Garden Blogs

Lee May, a gentle voice I will miss.

Cancer has silenced a gentle voice, that of Lee May, a man with a designer’s eye, a sense of place, and gifted words that conveyed his vision and awareness.

I only had a casual acquaintance with Lee through our shared love of gardening and writing, and our once-shared town. But a casual acquaintance is all one needed to appreciate Lee’s gifts. His words speak to a gardener’s soul in ways that reach those of us who must work our hands in soil, who paint nature using a pallet of plants and found materials. (I use the word speak in the present tense since, fortunately, Lee’s garden writings did not disappear with him. His blog, Lee May’s Gardening Life, remains.)

As a gardener, Lee created landscapes that were uniquely him … no lawn, lots of rock of all shapes and sizes, garden rooms, and unusual features that caught one’s attention.

His Big Momma’s Garden, on the Connecticut acreage he once oversaw, exuded Lee’s love of whimsy and his southern roots. Don’t just go by the photos below or those he shared in A Tribute to Big Momma’s Garden … read his words. His descriptions make his gardens so much richer.

Lee willingly toiled in his outdoor spaces, doing much by hand and sweat-equity. He understood that working in one’s garden brings a greater knowledge of the forces at play – light and shadow, wind and water, natures creatures, the seasons – and how each force works to create space. Lee studied his landscape while outside in it and from within his home so he could create views and venues that pleased his eye in all seasons. Yet, he recognized that gardeners are merely small designers; that Mother Nature always has the last say.

I cannot speak to other aspects of Lee’s personality though, through our few shared encounters, his warmth, love of his wife Lyn, his appreciation of living life fully, and his genuine attention to each human encounter, was more than evident. I can only speak to Lee’s passion for gardening. It was a passion that spoke to me, and it is this conversation that I will miss.

Please take time to appreciate Laurrie’s view of Lee’s Connecticut garden and, do yourself a favor, read through Lee’s blog for a glimpse at his passion for gardening, and for life.

Reluctant Membership: A Gardening Oops

I’m a reluctant joiner… a characteristic that prevents me from jumping onto some fly-by-night bandwagon. But my hesitancy to join groups – I have many excuses: too chummy, too cliquey, no time – kept me from sending membership dues to a valuable organization. This is my December 2011 GOOPs, my Gardening Oops, when I confess/share a  mistake, an oversight, or a general faux pas I’ve made in my gardening life. There are many. This link to previous GOOPs posts proves it.

I share my GOOPs to prevent you from walking in my mis-steps or … to offer some camaraderie if you’ve already muddied your gardening shoes on the same path. Then I offer you a chance to share a GOOPs you’ve made, if you are willing and comfortable enough in your gardening skin to confess a blunder.

First, my GOOPs.

What’s the valuable organization that took me too long to join? The Connecticut Horticultural Society (CHS). After being a member for just a few months I wonder why I waited to join.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The mission of the Connecticut Horticultural Society is education. CHS’s goal is to encourage enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of plants and the art and science of growing and living with plants and their/our environment. They do so through newsletters, presentations and programs during regular meetings (open to the public for a small donation), and separate educational events, garden tours and an annual symposium.

At the first regular meeting I attended, Margaret Roach (learn more about Margaret through her wonderful blog, A Way to Garden) humorously and thoughtfully discussed and shared photos of her 365-day garden. If you get a chance to see Margaret speak, don’t pass it up. I even purchased her book, and I shall have some peace there,  at the meeting. Love the book and super enjoyed listening to Margaret describe her gardening life. There are many days, Margaret, I would love to walk in your boots.

Subsequent and future speaker presentations include shade gardening (Judith and Dick Tyler who created a wonderful garden on their wooded Virginia land), soil science (Thomas Rathier), sustainable lawns (Tom Christopher), planting natives (Larry Weaner), water gardening (Tim Jennings), sustainable solutions for garden pests (Nancy DuBrule-Clemente) and autumn plants (Stephanie Cohen).

But meetings may also include unexpected presentations. For instance, November meeting attendees learned tactics to save storm damaged trees from immediate demise and when storm damage is tree-fatal … a timely subject following the massive, state-wide tree and shrub damage caused by tropical storm Irene and the snow of the October Nor’easter.

The program meetings alone make membership worthwhile. But, in my best cheesy TV infomercial imitation, ‘wait, there’s more!’ CHS sponsors garden-related trips, holds a plant auction, displays at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, P9040313 Thumbsponsors scholarships and maintains a lending library.

It only took attending a couple of meetings for CHS to turn my reluctance into enthusiasm. I’m already signed up for the CHS-sponsored movie night showing of A Chemical Reaction (December 6 at the Portland Library, pre-registration through CHS) and I look forward to seeing the line-up of gardening gurus at CHS’s spring symposium (Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery, Kerry Ann Mendez of Perennially Yours, and horticultural educator and landscape designer Nan Sinton).

Why did I wait? This is my GOOPs.

No chiding needed, I’ve done ample self-scolding.

Are you, too, a reluctant joiner? Tell your tale in a comment below, or share a link to your GOOPs post – on this topic or any other – on your blog. Just be sure to leave a teaser in a comment below so we know how to find your GOOPs.

Garden thoughtfully and may my GOOPs not be yours.

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Celebrate Autumn Gardening in East Haddam

This is one October weekend when locals don’t have far to drive to find great garden bargains or an intriguing garden. That’s right East Haddam residents … all can be found within town boundaries.

For garden-related bargains it’s tough to beat one of the tag sales run by Ballek’s Garden Center. If you missed their summer tag sale you missed out on some great plant deals. But don’t fret, you have a second chance this Saturday and Sunday, October 8 and 9, 2011. Ballek’s staff start filling the tag sale area early Saturday morning and continue adding goodies – plants, shrubs, trees, ornamentation, pots, and other garden stuff – throughout the weekend. The photos here show Ballek’s before their last October sale. You’ll have to visit to see what’s waiting for you this year. Get directions to Ballek’s here, and if you miss the tag sale you still have the chance for 20% off deals on most perennials and all shrubs, trees, outdoor planters and outdoor furniture, and up to 50% off some other items.



Head to Staehly Farms with kids in tow to stock up on Staehly-grown apples, winter squash and other vegetables, choose pumpkins, gourds and Autumn decorations, grab a few gorgeous mums, and find end-of-season bargain perennials. Staehly’s has a large supply of Jack-o-lantern ready pumpkins just waiting for a home and plenty of unusual, even bizarre, shaped large gourds for the more adventurous Jack-o-lantern carvers. The kids will get into the Halloween spirit after a walk through Staehly’s special Halloween maze. Pick up a gallon of cider, choose fresh CT-made pies and cheese, and try one of Staehly’s jarred condiments. A visit to Staehly’s (directions here)  is the perfect Autumn family outing. My granddaughter calls Staehly’s Gail’s House … Gail and Chris really know how to welcome kids.



Gardeners and garden lovers looking for inspiration and, maybe, some ideas on how to use their newly found plant bargains have a rare opportunity on Sunday, October 9, 2011. From noon until 4pm, East Haddam gardener and garden writer Lee May opens his Asian-inspired, herb, sedum, and ornament gardens to visitors. You’ll have to pay $5 for the privilege, but collected fees do good, they support educational programs offered by The Connecticut Horticultural Society (CHS). In addition to the many wonderful educational meetings CHS offers to members and the public, CHS ran multiple tours of private gardens this year. Lee’s garden happens to be the last of the season. Visit CHS Garden Tours for more information on the tour. Maybe I’ll see you there. If you can’t make it to the tour you might get some peeks at the garden at Lee May’s Gardening Life.

A beautiful weekend is forecast so get out and enjoy the local offerings.

Garden thoughtfully,


Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Joene Hendry