Chocolate flowers for your garden
August 3rd, 2010
Chocolate flower and plant update:
The flowers that Marie Lincoln and Bill Schlicht cultivate at their Whidbey Island nursery specialty nursery are good enough to eat. That’s because Chocolate Flower Farm’s mocha, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa and espresso-hued blooms and foliage plants are as satisfying to the senses as a Fran’s caramel-filled chocolate sprinkled with grey sea salt (well, almost).
My friend Stacie Crooks, of Seattle-based Crooks Garden Design, was my escort to Whidbey last Tuesday. We’d only slightly recovered from our late night festivities in her superb, often-photographed drought-tolerant garden, where a gaggle of garden gals gathered (isn’t that alliterative?) for a lovely sunset soiree. I spent the night at Stacie’s and we set off the next morning for the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island.
The ferry crossing was short – 20 minutes – but beautiful in its grey-blueness with sunlight pushing through the morning haze. I breathed Seattle’s maritime air and that made me happy.
After visiting one of Stacie’s inspiring and impressive design projects, the subject of which I hope will soon appear in one or two of my articles, we drove to Chocolate Flower Farm to meet Marie. I first met this dark-plant purveyor by telephone when I called her last December to request an interview. I wanted to include her “sweet” plant passion in my February “In the Garden” column for 805 Living.
Like most of my writing efforts, there’s a back story on the piece, entitled “Brown is Beautiful: Sweet Tips for Growing a Chocolate Garden.” Last fall, my editor Lynne Andujar made an off-the-cuff comment to me: “Oh, our February issue is going to be the CHOCOLATE issue, but I’m not really sure if there’s a fit for the gardening column,” she said.
“You bet there’s an angle,” I replied. “We’re going to feature chocolate-scented and chocolate colored plants!”
Marie and Bill started the Chocolate Flower Farm in 2005 to grow and promote dark-colored plants.
The display beds and nursery area have expanded around their 1923 farmhouse and outbuildings (sheds!) to the former horse pasture.
She calls herself “the Accidental Chocolate Gardener, because originally, I wanted a small niche nursery and decided to specialize in maroon colored plants. And Bill loves chocolate. It was not meant to be a “theme” nursery but the media kept calling it one, so we gave up and went with the flow.”
Our visit included a tour of Bill’s “candle-making shed,” where he runs a small side business to make hand-crafted chocolate-scented candles. Yummy whiffs of chocolate assaulted us when we entered, making me want to bring a few of the round and square pillars home with me. Bill has just developed “Coco Havana,” a new candle fragrance, perhaps more appealing to men, blending chocolate, a hint of tobacco and the essence of bergamot (the same ingredient that scents Earl Grey tea). The candles are available online and also at The Garden Shed, a chocolate-themed gift and garden shop in the nearby village of Langley.
Between pauses to answer customer questions and ring up their purchases, Marie took Stacie and me along the paths of her beautifully planted beds and borders to meet some of her “babies.” She has selected some really cool cocoa-colored flowers, some of which are (or will soon be) available in plant or seed form from Chocolate Flower Farm. Some of her exclusives include the ‘Kissed by Chocolate’ Delphinium (right) and a flowering tobacco called Nicotiana ‘Chocolate Smoke’. You can peruse the online plant catalog and learn more about these plants as well as the Chocolate Flower Farm Seed Collections.
The many design qualities of dark-flowering and dark-leafed plants in the perennial border are evident in the displays. You can see how the dark plants pair well with so many companion plants in Marie’s themed beds . “You can only have so much pastel in your life,” she points out. “Dark plants inject drama! ”
If you visit (or take a virtual tour on the web site), you’ll see “Ice Cream Walk,” the entry borders named in honor of the old ice cream parlor that houses The Garden Shed emporium. “Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl” contains only brown, maroon and white plants. “Neapolitan Garden” includes these colors, plus pink plants. There is an “Edible Chocolate Kitchen Garden” where plants from Marie’s seed collection grow. Purple-pod peas, Chocolate corn, Chocolate mini-bell peppers, Chocolate cherry tomatoes, Purple brussels sprouts and Chocolate-flecked lettuces populate the veggie and herb beds.
There is also a ”Lavender & Chocolate Cosmos Bed,” which is the source of nectar for the nursery’s Chocolate-Lavender Honey.
More displays show how to pair black-and-chartreuse plants and chocolate-foliaged tender and tropical varieties. Marie’s newest bed is in the works, which will demonstrate blue-and-chocolate plant pairings.
As we bid Marie, Bill and Nell, the wonder dog, good-bye, I thought of one of Marie’s quotes that I included in my February story.
“People experience a primal response to chocolate,” Marie says. “It makes them happy.”
All in all, a delicious field trip! I can’t wait to return.