Monday, May 30, 2011

Geraniums for Memorial Day—Remembering

My grandmother always called it “Decoration Day” but every Memorial Day, when I was living at home and even long after I’d started a family, my mom, grandmother, kids and I would get into my Uncle Sonny’s big Ford Fairlane and drive to New Calvary & Mt. Hope Cemetery to decorate the graves where my grandfather, aunts, uncles and great-grandparents were buried.  Along the way, we’d stop at one of the roadside vendors and buy red, pink and white geraniums in 4” pots for each grave.

It was my job to choose the best looking geraniums with the brightest color and most buds.  Geraniums could take the heat, poor soil, lack of water and didn’t have to be deadheaded to keep blooming like petunias did. 

As they pulled weeds and planted geraniums, My grandmother and mother would recall stories about the relatives, I’d never met.  I would catch my grandmother, gently touching my grandfather’s name and getting misty-eyed as she knelt in front of the markers for her little brother, a six-year old victim of diphtheria in the early 1900’s and her father who died from TB when she was only seven years old, leaving her mother a widow with three young children to raise alone in South Boston. 

My mother and uncle would remember out loud their only uncle, Tim, a blacksmith, who made them puzzles and rings from horseshoe nails and died from a broken heart when a fire swept though the stable and the draft horses that he loved were lost.

My grandmother and Uncle Sonny are gone now.  Nana Ford is buried next to her beloved husband in New Calvary and Uncle Sonny rests alone in a military cemetery on Cape Cod.  No one visits New Calvary or Mt. Hope Cemetery anymore.  The surviving aunts and uncles, now in their 80’s and 90’s no longer drive and the next generations--first and second cousins are spread out across the country.  

My mom is elderly now too, has memory problems and is unstable on her feet sometimes.  We  talk every year about making the trip out to New Calvary and “decorating” the graves.  Years ago we would stop at the cemetery Gatehouse and my mother would look up the row numbers and street name.  She’s not sure she still remembers any of them, but this year we are going again—it may be the last year we can. 

We’ll bring the 4-inch geraniums in pink, white and red along with some small pebbles that we’ve collected from my mom’s house, my house and the beach where my grandparents had a summer cottage. 

There is a beautiful Jewish custom of leaving small pebbles on a gravesite that inspires me to do this.  It  originated in ancient times when graves were marked only with piles of rocks and adding more was a way to let others know that here lies a person worth remembering. 

Happy Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Fairy Gardener Returns

I’m back for good this time.  No more unexplained absences or disappearances---I’ve missed all of you and I’ve missed writing about gardening and quilting.   I had planned to post the pictures of my Avon Walk weekend before now but Calvin’s first birthday and a little “accident” (hmmm) delayed this post a bit.  More on the accident later—let’s just say I’m NOT grace, charm and elegance rolled into one package, LOL.

The Avon Walk  is over, I did finish the entire two days and 39.9 miles without so much as a blister or shin splint!

I want to thank all of you who supported me with your good thoughts and donations.  There were times during the first day when I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the 26 miles but somehow I’d get a second wind and I know it was those good thoughts coming at me. 

I had two great walking companions that also helped me make it—Dawn, a PBS Producer, completed her 7th walk  and Kelley, the Director of Diesel E-Books who walked the entire 26 miles with Dawn and I on Saturday, caught a train back to NYC that night, got up at 6:00 am on Sunday morning to attend another event and at noontime was on a cruise to the Bahamas! 

Avon pictures 073We raised over $5.2 million dollars to fight breast cancer just in Boston and that number still climbs as the final donations are processed!

A good chunk of that money was awarded to local charities on Sunday, May 15th at the Closing Ceremony.  

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center of Boston received $1.5 million. The grant will support HER2 positive breast cancer research, as well as programs that help low income women receive care at the Avon Center at Mass General and community clinics.

University of Massachusetts - Amherst received $300,000 to develop a test to identify premalignant breast lesions that have a high risk of progressing to breast cancer and differentiate them from those unlikely to advance.

Silent Spring Institute of Newton, MA, received $175,000 to support a research fellowship looking at the potential role of the environment in breast cancer development

Community Servings of Jamaica Plain, MA, received $100,000 to support the Avon Door-to-Door Delivery Program, which brings thousands of meals to breast cancer patients and their families.

The Avon Foundation also awarded four grants during the Closing Ceremony to further strengthen the Avon Safety Net program, which consists of more than 100 hospitals across the country that ensure women and men who might otherwise fall through the cracks of the healthcare system have access to high quality breast cancer services. The Safety Net grants include:

- LifeSpan Foundation of Providence, RI received a grant of $250,000

- Boston Medical Center received a grant of $250,000

- Cambridge Health Alliance of Boston received a grant of $125,000

- Central Maine Medical Center of Lewiston, ME, received a grant of $62,000

Now do you feel good inside?   I do and  I hope you do too, because you made this possible.

One of the greatest things about this walk was the number of people that turned out along our walk route, which I have to say covered some of the prettiest areas in Boston and the suburbs.   So many of the houses in the neighborhoods we walked through were decorated with pink balloons, pink ribbons and signs.  People offered us water, snacks, flowers and trinkets and all of them said “Thank you for walking!”

So I’d like to leave you with some pictures of the walk and some information about the Leopard’s Bane and Basket of Gold Allysum that I planted in between rain showers-–of which we’ve had a lot lately. 


Keeping leopards away—if you have any!

I’ve admired Leopard’s Bane for many years now, since seeing a rambunctious patch of it growing beneath a flowering cherry tree in a beautiful hilltop garden overlooking the Merrimack River.  

Leopard’s Bane (Doronicum) is one of the oldest cultivated plants and  the earliest perennials to bloom in spring beating out ground phlox by a couple of weeks.  There are several species and crosses ranging from 6 inches to 30 inches tall but the average is about 14 inches. 

Its bright yellow daisy-like flowers are born singly on top of stiff stems and are 2” across.  They look lovely when  planted in among spring flowering bulbs like tulips, and grape hyacinths. It’s also a tough rugged plant that spreads easily.  Originating in Eurasia it grows in many different habitats from dry open meadows to alpine rockeries.


Leopard’s bane likes evenly moist soil and will grow in full sun or partial shade, but in hot dry conditions it will go “summer dormant” like oriental poppies sometimes do.  That means it dies all the way down to the ground and hides till cooler weather arrives.

The entire plant is poisonous but  deer and  rabbits leave it alone, so it’s a good choice for those of us that have to compete with voracious wildlife next door. 

As a matter of fact, I often plant a species that’s not attractive to deer or rodents in with a species that is.  You might have heard of this method called “companion planting”.  I used to have a terrible time with deer eating my Rubrum Lilies from the top and voles and chipmunks eating the bulbs underground till I accidentally planted some giant allium bulbs in the same spot—evidently the alliums, which are a member of the onion family, nauseated the voles, deer and chipmunks so much that they left the lilies alone too.

Deadheading the flowers on Leopard’s Bane right after they bloom sometimes stimulates a second flush of flowers but for the most part they are one-time per season bloomers.  Every three or four years, clumps should be divided or they tend to get weak and die off.   The best time to divide the clumps is late summer or early fall but I’ve seen them divided in spring and still do fine. 

Oh, and  if that’s not enough reason to plant Leopard’s Bane, they make great cut flowers too.

Till next time,


Avon pictures 010

Avon pictures 011

The Garden About 3 weeks ago

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where’s The Fairy Gardener???

That seems a logical question to ask, in light of the fact that she has been absent from Blog World for a whole month!  

Believe me, it hasn’t been for lack of words or news—I love to talk--and there is plenty to write about and share with you now that spring has finally arrived here in the northeast.   It just so happens that about a month ago, I was asked if I was interested in working a temporary assignment for a new company that could turn into a permanent job—maybe!

It feels good to be a contributing member of society again, lol but it sure cuts into the available time for the other parts of one’s life, like family, friends, chores, grocery shopping, gardening and blogging!   My weekends have been super busy—holidays, birthdays, errands, car repair and everything else that can’t be done during the 9 hours of a person’s workday and commute.

This weekend is “WALK WEEKEND” and once it’s over, I’ll have more time to concentrate on gardening and my other love—sewing and quilting and blogging about both!

I’m excited, nervous and anxious all rolled into one.  Last night I had a conference call with my two Avon Walk teammates.  We are meeting up in Boston on Friday the day before the walk to sign in and pick up our pre-walk paperwork.

It feels wonderful to know that some of this money we raise will provide screening services, health care and cancer treatment to women who can’t afford health insurance but who’s earned income is too high to qualify for medicaid.  

Who are they?  They are your coffee shop waitresses, your part-time retail clerks, the part-time help you see in garden centers and dry cleaners, divorced mothers, single women and down-sized office workers who’s benefits have run out—like me and maybe some of you too.

Every four and a half minutes a diagnosis of breast cancer is made in the US so screening and early detection saves lives. 

Thanks to so many wonderful and generous people, I’ve raised 56% of my goal of $1,800 in donations but I still need to raise about $800 and so I’m again asking for your help.   

Just eighty blogging followers and friends who can find it in their hearts to donate $10 each and I’ll make my goal.

Please consider making a donation today.   Everyone who makes a donation will be entered into the drawing for my quilt, “Hope’s Garden”. 

To make a donation online, please visit my Avon Page or Click the “AVON” button in the top left corner.   And know that I’ll be walking for you, me, our loved ones and the next generation!  

BE  In it to end it!


Gail Smile