Jane Dorian knows a thing or two about gardening. As a born and bred Manhattanite, the Partners Trust Associate figured all food came from restaurants. But once she relocated to Pacific Palisades, she was introduced to the world of organic gardening. With that, she was thrilled to discover the delight and magic that comes with having your very own garden, not to mention the knowledge.
Affectionately referred to as her sanctuary, Jane sees her garden as more than just that. This peaceful space offers a feeling of friendship and support. Her bond with the earth has grown deeper and she’s managed to extend that to others by preparing heart-warming, satisfying meals from the fruits and vegetables she grows. The sprawling space that Jane works in is a wonder—akin to a Tuscan dream. She tends to the fresh herbs and bay leaves that make up her culinary creations, picks plump Meyer lemons from lush trees, admires a sweet climbing fig tree and marvels in the rich scent of peppermint geranium.
We caught up with Jane and asked her just what makes her garden grow. With a jovial spirit she took us on a journey through her space and shared her secrets, making all of us entertain gardening and the “sense of adventure it brings.”
What has been your biggest challenge and your greatest reward in terms of gardening?
Sometimes I feel I am in a big competition with the birds and squirrels who know how delicious the food is in my organic garden. Sadly, they keep longer hours than I and they can see in the dark. It is always a race to pick my food before they help themselves!
Tell us about some of the things currently growing in your garden. Why did you select those flowers, vegetables, fruits or herbs to take up space here?
Have you ever picked a strawberry and just popped it into your mouth? There is nothing sweeter. It’s too easy to forget how delectable fresh—and I mean really fresh—food can taste. My garden is a friend and associate that supports me in my love of cooking and entertaining. Those that have dined at my home know the difference my garden makes. Having fresh herbs, fruit, and vegetables all year ‘round and incorporating them into my menus, keeps my cooking fresh and inventive.
Most things grown in a garden get a second life, whether as decoration or food. What are you doing with the things you’re growing?
My garden teaches me not to be wasteful. When my Meyer lemon trees are prolific, I make preserved lemons, and when the Kumquats are falling off the tree, I dehydrate them, using them in salads or pulverizing them to use them as a spice. My lemon verbena doubles as a tea and game tenderizer. And talk about a second life, we have five one-hundred-year-old olive trees and, once in harvest, we press the olives into a house olive oil. Speaking of, the smells are divine and the plants simply beautiful. One has to feel happy when in my garden. One of my favorite photos was my daughter’s spontaneous reaction when she was walking through.
I am fortunate to have a large yard. It Initially feels like a stroll through Tuscany with the old olive and pepper trees. But turn the corner and you’re greeted by a climbing white fig tree followed by blueberries, strawberries, lemon, lime, peach, plum, pomegranate trees, all situated next to three raised beds with vegetables and herbs. You also cannot miss the smell of Osmanthus and gardenia wafting in the air along with surprise scents of peppermint geranium and Italian hydrangeas that are in the shape of cones rather than balls.
What story does your garden tell?
My garden reflects my love of travel. Whenever I visit another country, I always take a cooking class. So when I’m introduced and inspired by an ingredient indigenous to a country, I plant it in my garden. When traveling in Vietnam I was introduced to and became quickly obsessed with their chilies. They are big, red, sweet and have just a hint of heat. While ubiquitous in their open markets (see photo below) there were none to be found in Los Angeles. So I bought seeds and grew my own.
I was equally obsessed with fresh peppercorns. One cannot imagine the vibrant taste of a fresh peppercorn—soft and sweet with a nod to what most of us register as pepper. Tasting a fresh peppercorn was like a religious experience for me. When dining at one of Cambodia’s highest-rated restaurants, after I downed my husband’s peppercorns, I asked the couple at the next table if I could have theirs. Try as I might to grow these peppercorns, our climate does not support their growth.
Do you expect your garden to change or evolve at any point and if so, how?
My garden is always changing with the seasons and with my sense of adventure. I love to try different varieties of foods and am always up for something new.
How has gardening changed your life?
Gardening grounds me. It is a responsibility. It must always be tended to, used, enjoyed and respected. It requires care and connection.
Do you have a favorite recipe that your garden inspired you to finally try?
While I have many favorite recipes, my go to garden staples are pesto and salads made with all of the lettuces, vegetables and herbs.
Describe your garden in one word. Go…
Paradise. My advice to anyone entertaining planting a garden–DO IT! It’s the gift that keeps on giving!