By Henry Lane Hull
Two weeks ago I traveled to Charlottesville to see the B.E.s, after which I moved on to Afton to visit, not to eat, Edible Landscaping. The ride to the establishment from the interstate is spectacular, especially at this time of year with Botticelli’s “Prima Vera” blossoming of nature getting under way.
Edible Landscaping is what its name proclaims, a vast plant operation with acres of greenhouses and nursery beds filled with young plants and seedlings ready for the market, every one of which produces a fruit, a leaf, a berry or a root that is edible. In addition, every plant is in a pot with soil. I had been perusing the company’s catalog for weeks, and had decided on what I wanted for our garden. Prior to leaving, my Good Wife gave me a budget of $250.
Upon arrival I became the proverbial child in a candy store. I wanted one, or two, or more, of every species they offered. Fortunately, the aforementioned prescribed budget and the realization of space at home held me in check. The company was founded in 1979, and the operation is both personal and hands-on.
I was helped by George, who has been employed there for many years. Formerly, he served as the director of the White House greenhouse during the Reagan Administration. The plants in the background pictures of treaty signings and state banquets during that period were his charges.
George’s knowledge was encyclopedic. He guided me from a horticultural as well as a culinary perspective, telling me how the plants would grow, what their space, sun, water, and most importantly, pollinating requirements were, and lastly how their produce tasted. He was with me for well over an hour, and by the time we said goodbye, I was quite hungry from having listened to his descriptions. He cares for the future of his plants, and does not want to sell one that will not be going to a “good home.”
With his guidance working off of my list developed from the catalog, I acquired two different Japanese persimmons, to augment my 30-year-old one, which has been ailing the last several years. Formerly, it produced large harvests, some of which we would take to my sister-in-law, who shared them with Nobe, a Japanese lady, who had been her children’s babysitter. Thereafter Nobe identified my Good Wife as “the persimmon sister.”
About 30 years ago my neighbor, the late Dick Hillier, planted two paw paw trees, triggering in me the desire to follow suit. George suggested two varieties that do well in our region, and picked out the best examples of each. When we got to the raspberries, I told him that I wanted a yellow variety, and after listening to him speaking of the differing tastes of their offerings, we settled on one that sounds particularly appetizing.
George cautioned me against getting kiwi vines unless I was willing to build a strong pergola on which they could be trained. He showed me their specimens, which were magnificent, but so too were the structures that upheld them. We agreed that I should build the frame first, then come to buy the vines.
Among my Good Wife’s myriad of talents is producing Thai cuisine. I asked George for lemongrass, and he took me to pots teeming with beautiful examples, and explained how to care for them, and when to bring them inside for overwintering, as well as how to break them up into smaller plants. Being a great devotee of lemongrass soup, he needed to tell me no more.
By the time we finished I was becoming concerned if everything would fit in the cap of my pickup, but with his careful packing it did, and after settling the bill, I was ready to leave, anxious to get home and start digging. I had not been as careful as I had intended about the aforementioned budgetary limit, but when George tallied the items, the bill came to $244, and with tax, $256. My Good Wife was pleased.
The trip down the country roads to Edible Landscaping is idyllic, and upon arriving the customer soon forgets the interstate and the hustle of urban life, of course not that we have much urban life here at Remo. All of my plants are growing apace, enjoying their new home, and ready to receive more of their brothers and sisters, literally as many plants are male and female, all of which leads me eagerly to await the next budgetary declaration from my Good Wife.