Category Archives: gardeners

Perfection in a pocket

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of visiting Kristin Kendall’s garden in an old central neighbourhood of our city.  Tucked next to the Rideau River, and surrounded by other charming homes of similar vintage, the Kendall home is full of character and style.  And so is the garden.

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Barely large enough to swing a cat, the natural paving stone patio nonetheless is furnished with a small teak table and two wicker viewing chairs.  The secateurs and trowel on the table are not props; Kristin and her husband Bill (my old high school teacher no less!) are active workers in this jewel of a garden and keenly choreograph the plants and keep them happy and healthy.  There is not a weed to be seen!

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Of course, there is no swinging of cats here.  Sorry, didn’t mean to offend.

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The colours in this half and half sunny/shady garden are hot and luminous.  The brights include Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’, as well as a scarlet coleus, a lupin, Japanese blood grass, a dark border sedum and monarda in the rear.  A weeping hemlock on the right, Virginia creeper on the fence and a Serbian spruce on the left all provide a green backdrop for this brilliant canvas.

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A stone water bowl with rhythmic striations provides a feature in the garden as well as a drink for wildlife.  These grooves are mimicked by the shadows of the iris growing alongside.

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Kristin would have me tell you that the garden is impeccable at this moment because it is post-tour.  But I’m not so sure — I think the stylish gardener and homeowner is detail oriented every day.

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On this day the hyssop was absolutely covered in buzzing bees; a sound that complemented that of the gently bubbling fountain…

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The weeping larch cascades to the ground alongside the giant boulder, bubbling constantly.  Everything is compact in this garden, but every inch has been thoughtfully filled.

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Non-living details in this garden are chosen with style and taste.  Kendall’s brother is the owner of Balleycanoe & Co., a business that sells 19th century architectural salvage pieces in Mallorytown.

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This garden is truly a labour of love and the owners appreciate what they have helped to create.  You may even find one of them sitting, every once in a while, appreciating the view…

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Japanese Anemone: bruiser or bashful?

In my early years, I championed these beautiful perennial plants…..

Fast forward to today and Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, the white one, has been named the 2016 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Yet if you go to the Perennial Plant Association website and click on “2016 Perennial Plant of the Year“, you’ll find the briefest description of this winner, along with a cheeky come-on to buy their stylish t-shirts…..am I missing something?  Shouldn’t this organization give me some information about this chosen perennial?  Why do I have to go to other sites to learn about ‘Honorine Jobert’ and how it can best grace my garden?

Never mind as I’ll do my own research…

The cultivar known as ‘Honorine Jobert’ was “discovered in the garden of Messier Jobert in Verdun, France in 1858 as a chance sport of A. x hybrida. M. Jobert propagated it and named it for his daughter, Honorine.”

In all honesty, when I first set eyes on A. x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, it was love at first sight.  Adoring everything white, I favoured it over its pink nerdy older brother who seemed to be more commonly available at the nurseries and a more robust grower.  Why is it gardeners always want the plants that are weaker, more refined and less vigorous?

North American sites give ‘Honorine Jobert’ a hardiness rating of Zone 4, while the Royal Horticultural Society in Great Britain gives it a Zone 7 which actually concurs as it means it is “hardy in the severest European continental climates — that is, colder than minus 20.

But my experience has shown me otherwise.  Like the less hardy white-flowered Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus, compared with the so-called Christmas rose, Helleborus niger — read Tony Avent’s opus here), this white Japanese anemone has shown itself to me to be less winter-tolerant than its pink relative.  Less vigorous when first planted, but still about to flower, perhaps I should have chopped off its head, allowing the roots to settle in and beef up before the shock of winter, much like they recommend with garden chrysanthemums.  But no – I wanted it all.

So, when it was no more in the spring, I happily went out and settled for Anemone x hybrida ‘September Charm’ and waited for it to be equally temperamental.  But this plant is a thug!  And it does pain me to say that as it is such a beautiful bloomer and is virtually untouched by any insect, disease or anything you throw at it.  It spreads by creeping rhizomes and its roots search out crevasses between flagstones or underneath interlocking stone and settle in, not to be dissuaded by anyone or anything.  Pulling by hand will not remove them — you will need a shovel.

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But wait! What the heck is this about?  ^^ On one of my late summer walks, I spied this giant clump of ‘Honorine Jobert’ in a front garden planting….towering over newly planted flaming Berberis and dwarf burning bush.  What makes it think it can act like a shrub in this protected south facing garden, where I know for a fact, there is no one there to carefully coddle it?

I fully intend to re-visit this garden in the spring and poke around for any evidence that it has come through this weird and wet winter.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

LES QUATRES VENTS: PART II

I was reminded by a reader the other day that I had promised an additional entry on this iconic garden.  I had visited it way, way back in 2013 but somehow my second installment never made it onto the page….

IMG_4719Let’s try again.

Time and space made me realize I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was left unsettled by this garden.

It is perched high above the surrounding valley, with views reaching down to the St. Lawrence in what was, and remains for many, the playground of the well-heeled.

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When the gardens at Les Quatres Vents were created in the last quarter of the 20th century, Francis Cabot’s horticultural, historical and architectural aspirations were reflected through these landscape expressions.  This level of excellence was made possible through wealth and high-society connections and Cabot’s creations mimicked the famous gardens in England, France and Japan, drawing upon (literally, physically and ideologically) the most influential gardeners, artisans and horticulturists of the day.

All this was taking place during the gardening boom in North America, when the work of contemporary British gardeners like Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse, Christopher Lloyd and Graham Stuart-Thomas were being heralded for the first time to us colonials.  More than this, the historical gardens of British icons like Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West and Russell Page were being documented in lush picture books that beginner gardeners began to devour (much to the delight of the big publishing houses in New York and London).  Cabot’s hedges channeled those in almost every English estate garden, while his languorous half-circle stone staircases reflected those designed by the famed British architect and “taste-maker” Edwin Lutyens.

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He sought their advice and held to it strictly …..

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…witness the rose garden under-planted with pinks (Dianthus), a la Russell Page’s instruction.

There are allees, precisely clipped hedges and regimented sight-lines galore, which in my mind are a stereotypical fetish of the male gardener.  Think Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote Manor fame.

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But I ask you, when is rigidity visually pleasurable and when is it claustrophobic?

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When is repetition satisfying and when is it predictable and formulaic?

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And when is monumentalism awe-inspiring and when is it simply exhibitionism?

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There were moments in this garden when I couldn’t help wondering, “Where is the authentic spirit of the place? Where is the place I can sit and feel at peace near the mouth of the St-Lawrence, without feeling the uncomfortable imposition of prestige and power?”

There were moments when I thought I had found that place …. but the question remained:  were these choreographed moments where the garden designer had anticipated the blurring effects of time or simply nature triumphing over artifice …?  And did it matter?

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In this new 21st century world where we are loosening our grip around nature, letting plants be what they intrinsically are without shaping, coddling, orchestrating and overseeing, it was the moments where wildness seemed to win where I found the most pleasure…

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But there were also dream-like “garden” moments that were clearly the result of intensive construction projects.  The relative instant gratification they must have provided Cabot is almost breath-taking.  Take his homage to the Japanese garden.

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Cabot’s Japanese garden, like its inspiration on the other side of the world, combines stone, water, temple and plants.  There is no question that it creates a place of contemplation where the furthest thing from your mind is artifice or incongruity (if this Asian art is new to you) …… and yet, in this Quebec countryside, it is exactly that.  It tries but it is not an authentic Japanese garden experience.  But, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

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And then there were the plants….

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As Cabot himself characterized it, his garden had to be a “greater perfection.”  A skilled stonemason constructed the terraces, walls and stairs; a craftsman borrowed from Japan built the tea house; visiting professionals were asked for input on the plants and gardens.  Cabot sought instruction from the very best and when he couldn’t do some of the practical stuff himself, he hired those who could.

Many of these plants are moisture lovers that require cool summers and humous-rich soil.  And so, in order to grow these spectacular Asian beauties (Rodgersia, Primula, Lilium, Iris, Meconopsis), soil was moved, trees were planted, water was directed and misters were rigged.  It is the perfect man-made environment.

So isn’t that what a garden is anyway?

Perhaps it’s just sour grapes.

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Still, I choose imperfection.  Because I am.

I will visit what is presented as perfection, with my eyes gazing up and down in awe and my mind overwhelmed with the logistics.  But I will feel at home with much less.

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A young family’s garden: space for plants, kids *and* quiet contemplation

An established garden can be both a curse and an opportunity.  A curse because chances are you will be dealing with plants that have been loved and let loose by the previous owners for decades.  And an opportunity because once the jumble is untangled and the potential is uncovered, the new garden can be a gem.  This was the case in a garden that was developed over a period of several years, transitioning from a forgotten, tired space to an active and changing one… I am happy to have helped this transition along…

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In the case of this particular garden, four large trees have provided both shade and root competition.  They straddle the west side of the garden — an ancient apple, two green ash and one butternut — and it was a surprise to all that the ash were the first to fail.  As everyone in Ottawa now knows, the last two years has seen the emerald ash borer decimate the green ash population in our city.  It seems few trees have been spared and the two in this garden have also unfortunately joined the list.  Apple trees are prone to every single type of insect and pathogen, but this beloved tree is still kicking.  The butternut is also defying the odds, as many have been succumbing to butternut canker, a fungus that has been killing trees quickly since the 1960s.

When I first came to this garden, the planting under the trees along this fence line included a very mature hedge of French hybrid lilacs with an under-planting of Annabelle hydrangea.  The lilac bushes had long since stopped blooming as they were in day-long shade, but the hydrangea (for which the homeowner had expressed her disdain) were thriving.  You may not know this but Annabelle hydrangea *always thrive*.  I can’t recall how long it took us to dig out both the lilac and hydrangea or how deep our excavations went, but our efforts spanned more than one visit and the biggest challenge may have been distinguishing between the roots of the plants that we were removing versus those of the trees we believed were staying!

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Lilac and hydrangea gone: check.  New fence: check.  Shade-loving perennials placed in east-facing bed: check.  Raised stone herb garden converted to small pond: check.

This garden is now a lush oasis with not only a million shades of green but spaces for the homeowner’s small kids to play: the raised pond provides endless fascination, the small lawn a place for them to play and the plants an opportunity to learn their names….as I’m told is actually happening, even with their 5 year old boy!

IMG_1780A blue garden shed is not only a place to store tools and the like, but also a focal point.  More than this, it provides the kids with an opportunity to play hide and seek….and the flagstone patio surrounded by a sunny garden to it’s left provides a spot for the adults to sit and contemplate life — notice the bright red bistro set.

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The basic “working man’s” terracotta pots provide an opportunity to make a summer-long colourful display.  This way, the annuals are the show and not their containers.  Stuffed full of plants, the homeowners won’t have to wait to enjoy the splendour…

Hardy, healthy roses in our own backyard!

Wunderkind Mark Dallas is the brain and brawn behind Galetta Nurseries, a specialty rose grower and retail supplier located just this side of Arnprior.  I say Wunderkind not because he’s a whippersnapper but because he must be young at heart to continue to run an independent plant nursery!

Emily Carr redRosa x ‘Emily Carr’

From the Canadian Artists Series, 4′ tall and 5′ wide, Zone 4, summer flowering, go here and here for more info

I spoke with Mark the other day about his business and the challenges he faces in 2015.  Here is our conversation:

Question:  Why the heck do you do it, especially if sales are down and people can buy roses cheaply elsewhere?

I’ve always loved roses, and I continue to do it because I believe that people deserve to have  roses that are reliably hardy in our cold climate.   The biggest challenge continues to be that most people think roses are difficult to grow.  The hardy roses I grow on the farm thrive in the Ottawa area, and I continue to hope that people will stop buying roses that just aren’t suitable for our climate…and that they will start to focus on the plants that thrive here.

Felix LeClercRosa x ‘Felix LeClerc’

From the Canadian Artists Series, 6-9′ tall and 4′ wide (yes, a climber!), Zone 4, mildly fragrant, flowers all summer long, go here for more info

Question:  What does the future look like for Galetta Nurseries?

To be blunt, not great.  We’re competing with cheap imported roses. Many of these imported roses won’t survive the winter here, but they are cheap, and price seems to be the big driver these days.

We carry a great selection of truly hardy roses at Galetta Nurseries, and we have some very rare and unusual varieties, but we still struggle to convince gardeners that there are reliable roses for our climate.

Morden BlushRosa x ‘Morden Blush’

From the Canadian Parkland Series, 2-3′ tall and wide, Zone 2, heavy bloomer summer and fall, go here for more info

“Please note: Pickering Nurseries will not open for the 2015 season.

The rose growing industry has seen a great many changes in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, the majority of these changes were negative for both the companies involved and their bottom lines. The pesticide ban enacted by Ontario in the mid 2000’s, an increase in hybridizer royalty rates and how they are calculated, a glut of cheap US grown roses coupled with the Canadian government changing both import and export regulations (unable to ship to the US 2013 and additional ongoing issues with our root stock) have left me with no choice but to stop shipping roses for this season. Over the last several years Pickering Nurseries has been exploring alternative propagation techniques and changes to our business model. Both of these things are still a work in progress. We hope to have a small, core selection of rooted cuttings available in the spring of 2016.

It is also with great sadness we announce the passing of Joseph Schraven, my father and founder of Pickering Nurseries, on May 27th.

In closing, I would like to extend thanks to all our long time customers and our colleagues in the industry and we hope to be able to serve you in the future.

Best regards,
Joel Schraven
Pickering Nurseries”

Question:  This makes me so sad.  Who are the other suppliers that have closed?

Enderlein has quit roses to go in to growing marijuana and Adamson’s (in BC) is closing to all but very large growers — they’re the only reliable supplier of own-root.  Lemay near Montreal has cut back from 450 to 40 varieties.  Finally, another retailer in the Eastern Townships who did only roses has quit…..

Morden BelleRosa x ‘Morden Belle’

From the Canadian Parkland Series, 3′ tall and wide, Zone 3, moderately fragrant, flowers all summer, go here for more info

Question:  Are they ones that you have done business with?  Do you just have Hortico now?

These were key suppliers of some of my initial stock for growing on. As you note, Hortico is still around, but they don’t appear to do own-root roses.

Question:  What is your production routine?  Do you grow your roses from seed or cuttings?

They’re all from cuttings:  most roses are hybrids, and they don’t come true to seed.   So the seeds will develop into roses, they won’t be the same as the original plants.

Question:  How do you choose the roses you sell?

Only the ones that will survive here.  I consult with other rose growers in similar climates, and I then test each variety for hardiness and disease resistance.  If a variety doesn’t survive well over many winters,  I drop it.  I expect a survival rate of greater than 99% — while most rose varieties sold in the box stores have a survival rate of 50% of less.

Because of this approach, I can guarantee all the roses for a full year.

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Question:  Do you give advice about growing roses to your customers?  Is it foolproof?

Yes: every purchase comes with a full set of instructions, and there’s a detailed web site describing most of the issues that people will have to deal with.  I also send out regular email notices to remind people of any special care instructions.

Generally, though, the roses I grow don’t need much care at all.  They just need to be planted and watered occasionally, and they don’t need any special winter care — we just leave them alone for the winter and they survive very nicely.

I also send out regular email newsletters outlining the best practices for pruning and care.

B Hope for HumanityRosa x ‘Hope for Humanity’

From the Parkland Series, 2-3′ wide and 2-4′ tall, Zone 3B, marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Red Cross, go here for more info

Go visit Mark at his home and nursery this spring and summer.  But in advance of that, visit his website for his 2015 Availability List of roses.  I guarantee that you’ll find several roses that you won’t be able to live without!

Website:  http://www3.sympatico.ca/galetta/index.html

Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/GalettaRoseNurseries

Sorry, Mark’s roses are *not* available by mail order.  Pick-up only.

942121_381927818575643_819908953_n Rosa gallica var. officinalis ‘Versicolor’ (aka Rosa Mundi)

Dates prior to 1581, 3′ wide and 3-4′ tall, Zone 4, fragrant blooms in mid-summer, extremely resistant to black spot, go here for more info

Fernwood Nursery in Hubbards, Nova Scotia

My old plant-loving compatriot, Iain Jack, has opened what else but an online fern nursery at his home in Hubbards, Nova Scotia.

Iain was an awesome member of our team when I owned my garden store, Hortus Urbanus, in Old Ottawa South for ten years between 1997 and 2007.  He was with us for a couple of years and when he left, we were all very sorry to see him go.  He left to return to Nova Scotia, where he and his partner had purchased a house — and being a Maritimer, he heard the call of the sea.

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I did an interview with Iain asking him about his new life making plants and here are his words…

In brief, what is your career history?

Horticulture and social work have been the two major career themes in my life.  Some people don’t see a connection (both nurturing professions, I say),  but I’ve even been lucky enough to find a few ways to combine my interest in plants and people. For example, community development with community gardening groups, recreational horticulture with persons with dementia, running my own nursery…and botanical ‘retail therapy work’, like at Hortus Urbanus

And your connection with Nova Scotia?

I grew up in the Annapolis Valley an agricultural area in NS. When I was a kid it was all about the apples. Now there’s a lot of vineyards. NS is very international these days 😉

In the 1980’s when I was leaving Halifax for big city Ontario, more than one person said to me before I left “you’ll be back; they always come back.”  I guess it was true.  We bought our current home in St Margaret’s Bay, just south of Halifax, in 1998 and have loved living by the sea since. Peter’s a big sea kayaker.  I like it too, but for me it should be more like being in a hammock!

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Isn’t it cold there?

As you might’ve been hearing on the news these days, NS can have some pretty awesome weather. The Atlantic ocean moderates (Z6a here), but it also rages sometimes.  As a growing environment, though, I can grow a lot more than I could when I was a gardener in Ottawa.  As a producer, I’m able to test the limits of a wider variety of plants to (my) garden situations as well.  The limits of tree ferns are still for the folks in SW BC, oh well 😉

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Ferns?  Are you crazy?  Aren’t they boring?  (I ask as devil’s advocate…)

I think it might be like other things, once you start to notice the differences and details of something it can become endlessly fascinating.  Ferns are that way to me.  The shapes of fronds,  the different forms, habits and colours, even spores under a microscope – there’s a huge diversity, and so much new stuff to learn.  Growing them form spore makes for a good horticultural challenge because of their life cycle – It’s like I discovered penicillin every time a sowing is successful!  Yay me!  As a gardener, and a lover of woodlands, ferns are essential.  They can be formal, perfect vases, relaxed groupings, to downright-unrestrained ground covers. “50 shades of green” doesn’t begin to cover the subtle range in the fern colour palette, not to mention various tones of red, mustard, purple and silver.  Fiddleheads are often covered with hairs or scales in silvers, bronze, gold, and black.  And then I discovered dry land and alpine ferns.  Well, you know how that story goes – mountaineering anyone?  Not really, not yet! See? very inspiring 😉

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Ferns were very popular in Victorian times and shortly after in more than just horticulture, including art and architecture. The fern crosier was much-loved in art-deco.  Really neat imagery and symbology.

I’ll tell you what is boring; having deer browse your entire garden. When I was considering a nursery start-up, one of the main criteria in crop selection was its palatability to deer. No, seriously.  I have a strong interest in the native plants of this area, and that took me to ferns. There’s 50+ species in the Acadian forest region alone.  Not so much when compered to thousands in tropical parts of the world, but enough to keep me out hiking to see them for quite a long time.

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I also had the good fortune to meet the operators of two separate fern specialty nurseries in the Seattle area when I was there a few years ago. Even though NS and Canada is a smaller market, I felt affirmed that ferns could make a great mail order crop and that there could be a greater interest in using them if folks knew more about ferns and could get plants that solved their landscape problem.  Hence Fernwood’s mission: “to explore and promote the diversity and landscape value of native and hardy exotic ferns.”

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Unlike cloned plants, spore-grown ferns can show a good amount of individual variation.  Wholesalers and mass purchasers wouldn’t probably like that kind of variety, but I’m excited by the small differences that can show up in any batch.

What does your day look like being the “Fern Guy”?

It really depends on the season, of course.  There’s always some spore sowing on the go.  Sowing trays are sealed to hold humidity (then it’s waiting and not a lot of direct intervention) and temperature and lighting is important to regulate.

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It’s about this time of year I start getting invitations to talk about ferns to gardener and field naturalist groups.  I really like those gigs.  Whether it’s natural history or container gardening, folks are usually gung-ho to hear about something that’s not been talked about before.

In the spring I like ‘market fern guy’ day.  I work alone quite a bit, so a chance to interact and maybe chat is fun.

Summer fern guy spends a good amount of time looking after watering at the nursery. Small pot sizes mean I don’t use a lot of water for irrigation, which is good, but they dry out more quickly than larger ones, and need more regular attention. Any kind or amount of automation is helpful here, I think.

People probably think of NS as a foggy, mossy place (and it is), but our forests can be rocky, and dry in the summer.  So, ferns hardening off outdoors may need supplemental watering as well. The other, more fun thing, I do in the summer is collect spore.  It kind-of seems my head is constantly down looking at every fern for “ripe” spores, here in my own collection, or out-and-about anywhere there’s ferns really.  Ailsa, I carry a jeweler’s lens around my neck with me now for examining ferns…I’m a real fern nerd, of sure.

What is your Cairn terriers name?  Does he/she eat/dig/destroy your garden?

Jock. He and our Sheltie Lucy are out working with me most days, so he’s never by himself, which is when cairn’s take everything upon themselves, I think.  Also, we decided early to focus on ‘chase the ball’ as his obsession and were careful to never activate his ‘terroir” gene 😉

Is operating a fern nursery everything you imagined it would be?

And more!  Really!  Right now I’m a one person operation, so I really do operate ‘everything.’  I like that aspect of running my own nursery. That said, and truth be told, I wouldn’t know how to use my ‘smart phone’ without Peter, my partner and biggest supporter.  He’s helped me assess and plan the idea for the nursery.  Even though any one task probably wouldn’t satisfy me all day, that hardly ever happens, and I’m usually going happily from task-to-task.  You know how many things you have to do just to get ready to mix soil, right?  There’ always something to do and if it doesn’t get beyond your comfort, I think that’s great.

What’s the best thing about your life now and what is the worst?

Working with the days and seasons, without a doubt, is the one of the best.  I hope it won’t sound too hokey, but I find it way easier to get with schedule imposed by the rhythm of the growing seasons than with one imposed by a clock and calendar.  One of the worst things – I’m terrible with any kind of schedule and I work by myself!  More seriously, whether it’s business planning, horticultural problem-solving, or collaborative design, I don’t get to enjoy and benefit from working directly with others in the same way I could in other jobs.  So I look for those opportunities when I m able.

How many varieties of fern do you sell?

There’s over 50 different species and varieties in my collection right now.  Not all those are for sale at any one time though. Each species has it’s own production cycle, which means there’s usually a few different things available each year.  I try and make sure there’s always something for each type of situation gardeners might have, from moist or dry soils in shade, to wet or dry areas in sun, and anything in between.  Or as I like to say, “there’s a fern for that spot.”  I’ve collected my stock plants from jas many sources as possible, including: imports from large US wholesale growers, donations of spores from other growers, membership in fern society spore exchanges, occasional purchases from seed companies when available, and the odd find at a local garden centre.

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What is your favourite fern?

Each next one I look at – honestly!

Ok…Maidenhair Spleenwort,  Asplenium trichomanes.  It’s the cutest little native evergreen fern for moist rock gardens and rock walls in shade to part sun.  But so international as well;  in the UK, I think (except for it’s gorgeous cultivars) it’s considered “common” for it’s habit of growing in every rocky nook and cranny.  Here it’s a much less common treasure, but is equally great for those rocky places that need special detail.  Keep it up close to an edge where it can be admired.

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Who are your customers?

Nova Scotia gardeners have been great supporters, inviting me to their annual convention twice, traveling to the annual Rare & Unusual Plant Sale held in Annapolis Royal and purchasing some ferns, finding me at farmers markets, or visiting the Fernwood while out on garden tours.  Local gardeners seem genuinely excited to know its okay to admire and include ferns in their cultivated spaces. Because of our semi-rural location and small population, Fernwood has always been planned to grow further as an online, mail-order nursery.  Speaking as someone who really knows what “gardening on the edges” means, geographically anyway, I’m also excited about the idea of making cool plants available to folks who don’t necessarily live near a large garden centre.  So far, I’ve shipped plants to Ontario, Quebec, and NB. and with great feedback, so I feel confident about how well my ferns ship.  They are a shade crop after all, so a few days in a box under the right conditions is pretty easy for them.

How do people get their hands on your ferns?

There’s a catalogue on the Fernwood website that describes all the ferns I’m currently growing. There are annual spring and summer availability lists posted there too. The availability lists have an order form that includes pricing and shipping information.  I ship plants using Canada Post’s expedited parcel service, at cost. It offers the most economical rates and can easily reach most places in Canada within a week. It’s different for everywhere so people should check the order form. I’m still figuring it out as well, because cost is partly weight and the balance between moisture for the plant and too much weight is important in both respects. Water’s heavy! Anyway, not to be evasive, it probably wouldn’t be too far off to say you could get about a dozen Fernwood plants to the more populated areas of Ontario for under $20 shipping. 12 plants! Not bad, in my experience. Remember, all plants are alive and in active growth. No dormant, bare root material sold.

After this season I’m looking forward to working on the online cataloguing and purchasing component of the website. I keep wanting to get photos up, and that’ll be a great time to incorporate images.  For now i’m not really starting anything new until I’m able to convince the city that a 50’ greenhouse isn’t industrial agriculture! and the scourge of rural suburbia …

I ship ferns when they’re well-established in 4” pots. At that stage they’re still small enough to ship economically, and at the best size for success in most applications.  Prices are between $7-10, varying by type and depending on challenge and length of time to produce (for example, a few can be ready in 18 months, but others can take 3 years to get to a salable/plantable size).  At local sales I often have larger sizes available at different prices.

The Secret Gardener Nursery

More relationships break up in January than any other month I read.  Also more people sign up for gym and dating site memberships. January is tough enough.  Let’s try to make it a tiny bit easier.

On my garden tour trip last summer, we visited a charming plant nursery in Hudson, New York, called The Secret Gardener. IMG_0674Behind a vintage wrought iron gate, this nursery is clearly a work of love and attention. IMG_0676Our first view was after closing and we peered in and saw the beautiful pots, colourful vignettes and wood framed building that housed the cash counter and a selection of choice tools and accessories. IMG_0863We made a point of returning the next day before it closed and were delighted to walk around the beautifully curated sales and growing areas, carefully avoiding being drenched by the plumes of water. IMG_0868A boulder dressed in lichen and moss, an rusted iron table with a bright red dump truck planter and everywhere you look, artfully orchestrated plantings.IMG_0866   Not simply arrangements in planters, but striking islands of colour and joyful perennials bursting from the ground.         IMG_0854   Even opportunities for moments of repose.  This could be your garden!       IMG_0858   But here in this nursery, there is always work to be done …propagating…   IMG_0856   ….watering…. IMG_0860   ….deadheading and primping…. IMG_0873   If you’re in this neck of the woods, it would be unfortunate if you didn’t visit this unique nursery.  Because there aren’t many like it.  And you will be deeply and deliciously inspired. IMG_0874