Gardens of Love: Jaime Hamlin

In July, it’s lilies and roses.


Updated July 22

Jaime Hamlin is better known as the chef and caterer who has garnered annual Island recognition since 2008. She runs a successful catering and wedding business — now with her three sons — and was recently featured on Martha Stewart’s Weddings website.

Hamlin loves to work hard, delights in travel, friends, family, and making everyone’s life around her beautiful and delicious. When I ran into her at the beginning of the summer at Cronig’s, she mentioned her garden, and I had to ask if she’d let me write about it. 

Hamlin has lived in the same home in Vineyard Haven since 1988. Of course, she and her husband “completely redid the whole thing,” she said. “There was no second floor. No garden.”
The first thing Hamlin said she did was plant the wisteria vine. “I always wanted a house that had a vine that went all the way across the front,” she said. “We trim it back every year. Sometimes it grows up into the windows.”

Hamlin did all of the garden’s original planting. “The effect I was trying for is the English country garden look,” she said. “Lots of lilies, roses, peonies, black irises, phlox, etc.”

Hamlin grew up in Larchmont, N.Y., with a big rose garden in the backyard. She walked me to her backyard. 

“We have beautiful white ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies that I love,” she said. “They come up in July.”

There were also old peonies, plus newer ones in the front yard. There’s lady’s mantle spreading, and flowering in yellow all summer. She also has campanula and toadwort. “Terrible name,” Hamlin said. “But lovely to look at.” Hamlin relishes the seasonal changes that greet her. 

The only things remaining from when she first purchased the house are green hostas. “We dug them up every year, and spread them around,” she said. “In July, it’s lilies and roses. In the spring, it’s iris and peonies.” 

Hamlin loves her roses. She got her lobelia from Heather Gardens. The violets were a gift from her friend, Carol Brush. Hamlin’s sister Cynthia, who passed away, gave her pale apricot chrysanthemums. Hamlin also has hellebore dug up from her late sister’s West Tisbury garden. The flowers come out, die back, and then remain green all summer long. Baptisia — also known as false blue or blue indigo — is another transplant from her sister’s garden. Impressive lupine-like spires tower up to three feet.

There used to be a sandbox for Hamlin’s kids on the side of the house. They’ve since taken it out, and added a patio and another planting area. The gardens circle the house, and there are crabapple trees in the back. 

Hamlin’s son, Mac, built raised beds for her “one-dinner garden,” where beets, radishes, potatoes, tons of parsley, cilantro, basil, sage, chives, tarragon, and thyme happily grow. 

Hamlin loves making chive butter to go with asparagus. “Just use a Cuisinart to mix the butter and chive flowers,” she said. This year, Hamlin is looking forward to “bush beans, which evidently don’t need any support,” she said. Hamlin bought her seedlings at Middletown Nursery, one of the only places to get organically-grown-from-seed plants on the Island.

We visit the 80-plus-year-old peonies, originally from Hamlin’s grandmother, passed down to her mother, transplanted from Larchmont to her Island garden, as well as her sister’s former West Tisbury garden. 

“There was a recent wedding that wanted strawberry plants, or fraise du bois, on the cake,” Hamlin said. So she now has a mix of old and new strawberry plants. Primula, another gift from Carol Brush, is growing. 

There are ‘New Dawn’ roses that are a pale, pale pink. Hamlin says her home once belonged to Katharine Cornell’s groundskeeper, who planted the whole back with lilacs and privet. Hamlin planted white lilies, which turned out to be not white, but purple. Her tomato plants are just beginning, though Hamlin confides, “they’re being eaten by something.” The cats keep rabbits away, and Hamlin says she’s never seen a rabbit in her garden. In one of the back corners of the house, Hamlin and her husband collect food waste from their professional kitchen, which Island Grown Initiative picks up weekly for their composting program.

There’s a huge white hydrangea in the back, as well as tons of wild roses. Hamlin is growing bay, admitting she loves it in everything. She has a climbing hydrangea, but is waiting for them to grow up. Hamlin subscribes to successive planting so there’s always something to look at when she pulls into the driveway. 

Hamlin says there used to be tons of bees, because of the crabapple tree. “Last year, no bees, no fruit flies, no bugs,” she said. She uses neem oil for bugs. New this season is a poppy coming up. She’ll see how it works, and hopes to put more in.

Hamlin says her love of gardening came from her mother. She remembers their matching gardening outfits — pale yellow chintz with roses. Hamlin loved that her mother had a spring garden, a summer garden, and a lily of the valley area. She recalls her mother having many kinds of lilies, trumpets and turk’s-cap lilies. 

“Everywhere I’ve ever lived, I’ve had a garden,” Hamlin said. “This year I thinned the radishes, and I thinned the carrots. I didn’t plant garlic or leeks because they take up a lot of room. I like the potatoes, the way they spill over the edge of the garden.”

There’s a cherry tree Hamlin’s staff gave her, but they’re still trying to figure out what insects are harboring there. Hamlin loves planting and caring for her well-established garden, despite her knees not being what they used to be, and not having time to do much during her peak summer business months. 

Like everything in her life, when she speaks about her garden, her love and passion are what I’m most impressed by. There’s always something new to try, replanting gift flowers and perennials, but first and foremost is her appreciation of living in nature, and always making something beautiful for herself and everyone around her.

*Updated to correct the name of Hamlin’s son.