MAINE CHANCE - part II
This is Part II of a long and probably excruciatingly boring account of a
trip we took to the garden of Currier McEwen July 11-15th.
At 6:30 am, all of us happy 'chancers' converged at Peter's.. piled into the
vans and hit the road.
Our first garden stop was not until 2 pm in Massachusetts - Fox Brook Iris
Farm. This is a wonderful garden tucked away on top of a hill and quite
buried in the woods. The gardener is a 17 year old young man named Andy who
is an avid JI grower and hybridizer. We were all very impressed by his
garden and also by his seedlings! Andy was thrilled to have John and Bob and
Hal in his garden ... and we spent a long time walking up and down the rows
while they talked with him about his hybridizing. Andy also sells iris
(bonus!) so there were soon folks perusing his list (JI's $6... siberians
$4!) and placing their orders. Andy's Mom, meanwhile had fabulous munchies
including a layered fresh fruit salad. We thought Andy DEFINATELY qualified
as an honorary "Chancer", so we presented him with an official shirt and hit
the road - or actually, the BRIDGE. Not far from Andy's was an attaction
called the Bridge of Flowers. This is a bridge that someone long ago began
to plant... and it is now covered with annuals, perennials, incredible
wisteria and unusual shrubs. We walked back and forth and headed for the
The Smith's garden was recently on tour for the siberian iris convention so
we were happy to be able to visit it in calmer circumstances. The focal
point of the garden is a stream that is dammed with field stone with a
spillway into a lower stream with a bridge. The area around the stream was
planted with siberians for the convention...but there were also plenty of
JI's to keep us interested and occupied. Steve Smith has become interested
in species ensata and is working with them. The species is interesting ...
has the classic 3 fall JI look, but is VERY tall and so commands the eye. We
looked at his seedlings and I'm wishing now I had approached him about buying
one for the Guest garden.
By this time, it was getting late and after checking into our hotel, we had a
quick meal at a franchise restaurant and fell into bed.
DAY 2 started at 9 am and was supposed to begin at York Hill Farm..but Darlyn
(the owner) had been having troubles due to a serious lack of rain and begged
off. She was thoughtful enough, however, to line up a different garden - and
it was one of the high points of our trip! (Darlyn... please help me with
these folks' names...)
This garden was to DIE for! The house is perched on a rise and the garden
falls away below. The garden is laid out in exquisite islands separated by
grass paths. The entire place has an oriental flavor... from the spare
planting of JI's (grown to perfection), to the pond, hostas, daylilies and
selected plants. This is one of those gardens with not a blade of grass out
of place, and not a weed to be seen. Darlyn was there to greet us and we
thanked her over and over for finding us such a gem!
Next stop was Shirley Pope's garden in Gorham, Maine. The garden was a
surprise for me, because I never realized that she grew anything but irises!
The JI's were looking very good and Shirley took the time to describe how
she rotates the crops for optimum health. Shirley also grows quite a few
hostas and I ended up with two of them in a great two chamber freeform
concrete planter. This little indiscretion also got me yelled at by one of
the tour directors who said that he had told everyone they could NOT buy
anything because it was too early in the trip to take up room. I looked over
an saw that Bob Bauer had an enormous hosta as well...so I asked him why HE
didn't get yelled at - he said he guessed it was because he was a 'notable'..
which doubled us both over with laughter! Love that man.
Don got over it... I got to keep my hostas and off we went to O'Donal's
Nursery. This is a commercial nursery that Donna had located that she tought
might be fun. I was still licking my wounds over the hosta ordeal when I
found a INCREDIBLE iron gate that I absolutely could not leave without. But
this time I got a little smarter... I schmoozed up Don before I made the
purchase and the gate is now resting in the Guest garden!
That night Donna had planned a cruise for those interested. Everyone was, so
we piled on the boat and watched the sunset.
Day 3 was SHOW DAY! Shirley Pope had asked some of us to judge their JI Show
and we happily accepted. To my great surprise, I was one of the invitees -
along with the 'notables' John Coble, Bob Bauer and Hal Stahly. The show was
incredible! It was held in a music room of a school so that the irises were
arranged on bleachers around the room - perfect height for viewing. Behind
the irises were potted hostas - a perfect segue to a bonsai and cut leaf
hosta exhibit. I was paired with Bob Bauer and John and Hal judged together.
The quality of the show was VERY high, despite Bertha, so the job was not an
easy one. It was my honor to work with Bob and see first hand the difference
between a novice (Kathyguest) and an expert (everyone else). Bob could tell
at a glance which irises were misnamed (verified by the registration book),
which were grown to perfection (most of them) and which were not quite up to
class. I was quite humbled, but I certainly learned alot and I believe we
did a good job. Queen, as you know, was Dappled Dragon, which was an
imposing splashed flower - enormous and absolutely without flaw. First
runner-up was Crystal Halo.. a hard choice to make. Best Seedling was won by
ANDY! Who had several entries - the best of which was a navy blue with
maroon veining. The veining was quite defined and very dramatic. The flower
needs some work on form, but the color transcended everything and he was in
heaven (and he was also wearing his shirt).
After the show we headed for a hosta garden and for our own Ted White's. I
met Ted at the show (it was like seeing an old friend!), and his garden was
secondary only to Currier's in my mind and in my personal interest.
Unfortunately, this is when Bertha flexed her muscles and the thrill of
finally being there was diminished somewhat by the buckets of rain falling
all around! BUT... we're gardeners first and we've been wet before, so
Carolyn and Peter and I sucked it up and enjoyed a wonderful wet tour with
Ted! Ted is a bundle of kinetic energy and seems to go in 3 directions at
once... we covered a lot of ground (mud?) and tried to imagine what the
plants would look like if it weren't being pounded by oceans of rain. I felt
sorry for John White who was thrilled to have the likes of John, Bob and Hal
in his garden to evaluate his seedlings... and it was just impossible. So we
got wet - had fun with Ted and realized that we would have to skip the last
garden on the tour that night. We tried to go to a seafood restaurant but it
was closed due to flooding, so we ended up in another where we encountered a
local legend named "Madeline" with the most incredible hair I've ever seen -
and that was the end of day 3.
.. next - Currier's!