The Humble Innkeepers’ Garden

Cape Cod Herb Garden Basil

By Pat O’Connell

Photography By Pat O’Connell

Cape Cod Herb Garden Basil
This past year I chose some miniature basil along with some more traditional verities.

There are many locations on the Palmer House Inn’s property where I enjoy spending time, however, without a doubt, our herb garden is my favorite. When we first bought the inn the basic design of the garden had been laid out. There were eight four by four foot plots that had been outlined with cobblestones by the previous owner.  Some of them had been planted with perennials that were well established. There also were two rectangular granite posts at the entrance. However, the entire garden had been neglected for several years. It just looked like a large tangle of leaves and stems. I was not sure where to begin but over the years with lots of trial and error, the design has evolved. I have been to lectures and done some reading and had advice from knowledgeable friends and guests.

The choice of the name for the garden goes back to a time when I had the opportunity to travel in China with one of our daughters. One of the most beautiful places we visited was “The Humble Administrator’s Garden”. It is located in the city of Suzhou and is a miniature garden. It is said to be one of the most beautiful gardens in China. I decided to name our garden in memory of that wonderful trip.

 


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Emily Dickinson Room Five
Cape Cod’s Emily Dickinson Room Five

While all of our guestrooms have their own charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day exploring gardens on Cape Cod, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.

The She Shed

She Shed
She Shed
The Palmer House Inn’s She Shed.

This spring I was introduced to the new concept of the “She Shed” by Patti Keating a horticulturist from Cape Cod Community College. Patti came to help me with our Falmouth Village Spring Garden Tour. After talking with her, I decided that the Palmer House Inn should have its own version of the She Shed. Traditionally the garden shed has been a man’s retreat. This is the place where the lawnmowers and hedge clippers were stored and maintained. However, recently women have been coming up with their own version.

She Shed Search
She Shed Search

I did a little research to rev my creative juices. The first example that I found was, a Shabby Chic retreat with Limoges china, a crystal chandelier, over stuffed furniture and billows of tissue paper garland. The second was a tiny plant sanctuary. It was a small greenhouse filled with plants both inside and out. To complete the quaint atmosphere it was surrounded with a white picket fence to keep Peter Cotton Tale away from the tender, delicious  herbs. Number three, was a backyard potter’s paradise. It had a potter’s wheel, kiln, shelving for her glazes and cooling racks.  Another woman transformed her shed into an inviting craft nook with all of her supplies and even an overhead fan to keep her cool on warm afternoons. Still another gal designed a 1950’s style mini diner, complete with a red and white leatherette booth and a black and white checkerboard floor. It had a working juke box, popcorn maker, vintage radio, retro refrigerator and chrome stools in front of the tiny lunch counter. Another “she shed” was a writer’s sanctuary. This one had to be my favorite because it was surrounded with colorful flowers and comfortable garden furniture that was positioned in shady spots. Inside was a pretty desk and charming lamp. In the corner was an inviting chair with an afghan. What a delightful place to sit, read and reflect. Another shed was a woman’s yoga studio. It had a small dish style waterfall, wind chimes in the doorway, soft calming color tones on the walls and a single Chinese print. An English “she shed” that intrigued me had a thatched roof and a brick walkway.  The creator made it into a place where she could meet, have tea and chat with friends. One of the sheds was created at the beach and is a delight to behold, with double glass doors that look out onto the beach and water beyond. It had a comfortable bed and Adirondack chairs on the outside deck.  Many of the others were simply quiet retreats away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

During my research, I also discovered that sheds are becoming the newest trend in home based businesses. Because of the development of more compact computers, there is no longer the need for bulky file cabinets and phone systems,  so much more can fit into a compact space.

She Shed in snow
Our She Shed in the snow.

The Palmer House shed is a pretty little salt box style cedar shingled house at the back of my herb garden. I have a pretty flower box under its window and the door is painted red to match the other exterior doors on the Palmer House Inn’s property. However, it still houses the tools and chemicals that are necessary to maintain our 3/4 of an acre in Falmouth Village. Some of my most pleasant memories are of the times I have spent tending our gardens and working in and around my she shed.


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of the bedchambers at the Palmer House have their own romantic charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of adventures sampling Cape Cod cuisine, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs for a relaxing stay before and after your day.

Cape Cod B&B Container Garden

Cape Cop B&B Garden with purple flowers (detail)

Bill and I have owned the Palmer House Inn for nine years. One of the things that excited me most that first spring as the grounds started to come alive, was the large container garden of herbs. Over the years I have experimented with a variety herbs and methods of cultivating. I enjoy walking up into the garden before breakfast to choosing the herbs and flowers that will adorn the breakfast plates that morning.

Chives in our Cape Cod Garden
Chives

Some of the herbs are perennials and are quite hardy. In fact the chives, mint and shiso have a tendency to wonder beyond their own container garden beds. Others are more fragile and as a result I have begun to use containers so that I can control the soil and watering more closely. One example of this is basil. Oh how the insects enjoy munching on the leaves. I have started keeping my basil in a container just outside the kitchen door where I can keep a close eye on its health.

One of the challenges of container gardening is finding the right container for the right setting. One can buy quite a range of interesting containers in many materials. We use containers not only in the herb garden but throughout the inn’s gardens.

More information


Cape Cod's Stowe Room, A
Harriet Beecher Stowe room
Cape Cod's Roosevelt Room, B
Cape Cod’s Roosevelt Room, B

While all of our rooms have their own individual charm suitable for relaxation after the most wonderful day of adventures or sitting in the garden, we recommend the Harriet Beecher Stowe room, the Theodore Roosevelt room or the Emily Dickinson room. These rooms feature comfortable king beds, fireplaces, jacuzzi-style tubs and a relaxing stay before and after your day.