yard' garden going down a slope which was designed to look best from the house, not when you are actually in the garden. Our perennial beds are dotted with dwarf and not-so-dwarf shrubs that provide life and interest to otherwise dormant areas.

While you look out your window at the frozen landscape, you can make some new plans. Find the areas that cry out for you to add something especially for the winter garden. Consider a walk at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, starting at the entrance garden designed last year by Paul Miskovsky. Continue your stroll to the five year old Bressingham Garden and finally the century old Italianate Garden in front of the mansion-- all created to provide year round interest. They offer three very different ways of approaching a landscape. And in those gardens are the plants that will bring your winter landscape to life.

Hornbeam tree in winter
Take along pen and paper and make a list of the plants you'd like to see when you look out the window. In the spring, go shopping for some of those plants that you might otherwise ignore as the nurseries fill up with spring flowering specimens. Then plant them in the middle of the yard, out by the edge of your sidewalk, or anywhere you look out the window. Next winter-and for many winters to come-you'll be glad you did.  


Book Review: Three Books to Fire a Child's Imagination

Reviewed by Maureen Horn
Massachusetts Horticultural Society Librarian

The world is awash in children's books. They are colorful, short, and easy for a young reader (or a pre-reader) to grasp. Good children's books convey a lesson; an idea that a child will remember after the last page is turned. The best children's books work at multiple levels
simultaneously: they entertain, they amuse, and they inspire.

At the Massachusetts Horticultural Society's 'AuthorFest' in November, three books were represented - all by local authors - that meet that 'best' definition. Each one encourages children to envision a world where changes can be made if the imagination is ignited and its
embers are persistently stoked.

The Beantown Tales
by Suzie Hearle Canale, helps children contend with two difficult subjects:the environment and endangered animals, and encourages young readers to think about creative solutions. Her theme is carried out in a whimsical manner, with sunny illustrations by Kevin Coffey and compelling rhyme that sets the reader to singing. Coffey's pictures of child-friendly food in all three books closely resemble Canale's favorite flowers. 'The Land of Chocolate Cosmos' shows a child helping his neighbors learn to split plants so they will grow in profusion. In 'The Popcorn Hydrangea of Poppington', a child helps the mayor write a law that would lead to clearer skies and, in 'The Candy Roses of Cape Care', a whole family conducts a campaign
for clean beaches.

Mr. Bull and the Amazing Grape by Deborah A. Locke tells a story of particular interest to Mass Hort members. Although a work of fiction, it is a carefully researched account of Ephraim Wales Bull's creation of the Concord Grape. Mr. Bull is seen accomplishing his feat by capturing the imagination of a group of Concord children as they keep vigil (with the assistance of an adorable small dog) over a promising vine. Throughout the growing year, the children envision and discuss a perfect grape. When that amazing grape finally appears in 1853, it is brought to the exhibition halls of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society where it receives a coveted gold medal. The gold medal, which denotes triumph, appears in the middle of the book and is the same one that is awarded today.

Locke's illustrations are as inspiring as her text. She uses brilliantly colored papers, artfully blended and positioned, to achieve amusing costumes and facial expressions. These same paper constructions become period Concord structures and other background elements. The book is a treasure. Locke is a Concord resident and children's clothing designer who has put her talents to work as and entertainer and an educator.

Rhoda's Ocean by Betty Abbott Sheinis was recently published posthumously. The Natick author's rich pastel illustrations tell the story of practical Wilma Woodchuck and dreaming Rhoda Rabbit as they carry on their humorous activities. Dreaming Rhoda's personality wins
out because her desire for a trip to the ocean is realized by her creation of a beautifully painted seascape. This fulfillment is a good example for a child who is allowed to nurture the gift of imagination.

The book's publication (described in a December essay in the Boston Globe) is just as inspiring. The late author conceived the story decades ago, but the text and drawings of the book were only recently discovered in her home. Her family worked with a local art gallery to see the story to print.

All the books are given pride of place in the Mass Hort Library's Children's Collection, where the librarian encourages drop-in visitors and promises impromptu story readings.

Rhoda's Ocean and The Beantown Tales are available through Amazon.com. Mr. Bull and the Amazing Grape is available through the author's website, http://deborahlocke.com/publications.html.
January Horticultural Hints

By Betty Sanders

Lifetime Master Gardener

Keep your Christmas tree around. Temperatures have dropped into the danger zone for plants that are not securely tucked away for winter, but your Christmas tree can help those tender plants through the season. Cut the branches off your tree and use them to mulch flower beds or around the base of new shrubs. At this time of year, the goal of mulch (including the snow covering your garden) is to keep the soil cold and prevent roots from being heaved out into the air by freeze-and-thaw cycles. Plants in sunny areas may need your help the most. Young trees can also benefit from a gentle wrapping with burlap to prevent the sun from heating and splitting the bark on the trunk.
Use your Christmas tree to protect perennials

Start your year off clean. Use these non-gardening days to clean all your tools and prepare them for spring gardening. Wash all tools to remove dirt and any lingering chemicals or even
hidden insects from 2012 gardening. Sharpen your pruners, loppers, shovels, spades and mower blades. Don't know how to sharpen? Go to your favorite nursery where the staff can show
you how, or check online for detailed videos that show you how to sharpen any blade. Here's one that is short and to the point. When you have finished, use a clean rag and oil to put a thin coating on each blade. If your tools, like mine, live in an unheated garage or tool shed, this will prevent moisture from rusting the metal.
January is a great time to clean your garden tools

Start your year off green. Do you have leftover chemicals - pesticides, herbicides or fungicides hanging around your garage, garden shed or basement? These are dangerous poisons and must be disposed of properly. Contact your local Department of Sanitation or Public Works for the next chemical disposal day. And this year, pledge not to use lawn and garden chemicals unless absolutely necessary.

How do you avoid those chemicals? For starters, remember that healthy grass will crowd out most weeds. By contrast, repeated applications of lawn products kill the very valuable organisms that live in the soil and help grass to grow by providing nutrients naturally. Often soil organisms even kill off "bad bugs". Many 'problems' are not truly problems. Crabgrass can grow only in sunny locations. Dandelions can easily be popped out of the ground with a Cape Cod weeder, or even an old screwdriver. Proper mulching prevents most weeds from growing in flower beds. Mildew on plants can be treated with a spray solution of baking soda and water.

Most insects are beneficial or benign - don't kill your friends. As for the remaining two percent, a strong spray from a hose, hand picking or soap solutions will take care of most of them. Attract birds that feed on insects by providing shelter and water (trees, shrubs and a clean bird bath.) Don't create more problems than the insects did by killing off the good with the bad.

Try a little tenderness (or humidity). The one thing houseplants suffer from the most during the winter is the dryness of our homes. While keeping plants grouped together is helpful, the best way to raise the humidity level is to set the plants on trays of pebbles. Keep water in the tray just below the top of the pebbles so the plants will enjoy the humidity without the risk of
being accidentally overwatered.

Finally, houseplants should never be placed where they touch the window. On many winter nights, the glass is cold enough to   damage the foliage.


In Praise of Houseplants

By Neal Sanders
Leaflet Contributor

"All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray..."
California Dreaming, John Phillips and Michelle Phillips

A fast-moving storm last week dropped seven inches of snow on my home, turning white a landscape that has been, since early November, a sad blend of browns and grays. Welcome to winter in eastern Massachusetts, a condition that will persist in some variation for the next three months.

Which is why this entry is all about houseplants and why they're treasured in this household. I grew up with year-round outdoor greenery and flowers. Nominally, I appreciated that subtropical splendor. In reality, it was part of a background that I took for granted and often found inconvenient. When periodically ordered to cut back the hibiscus hedge or grub out the aracea palms that were spreading into the lawn, I piled imaginary term papers on top of one another as excuses not to sully my hands with such chores.

Burbidgea 'Golden Brush'
This morning, by contrast, I marveled at a Burbidgea scheizochella 'Golden Brush' that has sent up a strikingly attractive flower. It grows in our family room where there is abundant light even in January. Multiple crotons (formally, Codiaeum variegatum) provide a rainbow of reds, yellows and greens in each leaf. There are cultivars of begonias in many rooms, each an adventure to be appreciated.

These plants need not be exotic, or even in bloom, to provide visual enjoyment. Ferns occupy ledges and shelves in several rooms. A single peace lily (Spathiphyllum) received as gift many years ago has begat half a dozen offspring. They are cheerfully green the year round. This time of year, their regal white flowers - plain by the standards set by many other plants - are welcome additions to rooms' color.

We purchase houseplants that appeal to us. Some, we encounter
Crotons provide great winter color with minimal maintenance
in visits to nurseries and garden centers. Others beckon us through the mail. The cover of Logee's winter catalog featured a
glorious Calathea unlike any we had ever seen. The photo of that plant coupled with a dozen other candidates prompted us to take a Saturday morning trip to Daniels, Connecticut, to inspect the goods. Calathea 'Holiday' is now blooming in our living room, one of half a dozen new specimens that are now part of our collection. It joins another recent arrival, a compact Euphorbia 'Salmon' from White Flower Farm, that is already resplendent with flowers that should continue through the winter months.

Winter color need not come only from exotic specimens. Colorful cyclamen can enliven a home just as well as orchids (and, thanks to tissue cultures, the availability and variety of orchids has proliferated even as their price has plummeted). Nor are houseplants necessarily greedy. Philodendron and cacti seem to thrive with minimal attention (a Sanseveria trifoliate, better known as 'Mother-in-Law's tongue', survived in my aunt's house for decades with little more than periodic dusting).

We have more than sixty houseplants in all, a happy mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary. There is no rhyme or reason to what we have. Each plant came to us through serendipity; each remains because it has thrived in our home.

I don't often offer unsolicited advice, but here is some: this weekend, take a trip to a nursery with a selection of blooming houseplants. If one (or more) strikes your fancy, take it home with you.


Neal Sanders is a frequent contributor to the Leaflet. Neal's newest mystery,  Murder for a Worthy Cause, was published in September. You can learn more about it here. That book, plus his four other mysteries, can be ordered through Amazon.com.