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I can only imagine what splendid dishes the Denman family cooks up. When I planned a visit to their greenhouse, I knew that matriarch Georgia Denman and her daughter, Caitrin Bayard, were experts at organic gardening. What I couldn’t comprehend until my visit was their depth of knowledge and passion for culinary plants.
I was interested in purchasing a few herbs to restart my potted herb garden that I ignorantly left outdoors this past winter. I love fresh mint for iced tea, so I asked if they had any sort of peppermint plant. They insisted that I taste the leaves of at least four different mint varieties in the greenhouse. For my tea, I now have a Colonial mint transplanted from a pre-Revolutionary war Colonial home. I also decided on a delicate lavender mint that they tell me is wonderful in salads. I have promised to not plant the two mints near each other, lest they cross-pollinate. If I plant them in pots, I will bring the mints inside before next winter’s first frost.
I also purchased some creeping thyme and an upright rosemary plant. I have aspirations of getting rosemary established that could one day look as beautiful as that on the Denmans’ Morgan Lane farm. Denman notes that her outdoor stand of rosemary outperforms the ever-popular lavender. I passed on a salad burnet that tastes like cucumber and can be used like parsley in stews and soups. I probably should have bought one of those, now that I realize how rare it is to find organically grown herbs tended by such knowledgeable and caring people.
The family tells me that a malfunctioning heating system killed much of the greenhouse stock this winter. Yet, they’re still hard at work growing a variety of plants that should be ready for gardeners in the spring. Bold colors pop on a pepper plant. At least two varieties of chives are doing well. Heirloom variety tomato plants have been started. Roman chamomille, cilantro and raspberry plants are all thriving.
Visiting the The Greenhouse at Morgan Lane is an experience, even in winter. It must be spectacular in spring, when so much more is in full bloom. The greenhouse is set in a meadow with a mountain view, where the family also runs a Sleipnir Morgan horse farm. A shop offers antiques and collectibles. Daughter Elizabeth McGee works with the horses and does photography work, while daughter Britta Denman has authored a book about a unique canine resident named San.
The greenhouse is located approximately 12 miles from Interstate 75, north of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Information shared from the greenhouse website includes tips on growing heirloom tomatoes and a recipe or two for cooking with herbs.