Cultivating farm-to-table vegetables
Meet Shawnee Inn lead gardener
“Garden Doug Z”
“Garden Doug Z,” also known as Doug Zimmer, cultivates many varieties of plants in his gardens at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania.
His craft is to provide Shawnee Inn guests with the freshest farm-to-table produce and vegetables.
Zimmer is the lead gardener at Shawnee Inn, formerly Buckwood Inn, a historic inn with a well-established reputation for extraordinary customer service and lodging and championship golf courses. The Shawnee Inn guests know today is due in part to visionary Charles Campbell Worthington. According to Shawnee Inn history, Worthington was an engineer and inventor by trade, who never enjoyed urban living. Soon, after discovering the great outdoors at Shawnee on Delaware, he relocated to this quaint, small village in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania and “made his mark in the community.” Current owners, Charles and Ginny Kirkwood and their family, are also advocates for sustainability and preserving natural resources.
Garden Doug Z is an experienced gardener and is highly-regarded for his vast knowledge of horticulture. He carries on the Shawnee tradition of “fresh food from the gardens on premises” and outsourcing, only as needed, from nearby farms.
Here’s a quote from the Shawnee Inn history archives.
“The food served in the dining room came fresh from gardens on the premises and nearby farms, an on-site creamery provided fresh milk, cream and butter and drinking water of the purest quality was gravity-fed directly into each room,” according to Shawnee Inn history.
I met Zimmer in early June, while I was a glamping guest at Shawnee Inn. Upon meeting him, I asked my host, Kaitlyn O’Connor, Shawnee marketing coordinator, if I could interview him and snap some photos of Doug alongside his various gardens. Little did I know, he is also the lone gardener.
Zimmer quickly noted, “It’s really not hard to be the lead gardener when you’re the only gardener.”
Sure, he gets help from management when he needs it, but Zimmer added, “I’m pretty much on my own a lot of the times. Today, I needed help with tilling.”
What is the origin of his nickname?
He said, “Some girls gave me the nickname Garden Doug Z.”
How many acres does he farm?
He’s not sure, but I can attest that rows of vegetables and herbs are methodically interspersed in several tracts of land that border the Shawnee golf course. One of his gardens is situated along the golf course, with a spectacular view of the Delaware River.
“I can tell you how I grew tomato plants 30 years ago but I really have a problem with people’s names and acres.”
Elephant garlic, onions, cabbage, tomatoes, and kale are among the varieties of vegetables he plants and cultivates each year.
All of his plants are grown from seed but he noted he is also blessed to have access to a greenhouse. “We don’t bring out the plants (from the greenhouse) until the weather settles down.”
Intrigued by herbs
As we moved to the herb garden that was brimming with healthy, nurtured plants, Zimmer graciously handed me a sample of his “Mountain Mint” crop that flourishes in his herb garden.
“The medicinal property of the mint is it’s an “antispasmodic,” he said.
And as he pointed to the chamomile, he explained,
“I think I’m happy and sedate enough that I don’t need the chamomile, but I’m very intrigued by medicinal plants. There’s an actual sedative in that stuff and that’s pretty cool.”
His affinity for horticulture developed at a young age.
“I couldn’t eat an apple without planting the seeds,” he said.
Obsessed with gardening
Zimmer admits his gardening is a compulsion.
He quipped, “I had it so bad in years past when I put all of my tropical, succulents, and jade plants inside for the winter. I couldn’t sit in my living room. I couldn’t get into my spare bedroom. So, two years back, I said to myself, ‘Doug, this is a sickness and you’ve got to have a 12-step program.”
Zimmer is a generous soul
He’s also known for giving plants away and converting a lot of people who believe they have a “brown thumb.” His advice to those folks is “You’re just a beginner and you’re growing the wrong plants. I have some plants for you that are hard to kill unless you put them in the oven at 350 (degrees).”
“You reap what you have sown”
Sustainability is widely practiced at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort and Zimmer’s goal is to utilize more seeds from his gardens and use natural compost materials to ensure the gardens are as organic as possible.
“We use composted leaves and mix some of the (ShawneeCraft) brewery stuff in there,” Zimmer said. “It’s definitely the compost that makes a difference.”
Taste trumps everything
While heirlooms are very fickle to grow, Zimmer plans to add other heirloom cultivars of tomatoes to his repertoire. Ultimately, taste is the deciding factor that trumps everything.
“If it tastes good, I’ll bend over backward to get that. I’m very proud of that. Through the years, it (the plant) has got to evolve.”
Learn more about menus at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort here.