the welcome mat is out

welcome-matWE’VE GOT THE WELCOME MAT OUT this week at A Way to Garden and our Urgent Garden Question Forums next door, and everybody in the family here is doing his or her part. Even a species of frog I’ve never seen before, which I take as a good omen. An even better omen: Anne Raver’s generous piece in The New York Times today. Bet you want to read the back story on this one.

The saying “Be careful what you wish for,” came to mind more than once in the three weeks since the email from Anne, with whom I started my garden-writing career when we worked at Newsday newspaper in Long Island nearly 20 years ago. The journey from that email to today’s Times article has been something like a season of “Survivor,” particularly the photo-shoot day.

When I heard from Anne, I’d been busy getting ready for June 14, my first Garden Conservancy Open Day of the year, with a large reception for the Conservancy scheduled here that same evening. But she suggested coming 10 days earlier…only 4 or 5 days after her email…way ahead of the day we’d targeted to have it “all together” (if a garden can ever be “all together”), and way too soon for me to get it done without extra hands. The to-do list (see photo, bottom of page) was just too long: 18 size-XL lilacs had just gone by and needed deadheading, to name just one task. Friends Kelly and Christy pitched in to help me and Susan, who works here part of every week, to edge and mow and mulch in frenzied fashion. The day before Anne’s visit they even brought bagels and cream cheese, to get us motivated.

Cream cheese is apparently what got the Gray Tree Frog all interested in us, instead of hiding camouflaged on the bark of trees like he’s supposed to do. He actually hopped into our workforce breakfast gathering, sat on the platter of bagels and trimmings awhile, then proceeded to observe (not help in the cleanup, mind you) from a vantage point on the doormat. Jack the Demon Cat did not help much, either: too hot, he said, too humid.

no-help-to-youAnyhow, interview day with Anne was pleasant and relaxed…but a few days later, when photographer Stewart Cairns arrived, near-record early heat and humidity had set in, with one violent storm down and apparently many to go. The plants, and Miss Margaret, were pretty far gone, more prostrate than upright. So much for all that garden-grooming a few days prior.

Just ten minutes after he pulled in the driveway with his photo gear, big surprise: A Biblical storm came upon us. Any sense of order, botanical or personal, was quickly lost. Hair and clothing plastered to face and body, makeup running downhill (along with rivulets of water and mulch from beds into lawns). Where was Martha’s amazing wizard stylist Eva Scrivo when I needed her?

There have been many other chapters in these last wild weeks, such as:

Finding out I needed to get a new server that could survive possible traffic such as the New York Times is inclined to send one’s way, for instance, and the subsequent migration and debugging;

Three more violent electrical storms (meaning no computer, and no phone for all or part of various days…hard to do said migration and debugging without electricity, fyi);

Crackling, arc-ing electricity emanating from one very expensive (turned-off) surge protector in my living room as I sat stranded on the night of my birthday last Tuesday, in lieu of the more traditional candles on a cake;

Three total driveway washouts (the last time I just left it piled up downhill, and it may stay that way forever more);

Oh, yeah, and the craziest storm of all started precisely 7 minutes into the Garden Conservancy reception last Saturday night. Into my tiny “guest house” about 80 of us quickly huddled, bringing new meaning to the line “shelter from the storm.” As if on cue, the roof started leaking…lights flickered several times (but stayed on!)…but who cared: I had enough food and booze to last us several days, and so eat and drink we did.

I expect welcoming all of you new faces will be something like that evening: We’ll be crowded, and I may prove a little slower in serving you than the kind of hostess I like to be. But hopefully you feel happy here, despite the inevitable loose ends The Times can cause with all its influence, all its readers.

However this last segment in “Survivor: A Way to Garden” goes, thanks for visiting today, when I hope the forecast is for fairer weather in all our corners of the garden world. Enjoy your time with us, and be sure to come back soon. Many good days lie ahead (and probably a few more bumpy ones, truth be told).

The good and the bad, the blossoms and the blights: gardening at its essential best.


  1. Zehav Wolosky says:

    Nice froggy! Thank you Anne Raver, my favorite garden writer. Thank you Margaret for sharing your lovely garden with us, so we we can dwell in your garden vicariously.

  2. Ami says:

    Two dear friends called tonight to ask if I had read today’s Times article about what sounded like a beautiful garden created by a fascinating person so close to my own cottage in East Taghkanic. “Read it?” “Not only did I delight in the article but I actually visited that garden last year.” I told them. It’s the most exquisite garden I have seen in the 4 years I’ve had my house, started planting my own little .8 acre and toured the area’s gardens. I missed the June 14th opening this year. I hope we get another chance to view it later in the summer. Your blog is like candy. I’m hooked! Thank you neighbor!

  3. Vicki says:

    Hi Margaret, I was a fan when you were at Martha. I loved the article in the NYT today. I “garden” in a 10’by 40′ yard with a tiny front yard. It’s packed full of every plant I remember from childhood. So many of us dream of doing what you’ve done and living life by the seasons instead of the seconds. I’ll link to you from my little blog so I can check in often. I’m so happy to have found your site.

  4. margaret says:

    @Zehav: Welcome to the blog! Vicarious dwelling is encouraged at any time (as is help with the mowing, which I seem to be a little behind on this week…).
    @Ami: Welcome, neighbor; I think there will be a Cupcake Falls town event in August that I will participate in. Guess I had better get the details, huh?
    @Vicki: Welcome to A Way to Garden,and glad that you have re-found me. Love the phrase: “living by the seasons instead of the seconds.” Thanks.

  5. Gina says:

    What a lovely article. A ton of people stumbled on my blog yesterday by searching on your name. Congrats and thanks.

  6. margaret says:

    @Gina: I am sorry to read of the loss of your father-in-law but always happy to visit your “blog of curiosities,” which is normally filled with happier topics (mixology, e.g., and mayonnaise). Glad to see you here this morning again. Blessings to your family.

  7. Lisa Gaffney says:

    I had the same unusual frog in my Sharon, CT garden last summer and it had brilliant orange under the arms. It blended into a gravel path until it spread it’s arms.

  8. margaret says:

    Welcome, Lisa. Since you are only 22 minutes away, perhaps he is literally the same frog boy, or at least a close brother or cousin. Nice.

  9. margaret says:

    Welcome, Susan, and thank you for your good words. Having worked in the internet business I knew when I learned of Anne’s article that I would never be able to host all of you successfully, so off to the servers at Mosso in TX I migrated last week, madly making ready. And they have served me (tee hee) well.

  10. margaret says:

    Eddie–I am so glad you are here! And your coop share sounds delicious…especially since I am a little behind on planting some of my summer stuff!

  11. Susan says:

    Hello Margaret,
    I discovered your blog through Anne Raver’s wonderful column. As I fired up my Mac, I momentarily worried that your server would crash with so many new visitors. Thankfully, you were prepared.
    You are so warm and welcoming to your readers. I shouldn’t be surprised, but so many of today’s blogs have an underlying snarkiness to them. Not awaytogarden. com/ Thank you.
    I am a transplanted New Yorker by way of Connecticut now in a wonderful corner of Northeast Florida. I’ve been letting others do the work in my garden, but you’ve inspired me to change my ways and get out there. Thank you, thank you.

  12. Eddie From Tennessee says:

    Great article in the Times. Hey Margaret – you’d be so proud of me — I bought into an organic community co-op. Pick up is every Satruday morning at 9 — bring your own box baby! So, so happy for you….

  13. Kitt says:

    I found your blog through Karen T’s a while back; I didn’t know any of your backstory. So it was fun to pick up the Times yesterday and see you featured. (I only ever read it on airplanes, so that was serendipitous.) Happy gardening! from a fellow former copy editor.

  14. ginger rothe says:

    hi margaret: i am excited to be able to read your work again and through it to envision so many of the plants i loved back east. gardening in my new home in central texas is very different. i am retraining my eye to a more austere, architectural style. i do love the name of your blog, which — despite treasuring your “a way to garden” book — i first read as Away to Garden. congratulations!

  15. diana says:

    Beautiful! I’ll have to admit I’m jealous of your frogs. I hear them in wetlands when I ride my bike and I once transported some toads from a friend’s house in the country, but they disappeared. We do have at least 2 foxes in our old town neighborhood and there were 3 teenage western screech owls in our front yard trees the other night. I guess we can’t have it all. Have a great weekend.


  16. margaret says:

    @Ginger: Welcome, and nice to “see” you again. I love the double-speak of the name when written as a dot com…because yes, I’ve run away to garden!
    @Diana: Yesterday, a friend came to help me with the blog upkeep on our busiest day, and during a little break I saw that she had strayed out to the largest garden frog pond, and was just watching them. I went out and said “You know, they let me pet them,” and knelt down and one of the really big guys did, without a flinch. It is weird and wonderful how they and I have come to live here together. Glad you like them, too.

  17. Bobster says:

    Wow, what a nice surprise in the NYT this last week! Margaret, you’ve long been one of my favorite voices within MSLO. A keenly distinct eye, voice and personality. I’m thrilled to find that you’ve found more time both for yourself and to share with the rest of us! A very unexpected and lovely surprise. AWTG is already my favorite gardening site…thank you! Cheers and well wishes for many wonderful things to come your way!
    Bobster-Providence RI

  18. margaret says:

    Welcome, Bobster, and glad to have been “found.” I am finding myself again, too, and it is all a very interesting journey, one that we can take together here, yes?

  19. Kitty Lynch says:

    I live in New Hampshire in the seacoast region near the Piscataqua River which divides Maine and NH. I have had a similar frog in my shade garden all spring and summer. He acts like an opossum when I am present. As a result, I did not get to see any color under the legs. Imagine my surprise, just now, to find it swimming in my pool after a thunder shower.
    I vote on keeping the dogwood.
    Kitty Lynch

  20. margaret says:

    Welcome, Kitty. So my guy has a cousin up your way, huh? Swimming? Oh, my. And as for the dogwood, hmmmm….but yes, I suppose I am leaning in favor. See you soon again, I hope.

  21. margaret says:

    Welcome, Timothy. I am so glad you like the blog, and hope that you will keep visiting.
    I thought my visitor was a toad, too, by the way: from his somewhat bumpy skin, his shape and coloration. But when I keyed him out in Peterson’s reptile and amphibian volume, I learned that the gray tree frog has a distinctive white spot below his eye (which you can see in the picture), somewhat bumpy skin for a frog, and these interesting adhesive discs on their toes for holding onto bark (which he’s got, too). I love all this stuff…isn’t it amazing? Nature! And now w/digital cameras we can have fast record to compare the the reference materials over and again. I wish I had studied this all in school.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.