A few years ago, I bought a little house in the country. The first time I set foot on the property as a potential buyer, I did not go in the house, but into the garden. Above all else, a larger goal in life has been to have a garden to tend with a bit of wildness around. I had to name this space, this place of seasons, sun and serenity. I toyed with Artemis Hollow for a while and thought to bring in statuary in honor of this goddess. She still may come. But, above all else, I wanted a place where it was safe and quiet. So it is, along the riverside, protected by an allee of maples and made splendid by the long off trill of the wood thrush on warm evenings. So, it is Tranquility Vale.
This place in Massachusetts is dominated by the Quaboag River and the township was settled as the Quaboag Plantation. The Native Americans long where here and had a winter camp at the Rock House Reservation. This place has been preserved and is enjoyed daily by hikers and those looking for a tangible connection to the past. The roof of the cliff faces are black from centuries of camp fires.
The Native people made a great push off against the Europeans who settled the township. From the West Brookfield Historical Commission, “King Phillips War. Between August 1 and November 10, 1675, Indians did not leave a single one of Massachusetts’s eight towns on the Connecticut River unscathed. Five of the eight towns sustained major attacks and three of them, Brookfield, Northfield, and Deerfield were burned, destroyed, and abandoned. Brookfield suffered the first rout. The siege lasted three days. These attacks severed an important communication link between eastern Massachusetts and the Connecticut River. The settlers of Brookfield took refuge in the Fortified House August 2-4 until reinforcements from Marlborough arrived. After the siege ended, the settlers departed with the troops and Brookfield was not resettled by the English for more than a decade.”
My house, my little Atlas. I gave it the name after the winter of 2011 when the snow never stopped and the January thaw never came and an igloo was forming around us. When the snow and ice where shoveled off the roof that February, the banks were so enormous and the weight so crushing, that my respect for its old bones gave to the name Little Atlas. The house has male energy and the garden female. It’s a happy union most of the time.
This article is meant to be about reclaiming garden space from under the weeds. The side yard which faces east/south east was dominated by the overhanging branches from the neighbor’s maple tree. In the fall of 2012, I had an arborist come in and clear out the branches leaning over on the house and casting too much shade on this side yard. The borders are a natural forsythia fence which after three years of pruning, have decided to grow up rather than out into the space.
One of the previous owners was a gardener and left behind liriope, frothergilla, hosta, vinca and a large grandiflora hydrangea in this area. The liriope is one tough perennial which I highly recommend as a plant that can take road traffic and adapts to most light conditions. The flower comes in late August into October if the fall is mild.
The space was reclaimed as a walk by creating a pathway from the lawn area, laying large stones dug up from around the property leading into the space. The hosta were originally planted at the lower end of the walk but were moved up to frame the walkway and give it direction. The ginger was planted two years ago and is beginning to spread. There was once a larger amount of lily of the valley but the native violets have vigorously claimed space under the hydrangea.
I raked and cleared away this debris and readied the path again in April. I layered the boxes, raked in new leaves. Of all things, I promised not to use chemicals or plastics in my garden. This is how it looks now. I have to lay something between the stones and the path to stop unwanted plants growing. It’s starting to look quite smashing now as the perennials are growing fast with the warmth and sun of May. From an awful eyesore to a tender garden path. Easily done with simple materials normally thrown away. A no cost way to reclaim space.