Spohr Gardens enchants visitors all year long
Margaret and Charles Spohr began creating this lovely garden around their home in the 1950’s and gladly received an ever-increasing number of visitors who came to see its rumored beauty. After their deaths, the gardens were left to the Margaret K. Spohr and Charles D. Spohr Charitable Trust with the specification that the property be open to the public every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no admission fee. For more information, visit www.spohrgardens.org.
By Lindsay Oliver
Add a romantic touch to your garden with these efficient sprinklers ($16.99). Just attach a hose and you’ve got a sprinkler and petite statue in one! Roughly four by six inches,in several desgins at Osterville House and Garden, 508-428-6911.
This Razor-back “Little Hog” mini-shovel ($14.49) serves many gardening functions all season long. Just under 30 inches long, the “Hog” gets in tough to reach spots. Pick it up at Botello Home Center in Mashpee.
Arm yourself for gardening with a pair of Foxglove Gauntlets ($35) that allow for freedom of movement as you tackle tough jobs. Light-weight, synthetic leather-padded palms and reinforced fingertips defend against thorns. Four sizes.
The Stihl “Yard Boss” ($369) is a lightweight, multi-tasking tool with a universal power train that easily transforms from a high-performance cultivator to other useful tools. Essential for aerating the right way. At Botello Home Center in Mashpee.
Must-Have Articles, Accessories & Products
Designer Steve Wardle of Chatham’s Forest Beach Designer-Goldsmiths translated delicate pansy petals into gold, creating an elegant bracelet honoring spring. Each bloom is graced with a diamond. For information, call
508-945-7334, or go to www.capecodcharms.com.
The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook provides advice for gardeners looking to include both ornamental and edible plants in their gardens. With colorful photos, this guide ($22.95) teaches readers how to grow, and harvest vegetables, fruits, greens, and herbs for each season. www.timberpress.com
These handcrafted hedgehogs ($7.95-$12.95) are just a few of the cute critters available at Harvest of Barnstable— perfect for a whimsical touch at a summer party. Harvest of Barnstable, 89 Willow Street, Yarmouthport.
Great for the weekend gardener, this 12 x 16 foot saltbox shed has a handy loft for pool supplies, lawn furniture, and other items. Hand-made custom options available. Basic kit price: $6,220. For information, call 860-228-2276, or go to www.countrycarpenters.com.
You’ll be swinging in the rain with these waterproof Arden Slogger boots ($36.99) featuring a premium insole for comfort, a cotton liner, and a wide top pants opening to keep you dry. At Snows Home and Garden of Orleans, 508-255-0158, www.snowshomeandgarden.com.
For three different Birdscape feeders ($19 to $26) that will feed the birds with up to three pounds of seed, stop in to Botellos Home Center, Route 28 on the Mashpee/Barnstable line.
Plant a floral oasis inside or out with modular Wooly Pocket planters ($34.99 to $89.99), made from 100% recycled bottles. Soft-sided and infectiously fun in several colors at Scenic Roots (formerly Agway), 349 Route 6A, East Sandwich.
For an exquisite wreath ($60) capturing Cape Cod’s natural glories, stop into Harvest of Barnstable, just off Route 6 in Yarmouthport. Available at different prices in several designs, the locally handcrafted wreaths bring that quintessential coastal touch to any home.
When you grow your own fruits and vegetables, it is a special pleasure to preserve that goodness, giving your table a touch of summer sweetness, even when the snow flies.
Some of these recipes are as simple as chopping up a big bunch of fresh basil, drizzling in some olive oil… read on. And savor (and share!) the fruits of your good garden labor.
Susan’s Seaside Dilly Beans
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup Sea Salt
- 6 cups white wine vinegar
- 8 dill flowerheads
- ½ cup pickling spice
- ½ cup mustard seed
- 16 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
- Wash and trim the ends off the fresh green beans. Discard any beans that are soft or spotted. Sterilize eight jars following the home preserving instructions on the Cape Cod Extension Service’s web site (See box). For the brine, boil the water, add the Sea Salt and the white wine vinegar in a large pot, and bring to a boil.
- While the brine cooks, fill each sterilized jar with one head of washed fresh dill flowerhead, one tablespoon of pickling spice, one tablespoon of mustard seed, and two cloves garlic. The beans should be put into a standing position in the jars.
- With a soup ladle, put the hot brine into jars and follow home preserving instructions.
- Delicious served with seafood, pork, or as a side for sandwiches and salads.
Cape Sweet Pickles
- 6 pounds small zucchini or cucumbers
- 8 cups thinly sliced onions
- ½ cup Sea Salt
- 1 quart white wine vinegar
- 4 ½ cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons mustard seed
- 1 ½ tablespoons celery seed
- One bag ice cubes
- Wash and scrub clean zucchini or cucumbers. Leave skins on. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces and put in a large mixing bowl. Add onions, Sea Salt, and place at least two inches of ice cubes on top of vegetables. Put in a cool spot for at least three hours. Keep replenishing ice cubes.
- Make the pickling brine. In a large pot, put the white wine vinegar, the sugar, turmeric, mustard seed, and the celery seed. Bring to a boil (about 10 minutes) then add chilled vegetables and onions without the ice. Bring to a second boil.
- While the brine is cooking, sterilize the new canning jars and follow home preserve canning instructions on the Cape Cod Extension Service’s web site (See box). While this is happening, use a wide mouth funnel and put brine and vegetable mix in each jar, then follow preserving instructions.
- Use oven mitts to remove all jars and place in a cool, but not drafty, spot.
Jo’s Summer Jam
- 4 cups of crushed raspberries
- 6 ½ cups of sugar
- ½ teaspoon butter
- 1 package of fruit pectin
- Crush well-washed and dried fresh raspberries though a food mill to remove a lot of the seeds.
- Combine the berry mixture with the sugar in a six to eight quart sauce pan. Add the butter to reduce foaming. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
- Add one package of fruit pectin and continue to boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and skim off foam if necessary.
- Sterilize your jars according to preserving directions. Ladle the jam onto hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Apply lids and adjust until fingertip tight. Place in canner with water one to two inches over tops of jars. Boil for 10 minutes.
Judy’s Strawberry Jam
- 2 (16 ounce) containers of strawberries, sliced (this is about 5 cups of sliced berries)
- 1 (6 ounce) container of raspberries
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 apple, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup of sugar
- Bring all ingredients to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. During this time you can crush the fruit with a potato masher if you would like smaller pieces of fruit. Skim foam off the top when it develops.
- Let cool to room temperature and store in airtight containers in the refrigerator. This jam will keep in the refrigerator for three to four weeks.
Basil Lovers Pesto
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, washed, stems removed, dried well
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or mushed with the side of a large knife
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese (fresh grated is best!)
- 1/2 cup olive oil (extra virgin)
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Put a few handfuls of the basil in with the pine nuts or walnuts and pulse a few times in a food processor. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
- Pour in the olive oil slowly, a few tablespoons at a time. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese (unless you are going to freeze the pesto) and pulse again until blended. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Do this in batches—it’s a messy job, but worth it!
- To put in ice cup trays for freezing in small portions, spoon the pesto into a sandwich plastic baggy. Cut a corner out of the bag, and squeeze a good amount into each cube. Covering each cube with a little more olive oil helps keep the cubes green, (reducing oxidation) but the pesto will still taste like summer, even if it’s not that beautiful green!
Fresh February Tomatoes
- 2-3 pounds fresh tomatoes
- Five cups water
- Ice cubes
- Wash the tomatoes well. Boil half the water in a sauce pan. Put the rest of the water in a steel bowl with ice cubes.
- When the water is really boiling, drop in several of the tomatoes and boil until each one’s skin splits. Take out with a fork and plunge into the ice water. A minute or so later, peel off all the skin.
- If you wish, you can cut the tomato in half and scoop out all the seeds with your finger or a small spoon.
- Freeze the tomatoes in a plastic container. Great mixed with chopped basil, fresh parsley and olive oil for bruschetta, or as a simple, summer sweet addition to tomato sauces, soups, etc.
There is something so elemental about vegetable gardening, putting a simple seed in the ground, watering and watching over it until one day a tiny green sprout appears. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I planted a row of radishes in my first vegetable garden. One of the easiest, quickest vegetables to grow, the sprouts popped up, flourished in no time at all and soon plump red radishes formed, perfect for salads.
I planted that first vegetable garden when I was around 30, in a small space beside our house on the Mount Hope Bay. I was lucky enough to inherit the garden from a previous organic gardener who had prepared the soil really well, removing all the sod and New England stones, digging down several feet, and adding lots of well-rotted manure and organic matter to the soil.
Gardening by the salt water is a gift—vegetable plants seem to love the warm moist air. That first year, besides the radishes, I grew several different kinds of lettuce, fat Early Girl and Better Boy tomatoes, sturdy basil—I even had some pretty good peppers. With our two small children, I used to spend hours in the garden. I was hooked, as were my children, who used to love helping me weed, rake, plant, and especially water, the garden. I thought vegetable gardening was a breeze.
I soon learned that in addition to patience, gardening can teach you humility. My next vegetable garden was in a field behind our new home in Central Massachusetts. As soon as we moved in, I started dreaming of my huge new garden, even envisioning perfect swaying rows of corn.Perhaps I should have listened to the man in his 80s, a devoted gardener, who had grown up in our house, tilled gardens there for decades, and who had a 1930s degree from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMASS Amherst.
“Well, you can try,” said Fred, a lean New Englander with a strong handshake. “I never had much luck getting anything to grow there—except gourds. Everyone loved my gourds for their Thanksgiving tables. It’s pretty wet back there and you really can’t plant to August, but give it a try.”
Still in my early 30s, I believed I could get anything to grow anywhere if I tried hard enough, so I forged ahead. Our helpful neighbor plowed and tilled the field with his tractor, my small son seated beside him, watching the dark earth appear in beautiful orderly rows like magic. The garden looked so fertile, as if anything could grow there. We excitedly planted row after row of corn, tomatoes, peppers, and squash.
It was a disaster. The corn plants were spindly and collapsed. The tomato plants rotted. I think we had a few puny zucchini, most of which got eaten by a huge healthy woodchuck that lived in the woods behind us. Sick at heart, I faced the fact that Fred was right. The soil in the field was very wet, full of clay, and terrible for growing anything but gourds that only flourished because by August, the soil had dried out enough for germination.
After that, I kind of gave up on vegetable gardening, except for a few planters of patio tomatoes and some pots of basil and parsley. Instead, I tackled the old perennial gardens around our yard, planted with drifts of iris, peonies, wildflowers, and daylilies, which thrived and bloomed happily year after year. But every summer, I longed for the taste of my own fresh vegetables.When we moved to Cape Cod several years ago, my son decided that we should have a vegetable garden. Something about gardening as a toddler must have taken root in him and he is a landscape contractor now.
With his knowledge from a Stockbridge degree, he prepared the soil carefully in a somewhat neglected plot on the other side of our driveway, piling dark rich compost from a local supplier into sandy Cape soil.
At the center of the garden, he made a small decorative flower out of paving stones, brought back from a stay in New Orleans, when he helped the city replant its parks after Hurricane Katrina. In neat rows we planted some old standbys—tomatoes, lettuce, basil, and carrots. A more adventuresome gardener than I, he planted things like cilantro and arugula.
Our first garden, planted in 2008, was pretty successful. In 2009, we were devastated by the tomato blight that hit gardens all over New England, but we had arugula and cilantro galore. Last summer, the garden began to really take hold. The kale and zucchini plants exploded, taking over the beds. The Better Boy tomatoes were so plentiful I had enough to share with friends and co-workers and ended up freezing container after container, great for winter spaghetti dinners.
We had colorful “Rainbow Lights” swiss chard, tasty fat brussels sprouts, sweet cucumbers—and lots of basil and arugula, which I have discovered I cannot live without. I am still struggling with peppers and my broccoli was a disaster, but all in all, my latest vegetable garden was the most successful ever.
I hope that if I live a few more decades—say to 80 or so—I will figure out how to grow a perfect pepper. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Although I am an old man, I am but a young gardener.” Or who knows? Maybe by then I’ll have learned that it’s okay to settle for nothing more than a harvest of gorgeous gourds for our Thanksgiving table.
When our publisher, Brian Shortsleeve, suggested that we launch Cape Cod GARDENS as a new April Cape Cod LIFE issue, I could not believe my luck. I can work in my Cape Cod garden by the hour without any sense of time. I am imagining bright red tomatoes, rows of vibrant basil, glimmering mounds of zucchini, billowing hydrangea, and perfect velvet-petaled roses as I plant, weed, and prune. I do not stop until the spring, summer, or fall sun goes down, or a blister develops on my hand, or my family and the dog wander by, wondering about a meal. Reluctantly, then, I put down my tools and turn off the story in my head. But I know I can pass through that gate again tomorrow into that imaginary world.
The same thing happens to me when I am writing . When I am writing at the office and it is going well, I do not hear phones ringing or coworkers talking. I am in whatever world I am creating and reality moves without boundaries just before a blinking cursor on my computer screen. Often, I don’t realize that the day is almost over until it starts to get dark in my office and I notice that my coworkers are heading home. This is what happens when you do not care how many hours it takes to help create a magazine with words and pictures as if it were a garden full of sight, color, and experiences so vivid that others can know it with you.
In this issue, you will see some of my garden world. Just as it is a joy for me to share this passion with you, one of the Cape’s best known garden writers, C.L.Fornari takes you through the world of growing roses, her knowledgeable words guiding you down the path to growing that perfect seaside rose. When C.L. writes about gardening, you can tell that she loves her job, too.
Our photographers move you into the natural world on Cape Cod and the Islands, their images caught in flashes of glory on these pages, so vivid that you want to reach out and touch that hot chartreuse beach grass along a wooded Nantucket path, where a gardener is following his vision of plants and stones and glimmering koi in a small pond…
I hope our very first Cape Cod GARDENS helps you shape your own garden world, perhaps with a little bit of Cape Cod and the Islands beauty from these pages in it, some bright lilies seen in this issue beside a Nantucket pond, or my favorite nasturtiums by our back door dancing in the golden light of a Cape Cod afternoon.
Susan Dewey, Associate Publisher & Editor
Jhenn Watts has nothing against technology, but digital cameras are not her method of choice for photography as a historical record. “With digital, we can doctor, copy, change things,” Watts says. “We’ve kind of gotten away from the ‘proven photograph.’”
“Proven photographs”—testaments to fleeting moments—are especially meaningful in today’s world. As Watts says, “These images represent a slice in time, a memory.”
Watts’ current photography venture turns those records of real time into art. Armed with a heavy large-format camera with bellows, a black cloth draped over her head, she shoots on 4-inch by 5-inch transparency film, often assembling several pieces in one artwork. The finished photo art captures the Vineyard’s natural world—ocean, shoreline, cliffs, sky —in its raw magnificent form. Frames of exposed edges of film create a sculptural feel.
Watts began creating photographic art after graduating from Massachusetts College of Art, rendering images through an emulsion process, lifting an image off paper and transferring it to glass. When Polaroid stopped production of the film, she moved on to her large-format photography.
The results of Watts’ old-world equipment are up-to-the-minute creative. Her newest image, Cedar Tree Neck Triptych, is a dramatic composition of three photos depicting soft ocean swells against a rocky shoreline, shot on the Vineyard’s north shore. Watts cropped the photos in the camera, developed the film, trimmed the prints, and assembled the piece. Another work, Long Point Vista, with an almost monochromatic look, was taken on the Vineyard’s south shore. Composed of five images and measuring 25 by 53 inches, Long Point Vista is the largest piece Watts has made. The possibilities have given her a fresh excitement for art. “I haven’t been this excited about what I’m doing in 10 or 15 years,” Watts says.
Today, married to the jeweler Kenneth Pillsworth, Watts balances her photography with her duties as director of the Field Gallery, all in a place she has come to love. “I feel privileged to live on this island,” she says. “You can’t help but be awe-inspired by the beauty.”
At its core, Jen Villa’s medium is Cape Cod. Villa’s photography and collages are rife with iconic Cape images: ocean, dunes, and skylines, capturing a sentiment that both Villa and her clients embrace.
Villa, “a beach baby from day one,” as she describes herself, grew up summering in West Hyannisport. After graduating from Trinity College in Hartford, she traveled to California and graduated from the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara. And then she experienced the wham of the heart that deep love inflicts: Villa knew she had to return to the Cape. “There’s always a lingering feeling of wanting to be back,” she says. She quickly discovered that her deep affection for this special place rang true with a wider audience.
The discovery led Villa, a Hyannisport resident, to open The Little Beach Gallery in Hyannis, where she shows the works of 40 artists, including her own. The art here reflects a common inspiration: the ocean. The concept of community is obvious, too. Villa thrives on bringing artists together, holding fundraisers, and practicing local environmentalism, including heading up the local chapter of Green Drinks
(www.greendrinks.org). It all fits seamlessly with Villa’s art. As she says, “My artwork is solely based on the beauty of this place. The environmental part goes hand in hand with it. It’s kind of a nice collaboration.”
The environment that Villa works to protect is on display in her collages, which she calls J’coupage. The photography and collages—artful arrangements of photos with short narratives and graphics—embody the Cape’s indefinable appeal. Villa’s clients often report back to her, no doubt to renew their connection in a mutual love. “People say ‘I look at the art every day; it takes me back to the Cape,’” Villa says.
In her collage The Waves of the Sea Help Me Get Back to Me, the words of writer Jill Davis are dropped over Villa’s sepia-toned image of a beach line and dunes, beach grass waving in the wind. “The photo collages incorporate inspirational words—words that remind you to stay present,” she says. The mood is subtle, peaceful. Villa says, “It’s the ocean, the magic, the serenity of finding yourself at the edge of the earth.”
Look outside any Cape Cod window and try to sort the shades of green, brown, gold, and blue. The colors are uncountable and the hues almost impossible to replicate. But Tim Struna has an extraordinary knack for homing in on the nuances of the Cape’s natural world. His style captures this realism with precise abstract details and reveals the truth about nature—not in a photographic way, but the truth that lies in impressions.
“I’m a very detailed person,” says Struna, a Brewster painter and printmaker. “I try to put enough abstract detail that if you hone in, you’ll see the manipulation of color. That’s the fun part of my painting, the tones of color.”
Struna started painting as a kid in Cleveland, taking a bus to the Cleveland Museum of Art for lessons. Now it has evolved into a passion of more than 50 years. A signature member of the Copley Society of Art in Boston, Struna uses watercolor and acrylic to paint his surroundings, turning out approximately 20 paintings a year. He is also a printmaker, creating hand-colored pieces from copper plate engravings.
Struna’s series “One Square Foot” attests to nature’s infinite colors, textures, and shapes. A painting in the series, One Square Foot of P-town Harbor, is an array of shells on beach sand, wildly varied in color and form, but elegantly composed, as only nature can master. This work, like his others, is based on watching life. “I get my inspiration in everyday things,” Struna says, “whether I’m chopping firewood, walking the beach, or cutting grass.”
He walks the beach almost daily. “I look down at the sand and at the horizon,” he says. “At low tide when the wrack line appears, it leaves stuff. I see shells, beach glass, and beautiful patterns.” Cape architecture, particularly his 1880 home, also inspires him, especially places “where nature takes back man-made structures.”
It takes a deep, long look to really see the range of colors imbedded in Struna’s work. “My palette always looks like a mess,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s all these colors I use to create my own signature colors.” While the technique is very precise, the colors are welcoming and warm. “I keep pretty much the same colors, an earthy palette,” Struna adds. “My model is nature.”
In today’s kinetic, noise-filled world, Paul Schulenburg’s art offers a meditative look at everyday life.
Landscapes are among Schulenburg’s works, but his figures—the woman standing in a storefront in Front Door, Café Heaven or the lone figure in Fisherman in the Shadows—may be the most arresting focal points. Schulenburg’s figures, all everyday people, seem unique and yet like the rest of us, pulling us in, Edward Hopper-style. “I look for the overlooked,” Schulenburg says. “I look for things that are a little unusual.”
The people in his paintings wouldn’t hold as much fascination without Schulenburg’s remarkable sense of place. “It’s something you feel,” he says. “I’m always exploring to see what I find interesting.” Schulenburg, of Eastham, has been lauded as a master at using light and shade, a big influence on his settings. This may date back to his days at Boston University, where he studied classic painting in the style of William Paxton and John Singer Sargent. “This was the late ‘70s,” Schulenburg says. “It was very unpopular. Most art schools were encouraging abstraction and expressionism; they would say, ‘Do your own thing. ’”
At 24, Schulenburg became a single father when his first wife died of leukemia. He put his fine art aside and worked at home as an illustrator with great success. Schulenburg eventually married the painter Pharr Schulenburg, and his daughter grew up. At that point, he began to paint again. He started with occasional landscapes and small Cape scenes, and his paintings began to sell.
Then something changed. “It was a gray Cape Cod day,” Schulenburg recalls. “I was driving around and saw fishermen in their orange overalls, so colorful with the blue water.” That kicked off his figurative work. He brought some of his pieces to Helen Addison of Addison Art Gallery in Orleans, and his path was firmly forged.
Today, Schulenburg shares a studio with Pharr, painting from life as much as possible. He recently began teaching. He plans more figurative work, particularly on his “Fish Pier Series.” What comes next is anyone’s guess. “I can’t worry about where I’m going,” he says. “When I start painting, I’ll know.”