Gardens - Featured Gardens

A plant collector's paradise in Northern Ontario

By
Kathy Wood
Photography by
Tracy Cox

Doing what comes naturally, a northern Ontario gardener turns her farm into the quintessential plant collector’s paradise

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At-a-glance

Gardener Marnie Wright Location Bracebridge, Ontario Occupation artist and retired schoolteacher Family grown son, Nathan Pets dog April, cat Cartman, horses Scarlet and Polly, pot-bellied pig Princess Jasmine Years in house, and gardening 27 Special challenges flat land, poor drainage; blackflies/mosquitoes (mid-May to end of June) Lot size 93 acres, 2 cultivated Orientation south-southeast Conditions acidic, heavy clay soil Growing season mid-May to October Garden focus cottage-style/collector’s garden comprising primarily perennials, including hostas, daylilies and one-of-a kind varieties; water features Zone 4b

A self-declared plantaholic, Marnie Wright readily admits she just needs plants. Chuckling, she says, “You’ve heard that commercial—‘You know you waaaant it!’ A certain specimen will catch your eye. It opens up a whole new area of gardening possibilities—before you know it you’re hooked, needing all its different varieties.”

plant-collector-inset3.jpgTucked away on a country road in Bracebridge, Ontario, is the property where Marnie pursues her plant passion. As you drive along the lane to her home, Rocksborough Flower Farm, pretty woodland fringes the lot, but it’s not until you step out of the car that you experience the full beauty of her landscape. By midsummer, Marnie’s garden (encompassing the entire front yard) is in all its glory, as the 1.8-metre-tall perennial borders reach their peak. The beds are full of life as a dozen hummingbirds flit among the masses of colourful flowers, bees buzz and frogs peep out from the ponds and streams.

Purchased in 1981, the farm was devoid of any ornamental plants, except for one lone peony, still surviving to this day. During those early years, Marnie’s horticultural focus was a vegetable garden to feed her family; from there, the rest just evolved bed by bed. And she did it all herself.  

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