Espalier* & Fruit Fences for Your Back-Yard by Jim Fellows

*pronounced Es-SPAHL-Yay

I’ve often wondered about espaliered trees, and they even figured in a short piece of fiction I once wrote. Espalier is the art of training dwarf trees to grow in a flat plane along a wall, fence, or trellis.  They create an atmosphere of mystery, wonder, and an evocation of some kind of Garden of Eden. I’ve stopped to admire them at botanical gardens and occasionally at Ballek’s nursery in East Haddam. Because we see them in famous gardens, we tend to think of them as expensive or unattainable, as something no longer possible.  As you will learn, you can easily grow an espaliered fruit tree for under $20 (under $30 if you choose a tree with four different types of apple or pear bearing branches) but you’ll need some simple hardware that might cost another $15. Or, you could just use bamboo, the way growers do. You will likely have fruit much sooner. I never bought an espaliered fruit tree from a nursery, but I did buy a very tiny birch that Nancy Ballek had pruned on dwarf rootstock that was highly contorted. Sixteen years later it is still 30” tall and about 40” wide. That demonstrates the power of dwarf rootstock. And that is the secret of espalier. Continue reading

Air Line Trail Update

Portland’s Air Line Trail Steering Committee has worked with private property owners to define a route that would extend the trail going west from YMCA Camp Ingersoll to Route 17. The committee is in the process of requesting formal easements from these property owners.  This phase 2 segment will then require state or federal funding for final design work and construction. The proposed route (shown here) makes various turns that deviate from the original Air Line Trail right-of-way, due to sand and gravel excavations underway by Butler Construction. Completion of this segment will greatly advance the ultimate goal of connecting the Air Line Trail with Portland’s town center and the Arrigoni Bridge.

The Jonah Center will help inform the public if and when emails or other expressions of support will be helpful.

In the meantime, the Air Line Trail Committee in East Hampton is attempting to bring the State of Connecticut and Eversource to an agreement regarding the 1200 foot gap that currently prevents riders from using the trail continuously from Portland to East Hampton and beyond. Utility poles need to be relocated in this section so that a boardwalk can be constructed over running water.

Middletown Budget Adds $50,000 For Trees

The Jonah Center’s campaign to add at least $50,000 to the City of Middletown’s tree planting budget has been successful.  The new budget amount for tree planting is $58,500.

We wish to thank Mayor Ben Florsheim, Majority Leader Gene Nocera, Minority Leader Phil Pessina, and all members of the Common Council who supported this increase. We are delighted that Middletown’s elected leaders recognize the importance of reversing the loss of approximately 100 trees each year.

This successful campaign is proof that citizens can make a difference if we are organized and act in unison. Many thanks and congratulations to all who wrote letters to the Mayor and Common Council.  “Replace Our Trees” was a joint effort by the Jonah Center and the Urban Forestry Commission of Middletown.



New Trees Coming To Portland

The Jonah Center wishes to thank the 97 individuals and organizations who contributed to our successful Replace Our Trees Campaign in Middletown and Portland. Click on the following link to view the Tree Fund Donors. Including the original financial commitment of the Jonah Center itself, individual donations, and matching funds from Sustainable CT, the Jonah Center’s Tree Fund now has $20,000 available for planting — $8,000 for Portland and $12,000 for Middletown, based on the residence of the donor. Both municipalities have lost hundreds of trees recently due to drought, pests, and disease — sources of tree stress related to climate change. Tree planting and maintenance are important ways to mitigate the effects of climate change because large, older trees absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere. Continue reading

Home Insulation Incentives Raised Dramatically

Due to the pandemic and related economic distress, the State of Connecticut’s Energy Efficiency Board has dramatically increased the financial incentives for home insulation projects when completed by Home Energy Solutions contractors. Even without any incentives, insulation offers the greatest return on investment of any energy conservation measure a homeowner can make.

The new insulation rebate of $2.20 per sq. ft. means that many insulation projects are now virtually free. This is an increase from the $1.00 per sq. ft. for attics and walls and $.50 per sq. ft. for basement ceilings. This incentive rate applies for an attic that has less than R19, as well as walls and basement ceilings with no insulation when those are considered part of the building envelope. Continue reading

Raising A Roof Crop

Submitted by Jane Harris

The Middletown Garden Club has begun its eighth season of gardening on the rooftop of the Community Health Center. For the past seven years, our partner has been MARC, but Covid-19 has put that relationship on hold indefinitely. With approximately 500 square feet of irrigated raised beds, the rooftop garden has been highly productive.  The carefully engineered soil and water-recapture system work to make the beds ideal for vegetable and root crops.  Each year, we “open up” the gardens by removing any weeds that may have germinated over the winter, and begin to plan a new lay-out for the crops.  We rotate plant locations to avoid any possibility of disease build-up in beds, especially where tomatoes are grown. Continue reading

Jonah Center Raises $20,000 to Plant Trees

After a $9,253 match from the Sustainable CT Community Match Fund, the Jonah Center Tree Fund now has $20,000 available for planting along streets and sidewalks in Middletown and Portland. The project was initiated and received strong community support in recognition of the large number of trees that have died in recent years due to old age, drought, pests such as gypsy moths and emerald ash borers, and the replacement of sidewalks. Climate change has had a significant impact on the specific tree species that are suitable to our new southern New England environment. Continue reading

Local Food News

Support your local farms!

This message is from Jane Brawerman, posted on the CT River Coastal Conservation District’s Facebook page. Food security is on many people’s minds right now. There are many ways we can promote self-sufficiency in our town, region and state when it comes to our food. Farmers are working hard now growing fruits and veggies, and raising animals so we can enjoy healthy local foods. It’s a great time to connect with your local farmers and find out how you can buy from them to support their farms. Whether it’s signing up for a CSA, going to a farmers market, stopping by a farm store, or ordering online for pick up, you can eat really well, reduce your carbon footprint, and support local businesses! For more information about farms in your local area, go to the Connecticut NOFA Local Farm and Food Guide,

Healthy PlanEat will soon launch a new website that will enable farmers to manage inventory, distribution, and incoming orders from local customers. For updates on the launch (aiming for mid-June), please follow the Healthy PlanEat Facebook page or Instagram.

The Bridge, located in Middletown, makes tofu, seitan, amasake, and tofu salad, using non-GMO soybeans. Its products can be found locally at ION, Whole Foods, and the Willimantic Coop. The website is

Located in Haddam, Auntie Arwen’s Spices offers about 500 different spice and herb blends, as well as teas. The products are sold online and at farmer’s markets. The website is

Owned by Nancy DuBrule of Middletown, Natureworks in Northford is a small garden center that focuses on organic gardening and native plants. Due to the pandemic, the retail shop is closed, but orders are taken on line at and can be picked up at the curb.

Heirloom Market at Comstock Ferre in Old Wethersfield offers delicious organic food in its café, as well as groceries, bedding plants, and a wide variety of Baker Creek heirloom seeds. The Facebook page is, and the Web site is

The Rockfall Foundation’s newest video in the Nature’s Supermarket series highlights two types of nettles. Wood Nettle is a native species found in our woodlands. Stinging Nettle is an introduced species that may seem like a nuisance plant in your yard, but has culinary value and many other uses.  Click here for the video on identifying both types of nettle. We’ve included a recipe that we enjoy for Stinging Nettles Indian Style.