4 Feb 2011

Thimble Farms: Gardening’s Dirty Little Secret!


[** All photos courtesy Thimble Farms – visit their Facebook Page for more photos and information]

As gardeners, we’re always on the lookout for new and exciting garden nurseries to help us in satiating our never ending thirst for plants! Its even been said that we’d drive to the ends of the Earth to find that one special plant.

I discovered Thimble Farms quite by accident. A night-owl, I’m always trolling the web looking for new and exciting plants. This night in particular I was looking for a very rare and unique Helleborus – one endemic to the Caucasus, and China, known as Helleborus thibetanus. Marion Jarvie, the doyen of gardening in Ontario grows it in her garden, where, year after year it creates quite a stir! Needless-to-say, I needed to find one of my own! A requested catalogue arrived within a week, and well, the rest is history. Made up of close to 2500 different plants, it reads like a plant collector’s who’s who in the world of horticulture. Three pages of sumptuous photographs open and close the catalogue, but in between, this is where the glorious dirt really is. I love a catalogue that perfectly describes a plant without relying on photographs! In my mind, this is the true sign of a passionate gardener! January rolls around, and this gardener starts stalking the post box!


 Located on Salt Spring’s Island, British Columbia, Thimble Farms is a true plant collector’s mecca. One look at the accompanying photos, and its easy to understand why they seem to specialize in rare and unusual woodland plants! Of course running a business on the west coast of the country also affords them some of the nicest weather, year round, that the country has to offer.

My first order, pared down from thirty odd plants to a reasonable eleven, arrived while there was still snow on the ground. I’d surmised it would be best to pot them up and give them a month of TLC before introducing them to my own garden! The initial order was made up of some of my favourite genera: Corydalis ambigua; three or four pink flowering species of Erythronium; the diminutive pink flowering Trillium rivale, the pink and white striped Arisaema candidissimum, and of course two Helleborus thibetanus. All arrived safely within three days of my requested date and to date, all are thriving in the garden!

arisaema_candidissimum1Arisaema candidissimum

corydalis ambigua

Corydalis ambigua


Meconopsis X Shelldonii

paeonia_mloko3 Paeonia mlokosewitschii

With the success of my initial order, yearly orders have been forth going. Last year it included the elusive Meconopsis X Shelldonii, Paeonia mlokosewitschii [Known to many as ‘Molly-the-Witch’ and even more Arisaema species – most endemic to Asia! The 2011 catalogue arrived less than a week ago, and already I’m having to separate my order in two – some of the plants are only available in the Fall. [specifically the drop dead gorgeous Cypripedium species]

If you’re wanting to add a dimension of intrigue to your garden, Thimble Farms is definitely one of the best suppliers for the rare and unusual. I’ve been one hundred percent satisfied with the plants I’ve received, and am pleased with the high level of customer service received. Of course, if you’re planning on visiting the west coast in the coming year, I cannot impress enough that a visit to their nursery would satisfy even the most obsessive of garden compulsions. I know its on my list of things to accomplish before I turn 50! And come to think of it, a very dear friend lives in Vancouver! Oh David!!!!






Susan in the Pink Hat said...

Agreed. You're not big time until you are reading catalog copy. Still, if I'm intrigued by a description, I try to google it. There's just something about seeing a plant. Seeing it in person, especially. Been wanting a Molly the witch peony for a while now. I ordered a couple of seedlings that were expensive and my kids stomped them. Ahhh...kids.

Deborah at Kilbourne Grove said...

Why, oh why, do you do this to me? Why do you create lust in my heart for even more? When I took MJ's course last winter she mentioned helleborus thibetanus and trillium rivale, and of course I wanted them. Now I shall have to wait until we move back from Barbados, three whole years, sigh....

Barry Parker said...

Hi Teza,

I visited Thimble Farm in March of 2003. We arrived after a snowfall, unusual for that part of the world, particularly at that time of the year.
We found a table of priceless Japanese Hepaticas weighed down by a layer of wet snow. We were quite alarmed at the time but when we returned later that day the snow had melted and the hepaticas had popped up again completely unaffected by their slushy encounter !