Passion, hard work, the collaboration of family and friends, and a desire to seize new opportunities brought Helene Lewand the farm of her dreams.
When Helene Lewand first saw Blackrock Farm in Kennebunkport, Maine, she knew instinctively it was the place for her. Fortunately, the owner was looking for a tenant, so Helene and her husband, Dana, moved in. She felt such a strong attachment to the property, she never wanted to leave. Rather than searching for an outside job, she was determined to work from home.
Channeling Helene’s mother, an avid gardener, the couple planted fields of herbs and flowers, planning to dry and transform them into gorgeous wreaths and bouquets. Except for a few essential rooms, such as the kitchen, the entire house became a huge drying barn, with bunches of flowers hanging from every ceiling. To make the business more viable, Helene also planned flower-filled weddings and began designing gardens, discovering a passion for landscape design that still fuels her days.
For many years the business continued along the same path, while Helene dreamed of building another greenhouse and updating the old ones, growing more adventurous plants, and renovating the house. When the farm finally came up for sale, she and Dana acted quickly and purchased it. Once it was theirs, improvements began immediately. The previously ramshackle house is now a warm, inviting spot the family shares with colorful tropical fish, parakeets and canaries in a fanciful cage, two dogs, and many cats.
Building and renovating the greenhouses took some time, but now Helene is able to indulge her passion for uncommon plants and offer her clients highly improbable tropical varieties they might not find elsewhere. Among the first in her area to succumb to the charm of succulents, Helene’s newest love is dwarf shrubs—a plant group she believes will be the next big trend. When asked how she decides which plants to grow, she replies, “I just fall in love with something and have to have it.”
Throughout the years, Helene has worked to integrate Blackrock Farm with the surrounding community through classes, workshops, and other events. Her latest endeavor: a 2-acre vegetable garden. “People care more now about their food and where it comes from,” she notes. The constant stream of neighbors and local chefs stopping by to purchase fresh-from-the-farm vegetables would indicate she is right.
“I don’t like to do just one thing,” Helene admits, “so the business has evolved in so many ways.” The dried flowers have disappeared, but there’s still an occasional wedding, along with the nursery and vegetable garden. It is landscaping, however, that consumes much of her time. From the recently dug pond to the sunken garden, the farm is a testing ground to try out design ideas and new plants. Preferring classic landscapes, Helene insists on plantings that fi t the situation, rather than more contrived configurations.
Local rocks play a large part in her designs—often in the form of handsome walls constructed without mortar. They act as retaining walls or purely decorative boundaries, merging beautifully with Maine’s indigenous old woods. Always ready for a new challenge, Helene will launch a small mail-order business this spring on Blackrock Farm’s Web site to allow more people access to her special plants and her passion for gardening. “For me, life is really a dream come true,” Helene says. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real.”
Text Emelie Tolley
Photography Kate Sears
To learn more about Blackrock Farm, see page 64 of the March/April 2010 issue of Victoria.