Mason's Pickety Place: From the pages of a fairy taleBy MELANIE PLENDA
Special to the Union Leader August 12. 2013 5:27PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fourth article in an occasional series profiling some of New Hampshire's historically significant gardens that are open to the public.
MASON -- If the Big Bad Wolf had the expansive herb garden Pickety Place has these days, he might not have had to dress like a granny to make a meal of Little Red Riding Hood.
Indeed, the inspiration for Grandma's Cottage in the Golden Book version of that age old — if slightly creepy — story, Pickety Place in Mason has enough herbs and edible flowers in its sprawling gardens to keep wolves and the dining public happy.
While the house has a restaurant that seats three-times daily and a store, the surrounding grounds have been cultivated over the years into themed gardens including butterfly, silver, oregano, bird, healing and moonlight. Pickety Place also has large kitchen garden, the results of which you taste in the cooking.
Pickety Place is one of a dozen historic gardens in the state that are open to the public.
The house itself dates back to 1786 when it was built by the Nutting family, said Keith Grimes, chef and current owner of Pickety Place. Legend has it that the huge ash tree that is still on the premises today was planted when the house was built.
In 1948, Elizabeth Orton Jones, a children's book illustrator who lived in Mason, put Pickety Place on the map when she used it as her inspiration for Grandma's House in the Golden Book version of Little Red Riding Hood.
"She had come out with her first book and had some notoriety. That's why she was approached by (Golden Books)," Grimes said. "Her friend lived in this house, so when she went to illustrate the book she used this house as a model."
Grimes said it's not clear how many of the plants at the place date to those early days, but they have slides from as far back as 1958 showing some of the existing gardening beds. As for the themed gardens, those were put in place in the 1970s.
Among those gardens are the silver garden, which plays host to a variety of sages and other shimmery silver plants. The butterfly garden is populated with a variety of flowers meant to draw those winged summer visitors and their friends including a trumpet vine beloved by area hummingbirds.
But it's the culinary garden that really gets Grimes excited as it contains everything they need for cooking at the restaurant.
The culinary garden includes English Lavender and a myriad chives — flat leaf chive, broadleaf chive, curly chive, garlic chive and spring chive.
"We have a lot of herbs that people don't grow, like lovage, which is a cross between a celery and a cilantro," Grimes said. "And we've got unusual things like Parilla, which is used in Asian cooking. A lot of edible flowers like bee balm and nasturtium and Johnny Jump Ups and Lemon Jims."
It takes one full-time and two part-time gardeners to maintain the garden.
"Some of these plants have been here for 20 to 25 years," Grimes said. "Although, we try to take them out and replant so they don't get overtaken, so they don't get leggy."