by Gail Falk
Reprinted from Plainfield Co-op Newsletter: Summer 2022
Sloping up from the rushing waters of the Great Brook, tidy rows of potted perennials wait to find homes in Central Vermont gardens. The verdant scene is a far cry from the “funky” riverside lot with a tar paper shack and junked cars on Lee Road that Ian Maas and Roseanne Scotta bought at tax auction almost 30 years ago. It was known at that time, says Ian, as the “Lower East Side” of Plainfield.
When they bought the neglected property, Ian started by building a sturdy house while Roseanne taught at Maple Hill School. Over the years, Ian worked at a series of farm and carpentry jobs that allowed him to be the stay-at-home parent while the children were young.
The children are grown, and having raised them, Ian and Roseanne now dedicate themselves to raising beautiful and useful perennials – some medicinal, some edible, and some ornamental.
Ian has been intrigued with cultivating plants since he worked at a plant nursery in high school. His dream took off a few years ago when he befriended Don and Lela Avery just as they were retiring as owners of Cady’s Falls Nursery, which gave Ian a model for a woodland garden nursery. As the Averys were closing down their business, Ian worked in their gardens in exchange for plants, meanwhile picking their brains. The Averys generously shared their know-how as well as materials they no longer needed.
This is the third season Great Brook Nursery has been selling perennials. “We offer a nice mix of native and nonnative perennials selected for their historical uses or simply for their beauty and garden-worthiness,” explains their website. The plants are all propagated at the nursery from cuttings, divisions, sprouts, and seeds Ian has collected, and they are climate hardy. I sell plants “that have suffered along with the rest of us for at least one full winter and summer,” he says.
Their most popular plants include medicinals, such as goldenseal, skull cap, ginseng, and black cohosh. They stay on the lookout for uncommon plants (“not the Agway/supermarket collection”), says Ian. He is building up a collection of edible perennials, such as Carambe maritima, a perennial kale plant that puts out stalks with tight florettes, similar to broccoli raab, and then bursts into an ornamental white flower.
One section of pots beside a shed contains tiny light green shoots. They are Cyprepedium sp., otherwise known as lady slippers. The seeds of lady slippers are famously hard to germinate. These were germinated by a couple in Minnesota from seeds that Don and Lela Avery collected in their Hyde Park garden and sent to the folks in Minnesota. Now, lovingly tended at Great Brook Nursery, it will take four to five years for them to be large and hardy enough for sale.
Great Brook Nursery sold perennials at the Co-op this spring. Through the summer, the Montpelier Farmers Market is their best market, together with visitors to the nursery.
During the pandemic, Ian built a beautiful website with a description of the dozens of plants the nursery sells. He’s hoping the website will attract gardeners from afar, and he will be able to ship dormant plants in the spring. But if you’re local, check out the website, https://www.greatbrooknursery.com/, and let your gardening dreams blossom. ❖
Photo credits: Gail Falk