If you’re a serious gardener, you need a proper car for plant hunting expeditions. One should always be prepared for an impulsive purchase. A car must be able to welcome a fruit tree, a bale of straw, a bushel of manure or a waterlily slopping around in soggy soil.
Almost every car I test drive for review has hauled a plant or two or ten. The best contortion was stuffing a four-foot banana plant into a Porsche 911. It took up the whole passenger side of the car and added a certain tropical flair to the expensive German runabout.
Right now I am test-driving a Volkswagen Golf, what I consider a perfect car for plant expeditions. The Golf has been awarded World Car of the Year for 2015 by auto journalists from around the world, and there are many reasons why. It’s solid, sensible and fun to drive, and a base model starts at around $19,000, though you can push that up to $30,000 or so with additional joyful trinkets.
My first plant pit stop in the VW Golf was Kastrau nursery on Wilson Street, Hamilton. It was loaded up with four bags of mulch, and five bags of triple mix, and it could have taken double that. The Golf is a hatchback, though they don’t even call it that on the VW website, because it sounds like a station wagon, and North American’s (read American’s) are afraid of station wagons. They’d rather drive a tall, ungainly SUV because it’s cooler. With the back seats folded flat, the VW Golf gobbles up a lot of cargo, as much as most people haul around in an SUV. But because it’s small and it’s a car and the visibility is good, it’s easier to handle in small spaces. You must have seen people trying to back an SUV out of a parking spot at the mall? You’d swear the Pope was standing behind them, they are so timid about backing in to someone or something. In the Golf, you’re good to go.
So saddled up with a car suited for both utility and driving pleasure, here’s a typical plant expedition I love to take around the Hamilton area.
Kastrau’s is a wonderful little nursery that has a smallish but nicely curated collection of woody plants, annuals and perennials. I like to buy mulch there, and always buy good, seasoned firewood from them. They also do landscaping.
Connon Nursery on Highway 5 in Waterdown is a favourite destination. Their plants, particularly trees are always impeccable, and they have a great collection of tropical plants, pots and perennials. Going to Connon is better than practicing meditation. It’s pretty, organized and it feels happy.
I like buzzing through Terra and Garden Gallery in Hamilton and Burlington. They have as much home decor stuff as plant material but that’s been a trend at garden centres for a long time. From those places I buy $5 tropicals like snake plant and variegated ginger to put in window boxes.
In Burlington Centro Garden is an inspiration for plants and decor. Here’s a place where they turn wooden pallets into innovative shelves, and old lockers into chic storage. It’s the Restoration Hardware of the plant world.
On Locke Street, the new Rooms & Blooms has a similar style with plants, botanical prints, maps and pots.
A “go to” place for me has always been the seasonal garden centre that is set up at the Fortinos on Dundurn Street in Hamilton. They always have an up to date selection of annuals and perennials, and often some very stylish pots. Watch for bargains by July when they start selling merchandise at reduced rates before they close for the season.
If I want to go on a longer expedition, I head down to Dunnville to The Potting Shed, where Jack Kent has a wonderful collection of daylilies, grasses and hard to find types of shrubs and trees. End the day with a visit to Whistling Gardens in Wilsonville, and see how one man has started his own botanical garden, and sells some fine and rare evergreens too.
The VW Golf is game for it all. With a 170 horsepower and lightweight materials reducing weight in the body, fuel consumption is rated at 9.3 L/100 km in the city and 6.4 L/100 km on the highway. Everything about it feels like it was made to last, and the handling is surefooted whether the car is empty or loaded with garden supplies.
It’s a nice match, the sensible VW Golf stuffed with smashing plants and a long summer to enjoy.