Photos with Stories Reveal the Vitality of Northampton Street Community Garden

One of my first posts ( January 2021) focused on photos I took as an enthusiastic but infrequent visitor* to Northampton Street Community Garden. This sequel adds views of an insider, Michele Maniscalco, who has worked the soil there for several years with attention to significant events in her surroundings. As I requested, she has selected from her own photos and provided her own words to identify or explain them.

Bee on a zinnia at Northampton Street Community Garden, August, 2016. Taken at a photo shoot for Martha Stewart Living Magazine featuring South End-based Best Bees Company, a beekeeping company founded by bee researcher Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, who started the business in his West Concord Street apartment. Photo by Michele D. Maniscalco
Harley Kravitz, Esq., permanent resident and guardian of the Northampton Street Community Garden in Boston’s South End from the time he was a kitten until his death. Feral and aloof from everyone except his caregiver, Harley Kravitz kept our garden safe from vermin and was much-loved and is missed by gardeners. RIP Harley Kravitz,  2004-2018  Photo by Ethan S. Gould

*Photos ( by D. Lee) at bottom of this post are from my visit in June 2021

Upbeat Plantings Grow along Upland Road

On neighborhood walks this spring and summer I began to notice tended gardens in the narrow strips of earth between sidewalk and street. Then I noted the sense of shelter from traffic as I climbed the slope of Upland Road lined with clusters of flowers or grasses around saplings or established trees.

Parts of parked cars and road signs intruded on too many photos where I’d tried to capture the elegance or abundance at curbside. While closer focus ruled these out, those photos lost context of dealing with the challenges of the given space.

Whether or not my photos can convey this, I do appreciate more and more such garden strips on streets throughout the city. Upland Road raised my awareness anyway.

Sharing Roses of Sharon

Some ways I’ve shared roses of Sharon* near me in recent years:

  • dig up and transplant selected saplings that grow below the original bush.
  • cut branches with buds and blossoms (a source of tiny active ants) to fill a vase.
  • sequence photos of successive stages of a blossom.
  • message short videos of blossoms lifting/shifting in warm winds.
  • sweep and scrape shriveled remains fallen on the sidewalk.

Now I add another way: Sort through years of photos of roses of Sharon in my neighborhood and choose seven best for a post on Pleasures of Plants.

*A common name for Hibiscus syriacus, a species of flowering plant in the mallow family, Malvaceae. It is native to south-central and southeast China, but widely introduced elsewhere, including much of Asia. ….. Common names include the rose of Sharon,[7] (especially in North America) [Quote excerpt from Hibiscus syriacus in Wikipedia )

Wonder at the Range of Hydrangeas

Last week a surprise gift bouquet with botanical notes about hydrangeas got me to start noticing their variety in my neighborhood. I marveled at the many different forms of delicate clustered blossoms among their handsome hardy leaves. Wikipedia affirmed that worldwide there are more than seventy species of hydrangea, including shrubs, vines and truly tall trees.

The range of subtle colors in one blossom or one garden of hydrangeas has also caught my eye.

Hydrangeas around here seem to survive, even thrive, through testy summer months.

Hydrangeas in Harvard Yard garden near Quincy Street, Cambridge
Holden Street, Cambridge, Late September 2018

Views here are selected from my newly made photo album, Hydrangeas , though they hardly represent the range of what I’ve seen within a few blocks of my home.

Irises Recall Presence of Birch from Past

Until two years ago, this tall graceful birch was a welcome landmark of a nearby park, reliable in my routines. When I became aware the birch was gone, I missed it and wondered why it was cut down, but I never sought out answers to that recurring question.

Then, admiring local irises this May, I drew closer with my iPhone to a lovely cluster in the park. The irises, probably planted years back around the birch’s trunk, encircled its remaining stump.

With closer viewing, the remaining wood, bark, moss, patterns and aromas raised new specific questions and an intriguing key question, “Is this tree truly gone?” Though transformed and less visible, the birch is still present.

Soon I was searching through photos from prior years in the same location where irises grew around the birch’s base. The flowers and the photos restored more memories of the tree that used to shelter them.

With no promise to dig deeper, this post is my response to the amazing, absorbing qualities of two kinds of plants I can name but barely know.

Range of Yellow, Intense to Mellow

I invented this mid-April post to allow at least two more magnolias, both with yellow tones, that started blooming after my post about those captivating trees.

Then, of course, the yellows of forsythia, tulips, and daffodils were also eye-catching.

Meanwhile in pots and vases, more yellows called attention!

Other alluring aspects of this color sing out from photos of hellebores, unidentified groundcovers and budding branches. Barred by my self-imposed quota of seven photos per post, they must wait for some future connection.

Bare Trees Work with Winter Skies

As buds begin on branches, I recall that blossoms, leaves and fruits will reduce the chances for sky and sun to interact with the structure of bare trees. While eyes and iPhones focus on compelling colors along with layers of growing green, I’ll lose sight of dramatic or intricate patterns of tree trunks, bark, limbs and branches for the next three seasons. This post presents reminders of what winter trees will offer again as autumn ends.

(I prepared most of this post, including the paragraph above, in the middle of March but as predicted I was distracted by spring colors. Now, mid-April with weird weather shifts, may be time to “publish” after all.)

Magnolias, Magnificent and Magnified, April 2021

A few magnolia trees in my neighborhood began to blossom tentatively in late March, followed by a full surge in early April with three bright mild days. Cold winds and rain soon sent many petals to settle, discoloring on the ground after the brief but spectacular displays of distinctly different magnolias. No wet spring snowstorms to weigh them down this year, so they can gracefully give way to other predictably brilliant showings of the season.

This post presents a select few of numerous views I was moved to take into my iPhone in recent weeks.

Blossoming Trees in Early May 2014

An old apple tree and a relatively young cherry in my yard have almost always blossomed simultaneously. These photos are from one day in May nearly seven years ago when I tried to record their sudden abundance and interplay.

A key motivation for beginning this blog was to remind myself and others of colors, textures, and vitality that are missing in stark winter weeks. Now in the midst of icy early March, I’ll leap at my last chance to share images that stand in for the luxurious real experiences soon to begin again.

Clematis in Cambridge

Clematis vines, leaves and beginning buds are graceful in themselves, while signaling the promise of slightly translucent flower petals unfurling, emerging from the subtle green overlapping leaves. Not sure my words or photos (from streets in my neighborhood) will convey the significance of clematis in my life, but here’s a chance to try.

Two clematis vines (with distinctly different color flowers) have reappeared predictably every year since 1994 along my low wooden fence. Their delicate, fragile yet enduring vines persevere through summer and early fall. A third one planted as a gift in 2007, promises similar persistence.

Clematis is a genus of about 300 species within the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. Their garden hybrids have been popular among gardeners, beginning with Clematis × jackmanii, a garden standby since 1862; more hybrid cultivars are being produced constantly.”