May 14th – Getting Ready for our First Open Nursery Day!

Many of you know that Fernwood is located at my home in Hubbards, NS. I described the nursery’s humble beginnings in a backyard cold frame as part of my first post on this new website. Because our semi-rural neighbourhood is zoned “residential” we needed to apply for a development agreement even to have that. After a 1 1/2 year application process we received the ok to run the nursery here. Nail-biter, for sure!

In the spirit of all the regular cliches – “go big or go home” and “in for a penny, in for a pound” – we decided to expand the operation and our horticultural reach. With just the two of us (me the creative brawn, Peter the technical brains) there’s still a lot to do. With the greenhouse finally done (almost!) and the spring weather here my eye has turned to the exciting landscaping opportunities construction has created. While they’ll take at least the season to get to, and probably longer to complete, I hope you’ll be interested in visiting us in May or June during one of our Open House Weekends to see what’s happening. Visit our homepage for dates, times and directions.

Some of the up-and-coming things I’m most excited about:

Highgrove stumpery

A Stumpery


This year marks the 125th Anniversary of the British Fern Society.
To celebrate the occasion, and make good use of the tree stumps that needed to be moved for the greenhouse site, I’m installing a small stumpery. In case you’re not familiar with the idea, a stumpery is just that, a landscape feature that uses upturned tree stumps (roots and all) to create structure, habitat, and display space for shade plants. A Victorian innovation, the stumpery creates an ancient, woodsy ambiance. I think the Victorians where a bit enamoured with the ghastly and grotesque too. But, hey, Prince Charles has a stumpery, and if it’s good enough for His Highness…


Rockery bones


The Rockery
Nova Scotia is THE place for glacial till and exposed bedrock. The site of the new greenhouse was gently sloping to the southwest and leveling it meant a day of cut’n fill with a large excavator. Fun toy! The operator was a bit unsure at first about where I was going with the “retaining wall” to shore up the part that was dug out.

By halfway through, though, he was happily making suggestions for placing boulders to get their good side. The result of our creative effort is the 5 foot high and 60 foot long bones of a new rockery. Originally, I’d been simply thinking about a spot to house and display a collection of xeric and alpine ferns. Now I’ve got an entire new garden to design and install. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Rain Garden
Where does all that rainwater coming off the greenhouse go? Why, down into the rain garden, of course! We had a lot of rocks left from the site preparation that didn’t fit into the rockery. There’s only so many rocks a garden needs, even a rock garden. So, we dug a giant hole at the lower end of the nursery site and filled it most of the way with the extra rocks, all topped with the contents of my compost bins and some topsoil. A ditch that runs parallel and the length of the greenhouse captures and funnels rainwater from the nursery yard down into this area, where I’ve roughed out the outline for a rain garden. The folks who built our home 130 years ago chose their site well. No damp basements – water does not sit here, at all. This has made having a fernery here a constant challenge. The trees in the new rain garden area are still young and don’t provide a lot of shade yet, but I’m pretty excited about having the “consistently moist” spot for ferns that my own catalogue recommends 😉

New Woodland Space!
We’ve been here for almost 20 years and that entire time I was looking at the wrong property markers. As it turns out, the only moist area around my house lies in what I thought was an adjacent “borrowed view.” That is until I had the property resurveyed for the development agreement. Turns out, that lovely damp low spot of several hundreds of square feet is part of our kingdom! Oh, the ferny possibilities…