WORLD WAR I MEMORIAL POPPY GARDEN

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Vineyard Gardens WWI Memorial poppy garden along State Road

Vineyard Gardens WWI Memorial poppy garden along State Road

All the distractions in the sociopolitical world today has allowed for a benign neglect of remembrance for some of our most important historical landmarks, like the centennial of the end of hostilities with the signing of the Armistice, 11 November 1918. The First World War was a long, bloody affair that was most keenly felt on the eastern and western fronts of the European Continent. They couldn’t have known that it was “the First” and for most, at the time, it was not clear why they fought and what was won, or lost. Historical events are rarely cleanly fixed on a specific date or hour, they are spread out over months of best intentions and half measures until at a particular place and time a signature demarcates a new course. 

Throughout the 20th century Armistice Day was a significant holiday, the First World War was closer to us and there were fewer other wars to celebrate the ends of.  My grandfather fought and lost an eye in “The Great War”, its brutality was still felt in the pages of history books, it was still a visceral reality. 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

      In Flanders fields.

So it has been a bit surprising to me that over these last few years there hasn’t been more attention paid to the nearly daily critical centennial events related to the playing out of the bloodiest war of our previous generation. We should be aware of events that led up to what caused it, how it played out and what brought it to a close, let alone what in retrospect was gained and what was lost. 

The famous quote attributed to George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” applies here. Much attention is paid these days to the fight against Fascism in “the Second” World War, for obvious and worthy reasons, but there are significant socioeconomic reasons for understanding the meltdown of the sprawling dynastic empires that dominated the end of the 19th Century at the peak of the Industrial Revolution. The battles against extreme inequality and balance of power were central to the causes and consequences of the First War and very much at play in our struggles today. 

It is for this reason that I have planned and laid the seed, literally, for a memorial to the end of the First World War, the signing of the Armistice and ultimately the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles from June 28th, through the month of July, 1919. The process began with the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 that marked the beginning of the end of actual fighting in the trenches of the Western Front that stretched through much of the largely agricultural lands of the Meuse River valley, across Belgium and deep into France. For nearly five years over hundreds of miles trenches, tanks, bombing, fires, blood, sickness and death ravaged the rich farmlands that had fed most of Europe. Then suddenly, it stopped. With all these soils, formally under cultivation, churned up and sub-grades left exposed, the spring rains brought the germination of long dormant weed seeds, predominantly a pesky little wildflower, Papaver rhoeas, or Corn Poppy. The plant brings little virtue to human needs other than to choke out intended, cultivated food crops. It does however produce a brilliant, richly saturated, deep red flower as frail as tissue and only lasting a day. So across the fields of Western Europe, mostly in the areas designated as “No Man’s Land” Corn Poppies germinated as thick as lawns and when in flower blanketed the battlegrounds in a sea of blood-red flowers. The event became a metaphor for the blood of the lives lost to a worthy cause however unclear at the time just what that cause was. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

  The torch; be yours to hold it high.

  If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

      In Flanders fields.

Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae

This last Fall we decided to renovate Vineyard Gardens’ display beds along State Road across from the West Tisbury Post Office. Over the years the soils there had become eroded and compacted to such an extent that they lacked one of the most critical components of fine gardening, good drainage. So we lifted nearly all of the shrubs and perennials habituated there and turned the soil several inches deep and added a thick berm of course sand. Then we topped it all off with organic fertilizer and several inches of VG planting mix. This left us with a pure open garden bed nearly 100 feet in length by about 20 feet at the deepest point. A perfect opportunity to make a temporary and timely statement. The timing was critical, I sourced bulk Papaver rhoeas seed and when the time was right, sometime towards the end of March, mixed nearly 200,000 of the tiny black seeds with sand and spread them evenly across the entire length of the sunny end of the bed. To my surprise and delight, and chagrin every single seed germinated creating a dense blanket of bright green. Since then I’ve been thinning and transplanting seedlings trying to allow some plants enough space, air and sun to fully flower and other areas that were missed or thin of plants to fill in. They’re all coming along and seem to be right on schedule to begin flowering towards the end of June to coincide with the ratification process of the Treaty of Versailles. 

I hope the display will draw attention as Islanders and visitors alike speed by on their way up Island or down and raise a question about what will be a new sight along that stretch of State Road. If anyone asks, now you’ll know!


BULK MATERIALS

(This is a post we wrote a few years ago but a good one to re-visit)

We get many questions about our bulk materials at Vineyard Gardens and thought it would be pertinent to bring all the information together in one place.

Good soil is critical to successful gardening. What we see above ground is really only half the picture. If a plant's leaves are turning yellow or if pests are suddenly present you can bet there’s a problem with the soil.

One of the most important ingredients in soil is its organic content. It is the organic content that, in the process of breaking down, enable the roots to access moisture and nutrients. Every year we have to build up the organic content of the soil to keep plants growing and healthy. Once we have added the organic material we need to keep it from drying out and prevent weed seeds from moving in, so we use mulches to protect the investment.

We have two groups of bulk materials; organically rich soil amendments and mulches. The main ingredient in our soil amendments is compost.

Gardener’s Choice

Gardener’s Choice is an organic leaf and yard compost. It has been heat treated to render it relatively weed free. It is the best choice for vegetable gardens but it is also ideal for top-dressing flower beds.  $70/cu.yd.

Earthlife Compost

Earthlife Compost is a heat treated Bio Solid compost. The heat-treating kills off most of the weed seed. This is a commercially produced material that has been thoroughly checked and approved for sale by our local Board of Health. It is an excellent choice as a soil amendment to bring up the organic content of our poorer Vineyard soils and to lighten heavy clay soil. $60/cu.yd.

Vineyard Gardens Loam

Vineyard Gardens Loam is our own leaf and yard debris compost. It is very much like a compost you would make at home so it could have any number of weed seeds in it. It has been turned over several times a year and been thoroughly sifted to remove large sticks and rocks. Its benefits are that it is high in organic content and is relatively inexpensive. $45/cu.yd

 

 

 

Vineyard Gardens Planting Mix

Vineyard Gardens Planting Mix is our premium blend. It consists of:

  • 3 parts Earthlife Compost

  • 2 parts Peat Moss

  • 1 part Sand

This product is super versatile and useful. It can be used as an amendment when planting trees and shrubs. It can be used to top-dress gardens that have particularly difficult components, like clay or sand. It can be lightened with perlite to use as a potting mix. $75/cu.yd.

Pine Bark Mulch

We use our standard Pine Bark Mulch for most gardens, shrub boarders and tree wells.  60/cu.yd.

Wood chips

We also provide Wood Chips which is perfect for suppressing weeds in uncultivated areas like paths, parking spaces, construction areas. It's best not to use wood chips in planted areas because the fibrous material has not broken down yet and in the process of breaking down it burns Nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants and without it growth will be weak and lacking in chlorophyll turning the leaves yellow. It is useful for suppressing weeds when its freshly put down. $25/cu.yd.

 

 

Click on this LINK for a handy calculator to help figure out how much of these materials you’ll need for your project.

 

TIME TO PLANT YOUR POPPIES

Now is the time to plant your poppies. We have started them in 4packs at the nursery and it’s best to get them planted out before they become root-bound. We have some wonderful varieties to choose from but the trick is to plant now.

P. orientale

P. orientale

Papaver orientalis

Papaver orientalis

A beautiful variety with a high pedegree, Papaver somniferum 'Sissinghurst White'

P. s. 'Lauren's Grape' ready to plant out

Poppies, ready to plant! many wonderful varieties!

The most notorious member of the Poppy tribe is Papaver somniferum, the Opium Poppy. This plant has a cultural history going back millennia. Since earliest times its narcotic virtues have been known and used in medicines to cure pain and induce sleep. It was not until the 19th Century that doctors became fully aware that it was addictive. Aside from its narcotic attributes it is a particularly beautiful plant. Its baroque architecture and richly saturated colors have inspired craftsmen and artists to interpret its form into decorative schemes in everything from furniture, fabrics, china, jewelry to painting and book illustration.

P. s. 'Lauren's Grape'

The decorative Opium Poppy is a cottage garden favorite. Why it is not seen more often in flower gardens must have something to do with a question of timing. It is properly an annual plant, meaning that it’s seed germinates, grows, flowers and develops mature seeds in one season. It is however originally from a more temperate zone than our harsh New England climate. In order for the plant to fully develop it needs to set a deep root system. So in a way it behaves more like a biennial, germinating just after the Winter Solstice and setting a whorl of basil foliage to feed root development through the chill, winter months. Then, with the Spring Equinox, it begins to expand its lush, curled and fringed, pale gray- green foliage. It’s flowers finally begin to open in the warmth of late June into July. The flowers only last a day but are produced continuously. Once it has flowered it’s petals drop revealing the characteristic seed pod which it holds until it dries later in the summer.

P. somniferum

P. somniferum 'Lauren's Grape'

The solution to this problem is to start the seeds early indoors, but caution must be exercised. The common caveat with poppies is that they resent root disturbance. And further, if left too long in the container they will quickly become root bound, from which they will not recover. This is where timing becomes critical. So to have beautiful flowers like these we must plant our poppies now so they can develop their root systems in the cool ground.

If you want more poppy information click here for an informative and interesting article.

Papaver somniferum 'Imperial Pink'

P. orientale

Papaver 'Mother of Pearl'

Papaver orientale

romantic poppies

Iceland Poppies (Papaver nudicaule)

APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAY FLOWERS AND A SUCCESSFUL EASTER EGG HUNT

Despite the dreary weather, we had a great turnout and lots of smiling faces at our annual Easter Egg Hunt! Thanks for all who came out and enjoyed the beauty of the garden center surrounded by spring blooms! Photo credits: Keith Kurman

Chuck and Chris Wiley

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Eloise Estey Moses, age 6 , found the magic egg.

Eloise Estey Moses, who found the magic egg and her brother, Hank

WILDFLOWERS OF MARTHA'S VINEYARD

Wildflowers are some of the first flowers to emerge in the spring, sometimes overshadowed by the showier bulbs that dominate gardens in March and April. The wildflowers are demure cousins, shy and retiring, often hiding in the shade of overarching trees and shrubs.

Wildflowers available at Vineyard Gardens Nursery / credit : Keith Kurman

Spring is the best time to purchase young starter wildflower plants. Although wildflowers are notoriously challenging to grow, they can be slow to establish and may not survive through the winter, but once established they can spread into a respectable and beautiful patch, rewarding your efforts for years to come.

The hardest part about growing wildflowers is taking that first bold step. As you would with any plant the first step is to prepare the ground floor. Choose a spot where you often pass in the spring so you can monitor their growth and enjoy their diminutive blooms. Most New England wildflowers prefer a woodland soil with a thick layer, called “leaf mold”. That is the layer of decomposing leaves of the deciduous canopy overhead. The best, and most common are oak leaves. You can easily make starter oak leaf mold by raking up a pile of leaves and mowing it with the collection bag attached. This can be done in the fall when fresh leaves are plentiful. You can leave the pile until spring and it will be the perfect material to work with. The next step is to clear your planting area and break up the top layer of soil, a few inches. You can work in some compost but you don’t need to make your mix too rich, remember that most wildflowers grow in poor woodland soils. Then plant out your young wildflowers covering with only a few inches of soil. On top of this you can spread a nice thick layer of your leaf mold. You may need to do some supplemental watering for the first couple of years to help get them established.

We have some wonderful selections of wildflowers at the nursery. It is difficult for growers to keep wildflowers alive in containers because they either tend to get over watered or dried out. Their special needs are hard to meet when contained in a pot. Now is the best time to plant them so come by the nursery and help spread native beauty.

Here are a few of the types we have available:

TRILLIUM GRANDIFLORUM

Trillium is one of the most familiar of our New England wildflowers and one of the easier ones to grow. They will spread by reseeding so it can take several years to develop a substantial stand of them but well worth the wait!

Trillium grandiflorum white form / credit: Wild Flowers by Homer D. House 1935 Pub. The Macmillan Company

Trillium grandiflorum pink or red form / credit: Wild Flowers by Homer D. House 1935 Pub. The Macmillan Company

SANGUINARIA CANADENSIS

Bloodroot is another of the easier wildflowers to grow. They are in the Poppy family and produce the latex that characterizes the tribe. You can guess what color the latex in Bloodroot is and it is copiously produced when any part of the plant is broken or damaged, so care should be be taken in handling them while planting. A nice thing about this appealing plant is that, while the flowering is ephemeral in the spring, the foliage remains strong and ornamental through the rest of the summer.

Bloodroot / credit: Wild Flowers by Homer D. House 1935 Pub. The Macmillan Company

HEPATICA NOBILIS

With the unfortunate common name of ‘Liverwort’, coined apparently due to the similarity in the shape of its leaves to a liver, Hepatica is a charming, diminutive wild flower, closely related to Anemones, with nearly true blue flowers. It is known to grow well under Beech trees where most plants cannot. Its natural inclination is towards calcareous soils, though a challenge for our naturally acidic soils on the Island. The plant would therefore benefit from regular addition of lime to promote healthy growth.

Hepatica nobilis / credit: Wild Flowers by Homer D. House 1935 Pub. The Macmillan Company

MERTENSIA VIRGINICA

Mertensia or Virginia Bluebells, is another wonderful blue flowered wild flower. It’s not native to the Island but we’ve had very good luck growing it here in just about any soil or exposure, though it does prefer some protection and light shade. Perhaps the only challenge in growing Mertensia is that it almost completely disappears after flowering so it can be easy to forgotten and unearthed when planting something else. But while it is flowering there’s nothing like it. It’s quite floriferous over a long period in late spring and it’s intensely blue flowers draw the eye from a far distance.

Mertensia virginica / credit: Keith Kurman

We have a number of other wonderful shady woodland wildflowers, some we carry just as standard perennials like Cyclamen and Arisaema triphyllum (Jack in the Pulpit). You can find them in House 9 at the Nursery with the other perennials and ground covers.

For further information about the plants and their cultivation check out the New England Wildflower Society.

This is spring at Vineyard Gardens

Gorgeous pictures of our beautiful in-house spring production taken by our talented in-house photographer, Keith Kurman.

Forget me not’s

Alyssum

red leaf lettuce

tat soi (miniature Chinese cabbage-like).

spicy micro greens

mustard greens

musk melons

mixed mesclun greens

lettuces

The Delphiniums are coming right along!

House 4, 5” perennials

In the seeding house, we grow most of our veggies and greens here on site from trusted seed sources. We also grow all those other interesting and unusual annuals you find at VG.

SPRING AT VINEYARD GARDENS

Spring is a very busy and productive time at Vineyard Gardens. Our landscape division crews are already out doing spring clean ups. Our in-house production is busy planting bulbs, liners, bare root perennials, roses, trees and shrubs. The nursery is in full swing unloading truck full of plants from New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon. And the early spring flowers, like pansies and pieris japonica, are in their full bloom glory.

We also just put the poppy’s and primulas outside to harden off and we have our usual beautiful crop of 5” perennials. It is an exciting time of year!

We always start a bountiful selection of leafy salad greens

We always start a bountiful selection of leafy salad greens

We recycle. sterilizing plastic growing containers and trays

Labeling is critical from day one! As plants are potted up, each one has to be accurately labeled.

St. Patrick's Day is traditionally when you plant your peas out in the garden. If you missed it we've got you covered. Peas like to do most of their growth in cool temperatures

Leafy greens like cooler temperatures to produce quick, tender leaves for your salads and cooking. the earlier you get them in the ground the better!

Seedling production using plug trays

Getting strawberries started early is important for this season's production. We give them a jump start but you should be planting them out as soon as we're 'frost-free'.

In the Fall, any bulbs left unsold get potted up and forced for Spring color.

We have become well known for our well grown Delphiniums. Here they are early in the season

Perennial production House 4

Growing on 4in perennials, its economical to buy your perennials early in smaller sizes. better for the plants too!

Our Landscape Division are already out there doing Spring Cleanups, if you haven't set yours up yet, call the office today!

Pansies are in full color at the nursery!