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Friday, June 24, 2011


We recently became part of a family of horticulturists who are participating in plant trials with the USDA. Back in March, we took delivery of 55 salix (willow) hardwood cuttings, 11 cultivars of 5 cuttings each,  which we’ve started in 3 gallon containers. We’re pleased to report that we have a 100% strike rate. We will plant these out in the fall as part of an erosion control trial (upon which we might put an artistic spin). At the same time we received 18 Ribes hardwood cuttings, consisting of various cultivars of Black currant, Red Currant, White Currant and Gooseberry. Unfortunately, we lost one Blackcurrant and one Gooseberry, but the rest, which are doing very nicely, will be planted into a new fruit garden in the fall and should bear within two years.

When we were invited to trial plants for the USDA, we had many options and approaches to chose from. We were intrigued by the history of many of the plants available to us and decided to trial mostly heritage and heirloom strains from Europe. Many of the cultivars we selected date to the 1800’s ( it's amazing to think that we’re working with material from 19th century Versailles) and have been kept in various controlled plant databanks throughout the US. We’re looking at how they fare in our northeastern climate and will be examining pest problems, plant viruses, hardiness, and, of course, cropping rates.

Today we received a selection of humulus lupulus; Hops, which we will trial to explore the viability of producing locally grown hops for the burgeoning Micro brewery industry here in CT. We expect these to take up a lot of real estate and we’ve not yet worked out the details of where they will, ultimately, be planted but we’re excited about this particular endeavor. It seems that in the brewing industry, the ‘freshness’ of the hops is key to the flavor of the brew and the primary producers, in Orgeon, fall all over themselves in their efforts to provide freshness through all sorts of  processing procedures; drying, freezing, freeze-drying, etc…. It will be interesting to see what we can do with truly ‘fresh-off-the-vine’ hops here in CT and we're looking to find a brewer to work with us. (If you know anyone in CT involved in the micro-brew industry please have them contact us).
Meanwhile, softwood cuttings of heirloom cranberry and seeds for native, heirloom blue and black huckleberry have also arrived. Very exciting! We’ll see what success we have with cultivating and rooting in the greenhouse and, if we’re lucky we’ll have plants to put into the bog garden in spring of 2012.
Later in the year we are expecting more cuttings of various trees, including Mulberries. Stay tuned.

Outdoor Living Space in Essex, CT

It's a relief to arrive at the completion of an undertaking and I am glad to have this one completed. There is more work on this project; the Moss Garden patio and steps, steps and mulched paths down a steep incline to the river, and some retaining walls to be 'improved', all of which I've previously mentioned, and there will be more to come on those endeavors, but for now I am grateful for this bottle of beer, a hot shower and the reclining position I'm headed for to watch the weather report, and then, dreams.
Good night and stay tuned...................

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Step by step

Little by little, step by step I'm nearing completion on this patio and walkway in Essex, CT. The next stage will be some modest restoration of some poorly built retaining walls, more steps down to the river, and a patio area in a moss garden. Michelle is designing the plantings and seems intent on avoiding certain colors (in the purple-mauve-lavender range) which she feels will clash with the barn red color of the house. (Yes, she's like this at home, too.) Details, details....
Stay tuned.

NY Times Piece Postponed - Stay Tuned!

It seems I jumped the gun in announcing the NY Times article featuring my work. The editor at the Times has postponed its publication for another week. I received the following e-mail last night from Sara Barrett, the writer of the piece:
Hey Andrew,
I just found out from the editor that the story is on hold for a
week....Will let you know when she confirm the new pub date.

I'll keep you posted on any updates! Sorry for the inconvenience.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Upcoming Wall Building Workshop

Saturday-Sunday, September 17-18 (Two-day Workshop)

8:30 am-4:00 pm

Instructors: Jared Flynn, Andrew Pighills

Location:   Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont

Participants and instructors at dry stone walling workshop
Sponsered by The Stone Trust, this two-day hands-on workshop is designed to teach homeowners and tradespeople the structural techniques involved in building and restoring a historic field stone wall. The outdoor classroom provides the setting for practicing proper dry stone walling methods including safety, batter, hearting, throughs, and coping. Included in the workshop will be the age-old technique of splitting stone by use of pin and feathering. Knowledge gained will prepare students for their own projects and help train their eyes to identify proper walling techniques in all walls.
Cost: $300
To register: contact Zon Eastes, 802.380.9550

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Upcoming NY Times Piece

Several months back I was contacted by NY Times writer, Sara Barrett, who wanted to do a piece on dry stone wall building. Well, after many months of communications and a wonderful day of photo-shoots with Suzanne, the marvelous and engaging NY Times photographer, the word on the street is that this is to happen on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 in the national edition of the Home and Garden Section. I'm as intrigued as anyone and will be looking for the Times to see if I need to start wearing a disguise. Anyway...stay tuned.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Stone Patio and Rediscovered Well

I'm currently working on a project in Essex, CT., where I'm building a field stone patio, elevated with a low retaining wall. During the excavation, we discovered what appears to be the original hand dug stone well. After discussing it with the client and considering its use as a supplemental water source for garden irrigation, we decided to rebuild it, simultaneously creating a sculptural element in this broad expanse of stone.

The well is mortared and a circle of wire mesh has been inserted for safety reasons. There will be more updates to come with this project; a rustic stone patio for a moss garden, renovated retaining walls and new plantings for a 'hidden garden', stone steps to access the river. I'll keep you posted....