For the past week, I've dreamt of gardens.
Elaborate gardens, formal gardens, lush mountain paradises, quirky artists' gardens, community gardens. A few of those dreams left me in a cold sweat, panicked about our own gardens—and the impending Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's Upstate Farm Tour that will feature our edible gardens this weekend.
After spending four days touring magnificent gardens during the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Asheville, I'm feeling a bit anxious about our gardens. First of all—we're not a farm. We live in a subdivision with a Homeowners' Association, on less than an acre. One of the reasons, though, that we're included on the farm tour is to show how a typical family living in suburbia can grow healthy, organic food in the backyard—or front yard. Or balcony. Or in containers. My goal is that everyone who visits us during the farm tour will be inspired to grow something edible this summer. (Or, perhaps Chicken Mama will convince them to add pet chickens to their lives.)
Still, while I know that the farm tour doesn't focus on pristine flower beds (ignore the weeds, please) or perfectly mulched paths (they aren't), I can't help but judge our gardens based on the four days of gorgeous landscapes I experienced in Asheville.
We don't have the staff of Biltmore to tame unruly perennials or to design perfect kitchen gardens. But then again, neither does Sunny Point Café.
One of my favorite stops on our tour, Sunny Point Café is the epitome of the farm-to-table movement—or, in its case, back lot garden-to-table.
As our group traipsed across the street from our bus to the Café, I barely contained my excitement. I knew of Sunny Point Café from reading reviews of area local food establishments, and a restaurant that fed guests from its own kitchen garden was high on my list of places to visit. Kindred spirits awaited, and I readied my Nikon to capture the café's organic spirit.
What the--? Full. My DS card was full.
Panic! What could I delete? How long did we have at this garden? Would I miss the experience by spending valuable minutes sorting through hundreds of images, deciding what to save and what to trash?
Then, a miracle—Family Dollar beckoned across the street, a glimmering ray of hope.
I sprinted away from the Bloggers, dodged traffic, and burst into the store like the madwoman I am. The lovely cashier led me to the aisle, where ONE DS card hung, as if fate decided to kindly throw me a bone for my poor planning.
Eight dollars later—and swearing that I will always carry a backup card everywhere I go—I rejoined the group.
And found an edible paradise.
OK, so maybe I'm overly excited about peas and kale.
Honestly, though, I was as delighted to talk with Melissa Metz, the garden manager, about the varieties of potatoes and peas she grows as many gardeners are to discuss the latest introductions of hybrid roses. We spent time chatting about the irrigation system, the compost, and a variety of purple peas she grew.
(Purple peas? I've grown purple beans, but never purple peas. Must. Add.)
One of my challenges with our edible gardens is to make them not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing. Sunny Point Café's whimsical garden art added an attractive, warm, inviting atmosphere to the kitchen garden. Bright signage...
...cozy seating areas...
...and a friendly scarecrow-like mascot greeted garden guests.
Not only does Sunny Point Café provide homegrown produce for its guests, it also adopts environmentally friendly principles as part of its business model.
While we sampled biscotti and lemonade from the Café, I wished Sunny Point was our lunch destination. Although we didn't eat a meal at the Café, the snacks certainly enticed for a return visit. These are folks I'd love to break bread with while talking about heirloom tomatoes, fraise des bois, and crop rotation.
Still, Sunny Point Café served as an ideal, attainable garden.
It's large--but not unmanageable. It's attractive without excessive fluff. It's inviting, warm, and the kind of place you'd like to settle in for a bit with a glass of lemonade to talk with other geeky edible gardeners who understand why it's so important to grow 80 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.
After all, not all gardeners want to debate the merits of the Florida Weave versus tomato cages.
Thinking about Sunny Point Café's garden, I checked on our own larger veggie garden tonight.
I have two more days to prepare for the Farm Tour.
I think we'll be ready.
(Just please, ignore the weeds.)