What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Garden: Welcoming New Family Members!

What’s Growing at the Harriet Irving Botanical Garden: Welcoming New Family Members!
By Adrien Rawley

Not far from where I sit, beneath warm grow lights, nestled together on carts, a small miracle is taking place. A miracle that never, ever ceases to amaze me. Since November of 2017 our loving team of volunteers and greenhouse and gardening staff have been working towards the coming of this particular spring with great excitement. Many months ago the first steps were taken to introduce new members to the family of native plants found within the gates of the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens. While the ground was beginning to freeze and most seeds were lying dormant under the falling leaves, we were coaxing new life into existence in the greenhouse.

There are hundreds of plants native to the Acadian forest region and our 6.5 acre representation of this ecosystem continues to evolve with each passing year. There is always the hope to introduce new species into the garden, but as you can imagine, sourcing native plants can be quite challenging! Although many local nurseries are incorporating more and more native plants into their public offerings, some of the more obscure or challenging to grow plants are simply impossible to purchase. Thankfully, over the past 16 years we have learned a lot about successfully growing native plants from seed. Through much trial and error we have been able to develop best growing practices for many species that are now found in the gardens and at our beloved native plant sale every May.

This year we are thrilled to announce that we have several new species to introduce into the garden! Species we have never grown before and are just beginning to get to know. Some have germinated beautifully, while others have refused to show themselves, despite repeated efforts. We have done research, wrestled with amusing new Latin names, and learned a great deal as a team. The plants are thriving and so are we! Perhaps most exciting of all will be next year’s plant sale, when several species will be available to plant in your own home garden!

What is doubly exciting about this project is that a major motivation to source new seeds for the garden came from the decision to completely renovate our herbaceous bank. For those of you familiar with the garden, this is the large, flowering border that wraps around the quiet lawn. It always offers a stunning display of colour and texture as the growing season progresses. We are thrilled to be updating and welcoming new species to create a new experience for our visitors. It will be exciting for staff and visitors alike to watch the new residents settle in, grow, and dazzle us with their displays of diversity.

Like all proud parents I am excited (and a little nervous!) to see what is in store for the new babies. I am hopeful that they will grow to their full potential and as they stretch to the sky they will be supported, nurtured, and loved unconditionally. The act of caring deeply for anything is always a rewarding labour of love. As much as I am excited to sink my spading fork into the awakening spring earth and get my new babes into the ground, I will try, as we all do, to cherish each and every moment until then. I don’t want to rush through this tender stage, as they always grow up so darn fast.

Adrien Rawley (Head Gardener and Educator)
Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens
Acadia University
botanicalgardens.acadiau.ca