Craig Bakay | Jul 10, 2019
There are farms. There are gardens. And then there is Robert and Sue Clinton’s back yard, a ‘garden’ that rather defies description, unless of course that description is “awesome.”
The Clintons’ spread was one of the eight properties featured in this year’s (2nd Annual) South Frontenac Garden Tour, a fundraiser for Seniors Services of Southern Frontenac Community Services consisting of a tour around their service area highlighting notable horticultural pursuits and a lunch provided by Chartwell Conservatory Pond Retirement Residence.
“It’s not a farm, it’s a folly,” says Robert Clinton. “I refuse to spray or water but there’s not a blemish on my (Asian) pears.
“The stuff that works, I plant more . . .”
And there’s a lot working here.
Technically, the Clintons will admit to having adopted the permaculture philosophy, which (according to Wikipedia) is a set of design principles centred around whole systems thinking simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems.
To that end, they have an entire field dedicated to a series of earth berms that provide and retain water.
Their garlic plants use a hugelkultur approach, which is the practice of burying large volumes of wood to increase soil water retention. They have about 500 garlic plants that appear to be doing quite well.
But while they do grow things most would associate with farming in this area (beans, flowers for their honey operation, plums, grapes and such), there is also an eclectic mix of things you probably wouldn’t expect to see in a South Frontenac farm/garden.
For example, they have thriving paw paw trees, which are normally associated with the Carolinas and the Southern U.S. They have three kinds of currents (red, white and black), shitake mushrooms, Asian pears, mulberry trees, heartnut trees (just like it sound, the nut is shaped like a heart), spindle trees (which were once used for making spindles on spinning wheels).
“The heart nuts and pine nuts are for the next generation,” Robert said.
They also have haskap berries, which is a sweet/sour berry that looks something like a large blueberry that’s shaped more like a football.
“They’re also called honey berries and they’re the new super berry,” Robert said.
In total, the Clintons have 1.7 acres of main garden/arboretum plus another four acres of woodlot/solar panel farm/berms etc.
“This was all furrowed fields when we bought 26 years ago,” said Sue. “Now, I do berries and vegetables and he’s the tree guy.”
Well, he is. He’s recently begun grafting Asian pears onto Barlett trees and it looks like this too will turn out to be a successful experiment.
But, while Clinton may have “always had the bug” to grow things, he’s getting to an age now where he’s adopted a particular philosophy as to what he’s doing.
“I’m not in the business of growing fruit,” he said. “I’m in the business of building soil.”
And doing it rather well, if the scores of fascinated visitors Sunday were any indication.
When contacted, tour organizer Nona Marriotti said the tour was “very, very busy this year. We sold over 100 tickets, and it was really, really good. People came from the United States, Kingston, over by Yarker and from South Frontenac,” she said.
One surprise bonus this year was that Chartwell Homes provided the lunch for tour participants.
“They provided box lunches, which was a bonus because people could sit and eat their lunch at the Grace Centre or they could take it with them with if they were in a hurry to visit the gardens.”
The tour includes gardens in the Inverary, Latimer and Sydenham areas, and Mariotti is hopeful that it will expand into other parts of the township in future years.
It is a fundraiser for Southern Frontenac Community Services, for which
Chartwell Homes – Conservatory Ponds. They were going to bring some people. Offered to provide the lunch. Could coe, pick it up and go, pr they could sit and eat it.
Chartwell provided boxed lunches for us. Everybody seemed very happy and very pleased with places. Asking for next year. I would like to see it go through and hit the whole county. Same day as the Sydenham Triathlon. Slowed a few people town. One of our gardeners had a sign in. Some people were from the states, Odessa area, kingsotn area. People who didn’t know South Frontenac said “they did not realise how beautiful it is here. “Very pleased with how it all turned out, and somebody really had pull with the weather. Sunday was the cool off day.