Batch of businesses bloom each spring Gar­den path leads out­side Perime­ter

SundayXtra - - THIS CITY - By Mau­reen Scurfield

THE per­fect drive on a spring day? Four world-class gar­den cen­tres are strung out in a row down St. Mary’s Road just out­side the Perime­ter High­way. You won’t be alone. Af­ter suf­fer­ing through the cold­est win­ter since 1898, Win­nipeg gar­den­ers are dy­ing to snatch up seedlings and get at it.

Sage Gar­dens, St. Mary’s, La­coste and Ron Paul gar­den cen­tres had their stylish doors flung wide open his weekend, and the park­ing lots were full. Each lo­ca­tion has some­thing dif­fer­ent to of­fer, so it’s a blast to hit ’em all in a two-hour stretch. 3410 St. Mary’s Rd. AS you come through the door, it hits you right in the nose — the pun­gent smell of herbs, flow­ers and or­ganic earth.

People are un­abashedly fondling the flow­ers and plants be­fore my very eyes.

“Yes, we en­cour­age people to scratch and sniff,” Dave Han­son said with a laugh. He said rub­bing the plants re­leases the oils, which linger on your fin­gers. “You can eat them and in­hale them. And the rose­mary is good for stu­dents.”

Han­son said the aroma of the pur­ple plant calms the body but keeps the mind alert. “The flow­ers have a zing, yet taste like honey.”

I gob­ble some for the sake of sci­ence. Mmm. Love that lemon ver­bena plant — smells like lemon can­dies. Then there’s the root beer plant. Who knew?

Han­son, whose rich bari­tone can be heard weekly on his CBC gar­den­ing show, is used to an­swer­ing ques­tions and en­joys talk­ing to cus­tomers. He hints heav­ily he also has a North Amer­i­can-wide TV show in the off­ing. Han­son coowns the Sage Gar­den busi­ness with his wife Eve­lyn Yauk, who does an artis­tic job of stock­ing their fair-trade gift shop with books and pot­tery (no knock­offs), jew­elry, dishes, toys and or­ganic seeds. Their green­house ar­eas are filled with plants at dif­fer­ent stages of grow­ing, bril­liantly-coloured

Sage Gar­den Green­houses

pots and gar­den decor.

St. Mary’s Nurs­ery and Gar­den Cen­tre

2901 St. Mary’s Rd. THIS gar­den cen­tre, owned by Ken Land and Carla Hrycyna, is open year-round.

Be­fore one even gets near the spring plants, cus­tomers are por­ing over the gift shop, which fea­tures ev­ery­thing from gar­den and house­hold decor to ar­ti­san cloth­ing and jew­elry. Then comes the se­ries of big nurs­eries, with red, yel­low, or­ange and hot pink pot­ting plants and tow­er­ing white Easter lilies for this weekend. And who knew there would be a huge pond and foun­tain out back?

Four shop cats pa­rade around the build­ing, wind­ing in and out of the flower pots on the floor.

“We had one gen­tle­man who walked around the store for sev­eral hours be­cause one of the cats was in the bas­ket and wouldn’t get out be­cause he loved his ride,” said Hrycyna.

Hrycyna said 70 per cent of cus­tomers are women, and both the mer­chan­dise and the gar­den­ing ar­eas show a lot of fem­i­nine touches. Girls of all ages love the fairy gar­dens, with minia­ture cas­tles and fig­urines and tiny plants in a small plot.

St. Mary’s goes the ex­tra mile, with un­usual gar­dens fea­tur­ing wind-driven fly­ing birds and crea­tures and a collection of yakking pel­i­cans scream­ing for a home at the lake.

This gar­den cen­tre is also about ed­u­ca­tion. “We of­fer a lot of cour­ses here,” said Hrycyna.

Topics in­clude container gar­den­ing, “Mom and me” gar­den­ing, and of course, fairy gar­den­ing.

La­coste Gar­den Cen­tre

2787 St. Mary’s Rd. DAVE Hiebert likes to be on the cut­ting edge of new trends. This sea­son, he’s brought in large black Capi planters from Italy made of plas­tic and fiber­glass that look el­e­gant but will with­stand freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. “We’re al­ready try­ing to get in more of these, be­cause they have been sell­ing so fast.” And there’s lots of whimsy in the gar­den decor, like the wild dis­play of psy­che­delic rub­ber boots that greet you as you en­ter the front door.

This year, Hiebert is mak­ing the nurs­ery more user­friendly for gar­den­ers on the run, with a new, smaller build­ing to the left of the park­ing lot. It is a mi­cro­cosm of his 200,000 square-foot, six-nurs­ery oper­a­tion. This way, helpers who are mak­ing a pit stop for “the boss” can get an­nu­als and gar­den­ing sup­plies right off the front park­ing lot and drive home fast.

Gar­den­ers with more time to spare will want to stroll through the gi­ant nurs­eries in the back to see the many dis­plays of flow­ers and plants. These big cen­tres are go-tos for commercial jobs as well as homes.

“We do a lot of cus­tom grow­ing for people,” Hiebert said. “They put in an or­der in the fall, and by spring ev­ery­thing is ready to go.”

Ron Paul Nurs­ery

2641 St. Mary’s Rd. THIS is the wild and crazy spot, owned by Ray Dubois, that sells Christ­mas trees and takes people on sleigh rides in the win­ter, plus there’s a big stuffed black bear or a gi­ant moose for kids to pose with for pho­tos.

In the sum­mer show­room, those gi­ant an­i­mals are now on sale at $495 a pop. They’re tucked in with the metal pa­tio sets in 10 dif­fer­ent ice-cream colours.

Land­scap­ing man­ager Owen Nagy takes me on a tour and ex­plains one of the beau­ties of work­ing in a large nurs­ery is be­ing in sum­mer tem­per­a­tures with the plants while it’s still a whole other sea­son out­side. “An­other ad­van­tage is you also get to see things grow­ing, start to fin­ish.”

A nurs­ery worker walks un­der­neath a strik­ing new pe­tu­nia combo of black flow­ers, with oth­ers look­ing like the in­side of trop­i­cal fruit. They’re petu­nias called “pa­paya” and “black magic” she calls out on the way by. Heav­enly colours and heady aro­mas — gar­den cen­tre magic in­deed. Mau­reen Scurfield’s brown thumb is show­ing signs of turn­ing

green.

C

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