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Plant Parenthood

Turning off of Highway 49 before the descent to the river, my trusty Subaru snakes its way to the top of the ridge and Indian Hill farm. The truth is nothing makes me happier than nosing my way around the back roads and meeting the talented, creative people who are making a life here selling what they grow.

Lin Donald and her partner, Tom Manuel, have owned this old ranch for almost ten years. As I park the car in the drive, I am at the top of the world. It feels like I could almost bounce a rock from ridge top to ridge top landing on the back side of Morgan Ranch.

I enter the garden through a narrow path. Overhead, climbing Cecil Brunner roses invite one in with their enticing scent. An almond tree stands at center stage of the patio overlooking various terraces waiting for spring planting.



The side of this ridge forms a microclimate warm enough for an apricot that has been grafted onto a peach tree with great success (reminding me to return for a June visit).

Nailed to the post of a fence, an old work boot is just one of many homes for birds. Manuel has turned two satellite dishes into ponds with trickling fountains and floating water plants. Found art, or garage sale specials, is scattered throughout the property and adds a bit of lightheartedness.




Have you ever noticed that sometimes people and their dogs look somewhat similar? Well, Donald has a kind of flowerness about her – she’s a sunflower. With her wildly curly auburn hair and freckles, she stands tall and full of radiant energy – enthusiasm that lights up like the sun. This gardener is an energizer bunny even in her mature years.

Of course, the backbone of Donald’s creative talent is partner, Tom Manuel. She couldn’t produce all these flowers and projects without his efforts. He’s the general repairman, tractor driver, compost turner, and designer of hardscapes. Extensive use of compost is one of the main tools they use to keep the soil healthy and minimize pests.

Weedeating, in the early years on the property, was a major time consumer until Tom discovered that their donkeys would graze amidst the flower beds and only eat grasses. Now they continually rotate the areas where the animals feed. The gopher and mole problem is minimized with an ingenious windmill system that has a marble inside causing a vibration in the earth.

Donald started her business, Plant Parenthood, in 1984. She offers a variety of services including: composting consultations, garden design and planting, pruning, and personal coaching on maintenance activities.

At the farmer’s market she also sells her specialty flowers, dried arrangements and gourd art. Eco tours of their farm are fun events hosted for local schools and senior groups. On January 1, 2000, a friend called to say that she wanted to sell her flower business.

To Donald and Manuel it seemed auspicious. So, for about $500, they acquired a thousand new perennial starts, propagating equipment, and watering supplies. Their new, expanded business was born.

Donald’s real passion is catering the flowers for weddings and other events. She brings a bride out to the farm at least one to two weeks before the wedding, and they tour the garden picking any of the flowers that are blooming then. These flowers are nothing like what one would find in a florist shop.

They are strictly local, seasonal plants – Love in a Mist, zinnias, campanulas, huge gray/green cardoon leaves, euphorbias, ornamental oreganos, lavenders, flax, artichoke flowers, and many unusual foliage plants. From the plants a bride chooses that day, Lin creates arrangements for the bouquets, boutonnières, and table decorations.

After a cup of flower blossom tea, I was inspired and headed home for more digging and planting of my own. For more information about Indian Hill Farm call 265-3334.

Patti Bess is a local freelance writer. She is the author of Vegetarian Barbecue and worked as a recipe developer for Weight Watchers and Land O Lakes. She is the host of What’s Cookin’ on KVMR-FM. Questions or comments at pbess@jps.net


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