The Chocolate Gardener

9 Cranes Inn Specials and PackagesSpring hasn’t really sprung yet in the Pacific Northwest, but we’re rushing the season at 9 Cranes Inn bed & breakfast. The star magnolia tree out front is just itching to bloom, combining with my recent visit at the annual NW Flower & Garden Show to inspire some garden planning. I’ve spent pretty much the whole of last year on internal renovations and getting ready to open; now it’s time to tackle the back yard.

First, a confession: I’ve never really been much of a gardener. When you live in Seattle, though, it’s tough to avoid doing something to your yard. For one thing, it’s what people talk about here – you know – if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Two, because stuff just grows and grows in Seattle, you can kind of fake a certain level of green-thumb competence. Three, B&B guests aren’t likely to be wowed by a room with a wasteland view. So, now I’m a gardener.

The backyard patch that I hope to turn into a secluded rest stop will one day soon, I hope, be shaded by the reportedly fast-growing fig tree I planted in the fall. It had better grow quickly as promised, for I’m eager to try out a couple of new recipes: goat cheese and fig crepes for breakfast; chocolate-covered figs as an afternoon snack.

Speaking of chocolate, my young chocolate garden is trying mightily to beat the freeze we’ve just had. Seeing as Seattle’s climate doesn’t support the growing of Theobroma cacao, I won’t be harvesting cocoa beans. Nevertheless, everything in the chocolate garden will have some connection – however remote – to chocolate. Consider it a nod to my hometown of Hershey, Pennsylvania.

A friend suggested continuing the theme with cocoa shells on the walking path. Sounded good at first, until I decided not to poison the Pampered Princes, Terrance and Phillip. Our two Shih Tzus are expected to live several more years, so perhaps we’ll seek a slightly less toxic ground cover.

In the meantime, since it’s still too cold to plant, I’ll stay inside and dig into my Spicy Chile chocolate bar from Theo Chocolate. The country’s first and only organic and Fair Trade chocolate factory is only a mile due south of 9 Cranes Inn. It’s one of the first places I recommend visitors go for their own amusement as well as for tasty gifts to take back home. And if they need someone to show them exactly where it is…well, I can always replenish my chocolate stash. Did I mention that Theo has a tasting room?

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