January 16, 2022

Whalebone Cove Friends Hold Annual Meeting; Features Talk on Handling Local Explosion of Invasive Hydrilla

This photo was taken September 2020 during an inspection of Whalebone Cove, in which it was found that 60 to 70 percent of the waterways were clogged with hydrilla vines.

LYME — The Friends of Whalebone Cove host their annual meeting virtually Sunday, April 11, at 3 p.m. All are welcome.

The featured speaker will be Margot Burns, who is an environmental planner for the Lower Connecticut River Valley Council of Governments (RiverCOG.) For a Zoom link to the meeting, send an email to: fowchadlyme@gmail.com

In the last three years, underwater invasive hydrilla (water thyme) vines have been spreading rapidly throughout the Connecticut River, choking its coves, bays, and tributaries and making them almost impassable for kayaks, canoes, motor boats, and many fishermen.
The spread of hydrilla is a major problem for the Connecticut River, which has exploded exponentially in just the last two years. More than 65 percent of Whalebone Cove was covered by it last year and 90 percent coverage is anticipated this year. Selden Cove, meanwhile, experienced 80 percent coverage in 2020.

This aerial picture shows hydrilla covering the Mattabasett River north of Middletown, CT, August 2020 by Greg Bugbee, Conn Agriculture Extension Station, New Haven.

Burns will discuss the worrisome spread of hydrilla and what steps need to be taken to mitigate its effect on the Connecticut River watershed and prevent its spread elsewhere in the State.
For more information about the problem and current responses to it, watch Invading the CT River — The Spread of Hydrilla and/or visit this link.
There are also four informative webinars on CT River Aquatic Invasives: Parts 1 through 4, links to which are provided below:


RTP Estuary Center Hosts Virtual Program on Butterflies; All Welcome, Registration Required

A monarch butterfly takes a momentary rest. Photo submitted.

OLD LYME — This evening at 6:30 p.m., the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center (RTPEC) presents Butterflies: Monarchs, Migrations, and Conservation, when Robert Michael Pyle, Ph.D., conservation biologist and author of The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, will be interviewed by Evan Griswold.

This interview is part of the 2021 Connecticut River Lecture Series offered by the RTPEC. The program is free but registration is required at https://www.ctaudubon.org/rtp-programs-events to obtain the Zoom link.

Pyle is one of the world’s leading experts on butterflies and other invertebrates.

He is the founder of The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, an international organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of butterflies and all invertebrates and their habitats.

Dr. Robert Michael Pyle

A prolific author and renowned raconteur, Dr. Pyle has written 22 books, including The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies, Wintergreen, winner of the 1987 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, and Sky Time in Gray’s River: Living for Keeps in a Forgotten Place, winner of the 2007 National Outdoor Book Award.

He is also the author of a book about the origins of the Sasquatch legend that became the subject (fictionalized) of the major motion picture The Dark Divide. 

In addition, Dr. Pyle has published four books of poetry and his newest book, Nature Matrix, a collection of essays about a life immersed in the natural world, has been nominated for the 2021  PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay.

Dr. Pyle grew up and learned his butterflies in Colorado, earned a Ph.D. in butterfly ecology at Yale and worked as a conservation biologist in Papua New Guinea, Oregon, and Cambridge, England.

Dr. Pyle will be interviewed by Evan Griswold, a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Chapter of the Nature Conservancy and a prominent Connecticut conservationist, who was also a classmate of Dr. Pyle’s at the Yale School of the Environment/School of Forestry. Their discussion will focus on Dr. Pyle’s life’s work on invertebrates and monarch butterfly migration and conservation.

Included with participation in the lecture is a special offer: a dinner available for pick-up on the day of the event prepared by renowned chef Ani Robaina, formerly chef at the Microsoft Conference Center and the Pond House in Hartford, and currently owner and chef at Ani’s Table. The cost for the dinner is $75.

For additional information and Zoom registration, visit ctaudubon.org/RTPEClectures or call 860-598-4218.

The RTPEC’s Connecticut River Lecture Series is celebrating its seventh year with these Zoom presentations – each featuring a prominent scientist focusing on a critical environmental issue.

The third in the series on April 29 will focus on The Secret Life of Plankton: The Base of the Marine Food Web. All of the programs are free, but space is limited and registration is required.

Named for the internationally and locally renowned artist, scientific illustrator, environmental educator, and conservation advocate, the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is known for its work in environmental education, conservation, research, and advocacy.

Throughout the past year, the Center has continued to serve young people and adults across the region, offering small group programs like bird walks and owl prowls, a virtual Connecticut River ecology course, seasonal nature crafts for children via Zoom, and more.

Crowdfunding Campaign Launched for Lyme-Old Lyme Food Share Garden, Sustainable CT Will Match Funds Raised up to $7,500

Lyme-Old Lyme Food Share Garden President Jim Ward (second from left) talks to attendees at a site walk held Saturday of the area proposed for the new garden at Town Woods Park.

OLD LYME — The Lyme-Old Lyme Food Share Garden (LOLFSG) is moving ahead by leaps and bounds. This past Saturday, LOLSFG President Jim Ward hosted a tour of the proposed site for the garden at Town Woods Park in Old Lyme and today a major fundraising initiative to support the project begins.

The mission of LOLSFG is to establish a sustainable, organic garden to grow fresh produce for local food pantries. Ward notes that the proposed Town Woods site is, “An organically maintained recreational park with access to water, electricity, parking and plenty of sunlight.” 

He told LymeLine, “The site walk was a great success. Sixteen people attended and we met and talked for over an hour. Participants thought the location was ideal.”

Asked why a fundraising campaign is necessary at this point, Ward explains, “Our immediate priority is to fund and install an 8′ deer/rodent fence to protect future plants.  Additionally, we are in need of equipment and tools to assist in bed preparation, garden development and ongoing tasks.”

He adds, “A successful campaign will allow us to procure and install the deer fence in June,” pointing out that, “With the area secure, we can move forward with the garden design and preparation of the planting beds for our initial planting in the Spring of 2022.

Ward says enthusiastically, “This will enable us to begin delivering fresh produce to local pantries in the summer of 2022.”

The project’s organizers are asking the community to support this initiative by donating to a crowdfunding campaign or volunteering in the effort.  If the campaign reaches its $7,500 goal by its fundraising deadline of May 24, 2021 the project will receive a matching grant of $7500 from Sustainable CT’s Community Match Fund, which is an innovative funding resource for public, community-led sustainability projects.

“I am very excited, as a successful campaign will put us months ahead of our original projections and allow us to install a fence and prepare all garden beds this summer. This will allow us to begin planting and growing fresh healthy produce in the entire garden next spring. Realistically, we can begin delivering fresh produce to local food pantries next summer,” comments Ward

It is anticipated that the garden project will have a long-lasting impact on the community.  The LOLFSG plans to incorporate educational opportunities around subjects such as composting, rain barrels, and sustainable gardening. 

One opportunity will be for volunteers to expand their knowledge of organic farming through formal and informal collaboration with veteran and master gardeners.  For example, a master gardener mentor has agreed to share his expertise in composting while establishing the garden’s compost system. 

The LOLFSG is also partnering with the Pollinate Old Lyme organization to provide a venue for a local pollinator species walkway outside the garden fence.  

The installation of the fence and acquisition of tools and equipment will complete the first phase of the garden. 

The second phase consists of the installation of an irrigation system and a tool shed.  We are in the process of writing grants and seeking other funding to accomplish this phase of the project. With the completion of both these phases, Ward expects annual expenditures to be approximately $3.000 to $5,000.

Sustainable CT is an initiative of Eastern Connecticut State University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy that inspires, supports, and recognizes sustainability action by towns and cities statewide.

The Community Match Fund — supported by the Smart Seed Fund, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and the Connecticut Green Bank —provides a dollar-for-dollar match to donations raised from the community, doubling local investment in projects. Anyone can lead a project and ideas can be proposed at any time. 

“Through the Community Match Fund, we aim to put residents at the forefront of creating positive, impactful change,” said Abe Hilding-Salorio, community outreach manager for Sustainable CT.

He adds, “Match Fund projects are community-led and community-funded, demonstrating the power of people working together to make change in their communities.”

Editor’s Notes: i) For LOLFSG project details and to donate, visit: Patronicity.com/LOLFSG and visit this link to read our first article on the project.
ii) If you have a great idea for a public project in your community, contact Sustainable CT at hildingsalorioa@easternct.edu.

Ward Continues Efforts to Start Lyme-OL Community Share Garden, Visit to Proposed Site Scheduled This Morning

OLD LYME — Continuing his efforts to start a Lyme-Old Lyme Food Share Garden (LOLFSG), Jim Ward hosted an introductory meeting March 15, for everyone interested in the project. More than 30 people attended the Zoom meeting, which Ward hosted at both midday and 6 p.m., to enable maximum participation.

He noted that anyone who wishes to view the proposed site for the Food Share Garden at Town Woods Park can join a tour this coming Saturday, March 27, at 9 a.m.

The presentation can be viewed in its entirety on the LOLFSG website. A great deal of additional information about the project is also available on the site.

Ward’s carefully organized agenda covered his vision for the garden, the phases he envisioned in development of the garden, and the committees he believes need to be set up to achieve his objectives. These latter included

  • Fundraising
  • Garden design/plan
  • Publicity/ website/social media
  • Tools/equipment
  • Volunteer organization, i.e. schedule, weekly needs, etc.

He elaborated on ways anyone interested in the project can help, identifying various opportunities as follows:

  • Join a Committee
  • Join the Board of Directors
  • Donations can be sent to LOLFSG, PO Box 395, South Lyme, CT 06376
  • Stay tuned for SustainableCT matching funds
  • Direct friends to the website and Facebook page
  • Stay tuned for notification that LOLFSG can accept online donations and spread the word!
  • Site layout – Date to be determined
  • Volunteers to take soil samples for testing

There was clearly a great deal of enthusiasm for the project among those attending and Ward has already been able to form a board of directors for the LOLFSG.

Asked Thursday how the project was taking shape in general terms, Ward said in an email, “Things are progressing nicely,” adding enthusiastically, “It’s supposed to be great weather Saturday, so it would be nice to see and meet people [during the visit at  9 a.m. to the proposed site] and have some conversations about the garden.”

For more information on the project, read the article Initial Planning Meeting Scheduled Today at 6pm via Zoom for Lyme-Old Lyme Food Share Garden, All Welcome, published in LymeLine.com March 15, and/or  contact Jim Ward at jimdub@gmail.com.

Old Lyme’s Inland Wetlands Commission Continues Public Hearing on Big Y’s Controversial Gas Station/Convenience Store Proposal to Next Month

The site of the proposed Big Y Express at the western end of Halls Rd. in Old Lyme. Map courtesy of the Halls Rd. Improvement Committee.

OLD LYME — Around 50 people joined Tuesday’s Public Hearing for the proposal presented by Big Y Foods for a gas station/convenience store at 99 Halls Rd. and 25 Neck Rd., which was hosted Tuesday via Webex by the Old Lyme Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission (IWWC).

According to the application submitted to the IWWC, the proposal is for a 2,100 sq. ft. convenience mart and a gas station on a site surrounding Essex Savings Bank that is currently vacant and partially cleared. The application states that the fuel system consists of six dispensers under a protective canopy and two double wall fiberglass underground fuel tanks with electronic monitoring.

The IWWC’s role is to assess whether there is potential for significant impact to the watercourses located on the property proposed for the development. Commission Chairman Rachael Gaudio stressed both at the Feb. 23 meeting of the IWWC and at this meeting that it is not under this commission’s purview to consider zoning, planning or traffic matters.

The Commission had received written responses from the project engineer for the applicant, Ryan Scrittorale, PE, of Alfred Benesch & Co. to comments by the IWWC engineer Thomas Metcalfe and soil scientist Eric Davison of Davison Environmental. These have been published on the Town website at this link.

Since Martin Brogie, of Martin Brogie, Inc., the applicant’s soil scientist, was not able to attend the meeting due to being hospitalized for COVID, the applicant’s attorney, Robin Pearson, requested that the hearing be continued until next month.

The commission heard testimony from Dr. Michael W. Klemens, who has a PhD in Ecology/Conservation Biology. He was introduced by Marjorie Shansky, the attorney representing the intervenor at  85 Halls Road, LLC.

Krewson said that a major problem he was facing in terms of assessing the environmental impact of the proposed project was that “We don’t know where the boundary of the vernal pool is … we need to understand where the vernal pool is … to determine what is present in the vernal pool.” He noted that the most recent data available is from 2006, but emphasized, “There needs to be a lot more detail.”

He noted, “Wood frogs are a unique and special case. They are actually involved in nutrient recycling,” adding, “We need to see robust data on biodata.” Klemens said he would assume, “The majority of the migration comes from the north,” but stressed again, “We need to know [what is at the vernal pool.]”

The owner of the adjoining property Brain Farnham at 29 Neck Rd. responded to comments that he was not permitting access to his property to inspect the vernal pool. He said, “There are diucks in that pond. It’s their breeding season. That’s why I’m resisting people walking on my property.”

Gaudio countered that, as someone who had obtained two bachelor’s degrees, one in Biological Sciences and the second in Wildlife Conservation and Mangement, prior to attending law school and receiving a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy, she understood Farnham’s concerns. She stated, however, “I don’t think a scientist would go out and be a big impact [on the property or duck nests],” noting the inspection would primarily involve walking around the edge of the pool and looking for evidence of wildlife.

Chairman Gaudio agreed to continue the hearing until Tuesday, April 27, at 6 p.m., when it will be held again via Webex. She urged all parties, including members of the public, to submit any further comments by the end of the day on April 26.

The Public hearing will likely be closed on April 27, but the IWWC will not necessarily vote on the proposal at that meeting.

Editor’s Note: The full Minutes of the meeting have now been published on the Town of Old Lyme website at this link.



Chester-Hadlyme Ferry to Open Thursday; Friends of Gillette Castle Plan Celebration at Hadlyme Landing, All Welcome

Gillette Castle can be seen in the background on a foggy morning as the 65-foot diesel-run Selden III prepares to depart the Chester ferry landing. The Chester-Hadlyme ferry, which is scheduled to re-open April 1, is one of the oldest continuously operating ferries in the United States. All photos except the final one in this article are courtesy of Kelly Hunt, Cherish the Moment Photography.

HADLYME — 3/30 UPDATE: The ‘First Ferry’ on Thursday at 7 a.m. event will be held “rain or shine.” State Representatives Palm, Haines, and Devlin are expected to join the celebrations. When the ferry lands, at approximately 7:05 a.m., there will be a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony (weather permitting.)

If you decide to visit, remember the Chester side of the ferry has extremely limited parking, so the Hadlyme side is a much better plan.

When the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry makes its inaugural 2021 round trip across the Connecticut River at 7 a.m. Thursday, April 1, its supporters intend to make the occasion festive.

“We’ve all missed the view from the river during the long winter, so we want to hold a ‘First Ferry Celebration’ to rejoice in its return and admire the state’s recent improvements to the landing area near Gillette Castle,” said Lynn Wilkinson, who chairs the communications committee for the Friends of Gillette Castle State Park.  

“Several members of our organization plan to make that morning’s first round trip together, and we imagine others might want to join us,” she added. 

The Chester-Hadlyme ferry sits at the Chester Landing dock.

John Marshall, the ferry’s master captain, said the boat will load first on the Chester side and make its five-minute run east to the Hadlyme landing adjacent to the park, where the Friends’ group will gather. 

“Free refreshments will be served, and we can promise convivial conversations with members of the Friends,” Wilkinson said. “They’ll be eager to talk about the castle, its history and our own activities.”  

“This winter was tough on everyone,” Marshall said. “Even though we still have to be careful, the ferry opening is a celebration for everybody. It’s like turning a page. People will be able to get outside more, and I look forward to it.” 

The ferry ‘under sail’ from Chester to Hadlyme.

Access to the western landing is on Rte. 148 at Ferry Rd. in Chester. The eastern landing is on park property at the base of Seventh Sister Hill, with a road and footpath leading up to the castle, the eccentric, century-old home of the late actor William Gillette. 

The park itself is in the towns of East Haddam and Lyme along the Connecticut River, and is open daily from 8 a.m. until sunset.

“In addition to being a continuation of scenic Rte. 148, the initiation of ferry service is an important lifeline between Chester and Hadlyme,” said John “Jack” Hine, supervisor of Gillette Castle State Park. “It also gives castle visitors a really fun and ‘photo-friendly’ way to get to the castle.” 

View of the Chester Landing with the ferry in the foreground.

The Friends’ celebration is being held free of charge. Ferry passengers will be charged current rates to ride the 65-foot diesel-run Selden III, which include a walk-on charge of $2 to pedestrians and bicyclists, $5 for vehicles on weekdays and $6 for vehicles on weekends. A $3 commuter rate requires pre-purchased coupons priced in a book of 20 for $60.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the boat will begin the season with a five-vehicle capacity, an increase since last year when the boat was allowed to carry three vehicles at a time.

“That very well may change,” Marshall said. “We’ll watch what the Centers for Disease Control and the governor say and we’ll figure out if we can change that.” Under normal conditions, the boat has a nine-vehicle capacity. 

Because the boat is a public conveyance, federal law requires all persons to wear a mask when boarding, disembarking and for the duration of travel on the vessel. Face shields are not compliant under current law.

Recent improvements to the eastern landing include new benches and fencing, a newly leveled parking area and a historic display describing the river and its cleanup, undertaken by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Department of Transportation, Hine and Marshall said. 

A view of the Hadlyme-Chester ferry on the Connecticut River taken from the ramparts of Gillette Castle. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Gillette Castle State Park and DEEP.

“The landing has been renovated with upgraded materials to match the esthetics of the castle,” Wilkinson said. “It was a thoughtful and wonderfully collaborative effort that has made the landing welcoming for visitors, and now seems like a special entrance to the castle grounds.” 

The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry began service in 1769 as Warner’s Ferry, and is one of the oldest continuously operating ferries in the United States. It is also Connecticut’s second-oldest ferry service, after the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury Ferry, which began in 1655. 

A steam-powered barge began to serve the ferry crossing in 1879 and was named the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry in 1882 while it was operated by the town of Chester. In 1917, the Connecticut Department of Transportation took over the service, and the current boat has been in operation since 1949. 

The ferry is expected to operate through Nov. 30. Additional ferry information may be found at this link

The Friends of Gillette Castle State Park is a nonprofit, all-volunteer group dedicated to the preservation, conservation and educational activities of the building and its grounds. For further information, visit www.gillettecastlefriends.org


A Chilling Adventure: Hadlyme’s Theobald Describes His Extraordinary Journey Through the Northwest Passage

The ‘Bagan’ sails into the Northwest Passage.

LYME — The Northwest Passage—the sea route connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific— is widely considered the ultimate uncharted territory. Sailing from Newport, R.I., through the infamous Passage and around Alaska to Seattle, is an 8,500-mile trek filled with constant danger from ice, polar bears, and severe weather.

Sprague Theobald

Hadlyme resident Sprague Theobald, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and expert sailor, has completed this extraordinary journey.

In so doing, he and his crew became only the 24th non-military craft to have navigated the Passage since Roald Amundsen completed the first successful crossing of the fabled Northwest Passage in 1906.

Hear all about Theobald’s extraordinary journey and its harrowing story of survival, adventure, and, finally, redemption in a Zoom presentation hosted by the Friends of Lyme Library titled, The Other Side of the Ice,  tomorrow, (Saturday, March 20) at 3 p.m. Theobald himself will present the program.  

Email programreg@lymepl.org as soon as possible to register for this program and obtain the Zoom link.

Asked how he ever came up with the idea of undertaking that journey,  Theobald replied, “As far back as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a shortcut through the Arctic, but yet, nobody could find it. How could a place exist that nobody knows about but yet they go searching for it?”

Standing on the bow of the ‘Bagan’ as it sailed through the bitterly cold, unforgiving Northwest Passage.

Theobald continued, “As I grew older and started to read the incredible tragic history of those who went to search for the Passage I became absolutely intrigued. I can’t say that it was always on my mind but I spent many, many years on boats (I’ve about 40,000 off-shore miles) and the thought of attempting to transit the Passage was always in the back of my mind.”

He said triumphantly, “Finally, all the forces came together!” noting that it took about two and a half years, “… from my openly musing about the idea to finally leaving Newport,” aboard the Bagan.

In the 1850s, the Franklin Expedition left England to find the Northwest Passage. Beechy Island was one of their last known stopping areas. The expedition was frozen in the ice for two years. This grave marker cites where one of the crew was buried.

What followed was five months on the Bagan of unrelenting cold, hungry polar bears, and a haunting landscape littered with sobering artifacts from the tragic Franklin Expedition of 1845. Theobald will explain in his presentation the innumerable ways in which the incredibly challenging trip has impacted his life since he returned to land.

Asked which of those experiences had affected him the most, Theobald responded, “As you can imagine there were many experiences which truly changed my life but I think the most powerful one was the few days that we were trapped in the ice and slowly being driven ashore by a powerful underwater current.”

He continued, “Whether it was exhaustion or fatalism, I truly understood the feeling of simply letting go and making the best of it. It was simply survival. There was absolutely nothing I could do to keep us from being pushed into the rock-face cliffs. Try as I may, I couldn’t stop Mother Nature.”

As he worked to define that specific emotion in his mind, Theobald said, “The freedom of letting go allowed me to think through the process as to what I could possibly do in the various scenarios that faced us. Luckily the very force that was hinting at our demise also rescued us! The underwater current that was pushing us ashore must’ve had a back eddy in it, for once we came within a quarter of a mile from the rocks, we very slowly started going backwards in an arc.”

He concluded, “To this day, I am able to utilize that same great feeling of knowing when and ow to simply let go and to be able to stand back objectively and assess a situation rather than be caught up in it.”

Initial Planning Meeting Scheduled for Lyme-Old Lyme Food Share Garden, All Welcome

Jim Ward tends the Community Garden at Clinton. He hopes to set up a similar venture in Old Lyme and invites other volunteers to join him at an initial planning meeting. Photo submitted.

OLD LYME — Do you believe that access to healthy food is important? Do you believe that a community should support members in need? Do you have an interest in growing food and cultivating relationships between neighbors, friends and community members?

If your answer to any or all of those questions is, ‘Yes,’ then you might wish to consider joining a discussion today to plan a community food garden to support the nutritional needs of the shoreline community by providing local food pantries with fresh produce.

During this virtual, kick-off planning meeting, Jim Ward, who conceived the idea of the community garden, explains, “We will discuss organization of a non-profit, fundraising, sustainability, outreach, education and community engagement.” There are two options timewise for the meeting, 12 noon or 6 p.m. and those wishing to attend are welcome to join either meeting.

To register for the meetings and obtain the Zoom log-in information or raise any questions, email Ward at jimdub@gmail.com​.

All are welcome and Ward stresses, “Differing viewpoints, experience, backgrounds and ages are encouraged. No gardening experience is required.”

Ward is a resident of Old Lyme since 2006 and his wife attended Old Lyme schools, then subsequently taught in the district. Asked how he came up with idea for the garden, he explained, ” While I have always been interested in gardening and landscaping, my interest in the garden was initiated while I was participating in the 2020 UCONN Master Gardening Program.’

Ward continued, “As a participant in the program you are responsible for a certain amount of outreach hours and I volunteered and continue to volunteer at the Food for All garden in Clinton.”

Noting, “The atmosphere at this very successful Food Bank garden was one of a small community,” he pointed out that there were always plenty of volunteers, who between them had, “A broad range of gardening skills, from no gardening experience to master gardeners.”

Moreover, Ward emphasized, “Everyone shared their knowledge of gardening and cooking … along with local and national political conversations.”

The catalyst for trying to start the endeavor in Old Lyme was simply, in Ward’s mind, the type of community found in Lyme-Old Lyme, which Ward felt, “Would be very supportive of this type of initiative.” He therefore set out, “to replicate the Food for All garden project.’

His plan was not only wholeheartedly supported in principle by the volunteers of the Clinton garden, but he noted that in addition, “They gave me access to their records and provided advice on the daily and annual demands of the garden.”

Finding a location for the garden in Old Lyme did not prove quite so straightforward, however. Ward said, “My wife and I researched town-owned lands defaulted to the Town, but didn’t find any that were suitable and could see why many were defaulted.”

Proposed site of the Lyme-Old Lyme Community Share Garden at Town Woods Field. Photo submitted.

Finally, the seed of an idea evolved, when, in Ward’s words, “We thought of Town Woods as it had water, electricity, parking, restrooms, proximity to the Senior Center and it served as a hub of activity for many residents.”

Asked what has happened since the potential site was identified, Ward explained, “Through generous cooperation of the Parks and Recreation Commission and with site approval by the Old Lyme Inland Wetlands Commission, a parcel of land behind the Field House at Town Woods Park has been secured.”

He added enthusiastically, “The location, amidst the park’s organically-managed fields, with access to water, electricity and parking, is ideal.”

The timeline for starting the project is, according to Ward, “Totally dependent on funds.” he states, “With the generous assistance of the Parks and Recreation Commission, we have cleared the large hurdles of land and water, so the next big hurdle will be the fencing for the garden.”

What is his best guess for how things will progress? Ward responds, “With that being said I would love to see a fence up, some site prep, and soil testing by this fall with a small planting next spring.”

The proposal was mentioned at the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 16, when Selectwoman Mary Jo Nosal described the project as, “A really neat thing,” and “Pretty exciting.” First Selectman Timothy Griswold felt the board needed one of their members to “Prepare a checklist of what we [the board of selectmen] need to do,” and coordinate the effort between all the town boards and commissions involved. Selectman Chris Kerr agreed to take on that role.


CT River Coastal Conservation Native Plant, Plug Sale Webstore Now Open; Order by April 1, Pickup April 23-24

Butterfly weed is one of the many flowering plants that will be on sale.

AREAWIDE — The CT River Coastal Conservation District has announced its webstore is now open for pre-orders before this year’s Native Plant and Plug Sale.

All pre-orders must be received by April 1, for pickup at the Chester Fairgrounds, April 23 and 24.

Ordering can either be done in the organization’s webstore, or by using the order form on their plant sale brochure, and mailing it to their office with a check (visit the Plant Sale page to download a PDF copy of the sale brochure.)

The sale will be by pre-order only, so there will be no extra plants available on the sale days.

The plan is to follow strict COVID-19 precautions of social distancing and mask-wearing during sale preparations, and to set up contactless, curbside pick-up.

Asparagus plants will also be on sale.

This year, many of the same shrubs, ground covers, edibles, evergreen trees, flowering perennials, ferns, grasses and sedges will be offered that should have been in last year’s cancelled sale.

Evergreen trees will be sold as plugs instead of bare root seedlings, and there will be a small selection of perennial plugs.

Some of the new plants on sale in 2021 include black raspberries, Pawpaw, Maple-leaf Viburnum, Nannyberry, Rhodora, Bird’s-foot Violet, Boneset, Field Pussytoes, Golden Alexander, Solomon’s Seal, Spotted Bee Balm, and Hay-scented Fern. Order early for the best selection!

Remember advance orders are due by April 1. If you have questions, contact the office at ctrivercoastal@conservect.org or 860-346-3282.

The annual plant sale is the CT River Coastal Conservation District’s main fundraising event. All proceeds are used for conservation, environmental education, and technical assistance programs.

Lyme Land Trust Announces Two New Programs for Kids

The beautiful Banningwood Preserve is where Lyme Land Trust’s new Sapling Club will meet on second Saturdays o the month.

LYME — The Lyme Land Trust will offer two monthly groups for children beginning March 13, 2021 and meeting the second Saturday of each month ( April 10, May 8, June 12).  The clubs will be directed by two volunteers, Regan Stacey and Angel Santos Burres. Both have children in the Lyme-Old Lyme school district.

Environmentalist/artist Stacey currently runs the Tree Collective, a Lyme Land Trust program for teens. Most recently, Santos Burres was the director of Outdoors Rx, a program of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

For elementary school-aged kids, the Sapling Club will provide outside play and adventure in the forest. The group will meet every second Saturday of the month from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Banningwood Preserve, Town Street, Lyme. 

Parents are welcome to stay or drop-off.

For middle-schoolers, the Hiking Club provides exploration of the natural world at a different preserve each month. It meets every second Saturday per month at 3 to 4:30 p.m., beginning March 13 at Banningwood Preserve. 

Registration required. To register for either club, contact: reganstacey@gmail.com

For more information about these and upcoming events: https://www.lymelandtrust.org

Environmental ‘Estuary’ Magazine Celebrates First Anniversary, Secures $50K Grant to Promote Greater Collaboration Among CT River Watershed Non-Profits 

OLD LYME — In its first year, Estuary, a quarterly magazine headquartered in Old Lyme, Conn., available in both print and online versions, has published over 50 in-depth stories about science (in lay-reader terms), history, personalities, wildlife and opportunities for recreation in  the Connecticut River watershed.

The magazine also reports on major environmental trends and current events in the watershed. 

This environmental start-up recently partnered with the Connecticut River Conservancy in Greenfield, Mass. to raise $50,000 in a seed grant from The Endeavor Foundation of New York City, N.Y. 

The grant was awarded to the Center for International Management Education (CIME), a 501(c)3 based in Old Lyme, which was founded in 1990 by Barbara and Dick Shriver to, “Promote democracy and free enterprise inside the Soviet Union.”  

The CIME non-profit is the parent of Old Lyme’s Mentoring Corps for Community Development (MCCD).  Dick Shriver is the president of CIME.

Dick Shriver, Publisher of ‘Estuary’ magazine and president of Center for International Management Education (CIME).

The intent of the $50,000 grant is to develop the rationale, and lay the groundwork for, a ‘Connecticut River  Watershed Ecological Restoration and Stewardship Collaborative,’ says Dick Shriver, the publisher of Estuary.

In addition to CIME and the Connecticut River Conservancy, the concept-development team also includes Audubon Vermont in Huntington, Vt.

Asked whether the grant would deal with any specific restoration efforts, Dick Shriver explained that was not the case, but rather, “The grant intends to demonstrate that greater collaboration between all of the governmental and non-profit efforts in the watershed — plus greater promulgation of what’s working — will improve the collective result [of their efforts.]

That result in turn, Shriver added, will hopefully, “… warrant a large multi-year Master Grant to institutionalize such collaboration and promulgation.”

The concept team is developing the case to attract a group of foundation and government funders to invest $25-$50 million in the watershed over a period of 10 years.

The collaborative is expected to operate as a pass-through grant with a bare-bones organization that evaluates proposals and distributes funds to restoration and stewardship projects, which maximize the future well-being of the Connecticut River watershed.  

The watershed in this instance, Shriver noted, refers to, “The entire river, all tributaries, and the land that extends to the divide between neighboring watersheds such as the Housatonic, Hudson or Thames.”

Shriver commented, “We are extremely gratified by this contribution by The Endeavor Foundation to a brighter future for the 2 million people and incredible natural resources and wildlife of the watershed.”

Estuary’s delivery months for its print version are March, June, September and December; back  issues and a blog are accessible online on its website at estuarymagazine.com.  

For additional information about the seed grant, contact the project coordinator, Dr. Andrew  Fisk, Executive Director, Connecticut River Conservancy, at afisk@ctriver.org

For subscription information for Estuary magazine, visit estuarymagazine.com or contact Kyle Hudson, Director of Subscriptions at kyle@estuarymagazine.com.

Old Lyme Harbor Commission Now Accepting 2021 Mooring Applications

OLD LYME — The Old Lyme Harbor Commission is now accepting applications for 2021 moorings in Town waters.

Beginning in May, the Harbor Master will commence routine checks of the mooring fields of the Local Waters. Boaters are reminded that moorings without valid permits and/or those that do not comply with the Old Lyme Harbor Ordinance standards for placement or identification may be removed from service without notice, and the associated removal and storage costs will be the owner’s responsibility.

The cost is $25 for the permit, and Proof of Tackle Compliance provided by a qualified Inspector is required.

Additional information and forms are available at https://www.oldlyme-ct.gov/harbormaster-harbor-management-commission

Any questions regarding the process can be sent via e-mail to Tom Meyer  at meyertom@comcast.net.

Photographer Leads Walk Through Thach Preserve in Lyme, Feb 27; Join to Experience Changing Light

Light over Lyme. Photo by Joe Standart.

LYME — 2/20 UPDATE: This walk has been postponed from Feb. 20 to Feb. 27. The walk is full — send an email to be put on the waiting list. Join a walk through the Thach Preserve, guided by photographer Joe Standart this Saturday, Feb. 20, from 4 to 6 p.m. to experience light before and after the sun sets.

Reservations are required. To register, email education@lymelandtrust.org

Space is limited to 10 people including the leaders. Be safe- wear a mask when meeting in the parking lot. Social distancing guidelines will be followed.

The walk is part of the Lyme Land Trust amateur photography program: Imagining Lyme – A Visual Exploration of Lyme’s Preserves, which encourages people to expand their visual awareness while highlighting the beauty of Lyme Preserves through photographs. For more information, visit ImaginingLyme.org.

The deadline for submission of photos for the fall/winter season using the category “Light” is March 19, 2021. Three photos of distinction will be chosen.

The Thach Preserve is located at 131 Brush Hill Rd., Lyme CT.


‘Pollinator Pathway’ Chapter Started in Lyme

A new chapter of this national effort has been established in Lyme. The Lyme Land Trust and the Lyme Public Library have joined with other Lyme organizations and individuals to work together and establish patches of pollinator plants and pathways between them.

Do you already have a patch (big or small) to add to the pathway? Or do you want to create one?

A kick-off event will be held Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. titled, Exploring the Importance of Pollinator Pathways.

Learn about Pollinator Pathways in this Zoom presentation with eco-friendly gardening experts Jim Sirch and Mary Ellen Lemay. Pollinator pathways are corridors of pesticide-free native plants that nourish bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, which are vital for the health of the planet.

Pollinator pathways are pesticide-free corridors of native plants that provide nutrition and habitat for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, which are vital for the health of the planet. These pathways are crucial to biodiversity, the production of healthy crops, and the health of ecosystems that wild animals rely on for food and habitat.
Most native plants require less watering and upkeep than ornamentals and the pollinators you attract will help your other garden plants and vegetables flourish as well.
Watching butterflies fluttering carelessly through our yards, drifting from here to there on a gentle breeze, occasionally stopping to display their colorful murals relieves stress. Why not create an area for them to thrive?
Many Lyme residents have part of their yards that are mostly unused or a patch of grass they are constantly maintaining and can never get just right.
Join this effort to learn about the benefits of pollinator pathways and how you can create your own.

Jim Sirch is Education Coordinator for the Yale Peabody Museum for Natural History. Mary Ellen LeMay owns a company that specializes in the use of natural systems for habitat restoration.

This presentation is free and open to all, brought to you by the Friends of the Lyme Public Library. To register for this program, email  programreg@lymepl.org. You will receive a Zoom link several days before the presentation.

For more information, call the library at 860-434-2272, follow the Lyme Pollinator Pathway Facebook page or email LymePollinator@gmail.com.


Join RTPEC’s Three-Part Course on ‘Gulls & Terns’ Starting Today

LYME/OLD LYME — Starting tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center hosts a new three-part session on ‘Gulls and Terns,’ which is part of its “For The Birds” live and interactive virtual series. These live webinars take place on Tuesdays from 7 to 8 p.m. and require the use of Zoom.

Often overlooked on Connecticut’s shore, gulls and terns are some of our most common, yet at the same time, difficult to identify birds. Learn which species call Connecticut home and how to identify them in their various plumages.

Each three-week mini-course will center on a different theme and include an hour-long interactive live webinar per week. This will include a live Q&A as well as access to the webinar recording for the duration of your subscription, resource lists — which will include common species identification — and a list of recommended field guides, apps, and websites.
The price for the course is $30 for members and $45 for non-members.
The schedule for the course is as follows:

Feb. 16 -Week 1:
Discover the adaptations, migration, feeding and breeding habits, conservation and human interactions that make gulls and terns unique.

Feb. 23 -Week 2:
Recognize characteristics and gain understanding in identifying Connecticut’s different gull species.

March 2 -Week 3
Terns are in the same family as gulls and can also be difficult to identify. Wrap up the week with learning how to tell the difference between Connecticut’s tern species.

To register for the course, visit this link.

‘Tour de Lyme’ 2021 Planned for Sept. 5

The 2021 ‘Tour de Lyme’ will be held Sept. 5.

LYME — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that life will hopefully be getting back to a semblance of normalcy by the fall of 2021 and so the Lyme Land Trust has set the date for this year’s Tour de Lyme as Sunday, Sept. 5, during Labor Day Weekend.

The organizers say, “We want to host an event that is as fun as you remember with fantastic rides, food, music and friends!”

More information to follow as it becomes available.

Lyme Land Trust Launches ‘Imagining Lyme’ Photography Program to Increase Visual Awareness

“Lyme Triangle” by Wendolyn Hill.

LYME — The Lyme Land Trust program Imagining Lyme: A Visual Exploration of Lyme’s Preserves encourages everyone to expand their visual awareness and highlight the beauty of the Lyme preserves owned by the Lyme Land Trust, the Town of Lyme and The Nature Conservancy.

The method of doing this is by taking photographs prompted by inspiration from Joe Standart, a professional photographer and Land Trust Board Member.

There will be a different category each season, with related tips from Standart. Explore the details, watch videos of his photography tips, and try the first challenge, all of which can be found at this website.

The first challenge, for Fall/Winter 2020-2021, is “Light: How to use light to express a mood.” The deadline for submission of photos for the first challenge is March 19, 2021. 

A new challenge for the Spring season will be announced on March 20.

All submitted photos will be showcased in an online gallery hosted by the Land Trust. Three “Photos of distinction” in each specific category will be chosen quarterly based upon the criteria of emotional impact and creative design.   

A ‘Photo of the Year’ will be chosen by the Lyme Land Trust membership.  Those chosen will also receive a framed print of their photo.

Rules and upload instructions are on the website.

Old Lyme Joins Growing Pollinator Pathway Initiative with ‘Pollinate Old Lyme!’

OLD LYME — A town-wide initiative in Old Lyme will give migrating birds and butterflies a more bountiful stopping ground this year. Pollinate Old Lyme! launches Jan. 26 with two free presentations via online Zoom meetings open to the public. The one-hour Zoom presentations will be held at 12 noon and 6 p.m. and require pre-registration via email. 

Created by the Old Lyme Board of Selectmen’s Sustainable Old Lyme Team, the initiative is part of a growing national effort to establish pollinator-friendly habitats and food sources for wildlife.

A growing number of people want to support pollinating insects and birds, but they don’t know where to start, or they need help along the way. We’re going to make it easier and fun to do as a community,” said Suzanne Thompson, a gardener and co-leader of the Pollinate Old Lyme! initiative.

She adds, “Simple actions can add up to big benefits for our natural ecosystem. So many people took up vegetable gardening and really got back out into nature this past year. We see that continuing in 2021, so we’re looking forward to sharing ideas and information across our community.”

The Old Lyme initiative is part of Pollinator Pathway Northeast (Pollinator-pathway.org), with its geographic focus on Massachusetts to Pennsylvania. The program emphasizes including native plants and trees on one’s property, managing invasive species, reducing or eliminating pesticide and herbicide use, and practicing pollinator-friendly lawn care. There are activities for non-gardeners, too; “green thumbs” are not required.

Pollinators, including native bumblebees, and species of butterflies, insects, birds, and bats are threatened with extinction due to the loss of their natural habitats that provide food and shelter, widespread use of pesticides and other lawn chemicals, and climate change.

Pollinate Old Lyme! will encourage residents to take steps to support pollinators which live or migrate through these habitats. Simple actions such as adding native plants to flower boxes or choosing to keep native oaks, maples and shrubs contribute to this ecosystem.

Residents will see an increase in butterflies and birds in their backyards by planting Milkweed for Monarch Butterflies or Cardinal Flower for hummingbirds. Many species of pollinators depend on specific native plants for food and survival.

The Jan. 26 web presentations will introduce Old Lyme residents to the new initiative and share simple ways they can be a part of the regional “pollinator pathway” which links individual properties and gardens along with public lands and open spaces. Participants will be invited to add their location to a virtual map of the Northeast Pathway.

Over a dozen Old Lyme organizations, including the Duck River Garden Club, the Roger Tory Petersen Estuary Center, and the Old Lyme-PGN Library, are participating by hosting anchor gardens and providing educational opportunities during 2021.

Email  PollinateOldLyme@gmail.com to sign up for either the 12 or 6 p.m. web presentations and to receive Zoom log-in information. Other questions and information can also be found by emailing PollinateOldLyme@gmail.com.

Zoning Commission Approves Change of Use for Bee & Thistle to Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center

Old Lyme’s Zoning Commission has approved plans for the former Bee and Thistle Inn to become the new home of the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center.

OLD LYME — At their monthly meeting held virtually Monday evening, the Old Lyme Zoning Commission approved the applications by the Connecticut (CT) Audubon Society that will enable the former Bee and Thistle Inn at 100 Lyme St. to be converted to the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center’s (RTPEC) new headquarters.

The CT Audubon Society had submitted both Special Permit and Municipal Coastal Site Plan Review Applications requesting that permission be granted for the use of the property for non-profit and educational activities.

Michael Cronin, the Society’s attorney, told the commission that Tom Metcalf, the engineer for the Planning and Zoning Commission, had reviewed the site plan and approved it. Cronin noted that his client, “is not proposing to do anything different to the exterior of the property.”

Asked to describe the RTPEC plans for the interior of the building, Cronin responded that the first floor would comprise a Discovery Center, a general “laboratory,” and display rooms. He added that the second floor would be designated as offices while the third floor would be a storage area.

Cronin stressed that use of the property as ‘educational’ is a conforming use and also that the Society was seeking rapid approval of its request since, “a condition of sale of the property is that it must close before Dec. 31 [of this year.]”

Commission member Jane Marsh asked whether there were any plans for residential use of the property since Old Lyme Fire Marshal David Roberge had identified that a cottage on the property could be used as a residence. Cronin replied that if residential use were desired in the future, a separate application would be made at the time.

Cronin went on to say there was “major support” for the conversion of the former inn to the RTPEC Educational Center and headquarters. He mentioned that the Florence Griswold Museum — the immediate neighbor to the south — had offered “enthusiastic support,” and the Hamilton and Noyes families respectively to the north had written “nice letters of support.”

Torrance Downes of the Gateway Commission had also expressed his support while Ledge Light Health District had confirmed they did not see the proposal as a change of use.

Cronin then called on Claudia Weicker, chair of the RTPEC Regional Board and wife of Connecticut former governor Lowell Weicker, to speak. She said, “The Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is very much excited about the property. This opportunity to combine the outside environment with an indoor facility offers space for scientific studies and exploring the latest thinking.”

Weicker added, “Here on the banks of the Lieutenant River … art, science and the river come together,” and will provide, “a legacy to the community … a place to turn to nature for distraction from the world around us … to find meaning in this world.”

She concluded that the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center is set, “to become something important in the town of Old Lyme.”

The commission approved the proposal unanimously noting the requirement for a traffic study was waived, the approval of 49 additional parking spaces was deferred until they were required, designation for water-dependent use was deemed adequate and that no residential use is permitted at this time.

Gardening with The English Lady for December: “The Last Month so be the Best One”  

Winter is here … so what to do in the garden?

Hello everyone; so much to do and so little time in this holiday season.

Remember to breathe, stretch and take time out for yourself each day. On a pleasant December day, you can be in the garden and you can still plant your spring bulbs. The earth is still workable so enjoy the fresh air and the gentle exercise to work off your Thanksgiving feast and before you indulge in the Holiday festivities. 

Think spring … but plant in winter!  Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

Plant the bulbs three times as deep as they measure upright.  For example, the Daffodils should be planted nine inches down below the frost line. I suggested last month for you to have a bag of composted manure in the shed or garage to spread around the bulb area after planting.   However, if you do not have the manure right now, then when the bulbs peak up from the soil in spring, you can obtain the composted manure and sprinkle it around the emerging bulbs.

At this moment, I am sitting in my armchair with a delicious cup of Earl Grey tea and from the kitchen I am inhaling the air fragrant with cloves.  This is an old family tradition that each December I fill my great grandmother’s brass saucepan with water – add whole cloves – bring it to the boil, then turn it down to simmer.  The fragrance is wonderful memory of Christmas in the kitchen in gran’s thatched roof cottage on the grounds of our plant nursery in England. 

Back on this side of The Pond, in early winter before heavy snow falls or even on a sunny day with snow on the ground, there are construction projects that can be done – patios, decks, ponds, and dry stonewalls to repair and build. By accomplishing these tasks in winter, you will be ready to plant in spring. 

With that being said, if you are not into heavy work, I suggest you call a landscape company that you trust to give you an estimate for your project. In fact, if you would like get in touch with my son Ian, at LandscapesByIan.com for an estimate or a consult on design for the spring. As Ian tells me that there is a scarcity of building supplies because of the pandemic, which might hinder your projects for your garden, unless you act right now.

Snow fell this week (the photo above shows Lyme Street on Thursday, Dec. 17) so I hope you have the snow shovel handy or perhaps you require a new one? If so, buy a lightweight wood handled and plastic shovel instead of heavy metal. When the storm has passed and you ready for cleanup, don’t load the shovel heavily, scoop lighter loads. You will get done faster and with less aches and pains, or chance of injury.

If you are not able to clear the snow yourself from driveways, walkways and steps; I’m sure there are some teenagers in your neighborhood who would be willing to help you out. We need the moisture of the snow for the soil and our plants and  hope we also get a good amount of rain to carry us through to spring.  

If you have not already done so, mulch and manure around the trunks of roses, mound at least six to nine inches up the stems. As I mentioned earlier, buy a few extra bags of mulch and topsoil and store them in the garage or shed.  

Tie down the long whip like rose canes of climbers to supporting structures so they are not broken off in strong winds. If the shrub roses are planted in an exposed area, cover them with a rose cone or if they are larger, cover lightly with burlap until April.  

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

I just walked into my living room to check on my Amaryllis bulbs – these particular bulbs have striped blooms (see photo above.)  Amaryllis can be enjoyed for a long time with little effort.  As the flower buds begin to open, remove the pollen bearing anthers with tweezers, before they begin to shed, this will add days to the flowering period and remember to water.

Once the bloom is finished, deadhead it, remove the bulb from the soil and let it dry off. Store in a cool dark basement or some other cool dry place at about 55 degrees for ten weeks without watering.  When you want to start it again pot up the bulb tightly in fresh potting soil and begin to water again.  By the way, Amaryllis is poisonous so do not let children or animals eat the flowers.

Outside my kitchen window I can see the holly bush with lovely red berries, some of which I cut to decorate the house.  Holly is a good weather predictor; few berries mean a mild winter, whilst many berries denote a harsh one.  My red and black friends, the ladybugs, have begun to come indoors, earning their keep by consuming white fly and aphids, which often gather on houseplants.   

Photo by Jonathan Diemel on Unsplash.

In my home,  I am planting up my first group of paper white narcissus this week to get a head start on bloom in a few weeks.  I store two dozen bulbs in the vegetable keeper of the refrigerator, away from the food.  I plant half of them now and store the rest in a paper bag in the refrigerator, away from food, to plant later. With this method I will have continuous bloom and fragrance through the winter months. By keeping the bulbs in the refrigerator, they stay dormant, until planted. 

I plant my bulbs in pebbles, with just enough pebbles to anchor the bulbs and enough depth for the roots to grow. Cram a lot of bulbs in the pot so they are touching – the more bulbs, the more vibrant the display. Make sure the bulb pots do not have drainage holes; if they do, cover the holes with shards of broken pots.  

I place the planted bulbs in a dark cool room, keeping the pebbles moist at all times. When the shoots of the narcissus are about six inches tall I take the vases into another cool room on the south side of the house. I place them about six feet away from the window in indirect light where they remain, keeping the pebbles moist until the buds appear. When the buds appear and the stems are about 12 inches tall, bring them into the area of the house to be enjoyed. Still placed about six foot from a sunny window and away from draughts and heat. Keep the soil or pebbles moist.

I know that the stems of paper whites get leggy and often topple over. My tall glass vases do not allow this to occur but if you don’t have tall containers, here is a suggestion to keep the plant upright. An English gardening colleague of mine gave me his ‘gin tip’.  He pours a dessertspoon of gin (not the expensive stuff) on the soil or pebbles around the plants every couple of weeks after he has watered them. This limits the height of the stems so they do not collapse and the gin does not affect the bloom.

On the subject of alcohol, another tip my grandmother whispered is to add a few drops of brandy or port to invigorate potpourri that has gone stale. Personally, I pour a few drops of either lemon oil or lavender oil on the potpourri. 

I know that many of you spread salt on walkways, driveways to thaw ice. However, the salt ruins plants, when it seeps into borders.  Use an alternative like unscented kitty litter or sand that works well. In spring, just hose off steps and paths; the sand and kitty litter are good additions to your soil.

There is still time to prune dead or diseased branches from established deciduous trees and shrubs, its easier task to do at this time of year, as you are able to see what needs to be done without foliage obstructing your view. If you would like to have a fall pruning, call a reputable arborist to give you a quote and whose team will come and use their practiced eyes to give you a great result.    

Last winter, squirrels, raccoons or whoever, got into the birdseed in the milk shed.  I bought out the supermarket’s supply of cayenne pepper that week and sprinkled it everywhere to keep the marauders at bay. This trick will also keep those critters out of your garbage. I also sprinkle cayenne pepper in the bird seeders for the feeders and on the suet blocks – the heat of the pepper does not affect the birds – they do not feel the heat.   

To keep moths and bugs away from cupboards and in clothes, collect some remaining herbs still available perhaps sage and lavender. Tie them into bunches with string and slip over a hanger in your closet or in drawers. I put bunches of dried sage in my closets and drawers just this week. Insects do not like fragrance and will keep away. 

The few bags of soil, mulch and soil in the garage or shed will be useful after a heavy frost. Often the frost heaves plants above the soil and exposes the roots. The plants roots can be covered and protected with the soil and mulch, until they can be resettled again when spring arrives.   

When a plant is knocked askew by wind, ice or snow, do not be in a hurry to straighten it, quite often the plant will bounce back on its own. However, uprooted trees or shrubs should be straightened immediately, staked and mulched, If the ground is frozen, cover the exposed roots with topsoil, and mulch and reset the plant in the spring. When snow is heavy on the branches of the evergreens gently brush the snow off with a broom.  Gently being the operative word.   

When you receive or buy cut flowers during the holiday you want them to last. To accomplish this, vases need to be squeaky clean.  If there is a build up of dirty residue that regular soap and water wont budge, try adding a little coarse sand to dislodge the mucky residue then use soap and rinse well.  For a narrow- or globe-shaped vase, use a bottlebrush. 

Photo by Jessica Johnston on Unsplash.


Poinsettias – I get lot of questions about how to keep them alive.  

A close friend has kept the same poinsettia alive for eight years. After blooming, she places the plant in a cool room watering when the top of the soil feels dry, then in late May puts it, in its container in the garden. In September she brings it into her porch and begins gentle watering. 

By November, the blooms appear for yet another holiday season. A combination I enjoy is poinsettias in a container with ivy and forced spring bulbs.  

I was always curious as to how Poinsettias got their name. Last year I heard an old story on that very subject. It goes like this:

In a tiny village in Mexico, the tradition on Christmas Eve was to put gifts before the Crèche at the Church.  A poor young boy, who had nothing to offer, went outside and knelt in the snow praying for a gift to give the newborn king.  Where he knelt, a beautiful plant with vivid scarlet leaves appeared beside him and the boy joyfully presented his gift to the Christ Child.  Thus, Mexicans call the plant Flor de la Noche Buena (Flower of the Holy Night), as many believe the plant resembles the Star of Bethlehem.  Dr Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first minister to Mexico in the 1830’s brought the plant to the United States and it is for him that the plant is now named.’

On a delicious note to end my tips this – I present my recipe for English trifle – a simply scrumptious dessert at Christmas!


This dessert is made of layers, made over a three-day period; it requires this length of time for each layer to set. I use a nine- inch tall glass bowl, as the appearance of this dessert is as mouth-watering as the taste.  


2 pints of strawberries or raspberries  (you can use frozen strawberries or raspberries, and omit the sugar)
2 tablespoons of sugar on fresh fruit
1-package ladyfingers or sponge cake or pound cake
1-cup Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry (omit the sherry if you do not want the alcohol) instead use water to make the Jell-O
1 small package strawberry or raspberry-flavored Jell-O
1 small package of vanilla custard mix or Birds English custard (see note)
1 pint whipped cream

Combine washed and drained fresh strawberries/raspberries and sugar in a bowl and set aside at room temperature for about an hour.

In a 9-inch glass bowl, cover the bottom of the bowl with ladyfingers or sponge cake or pound cake, cut into 2-inch slices.  Drain the strawberries, and reserve the juice.  Cover the cake with the fruit.

Add sherry to the reserved fruit juice to make one cup.  Prepare Jell-O using the fruit juice-sherry mixture as the cold-water part of the Jell-O mix, and hot water for the other part.  Pour the Jell-O over the fruit and cake layer, then refrigerate until it sets (usually about two hours or overnight).

When the Jell-O is set, prepare the custard and spread over the cake/fruit/Jell-O layer.  Refrigerate until custard is set.  

The day you serve the trifle spread a thick layer of unsweetened whipped cream over the top.    

If you are serving more people, repeat the cake, fruit, and Jell-O layers and top with the whipped cream.  

The nine-inch bowl serves 6 to 8.

Note: I use Birds English Custard mix, which can be found in specialty food stores and most supermarkets.  

Have a wonderful Holiday and I’ll see you in your garden in January.  Be safe and well and please follow the safety rules of wearing masks, being socially distant and wash hands.

Maureen Haseley-Jones is “The English Lady.”

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com