Thursday, May 31, 2012

Edible Dreams.

 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. 

Sexy stuff.

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.)

XO ~



  1. I loved seeing all the edible gardens as well! Good luck on your farm tour - you'll do great. People get inspiration from all different gardens - big/small, weedy/pristine... it's good to have a diversity of options for people to view & emulate. It was great meeting you at the fling!

    1. Thanks, Delia. The farm tour was an amazing amount of fun--such nice people came to visit. And you're right--I always find inspiration in other people's gardens--I definitely have plenty of inspiration after Asheville! Pleasure meeting you at the Fling!

  2. We would love pics if you can arrange for someone else to do it. I know you will be busy chatting. Good luck and your garden looks gorgeous, I'm sure folks will be so enamored!


    1. Thanks, Cydney! The tour was so much fun--and I met really lovely people. I'm hoping to get some photos up soon--taken by my sister.I think I only had time to take two (not good) photos all weekend!

  3. Very nice! That biscotti and lemonade was so good!

  4. it was a beautiful garden and your tour has reminded me of that! Love your phrase "edible paradise'...gail

  5. Kudos to you. You'll be a hit. If I learned anything from the FLING, I learned not to worry about the weeds.

  6. I'm not surprised this was one of your favorite stops, Julie. Normally, I don't get too excited about seeing rows of vegetables, but this was such a neat place, and I found myself checking out all the different varieties planted as well as some of the whimsical touches--I liked the "tater" boxes. Judging by the number of patrons inside, Sunny Point is a big success, too.

    Your own veggie beds look so lush, no one could possibly notice a weed:) Nice to get a chance to visit with you at the Fling, Julie; good luck with your garden tour--I'm sure visitors will be delighted with it.

  7. Potato blooms are sexy--- I love it! You were so smart to get that SD card. Man! I will be thinking about you and the tour this weekend. Know it will be great!

  8. What a great post about Sunny Point! I'm looking forward to visiting again when the summer season is farther along. Your beds looked good -- I'm sure the CFSA tour went great!


  9. When people come into my gardens, I say, "If you see a weed and it bothers you, pull it" No one seems to see the weeds at that point or they will be put to work. All gardens have a weed or two even Biltmore with 60 care takers!