I’ve got several deadlines on tap, a chipped filling that has exposed something that should not be exposed, and a bad case of writer’s block, so today’s post will be nearly wordless. These photos were taken on a trip to Shelburne several weeks ago to visit Brian Bixley’s garden, Lilactree Farm.
Brian and his wife purchased the property, a former cattle farm I believe, in the late 1960′s. They’ve divided up the land nearest to the house into garden rooms that are surrounded by tall hedges and filled with trees. It was open and treeless originally. Many of the rooms radiate from this bird bath.
They’re waiting for me to stop taking pictures and catch up. We haven’t even entered the property by this point. I could have spent my life exploring the flora on that road!
Perennial sweet peas and geraniums have self-seeded alongside the road just off of the property.
Gorgeous and easy to maintain, but they don’t have that signature sweet pea scent.
When the country road was expanded, Brian tossed seeds of thyme and other drought tolerant plants into the ditch. That ditch is nicer than my street garden. If I had it to do all over again….
I’ve spent the last month steeped in lavender. I’ve photographed several different varieties, harvested and hung it to dry, and have experimented with ways to cook with it. I have spent hours carefully removing fresh and dried flowers from stalks.
My favourite variety is ‘Hidcote’, a hardy, blue, dwarf lavender with an intensely sweet, bright, and robust aroma and flavour. It smells and tastes so delicious — none of the varieties I have worked with can compare. So when I had a chance to go out to the country and visit a garden that includes a massive mounding bed of ‘Hidcote’ lavender I jumped at the chance.
About a month ago, I wrote a guest post for Apartment Therapy/Re-Nest on propagating herbs by cuttings. This is how I quickly double my basil harvest every summer at no extra cost. Basil grows easily from seed too, but stem cuttings are fast and easy — they’ll produce roots in water in about a week or two! By mid-summer my collection of scented geraniums (Pelargoniums) are huge! Why not take a few cuttings and share the wealth with friends?
On the Re-Nest site someone asked a question about taking cuttings from bolting plants. I have not been able to post a comment so I am adding a reply here.
SoRad: We grow basil like an annual in colder climates, but in tropical conditions the plant is a perennial. There are also varieties of basil that are reproduced by cuttings only… they don’t produce seed. Some basil varieties bolt quickly and constantly, while others only do-so when the weather gets really hot.
Bolting when it comes to basil is more about the conditions a particular variety prefers rather than “age.” It is better to take cuttings from plants that aren’t under heat-stress, but I have found that it can be done successfully — your best bet is to move the rooting cuttings to a cooler spot.
This is how we spent New Year’s Eve day last year: Some friends drove us to the east side of Dominica, to the village of Delices (how fitting) to meet an aunt and great aunt (who turned 100 this year!) and to see their amazing backyard food garden.
It was one of my most favourite days on the island. In Delices, the neighbouring backyards functioned like small farms, with fruit trees and spices and rabbits for manure. It felt just like a really large community garden, but everyone has their own yard and attached house rather than a small plot. There was a strong cooperative spirit, and everyone was very generous in sharing their gardens with us. Never mind that we were sent away with a big bag of fresh citrus, turmeric, cinnamon, and other produce.
I could have spent a week there and was sad to leave after only an hour or two. There was so much to see and discover. I was able to see several different types of tropical fruit growing on the tree for the first time ever, including this beautiful jackfruit. There was a mangosteen tree, too, but it was still very young. I hope to see a tree laden with that fruit one day!
I could have spent the rest of my life there: growing my own mangosteen tree, massive ginger plants, and chocolate, surrounded by tall mountains and lush forest until I grow tired of it all and begin to crave the smell of Autumn (as is inevitable because the grass is always greener). Perhaps I will one day.
Over the weekend my friend Barry opened his garden up to public viewing and for something special, brought most of his impressive agave collection down from a third floor balcony and into the yard for viewing. It’s not just that Barry has assembled this collection, but that he grew many of these large plants from seed! Perhaps not such a difficult feat in a southern climate, but here in the North that means years of shifting spiny plants indoors and out, and months of coddling under lights and in sunny windows through the winter.
I walked around the table with my cellphone and shot a little video of the plants. If I had to choose a favourite, I think it would be the one that has black leaf margins and spines. But only under duress since there are several others that are just unbearably pretty. The white one in the centre of the arrangement is pretty impressive too. And the little one with the very thin leaves….