What does the Celia Thaxter Garden Steward do in the winter? Plan for the summer of course, drawing on the knowledge of a long line of Stewards who have researched, planted, tended the garden space, and documented their experiences since the garden’s recreation in the 1970’s.
Last summer our focus was on reclaiming the garden from two years of lying fallow. It was fascinating to see which plants thrived when left as nature intended, surviving the island’s wildlife and weather. Those plants -- hollyhocks, foxglove, oriental poppy, akebia vine, lavender, helianthus, perennial sweet pea, hops -- have provided a foundation to build upon for this coming summer.
This winter I have studied “An Island Garden” line by line, creating an index noting each time Celia mentions a flower. It is no surprise that poppies are mentioned the most, over 44 times! Winter has also been a time to source heirloom seeds and educate myself on their growth habits. We are fortunate to have Rolling Green Nursery as our growing partner, with Tammy Hathaway heading the project. We have had numerous meetings to plan, source, and time seedling growth, and we are very appreciative of this partnership.
For the past two summers, the City of Portsmouth Parks Department, and Earle Chase, head gardener for Prescott Park, provided space to share Celia’s flowers in a different format -- it’s been a great outreach for the garden.
Ultimately, Celia’s garden belongs back on the island she loved. As she wrote, on the island the colors are more vivid, the flowers more beautiful.
Hope to see you this summer on Appledore!
Terry Cook, Garden Steward of Celia Thaxter's Garden