West Tisbury: Polly Hill Arboretum

— Kyra Steck

Daffodils are blooming in a bright yellow crowd across the south-facing front of the old police station. Chief Manter took such pride in them, always the earliest, always by April 1. His April Fool’s joke was to put fake ones out in front of Howes House. I can’t help thinking of him every April 1.

My brother Andy sent me a newspaper clipping about someone buying a house and property on Cross Highway in Redding, Conn., a place that was always special to us. I have written about it before, Mr. McQuaid’s hillside planted with over 50,000 daffodils. We visited it and Mr. McQuaid every year and wondered what would happen to the place after he died a few years ago. The new owner plans to maintain the daffodils and even add to them. I’m glad to know it will always be there. It’s definitely worth driving by if you ever find yourself in Redding in the spring.

I apologize for missing National Puppy Day, a perfect reason to name a national holiday. It was March 23. Abby, I hope you will forgive me.

Mike came home a little while ago from an excursion to Cottage City with a story to tell. The carburetor float in his 1978 Power King tractor had gotten porous and needed to be replaced. Albert Clements, the man behind the counter, went into his storeroom and returned with a Briggs and Stratton carburetor part they were able to make fit. He had actually returned with three possibilities. I regularly tease Mike about all the stuff he saves; I swear we have parts to every motor and piece of equipment he has ever owned, and then some extra pieces he has collected along the way. Nothing like the storeroom at Cottage City, I have been told.

I spoke with Albert Clements later, to tell him how pleased Mike was. Albert was “happy to help him out,” and explained that having formerly been Western Auto, they still have all those old parts. It turns out that Albert is another “gear head” like my husband and many other Island residents. Mike has bemoaned the loss of Walter Ashley since he died, and was pleased to find another kindred soul who takes pride in being able to fix anything. Good to know.

Linda Hearn and I took our first spring walk at the Polly Hill Arboretum this past Saturday morning. It was a beautiful day and we found lots to interest us. There are tiny purple iris blooming right at the entrance from the parking area, and an almost-ready-to-pop corylopsis nearby. I think that’s the shrub I had admired and remembered from an earlier visit. I wrote down the names of three shrubs in that area that could have been it, but I haven’t had time to look them up. Probably more pleasant to take another walk at the arboretum this weekend or next to see them in full bloom. We saw lots of swelling buds filled with promise.

After leaving Linda, I took the opportunity to tour our three garden centers, all newly opened. Lots to see at all of them. Although looking for a few special things, I did come home with pansies, especially my very favorite black ones I found at Vineyard Gardens, right in the parking area. Heather Gardens had them in a soft pink and white variety I had never seen before. Middletown had almost-black hellebores. You can see a pattern here. I have become fascinated with black flowering plants.

I have sad news to report that we have lost three very special gentlemen this past week. Being already on a gardening theme, I will start with Steve Spongberg, former director of the Polly Hill Arboretum, after many prestigious positions off-Island. He has left that legacy among others, most important being that he was a lovely person I always enjoyed spending time with. He and his wife, Happy, were often at the Plane View in our old Sunday breakfast days. It was always a treat when they were there.

Frank Ferro. What can I say? He was a firecracker of a personality and I think he was well-known by everyone in town. He certainly knew everyone. He was always full of opinions and always eager to share them with a smile and a warm demeanor. Warm, that is how I think of Frank. He drew people to him with that warmth, so it was no surprise to learn that social work and helping others was his original work.

I knew Bill Gamson and his wife, Zee, and their lovely dog from the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center, where they were a much loved and admired presence. They were often in attendance at special lectures and classes, as well as at weekly services on Shabbat. Bill quietly listened to comments and then offered his own carefully considered thoughts. He was a lovely person.

My condolences to all the family and friends of these three special gentlemen.

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.