The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 22, 2000


Perennial plant cart on Bedford Road put to rest

In August, the Mosquito received a letter to the editor from Norma Japp announcing her plans to retire the plant cart that she has tended so lovingly on Bedford Road for the past 32 years. As she expressed it, "we put the cart away, it needs a rest."

Anyone who has lived in Carlisle and traveled down Bedford Road knows that one of the first signs of spring was the sight of Japp's cart at the end of her driveway loaded with perennials. In the gardens behind and along side her house (one of the historic Blood houses, situated on a 10-acre plot of land) Japp has grown a wide variety of perennials which she divided and potted for sale. Customers who came to buy her plants in April through July were from Carlisle and surrounding towns. "I had a lot of people from out of town," said Japp. "Some of the people who moved out of state even came back."

What gardeners found on Japp's cart were columbine, delphinium, candytuft, daylillies, irises, veronica, lupines, astilbe -- all the perennials that grow in this area. "I couldn't keep up with it," admits Japp. "The business grew. The seedlings and the plants I divided were sold and sometimes notes were left asking for other things which I would leave out on my porch. People weren't demanding, but the plants had turned into a full-time job." Japp felt she wanted freedom to come and go, with time to visit her three children and seven grandchildren in Connecticut and New York."I'll miss the people....I received lots of notes from customers wishing me well," she added.

Long-time resident

Norma and her husband, Dr. John Japp, and their two children, Betsy and Rob, moved to Carlisle in the late nineteen-fifties, to a small Cape on Concord Street. Japp had finished his medical training in Albany, New York and was setting up a practice in Bedford. Norma had grown up in Bedford and her mother, the former Ethel Carr, was from Carlisle. Norma and John had met when they were students at Tufts. It was in 1961 that they moved to their circa 1776 house on Bedford Road.

From the beginning, Japp was interested in gardening. As a young girl growing up in Bedford, Japp had taken over her family's garden from her mother who was not a gardener. Once in Carlisle she joined the Carlisle Garden Club, which was founded in 1959. She was responsible for writing "Watch For Wild Flowers," a booklet listing over forty wildflowers growing in this area. For many years the spring garden club plant sale was held in Japp's spacious garden area bordering her house, alongside Bedford Road. As for the plant cart, Japp says, "It kind of evolved to fill time while John worked long hours."

Jo Warner, a former Carlisle Garden Club member and a friend of Japp's, voiced a common opinion among local gardeners"Norma has enhanced so many gardens in Carlisle. We have been very fortunate to have someone so knowledgeable and with such expertise with plants."

Member of ConsCom

In the early '70s as a member of the Carlisle Conservation Commission, Japp remembers the best land acquisition at the time was the purchase of the 240-acre Greenough property off of Maple Street. She especially enjoyed meeting Mr. Greenough's daughter-in-law, the famous opera singer Beverly Sills. Later, after the acquisition of FarnhamSmith's land on Lowell Street, Japp served on the Great Brook Farm State Park Advisory Board. Among the many other activities that she undertook for the benefit of the town was her membership on the Carlisle Solid Waste Disposal Committee, which ultimately led to the establishment of our present day transfer station. As Japp remembers it, "We walked a lot of land in those days."

Now that the perennial cart has been retired, Japp can enjoy her own retirement along with her husband John, who retired from his medical practice several years ago. She can visit her grandchildren whenever she wants and she won't have to miss a wedding, as she recently did, because of the plantcart.

When April comes around next year we will surely miss that familiar first sign of spring.

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito