Saturday is the 16th anniversary of the great Agricultural Society barn raising and first Barn Raisers' Ball. Keep the spirit alive at the Codding house raising. Then come on over to dance with Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish, 7:30 to 10 pm. Admission is dessert for six and your dancing shoes. Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society's friends and supporters of all ages are welcome.
As in 2008, once again this season we have another bumper crop of decoratively berried shrubs and vines, tempting with their beauty. Floral supplies are slim now and it is customary to troll the countryside to cut autumnal bouquets of berries and seed heads, providing decoration for the house. What could be more local or seasonal than a bittersweet wreath on the front door or a colorful centerpiece for Thanksgiving tables?
While many people wish to beautify, most also want to do so conscientiously. Some of this material is indeed strikingly decorative but deserves to be accompanied by words of warning. Plants supplying them are invasive.
The accompanying photos show three of the beautiful invasives: porcelain berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), and autumn olive (Eleagnus umbellata). Each was found growing within a few feet of one another, as is often the case with the tangles of vegetation such invasive plants create.
Common, or European barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and Japanese barberry (B. thunbergii) are also very decorative at this time of year, with good pink to red foliage color and pendant bright red berries. Every inch of barberry stem is covered with needle-like thorns; it is less likely to be harvested for decorative purposes, but not impossible.
Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) makes a good arrangement while it holds its leaves, and the small fruits, a bright coral, are a plus. The plumes of grasses and reeds make lovely additions to arrangements. Several common pennisetums and miscanthuses, Phragmites australis and canary reed grass (Phalaris arundinacea) are dramatic in the vase, though eventually they make a mess in the house. Discard before they shatter.
I encourage everyone to cut and arrange with this plant material. But, when the arrangement has gone by, please if you have the facilities, burn it! Composting or throwing in the trash may unintentionally promote the spread of these plants, all of which are on the Massachusetts Prohibited Plant list. To see what other plants are on it, refer to flowersplantsinct.com/pdf/MassInvasivesProhibited.pdf.
I have been standing at the kitchen counter stripping off, it seems interminably, peppermint, sage and the thread-like leaves of rosemary from their stems/branches onto a tray for collection. Why? I have a fine potted rosemary that spends the winter indoors, and another in-ground that I plan to wrap and hope to preserve alive through the winter.
It feeds into an obsession, which is that I want to produce more and more of what we eat. My own food, my own herbs and seasonings, whatever it is that I can make or grow at home, by virtue of my own effort. How did this happen? I am not sure, as it has been occurring and growing slowly over the years.
It started as a kind of shocked horror in childhood at learning that people could be forced out of house and home, onto the street, as a consequence of having no money. But if people can take care of many of their own needs, they do not need so much cash, right? Fresh rosemary is wonderful for many recipes, but sometimes the dried herb is what is called for. Has anyone priced a box of peppermint tea or a typical herb jar of dried sage or rosemary recently?
I grew gigantic winter squash - possibly 'Longo di Toscano' - the seeds of which were supplied to me from Italy by a friend. Tonight I took my pruning saw and whacked off a section of one of them for Pumpkin soup with Leeks and White Wine (page 454) from "The Cook and the Gardener," by Amanda Hesser (Norton, 1999.) For seasonal cooking year-round from your garden, this is a great cookbook resource. And for those interested in seeds of this delicious squash for next year, get in touch with me.
At the Polly Hill Arboretum, winter walks are scheduled for the second Saturday of the winter months, November 14, December 12, January 9, February 13, and March 13. The tours, exploring the grounds with Arboretum staff to observe what is of seasonal interest, start at 10 am and they are free.