garden tours - seed savers exchange heritage garden {part 1}


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Back in 2004, when I lived in an apartment in North Carolina I was watching Martha Stewart Living (which to me it is still the best home and garden show EVER) and there was an episode where Martha was talking about a company called Seed Savers.  And as she explained their efforts to preserve heirloom seeds that were available hundreds of years ago.  Their mission was basically to collect, preserve and distribute them for us and future generations.  And that mission has remained.  Looking back, this was during the time when the preservation movement was getting a second wind with the likes of HGTV shows being sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  But I digress. 

If you are a plant lover, a gardener or someone just interested in botany, you probably have heard of Seed Savers.  But if you have not, and want to learn more about their mission, I HIGHLY recommend visiting their website because there is a lot of information.  

When I moved to Minnesota I had NO idea where Decorah, Iowa was. Seriously, I am still adjusting to life here.  But last week my mother-in-law mentioned that she visited the Seed Savers Exchange and when I asked if it was THE Seed Savers, she said it was and that the drive was only about an hour. Holy smokes, people!  This has been right in my backyard and I did not know about it!  So I immediately planned to visit... and I did.  After driving about an hour (I may or may not have gotten lost at one point) I made it to the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm.  And I had to take it all in.  It was one of those moments when you get to experience an item in your gardening bucket list. After watching about a 7-minute long movie on the farm and going over the map of the farm, I set out to explore.

See Savers Heritage Farm Visitor Center named after co-founder Lillian Goldman

See Savers Heritage Farm Visitor Center named after co-founder Lillian Goldman

Inside the SSE Shop inside the Lillian Goldman Visitor Center.

Inside the SSE Shop inside the Lillian Goldman Visitor Center.

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And I had to take it all in.  It was one of those moments when you get to experience an item in your gardening bucket list.  Here is why: it is beyond beautiful.  It is a little piece of garden heaven on earth.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of heirloom plants are grown here in what they call the Preservation Gardens.  I walked by them on the way to the visitor center and after watching about a 7-minute long movie on the farm and going over the map of the farm, I set out to explore the farm.  First off, the beautiful garden by the barn.  You cannot miss the barn.  It dominates the landscape.  It is gorgeous.  The heritage garden has so many plants that it was a bit overwhelming.  But once I started walking around the garden, I was in heaven. From hollyhocks to aster and zinias, it was a delight.  Flowers, herbs and vegetables mixed together to create a beautiful and welcoming garden.

One of my favorite plants were the flowering vines hanging from the side of the barn-- Grandpa Ott's flower (ipomoea purpurea), one of the original varieties that started SSE. The climbing vines with their deep purple flowers are striking growing up the barn. 

Ipomoea purpurea, Grandpa Ott's

Ipomoea purpurea, Grandpa Ott's

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As I walked around, my senses were fully engaged. So much color, scents and sounds.  It was one of the most soothing experiences in my life.  But as i looked around it suddenly dawned on me, not only is SSE preserving seeds but also preserving nature in general.  That continuous circle of life whose engine are the little but mighty pollinators.  This is pollinator heaven, especially bees and butterflies.  Every where you turned, you heard the buzz or saw the wings fluttering.  My heart leapt with joy.  Pollinator friendly areas have been in my our minds the past few years and I was excited to see this often forgotten group (outside gardeners or beekeepers) thriving so beautifully.  I will let the photos speak for themselves...

Alsea Rosea, Outhouse Hollyhock

Alsea Rosea, Outhouse Hollyhock

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Hyssopus officinalis , Hyssop //  Zinnia elegans, Benary's Giant Zinnia

Hyssopus officinalis , Hyssop //  Zinnia elegans, Benary's Giant Zinnia

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Callistephus chinensis, Powder Puff Mix, Aster

Callistephus chinensis, Powder Puff Mix, Aster

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After visiting the garden and taking what seemed like hundreds of photos, I headed to the heritage barn, and was welcome by a happy picture of one of the Ancient White Cattle that SSE is helping preserving.  But that is a story that I will tell you in Part 2 of this garden tour, along with more information on the preservation gardens and orchards.  For now, I will leave you with a quick video of the gardens. Enjoy!  Happy gardening!

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