|Source: Honeywood Nursery|
When Bert Porter established the Honeywood Nursery during the 1930s west of Shellbrook, he likely didn’t suspect he would one day become one of the most celebrated horticulturalists in North America.
The nursery is located on a quarter section about four miles south and one mile west of Parkside. It has operated for over 65 years. Before he passed away in 2000 at the age of 99, Porter had developed nearly 40 different strains of lilies marketed around the world.
In 1971, A.J. Porter received the E.H. Wilson Award, which is the highest award given by the North American Lily Society. A collection of his hybridized lilies was also awarded a Silver Medal at the Stuttgart Outdoor Garden Show.
After his death, the nursery faced potential obliteration until a group of local investors decided to acquire the property and operate it with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers.
David Moe is Chairman of the Board of Honeywood Nursery and one of the shareholders.
“Porter was born in Guilford, England, in 1901. He immigrated to Canada when he was six years old. He grew up on his parents’ farm in Parkside, where he became a schoolteacher. During the early years of the Depression, he struggled to support his family on the meager salary of a teacher. He left the profession and started selling nursery stock, including shrubs, flowers, fruit trees, etc., door to door. If customers were unable to pay for nursery stock when it arrived, he absorbed the loss and planted the stock at his farm.
“At the same time, he also started a market garden featuring strawberries and raspberries. It didn't take him long to realize that many of the varieties of fruit he was growing were not fully hardy for his region. This led to a lifelong pursuit of breeding to produce plants which would be high quality, disease resistant, and hardy for the prairies.”
Moe and his colleagues have inherited a true jewel, and they know it. The mission of Honeywood Heritage Nursery, as they see it, is to preserve, restore and operate it as a Parkside community heritage property. Naturally, this means exploring its tourism potential.
Ian McGilp is Industry Development Manager at Tourism Saskatchewan. He is simply in awe of the resource the nursery constitutes for the tourism industry.
“Many of the flowering crab-apple varieties, like Spring Snow, growing in the yards of residential districts in the province were developed at this place. It is one of those places in Saskatchewanthat is a hidden gem," says McGilp.
“There are different markets for its offerings. There are people who would be interested in seeing the beautiful orchards and flowers at different times of the growing season. In the spring, there are the blossoms. Of course, you have all the apple trees and different fruit trees blossoming. It is just beautiful. The early part of summer—in July—is when the lilies are in bloom, and there are all kinds of varieties of these lilies with all sorts of different colours. Some that are almost jet black in colour; others are pink, rosy and orange, of course, yellow and combinations of those colours.”
Incidentally, three of Bert Porter’s most popular lily introductions are the Earlibird, Happy Thoughts and Flaming Giant varieties. The Flaming Giant variety is known as Moulin Rouge in Holland. It is grown by the hundreds of acres for the cut flower trade.
As the summer unfolds at Honeywood Nursery, new attractions emerge, explains McGilp.
“Later on during the summer, when the fruit has grown and is ready to be picked, you can come and enjoy the preserves made from the fruit. It is fun also to see different kinds of fruit growing on the same tree, as well, because there are some apple trees on which different limbs were grafted which yield different types of apples. I have actually seen different kinds of apples growing on the same tree."
And then there are the fall colours that show up towards the end of September.
“It is a beautiful stop, less than a two-hour drive from Saskatoon, on paved roads all the way, which would be very interesting for people in particular attending conventions in Saskatoon to go through and visit, and lots of photographs and strolls through these groves of trees could be enjoyed," McGilp says.
“The diversity of trees is remarkable, as well. There are all sorts of tree varieties like oak, maple, Siberian larch and birch. I appreciate the greenery and diversity.”
Be sure to catch any of the events that take place at Honeywood Nursery every year. You won’t be disappointed.
For more information, contact:
Chair of the Board
Honeywood Heritage Nursery