We know we are not the only ones to take solace in nature and gardening during this time of uncertainty and waylaid plans. We also know that, when you are at Castle Hill and surrounded of course by beautiful things, it is the natural landscape and seascape that will forever win the day!
Blessed as we are with the topography of our 40-acre peninsula, we attempt to take full advantage of the spaces that are not dedicated to lodging, dining and events, by preserving the natural environment and propagating beauty and fresh produce (and a little fun) in our gardens.
Due to social distancing mandates and restrictions, we put our Nature Tour on hold this year. Kaitlin, our staff naturalist, has conducted a tour of our wilder environs for the past two years. She and I, missing the old stomping grounds, headed out on the route of the tour on a beautiful mid-October day.
We left the Inn behind at the southwest corner of the main parking area, down past the familiar lighthouse and the rocks that jut out where the ocean meets the Narragansett Bay, and ending at our new Cutting Garden. Personally, whenever I take this trek, I truly feel like I am miles away from the Inn, the restaurants, the wedding venue, and just enjoying a beautiful natural setting with well-tended and unobtrusive paths. Isn’t that right, Kaitlin?
Kailtin has been kept plenty busy this season working with Leita, our staff horticulturist, on the Castle Hill gardens. Before returning to Castle Hill in the spring, Kaitlin was busy working on her Master Gardener’s certificate from the University of Rhode Island. Leita returned to Castle Hill almost before anyone. Back in April, when just about everything was still closed, she was here sowing seeds in the culinary garden and greenhouse. Everything in the culinary garden and cutting garden this year was sown from seed right here at Castle Hill!
Leita has had quite a journey in the four years that she has overseen our garden program, but this year has been truly exceptional. 2020 began for her overseas, where she is wont to be in the off-season, when her family’s Rose Hill Farm in Wakefield, RI and the Castle Hill landscape are dormant. She travelled to Hawaii and then Australia but was called back in April at the behest of our Managing Director and Executive Chef. She cherished the time that she had early this Spring bringing the gardens back to life, and knowing that there was something altogether new coming to life as well…
The last harvest was a beauty: featuring kale for salad, turnips and baby carrots destined for the cavatelli, peppers for the piri-piri sauce of the charred octopus (both 1st course options on our Dining Room menu), rainbow Swiss chard for the Block Island Swordfish entrée, and garnishes galore, transported up the hill to the chefs in our kitchens.
We will miss Kaitlin and Leita when garden production winds down, but they will be back with the daffodils in the spring. We luckily have someone to look over the garden in their absence.
Shea C Nelson