Despite having just endured a “wintry mix” in the middle of April, we all know that spring is on its way. One of my favorite things to do as the weather warms is to work in my gardens, and this past weekend I took a trip to Black Forest Nursery in Boscawen to escape from the gloomy weather and to get a head-start on my spring and summer garden plans.
A Gardener’s Heaven
I found Black Forest Nursery while searching for locally-available greengage plum trees—I have a fondness for this variety because it is mentioned in one of my favorite books. I also like that greengages are one of the oldest varieties of European plums, with a record of their cultivation dating back to at least the eighteenth century. Suzanne, the owner of Black Forest Nursery, confirmed that she had plenty of greengages on site, so I made plans to visit as soon as I could.
As both a nursery and a garden center, Black Forest is truly a gardener’s paradise. With three acres of plants on display, it’s easy to get happily lost among the blooms and branches, and that’s just what we did. As my son and I wandered up and down the rows of fruit trees and bushes, we were greeted by the incredibly friendly nursery staff. They helped us find the greengages and assisted us with loading the tree my son chose into our wagon.
For plant-lovers like myself and my son, a place like Black Forest Nursery is wonderfully dangerous. In predictable fashion, my son ended up bonding with a little Duke blueberry bush, and there was no way we would be leaving without it. Dukes are self-pollinating but, like many fruit trees and bushes, they do better when they have a pollinator partner close by. One of the Black Forest staff members helped us find another variety that would bloom at the same time and increase our yield.
We also stopped by the large greenhouse, where we encountered a heaven on earth of flowers in bloom. It was a wonderful escape from the overcast skies and chilly temps, and my son skipped back and forth like a spring lamb among the flats of pansies and colorful hanging baskets. All the plants looked so healthy and content there in the warmth of the greenhouse. By the end of our trip, one plum tree had miraculously turned into one plum tree, two blueberry bushes, and two flats of dark red pansies—and I think we showed restraint!
Helpful Tip: If you’re going to be transporting larger fruit trees or bushes for any distance in the back of a pickup truck, you’ll want to protect the buds from wind burn by laying them down in the bed; you might also want to consider covering them with a tarp for extra protection.
Eat Your Yard
There is a long history of growing food at home in New Hampshire—although previous generations did it out of necessity, many of us continue doing it in the age of supermarkets because we just love working with plants. My house sits on just a quarter acre of land with significant amounts of shade, but we have managed to squeeze a lot of edibles into this little space: Three south-facing raised beds for growing vegetables; raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry bushes; a plum tree and two pear trees; two varieties of hops; and two additional raised beds in partial shade for salad greens and herbs. And, I have plans to go bigger and better in the coming years!
If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do is spend your summer wrestling with your lawn—beating back crabgrass, weeds, and anthills—why not replace that unsightly mess with plants you can eat? Even a small bit of earth or a few pots on an apartment balcony can yield a surprisingly large amount of produce, thanks to modern varieties that have been cultivated specifically for small spaces.
Has this post given you the urge to get your hands dirty? Then head over to your local nursery or garden center. Another great place to get more information about gardening in New Hampshire is the UNH Cooperative Extension, which provides expert advice, workshops, and other services to home gardeners around the state and throughout the year.