30 June 2014

Red & White for Canada Day!

Happy birthday to the best country in the world, Canada, my home and native land! To celebrate Canada Day, July 1st, here are a selection of flowers in our flag's colours of red and white. (The flags above are at Grand Pré National Historic Site lookoff and feature the Acadian Flag, the United Nations Flag, the Canadian Flag, the Nova Scotian Flag, and the Mi'kmaq First Nations flag.)

22 June 2014

Love them & Leave Them: Tricky Plants I Enjoy Tormenting Myself With

 We all have plants that give us challenges. The dry-soil loving perennial that pouts at cold wet clay soils. The blue poppy that wants exactly what it wants or it will die without blooming. The yellow hollyhocks that taunt us by blooming any other colour but yellow. The zone 7 plant that we try knowing full well we are a zone 5b, MAYBE 6a with winter protection...

You get the picture. And I know you have had the plants. And the challenges. And the losses. I have absolutely no idea how many plants I've killed over the years, but I am quite sure it is hundreds, if not thousands. (Not including annuals, or even houseplants!)

15 June 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Getting passionate about penstemons

It's been quite a while since I participated in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and since I have a new plant obsession to talk about, might as well combine the two! 

It's always exciting when we as gardeners discover some aspect of gardening, or some particular type of plant, that we hadn't really gotten excited about in the past. One of those for me is the genus Penstemon. 
Formerly, this genus was in the Scrofulariaceae family, the figwort family, which includes Verbascum (mulleins), Buddleia (butterfly bush) and Diascia. But DNA typing has reclassified penstemons as well as relatives Digitalis, (foxgloves) Chelone (Turtlehead) and Veronica and Veronicastrum to the Plantaginaceae, or plantain family. Isn't that fun? 

10 June 2014

It all starts with one...primula

For years I have been very fond of certain primulas, also known as primroses, and sometimes as cowslips, although those are a particular species. There have been some I've had challenges with, and some I've been besotted with, and some that have been hardy and some...that I haven't found the right spot for just yet. 

The fascination started in earnest a few years ago when I saw these auricula primulas (right photo) in bloom at the NSAC rock garden. Then I was given several auriculas by my late friend Diana Steele (left photo), and shared them with Rob Baldwin, who obediently propagated them. And then...

A bunch of us plant addicts had the absolutely pleasure of taking a workshop from Pam Eveleigh of Primula World several autumns ago--a wise, knowledgeable and generous authority on primulas haling from Calgary--and that pretty much sealed the deal for my love of primulas. Now I have a steadily growing collection--it had to be restarted after my relocation, but it's well underway, now. 

07 June 2014

Public Service Announcement: Don't dig up that (not) dead plant!

It happens to the best of us, it really does. We dig up a plant that we think is dead, not realizing that it's just a slow starter. We toss it in the compost, and go get another one, or decide we can't grow that particular plant. 

OR, even worse we take it back to the nursery where we bought it, where it is determined that it ISN'T dead. In which case we take it back home and replant it, and it doesn't prosper, having been disrupted, or even dies for real this time. 

There's been a lot of this happen this spring, and I've been hearing from nurseries whose staff are complaining about having living plants returned to them. So I'm here to address that on their behalf, and remind us all to be patient with plants. Here's a few of the usual suspects in our region. As always, late-waking plants vary with where you live and your hardiness zone. 

03 June 2014

Great Nurseries in Nova Scotia

 I'm back! It's been a busy, busy two months, what with Saltscapes Expo in late April, all the nurseries kicking into high gear, and putting my own garden into gear. But a conversation I had on Sunday at a nursery prompted me to write a new post.

We have some great nurseries in Nova Scotia...growing top quality plants, with knowledgeable and helpful staff. There are others that I don't patronize, either because I don't know about them (it does happen) or they are big-box or other knockoff type places, or they just aren't all that great. I have nurseries I visit regularly and highly recommend, and a few I get to once or twice a season and will mention here even though I've not been yet this year.

The list is not ranked--I love them all!--so it's alphabetical. In many cases I don't have wide angle or landscape photos of the whole business so I am inclined to post photos of something special or interesting. I'm also hotlinking to their Facebook pages wherever possible--most have actual websites too, but social media sites are more immediate to update and are a wealth of information, too.
 Baldwin's Nurseries: 500 Mines Road, Falmouth. Disclosure: Rob and I have been friends for years, but we became friends because of his business. He grows a LOT of shrubs, trees, perennials and ornamental grasses, many of them propagated by him. Has especially fine collections of magnolias, rhodos and azaleas, perennials for pollinators, ornamental grasses, and evergreens. Does not sell annuals other than a few herb and tomato transplants.
 Blomidon Nurseries, Greenwich. I live less than five minutes away from Blomidon, which means I'm there multiple times a week. Now, in my defence, they do have Stems Cafe, where I often have lunch or coffee or frozen yogourt...but they also have an extension collection of plants (excellent perennial and annual variety), giftware and planting supplies in the main shop, knowledgeable staff, and a welcoming atmosphere.
 Bloom Greenhouse & Garden Centre, Hammonds Plains. Cathy Oulton has built a thriving business in Hammonds Plains, with a full lineup of plants and planting supplies, custom designed containers (bring your own and have staff plant it up for you!) and regular workshops and seminars. Her Christmas Open House is a must-attend event in late November or early December!
 Briar Patch Farm and Nursery, Berwick: Another family-run nursery, with spectacular display gardens and huge selections of many different types of plants, including hostas and roses, Japanese maples, shade plants, hellebores...okay, pretty much anything you could want. Great staff, very knowledgable and helpful. They also operate a landscaping business and it's so obvious, when you see one of their jobs, that it's been done by people with a passion for plants.
 Bunchberry Nurseries, Upper Clements: Jill Covill loves plants, and it shows, both in her nursery and in the display gardens around the nursery. Those gardens feature heaths, heathers, and rhododendrons, evergreens and ornamental grasses, among other plants. Jill has regular workshops during the growing year, including the popular Gardening with Gordon series, and she has also helped organize the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale for the past 5 years.

Gerry's Nursery, Centreville: Gerry's was the first nursery I started going to regularly when I started gardening in earnest after moving to the Canning area 19 years ago. Gerry is mostly retired now, with health issues, but he and his associate, his adopted kitty, check out the staff and the greenhouses pretty much every day. Gerry's carries pretty much everything--perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs, and they use SeaBoost on their plants, which is why they're so big and healthy. (this photo was taken by one of their staff about a month ago, so things were still a little small. Not so now!

 Glad Gardens, Waterville (not far from Berwick) Another family-owned and operated nursery, with multiple generations of the Budde family working there! They have fantastic annuals and perennials, great containers pre-made for you in the spring, and several years ago expanded to include a shrub and tree yard. Some lovely display gardens, including a huge water feature they built two years ago. Also hosts to the Giant Vegetable Competition each fall.
 Hillendale Perennials, Hilden (Truro) Lloyd Mapplebeck is one of the MOST knowledgeable plant people I know--and is very generous in sharing his knowledge in an encouraging, often humourous manner. He is a master of plant puns, as you'll see from his Facebook Page. Lloyd carries primarily perennials, but also has cut flowers and containers of brilliant annuals, salad greens and herbs. He sells at the Truro Farmers Market on Saturdays, but to appreciate his huge selection, you really need to visit the nursery.
Lowland Gardens, Great Village (not far from Masstown and Truro) Tony and Gerrie have operated this family owned business for many years. They have an incredible selection of annuals, a varied selection of perennials, and staff who know and love plants. Tony also has quite a sense of humour, as you can see from the photo above! Well worth the drive. Open seasonally. 

Neily's Greenhouse & Gardens, Bridgetown: I don't think I've met Will Neily in person yet, but we 'know' each other through Facebook, and I've been to his greenhouse several times already this year. Another of the small, family type nurseries, primarily annuals and transplants with some perennials too. The plants are always well grown and healthy, which with the spring we've been having is sometimes quite a challenge. 
 Oceanview Garden Centre & Landscaping, Chester, NS: I always plan at LEAST an hour visit at Oceanview...and usually much longer. This family operated business has a huge inventory, an enormous gift shop, ice cream and cold drinks for sale on-site, and the best collection of glazed ceramics and garden art around. Many of the staff have been there for years, and are knowledgeable and friendly. A destination for sure!
 Ouest-ville Perennials, West Pubnico: Like Jill of Bunchberry and me, owner Alice d'Entremont is a graduate of the (former) Nova Scotia Agricultural College, and it shows in her passion for plants. As the business name suggests, she specializes in perennials, including alpines, daylilies, and pollinator plants, but also carries annuals, some veggie and herb transplants, and a selection of shrubs. She carries many organic plant products, including from SeaBoost (my personal fertilizers of choice) and Growing Green Earthworm Castings (another favourite). Alice is probably the farthest away from me of any nursery, and she's a dear friend, so I wish I could get there more often in a season!

Scotian Gold Country Gardens, Coldbrook, NS: Part of the Scotian Gold complex in Coldbrook, this seasonal greenhouse has it all--gardening supplies, seeds, transplants, perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees, including of course apple trees, as well as garden art and accessories. Manager Mike Weir has a huge passion for what he does, and is part of the younger generation of gardening enthusiasts, carrying the torch for the future.

Village Nursery, Pleasantville, NS: A few miles outside of Bridgewater, but a destination for sure. Two things I especially like: the Dazee Dome, a huge greenhouse jampacked with annuals; and the fact that they sell seed-grown perennials in 4 or 6packs, perfect for filling in a part of your garden for next year (many of the perennials won't flower til the following year, but we are patient). Excellent selection of perennials.
Woodlands & Meadows Perennial Nursery&Gardens, Black Rock Road, Old Barns (outside of Truro). Jane Blackburn sells her plants at the Truro Farmer's Market ever week during the growing season, but to really get a sense of the nursery, you have to visit. The property combines her love of plants with her husband Andrew's huge passion for trains--there are two train cars on site, and countless memorability. Jane specializes in woodland plants and succulents/rock garden plants--she has a great collection of primula and sempervivums, among many, many other plants. 

Other great places to visit: 
Wile's Lake Farm Market and Bakery, Bridgewater: Although they don't have Garden Centre in their name, Elspeth and her husband have a great garden centre at their market, with plenty of annuals, perennials and supplies for gardeners. 
Cosby's Garden Centre, Liverpool: Sadly, Ivan Higgins has neither a Facebook page nor a website, which is a huge pity, because along with the terrific plants he sells, he is a master of the concrete sculpture, and I mean master. He doesn't just make troughs--he makes human sized statues, castles, dragons, all of which are displayed around the property. 
Downey's Pitcher Plant Nursery, Chester: Downey's is a small family business, and they have great plants--but they ESPECIALLY have fantastic ironwork--signposts, windowbox holders, and many other items, made by the owner. I have bought numerous pieces over the years and they all hold up brilliantly. 
Spencer's Garden Centre, Shelburne: It's not a great idea to have a Facebook page and not update it, so I'm not hotlinking to it here. Spencer's is a wonderful nursery, although those of us who aren't from the Shelburne area have to remember it's the mildest part of the province and some of their perennials might not overwinter in colder areas. 
T & D Nursery, The Forties (New Ross): Originally started as a nursery to grow tree seedlings for the Christmas tree trade, expanded to carry a huge selection of annuals, good perennial and shrub selection, too. A bit off the beaten path, but worth the trip, always. 
West River Greenhouses, Pictou/New Glasgow: I haven't been there this year, but I've always found terrific perennials at West River. 
Pleasant Valley Nurseries, Antigonish: Likewise, I haven't been to Antigonish for several years, but a road trip is in my near future! I always find treasures at Pleasant Valley, and I especially love that they have a butterfly/pollinator section in their perennial offerings. 

There! Hopefully I have redeemed myself by offering up this resource! Now if you will excuse me...the garden is calling me. 

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