Garden Diary -November 2013

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Monday, 18 November 2013
A Visit to Well Sweep Herb Farm

It's like this. I am especially fond of winter flowering plants that will enjoy conditions in my greenhouse. That means cool, as it is only heated to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Bonus points if they are fragrant. Hyacinths, potted up as dormant bulbs and coaxed into early bloom. Freesias. And, while I've had her before but not at the moment, Viola odorata 'Queen Charlotte', with deliciously scented deep purple flowers. So when a quick search on the Internet turned up the possibility of plants at Well Sweep Herb Farm in Port Murry, New Jersey, I decided on a visit. But first, a telephone call. Always a delightful place to visit, it is late in the year and the herb farm is 25 miles from BelleWood Gardens. A brief chat, and I was asked to call back in 10 minutes after someone could check availability in the beds. And when I did so the answer I got was yes, she was available but needed to be potted on. Could I come next week?

No. We're enjoying exceptionally mild temperatures for mid-November, not a cloud in the sky. Today happens to be a perfect day for a garden visit, even though I knew that it would be different from a summer visit. A brief discussion, and it was agreed that I'd arrive early afternoon.

One thing with which the herb farm is well supplied is stone. There are beautiful dry laid stone walls, stone paths, and stone blocks of sufficient size that you wonder how they were ever moved into place. Like this one, with a display of ornamental gourds and mini-pumpkins.

There are many, many cold frames that will protect a range of potted plants through the winter. It's too soon to cover them with sash. But they're stacked close by, ready for use when the night temperatures dip to a harmful lows in winter. Just look at the tight array of lavender below.


There's a root cellar, but that's not for storing plants. Too dark. I don't know what the Hydes use it for now, but traditionally a root cellar was utilized as an excellent place for winter storage, a place to keep apples, potatoes, cabbages, pickles and preserves.

Trees are bare, even the oaks have mostly dropped their leaves. Wind blown windrows of leaves pile up nxt to a fence where bird baths and watering cans are waiting to move to their winter storage.

There is one bird bath in the display garden that I think stays there year-round.

Sedum spectabile in its brown and russet autumn colors, and the silver leaves of lambs ears.

More lambs ears create a soft edging to the brick path that divides the display garden.

The armillary sphere casts a sharp, and lengthening shadow.

The knot garden undulates, its green, gray, burgundy hedges intertwined with shadows. Imagine it dusted with snow . . . .

There's a little statue of a kneeling angel, sheltered in a small, lichen-crusted wooden house. It's near the parking area from which you would enter the garden.

Near the barn and shop there's a fairy garden, complete with a herb bed. Bed of herbs. Whatever.

About the only kind of rabbit that would be welcomed in the garden. Though I must say that most strongly fragrant plants - such as herbs - are rarely bothered by rabbits, or even deer.

That may be why there's a statue of St. Francis in the garden. You can tell it is he, by the birds on his shoulder and nestled in his arms. he is the patron saint of animals.

Located just outside the stone wall between the parking area and the garden, here is St. Fiacre, the patron saint of gardens. He is always depicted with a shovel, one with a triangular blade, and holds a sunflower. I bid him adieu as I head back to my car, three pots of Viola odorata 'Queen Charlotte' in a box. Louise repotted them for me, graciously taking time from her creation of dried flower arrangements and flower baskets, just some of the preparations for their Christmas Open House events that begin on November 29th. I'll think of her this winter, when the fragrant violets are in bloom.

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