One of the first things people notice about Journeyman is often the vertical garden and large glass window standing out against the brick and the parking lot. The wooden wine crates and foliage add a backdrop for our diners that is unique in Boston, and its plumbing pipe structure provided a blessed structural support for the restaurant during difficult times.
Guests often have questions about about each plant we grow and whether we use any of them in the dishes they eat. Our garden is in constant evolution, and our answers to these questions change frequently; in order to give those answers and that evolution some context, I’ve decided to write out the story of the garden’s beginnings.
In the spring of 2010, before Journeyman was open, Diana started our initial plantings on her home porch, those first plants included a number of micro greens and herbs from seed (like mache, tatsoi, Mexican mint marigold, summer savory and lemon basil), and many of them thrived in the summer sun & rain that year. Some were in temporary containers from which we’d transplant the seedlings, but many were in the wine cratesalready. When the restaurant construction was winding down in the late summer of 2010 and we were almost ready to open, we carefully drove every crate and every seeding to the restaurant, hauled them up our library ladder to their new homes, and fastened them in place.
The micro greens and herbs did well throughout the fall but the shorter days of winter made for a difficult growing season. Over time we changed our repertoire from edible greens like red veined sorrel and bright lights chard to ferns, succulents and heartier house plants.
When Journeyman was hit by a car in the summer of 2011, we were forced to temporarily abandon our garden. When we reopened that August, we lovingly named the new installation — which used some of the original crates, and all the original pipes, but none of our original plants — “Garden version 2.0.” We took the garden re-boot as a chance to improve our planning and planting. We took out some of the original thirty-six crates to let in some light and added more hanging plants. We planted more of the things that seem to thrive in the ebb and flow of temperature and light in our window, like borage, nasturtiums and morning glories.
As the Journeyman gardener, I try to pay attention to what guests, chefs, and other staff say they would like to see growing in the windows. I have been asked to plant things that “look like aliens” and have had requests for venus fly traps registered as well. Diana & Tse Wei brought Roosevelt, their bonsai-like rosemary plant, from home. The nasturtium leaves that drape luxuriously over the window boxes are edible as are the striking purple blossoms from the borage plant that taste faintly of cucumber.
My background as a pharmacist lends me a fascination with medicinal plants, the vinca vine growing on the top row is actually the basis for a number of chemotherapy drugs. We had rue growing last fall, which besides making a very interesting infusion in vodka, has been purported to cure most “ills of humanity.”. For now and until the days get longer, we have a type of elkhorn fern, lemongrass (thank you, Ronnarong!), vinca vine, the ever indestructible pothos, nasturtiums, morning glory, borage, christmas cactus, sage, rosemary, hen and chicks, pyrethrin, wormwood and eucalyptus.
Right now most of the edible leaves and micro greens you see on the dishes are not coming from the window boxes, but once Spring rolls around, we will see the kitchen staff up on the ladder with scissors, pilfering from the garden again. With more sunlight and warmer temperatures, a lot of our edible seedlings will have a better shot at survival.
I am always happy to give “garden tours” to any curious guest and always appreciate advice or suggestions as well. I will even buy a drink for any person who can find me a venus fly trap.