It wasn’t enough that her garden was fruitful, turning out the raw ingredients for vinegars, wines, jellies and jams; it needed also to be a destination, a place not only to patronize, but to lose yourself.
“I came here to create an edible landscape, to grow herbs and plant a garden. That’s what I’ve done.”
So said Beverly McClare, owner of the Tangled Garden in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia. Fresh from the restaurant business, Beverly bought her first acre in 1986, starting with herb vinegars which didn’t require the rigours of a commercial kitchen, a luxury she didn’t yet have. From these humble beginnings she built her business, determined to craft herb jellies from absolute scratch.
The kitchen came eventually, alongside a tea room, a distillery (the oldest in Nova Scotia), four additional acres of land and, of course, herb jellies and jams, some sweet like strawberry lavender, some savory like garlic rosemary, and some hot like horseradish or dill cucumber. They grow about 90 per cent of their own herbs.
Refusing ever to compromise on presentation, each of these preserves is realized in a way both fashionable and flavourful, appealing to the eyes and the palate in equal measure. By the same token, the three acres of her land presently cultivated is not merely a working landscape - many of its resident plants, such as its magnolia trees, are grown for beauty and not utility, while others, like red and black currents, gooseberries, jostaberries and sea buckthorn, are inconvenient to grow and harvest, kept for the benefit of visitors as much as for the kitchen.
“We were into agritourism before it was cool,” said Beverly, encouraging visitors to walk her garden while enjoying rose petal ice cream, or lounging in the tea room with a scone and strawberry jam. In recent years she has begun to host weddings, and is contemplating a permanent structure for ceremonies; brides adore her garden for its wealth of photo opportunity. The Tangled Garden has even gone so far as to earn international acclaim, having been featured in Martha Stewart Magazine and The Gardener’s Garden, among other outlets.
But there were hurdles over the years, often regulatory, imposed on the Tangled Garden with which Beverly needed help navigating. For this, she turned to the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board, allowing her to hire help when meeting product labelling and food regulatory standards, dealing with drainage issues on her land and grappling with the intricacies of selling liquor. In short, the Farm Loan Board helped her weather the unexpected, freeing Beverly to do what she does best.
“The gardening is my passion,” she said, “and I’m a foodie at heart.”