Masschusetts Garden Tour With Chef Virginia Willis

When she’s not preparing, writing about or photographing food, noted chef Willis is in her Massachusetts garden.

By: Holly Aguirre

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Sally Ekus

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Photo By: Photo by Virginia Willis

Coca-Cola on the Porch

The vintage Coca-Cola icebox that graces Chef Willis’ screened porch reminds her of her Georgia roots. 

Virginia Willis Portrait

Chef Virginia Willis attended the University of Georgia where she flipped pizza dough and then moved on to graduate from L'Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne in France. She ran Martha Stewart’s television kitchen, cooked alongside Julia Child and once prepared lunch for former President Bill Clinton.   She is the author of three Southern-centric cookbooks and now splits her time between Atlanta and Hatfield, Mass. where she lives with her partner and literary agent Lisa Ekus in a 250-year-old farmhouse on 4.5 acres. 

Morning Glory

Ipomoea, commonly known as moonflowers or morning glories, flourishes in the back garden of Chef Virginia Willis’ Hatfield, Massachusetts. home.

Virginia's Beloved Moonflower

Chef Virginia Willis said that she loves moonflowers for their simplicity. Her partner and literary agent Lisa Ekus is primarily responsible for tending to the blooming plants in their Massachusetts garden.

Zinnia Garden

As the Western Massachusetts soil is so rich and fertile, weeds are problem in Chef Willis’ garden. Planting flowers such as these zinnias helps to keep the weeds to a minimum. “It’s also nice to have a steady supply of cutting flowers for simple arrangements throughout the house,” says Willis.

The Meadow Behind the Farmhouse

Willis’ 250-year-old farmhouse sits on close to five acres and includes a large back meadow. Though she and her partner Lisa tend to the rest of the property, they must rely on help to keep the meadow in good shape.  “I adore the peacefulness of this view that lies outside of our office windows,” she says of the meadow.

The Porch Garden

“There’s a large back screened-in porch with tons of plants so that being on the porch really feels like being in a garden,” says Willis. The celebrity chef and cookbook author now splits her time between Atlanta and Hatfield, Mass., which is 100 miles west of Boston in historic New England.

Marshlands Next to the Meadow

Chef Willis said that the marsh adjacent to the meadow is almost like having a nature preserve. “This summer alone we’ve seen bear, skunks, and bobcats in addition to an abundance of birds,” she says.

Furniture Next to the Meadow

At the edge of the meadow, Chef Willis keeps a set of Adirondack chairs and a picnic table used for relaxing and entertaining friends.

Herb Garden Hand Rail

This image shows the intricate detail of a handrail in the herb garden that Chef Willis commissioned a local ironworker to produce. “We conceived what we wanted as a handrail then found an artist to execute,” she says.

De-Vine Handrail

Willis was thrilled to find a local Hatfield artist and metalworker able to execute and create an iron handrail that looks like a vine. “It’s a lovely addition to the herb garden,” she says.

Lush Front Yard Garden

The front yard garden is lush and full with over 30 years of growth. It’s primarily a perennial garden and has a different feel and look throughout the seasons. We love the open book that graces the door frame.

A Garden Within a Garden

There are lots of little gardens tucked throughout the property including these barrels that are at the entry to the front walk. Willis says that her partner and literary agent Lisa Ekus is primarily responsible for the flower garden. “She does an incredible job of keeping fresh flowers throughout the house,” says Willis.

Succulent Rock Wall

Chef Willis says that her hen and chicks succulents multiply rapidly and fill in the spaces of the garden’s rock wall. The plant starts with one rosette, the hen, which then propagates her surrounding chicks.

Chef Willis' Herb Garden

Flanking the back door of Willis’ home is the mark of any great chef – her personal herb garden.  “We always plant the usual suspects – basil, parsley, thyme, chives, and cilantro as well as lemon verbena, mint and tarragon,” she said.

Morning Glory Love

Sounding a bit like Dolly Parton, Chef Willis describes her love of morning glories: Morning glories are cheap and cheerful, nearly a weed, but luscious in the garden.

Fresh Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes do very well in Chef Willis’ garden, which brings her great joy. “It’s amazingly satisfying to grow at least some of our own food,” she says. “The flavor can’t be beat of tomatoes that are five minutes off the vine going into a salad for supper.”

Creative Cucumber Trellis

A cucumber flourishes on recycled window frame turned garden trellis.   “I’m fond of reusing and repurposing found objects and branches to use in supporting vegetables,” says Willis.

Eggplant in the Garden

Every inch of Chef Willis’ Hatfield, Mass. garden is bursting with life, especially the eggplant. It’s not uncommon to see tomatoes flourishing next to zinnias or cucumbers hanging out with morning glories. “I think that next year we’ll take this beauty into the annual garden,” says Willis. “We’re increasingly mixing vegetables into the other areas and liberating them from the vegetable garden.”

Chef Willis' Favorite Vegetable

Chef Willis said that she expects to harvest her eggplant for a few more weeks into the fall. It is also one of her favorite vegetables, and she shared her recipe for Savory Eggplant Dip with us.