Fernwood Plant Nursery began in 2010 as a testing ground for the hardiness and garden-worthiness of ferns for northern gardeners. Since that time it has also been a personal learning ground for the many challenging aspects of the production of ferns from spores. Along the way there’s been much trail-and-error but also the greatly appreciated support of more experienced growers, locally and from away. It’s to all those folks I dedicate this first post with many thanks.
Our story starts in a closet with shelves and lights hung on the wall for germinating spores and, during winter, container plants buried under blankets outdoors. After that it was wonderful to set-up our first little coldframe (actually a large hobby “greenhouse” ordered on the internet). It didn’t take long to realize the space was inadequate both in size and function. Firstly, I couldn’t fit all the varieties I wanted to grow and secondly, small spaces are nearly impossible to regulate heat in. Being ready for those early spring garden warriors was another challenge. It became clear it was time to decide whether to go bigger or not.
Fernwood is also our family home. Located in a small village on the southwest edge of the very large Halifax Regional Municipality, the property (circa 1883) was once a small farm. As farming declined post WWII and the suburbs encroached, our neighbourhood was zoned ‘residential’. This means no commercial activities are allowed, other than maybe a small office inside the home. Not so convenient for running a nursery. So, after much debate and with some trepidation we decided to apply for a ‘development agreement’ which would allow us to grow and run the nursery here. That process is another whole story. Suffice to say that after almost two years we have just finished constructing our new greenhouse facility. And it’s nice!
The new greenhouse is small by commercial horticultural standards, just 24 x 48 feet. Originally I’d planned for something even a bit smaller but was warned by other growers to go bigger “because you’re going to want that extra space.” I guess what’s true for aquariums is true for greenhouses too. A ‘header house’ attached to the front end will give us much better space for potting and shipping work, and makes Peter happy because we’ll have the garage back 😉 Functionally, the header also creates a vestibule-like barrier between the outdoors and the interior growing environment. And, as a screen it means our ‘business activity’ won’t ruin the residential feel of the neighbourhood. Somewhat counter-intuitively, we are allowed to hang a big sign, but that’ll be reserved for seasonal open house days.
Part of preparing the site for the new facility included a bit of cut’n fill as our property slopes to the southwest. From that activity, and the tons of granite boulders pulled from the ground we created space for a new rockery garden. Initially conceived as a home for a growing collection of dryland and alpine ferns, winter has given me a lot of time to imagine all the other botanical goodies that would make suitable companions to the ferns. Funny how that goes, eh?
So now we just need to get the furnace up-and-running and we’re about ready for the fun part – growing! The spore-gods were smiling this year and the sowing have been largely successful. Most of them won’t be ready for sale for at least another year, but a few are definitely ready to move on from plugs to pots, mostly the apogamous types (more about apogamy in ferns in another post). Basically though they’d then take up much more space than is available in the lab and so I’m super-excited to get things moving along. Stay tuned for more as we move into the new greenhouse.