Nursery helps fill a niche

One of several anemones species at the nursery is the little Anemone siemanii. Photos: Gillian Vine
One of several anemones species at the nursery is the little Anemone siemanii. Photos: Gillian Vine
Usually blue, Sue also grows pink glory of the snow (Chionodoxa).
Usually blue, Sue also grows pink glory of the snow (Chionodoxa).
Erysimum Orange Flame makes a splash from late winter.
Erysimum Orange Flame makes a splash from late winter.
Geranium bohemicum Orchid Blue seedlings ready for potting.
Geranium bohemicum Orchid Blue seedlings ready for potting.
A favourite of Sue's is Hepatica transsilvanica, a low-growing perennial.
A favourite of Sue's is Hepatica transsilvanica, a low-growing perennial.
Beesia calthifolia is winter dormant and pops up again in spring.
Beesia calthifolia is winter dormant and pops up again in spring.

Gillian Vine is not surprised to learn that many gardeners want something different. 

At Wake Robin Nursery, in Balclutha, Sue Bound reflects on how gardening has changed in the seven years since she started.

"In the early 2000s, easy-care plants needing minimal attention were popular. Recently, there has been a [trend towards a] love of colour, especially long-lasting colour, including foliage," she says.

At the same time, more formal and structural gardens have given way to more of the cottage look, as well as perennial flower borders and woodland areas.

She has found that people increasingly want something different and many look for ways to bring back colour and flowers.

Bee plants are in favour, too, including salvia - "I've really got into salvias lately" - tall phlox and scabiosa.

Sue Bound's nursery looks across to the Clutha River. Photos: Gillian Vine
Sue Bound's nursery looks across to the Clutha River. Photos: Gillian Vine
Although vibrant colours that enhance buildings and other structures are popular, so are subtle tones and even planting a garden or section of it in a single colour or green-and-white.

New Zealand plants are increasingly favoured, not in the purely native way they were used 30 years ago but in mixed groupings that enhance the best of indigenous and exotic plants.

"In saying that, some plants have stood the test of time and are still very popular," Sue says.

Sue Bound behind a lily-of-the-valley shrub (Pierisjaponica) in her Balclutha garden.
Sue Bound behind a lily-of-the-valley shrub (Pierisjaponica) in her Balclutha garden.
That includes hellebores, hostas, astilbes, paeonies and trilliums, as well as another from Grandma's day, perennial cornflower (Centaurea montana).

Connoisseurs approach Sue for small flowering perennials and bulbs, which appeal to growers of alpines.

She is finding there is a strong demand for Chionodoxa, scillas, nerines, dog's tooth violets (Erthyronium), snowdrops (Galanthus), fritillaries, striped squill (Pushkinia), miniature daffodils and match-head-like Bellevalia.

Woodland plants, large and small, grab customers' attention: "Two-thirds of my sales are woodland plants and bulbs," Sue says.

Wake Robin grew out of a 1991 project in which Sue grew annuals to raise funds for overseas missions. She followed this with Open Polytechnic studies in horticulture, juggling study with part-time work at a South Otago nursery.

In 2002 she bought a nursery's trillium stock and three years later, moved to a new location where she could erect a large shade house and grow more plants.

"In 2009, my partner, Wally Kennedy, and I decided there was a niche in the market to supply rare, hard-to-source, popular [sometimes old-fashioned] lines of perennials and bulbs," Sue explains.

"This proved to be very successful and many customers say they cannot get some of my plants anywhere else in New Zealand and are thrilled to be able to purchase them."

She has a mouth-watering line-up of little treasures, including a selection of woodland anemones, early-flowering striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides) and her favourite Hepatica transsilvanica, with charming blue flowers.

The false anemone (Anemonopsis macrophylla) is very popular but seed takes up to two years to germinate, "so don't throw your seed away," Sue says.

She propagates many of the 150 lines in her catalogue by sowing seed, taking cuttings and dividing plants.

This is vital, given the shrinking number of wholesale nurseries.

"Five years ago, I had 17 really good suppliers; now I've got about 10."

Wally helps by preparing potting mixes and is in charge of nursery repairs, maintenance, development and improvements.

"He is my right hand man," Sue says.


 

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