Friends, Food, Flowers, and Fun

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

‘Heavenly Blue’ morning glory (in the garden at Pineland Farms), a plant Jean has often featured on her blog.

In considering several subjects for a holiday week post, I decided that there couldn’t be anything more appropriate than describing a summer day spent with a new friend visiting gardens, eating, and shopping for plants—sounds like heaven, doesn’t it?  You may recall that in April, Jean Potuchek from the blog Jean’s Garden (and Jan from Thanks for Today) visited my nursery and gardens and toured Chanticleer with me.  When I was in Maine in early July, Jean invited me to visit her, and this post describes our day.

Jean standing in the future site of her Serenity Garden, often discussed on her blog and now a reality.

Before I get to photos of our day, I want to recount a little side story that illustrates how our minds can go down weird paths (at least mine can).  In a total role reversal, my children always give me  a concerned look when I refer to any garden blogger as a friend, saying: “You can’t be friends with someone you haven’t met in person.”  And I ask you, what would you say to your driving age daughter if she said to you: “Mom, I’ve met this really nice person on the internet,  and she has invited me to visit her at her home in remote rural Maine.” 

As I was driving to Jean’s house, I thought of this as the road twisted and turned deeper and deeper into the countryside, went from asphalt to gravel to dirt, and finally ended in about the most remote dead end I could think of with no neighbors in sight.  No one knew I had gone there, and no one would know whether I returned home because all my family had left Maine for Pennsylvania that week.

Jean in her beautiful and remote garden in East Poland, Maine.

Of course, I had met Jean before, but that was in a public place, and she could have been softening me up, right?  My worst fears were confirmed when, shortly after I arrived, she offered me poisoned strawberries from her lawn (well, they could have been) and invited me inside her home.  You will be relieved to know that all my fears proved groundless.  The garden blogging world is such a unique community, and I consider many garden bloggers friends, I just don’t say it aloud in front of my children.

The Pineland Farms business campus, which includes the market and cafe, is well designed and maintained.  I wish I had been able to get better photos, but the day was very bright and sunny.

The only good shot I got of Jean’s lovely garden appears above, but it was so fun to see all the plants I had been reading about on her blog.  After the tour, we drove to Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine.  The 5,000 acre Pineland Farms property encompasses a working farm, artisan dairy, hydroponic greenhouses, business campus, equestrian facility, farm market, cafe, recreational facilities, including hiking, biking, and skiing, and even guest houses.  For more on Pineland Farms, read Jean’s post.  After eating a delicious lunch made from the farm’s own products at the cafe and purchasing vegetables and farm made cheese at the market, we headed to the ornamental garden for a look around.

Views of the exterior enclosure of the Garden at Pineland Farms.  It feels like you are walking into a secret garden.

I was very charmed by what we found.  The garden encompasses one acre with 1/4 mile of paved paths.  It is mostly filled with perennials interspersed with trees and shrubs, but there is also an extensive vegetable garden.  Although the layout is formal and the maintenance is meticulous, it has a very accessible feel—like anything you saw there could be attempted successfully at home.  And I saw many plant combinations and design ideas there that I would love to try in my own gardens.

The formal brick paths, which are very easy to navigate, wind themselves around the exterior of the garden (top two photos) and across the center (bottom photo).  Although the site is flat, the curved paths and carefully places trees and shrubs create garden rooms and a sense of discovery.

The side paths are gravel and include some shade gardens.

A key element that holds this garden together is the repetition of large groupings of a limited palette of perennials appropriate to the season.  In early July, it was meadowsweet, Japanese iris, astilbe, and daylilies, among others.  These groupings unite all the small gardens and the large selection of perennials displayed.  If you scroll back through the photos above, I hope you can see what I mean.  Here are photos of some of these key plants:

Double meadowsweet, Filipendula ulmaria ‘Flore Pleno’

Japanese iris, Iris ensata ‘Shakkyo’

Japanese iris and ferns

The large plantings of dwarf Chinese astilbe, Astilbe chinensis ‘Pumila’, looked gorgeous with the brick paths.

Daylilies, I think Hemerocallis ‘Stella de Oro’.

In addition to the ornamental gardens, there is a very pretty herb garden and an extensive vegetable garden:

Various lavenders in the herb garden.

Produce from the vegetable garden is sold in the market.

As we left the formal garden, we had a panoramic view of the Pineland Farms dairy operation.  The bucolic beauty is typical of this part of rural Maine.

Plainview Farm plant nursery in North Yarmouth, Maine

After looking at all those gorgeous plants, it was time to buy some.  Jean took me to one of her favorite nurseries, Plainview Farm in North Yarmouth, Maine.  Not only do they have a great selection of enticing perennials, but they also have extensive display gardens.  Well worth the visit if you are in the area.  I’ll end the post with photos of two plants that intrigued me:

Yes, I am a sucker for Japanese iris: Iris ensata ‘Temple Bells’

I have never seen a sea holly this blue: Eryngium ‘Big Blue’.

If you would like to look at my photos all year round, please consider buying my 2012 calendar, available worldwide.  For details, click here.  It is 25% off through January 6, 2012, with the code ONEMORETHING at checkout.

Happy New Year to my nursery customers, my blog readers,  Jean, and garden bloggers everywhere,  Carolyn

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

Nursery Happenings: To view the 2012 Snowdrop Catalogue, click here. I am currently accepting orders—snowdrops are available mail order. 

Look for an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

53 Responses to “Friends, Food, Flowers, and Fun”

  1. Carolyn what a wonderful visit with Jean….and the Farm…I love the plantings…I too love Japanese iris, astilbe and the herb garden, brick paths…well it was all gorgeous…so wonderful to meet our blogging friends…I do consider them/you friends…some people do not understand how this is possible, but we know…just like pen pals of yore we now are pen pals through our blogs…hoping to see you in 2012…oh and I love the calendar!!

    • Donna, That’s it, just like “pen pals of yore”. Can’t wait until we meet and can call each other friends in front of my children. I am so glad you like the calendar, thinking of you seeing it each day makes me happy. If you are in Maine, the Pineland Farms garden is well worth a visit. It would also be fun to go there in the winter, stay in a guest house, and cross country ski. It is actually quite near Portland. Carolyn

  2. Hi Carolyn, This was a fun day! It did occur to me as I was plucking wild strawberries out of what you so kindly call my “lawn” and saying, “Here, try this!” that not everyone is sanguine about just picking stuff and eating it without at least washing it first. But one of my favorite parts of life in “remote, rural Maine” is wandering around picking and eating wild berries. I love the way you captured that cloud of goatsbeard floating over the back garden (one of my favorite things in late June and early July).

    Some of my friends also look askance at the idea of virtual friends, so I’ve learned to censor the word “friend” and substitute “blogging buddy.” Of course, since you and I have met twice now and have seen one another’s homes and gardens, we can use the word “friend” with impunity!

    • Jean, I can’t believe you remember offering me the strawberry. Don’t worry, the mention in the story was just for dramatic effect (I recently ate a mushy persimmon off someone’s drive) as was the remote rural Maine description. Although where you live is rural and remote in some senses, it is also 15 minutes from Lewiston and 50 minutes from Portland, two of Maine’s biggest cities. I hope you will forgive my taking literary license for the sake of the story. I will send you the photo in a better format. Yes, we can call ourselves friends now–even my sons would approve. We need to plan our next garden visit. Thanks again for a great day. Carolyn

  3. Wow Carolyn, I really enjoyed this tour and wish I could visit here one day. It looks wonderful, the plant displays are inspiring (gotta love the Daylilies and those Japanes Irises are out of this world!). Everything looks beautifully cared for. Love the look of the herb garden. Really all very inspiring to me!!

    PS: I totally get you about referring to our garden blogging friends as friends. My daughter gave me a few sideways glances in the beginning but now she even refers to you all as “your gardening friends” :). Barbie and I have plans to visit the USA in the future to meet up with some of you. We are just not 100% sure yet when and where in the USA.

    • Christine, I am glad you found the Pineland Farms garden inspiring. I wish I could have photographed everything that intrigued me but the sun just wasn’t cooperating that day.

      Maybe you should come in May to the Garden Blogger’s Fling 2012 in Asheville, NC, May 18 to 20. Here is a link. You would meet lots of garden bloggers there. I know Donna from GEV and Donna from GWGT are planning on going. I will join them if the economic gods cooperate. Carolyn

  4. Carolyn, I did the same thing only went accross the Pond to the UK and stayed for a week with gardenbuddies that I had met through a hellebore forum. It helped my family calm their fears because before I booked the flight the couple that I stayed with came to NY City for a visit and we met them. I had the time of my life, hellebores, cyclamen society show, Ashwood Gardens, Tile Barn Nursery, lots of friends that I only new from a website.

    The gardens are beautiful, what a great visit it must have been. I love th blue morning glory too.

    • Terryk, I hope all my UK garden blogging friends are reading this because I expect the invitations to start flowing :-). Seriously, that sounds like the trip of a lifetime and something I may be able to afford some day. Isn’t the internet a wonderful place? We just have to have a double standard for our children and ourselves. I would be interested in knowing more about the hellebore forum. Carolyn

      • Hi Carolyn,

        Oh, you have to go!!! Hellebore time is around the corner in England and it is such a treat. The garden centers are to die for, with tea rooms in just about everyone of them. I actually had been corresponding with my friend privately also via email and got up the nerve to ask (he had hosted other gardeners before me too). Everyone was so nice. My hosts took the week off and we went all over England.

        The hellebore forum that I mention is It is pretty active, and will be getting more active in the next month or two. If you visit, register, as I think you get to post (if you would like) and might get to see more of the site. Check out the Archives on hellebores (Archives is towards the top of the page). Have fun browsing. People are very friendly and helpful. I just received species seed from someone from Australia.

        Happy New Year!

      • Terryk, I trip to England isn’t in the budget, but a trip to the hellebore forum is. Can’t wait to check it out. Thanks, Carolyn

  5. Meeting fellow bloggers is great fun and being able to visit them is even better. What a stunning garden with lots of inspiration and ideas. I kept thinking of “Follow the (Yellow) Brick Road” as I scrolled down the photographs…

    • Janet, The brick paths did make visiting the garden feel more adventurous than it would have felt if everything was open and straight. It was a very clever use of a flat site without even a building to create interest. There were a lot of great ideas for gardeners who are working to carve up a similar terrain into garden rooms. Carolyn

  6. Laugh out loud, Jean as murderer… heh heh. Though if she murdered you it would make for a really exciting blog post for the rest of us. :). But never fear, I am a rule follower and if I discovered Jean had done you in (i.e. you had suddenly stopped blogging, and Jean had suddenly planted a new coffin shaped garden, I’d have totally notified the proper authorities).

    I had another life as a travel blogger back in the ‘old days’ of 2003-2006, and while I had 10x the hits, I have 10x the friends having a garden blog. I totally get it, what you are saying, and I too feel like I know all of you, and indeed I suspect I really do… who cares if we haven’t actually met???

    • Jess, I should have known that you of rose kleptomania fame would appreciate the opening paragraphs of the post—a coffin-shaped garden would have been a dead giveaway!!! Actually, I toned the beginning down a bit. The caption to the photo of Jean looking innocent in her Serenity Garden read: “Does this woman look like an axe murderer to you?” My husband thought it was a little weird but after all Lizzie Borden was from New England. I am pretty sure Jean has a good sense of humor, right Jean?!? Thanks for being one of my garden blogging friends and understanding all the weird thoughts that run through my head. Carolyn

  7. Eating, visiting gardens, and plant shopping – yes, it does sound like heaven! So glad Jean didn’t turn out to be an axe murder! (Or strawberry poisoner!) hahaha I’ve had those same thoughts, too, when going to someone’s house that I’ve never met before. And once I went to a woman’s house and she had a friend there just in case I turned out to be one! 🙂 Beautiful gardens.

    • Holley, In all honesty, I had met Jean before, but you know how you can’t control your thoughts. And although the drive to her house was gorgeous, I did feel like I was going over the river and through the woods and there could be a wolf at the end. It is so funny that the person told you they had a friend there just in case. I hope to meet many more garden bloggers in person. It’s really fun. Carolyn

  8. I laughed at your analogy of possibly hearing your daughter tell you she had met someone online and how you would react. It does sound a little funny but when you think of all you can learn about someone before actually meeting them (like their love of flowers) there’s actually a distinct advantage!

    • Marguerite, I don’t have a daughter, but I can tell you with complete certainty that I would not have let her go to meet Jean or anyone else at a private home in a semi-remote location even if she had met them once before in a public place. And I know my daughter would surely tell me she knew all about the person because they had spent so much time chatting on Facebook. Of course, I believe that garden blogging is different, but is it? Do psychopaths love flowers and blog? Food for thought (or a sociological study for Jean who is a sociologist and is studying blogging). Carolyn

      • it’s not a case of ‘psychopaths love flowers’ but is this person who they say they are online? you knew Jean was and most are but that odd few can spoil it for all, Frances

      • Frances, I try to make my posts multi-faceted and bring up interesting issues. The interactions of the garden blogging world fascinate me, and I thought this post about my visit to Jean would allow me to explore the issues a little—I hope not at Jean’s expense because I never really had any doubts about her having met her at my home. You have really picked up on one of the underlying themes—that we don’t really know each other in the old-fashioned sense and what does that mean. Thanks for taking the time to explore with me. Carolyn

  9. I also refer to other bloggers as my friends and would love to meet them in person. I am really hoping to come your way since you live close to my aunt. I’m relieved that Jean isn’t a psycho but if she had been, I hope you came armed with at least a sharp cultivator. 🙂

  10. It is so funny your post had this blogging friend element. I told my husband of meeting up with you and Donna for the Fling and he said exactly the same thing. It just did not cross my mind that people we write to on blogs could be anything but friends. He thought I was crazy. But, I am out going and he is not so his perspective would be different just by his nature alone. There is not one blogger I have virtually visited that I would not feel like I knew them almost forever. I really hope to meet them in person at the Fling this year. I am only sorry I could not get down when you met Jan and Jean.

    • Donna, A person could have a complete fake identity as a garden blogger just like he/she could on any other part of the internet. It seems so unlikely though, doesn’t it. There is something about plants and gardening that brings out the best in us. So funny about your husband. At least I have a legitimate business that can be verified in other ways, now Donna at GEV….there is cause for worry, her whole story could be a cover and you and she will be alone on the drive down here. If you don’t arrive, I’ll put Jess on it (see her comment). Carolyn

  11. Sounds like you had a wonderful day out and in a fantastic garden too, lovely way to look back over the summer during the cold grey of winter, so glad Jean has turned out to be a “real”friend!

    • Pauline, In southeastern PA, we haven’t had any cold and not much grey yet—in the 40s today and sunny. I am still feeling fallish but this week puts me in the holiday mode. Jean is a real (rather than virtual) friend now so we can safely plan our next excursion. Carolyn

  12. Real world and virtual friends. I would have predicted that like antimatter and matter, the two should never meet. but then I met up with Catharine Howard and neither of us exploded!
    And what a lot you and Jean must have had to talk about and share. Her pathways are enticing and her palettes are better for the chosen few. Great write-up too.
    You’ve been a good blogging friend to me Carolyn and I thank you for all your virtual visits. I wish you all the best for 2012 (when I can put your calendar on my wall!)

    • Laura, There are risks in meeting someone in reality whom you have only conversed with virtually. There could be disappointment; they could be nothing like you expected. However, I have now met three garden bloggers with whom I have a close “blogging” relationship, and they were all exactly as I expected, and it was so much fun. I am glad you had the same experience with Catherine. Maybe you should team up and come to the Asheville Bloggers Fling. I really enjoy your blog and your comments. I am still “tickled pink” (I have always wanted to say that) that you have my calendar. Happy 2012, Carolyn

  13. What a great day you and Jean had together! I have met several fellow gardeners through my blog, and I have not been disappointed. Gardeners tend to be nurturing, generous, creative people, and I felt that when I met my virtual friends in person. Plants and love of nature seemed to give us an instant bond. I would love to meet more of my fellow bloggers in the real world!

    Happy New Year, Carolyn – may it be prosperous and filled with all the things that bring joy to your life!

  14. What total fun meeting another blogger and touring her garden. Maine is such a beautiful state and a great place to see fabulous gardens in the summer. Have a great New Year!

  15. Very pretty, and it sounds like you had a wonderful time. What a perfect way to reminisce about the past year. All the best in 2012!

    • PP, It is so much fun to meet garden bloggers in person. In addition to Jean, I have met Jan from Thanks for Today, Jill from Landscape Lover’s Blog, and John from Mac Gardens. Anyone else who wants to stop by is always welcome. Happy New Year, Carolyn

  16. Dear Carolyn, “Friends, Food, Flowers and Fun” would be a good title too. Gardens are so much more enjoyable (my own included) when shared with a like-minded friend. I must be very naive because I never once considered anyone I met on Blotanical a threat. I’m considering going to N. Carolina if I thought you and some other of my ‘friends’ would be there. P. x
    PS Can’t wait for my calendar to arrive.

    • Pam, I am going to change the title as soon as I finish this reply. I really don’t consider anyone from Blotanical a threat, but don’t we tell our children they can’t meet people on the internet? The two Donnas are definitely going to NC, and I will go if I have the money. I am so thrilled you ordered the calendar—you re such a great supporter. There are no captions for aesthetic reasons. I have added them to the post I did on the calendar so people can access them there. Carolyn

  17. I really laughed at your comment about what our children would say if we told them we were off to meet complete strangers in their gardens!! There again perhaps if they know us well enough they wouldn’t be at all surprised.

    Personally I’d love to be able to jump on a plane to visit many of you!!

    • Karen, I am not really a big corespondent by computer: no Facebook (maybe for my business soon), Twitter, or heavy email traffic with friends. Commenting back and forth, messaging on Blotanical, and even emailing with some bloggers really makes me want to meet them. Some are so far away that a real meeting is unlikely others may come to the Asheville Fling. Carolyn

  18. Carolyn, I just had to scroll down and comment after reading the beginning of this post, I will go back and read it all but your little drama could so easily become a truth, most people we met via the net are good honest people and all but one of the people I have met are pretty much as they are online but there is one person who wasn’t/isn’t as she portrays herself online, nothing dramatic, no danger, just online she comes across as sweeter than sweet and oh so innocent, she lived in my village and I introduced her to the online textile world, in those first fews days of knowing her I was so pleased to find someone with similar interst living so close, I shared everything, I was foolish within a month I had started to realise she used people for what she could get then dumped them, she creeped, crawled and conived, thankfully about 15 months ago she moved off the island and out of our lives, so next time follow the code for hillwalking, tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return, take care, Frances
    now to finish the post a see a virtual picture of Jean’s garden,

  19. hello Carolyn, many thanks for your christmas wishes I hope you had a pleasant one,
    Jeans garden looks nice and cosy and a serenity garden sounds delightful,
    I always take note on acre gardens because that’s approximately what I have and they always look so nice, maybe one day I will get to grips with most of my acre, I was going to ask what the yellow flowers dotted around were but you answered in your post delightful dayilies, they look wonderful so sunny, I love the iris as well, I bought some small plants last spring which I hope to see the first flowers on in 2012,
    I tend to think of bloggers (and people on lists) I converse with as friends, so far I have not met any garden bloggers but have met and stayed with textile bloggers and in 2009 had a 5 day summer school with a list group of online textile artists I had not met before,
    my children take it in their stride as I’ve done such things before the online world, in 1992 I got off a train one evening in remote Montana, the man who should have met me wasn’t there, all my instincts told me to get back on the train I didn’t, he finally turned up with another man and we drove out of town, we soon turned off the tarmac road down a dirt track that went on forever (25 miles) with me sitting between the 2 men, I’m still here and had a fantastic week in a remote Montana YH, it could have been other wise but all life is a chance,

    have a wonderful new year and wishing you and your menfolk all the best for 2012, Frances

    • Frances, After all your caution, you seem to have done the craziest thing of all on your trip to Montana. Jill from Landscape Lover’s Blog came to visit me for the day. I was giving a seminar at my nursery so my husband picked her up at the station. She had never met either of us, but she got in the car with a strange man and had a wonderful day. On the other hand, I have a friend who is a landscape designer and won’t work for single men. Not exactly sure where I come out on all of this. Carolyn

  20. Carolyn, your posts as usual are so enjoyable, thanks for the visit with Jean. Thank you for your wishes in my blog. Very, very happy new year 2012!!!

  21. Isn’t it fun to meet garden bloggers in person?!! I had the pleasure of meeting some fellow garden bloggers on a trip to Wisconsin this summer. We all have a kindred gardening spirit, and it is like meeting up with an old friend we’ve known for years even when we first meet. What a wonderful thing that is! Happy New Year to you and yours!

  22. Twas worth taking the risk to visit such a gorgeous garden…I’m sure Jean is equally as lovely. I love how you made a great tale out of it.
    Happy New Year to you and yours!

  23. Warm summer memories help keep us going during the cold, dark winter, don’t they? Wishing you a 2012 filled with hope, Carolyn!

  24. Wishing you a Happy New Year and a prosperous one for your blooming business!

  25. This garden looks great, I hope I can visit it some day! Love the story too!

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