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Things to do in the Fall around Sudbury, MA

Things to do in the Fall around Sudbury, MA

Fall is my favorite time of year in New England, the air is crisp and has the smell of falling leaves and harvest time is upon us.

If you like picking apples, there are lots of opportunities in Metrowest Boston, about 45 minutes from the city. You can pick your own or buy them in their country stores, and remember no pets allowed, so even though the idea of having Rover run through the fields sounds great, leave him/her at home (it’s for their own safety). Here are some of my current favorites:

    • Honeypot Hill in Stow (http://www.honeypothill.com/) is open daily 10-5 and they have a petting zoo of farm animals, a hedge maze, hayrides and lots of easy apples to pick. Be sure to check out their apple cider donuts, yummy.
    • Berlin Orchards in Berlin (http://www.berlinorchards.com/) is also open daily 10-5 and a little later on the weekends, they also have barnyard animals and hayrides.
    • Shelburne Farm in Stow (http://www.shelburnefarm.com/) open daily 9-6. They have farm animals, pony rides, a moon bounce and on the weekends they have a hay mountain and toy tractor rallies.
    • Tougas Family Farm & Kitchen in Northboro (http://www.tougasfarm.com/) open daily. They have wagon rides to the orchards on the weekends, be sure to check out their apple crisp.
    • Belkin Family’s Lookout Farm in Natick (http://www.lookoutfarm.com/) open daily 10-5. Lots of weekend activities, including train rides and an expanded childrens play area with burlap maze, hay pyramid, and pony/caterpillar rides.

 There is also a unique place in Bolton, called the Nashoba Valley Winery (http://www.nashobawinery.com/) open daily 10-5, where you can pick apples as well as enjoy tasting some of their micro-brews and locally produced wines. Their restaurant is both excellent and has a spectacular setting so you can get great food with a view.

 I hope you enjoy visiting some or all of these places.
 
 
A Story About Foundation Plantings

A Story About Foundation Plantings

My first house was a 1920’s colonial with a tiny lot with the worst set of foundation plantings I’ve ever seen on a house. In addition to planting inappropriate species, they were planted too close to each other and the house and were allowed to overgrow about twenty years too long. Especially troublesome were a couple of evergreen yews that were covering the windows and trimmed to an ugly shape that was not flattering to the cute house. They also severely restricted access to the front door. So what’s a new homeowner to do?

You guessed it, you get a couple of friends together on the hottest weekend of the year and decide to rip the suckers out. We started with what seemed like the least amount of work, putting a chain around the base of the plant and hooking it to my 1974 Volkswagen beetle. Then I got a running start and when the chain tightened the car leaped off the ground about 6 feet and stalled. Once my heartbeat slowed down below stroke speed, I checked the car to see that the rear end hadn’t been ripped out, unhooked the chain, put the car away and went to see how the yew was pulled out of the ground. Now you would think that having had a crushing 1500 lb. car with a whopping 65 horsepower going 20 mph play tug of war with it would have the yew looking pretty sad. As you can probably guess the plant hadn’t budged and in fact there wasn’t even any damage.

So next we took a handsaw, a particularly rusty and dull handsaw, and started cutting the trunks of the bush off about a foot from the ground. Once the entire bush was cut we discovered that first, the painters hadn’t painted behind the bush for about thirty years and in fact our gray house had once been a lovely mustard yellow, and second, the cutting of the upper part of the bush is the easy part – you’ve still got to get the roots out. Proceeding along we dug around the roots and with a combination of chopping with an axe and digging with a shovel finally got a 10’ diameter crater with the ugliest 300 lb chunk of gnarly yew roots anchored firmly in the center. By now it was getting dark, so we called it quits and started back on the project about three weeks later with sharp tools and an upcoming housewarming party deadline looming. The yew finally yielded to steel and muscle that day, but not before teaching us a very good lesson – choose the right foundation plant and take great pains to trim it and keep it looking right.

Foundation plants came about out of necessity. A pretty home would be built on a stone and mortar foundation and something was needed to hide it. In colonial times the foundation plants were a combination of things you could eat and things you could make stuff out of – such as herbs, vegetables, lilacs and if you could get seeds some strawflowers or sunflowers. Wild junipers and bayberries were also dug up and planted near the foundation for candle making. Current thinking on foundation plantings has evolved from this completely practical beginning. Today’s plantings are used as a design element to transition the eye from the low, soft, fine horizontal texture of the lawn to the hard, vertical form and scale of the home. They also can introduce seasonal colors and flowers and varying shades of green to bring the beauty of the outdoors right up to and sometimes into the home space.

If you’re a beginner gardener and putting in some foundation plants this fall do yourself a favor and remember two things: first, space the plants for their mature form and size, not their cute little form in the container at 1 year old; and second, this is New England and it snows here. Also good to remember is that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and that full sun exposure is south.

In the years when my first home was built, very formal, symmetrical, high-maintenance foundation plantings were de rigueur. In those days if you planted something on one side of the door you planted another one on the other side of the door and it had better have a conical shape and be an evergreen. Nowadays with many homes having multiple rooflines and irregular foundation shapes I like to combine a variety of shapes, sizes and textures not only to hide the foundation but also to tempt the senses. And even though I make fun of yews, I like to have a ratio of 1 evergreen to 3 deciduous plants, and yews do provide a consistent green color. However, please don’t trim them to unnatural shapes, select one with the right natural shape and give it a tuck and a trim once a year but for the most part let it be.

My all-time favorite foundation plant is andromeda. It is an evergreen shrub, grows to be about 4’ tall and 4’ around and has light green waxy foliage. It is one of the early blooming shrubs that lets you know that winter is over, and it has showy chains of white to golden flowers that cover the entire bush. Andromeda does not do well in shady locations and prefers very acidic soil, lots of peat moss (it’s native location is in the peat bogs of Europe) and lots of mulch. Never use any lime on it.

Another good plant is the dwarf rhododendron. They’re in the same family as azaleas (which are also good foundation plants) and have slightly larger evergreen leaves, will grow only about 3’ high and don’t require trimming until they’re about 50 years old. Their flower colors run the gamut from white to purple, and they also love acid soil. When planting them, place them in the hole about 2” higher than they were at the nursery, they tend to be planted too low. Also mulch heavily in the fall and it doesn’t hurt to spray on some anti-desiccant spray to keep the leaves from drying out in the winter winds.

Somewhere I heard that a home without foundation plants looks like a “doll house plunked down in the middle of a pool table” and I tend to agree. If you’re new to gardening planting some of these around your home can be one of the easiest most rewarding projects for your new home.

Reader Email Questions … Any Places to Walk Near Framingham?

Reader Email Questions … Any Places to Walk Near Framingham?

Here are a few of my favorites:

Calahan State Park, Millwood St., Framingham 508 653-9641
According to the town website, Callahan State Park is a 820-acre day use area located in Northwest Framingham. Callahan has seven miles of marked trails and is used for activities including fishing, hiking, horseback riding (horses not provided) and cross-country skiing. Within the park are nearly 100 acres of open fields, 70 acres of which are currently under an agricultural lease.

Cochituate state park,  Park Entrance: 43 Commonwealth Rd. Natick, Ma 508 653-9641
According to the town website, Cochituate State Park is a popular regional day use park featuring water based recreational opportunities including boating, swimming, windsurfing, and fishing on its three large lakes. Picnicking, swimming, and boat launching are limited to the main area of the park on the middle lake and boaters can gain access to the other lakes through channels under roadways. Jet skis are not allowed on the lake. On summer weekends and some holidays, this park may reach maximum day-use parking capacity and be temporarily closed until sufficient parking is available. If you arrive at the park and find it closed, you can visit Places to Go for information on other nearby DCR recreational opportunities.  For capacity closure updates, follow us on Twitter at @MassDCR or call the DCR at 617.626.4973.

Garden in the Woods … New England Wildflower Society, 180 Hemenway Road • Framingham, MA 01701-2699 • T 508.877.7630 • F 508.877.3658 •

According to their website: Only 21 miles from Boston, Garden in the Woods is a magical spot unlike any other botanic garden. Its sharp, glacier-made ridges spill into narrow valleys. Two miles of meandering paths lead through a towering canopy of trees to a pond, a wooded bog, numerous springs, and an ever-flowing brook. Set among 45 acres, this living museum contains 1,500 kinds of native New England plants, including more than 113 rare and endangered species, displayed in naturalistic settings. For families looking to teach their children about the natural world, for adults who can’t decide between a stroll in the garden and a walk in the woods, and for anyone curious about the diversity of New England’s wild flowers and woody plants, Garden in the Woods offers a unique experience in a tranquil and beautiful setting.

Many native plants are available for purchase at the Garden Shop, which also offers snacks and a selection of gifts for gardeners.

The Garden is seasonal and will reopen in mid-April. The Garden Shop will remain open until December 20.

Farm Pond Park, Located between Dudley Road and Farm Pond, Farm Pond Park is maintained by the Framingham Parks and Recreation Department. The park offers scenic views of the pond and its swans and walking trails. There is a newly-installed playground at the end of the park, across the street from the baseball diamond. At the other end is Peace Park.

Saxonville Beach, Saxonville Beach is one of three public beaches maintained and staffed by the Framingham Parks and Recreation Department. The beach is accessed by following a winding paved path downhill from the parking lot. This seasonal beach is open from late June to mid-August. It is staffed by trained lifeguards and swimming is allowed in designated areas only. Cookouts are prohibited, but picnics are allowed. Day passes and seasonal tags are available for residents and non-residents.

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