Behind the (colourful) scenes at Sheridan Nurseries
We sneak peeks “behind the scenes” on everything from Canada’s covert commandos to Kate’s latest meet-n-greet (with Wills and baby George in tow), so I thought the time was right–just before the spring plant-buying frenzy–to delve into the mysterious world of commercial garden nurseries. Was I going to find adorable sprouts? Exotic aliens (gardener-speak for a plant that’s not native)? Burgeoning greenness and colours run wild?
Yeah. I did. And more.
Let me backtrack a bit. To get the story behind how a nursery gears up for the crazy-time known as spring gardening I called up Sheridan Nurseries, the Canadian company now forging into its second century and winners of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association Grower of the Year award for 2012 and 2013. I asked them where do all those amazing plants come from and why do they look the way they do. They kindly offered me a private tour of some of their propagation facilities (they farm over 930 acres in Southern Ontario) and a container farm near Norval recently.
Here’s the dirt and the details. To start the slideshow with story, click on the top left corner photo as seen below.
CLEAN, NEAT, ORDERLY, AWESOME “We close our eyes and imagine an Apple store”, said Sean Ewing, Key Account Manager for Sheridan Nurseries, explaining the standards set for every one of their greenhouses.
THE GOOD LIFE OF A PLANT Why are these ferns, heucheras and other plants lined up on the hard floor? Because the floor is heated which helps encourage strong roots in time for the spring gardening season.
AUTOMATED ATMOSPHERE Humidity levels in each greenhouse are automatically checked every few minutes. A complete water filtration system is used with watering controls for Ph levels and fertilizers.
EARTH, WIND AND WIRE Automated roofs adjust airflow, allowing a fresh breeze to drop in.
NEWBORN PLANTS Sheridan plants start as either seeds, tissue cultures or rooted cuttings. The company oversees the formulation of all their growing mediums. They use only Canadian soil and acquire organic compost from local sources–good reasons for buying from a local nursery.
IT’S ALL IN THE TIMING This euonymus was grown from a cutting. It takes 2 to 3 years before this plant can be sold; up to 4 ½ years for it to be big enough to release the plant in a #5-pot.
DREAMING OF BEING A TREE In step with the trend for growing native Canadian perennials and trees, this little chestnut is destined to become a spring gardening hit–but not this year.
NEW TRICKS FOR OLD FAVOURITES Developing products that satisfy customers’ needs for easier, more rewarding gardening is part of the process. Here, two clematis plants in complementary colours and matching growing/pruning requirements are presented in a single pot for double your happiness. Look for triple clematis pots, too, this spring.
PRETTY OR PRETTY GREAT? Plants are put on trial for a minimum of 2 years and up to 5 years to prove that they’re hardy for a Canadian winter. Soil and sun exposure preferences are noted. Even how they’ll appear in their final “pot presentation” on garden centre shelves is judged.
SENT WITH CARE Plants are shipped out to garden centres with a sprinkling of slow release fertilizer (green beads) to help the plant during the first couple of weeks in its new home. Special thanks to Sean Ewing, my informative tour host and patient hand model.