I spent Arbor Day weekend in the countryside outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, speaking and conducting workshops at Terrain, the new garden center opened by the company that owns Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, among others. The best word or phrase I can come up with to describe Terrain, besides stunningly beautiful is well-appointed. It is by far the most perfectly organized and detail-oriented garden center I have visited to date. I could have set up a cot in a corner somewhere and moved in for a month, and I would have been comfortable and engaged for the duration. Not only was the overall space beautiful and harmonious, but every single inch seemed to be accounted for.
The effect on my brain was simultaneously relaxing and overwhelming. As a result I took very few pictures, barely enough to provide you with a tour.
I was at Terrain for two days yet I did not have nearly enough time to explore… after all they had brought me out to do a job and that was my primary focus. I’d love to go back again as a regular customer and have the full experience over the course of a full day: slowly meandering among the plants and displays from building to building, followed by lunch in the cafe. When they first told me there was a cafe on site I was sold. Spending hours labouring over plant-buying decision-making is hard work! But the cafe at Terrain doesn’t just serve any old food, they serve GOOD FOOD. Again, I was always either too hungry or too rushed or without camera to take a photo but every meal they prepared for me was delicious and beautifully presented. When I arrived at my hotel after a long day of travel there was a boxed meal waiting for me prepared by the chef. It contained: a microgreens salad topped with seasonal asparagus and Parmesan shavings. The salad dressing was perfect, and not too heavy on the vinegar as is often my complaint with most restaurant salads. This was accompanied by some kind of whitefish (I’m not sure what but it might have been poached) and a side of what I believe was basil-infused oil. There was also a box of toasted baguette slices with herbed butter. I generally try to avoid sugar, but the desert was an espresso-soaked tiramisu presented in a glass jar. How could I NOT eat that? And then I pretty much didn’t sleep that night, but it was worth it.
On day two my lunch contained a similar salad (I requested it again because it was THAT good), although this one had yummy, soft white beans instead of asparagus. There was also a split pea soup served in another glass canning jar and a miniature bread loaf baked and served right in a tiny terracotta pot! I wish I’d got a picture of that but I didn’t have my camera on hand. On Saturday my guests took me out to a local restaurant that featured a 100 mile menu. The food was great but the highlight was actually a Mexican ice cream place called, La Michoacana where I chose the most unusual flavor on the menu, corn ice cream topped with chili powder! Folks, I had corn ice cream in a small town in Pennsylvania! Who knew?
And now I am hungry, having just described food for two paragraphs.
Back to Terrain. While conducting workshops I was introduced to their potting soil, specially prepared for Terrain by Organic Mechanic. It is by far the most beautiful potting soil I have ever used. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that potting soil. I could not stop running my hands through it. It has the absolute perfect texture and consistency, and is comprised of all of the best ingredients including coir instead of peat, rice hulls, and worm castings. Why can’t someone over here make a prepared potting soil even remotely as good as this one?
Some other highlights I managed to photograph:
And here’s what I bought. I came out relatively unscathed since I didn’t have a lot of time to shop, can’t take plants over the border, and didn’t have much room in my luggage. I think I’ve left a few odds and ends out, but I am already forgetting what it was. The two seed packets with vintage-inspired illustrations were purchased at Terrain but the others were purchased across the street at Target. I purchased several more than are shown but they have already been opened, sown, and scattered somewhere among my various seed storage methods. We don’t have Target here in Canada so the trip was a bit of cultural anthropology in itself. Shannon and I spent a good hour or more walking up and down the aisles marveling at the curious items and getting high on off-gassing plastics. I also bought water flavored with mint, which I’ve got to say was oddly unpleasant and seemed kind of silly since you can simply add some mint to water to achieve the same effect.
You’ll recognize the old-thymey letter-press cards from my Holiday gift round-up. I’m not sure how the metal globe thing is supposed to be used, but it looked like something I could have fun experimenting with. Amy Goldman’s “The Compleat Squash” was a total score since a friend just recently informed me that it is out of print, and to top it off I got it for half price from the sale section. I was so excited to discover it on sale I mentally patted myself on the back as if I had achieved something miraculous in finding and then purchasing it.