By Lynne Irons>

For years, I viewed alyssum as old lady plants. Now that I have become one, I know why. First of all, they are completely reliable. Mine are blooming happily along regardless of several freezing nights here in Vineyard Haven.

I generally start several flats of them and just lay the contents of the entire flat along borders and in problem areas under taller plants. I rip off sections and fill in all the empty spots in pots and window boxes.

It smells wonderful, hence the name sweet alyssum. It reseeds like crazy and you can pretty much count on it to come back in the same place every year. I love it as an underplanting for fairy roses.

I feel like the Garden Heloise but I must share a couple of hints. For years, I would grab a handful of dirt to scrub out the animal water dishes or the bird bath. There is always a build-up of algae. The sandy dirt works great. The other day I saw a torn screen and salvaged a piece for my toolbag. It works much better as a scrubby and is always handy.

My friend and garden mentor Phyllis McMorrow gave me a great tip the other day. When you need some stakes and don’t want them to show, paint them with the Benjamin Moore paint named Spanish Moss. It is a perfect camouflage for, say, a fence in front of the oil tank or trash bin.

My son Reuben has been busy putting up deer fencing. For years, we used tall bamboo stakes to hold the seven-foot netting that needs to be put in place every fall around the shrub beds. They need constant replacing as they split after a couple of years of being driven into the ground. We finally settled on 10-foot-tall rebar driven into the ground two feet. Yes, that’s right, a tall young man is a must. He discovered that using two stepladders with a four-foot plank in between them simplified the job. He drilled a hole in the plank which was the perfect fit for the rebar. It would hold the whole situation in place while he hammered away with two hands. The rebar lasts forever and will not give way to snow and deer leaning.

My other son, Jeremiah, is the tree warden in West Tisbury. I picked his brain last week on a couple of subjects. First of all the burning bush has now been placed on the invasive plant list because of its relentless ability to reseed. Who knew? Nevertheless, I love it at this time of year. At the bottom of the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road there are some impressive ones that set off the lovely white bark on the neighboring birches.

He also gave me the four basic rules of pruning. First, it is always time to cut out any dead wood. Secondly, any branches that cross should be removed as they will cause stress and eventually death to the other branch. Third, and importantly, trumps four, is knowing the basic structure of the shrub or tree on which you are working. Finally, it is always good to please your own eye. Now that the leaves are coming down in earnest, people are out with rake in hand. A word to the wise: try to switch back and forth every few strokes. It will be a bit awkward at first on your “bad” side, but trust me, it will save your lower back and a fortune on the chiropractor.

I would like to share the Peacemaker Pledge taken from the Appalachia 1986 Simple Lifestyle calender: “Because I desire peace; I desire being at peace with myself and my God; I want this inner journey of peace to shape my vision and values; to breathe peacemaking into my outward action and daily lifestyle; I desire peace in the world; I know my peaceful or non-peaceful presence profoundly affects the people and social structures I encounter; I wish to join, in solidarity and for survival, others whose lives embrace these longings for peace.

First, I pledge to be a peacemaker in my personal relationships and areas of influence.

Second, I pledge to bear witness in public discussions of national peace issues and the global arms race.

Finally, I dedicate myself to prayer, education and spiritual examination, firmly convinced that each is essential in the foundation and effectiveness of my peacemaking.”

Remarkable how timely this is 21 years later.