Honeywood Nursery: A Beautiful Saskatchewan Tourist Destination

Honeywood (Dr. A. J. Porter) Heritage Nursery

by Jackie Bantle

One of the challenges of living in Saskatchewan is trying to accomplish all of our gardening events in 6 months of the year.  There is never a lack of outdoor plant spaces to visit in the summer.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit Honeywood Heritage Nursery near Parkside, Saskatchewan, what have you been waiting for?

Honeywood Heritage Nursery was the home and nursery of Dr. A.J. (Bert) Porter.  Dr. Porter was a pioneer plant breeder in Saskatchewan.  Not only was he a prolific lily breeder, but he is also responsible for testing and making many types of hardy fruit available to Saskatchewan gardeners.  Bert Porter was born in 1901 in Guilford, England and immigrated to Canada with his family in 1907 to settle on a homestead near Parkside Saskatchewan.  After taking his ‘normal school’ training, Bert taught for twelve years in rural schools.  During the depression of the 1930’s, Bert Porter left his teaching career to start a  nursery on his farm near Parkside, Saskatchewan.   Although many customers ordered plants from him during the depression, some customers could not afford to pick up the plants they ordered.  Instead of throwing out the excessive plants, he planted them out.  Soon, he learned that many of the fruit plants he was selling were grafted onto tender root stock and did not overwinter well.  It became his goal to develop hardy fruit plants.   If you’ve grown a ‘Honeywood’ saskatoon, ‘HoneyRed’ Rhubarb, ‘Parkside’ gooseberry, ‘Parkside’ plum, ‘Green Elf’ plum or a ‘Spring Snow’ flowering crabapple (which doesn’t produce fruit), you have benefited from Porter’s breeding work.

For the first fifteen years of the nursery, Bert focused on growing raspberries, strawberries and apples.  He helped develop a winter hardy strawberry.  Around 1948, Bert started growing lilies on his nursery and by 1954 he was selling lily bulbs.  For the next 40+ years, Dr. Porter continued to breed plants, especially lilies.  He has 43 named lilies credited to his name.  Some of the more famous varieties include, ‘Cinnamon Toast’,  ‘Sky Dancer’, ‘Jolly Miller’ and ‘Orange Light’.

Although Bert Porter did not do any formal studies in horticulture, in 1963, he was awarded a Doctor of Laws Degree at the University of Saskatchewan.  In 1991, Dr. Bert Porter retired from his nursery.  Over the next decade, the nursery fell into disrepair.   In 1999, a group of neighbors purchased Honeywood Nursery to preserve its unique horticultural legacy. The original buildings and grounds have since been restored and many of the “lost” plants identified and labelled.

In 2001, Honeywood (Dr. A.J. Porter) Heritage Nursery was designated a Municipal Heritage property.  In 2007, the nursery received provincial Heritage Property status and in 2009 it became a registered non-profit corporation. 

Special annual events at Honeywood nursery include Lilies in Bloom and A Touch of Autumn.  This year, Lilies in Bloom will be held from 11:00am – 5:00pm on Sunday, July 16th.  There will be musical entertainment and artisan displays along with food and drinks as well as walking tours through the lily gardens and plants to purchase.  A Touch of Autumn is scheduled for Sunday, September 17th from 11:00am – 4:00pm.  The fall colors of the surrounding trees along with fresh rhubarb and apple pie are an excellent way to spend a fall day.  There are always lily bulbs and perennials for sale as well as local musicians and artisans selling their crafts.

You don’t need a special event to visit Honeywood nursery.  There are always plants to enjoy, trails to walk and a nursery to purchase some plants of your own.  This year the nursery opened to the public on May 12th and will be open throughout the summer and fall from 9:00am – 5:00pm daily.   Check the Honeywood Heritage Nursery Inc. webpage for up-to-date information and announcements.  More information and details can be found on the Honeywood Nursery Inc. website: http://www.honeywood-lilies.ca/.

Bantle is a horticulturist working in the Dept. Of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan.

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (SPS; saskperennial@hotmail.com). Check our website (www.saskperennial.ca) or Facebook page (www.facebook.com/saskperennial) for a list of upcoming gardening events.