We are a specialty nursery growing herbaceous ornamental wildflowers, grasses, and select hybrids and cultivars. In creating our plant selection particular attention has been given to plants that are hardy, robust-growing, and low-maintenance while embodying a more natural and wild aesthetic. It is this very same selection of plants we ourselves use to practice the art of naturalistic planting design. Meticulous plant selection is at the heart of who we are as nurserymen and designers, and we offer a hands-on approach to helping customers understand the plants in our nursery from both a biological and design perspective. Often an exchange will feel more like a personal consultation concerning the development of the customer’s garden and which involves touring the display gardens of the nursery to help explain a design idea and to see many of the nursery plants in maturity.
Naturalistic Planting Design
Nature is in a state of constant and dynamic change from season to season. Our focus is on herbaceous perennial plants which reflect this change while remaining beautiful, keeping our gardens attractive from spring into winter with the last remaining seed heads persisting into the following spring. Ultimately we chose to grow a particular plant, not for its rarity or popularity, but for the emotional and artistic effect it contributes to the garden as a whole. In harsher climates such as in Maine, foliage, form, and structure play a particularly important role in the garden. Since flower color is relatively short-lived we feel plant structure to be the fundamental aspect of ornamental plants with which to design our gardens as it is with us over a longer season. Color is best seen as an added extra (see resources: lists – “Plants with a long season of interest”).
We are keenly aware of the continual effort in the commercial plant industry to entice the public with an ever-increasing selection of plants. In our opinion, more often than not most newly introduced hybrids and cultivars are no better than already existing tried and true forms. We feel this effort often leads to confusing the gardener rather than enlighten, and from these new introductions we pick and choose carefully. One exception is the renewed interest in native plants which we believe is a very promising and beneficial trend. That said, we are active in selecting new plants for our own nursery often as the result of growing from seed (see resources: lists – “Campo di Fiori Selections”).
We are ‘plant hunters’ as well, and explore different local habitats through the seasons in an effort to find indigenous plants with superior qualities. When looking through our plant selection, any description with the phrase “A local selection” means it has been propagated from local genetic stock, conscientiously harvested from the wild, within a 30-mile radius of the nursery. As potential new introductions to our nursery such plants have the added benefit of potentially helping to support a wider array of local wildlife (see plants: “Native vs. Non-native . . . Species, Hybrids, Cultivars). A visit to Popham Beach, Hermit Island, and the shores and tributaries of Merrymeeting Bay as well as fragments of sandplain grassland and open woodlands, each with their own diverse flora, provide untold inspiration.
Arte Nella Natura
Arte nella natura or art in nature is the underlying philosophical premise from which our perspective is formed: an aesthetic grounded in nature. More than the peaked aesthetic of highly controlled gardens we look to the magic and spontaneity of natural areas to see how nature intrinsically ‘designs’ with skill, sensitivity, and ease. No doubt, the greatest artist is nature itself. With its beautiful myriad forms and atmosphere of perpetual change, with the play of weather and light, it is an artistic force that is expressed throughout the whole of the natural world. Gardening is a living process that intimately and necessarily involves not only artistic vision but a basic understanding of the scientific disciplines of ecology, biology, and botany. It is this pairing of art and natural science which makes gardening wholly unique as an art form and which leaves us in awe and appreciation through the seasons. Continually we are lead to better understand the delicate balance between art and control on the one hand and nature and wildness in the other, that which defines the true success of a garden. Complete artistic expression is achieved when all that flutter and buzz, creep and crawl, find refuge in the plantings we create for ourselves, and them. As both gardeners and nature lovers, our goal is to inspire and encourage imagination in the art of garden creating with respect to the dynamic beauty and emotion of nature.
Traveling past the sales area and through the rustic pine-branch gate is the main display garden. Here there is a great diversity of plants with strong and long-lasting structures artistically juxtaposed in an informal, open-border, meadow-like layout. This garden is at its visual height early-summer into early winter. A path runs through and behind the deepest parts of the border allowing one to immerse themselves in amongst the plants and to experience the planting from many different angles.
This garden is located in and around the lower nursery area and parking lot. It is a variation of a matrix-type planting that strives to mimic a meadow or other type of open habitat dominated by grasses and forbs such as prairie or steppe. In this case, the planting is dominated by the Deschampsia caespitosa cultivar ‘Bronzeschlier’, a cultivar of native ornamental grass, and from which emerges a minority of self-seeding, spire-shaped, Digitalis ferrunginea, as well as Rudbeckia maxima, Parthenium integrifolium, and the self-established Potentilla recta. In the spring an abundance of Camassia leichtlinii ‘Caerulea’ makes a strong impression with its large clumps of vivid blue spires. Design ideas demonstrated in this planting are the use of biennials/self-sowing plants for spontaneity, creating whole space through the repetition of theme plants, the use of plants with a long season of interest, and the thematic use of color. From spring into winter, this planting continues to evolve dramatically and beautifully.
Carex Woodland Meadow
This garden is located in the upper nursery area and is another example of a matrix-type planting but with a shadier and drier aspect. Here Carex muskingumensis, an ornamental sedge native to the Great Lakes region, is the primary matrix plant that creates the woodland meadow-like feel. Species of Carex are particularly reliable and effective when put to this use. Many of the same principles of the Deschampsia meadow exist here as well. Under the shade (and roots) of a giant red oak, in well-draining sandy soil, we are challenged to make a shade garden for our times, one that is beautifully adapted to our increasingly dry summers. So many beautiful native woodland species from around the world are spring-flowering ephemeral plants of moist humus-rich soils and significant summer rainfall which unfortunately here in Southern Maine is becoming a rarity. In our ongoing trials with this difficult garden location, we have discovered that many of the best plants for this site are natives – broad-leafed plants such as Geranium maculatum ‘Alba’, Gillenia trifoliata, Actaea racemosa, and Aster macrophyllus. Combined with other tough non-native plants such as hellebore and Hosta, the garden has become a unique example of these conditions. A sitting area in the middle of this meadow overlooks a young hazel planting and the wild meadows which are the foreground to the Cathance River wetland.
Hybrid Hazel Demo Orchards
Two small neohybrid hazel orchards provide an example to would-be growers interested in this new type of staple food production. Please visit the neohybrid hazel page.
For those with an interest in naturalizing ( i.e. wildflower/insect/and bird identification) or just wanting to take a walk, a mown path provides the opportunity to explore the fields and edges of the designated conservation land that surrounds the nursery while winding their way toward the Cathance river basin (see “contact” for Google maps). In mid-summer one may find the diminutive Ragged Fringed Orchis, or more likely, field-nesting Bobolinks. From here the very adventurous may make their way onto the abandoned railway bed and walk along its course through the middle of the wetlands and riparian areas adjoining the river.