By: Kim Goggin, Manomet’s Master Gardener
April is National Gardening Month and also the month when Manomet’s Landbird Conservation Program gears up for spring migration. Daffodils and our seasonal banding staff are the harbingers of spring at Manomet and both are a welcome sight to all of us who are so fortunate to work here. School children will soon be arriving for their scheduled field trips, and it’s a pleasure to see them enjoying a picnic lunch in the garden.
There’s much to do to prepare the garden for her glorious display this season. Early spring tasks include: cleaning and sharpening tools, pruning of shrubs and trees, planting seed trays, preparing compost, setting out rain barrels, and the preparation of perennial beds including edging, cutting back, and cleaning out. It’s important to be mindful of any pollinators that may have wintered over in old stalks or leaf litter; we allow them ample time to emerge. It’s also a good time to patch up bare areas of lawn with fresh seed and a thin top layer of compost, or better yet, remove areas of lawn and plant with native groundcovers. Dandelions provide some of the earliest nectar for bees, so we welcome their appearance in our lawn. Most of all, it’s important to take time to just be in the garden, to take in the sights and sounds, breathe in the sweet spring air, feel the sunshine, and celebrate the joy of nature.
Manomet’s Garden for Wildlife was originally planted over 100 years ago by the Ernst family. Ellen Ernst and her gardener, Otto Andersen, planted and tended the garden for more than fifty years. Through those years the garden flourished, becoming a lush, colorful oasis at the seaside edge of windswept farmland on the Ernst family’s summer estate.
Photo of the Manomet Garden from our archives.
Sadly, after the passing of the Ernsts, the garden became overgrown with invasive vegetation—most notoriously, bittersweet and multi-flora rose. In 1984, Manomet launched an initiative to restore the garden’s original charm by selectively preserving some of the early plantings, while at the same time removing many of the non-native invasive plants that had encroached, replacing them with native plants that would best sustain the wildlife with which they had co-evolved.
The Ernst garden for wildlife is once again an oasis of beauty and delight for the many guests who visit Manomet each year. Hummingbirds and butterflies are seen hovering above a colorful palette of perennials throughout the garden season while songbirds serenade visitors, and chipmunks and rabbits are seen scampering about. Pebbled paths meander beneath shade trees leading to a sun-drenched grassy platform on the shoulders of the bluff overlooking the glittering blue waters of Cape Cod Bay. Native trees and shrubs such as Cedar, Winterberry, and Serviceberry provide fruit and shelter for wildlife. Drifts of native ferns dance in the breeze, and stone steps lead to the charming cedar Tea House with its eyebrow roof and double wide doors where one can enjoy cool respite on a hot summer day. A hand-carved sign above the entry reads, “Who Loves a Garden Still His Eden Keeps.” Manomet’s Garden for Wildlife—it is, indeed, a little slice of paradise.
Manomet Garden in summer bloom.