All photos/art by Megan Haley
Okay, all you trivia enthusiasts: What’s Hadley, Massachusetts, known for throughout the United States and Europe and even by the queen of England? Yes—asparagus. For some 50 years (1930 through the 1970s), Hadley was called “the Asparagus Capital of the World,” shipping what locals referred to as “Hadley grass” to the British royal family every year, and to thousands of restaurants around the world. Then, about 30 years ago, a fungus killed off much of Hadley’s asparagus, and area farmers switched to potatoes, corn, onions, and the shade tobacco for which the Connecticut Valley is also known. But even today, the asparagus harvest is a special spring event in Hadley. (Our favorite asparagus dish: fresh Hadley asparagus, boiled, and soaked in a good dose of cream over toasted homemade bread … mmm …)
So why Hadley? Well, thousands of years ago, the Connecticut River covered all of what’s now the Connecticut River Valley, including Hadley (about 20 miles north of Springfield), eventually receding to leave what’s known today as alluvial soil, probably the very best soil for growing just about anything.
A couple of months ago, we visited with a Hadley lady whose ninth great-grandfather helped settle the town in 1659; she’s a professional gardener, or, to put it more specifically, a certified Master Horticulturist.
Her name: Debbie Windoloski. Her business for many years: Gardenscapes, which specializes in landscape design, garden design, and, with the help of a young local man, actual hands-in-the-dirt gardening, too—taking advantage of that fabulous Hadley soil. Debbie also lectures extensively on gardening and does lots of charity work, including helping inmates plan and maintain their gardens at the Hampshire County House of Corrections.
Debbie and her former husband, David, were just recently divorced but remain friends. In fact, David, who now works for a metal-processing firm in nearby Northampton and who was once a professional wrestler (no kidding), still maintains an office in their extensively modernized nine-room farmhouse, built in 1890 by none other than his great-great-grandfather. When David and Debbie took over this family homestead in 1991, they became the fifth generation of David’s family to own it.
Well, this summer, for various reasons, including Debbie’s wanting to run her business in a smaller place, the house is on the market (for $598,000), along with 1.29 acres, which, over the years, Debbie has developed into a lovely showcase for the sort of gardening work she does. And just about every square foot of the property is utilized.
For instance, there’s a butterfly and fragrance garden with a stone-wall border and sitting area under a custom-designed pergola; also a 2,000-gallon water garden with waterfall, stonework, water plants, and goldfish; a bird and wildlife sanctuary (we saw two bunnies in there during our visit); a large vegetable garden, which once supplied all the produce to the restaurant that David and Debbie used to run in town; a large variety of conifers, shrubs, and deciduous trees throughout; many delightful sitting areas; an in-ground sprinkler system; and huge compost bins.
And all that isn’t even including the beautifully landscaped 18-by-36-foot in-ground swimming pool, surrounded by a hedge of ‘Great American’ arborvitae, mature grasses, and hydrangea and butterfly bushes. Oh, yes, and the pool house features two changing rooms, a storage area for pool supplies, and water pumps.
Speaking of outbuildings, there’s a good-size potting shed out in the garden area, where Debbie keeps her vast variety of gardening equipment. And the two-bay garage/barn houses two workshops, lots of storage space, and a nifty three-season sunroom off the far end, next to the swimming pool.
As to the house itself, all nine rooms have been recently enhanced in one way or another, including a brand-new bedroom suite with an exceptionally large bathroom (one of two), a large country-style kitchen, new Andersen windows, and a variety of important amenities, such as air conditioning, up-to-date heating and sewage systems, and even a wine cellar. As we toured the house with Debbie, we wondered about the lack of curtains throughout. “I wanted every window to provide the best possible view of the gardens and wildlife,” she explained. And so, for sure, they do.
Before leaving, we asked Debbie whether she might jot down a few of her suggestions for fall gardening. She came up with dozens. For a few of her hints, see the accompanying sidebar, opposite.
Oh, how we wish Debbie Windoloski lived next door!
For details, contact Sawicki Real Estate, 35 University Drive, Amherst, MA 01002. 800-656-6773, 413-549-2600; firstname.lastname@example.org. Tour the house and gardens at: sawickirealestate.com