Saturday
Mar212015

Jeff Mason - Plants for the Naturalistic Garden 

March 30, 2015 Meeting

To download the wonderful plant list that Jeff handed out at the meeting, please click here.

What are those plants and grasses that catch the light and sway in the breeze? Let Jeff Mason of Mason House Nursery help you identify the plants you need for planting your Naturalistic Garden.

Nowhere does the old adage, “the apple does not fall far from the tree”, more aptly apply in one of these bios than in this month’s piece on Jeff Mason. Jeff is the son of Marjorie Mason, one of the Hort’s long time, regular speakers, who last spoke to us exactly one year ago.

Although he comes by it honestly, it seems that Marjorie was rather proactive in ensuring an heir to her love of plants and gardening. At the age of 7 or 8, she “dragged” Jeff to her job as manager of Pine Ridge Nurseries, and at 9, “told” him that he was joining the Ajax Junior Gardeners. Jeff did well, placing second in an annual competition in which members planted and tended their own vegetable garden. But he didn’t last long at the club.

No matter, by 14 he had started working at Pine Ridge Nurseries himself. He spent two summers in “the pits”. This was a section at the back of the parking lot where topsoil and sand were dolled out to customers by the bagful from two huge mounds. To stay in the business after that experience was an unqualified confirmation that he would be following his mother down the gardening path.

Eventually, Jeff left Pine Ridge Nurseries to start his own business growing perennials and small shrubs, like cotoneaster and spiraea, which he sold to Pine Ridge. When Marjorie herself left the nursery, the two joined forces and started their own business, then called Mason Hogue Gardens. They specialized in fancy geraniums and perennials which were sold by mail order. Eventually the mail order service was dropped and they focused on growing uncommon plants for sale at their own nursery.

As we have learned from Marjorie over the years, there has been a constant evolution at what is now called Mason House Gardens. We’ve heard presentations on xeriscaping and drought-resistant plants. Last year Marjorie shared her renewed interest in vegetables. In fact, the latter venture began in 2007 as what had been a personal tradition spilled over into the business with the growing interest in heirloom varieties among gardeners.

Jeff has now also begun to focus on plants for the natural garden in the tradition of Piet Oudolf. Specifically, he mentions the gardens of recent Hort presenter, Tony Spencer: grasses, echinacea, monarda—many native plants, as one might imagine.

As his gardening life evolves, Jeff has himself nurtured a new generation of gardeners, although none of his three children is currently involved in the business. He recalls how his daughter spent her toddler years in a playpen placed between the aisles of the greenhouse, and that by the age of 3, “she could say most of the botanical names of the plants in the garden”. At 25 and in a new home, she has a renewed interest in gardening, so there’s hope yet!

Maria Nunes

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