a sort of schizophrenic gardener,” says Robin Coleburn. And for visitors
to her Golden Apple Orchard in Charlotte, Vermont, her
split personality plantwise is a wonderful state of affairs.
The diversity Coleburn brought to the 18-acre property is a complete reversal of the landscape’s original
persona. When she bought the land in 1992, it was almost
solid apple trees. We’re talking 3,000 fruit trees lacing arms
and stretching on fertile land to overlook Lake Champlain.
All those blossoms floating down in spring and all that juicy,
ripe harvest in autumn might seem like anyone’s vision of
Eden. And that’s the way the orchard looked to Coleburn
at first. Then the reality of a monoculture hit home, and
she found her inner schizophrenic.
Fact was, all those apple trees were an albatross. Most
troubling, she was saddled with the necessity of applying
more insecticide than she (or the birds she dotes on) could
conscientiously handle. And despite the environmental
wallop its fruitful upkeep was delivering, the orchard was
still operating in the red. It wasn’t until Coleburn moth-
balled the spray rig and gave the orchard back to nature
that she felt the first rustlings of liberation. Ever since,
she’s been stealing land away from the orchard and hand-
ing it over to her eclectic gardens instead.
the retired orchard is
still mowed (below), and
the apple trees blossom
beautifully in the spring
and bear fruit in the fall.
facing page: 1. The
courtyard garden close to
the house is thick with
persicaria, and cimicifuga.
2. Lotus and waterlilies
float in the pond in front of
Coleburn’s art studio. 3. A
tin-man scarecrow is more
whimsical than foreboding
as it protects the potager
from animal poachers.
4. Coleburn gathers beets
and zucchini in front of the
verdant asparagus hedge.