“More Trees in our Lives” Robert Baldwin of Baldwin Nurseries, Falmouth NS

“In summer, every plant and every garden is a beautiful thing,” says Falmouth, Nova Scotia, nursery owner Robert Baldwin. “The challenge is to create a garden that will look as beautiful in November or February as it does during spring and summer.”

Baldwin is up for that challenge. When he bought his 42-acre property twenty years ago, it was primarily a bulldozed expanse of clay. Today, the nursery display area, half a dozen cold frames and several large greenhouses with in-ground heating are flanked by mixed woodland of mostly native trees and shrubs planted by Baldwin. The sales and display area is awash with a wide selection of hardy trees, shrubs and perennials that thrive in the unpredictable Maritime climate.

A former forestry technician who has grown plants since childhood, Baldwin worked seasonally for nurseries in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia before opening his own in 1995. Remarkably, for the first few years he sustained a year-round income by selling trees and shrubs at weekend flea markets in Halifax while propagating new stock at home. “People started coming here looking for plants, so I put up signs and printed business cards with a map to my place,” he says. “Word of mouth has been my best advertisement.”

Asked to define his plant passions, Baldwin says, “I like to work with nature and create environments that welcome wildlife and people,” he says. Although keen about native species of trees and shrubs, he never shies from bringing in new cultivars to try out, provided they are cold hardy. He’s especially fond of hardy rhododendrons, magnolias, and viburnums for their exuberant floral displays in spring and early summer, and evergreens of all sizes, shapes and colours because they change their appeal with the changing seasons. “I love flowering plants,” he says, “But our winters are dreary. We need to plant species with good foliage colour or texture that look great when we most need that boost.” He admits his favourites “change depending on the season or on how many of something I’ve propagated!”

Baldwin has never done things the traditional way. “I didn’t study the market first to see what people wanted,” he says. “I grew plants I liked and could propagate, and urged customers to choose those.” It was nearly a decade before he began growing and selling perennials, mostly varieties that are bird and pollinator friendly.

“My customers aren’t in a hurry when they come to visit,” Baldwin says. “I’ve become pretty good at suggesting what they should plant based on where they live and how interested they are in plants and gardening.”

Since opening his nursery, Robert Baldwin has seen many changes to the industry, particularly in his customer base. “While we see plenty of novice gardeners, and homeowners who want to enhance their property’s appearance with minimal effort, we also have many visitors looking for something special who appreciate our more unique plants.” Regardless of skill level, Baldwin appreciates his customers, too: every spring, he holds a tree seedling giveaway in late April or early May. “We all need more trees in our lives,” he says.

If you go: Baldwin Nurseries, 500 Mines Road, Falmouth NS. 902.798.9468. www.baldwinnurseries.com