Gardens - Featured Gardens

Victory lap around this New Brunswick garden

By
Stephanie Whittaker
Photography by
Daniel St. Louis

Walk through a prize-winning garden

Réjean Hébert certainly deserves credit for his fearlessness vis-à-vis Mother Nature. In fact, the New Brunswick gardener is probably in denial.

Although his garden on the Acadian peninsula is in Zone 4b, Réjean fills it with plants generally at home in more temperate regions of Canada. Along with peach, nectarine and apricot trees, he's also had some success with butterfly bushes, several varieties of grapes and a chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus), allegedly hardy only to Zone 6b.

A radio journalist who also freelances for television, Réjean lives in St-Simon, in northeastern New Brunswick, and credits the moderating influence of the nearby Baie des Chaleurs with enabling him to grow plants that would never survive in the province's interior. "It's always warmer here near the Gulf of St. Lawrence," he says. "During the winter, the temperature is five to seven degrees Celsius higher."

This advantage has emboldened Réjean. Convinced that his garden enjoys a mild microclimate, he has experimented with fruit-bearing trees more often found in the mainly Zone 6b environments of the Niagara Peninsula and Okanagan Valley. "I think the garden is helped by the surrounding white spruce trees, which protect it from wind," he says.

Réjean's experimental approach has paid off. A cluster of about 20 Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia) bloom beside a cedar fence at the back of the property. "I tried for five or six years to grow them," he says. "It was a lot of trial and error. For every 200 seeds I cultivated, I would get only four or five plants." Relishing the horticultural challenge, Réjean did some research and visited Reford Gardens in Grand-Métis, Quebec, renowned for its blue poppies. "I finally realized that this plant doesn't like too much humidity." He was also advised to sow seeds in a cold, shady environment; he uses lots of perlite in the soil for drainage. "By last year, I had 20 plants. I've never seen anyone else around here cultivate them."

The garden, which Réjean began planting when he and his spouse, Guylaine Doiron, had their house built 10 years ago, is his first venture into horticulture and has evolved gradually. "When we arrived here, the land was a swamp and full of large sandstone rocks. It had to be cleared of black spruce, and most of the maples and birches. We did it all by hand. We had to take out the rocks, dig down and add eight inches [20 centimetres] of black earth." Réjean also installed underground drainage pipes in the orchard to avoid waterlogged tree roots.

 

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