Rare plant sale draw for Mar­itime town

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PERSPECTIVES - BY KIM COOK

They’re lined up three deep af­ter lunch, ea­gerly await­ing the 1 p.m. open­ing. A bright yel­low rope bar­rier holds every­one back.

An out­door con­cert? Black Fri­day at Wal­mart? No - these folks are at the An­napo­lis Royal Farmer’s Mar­ket for the At­lantic Canada Rare and Un­usual Plant Sale.

Nova Sco­tia is full of keen gar­den­ers, and the peren­nial sale has come to mark the un­of­fi­cial start to gardening sea­son here. Now in its eighth year, the sale was started by hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist Jill Covill, who runs Bunch­berry Nurs­eries just out­side town. She spear­headed a com­mu­nity mag­no­lia tree plant­ing project 20 years ago, with 30 dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars and over 100 trees, turn­ing An­napo­lis Royal into a mag­no­lia cap­i­tal.

“We were get­ting lots of high­sea­son and early-fall vis­i­tors, but we wanted to draw peo­ple here in the shoul­der sea­son,” Covill says.

Nes­tled be­side the An­napo­lis River and Bay of Fundy wa­ters, the val­ley town is pro­tected from the fiercest At­lantic weather by a gently ridged moun­tain. Lo­cals re­fer to the area, which lies in USDA har­di­ness zone 5A, as the prov­ince’s “ba­nana belt”; its rel­a­tively ex­tended warm, sunny and ro­bust grow­ing sea­son at­tracts many green thumbs.

Rare plant sales are pop­u­lar in many places where con­di­tions make for avid gardening. The At­lantic Canada sale fo­cuses on un­usual flora. About 20 ven­dors now take part, and hun­dreds of peo­ple at­tend, from as far away as On­tario.

“It’s now an in­te­gral part of the spring sea­son in An­napo­lis Royal,” says Jane Ni­chol­son, who owns an in­te­rior decor store in town and is a long­time mem­ber of the cham­ber of com­merce. “It con­trib­utes im­mea­sur­ably to the busi­ness and cul­tural life of the area.”

This year, on a cool but sunny Sun­day, Peter Davies, the town crier charged with an­nounc­ing pretty much any­thing of­fi­cial, was in his bright red, yel­low and black pe­riod cos­tume. He grandly called the sale open with a count­down.

Soon, the booths were buzzing with cus­tomers. Jean Smith clutched a Ja­panese maple, its slen­der, foun­tain-like leaves evoca­tive of the harp strings for which the tree is named: “Koto no Ito.” Friends ex­pressed their ad­mi­ra­tion for her find.

There was much ex­claim­ing over dis­cov­er­ies.

“Oh nice, what’s that, Heather?!”

“Marsh marigold!” “Wow, that’s beau­ti­ful, Jim!” “Thanks, it’s a Troat’s Dwarf Birch!”

Mar­cia Field, wear­ing a peri­win­kle sweater and straw hat, toted a vi­brant dwarf yel­low yew that caught the sun­shine.

“I have a gor­geous deep blue ce­ramic pot at home; I think it’s go­ing to look won­der­ful,” she beamed.

Iain Jack, owner of Fern­wood Nurs­ery in nearby Hub­bards, dis­played an el­e­gant Lady in Red fern with red-vi­o­let stems, and an eared lady fern that tran­si­tions from char­treuse to deep green. Both gen­er­ated lots of in­ter­est, as did a few pots of frothy green leaves on ebony stems - Hi­malayan maid­en­hair ferns, with new fronds emerg­ing in a bronze-pink hue.

Ken Shan­nik of In­signe Gar­dens in Hal­i­fax sold out of his pink blood­root early.

Other folks strode off with rare yel­low pe­onies and gar­net red ones. Ja­panese mayap­ple was pop­u­lar; deer don’t like it, so it’s good for coun­try gar­dens.

There were ta­bles full of suc­cu­lents and alpine plants.

Dave Veinotte of Reo Nurs­ery in Ma­hone Bay showed a rare Green­wood Lakes dwarf hem­lock - 12 years old, a diminu­tive tree prized by bon­sai col­lec­tors.

There was even a plant-themed craft-beer ven­dor, Lazy Bear Brew­ery from Smith’s Cove. Vis­i­tors sam­pled a stout fea­tur­ing a blend from pro­vin­cial roaster Sis­si­boo Cof­fee, an In­dia Pale Ale made with lo­cal hops, and a beer brewed with rose hips from wild and wind- swept Brier Is­land.

KIM COOK/AP PHOTO

Lain Jack, owner of Fern­wood Nurs­ery in Hub­bards, Nova Sco­tia, has a steady clus­ter of peo­ple around his booth at the At­lantic Canada Rare and Un­usual Plant Sale in An­napo­lis Royal, Nova Sco­tia. He of­fered an ar­ray of in­ter­est­ing ferns, like Hi­malayan maid­en­hair and Lady in Red.

KIM COOK/AP PHOTO

Keen gardening en­thu­si­asts await the open­ing of the At­lantic Canada Rare and Un­usual Plant Sale in An­napo­lis Royal, Nova Sco­tia.

KIM COOK/AP PHOTO

Mar­cia Field finds a dwarf yel­low yew she was go­ing to put in a blue ce­ramic pot back home..

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