We have been gardening at Hortulus Farm for 30 years now and, in that time, we have established a total of 22 separate gardens, linked by lawns and paths, on about 30 of our 100 acres. In recent years, however, although we have made a few in roads into expanding some of the gardens, I had, frankly, thought we had reached our limit, both in terms of available square footage and our ability to manage another square inch of cultivated terra firma.
Therefore, I was completely surprised two late summers ago to find myself positively yearning for another garden. I had just finished the second volume in my edible gardening trilogy 75 Remarkable Fruits for Your Garden, and had made the acquaintance of so many fascinating fruit varieties previously unknown to me that I was determined to have them for my own. To wit: an exotic fruit border. A strip of loamy, up-turned soil planted just as one would a decorative border, with the crawly groundcover types at the front, mid-sized plants and shrubs in mid-border, and the tall brutes and viners at the back.
But my problem was: where? What patch of our precincts had the requisite amount of sun, was within a companionable distance to the house, and would provide the correct aesthetic particulars? Mother Nature swept aside the veil of improbability as I rounded the corner of the upper barn one August day and chanced upon a stretch of accomodating post and rail fencing enclosing the western curve of the riding ring. Across it, one could glimpse our three Suffolk sheep (the Mitford sisters) in the adjoining pasture and, in the distance, the tumble of the pool garden fountain in its shimmering disc of water: a view that was, in truth, a bit too naked from that vantage point and crying out for some suitable green screening.
I got out my marking paint and described an undulating bed joined to an old stand of elderberry and peonies at the north end and the upper corner of the barn at the south end. Then I started ordering -- mainly from Raintree Nursery and One Green World, two estimable purveyors of exotic fruits. The main anchors would be several Sea Buckthorns (Hippophae rhammnoides) up against the fenceline, a variegated Cornus mas in place of honor, a Wolfberry (Goji) (Lycium barbarum) on the fenceline, and the deep burgundy elderberry (Sambucus nigra) "Black Beauty" up against the barn.
In mid-border, I planted 3 varieties of Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea var. edulis), "Blue Sky", Blue Pacific", and "Kamchatka", 2 Goumis (Eleagnus multiflora) "Sweet Scarlet, a "Toyo Nishiki" Quince (Chaenomeles), and 2 types of Gooseberry (Ribes hirtellum), "Jahn's Prarie" and "Captivator". And, finally in the front row, some nice clouds of the Strawberry "Tristar" the Lingonberry "Red Pearl", 8 dwarf Blueberries "Tophat", and the Arctic Rapberries "Beta" and "Sophia".
All specimens were mightily infant upon arrival and, now, in their second full season, are just beginning to gain sufficient stature to give a flavor of their future glory. Most have put on a dainty spring show of flowers and I am hoping for a starter crop of berries from a few of them come mid-summer, each of these offering a bandbox complement of health benefits and taste treats. Come back, however, in a couple of years to get the real picture i hold so firmly in my imagination, when I, harvest basket dangling from the crook of my elbow, will truly reap what I have sown. Ah: the glories of gardening!