Round Robin: Notes from Denver, Colorado

A Denver gardener learns new things in North Carolina.

| February/March 1997

Notes from Lansing, New York
Notes from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Notes from Newberg, Oregon 

Denver, Colorado—When I get the chance, I hit the road, but because of the garden, it’s difficult to take off for more than a few days at a time. With almost an acre of garden to tend, not to mention 500 patio containers, it’s an intimidating job for a friend to handle.

My friend Robin took up the challenge when I went on vacation two summers ago, and since then, I often joke that I should just vacate for a week each month and let her take over. I worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with the mowing and watering, but after two weeks under her care, the garden looked fabulous and the house was spotless. In the kitchen, she actually removed canisters and crocks when she cleaned the counters—what a concept. I was both embarrassed and grateful.

For good reason, Robin is the most sought after house sitter in my circle of friends, and I haven’t been able to entice her to stay again. Autumn isn’t a bad time to travel, though, since not much can go wrong at the tail end of our growing season, and winter is ideal. For some of the gardeners I wanted to visit last fall, however, the timing wasn’t good.

“You know we’ve just been through a hurricane, don’t you?” asked Sylvia Tippett, owner of Rasland Farm when I called to ask if I might visit the mail-order herb nursery. Hurricane Fran had just blown through North Carolina a few weeks before, but southern hospitality is eternal, and Sylvia invited me to stop by anyway. A hurricane-spawned tornado had skipped through the family farm on a scary night, downing century-old trees as the creek rose in the blackness. The farm’s houses, vehicles, barn, and greenhouse were miraculously spared.

On the rainy day when I arrived at the farm near the small town of Godwin, the summer’s harvest (much of it frantically picked before the hurricane struck) was being fashioned into beautiful wreaths. The barn, refitted to house drying, storing, and work areas, smelled like herbal heaven, with ­bunches of herbs and everlastings hanging from all the rafters and finished wreaths stored on pegs beneath the stairs.

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