Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Horticultural restoration. Linking the past to the future.


In 1926, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society awarded Ellen Peabody Endicott with the Hunnewell Gold Medal for the beautiful gardens of Glen Magna Farms. When you walk the 11 acres in 2017, the past still resonates with every fragrant blossom and  with each step through the winding garden paths. Today at Glen Magna Farms, the horticulturist’s role is to restore the gardens  to the 1920s landscape. One of the challenges and privileges  of horticultural restoration  is balancing past methods of gardening with the needs of a 21st century world.

Restoration horticulture must be responsive to cultural concerns. For example, in recent years a movement has started to plant native species in our gardens and parks. This push of planting native species is in direct response to many of our old time favorite garden plants escaping cultivation and finding themselves on the invasive species list. One example is  the  oriental bittersweet, an ornamental garden plant from Asia planted in American gardens in 1879. The oriental bittersweet has become an invasive species and has spread outside cultivation into New England forest, out competing local flora. Another old-time favorite, growing in the Glen Magna Farms garden is Bishop’s weed. At one time this plant, from Eurasia, was considered a wonderful garden plant and was intentionally planted in American gardens. In todays garden it is considered an invasive exotic. To this day, it is a constant struggle to keep this one-time favorite garden plant from completely taking over the flower gardens at Glen Manga Farms. 
New environmental concerns  are now arising that must be faced. Horticulturists are well aware of our ever changing world, and our practices must be versatile  to handle these changes. One current concern is water use in the garden. No longer is it possible, or wise, to garden with the mindset that water is a infinite resource. 
A new horticultural restoration project has been underway at Glen Magna Farms for the past three years, prioritizing new cultural and environmental concerns while maintaining a strong link to the past. A simple method of putting this into practice has been creating a database of plants that are drought, disease, and insect tolerant, while also maintaining historical accuracy. With no surprise, many of these drought tolerant plants turn out to be native to North America. The use of soil building and on site  materials, such as leaf mold and bark mulch, plays a key role in using less water (leaf mold can hold 500 times its own weight in water). Also the removal of invasive shrubs, trees, and vines will create new habitat for non-invasive plant species. 

This horticultural restoration project is still underway at Glen Magna Farms and will be for many years to come. Horticulturists must be adaptable and creative to move with the cultural and environmental concerns of the future. With this changing world, the hope is that the garden will be a constant. A place of not only of sight, smell and touch, but also of feeling. A place to go back to again and again. 
                                                         Matthew Martin 
                                                Buildings and Grounds Restoration Manager. 


A wall of invasive trees will soon be removed and
new sustainable, non invasive trees will be planted.

                        Before and after. Making room for new sustainable plants by removing invasive ones. 

                                                          Sustainable, drought tolerant plants are being  implemented into the flower garden. 
                                              Notice the use of a thick layer of bark mulch to  hold moisture in the soil.                                                                       

                                                    In 2015 a large tree that was planted in 1894 declined and eventually died.
                                        A young red oak tree was planted next to the stump in 2016.
                                       By looking at the stump you can see how large this tree once was. Most of the 
                                      the limbs of this tree were chipped and turned into bark mulch. This bark mulch is now 
                                       being used to improve the soil and moisture holding capacity in the flower gardens at 
                                       Glen Magna Farms. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Flowering Dogwood at Glen Magna Farms.

The flowering Dogwood tree, Cornus florida is a tree native to Eastern North America.  It has an average height and width of 15’ to 30’ and grows best in full sun to part shade.  April through May, the dogwood tree blooms beautiful white flowers.  The dogwood flowers are visited by traveling butterflies and other beneficial insects. During the fall, native birds make a meal out of the dogwoods showy red fruit.  It is theorized that the dogwood tree got its name from the old Celtic word “dag”, meaning hard or strong wood. Historically, the wood of the dogwood was perfect for making small cleaning tools.
   In 1898 the Honorable Joseph Chamberlain, member of the English Parliament and Father of Neville Chamberlain, created the Shrubbery Garden at Glen Magna Farms.  Multiple species of shrubs, trees and flowers were planted in this garden; many of them still grow in the garden to this day, one of them being the flowering Dogwood tree.
   When you visit Glen Magna Farms, make sure to pay tribute to the beautiful flowering Dogwood tree and the historic shrubbery garden that surrounds it.
The Flowering Dogwood tree (left) in full bloom. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Come join us!

  Glen Magna Farms is looking for volunteers to maintain its historic  Rose Garden this 2016 garden season.  Weeding pathways and garden beds, deadheading roses and herbaceous perennials.  If you are looking to serve your community, meet fellow gardeners or just get some fresh air then please join us in the Historic Rose Garden. Volunteers are welcome Monday through Friday. Please contact Matthew by email at before volunteering.  See you in the garden. :)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Carriage road.

Carriage road
  One of the first things you encounter when you walk on  the grounds of Glen Magna Farms is carriage road.  A beautiful stone dust road lined with over thirty mature pin oaks that leads to a magnificent iron gate.
   Pin oaks- Quercus palustris is a native tree to Massachusetts growing 60’-70’ in height.  Pin oaks are pyramidal and usually have a central leader with beautiful fall foliage. Pin oaks are a widely used landscape tree due to its ability to tolerate pollution, drought and soil compaction. Pin oak acorns are eaten by many native animal species such as wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, squirrels and certain species of ducks. 
    But the pin oak was not the first species of tree planted along this road. The pin oak was planted in 1975 to replace the stately American elm tree.   In 1817,  an avenue of elms was planted by Joseph Augustus Peabody.  The American elm tree- Ulmus americana, is a large tree growing to 80’ and the national champion was 112’ in Copemish ,MI.  The American elm was at one time the most common street tree in America. Unfortunately a disease called Dutch elm disease has killed many of them, including the avenue of elms at Glen Magna Farms. 
 In 1859, George Peabody, son of Joseph, agreed to relocate the Newburyport Turnpike (route 1) to the west, if the town would discontinue the use of carriage road as a public road. 
  I hope the next time you visit Glen Magna Farms you stop  to appreciate the history and beauty of this cherished carriage road. 

Avenue of elms, facing south.