Time for Change by
(246 Stories)

Prompted By The Garden

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As I wrote about two years ago in Checkbook Gardener, we have a beautiful little garden oasis on a busy street in the heart of Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard. This summer, between the pandemic, four months of drought and a less-than-diligent landscaper (not to be confused with Teresa, who continues to take wonderful care of flower beds and boxes; a true artist; below is an invitation to her recent gallery show), we decided change was necessary.

Teresa Yuan, show at Old Sculpin Gallery

Dan always comes early in the spring, before my arrival, to check things out. Since (as noted in my last pandemic update), he decided it was going to be “the summer of the backyard”, he looked for new furniture which had a fire element, so we could sit with friends and be warm as the days grew cooler. We purchased six chairs, though only have four around the table. Eventually the pandemic will pass and we’ll be able to sit closer together again. We also rearranged the furniture by the pool to allow another couple to come and still be socially distant.

We have already had several pleasant evenings, sitting with the fire lit, talking with friends well past sunset.

The front of the house, with flower boxes and climbing rose vines, were at peak in late June. These roses will bloom twice during the season. The flower boxes need to be cared for constantly, but add so much to the street-side of the house, where island visitors pass daily. After a scorching summer last summer, which burnt the flowers in the boxes by the door, Teresa solved the problem by planting hearty Coleus, colorful and fast-growing. I remember cultivating one from a cutting in 5th grade Science. This brought back memories.

By mid-August, our new landscaper was onboard. He came in with a large crew and immediately began to implement the clean-up and changes we envisioned. He gave the yard the TLC it had lacked for the past several years, pruning all the shrubbery back significantly. One “shrub” had gotten out of hand. It now obscured the entrance to the garage and the walkway beside it. It couldn’t just be trimmed, as it was all wood inside. It got pulled out entirely and was just replaced with two hydrangeas that will grow large, but can be pruned into shape. Now there is space where there had been a huge bush, but we don’t feel like we are in a jungle.

Slowly, we are coming back into stasis. Next year, everything will be better maintained and we will have our garden back. We were supposed to be on The Garden Conservancy Tour again this year, but it was postponed due to COIVD. We will look better by next year.

Page from the Garden Conservancy Tour Book, 2018

I hope everything, particularly our country, is in better shape by next year.

Flower box in late August



Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: new furniture, landscaper, fire pit
Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Just a beautiful garden this is, Betsy! And a literally bright spot in this pandemic. Even though things will be in even better shape in the garden next year — and hopefully in the world and especially this country — it all looks pretty gorgeous now. And, as always, you have photos that perfectly illustrate your story — even if you didn’t have to dig into old family archives for these.

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    I certainly hope our country will start to bloom again next year and, like your garden, it may look different but also beautiful.

  3. Marian says:

    I felt as if I’d taken your garden tour, Betsy, thank you for posting the lovely photos. Despite all the COVID limitations, it must be nice to have friends enjoy your outdoor space in a socially distant way. Congrats on the landscaper. Good ones are hard to find.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, Marian. Yes, it has been nice to be able to spend time with friends safely. Because of COVID, the furniture took longer than normal to get here, but we’ve still been able to enjoy it quite a bit!

      We had a lot of hardscape work to do this summer as well (for one thing, we ran a new gas line to hook up the propane under the new table, so tore up the brick patio). The fellow who did that work also does landscaping, began commenting to my husband on all the things he noticed and we thought, “This is the guy for us…we want someone with initiative!” I think all will work out well.

  4. Suzy says:

    This is lovely, Betsy, a nice follow-up to your earlier story (when you and JZ were the only ones who wrote on the prompt). I love that you could step outside and click away to illustrate the story. And we can see the overgrown bush you mention, which is no longer there, in the page from the 2018 Tour Book, so that’s fun too.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, nice for a change not to have to dig through old albums, Suzy. I, too, noticed the page from the 2018 Tour Book, showing the overgrown bush (much worse by 2020, I assure you). I go home tomorrow for a few days, so will be able to grab some photos that I need for upcoming stories!

  5. Agreed! Hopefully next year we shall all be blooming differently. I like the idea of making the choices (coleus/yank out the shrubbery) that make way for new, while responding to what was best there before. I love hydrangeas!
    Looks like a sweet spot to summer!

  6. Your house and garden always look lovely out there in Paradise, Betsy!

    May all our gardens bloom again, metaphorically too!

  7. I love sitting by candlelight, and in front of an open fire, but I’ve never seen a table with a fire element. It must be mesmerizing, and cozy! And what a beautiful garden gate with the circular trellis design. Such a lovely garden, Betsy…thanks for sharing it with us again.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      We are really enjoying the fire element of the table, Barb. It keeps us and our guests warm and entranced through the increasingly dark, cool evenings. We watch the moths fly in and keep up lively conversation much longer than we normally could. We ran a propane line under our patio, so don’t have to switch out the tank either (that was the photo of our patio being dug up in one of the pandemic updates earlier in the summer). Happy to share, even at a distance and just by word and photo.

  8. What a classic old Vineyard house. My gawd! Every detail so impeccably implemented. And the garden, pre-or post-changes, invites an escape with Alice to a wonderland. Do you have one of those pinafores, Betsy?

    I have a friend with a similar home in Duxbury, on the bay. It had originally been what was called a salt water farm. The family also ran a ship chandlery for the whaling trade. Over the 120 or so years that the family owned the house, the chandlery became a store room. They never removed the chandlery shelves, a scrivener’s desk, a wide-planked counter and many spears, arrows, shields, and other artifacts they had taken in trade for sailors’ on shore wants and needs. It was remarkable to sit alone in there at night with nothing but a candle, feeling the age of the place.
    But I digress ha ha. The place looks as fascinating as it does beautiful. Gorgeous!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Haven’t worn a pinafore since I went down the rabbit’s hole many years ago, Charles. But thank you; since we live in the historic district, we need approval for all changes that can be seen from the street and everything must be kept in accordance with the spirit of the time. As I said, the backyard is our little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the busy street (we are technically in the commercial district, where masks are mandated and have gotten into lots of quarrels this summer).

      I enjoyed your Duxbury digression. You paint a vivid image of days gone by. I have a friend who has a place right on the water here, a big spread in Duxbury and one in Camden. ME. I don’t think they ever come here anymore, so suspect they will sell it at some point, but she frequently posts photos from her garden in Duxbury. It is quite the spot.

    • Betsy’s Vineyard house and garden are lovely, I’ve been there!
      And always interesting when you digress Charles!

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