Pioneer kitchen gardens are often a source of inspiration for my work, providing a framework of ideas, plus the tools used to cultivate, plant and harvest. For the most part, the designs were practical and efficient, with a comfortable blend of flowers, herbs and vegetables.
When it comes to planting a straight line in the kitchen garden, you have two options: sticks and a ball of twine, or a hand carved planting line and a dibble. One is a notch above the ordinary and so is my favorite craftsman, 92-year-old Hugh Davis who sits in front of the fire when he carves pieces of wood to make a hand-hewn trellis for obelisks, and pea fences. He has no website, no mail order, and you can only buy them if you happen to catch him at a local botanic garden event, or drive to his house in Leverett, Massachusetts.
The driveway entrance is marked by a carved stone, that reads The Farmstead, which leads through an entrance bordered by espaliered fruit trees, into a series of low stone walls. Park the car and walk the winding path to the historic 1700′s saltbox house. Step inside, and you fall into a different era, surrounded by soft chestnut patina of old wood, and shelves of old pewter.
The Farmstead began when Hugh’s wife, Hope got hooked on the author Ann Leighton, author of the book titled Early American Gardens, and thought that she’d like to design her gardens to fit the era of their house. This led to the design of a cedar raised bed made with a mortise and tenon design, which quickly became so popular they gave the business to their son, Tony, who makes them at his own The Farmstead in Chatham, Cape Cod.
The day was sunny and warm, we sipped tea in porcelain cups in front of the floor to ceiling fireplace, where Hugh whittles wood for his garden pieces. It was a Tasha Tudor moment, with the fire warming the room, flowering plants on the windowsills with a collection of planting boxes, fences and benches out side the kitchen door, inventory for the series of upcoming garden shows.
A favorite and recognizable Hugh Davis obelisk is a garden Tuteur style trellis, which is just the right size for the center of a garden bed for run sweet peas or Malabar spinach to climb. To help vines climb, stick in curly willow branches and then stretch a planting line across the bed to sow seeds for salad and spinach. All of the garden tools that Hugh and Hope craft are based on early American designs. They are both practical and artful; the best of both worlds.
Hugh still hand carves garden ornaments based on early American designs, and his son, Toby, has continued the tradition yet upgraded the production to precision cut the cedar planks for mortise and tenon style raised beds. Products featured at The Farmstead are cedar raised beds, dibbles, planting lines, obelisks and pea fences made of high quality wood that will last for generations.
The Farmstead. Proprietors, Hope and Hugh Davis. 24 Broad Hill Rd, Leverett, MA. (413. 548. 9255). Handmade garden raised beds, trellises, furniture, and fencing. Wooden Dibbers, Wooden Planting Line, Wood Seed Box or Wooden Trellis for peonies or peas.