Cool But Growing

Our weather here in Maine continues to be on the cool side. I’m almost afraid to tell you that on a few occasions recently we’ve even made a little fire in the wood cookstove to stave off the chill. I’ve done this wearing, mind you, a wool sweater and wool socks. Oh, my.
The gardens are growing and caring on without a hitch. The nursery rows are continuing to be stocked with new plants. We’ve just set out a large block of Cornus canadense…..beautiful full pots! We’ll say goodbye to May, hello to June, and hope for a little sunshine.
Here are few shots from the gardens…

Cypripedium pubescens

Podyphyllum hexandrum, Peony ‘Little Gem’, Peony japonica

Mertensia virginica ‘alba’

Convallaria ” Fernwood’s Golden Slippers”
Our own introduction


Cypripedium pubescens

We’ve just put the Cypripediums( Ladyslippers) into the aisles here at Fernwood…. pinks, whites, and yellows! For those special ladies on Mother’s Day who love you and their gardens? How about a ladyslipper?

Cypripedium ‘Michael’

Calendula Flowers

Picture 3177Before the day gets too hot and just after the dew has dried, I harvest the calendula blossoms (Calendula officinalis) from the gardens. I’ll dry the flowers for making calendula oil and then add the oil to some of the salves and creams we make. Calendula is one of my favorite ingredients to use in ointments. It is antiseptic, has antimicrobial properties, and is an anti-inflammatory. As a topical ointment, it helps to heal wounds, soothes burns, rashes, and bug bites, and aids in collagen regeneration. It is also an antifungal. Some of the dried flowers will be stored in clean glass jars for making tea. We use the tea to promote digestions, as an immune booster, and in soothing abdominal cramps. The very last picking will be kept fresh and put into a pot of hot water, left overnight, strained, and then used for a dye bath. Along with a mordant of alum ( A mordant is a chemical binding agent that adheres well to both the fibres and to the dye. The word comes from the Latin mordere, which means to bite), it will produce a beautiful golden yellow dye to sink my wool into. Very nice indeed.
I love having these bright blooms among the veggies in the garden (that is where we grow them) and though we harvest most of their cheery orange and yellow blossoms, we do leave a portion of the flowers for reseeding.
The gardens here are glorious at the moment, despite the lack of rain. We spend much of our time watering, watering, and watering. The showy lady slippers, the corydalis, and bowman’s root are all in bloom…to name a few. Beautiful. We recently had a guest from South West Harbor visiting the nursery, a lovely lady who declared that pulling up a seat to enjoy Cypripedium kentuckiensis for an entire afternoon would suit her just fine. Can’t blame her…they are quite stunning. Happy gardening to all, and let’s hope we get some rain soon!

Cypripedium kentuckiensis

Cypripedium kentuckiensis

Our Average-Sized Helper


And our mystery guest is……. Anna! (pictured here with her new favorite dog, Miller):


Anna comes to us from New York City, where she is a grad student in creative writing. She found us through, a website dedicated to bringing people who are interested in learning about organic farming together with the farms that appreciate an extra set of hands. Although she has never lived in a rural environment she is really enjoying Fernwood, where she does weeding, planting, watering, seeding, and helping us take care of our chicks, sheep, and new piglets.

She says, “I am working harder physically than I ever have to in New York– I am used to sitting behind a desk with a computer or surrounded by books and notebooks with a cup of coffee, which is a very different kind of work . I am also a teacher, which, while being draining, is not exactly physical either. Now here I am digging in the dirt for half a day and it’s amazing! Yesterday I got to weed around the hosta plants in the nursery, reading all of the plant variety names– there are like a hundred different kinds of hostas! Some of them have little ripples in the leaves, some have golden-edged leaves, some are huge and bright green, some tiny and striped– it’s fascinating. I am learning a lot every day.”

Actually, Anna, we have over 300 hosta varieties. “Oh. ok.”

As Anna slips into a rain poncho and rubber boots and skips over to the nursery to recount the hostas, let us fill you in on other Fernwood news. The Azaleas, Jack in the Pulpits and Lady Slippers are in bloom, as is the Amsonia.

Many of our customers have been curious about this unusual plant:


This Himalayan Ornamental Rhubarb, only 2 years old, is over 5 feet tall and sports a head of pink flower over deep-ridged, sprawling leaves. We love this addition to our garden and hope you can come see it for yourself.