Wrightman Alpines grows thousands of species and varieties of alpine plants. Our mail order catalogue lists over 700 alpines which we ship to enthusiasts throughout Canada and the United States.
The nursery was established in 1985 on a farm outside the small town of Kerwood, Ontario. Many of you may have vistied and remember the display gardens we had there that morphed and changed with each season. Stone was the main 'ingredient' in each garden, from dry-laid stone walls and flagstone pathways along the foundation of the house that held tufa crevice gardens, and were a collaboration of Czech botanist, author and seed collector Josef Halda and my dad Harvey Wrightman’s construction. Hand-chiseled stone troughs were displayed as examples of container gardening. Crevice gardens constructed of tufa and limestone and a backyard scree garden, formed the backdrop for a myriad of colours, texture and forms of our favorite alpine plants. Ponds and bogs added a naturalized look throughout alpine gardens.
In spring 2014 we (the nursery, Harvey, Irene, myself and young family) moved to St. Andrews, New Brunswick where the land is beautiful, and the climate promising. The greenhouses and nursery stock were quickly built that fist summer, and the nursery has slowly but surely been restablished. Many old stock plants had to be left behind in Ontario for the most part, so the planting started right away to get new material for cuttings and seeds established, a slow process as most can imagine!
A year after we arrived, Harvey was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and although there were some months of remission, and a tufa crive garden built, he passed away in December of 2016. Shortly before, he handed graciously the reins of the nursery over. Although it was a big hurdle, he had prepared me with almost twenty years of 'apprenticing' and quite simply said if there was anything I was unsure of, "you'll figure it out". And so the figuring has continued, and I'm sure will for ever, which is part of the beauty of alpine gardening.
Our nursery consists of three greenhouses: two are left unheated during the winter and we store plants ready for sale in the spring in them. The third greenhouses is double walled inflated poly and heated throughout the winter, not too warm, just above freezing so the seedlings and cuttings that we continue to propagate year round (and water pipes!) don't freeze.
Slowly we've built gardens, a hillside dwarf rhododendron and hardy african violet garden down by the house. It's shady, damp, and cool year round, mere meters form the Atlantic Ocean. We've sprinkled other woodlanders, Jeffersonia, Hepatica, Trilliums and Epigea amongst them and if we can keep the deer out of them in the winter, it puts on a good show!
Down in the house nook was a good place for trough too, sheltered and cool, but still plenty of light. Kabschia saxifrages are happiest here - we may need to think of making a rock garden here too for them.
A climb up the hill, to the wide open lupine meadows, is the simplest of gardens, which wasn't planned but made more out of immediacy when we arrived in New Brunswick, is the 'pit run' berms. We needed to get plants growing as soon as we arrived because we no longer had the huge mother plants to rely on for cuttings and seed. In the end it showed us that garden can be made out nearly anything - even a hill side of unsifted, coarse sand.
Here is where my dad and I also made his last garden a tufa garden. It in absolute full sun - if there's daylight, it's hitting it head on at all hours. We knew this was an extreme environment, especially since we made it with straight filter sand. But plants like Eriogonums, Drabas, Daphnes, Genista, Dianthus, Campanulas, Polygalas and Arenarias - they love it. They remain tight like they would in their nature, but nothing becomes 'lush' in this garden. I'd even call it barren in mid-summer. It will take years to come into it's own, for the cushions to become noticeable - a garden made with lots of time.
Beside the tufa garden we're expanding with more crevice gardens, this time made with native stone, sharp basalt and granite for the most part. Plans for a small pond and an area to grow some larger like tree peonies and lilies are in the works, slowly but surely.
We're in a 5b growing zone, though it's probably more temperate down by the house, being so close to the water. We've had some hard winters here, reaching -25C, tonnes of snow, and lately some very icy years. This is all to say that it isn't easy going for plants here - they get tested here, they need to survive for us to continue to probate them.
~ Esther Wrightman ~
Wrightman Alpines Nursery has moved to St. Andrews, New Brunswick. If you'd like visit please contact us ahead of time by phone (506-529-9188 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!