Awoke later than usual today [this perplexing cold is lingering much longer than I would like!] to a series of emails from good friends G and K, who are currently house setting on Saltspring Island, off the coast of British Columbia! Imagine waking up to this spectacular view every day?
I recall reading somewhere that real estate on this particular island holds the prestigious claim to being the third most expensive in all of Canada! [Lotto Max, Lotto Max, Lotto Max!] I went so far as to actually check out to see what properties are available, and thanks to Sotheby’s, I have found my future home. But lets get back to the present world.
Saltspring Island is one of the Gulf Islands in the Strait of Georgia, between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. It is the largest, most populous, and most frequently visited of the Gulf Islands. The island was initially inhabited by various Salishan peoples before being settled by pioneers in 1859, at which time it was officially called Admiral Island. It was the first of the Gulf Islands to be settled, and the first agricultural settlement on the islands in the Colony of Vancouver Island, as well as the first island in the region to allow settlers to acquire land through pre-emption. The island was renamed in 1910.
Plant aficionados and connoisseurs will in the blink of an eye be able to tell the uninformed that Saltspring is also home to one of Canada’s leading woodland nurseries, Fraser’s Thimble Farms, and it was here that G had mentioned he would be stopping…. and was there anything in particular that I might be interested in him bringing back? First off, say what? I’d never met anyone who’d been to this legend worthy nursery before, and secondly, to be asked if I had anything I might be interested in…… oh the wonderful, magical networks that exist amongst gardening friends. [Was it wrong of me to ask whether they were driving or flying before providing G and K with a list of items! There is a vast difference between a U-haul and a suitcase after all!]
Its obvious from this photo that G was able to locate the Helleborus selections! Methinks this is but one grouping as FTF is legendary for its annual Helleborganza which takes place every Spring and attracts Helleborus connoisseurs and growers for that matter from as far away as Oregon, home of consummate breeder Marietta O’Byrne! G and I share a divinity towards the genus, and as luck would have it, one of the plants on my wish list was none other than Helleborus thibetanus, a rare and unusual species endemic to China! I purchased two from this same nursery by mail-order two years ago, and whilst one continues to bulk up ever so slowly with each passing year, its partner has disappeared! When it comes to a plant of such staggering beauty and rarity, one is never enough! In the photo below, G seems to have stumbled upon the jackpot!
I should mention in the first email [in which these photos were included[ G simply wrote ‘Hi Barry. Got Everything!’ Music to a collector’s ear for sure. And then he and K ever so graciously sent me photos to allow me to share in the thrill of being at FTF!
It would appear that we’ve stumbled upon the Fernery! Get thee behind me thou temptuous vixens! After perusing the FTF catalogue its safe to say that I would likely walk out of this one house alone a very poor man! I wonder how G fared?
Perhaps more than anything else, it is the woodland setting that attracts me most. To be blessed with the near perfect backdrop upon which to create a business which in essence highlights Nature’s beauty…… its a rare thing to find.
I believe that this is Richard Fraser, the man behind this amazing woodland nursery! Having only dealt with him via email and scribbled messages to and fro on previous mail-orders, I cannot be one hundred percent certain. Kindest thanks to G and K for allowing me to join them on this wonderful botanical adventure.