Sunday, March 2, 2014

a talk of coming Life

So,a few weeks ago, after one of my longish days was winding down, I had the privilege to venture to our sister town of Dunbarton in order to meet with some incredibly special people.  It was dark by the time I left the shop and mid-winter flakes had started to dance down Route 13--flirting first with the trees and then with the disappearing pavement.  It was quiet--not a lot of traffic, and I had Totem--my youngest--keeping me company in the backseat.  I must say I love how snowfall tickles the spirit of my inner adventurer :)  

Totem and I approached the 1790's sprawling farm house.  Their home sits close to the road and acts as a friendly doorway to something special.  The snow was getting heavier, and in the dark I couldn't see the fields behind, but I knew they were there!  For years now I have craned my neck with a cheerful toot of the horn--smiling at the sweet glow of goodness coming from their farm.  Ken and Susan moved into the homestead the summer of '69 and began pouring their love into the land.  Here's a picture of their home in the spring, during the day :)

I call my friends, "the original hippies"--they did it first and they do it right.  The respect, the repurposing, the ingenuity, the organic, the wholesome, the pure.  That has been their story at Chanticleer Garden for over 40 years.  They raised a family on those principals and they live them every day.

Ken reminds me a bit of a cheerful, mad-scientists--tall and thin, wire frame glasses and white hair that manages to rebel ever so slightly against the ponytail.  It seems his eyes always hold a twinkle from a gem of an idea you wish he'd share--and more than likely he will.  He told me his love of gardening started as a boy living on a city lot in the Midwest.  His mother loved the idea of a garden, but young Ken found himself continuously trying to fix his mother's bad gardening habits--he was good at it!  In fact, he really came to love it.

Susan is the Woman, the Wife, the Mother, the Grandmother, the Teacher, the Friend that every woman admires!  She has incredible beauty & strength, as well as an inspiring love for the earth that causes her to pine terribly for the sun and the soil in the dead of winter.  Her inner clock counts quietly and waits for the days to lengthen so she can once again get dirty!  

Upon arrival, I paused at the door just for a moment--we had caught them at a late supper.  After a quick knock, I was soon sitting in their toasty space with a plateful of homemade food--some of it from their garden.  Ken and Susan's home--as well as their garden-- makes you feel all safe and cozy.  Susan had Totem giggling on the floor of their living room while Ken and I sat at the table.  They had invited me to come and talk about New Life… was time to buy seeds!  

Now, to back up a bit….I had stumbled upon Ken and Susan the summer after I opened Apotheca.  I was making a flower delivery and spied their land--that glow of goodness I had mentioned is palpable.  

the back fields

Every summer they put their labors of love in a lovely nutshell by offering the edible, the beautiful, and the beautifully edible on a flower cart just outside their front door.  

The Flower Cart

I was hooked.  Soon Ken was bringing blooms to the shop for us to buy, and before long Susan was making frequent deliveries during the summer, fall, and even winter months; and has become a dear friend.  Anytime she finds something odd or peculiar she knows I will love it!  Some of my absolute favorite blooms from their gardens are the Tree Peonies…they are absolute magic!  (See below along with other Chanticleer Blooms in a Bedford Village Inn wedding centerpiece).

Now, back to the Koerber's Kitchen Table… this particular evening, mixed in with the warmth of their home and their familiar hospitality, there was an air of serious business.  Ken wanted me to become more proactive about buying flowers locally--and he was right, I needed to.  So while we chit-chatted and laughed for a bit, I was keenly aware of the Seed Catalog heavily placed at the corner of the table.  

After a few more friendly thoughts shared and warm bites of goodness, Ken finally reached for it.  I felt a little butterfly of gratitude as well as frustration with myself for not having done this sooner!  What a gift of an opportunity to have them willing to plant specific items for Apotheca and for our brides!  The first order of business was Dahlias…Ken and Susan have become a tad famous in these here parts for their delectable dinner plate dahlias.  They are incredibly gorgeous and truly the size of a plate!  Susan graced our cooler with them several times last season, and we were able to use the blooms in a few weddings as well as a New Hampshire Magazine event.  Currently in their basement they have the Dahlia Waiting Grounds….to the untrained eye it may seem like a graveyard, but in fact these rows of contorted and disfigured bulbs hold the promise of spring and ultimately late summer where they will once again laugh in the face of anyone who doubted that something so ugly could become so beautiful!  (see below to follow their grotesque potential to fruition!)

the valley of basement bulbs hiding out, waiting for spring!

dinner plate dahlias!

I told Ken about color palette requests from our summer brides, and we took that conversation into the snap dragons and the zinnias.  From there we talked about staples: vibernum, hydrangea, herbs, buplerum, and then some new and some riskier items that we will leave for later exploration!  Ken was up for the challenge of it all.  I could see the gears turning and then I could feel the connections being made.  So simple!  Request and supply!  What a beautiful thing.  Of course part of the fun is seeing what happens when nature and expertise collide.  I could feel the commitment being made on both our parts.  His to work on growing them, mine to more purposefully incorporate their seasonal beauties into our summer palettes.  Communication is the key!  Funny how that seems true with nearly everything.  SO.  Not to be all long winded--but I am SUPER excited to be featuring the blooms of Chanticleer Gardens even more vigorously this summer season.  I realize it is a ways off as of yet, but longer days and bluer skies will be here before we know it!

Ken on his tractor!

Susan in the Garden

 (Dear Spring…we're waiting!)

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