Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable
Summer is upon us, and our gardens and roadsides are filled with roses, daisies, and many flowers large and small. Creatures of all kinds are enjoying the pleasant weather, and almost the only complaint I have heard this week is about pollen. Even the rain, needed as it has been, was not greeted with complaints, since it reduces the pollen levels in the air and brings some relief to allergy sufferers. We have had below average levels of rainfall so we know the gardens need it. The pollen this week has been evident on cars, in puddles, and as a yellow dust on the picnic tables. I was asked to look at someone’s peony foliage this week, to see if it had a disease. There was a definite yellowish tinge, especially in the veins of the leaves. It brushed off easily with a finger though, and was nothing more serious than a dusting of pollen from other plants nearby. Most of it comes from flowers that are not very showy, like pines and grasses, because plants that have brightly colored flowers are designed to attract insect pollinators, and have heavier pollen that is not so easily carried on the wind.
This week the bike trail between Central St. and Denver St. is a linear meadow full of daisies. Oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) or common marguerite are European wildflowers which came to North America with European settlers, and they line both sides of the trail leading toward Cliftondale from Saugus Center.
At the community vegetable garden behind the rectory of St. John’s church, volunteers were charmed by a toad hopping through the garden on Friday. This was probably the common garden variety American toad (Anaxyrus americanus). It eats many kinds of insects and may help preserve the newly planted vegetables from pests. While mostly nocturnal, young toads may also be seen during the day. Like frogs, toads go through a tadpole stage when young and generally live not too far from water, even as adults. This toad was not too far from the banks of the Saugus River.
Those following the story walk (“Wonderful Worms” written by Linda Glaser with pictures by Loretta Krupinski) at Breakheart Reservation along parts of the river trail and lodge trail may catch a sweet scent of strawberries and spice, the fragrance of an interesting North American native plant known as strawberry shrub (Calycanthus floridus). Its other common names, Carolina allspice and sweet shrub also refer to the fragrance. The flower itself is dark red, almost burgundy, and blooms in June. Breeders have come up with other flower colors including this pale yellow (Calycanthus floridus ‘Athens’) blooming in a shady corner of my garden. The fragrance is strongest on humid evenings, but at other times it may be difficult to detect any scent at all.
Perhaps one day the landscapes of Saugus will become as familiar and appreciated as Monet’s gardens at Giverny due to the inspiration they have given to some of our local artists. Currently a pastel depicting a Saugus scene is on display at the Newburyport Art Association 25th Annual Regional Juried Show which runs until Sunday, June 12 at the Newburyport Art Association, 65 Water Street, Newburyport, MA. Juror Emma Wilson of the Portland Art Gallery, Portland, Maine selected the work for this exhibition. The artist, Jeff Fioravanti, was born in Saugus and I asked him a little about the local scene which inspired it.
Jeff says, “In my often daily walks up Breakheart, I begin each by parking down in the Target parking lot. As I walk through the lot toward Kasabuski Rink and beyond, I have often admired the light found on the broken birch trees and wildflowers in a small field, often thinking to myself “I should paint this!” Days and years went by and still that thought persisted until one day became the day. I brought my pastels and easel with me and upon completing my walk, I drove my car closer to the location, opened the back, pulled out the supplies, set everything up and painted this scene in what is known as En Plein Air, which loosely translated means “in the open air” or painting outdoors. I grew up in Saugus, graduated from Saugus High School, am a member of the SHS Athletic Hall of Fame for hockey and soccer and much of my family still lives in town, though I now reside in Lynn. I have painted around town and in my studio over the years. There is much beauty to be found in this world, including in the least likely of places, such as a Target parking lot.”
Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design and plant selection, placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is also a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.