It is the first week of December, and James Langlois and Wendy Weldon will be moving off-Island soon, but in the meantime they are still eating shishitos and tomatoes. Yes, I have previously written about this garden, Jack’s memorial garden, where Wendy tended plants alongside her father Jack on their annual summer sojourns from their home in Indiana. If you want their history with this land, please see bit.ly/WendyandJamesGOL.
It’s the last day of open studio appointments, where whole families are stopping by for visits, to lessen the artist’s vast trove of work, and to say goodbye. There are two things James and Wendy have more of than anything else in their lives — their plants and their artwork. Wendy and James’ moving day was coming up in just a few days, everything would be packed and moved to their new home off-Island. In late August, James gave me a call and really wanted me to see their garden in its full glory, because two years earlier when I visited them to write my original column, I had missed “the peak.” So I’m sharing their summer glory with you. It was crazy plentiful, and a joy to return to a place both familiar and new.
Each growing season plants are rotated from beds to new beds; there are many volunteers that pop up, and because seeds are thrown or scattered, they end up in places that are unexpected. The new fence was doing its job keeping deer out. James explains, “You can’t let the garden go fallow. If I let one pod go, that one pod blew up, and I’d be pulling up datura everywhere. There’s a lot of seed in that garden that comes up, like the marigolds come up every year.” Wendy tells me, “We have a new garden angel that’s growing flowers and vegetables” for her livelihood next summer. During my last visit, James was moving plants that he wanted to save and bring off-Island next spring. They were in a couple of rows bordering one side of the garden. He corrects me: The plants “are in nursery for the winter. I made a nursery, about a third of the garden is perennials. All of the plants I wanted, lilies, Asiatic lilies … everything I could possibly dig up that was special, like the Japanese irises and Siberian irises, the bearded irises.”
Wendy explains, “We’re trying to put a garden together in our new place. We have to take down 24 trees that are 40 feet high. We have a beautiful stand of oaks that we’re going to have milled into wood.”
James adds, “I can’t touch my hands around the trees, and it’s all red oak and white oak.”
Wendy says, “We’re going to add a sunroom and a greenhouse eventually.”
One special part of Jack’s garden for Wendy has always been his dahlias, now all dug up in crates in the basement. Wendy says the dahlias will be given away in the spring, and they’ll keep a few for their new garden. “They can hardly fit into their truck this year, they grew so big,” Wendy says. She grabs a pile of color snapshots they received from the previous owner of their new off-Island home, when the house was moved from its original top-of-a-hill caretaker’s house location on a large oceanfront property built in 1900 to where it is now. The trees were planted 42 years ago, and now block too much light. James is excited because someone on-Island offered them a collection of shade plants and ferns, which he looks forward to turning into a garden on the shady side of their new house. They’ve been moving the potted plants themselves in the back of their pickup truck each time they make a trip to their new property.
“I’m cleaning up the garden, removing the garden debris of peppers, nasturtium, marigolds, all going into the compost pile. Then I’ll take the rototiller and go down about maybe an inch and rototill back and forth,” James says. “Then I’m going to broadcast seed for the whole entire garden for the winter rye before it gets too much colder.”
“We’ve never seen anything like this in 20 years, the best garden yet,” they exclaimed. James said, “I had to take the tomatoes out because I didn’t want to deal with them anymore. They were still producing at the beginning of November.” Wendy adds, “We had shishitos right up until that frost, from June until the middle of November.” Talking over one another, “It was incredible. We gave bags and bags of shishitos away.” Then Wendy says, “And tomatoes, we gave bags away. Now we’ve got Brussels sprouts and carrots, we’re eating them every day.” James notes, “We used to get this size [holding up his fingers to show an inch], and now they’re huge. There weren’t even any worms in them this year. There were no cabbage moths. There was no disease. There was no leaf spot. There was no anthrax nose. There was no mildew, mold, nothing.”
I had to ask what they thought they’d miss most. Wendy says, “The view, and being on Squibnocket Pond.” James says, “The soil and the garden getting sun all day, the openness.” Wendy’s family home will still be there, but it won’t be the same. Knowing these two creative and passionate gardeners, I have a hunch their new garden will be very special.With time, that soil too will bear the fruits of seasonal plantings, care, and love. It was time for everyone to get back to work on this particular Sunday, especially as light was limited. I look forward to paying them a visit once they settle into their new home and put down roots in their garden.