Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Tangled Garden

Gardener and entrepreneur are not two words you commonly see used together to describe someone, but both are perfect descriptives for Beverly McClare.

For a short while after finishing university, Beverly operated a café in Wolfville, Nova Scotia before she purchased a fixer-upper that sat on an unremarkable bit of land in nearby Grand-Pré. There Beverly began to grow and dry flowers and herbs that she used to make wreaths, which she sold at area craft shows.

When the recession hit in the 1990's, Beverly had to rethink her business plan and extend her offering beyond decorative crafts. It was a magazine photo of a herb vinegar that again fired her creative side. With that image as inspiration, she could envisage the potential of harvesting her own homegrown herbs and making a range of fine foods that she could sell. She began experimenting with unexpected flavour pairings and created a range of herb vinegars. From there, she went on to make the line of herb jellies, which remain the mainstay of her business to this day.

The new range of products proved to be very successful. That gave Beverly the funds to purchase additional acreage and expanded what she refers to as her "edible landscape." In more recent years the product range has grown to include oils, mustards, herb-infused honey, syrups, salsas, liqueurs and cordials.

Today there are stacks of herb-infused preserves that glow like jewels in the windows of the Tangled Garden Shop. From wooden ceiling beams, bundles of drying flowers and herbs have been hung to dry. In one corner of the shop, there is a cane chair studded with drying chive blossoms. A chalkboard sign reserves this special spot for gnomes, elves and fairies.

From the gardens that now sprawl over four acres, herbs, berries, fresh fruit and vegetables are harvested, prepared and bottled. Each day one hundred bottles of preserves are produced, six jars at a time. The finished preserves are sold not only in the little shop, but also at artisan shows and online.

The extensive garden continued to flourish and Beverly decided to open it to the public for a nominal admission charge. Now thousands of visitors flock to the Tangled Garden each year.

While some plants in the garden are ornamental, the vast majority are harvested for use.

Each area of the garden has its own character and special features. Here the herbs and flowers are planted in a series of raised wooden beds with gravel pathways.

The herb Borage with its pretty blue flowers.

Some of the Annual Herbs include:
Anise, Basil, Borage, Chamomile, Dill, Chervil, Calendula, Tarragon,Mint and Caravay

Perennial Herbs: 
Bee Balm, Chives, Geranium, Fennel, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Lavender, Angelica (biennial) 

Fruits & Berries:
Blackberry, Rhubarb, Currants, Grapes and Quince

Smoke Bush, Cotinus

On either side of a dry stream bed, there are tall ornamental grasses, the pink plumes of Queen of the Prairie, pink Coneflowers and blue Sea Holly, Eryngium with its grey-green foliage. 

Many of these flowers make it into Beverly's dried arrangements.

A dried arrangement in the shop.

Flowers that can be hung to dry include:

Artemisia 'Silver king' (Grey foliage you see here. Warning: this is an invasive plant.)
Sea Holly, Eryngium
Strawflowers, Helichrysum bracteatum
Love-in-the-mist, Nigella (seedheads are wonderfully ornamental)
Statice, Limonium
Love Lies Bleeding, Amaranthus Cruentus
Hydrangea Paniculata
Poppy (seedheads)
Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
Sea Lavender or Limonium latifolium
Honesty, Lunaria annua
Yarrow, Achilla

For further information on hanging flowers to dry, read this post: Simple Techniques for Drying Flowers.

I can't remember ever seeing such tall pink Astilbe. They must love the abundant rain of a wet Nova Scotia spring.

Bee balm, Monarda. The  petals can be pulled from the flower 
and used as a substitute for mint. 

Looking for ways to experiment with flower petals in your cooking? Check out this cookbook.

Lavatera, a very pretty annual flower.

A view of the garden with an Annabelle Hydrangea in the middle distance.

One of the garden's most remarkable features is a flower labyrinth that is 80 feet in diameter. Usually a labyrinth involves some sort of hedge, but here, in an open field with a view of the surrounding countryside, the spirals are floral.  

Drawing visitors toward the centre of the labyrinth is a large metal sculpture.

The "walls" of the labyrinth are a mix of plants including yellow daylilies, blue cornflowers, Lady's Mantle, and Betony (purple flowers).

One of the more recent additions is a unique waterfall where water tumbles down a series of steps.

Making the herb jellies that the Tangled Garden is especially known for, is a slow process. It takes a full day to chop the fresh-picked herbs, make the sweet or savoury juice and bottle the jelly. "The garden is soulful to me," says Beverly,"It gives me back so much more than I give it."

More information and Links:
The Tangled Garden Shop is located in Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia. The garden is open to the public with a $5 admission charge, daily from 10 am to 6pm from April to December. For more details visit the Tangled Garden website.

Watch a short video about Beverly McClare and the Tangled Garden


  1. What a wonderful place and story! Thanks for sharing :)

  2. Jennifer, I am always impressed with high quality of your posts! Thank you so much for the pictures and your commentary. What a wonderful place with lots of gardening ideas!

    1. Thanks Tatyana! That means even more coming from a blogger who creates fabulous posts herself.

  3. What an incredible woman! I love her story and her garden. The shop sounds absolutely scrumptious. I love your description of the jars of jelly sitting in the window capturing the light. Gorgeous! The idea of walking through a meadow labyrinth is brilliant. It allows visitors to see all the blossoms and pollinators up close. Oh and that waterfall is quite the water feature!

    1. You really have to admire such woman, don't you? I didn't do as good a job capturing the labyrinth as I would have liked. It was so interesting and unique. As a whole, the shop and garden were a great inspiration.

  4. Wow! What a story, Jennifer, and a truly innovative and talented woman.
    I sure wish I lived closer. I would love to visit.
    Thank you so much for sharing this here!!!
    Have a wonderful week ahead, my friend.

    1. If you ever visit Nova Scotia Lisa, it's well worth a visit.

  5. Gosh, what a lovely post, I did enjoy it and found myself wishing I could visit and make a few

    1. I must say that I wish I had been able to bring a few more jars of goodies home with me Snowbird!

  6. This is a n amazing post about a woman who is an inspiration for us all. You have captured her life and accomplishments so eloquently with your words and photography.


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