by Laura Rodley
Families have formed traditions of picking buckets full of ripe organic blueberries at Wilder Hill Gardens, a nursery owned by Lilian Jackman in Conway, MA. People can come pick their own from her 100 high bush blueberry plants on weekends.
She has planted several varieties, including Patriot, Blue Ray, Jersey and Bluecrop, all laid out in neat rows under black netting and mulched with straw. “They all ripen at a different time so my growing season is longer. I go into early September. The best season, especially for freezer picking, is in July,” said Jackman.
People find her online and through the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) website, as she is a CISA member. When they google blueberries in western Massachusetts, her six-acre farm pops up. At Christmas time, she sells hand-tied balsam and mixed greens for making wreaths.
As a small sustainable farmer, she wears many hats and utilizes diversity at her nursery. “A lot of what I do is landscape design and garden design using my own stock which is especially hardy and designed for our climate,” she said.
She grows her own trees, shrubs, currants, elderberries, Asian and European pears, gooseberries and hardy hydrangeas as well as annuals, perennials, medicinal and culinary herbs and organic fruit to sell. “I do my own propagation. Very few nurseries do that,” said Jackman. The gooseberries, currants and Asian pears are also offered as a seasonal PYO.
She brings a wealth of knowledge to her nursery. She studied horticulture at the University of Connecticut, earned an RN degree at Greenfield Community College ‘91, a bachelor from Smith College in ‘09 and a master’s degree in Ancient Christian Studies and the Gnostic Literature from Yale University in 2012. She has added to her supply of horticulture knowledge during travels and volunteer work in Central America. She shares her knowledge, teaching at symposiums and conferences in New England.
For 17 years, she has offered cut flowers for weddings, parties and events. “The flowers are organic, not that people need them to be. That’s just what I do,” she said.
She is nearing completion of a building she plans to use to house retail space, a printing press, studio, gallery, classes and function as a place for people to relax while they are blueberry picking, thereby enhancing the blueberry operation and expanding the nursery business.
This July, she offered her new Wilder Hill Design, Build, Grow Certificate Program, a series of landscape design workshops incorporating site assessment, existing plants, water sources, plant materials and proper installation.
Another service on tap for next year that ties all her businesses together is offering professional landscaping design consultations where people bring photos of their sites and maps — including google maps showing site topography — to complete a professional landscape plan the person can then do themselves at a lower cost and in a shorter amount of time than hiring someone to do landscape design on their property. “This building will facilitate that. It’s a good idea for landowners or do-it-themself-ers to make it themselves, help them figure out ways to design hardscapes, like patios and paths,” she said. Besides the paper layout, she can help them with the physical plant material. “That’s going to be a good service. Because of my 30 years of experience, I can take people a bit beyond what they already know” and help them actualize their goals.