Fall Happenings in the Garden


Wealth of bloom – Zinnias exceptionally nice this year. Yellow & white Zinnias and yellow ‘Flame’ Marigold very pretty. Pale Pink elegans Zinnia sweet color. El Dorado uncertain a mixture of orange and pink

Elizabeth Lord, Fall, 1938

This fall has started out to be a busy one! In addition to annual fall garden cleanup and bulb planting, we are teaching a six week “horticulture basics” class to a small group of neighborhood kids. We have also lined up a group of Rotary Club volunteers to regravel the paths at Deepwood, plan to complete some West Allee drainage improvements, as well as repair the Reserve Garden fence — all before the lovely fall weather ends.

I love seeing artists in the garden, be it painters or photographers, as the particular planting they capture will look totally different next year.

Speaking of artists and artistry, the woodworking at Gaiety Hollow is sometimes lost in the background. But having worked on a good bit of it, I can attest to the skills and labor of love involved.

Chet Zenone using one of his custom-made jigs to align the 50+ pieces of lath that comprise the upper section of the Reserve Garden fence panel. Each fence section is unique in size and dimension and it takes a skilled craftsman with an artist’s touch to recreate it.

I love the cooler temperatures and renewed vigor fall brings. The shortening days add a sense of urgency to the task list before we bid farewell to the sunshine for the darkness of winter.

Hoping that fall hangs on a bit longer so I can get all the tasks accomplished.


She Got a Makeover

During your Gaiety Hollow visits, you may have noticed how rough the Service Yard looks compared to the rest of the well-maintained site. This area runs parallel to the east side of the garage, starting with a step off the driveway, northward to the boxwood hedge, and then west to the kitchen steps. There are concrete pavers running the length.

Service Yard walkway in blue.

The Service Yard provides a “hidden” path around the east side of house, most likely originally used for deliveries and tradespeople. Over time, the concrete pavers have become broken and displaced, representing a tripping/safety hazard for both visitors and volunteers working in the garden. This pathway is the preferred way for visitors using a walker, wheelchair, or cane to access the display gardens located behind the house. The only other access option is by walking over a long stretch of uneven turf in the West Allee.

A grant from The Kinsman Foundation allowed us to tackle this project. This is not the first time we have received financial support from this organization. The Kinsman Foundation has also helped fund other Gaiety Hollow projects including the Reserve Garden restoration (2019), front door canopy repair (2017), exterior house painting (2017), as well as repair of Deepwood’s Scroll Garden gates (2007).

With funds in hand, we hired Riverdale Landscape Construction‘s friendly and professional crew to manage this makeover project.

The project took four days to complete. Here’s a play-by-play:

  • Day 1: Broke up and removed existing concrete walkway, excavated 6″ deep to place rock, and hauled off debris.
  • Day 2: Installed and compacted 4 cubic yards of 3/4′ base rock, formed up, and place rebar.
  • Day 3: Poured 3 cubic yards of new concrete walkway matching original walkway (broomed finish.) 
  • Day 4: Removed wooden forms, cleaned up all work-related areas, and hauled off remaining debris.

The recent restoration included an unplanned ADA compliance enhancement. Over the years, attempts had been made to repair various damaged sections of the walkway. These repairs resulted in an uneven surface with extra concrete joints. During the recent restoration, these extra concrete joints were reduced in number to make for an overall smoother walking surface and more pleasing visual appearance.

Another enhancement made was a concrete cut out around the trunk of an established espaliered camellia growing against the house. Volunteer and retired arborist, Woody Dukes, recommended this be done to increase irrigation to the camellia.

Now that the Service Yard concrete pathway has been restored, we can encourage visitors to tour the garden in a circular fashion – no backtracking required. This will help with the enforcement of COVID -19 social distancing guidelines and, in the longer term, facilitate a more orderly movement of larger groups.

Eager to see how well this makeover turned out? Stop by Gaiety Hollow’s Musical Open Garden this Saturday, September 18 from 10am-1pm. At this final 2021 Open Garden, we will enjoy music provided by the Deepwood Strings as they serenade us into fall.

Bye for now,


(Somewhat) Illicit Plants in the Garden

As plant lovers and free spirits, Edith and Elizabeth may have come across some exotic specimens during their world travels.  Who knows…they may have encountered Betel nuts (Areca catechu) in the Philippines, Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensiss) in Argentina, or Cantueso (Thymus moroderi) in Spain?

Elizabeth Lord, 3rd from left; Edith Schryver, center. (Lantern slide, University of Oregon)

If Edith and Elizabeth were to stroll through the Gaiety Hollow Garden today, what plants might pique their interest?  How about these?  

Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

P. somniferum is a valuable ornamental plant, grown in gardens. It is also the species from which both opium and poppy seeds are derived.

The earliest reference to opium poppy cultivation and use is in 3,400 B.C. when the opium poppy was referred to as the “joy plant.” Over time, its cultivation spread along the Silk Road, from the Mediterranean through Asia and finally to China where it was the catalyst for the Opium Wars of the mid-1800s. Today, opium poppies are grown mainly by poor farmers on small plots in remote regions of the world. These farmers collect and sell the opium resin to dealers in local markets.

Ross Sutherland with the Bush House Museum recently brought some young students to tour the Gaiety Hollow Garden. The students were intrigued with the dried poppy seed heads and the tiny black seeds that fell out when shaken. This led to an interesting discussion about poppy seed muffins, can we eat these, where do you buy them, etc. 

Gaiety Hollow, Parterre Garden
Poppy seeds

Most poppy seeds used for food come from the opium poppy. Although these seeds do have opium content, the amount used for cooking purposes is extremely small.  P. somniferum can be grown legally in the United States as a seed crop or ornamental flower. However, possession of poppy seeds and cultivation of the plant are banned in Singapore, UAE, Korea, and Saudi Arabia. In the UAE, at least one man has been imprisoned for possessing poppy seeds obtained from a bread roll.

Flowering Tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris)

Nicotiana sylvestris, commonly called flowering tobacco, is grown for its strong scent that attracts hummingbirds by day and hawk moths by night.  Unlike its more well-known relative N. tabacum, the species commercially grown for smoking tobacco, this ornamental tobacco has showy flowers with smaller leaves.  N. sylvestris was introduced from Argentina in 1899 and was popular in Victorian flower gardens. Today it is used as a tall background flower in mixed borders. N. sylvestris, the largest of over 72 species of the genus, is difficult to find as a young plant but easy to grow from seed.

Nicotiana sylvestris

Nicotinia tabacum

As an ornamental, N. sylvestris has a strong family resemblance to N. tabacum used in cigarettes. Because of this, some brave, resourceful souls have tried to air dry and smoke its leaves. Here’s what several experimenters have to say

“I wouldn’t bother with Nicotinia sylvestris as smoking material. It certainly won’t make a decent cigar.  If it doesn’t make you ill, it will surely taste awful.”

“I grew some Sylvestris two years ago, the plants and the flowers smelled really good in the garden (sweet floral/fruity smell), but the leaves are so thin that all the leaves I tried to air cure ended flash green dry, and they did not smell as good once dry.  I did try to smoke some (I tried the less ugly ones), the taste and aroma were not as good as the tabacum species I tried.”

So there you have it.

Concord Grape (Vitis labrusca ‘Concord’)

Concord’ is the most popular grape sold in the US with most of the vineyards in Washington and New York. The cultivar was developed by Ephraim Bull of Concord Massachusetts from wild Vitis labrusca vines. It was introduced in 1843 and remains the standard of excellence for blue-black American grapes. The flowers of this woody, deciduous, climbing vine are attractive to bees and the ripe fruit is attractive to hornets and wasps.

Concord grapes growing on the Gaiety Hollow pergola

Concord’ is an excellent grape for juices, wine, jams, and jellies. The traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich is made with Concord grape jelly. Its dark colored juice is served at communion services in churches as a non-alcoholic alternative to wine. 

Because ‘Concord’ lacks the high amount of natural sugar found in pure Vinifera varieties, its juice is always reinforced with added sugar when making wine.  Rumor has it that Edith and Elizabeth used this recipe to make their Homemade Dry Concord Grape Wine.

1 gallon water
10 lbs Concord grapes
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1 package wine yeast

Bring water and sugar to boil in a large pot. Separate grapes from stems and place in primary fermentation container. Crush grapes and pour water into container. Let cool until room temperature. Stir in yeast nutrient and yeast. Cover and let sit for 1 day. Ferment for 3 weeks stirring once a day. Strain through mesh bag into secondary fermentation container. Let rest for 1 month. Rack and let sit for 2 months. Rack into bottles and let rest for at least 9 months before serving.

Below: Edith, Elizabeth, and friend at their Seal Rock cottage enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Happy Labor Day to you.



Yesterday’s record temperature in Salem surprised us all. You may have received “Are you OK…isn’t Oregon supposed to be green, wet, and cool?” phone calls and texts from friends far away. Although 117 degrees may be an aberration, it is hard to deny that hotter, drier weather is heading our way.

We recently developed a water management plan for Gaiety Hollow, considering the diminishing supply of this precious resource as well as its increasing cost. The historic aspects of this garden, including plant selection, design, and density, result in higher water consumption versus more contemporary landscape designs. The plan identifies 12 potential water saving measures and the anticipated cost and savings of each. Some of these measures require an upfront investment before savings will be realized. Others would result in the garden assuming a different look and feel than its current state.

As part of our research, we contacted the Marion Soil and Water Conservation District and the City of Salem Water Resources Department requesting an audit of our current practices to see what we might be missing. We also contacted other historic gardens to see if and how they were addressing this timely topic. (More on the Gaiety Hollow water plan in a future blog.)

Hot and Dry on I-5

Last week, I drove to Pasadena, CA to visit family and friends, taking 1-5, the most direct route. Other than miles of irrigated almond orchards, and occasional sightings of the California Aqueduct, the landscape was quite bleak. It was clear that California farmers are being negatively impacted by the water shortage with abandoned orchards and pro-farmer signs along the way. Read more here.

Other signs read: “Is Growing Food Wasting Water?” and “Dams Not Trains – Build Water Storage Now.”

Arrival to Pasadena

It was fun to see the beautiful Craftsman, Spanish, and Mid-Century homes in my old Pasadena neighborhood. Even better was to get reacquainted with the Mediterranean plant palette. Californians seem more serious about conserving water than we are in Oregon. Local water restrictions and associated penalties play a role in this.

On my morning walks, I saw creative reworkings of residential parking strips. Grass had been replaced with native and drought tolerant plants, succulents, and rocks. I thought about how we water Gaiety Hollow’s front grass parkway to stay green all summer. In our water management plan, we consider letting this grass parkway go summer dormant as many Oregon homeowners do. Perhaps instead we can take some ideas from our friends down south.

Have a good week!


Thank You Volunteers!

Thanks to all of you, we had a beautiful, fun, successful Neighborhood Garden Tour last weekend. It takes many people to help with a large community event, and your time and work was much appreciated! So, to all of you who:

  • Addressed and mailed postcards.
  • Distributed posters and postcards.
  • Greeted visitors at the entrance to every garden.
  • Set up and took down safety barricades, cones, and signs. 
  • Prepared, packaged, and served box lunches.
  • Selected the gardens for this year’s tour.
  • Donated items for the silent auction.
  • Spent many hours planning and preparing.
  • Supported our efforts in many other ways….

The Lord & Schryver Conservancy offers its sincere and heartfelt gratitude! 

Karen Freeman, Pam Wasson, and Susan Napack setting up the welcome tent.
Susan Napack placing directional signs.
Sponsor table, welcome tent, and food tent.
Peter and Norma Gekakis – garden hosts/greeters.
 Frances Chapple – garden greeter
Bobbie Clyde (right) and friend.

Special Thanks

Special appreciation goes to Sally Miller who donated 100 lovely and delicious Minto Growers boxed lunches (Minto Growers Food Cart is now open!); Karen Freeman who located and directed the 60 volunteers; garden hostess Joan Lloyd who let us store our tent, tables, and chairs overnight in her backyard; Jay Raney who photographed the gardens, and Ken and Jeff Freeman who helped with set up, tear down, and other logistics.

Minto Growers boxed lunches.
Joan Lloyd and Kassandra Kruesi.

We look forward to seeing you at our 3rd Annual Neighborhood Garden Tour in 2022 – date and location TBD. Until then, have a happy summer!

Only One Week Away!

Our 2nd annual garden tour will take place next week-end, June 5 & 6 in Salem’s beautiful Court-Chemeketa Historic Residential District. This year’s self-guided tour, an annual fundraiser for the Lord & Schryver Conservancy, includes 8 unique home gardens all within walking distance. Below is a sneak peek at some of the gardens included.

The ticket price is just $20 per person, and free under age 16. Click here to purchase tickets. Farm fresh boxed lunches featuring health savories, sweets and beverage, generously supplied by Minto Growers, may be ordered ahead for $15.00. Parking is available on street, and in Court Street Church parking lot (except 10-1pm Sunday.)

Historically Important Neighborhood

The Court-Chemeketa Historic Residential District is the major intact remnant of Salem’s original central residential area. The district covers 40 acres and includes nearly 100 buildings and structures listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Many of the homes were occupied by prominent people of local historical significance. Lord & Schryver were well connected thoroughout Salem and knew several of these residents. Records show that in 1930, Nora Anderson, Salem’s “Cultural Entrepreneur,” hired Lord & Schryver to design the Entry Garden for her Colonial home on Court Street. The Anderson Garden is one of eight gardens on the tour!

Lord & Schryver Design Guidelines

Lord & Schryver followed general guidelines when designing home gardens. These Fundamental Requirements in Designing an Attractive Garden were published in The Sunday Oregonian on March 6, 1932.

  1. Proper placement of house on lot, i.e. garden relative to house.
  2. Division into areas, such as entrance, walks and drives, service areas and pleasure gardens.
  3. Relation and circulation between those areas, so that you can go easily from one to another.
  4. View line or axis.
  5. Enclosure, such as fences and hedges.
  6. Interest, meaning seats, bird baths, pools, etc.
  7. Planting the proper plant in the proper place

You will see some of these elements in the gardens on the tour. We look forward to seeing you there! Limited timed entry slots are still available. Purchase tickets today!

Connecting with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

In 1913-14, Elizabeth Lord and her mother, Juliet, traveled to the Philippines to visit Elizabeth’s brother, Montague, who had moved there to work in the pineapple and sugar industries.  This trip was Elizabeth’s first experience of Asia, and her diary reveals the strong impression the tropical beauty of the islands made on her.  The pair returned home via China, visiting the Great Wall carried on palanquins, and, against the advice of the American Embassy in Peking, taking a train to Manchuria and then south to Korea.  Upon returning to their hotel in Hong Kong after a three-day trip to Canton they learned of the beginning of World War I.  After traveling to Japan, they boarded a steamer for San Francisco. 

Elizabeth and Juliet Lord in the Philippines (1913)

After Juliet’s death in 1924, Elizabeth made several more trips to the Philippines to visit Montague.  During these trips she also visited Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Borneo, where she walked across the island’s wilderness with several friends.

Impacted by the loss of her mother and trying to find her way, Elizabeth acted upon Montague’s suggestion to attend the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women in Massachusetts.  Here she met Edith Schryver and in late 1928 the two headed to Salem, Oregon to open the first women-owned landscape architecture firm in the PNW. Their firm was very busy with residential and civic projects until 1934, when work slowed because of the Depression. The two decided to accept Montague’s offer to join him in Manila. Although Elizabeth was familiar with travel to Asia, this was a new experience for Edith.

Edith (left) and Elizabeth (right) with friend in Philippines (1934-35)
Edith (middle) directing a gardener, Luzon, Philippines.

Throughout their 40-year career, Lord & Schryver incorporated many design elements and plant recommendations from their extensive travels. If Elizabeth and Edith were here today, which large-scale design projects might they be working on? Here is a possibility…

Healing Garden at Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP)

In 2015, OSP’s Asian Pacific Family Club and its 120 Adult in Custody (AIC) members asked the Superintendent if they could raise funds to build a small koi pond as a peaceful refuge within the prison walls. Five years later, after much hard work and perseverance (with no taxpayer dollars spent) a beautiful Japanese-style healing garden has been constructed. AICs may now sign up to visit the garden as well as learn pruning, curatorial, and other horticultural skills.

Although Lord & Schryver probably would not have designed the traditional Japanese-style landscape plan, they may have advised on plant selection and helped with fundraising. Because the garden is not easily accessible, here is a short video.

And some spring 2021 photos.

Designer Hoichi Kurisu working with AIC’s.
The koi fish!
Sand garden and walkway.
Mother duck with ducklings.

Have a great week!

Iris Anyone?

In the 1920’s, Rholin and Pauline Cooley started hybridizing iris as a backyard hobby. Soon thereafter, Dr. Kleinsorge, a local physician and iris breeder, encouraged them to start a nursery. The Cooleys bought land west of Silverton, opened a nursery, and printed their first commercial catalog in 1928. Over time, Cooleys became one of the largest iris firms in the US and the primary source of new iris cultivars through an extensive mail order catalog business.

Rholin Cooley in his test garden (1949) Preparing mail order shipments.

In the early 1940’s, the Cooleys contacted Lord & Schryver to prepare a plan for an iris display garden at their commercial site. The plan featured multiple paths winding through the iris beds. The Cooleys most likely installed this design in the fall of 1944 or 1945 in preparation for the American Iris Society’s 1949 convention. It was a showplace during the convention as well as during Silverton’s annual Iris Week celebrations. 

In 1951, Edith designed a second, more elaborate demonstration garden with pathways, boxwood hedges and iris beds swirling across the ground in a scroll-like pattern.  This newer garden was featured on color postcards and in catalogs from the nursery when the iris were in full bloom.

1950’s Cooley’s Iris Display

Sadly, Cooley’s Gardens closed its doors in October 2011. However, another local favorite, Schreiner’s Iris Gardens, remains open today.

The elder Mr. Schreiner, a native Minnesotan, was a serious iris collector with over 500 cultivars, many imported from Europe. In 1925, he published his first price list under the name Schreiner Iris Gardens. His first catalog, in black and white with no pictures, followed three years later.

Upon his death in 1931, his children took over the business, but with an eye out for better climatic conditions. After much research, they selected Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley. Providing excellent soil, ideal climate, and a proximity to transportation, the valley’s offerings were unmatched. In 1947, the Schreiners finally left the unforgiving Minnesota climate behind and settled just north of Salem. 

Today, Schreiner’s has 100 acres of bearded iris under cultivation. A centerpiece is the stunning 10-acre display garden. Fully developed in the 1990’s, it sits atop the original Schreiner parcel first purchased in 1947. The beautiful garden and surrounding commercial fields receive thousands of visitors each May.

Jay Raney, LSC volunteer gardener, says: “Schreiner’s display garden is gorgeous right now!” He shared photos from his recent visit. In addition to iris, Jay saw lupine, allium, columbine, clematis, peonies – as well as shrubs and flowering trees. Attendance is restricted to 100 people at a time due to Covid and tickets must be purchased online.

See you there!

The Birth of Mother’s Day

Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia, whose own mother had organized women’s groups to promote friendship between mothers on both sides of the Civil War, originated Mother’s Day. Anna was one of 13 children, only four of whom lived to adulthood. On May 12, 1907, she held a memorial service at her late mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia, handing out hundreds of white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, to the mothers who attended. Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized as a day dedicated to expressing love and gratitude to mothers, recognizing the sacrifices women make for their children.

Anna Jarvis, founder of Mother’s Day

The popularity of the celebration grew and grew – the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that soon you could not “beg, borrow or steal a carnation.” In 1910 Mother’s Day became a West Virginia state holiday, and in 1914 U.S. President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day a national holiday, to take place on the second Sunday of May.

Although Jarvis had promoted the wearing of a white carnation as a tribute to one’s mother, the custom developed of wearing a red or pink carnation to represent a living mother or a white carnation for a mother who was deceased. Over time the day was expanded to include others, such as grandmothers and aunts, who played mothering roles.

The holiday quickly became a commercialized opportunity for producers to sell flowers, candies, and cards. Anna Jarvis felt this was detracting from the personal and intimate aspects of the holiday and defied this by starting boycotts, walkouts, and even condemned first lady Eleanor Roosevelt for using the day as a means of fundraising.

When the price of carnations skyrocketed, Anna released a press release condemning florists: “WHAT WILL YOU DO to rout charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations?” By 1920, she was urging people not to buy flowers at all.

Mother’s Day was even dragged into the debate over women’s votes. Anti-suffragists said that a woman’s place was in the home and that she was too busy as a wife and mother to be involved in politics. Suffrage groups responded, “If she is good enough to be the mother of your children, she is good enough to vote.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) American painter and illustrator, at work on an official 1951 Mother’s Day poster. (copyright: Getty Images)

The only one not to take advantage of Mother’s Day was Anna herself. She refused money offered to her by the florist industry. Instead, Jarvis spent the last years of her life trying to abolish the holiday she had brought into being, spending every penny of her small inheritance on her anti-commercialization crusade. One of Anna’s last acts was to go door-to-door in Philadelphia asking for signatures to back an appeal for Mother’s Day to be rescinded.

Anna’s final years were spent in a sanatorium in Philadelphia. There are claims that the floral and card industries secretly paid for Anna Jarvis’s care, but this has not been confirmed.

This year, because of the lockdown, many families won’t be able to treat their mothers to flowers or a day out and instead will celebrate Mother’s Day via a video link. Anna would be delighted with the lack of shopping opportunities, which she felt clouded the purity of her original vision.

Turf Tips Part II

Growing the perfect lawn is no easy task, in the days of increasing drought, pest pressures, and higher water bills. As I mentioned in Part I, Elizabeth often remarked about the difficulties of keeping a perfect lawn going at Gaiety Hollow. Prior owner, Dale Strand, used an electric reel mower to preserve the bentgrass lawn very well. Since the Conservancy has managed the garden, we have consulted with renowned turf grass professional and retired OSU professor, Tom Cook, to keep the lawns in top shape. His publication on Colonial and Highland Bentgrass lawns is a great resource for establishing a top quality turf at home.

Now that you have leveled any low spots in the lawn and the grass has come up, it’s time to start your mowing regime. With traditional ryegrass or fescue lawns, the mowing height is quite high – up to 3.75″. However, with Gaiety Hollows’ predominantly bentgrass lawn, the mowing height is much lower – closer to 1″ – to prevent the stoloniferous bentgrass from producing “false crowning.” This happens when the creeping grass is cut too high, producing long shoots that lay over, with the brown stems creating poor turf patches in the lawn over time.

If a mowing service cuts your grass, it is a good idea to ask if they are taking precautions to prevent the spread of boxwood blight as they move between gardens that might be infected. Hopefully, the service has a method for washing the mowers in between gardens to prevent the spread of pathogens and weed seeds.

Getting on your weeds early is a good idea as well. In the next post we will discuss the common lawn weeds and how to deal with them.

Check out the lawn seed selection from Marshall’s Fall 1929 catalog. Its hard to find prices that low anymore!
Lord and Schryver often inserted small turf panels between walkways. Although these add interest, they are high maintenance due to the small size and proximity to brick and must be hand cut. We use an electric weed eater to carefully manage the height. Allso, these panels must be hand watered so selecting a drought tolerant grass is essential. The surrounding brick often acts as a heat sink in the hot summer, soaking up the sun all day and holding the heat through the night, creating extremely warm microclimates.

Stay tuned for more turf tips before we turn our attention to the rapidly approaching Tulip sho based on the recreated 1956 bulb plan.

Turf Tips Part 1

Next spring (1968) we must remake the other two sections of lawn. The front lawn between the Box hedge and the House had a planting of Chewing’s Fescue [Festuca rubra subsp. Commutate]- spring of ’66, tho’ I do not like the variety as it is so wiry. It proved to be dark green and stood the heat well. I have such a mixture of grass seed in the tool [shed] should either throw it all out, or mix them together and just plant it. Might make a sturdy lawn. Nelson has not cut this week at all & the new lawn is very high, a ten day stretch and tomorrow, his day here, rain is promised & surely looks & feels like it. He said he would come Monday, but he did not, nor let us know, but his absence did not stop the grass from growing. We had the rubbish from the trees taken away today.” Elizabeth Lord-1967

The lawn is mentioned at least 27 times in Elizabeth Lord’s 40 years of journaling on the Gaiety Hollow garden. You can tell Lord and Schryver often struggled with the lawn at their home garden. Due to Gaiety Hollow’s low location within the neighborhood, drainage is poor, and the heavy clay soil often stands water for multiple days after heavy rain. The dense shade from the mature oak at the end of the Allee doesn’t help, as thick turf likes sun and moist, but well drained soil. As this is the time of year that the grass is waking up and the mower is getting a tune-up, I thought I would write a series of blogs to help get your lawn in tip top shape this season.

Start by mowing the lawn to a normal height for the first couple mowings of the season. Let it sit a few days to recover and then mow it a bit shorter than you normally would. You don’t want to scalp it at this point, but you want to be able to see the low spots in the lawn. We use a mix of well composted cow manure and sand to fill the low spots at Gaiety Hollow. This is often sold as a lawn blend at your local garden center or bulk soil supplier. Fine sand also works but the addition of some organic material is beneficial. Fill the low spots with the soil/sand blend and use the backside of a rake to level. Overseed with your preferred seed mix. Gaiety Hollow uses a blend developed by renowned OSU turf professor Tom Cook. This mix of colonial bentgrass, rye and fescue does well in the shade and allows us to mow to the low height that shows off the garden with its verdant carpet framed by sheared boxwoods. Lightly rake the seed into the spots that are being leveled. Some folks cover with shredded peat moss or you can use a bit more of your leveling media, rake it smooth, and water lightly or wait for rain if it’s forecasted in the next day or two.

You may recall his post on drainage improvements in the West Allee, https://gaietyhollow.com/2020/11/09/ready-the-garden-for-winter/ These have been tremendously helpful in recovering the turf in the West Allee.

Keep the leveled and seeded areas moist. I like to seed in early spring when the soil is warming up and mix of sun and showers speed up grass germination. I have noticed that Lord and Schryver often remade the lawn in the fall. With its poor drainage, this likely led to the problems they encountered. Grass seed can drown if kept submerged for too long. The North Lawn (which Elizabeth referred to as the Oval lawn) often has standing water even after very short rainfall. We have gone to great lengths to improve the drainage in the turf at Gaiety Hollow. The next big project will be to see if we can finally solve the 100+ years of drainage issues in the North Lawn.

The Turf is an integral part of the Gaiety Hollow garden, often overlooked as visitors awe at the abundance of blooms. Due to the concern over the spread of Boxwood Blight we are now mowing in-house. This will lessen the chances of spores coming in from infected gardens on commercial mowers. The addition of a high-quality electric reel mower will allow the grass to be mowed to its accurate, historical height.

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks on getting that perfect lawn in time for summer.