Neighborhood Permaculture Gardens, Double Feature for Belfast Garden Club Open Garden Days

Posted Aug. 16, 2012, at 10:35 p.m.
LewLou | BDN
LewLou | BDN

Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 10 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Location: Gardens of Karen Meisenhemer and Ric Mallamo and Karen Ireland, 10 Bradbury Street , Belfast, Maine

For more information: Diane Allmayer-Beck; 207-338-3105; belfastgardenclub.org

Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days visits the permaculture gardens of Karen Meisenhemer and Ric Mallamo at 10 Bradbury Street; and neighbor Karen Ireland, 123 Cedar Street, Belfast on Friday, August 24, from 10am to 4pm. Tickets for the Open Garden Day can be purchased at the either garden for $4. Proceeds benefit Belfast Garden Club’s civic beautification projects.

10 Bradbury Street – Master Gardener and environmental educator, Karen Meisenhemer, and husband Ric Mallamo began their garden project 5 seasons ago when they bought their home on Bradbury Street. The philosophy is to model their landscape on natural ecosystems by; sowing native plants, allowing “volunteers” to grow where they may, integrating food producing plants and pollinators, and encouraging natural water sources. “Our method is to go along with what the site has to offer, rather than fight it,” Meisenhemer explains. A recess in the earth between the house and the garage-studio is a natural drain for water coming down the hill from homes and streets above. Instead of trying to send the water around garden beds, Mallamo has made use of the contours of the land and dug a small pond in that low area. Native lily pads and frogs make their homes here rounding out the garden’s ecosystem, making use of the available water, and creating a focal center to the surrounding garden.

Another goal of the permaculture garden is to include edibles in layers from trees and shrubs to ground level plants. The Meisenhemer/Mallamo property is home to many long established trees, including possibly the oldest birch in Belfast, as well as many new nut and fruit trees; peach, plum, beechnut, and walnut are intended to produce fruit for the couple as well as the wildlife their environment encourages. Raised beds for vegetables and fruits such as grapes, kiwi vine, low bush blueberries, native raspberries, and Jerusalem artichoke are intermixed with perennial and annual flowers. Nasturtium, calendula, marigolds, and coneflower provide cheerful color and help with pollination. The spacious 1/3 acre lot allows plenty of room for a broad diversity of plants and garden beds. An experimental section by the driveway includes native species; goldenrod, feverfew, wild New England aster, and jack in the pulpit which have replaced a patch of pesky Japenese knotweed. Look for a tiny tree frog suns himself on the broad-leafed butterbur below a stand of shady trees at the border of the property. Beds around the house will draw those interested in variations of foliage as well as blooms. Low to the ground on the cooler north side combinations of native ginger, coral bells, wintergreen, caladium and trillium focus the eye on textures and palates of their varied frondescence. Of note in the bloom department, at the front of the house, are the brilliant petals of pink phlox beside those of a bright red “volunteer” cardinal flower.

The couple will provide a map of plants and a handout about permaculture. Visit with the chickens and admire Mallano’s new chicken tractor. Meisenhemer’s nature-inspired sculptures can be enjoyed throughout the garden; she will open her garage-studio on the day of the tour. Special points will go to the visitor(s) who can help identify their mysetry strawberry which sets white fruit and has the taste of peachy pineapple! A wild border at the property line is parted by a woodland trail and paths to their neighbor’s houses. Take the path closer to the grape arbor through to Karen Ireland’s where she is working with a newer experiment in permaculture.

123 Cedar Street- One year ago a large section of lawn near the border with Karen Meisenhemer and Ric Mallamo was the site of a Permablitz to help with a project Ireland calls her “lawn eradication program”. Climate Summer Riders, a visiting biking group interested in addressing issues of fossil fuel use, partnered with Belfast Area Transition Initiative (BATI), and community members to install a 30-foot-diameter, seven ring labyrinth in an afternoon. A labyrinth traditionally is a symbolic spiritual path for meditation. Ireland’s is lined with beds of strawberries, self-sown lilies and garlic, which lead to a central stone from the property. It is a work in progress, in future years Ireland looks forward to continuing soil improvement with organic materials, interspersing the strawberries with herbs and colorful annuals and planting the outer ring entirely with garlic.

New to the permaculture methodology of gardening, Ireland’s previous experience has been in growing copious amounts of fresh tomatoes and basil for canning. “To keep me happy through the winter,” she smiles. A tradition “handed down from my depression-era mother.” Stone-lined beds of the ripening fruit spill over near a grape vine climbing a curving lilac limb arbor at the edge of the deck. 3 newer beds reclaim an asphalt driveway for food and flowers. After years of soil replenishing, this is the first full year with raised flower, herb and vegetable beds, fruit trees and shrubs. A kitchen scrap “digester” converts meat, fish, bone, and other kitchen scraps dispersing the organic material underground to tree roots. The garden includes peach and cherry trees, raspberries, and cheery yellow blooms of the compass plant. Black locust trees help fix nitrogen in the soil, and a large fruiting butternut may be an edible experiment this year. Ireland is hopeful that a new swarm of bees will have taken residence in her prepared bee box by the time of the tour.

Directions: From Downtown Belfast, take Main Street up the hill to Congress Street; left on Congress several blocks to Bradbury Street (across from Public Works site); left on Bradbury one block. Park alongside the road.

Next Tour: Belfast Garden Club’s Open Garden Days will switch to the second Fridays of September and October. Join us September 14th at Troy Howard Middle School Gardens; and October 12th for the grand reopening of Grove Cemetery Chapel and a Cemetery and Remembrance Garden Tour ($5 admission).

For more information call Diane Allmayer-Beck at 338-3105, email belfastgardenclub@gmail.com, or visit www.belfastgardenclub.org.