West Tisbury: Travels


Last week was hot and sunny, perfect for haying. Driving past hayfields of swaying grasses, then seeing them cut and baled or rolled, is one of the pleasures of living in an agricultural community. The smell is the smell of early summer. I hope everyone got their hay in on time and safely stored before the weather turned to the rain and overcast skies we have had these past few days.

The rain held off last Friday for my “travel group” of friends to tour Green Animals Topiary Gardens in Portsmouth, R.I. Blue Cullen, Candy DaRosa, Debbie Hale, Nancy Rogers, and I spent a wonderful and informative morning touring the Victorian house full of period furniture and wonderful toys (don’t miss the room filled with dollhouses) and its surrounding gardens. I didn’t realize there was so much more to them than the topiaries, but the perennial gardens and displays of bedded annuals are quite extensive, with unusual varieties, several that none of us had ever seen. The best part was the accessibility of the head horticulturalist and the creative pruner and maintainer of the topiaries. Both men were happy to answer our questions, and each of us learned something new. It was a place we plan to visit again in different seasons. Fifty-four hundred tulip bulbs had just been removed from two long boxwood-edged beds, and a variety of annuals were being set in the ground in their place.

We were all impressed by the fact that train tracks passed just beyond the bottom of the property, so the Brayton family, who bought the place in 1877, were delivered practically right to their door from the family’s winter home in Fall River. This feature is commemorated by a four-car train made out of clipped boxwood across the lawn, inside the stone wall that edged the property. There was a long allée of clipped privet arches at the top of the sloping lawn. We walked through that to the several gardens and topiaries that covered much of seven acres. The topiaries were magical: dogs and bears, an elephant and a lion, a unicorn, reindeer, birds, giraffes, a horse and rider, baskets and bowls with potted plants set into them, and much more. Most interesting to see were the topiaries in process: how the bushes were planted, branches intertwined and pruned into the desired shapes.

I was so sad and surprised to find out that Ronnee Schultz had died last week. He looked hale and hearty the last time I saw him, full of himself and some wonderfully outrageous story with which to regale me. Ronnee was a natural storyteller, always funny and interesting, with many tales from the commuting days, when he and Don Sexton played extremely competitive cribbage during their morning crossings on the ferry. Heidi said he had a sudden heart attack. Her daughters are writing up a formal obituary, and they may have some memorial gathering in the fall. Ronnee will certainly be remembered by all who knew him. And definitely missed.

Condolences also to Judy Jahries’ family and so many friends. Having just written about a fabulous garden, I was thinking about her gift for and enjoyment of gardening. Whenever I saw her, I learned something new, some plant or horticultural technique, and often a story about her grandchildren, too.

I know I am “of the age” that people I have known most of my life have died and will continue to do so. So will I someday. But it never fails to surprise me. I have an illusion of everyone always being here as we always have been, of time never changing anything.

Heather Gardens is sponsoring a special program at the Polly Hill Arboretum this Saturday, June 24, at 10 am. Karen Perkins, owner of Garden Vision Epimediums, will give a talk called “Epimediums: Jewels of the Shade.” For anyone unfamiliar with this lovely and hardy plant, you will be in for a treat.

Allen Whiting is opening his Davis House Gallery this Sunday afternoon, June 25, from 4 to 7 pm. The current exhibition is called “Looking Back,” and features a selection of his work from 1982 to the present. The gallery will then be open Thursdays through Sundays, 1 to 6 pm, and by appointment.

A little way down South Road, Kara Taylor is having her first opening reception this Sunday, too. New work will be on display from 5 to 8 pm. Her gallery hours are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 am to 5 pm.

Beginning this week and for the next two weeks, Nancy Cramer will be exhibiting some of her tapestries at the new Martha’s Vineyard Center for Visual Arts Gallery. This is a special addition to the clothing, jewelry, and pillows she will show there through the summer. The gallery is in the former home of PIK-NIK Gallery, on Dukes County Avenue in Oak Bluffs.

Programs at the West Tisbury library this week are:

Saturday, June 24, 3:30 pm, a talk by University of Maryland Professor Michael Ross, who will present his new book, “The Great New Orleans Kidnapping Case: Race, Law and Justice.” At 7 pm, Tweed Roosevelt and David Foster will discuss Mr. Foster’s new book, “A Meeting of Land and Sea: Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard.”

Monday, June 26, Kanta Lipsky’s Balance Workshop begins at 11:30 am. At 7 pm, Jonathan Scott will present a talk and slideshow documenting his pilgrimage to find sacred character sites in ancient Greece, megalithic Britain, “Celtic Vermont,” and solar sites here on the Vineyard.

Wednesday, June 28, at 1 pm, Public Health Nurse Liz Sanderman will talk and answer questions about tick-borne illnesses. A timely program, as the ticks have been extra-terrible this year.

Don’t forget the annual Strawberry Festival on the West Tisbury Church lawn this Saturday afternoon, from noon to 4 pm. You will be reminded by the banner stretched across the fence and by tents and tables set out on the lawn. The best strawberry shortcakes, ice cream, smoothies, and other strawberry treats will be served. The Strawberry Festival always feels like the beginning of summer to me, and I have happy memories of my father-in-law bringing strawberry shortcakes to Mike and me on his way home.

I have to apologize to anyone who may have sent me column news at my Comcast email. It has been inaccessible, once again. This happens way too often. I will try to sort out the problem with Comcast, and, if it’s not sort-outable, I will set up a Google email for column news and let everyone know what it is.