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Priscilla Williams:
Expanding the Options for Home Gardens

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 22 March 2002 Priscilla Williams: Expanding the Options for Home Gardens

From the woods in the southeast corner of Townsend, Priscilla Hutt Williams is building a business in organic gardening. Raised by parents who were proud they never sprayed their blueberries, she studied art and music ... but eventually her love of gardening claimed her. In 1993 she started with a Federal-period garden for the Barrett House in New Ipswich; later she rebuilt the historic gardens at Townsend's Reed Homestead. Fascinated with old-fashioned flowers, she took courses at Radcliffe in landscape design history, and in historic landscape preservation from the Arnold Arboretum.

Old-fashioned plants are often hardier than new varieties, and though sometimes not so showy, many have unique forms which look unusual to today's gardener. Keeping them in the seed bank, and in the gardener's repertoire, gives us all more possibilities for the art of the garden. This spirit of conservation has also moved Priscilla to work with the New England Wild Flower Society to preserve rare plants in the Connecticut River Watershed.

For the past two years, Priscilla has been working with NOFA — the Northeast Organic Farming Association — to develop a program for Organic Land Care, going beyond their previous focus on agriculture. The committee to write standards for this, the first of their kind, describes its mission as "education of land care professionals and concerned citizens in the methods, benefits and limitations of organic and sustainable land care, with the goal of eliminating pesticide and synthetic chemical use, improving the soil, increasing landscape diversity, and improving the health of people and all living organisms that make up the web of life on the earth." The first training to come out of this, a 30-hour course to accredit land care professionals in organic landscape management, was held in February at the New England Wild Flower Society in Framingham; 36 people attended.

As the garden season begins, Priscilla is interviewing prospective employees to work for her own business in this field, Pumpkin Brook Organic Gardening. In addition she continues to sell seedlings grown organically, including both vegetables and the old-fashioned flowers she uses in her historical gardens. (Deadline for orders is April 1.) They will also be available for sale on Saturday, May 11, at the Reed Homestead. NOTE: her catalog says the 13th but it's the 11th!

Next Date

The tiny flower in the picture, one of the first to bloom in Priscilla's garden this year, is Crocus angustifolius 'Cloth of Gold,' a variety dated as early as 1587, offered by most U.S.bulb catalogues of the 1800s, and the only species crocus common in gardens before 1940. (It's still available, too.)

© Copyright 2002 Catherine Holmes Clark