Archive for September, 2010

Vesey Seeds and Pompom Zinnias

September 23, 2010

Pompom Zinnias

Delphinium grandiflorum


Vesey's Trial Garden

Vesey is a wonderful mail order garden company based in Prince Edward Island. I have been a customer for many years, purchasing seeds, before they became my customer and carried my book, “Growing Lavender, A Guide for Cooler Climates”, in their store and catalogue. I’ve been very fortunate in business as nearly everyone I deal with is a pleasure and that can be said for Vesey’s too.

When we began talking about a visit to PEI, visiting their store was a must. Thanks to very good signage and good directions on their website, they were easy to find and are located just north of Charlottetown. It is always fun to see your book for sale and this was no different as there it was with the other gardening books! The store carries seeds, garden supplies and has a gift section as well. What I was really looking forward to seeing was their “Flower Trial Garden”, located just across the street from the store.

I was slightly disappointed there were not any lavender plants; the garden held only annuals but lots of them. I had an enjoyable time walking up and down the rows looking at the flowers; snapdragons, poppies, cosmos, coleus, sweetpeas, and many more. My city garden is on the small side and between the lavender and roses it is hard to make space for other flowering plants but I found some I would really like to try next year. I have delphiniums behind my roses – they are five to six feet tall. I was really surprised to see a small mounding delphinium – Delphinium grandiflorum ‘Summer Cloud’. They have feathery leaves and pretty blue star-shaped flowers that have put it on my wish list for next year. The photo is above.

The other flowers that I thought I might try were asters. These looked like chysanthemums! The size and substance of the flowers really surprised me and they came in beautiful colors. If you live near a company that sells seeds, check their website and see if they have a trial garden. It is a great way to see the actual plants, not just photos.

Before we left for the maritimes, I found a couple of packages of seeds that I hadn’t planted. One was nasturtiums, one was small zinnias – Pompom. (Yes, the seeds were from Vesey’s) I was curious to see if they would bloom for the fall, so planted them. I put the nasturtiums in a planter with some herbs and the zinnias in a large 14″ pot alone. Nearly 2 months later, I don’t see a bud on the nasturtiums however the zinnias have been blooming for 2 weeks. Zinnias can tolerate a little drought and they are doing very well in the container. I even cut a small bouquet for the kitchen.

For more information about Vesey Seeds, visit
If you are thinking about getting a copy of ‘Growing Lavender’, please order it soon as this is the last year Vesey will have it as this edition is nearly sold out.

Next time – Lavender in Nova Scotia and a cashmere goat farm.


Lavender on Prince Edward Island

September 9, 2010

A beautiful view

Lavender in the field

Travelling around Prince Edward Island is a treat. First, I must tell you that I actually drove accross the Confederation Bridge that connects the island to New Brunswick and I was quite nervous about it. The drive over the Northumberland Straight takes nearly 15 minutes on this elegant bridge. The cement walls are constructed so from my car you cannot see the water below for most of the drive which means you don’t really have any idea how incredibly high above the water you are. When I told someone who lives on the island how pleased I was with myself for doing the drive, she confided that she knew people who would only go on the bridge if they could sit in the back seat and cover their heads with their jackets! I suddenly felt very brave.

Driving is something I enjoy, so I have done quite a bit of it, especially around eastern North America. For the most part the signs and roads, on PEI were excellent and I mention this because Nova Scotia was a bit frustrating. We had 4 wonderful days and never made it east of Charlottetown. There were 2 main destinations we had in mind: Vesey Seeds, because they have done a great job selling my book and Five Sisters of Lavender Lane, the only lavender farm on PEI.

I had the most wonderful time at the farm with one of the five sister owners. (I am ashamed to say I can’t find where I wrote her name, so my sincere appologies.) They grow only L. angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and L. angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ as they find these the most winter hardy for their area. Even so, they provide winter protection for the plants. They have tried the L. x intermedias ‘Provence’ and ‘Grosso’, but have found their winter-hardiness not dependable enough. As a gardener, I am frustrated when I nurture plants for a few years that finally succumb to a bad winter. So I understand that on a farm scale, it isn’t worth the time, energy or money on 100-plus plants that may or may not survive a winter.

In their shop I was served a lovely cup of their lavender-vanilla tea while we chatted about lavender. They are distilling their own lavender hydrosol, which I think is a great opportunity for smaller farms as the yield is better than that of lavender essential oil. (Hydrosols are produced in a similar manner to essential oils, but the lavender is harvested at a slightly different stage and the heat has to managed differently because your goal is not lavender oil, but lavender water as hydrosols contain the water soluble parts of the lavender.) It was a drizzly day, so I was the only visitor and in luck because there was much experimenting going on in the kitchen. We tasted the new batch of lavender-chocolate fudge and talked about other lavender recipes they were trying. Unfortunately by mid-August most of the lavender had been harvested, but I can see it would have been beautiful in bloom and one of the photos shows the lovely view.

You’ll notice in the photos that they use various landscape fabrics to help keep the weeds down. Lavender is a labor intensive crop. Unless the farm is large and using machines for harvesting, all the harvesting, pruning and weed control is usually done by hand. Using landscape fabric for weed control requires a lot of work when planting, but will save time later.

The farm has been mentioned in the novel, “The Wildwater Walking Club”, and attracts fans of the book. Among their products is a lavender salt – a red sea salt with lavender flowers. It is really nice! I used it the other night on potatoes with a little fresh lemon thyme from the garden. They also have a ‘Fairy Walk’ through the ajoining woods and occassionally evening events.

For more information visit their website:
The farm is located west of Charlottetown at Kellys Cross. Simply stop at the tourist information center after you cross the bridge and they will give you a provincial map and directions. Ask for Susan, because we found her fabulous. She found us a wonderful B & B, Chez Shea. On some mornings a dear old dog from down the road stops in for a visit and they drive the dog further down the road to her ultimate destination for the day! We loved Prince Edward Island and hope to get back there soon.

Next time – Vesey’s Seeds Trial Gardens.