May 23, 2017

A Vision, High Standards and a Mothership

Gourds galore underneath the pergola at Wren Robinson Greenhouses in Freeport

Janine Pineo Photo | Gourds galore underneath the pergola at Wren Robinson Greenhouses in Freeport

Inside the Mothership, the main greenhouse at Wren Robinson

Janine Pineo Photo | Inside the Mothership, the main greenhouse at Wren Robinson (click for larger version)

• By Janine Pineo •

I have stood inside the Mothership.

It has flowers.

And it is in Freeport.

I found myself Saturday motoring down Durham Road to find the newly opened Wren Robinson Greenhouses. Owner Jennifer Frost contacted me on Facebook weeks ago, luring me in with the promise of a warm welcome, plants and a pig roast to mark the opening.

She and partner and husband Patrick Robinson closed on the property in April and have been working feverishly since then to wrestle the five-acre parcel back into shape.

The big draw was the Mothership.

It was a vessel in need of attention, Jennifer said. The massive greenhouse was designed and built by an engineer-turned-grower who fell ill a couple of years after opening the business. The building had been used to store horse equipment for the past seven years.

Outside the Mothership at Wren Robinson Greenhouses. Jennifer Frost (in pink, at right) talks with visitors on opening day.

Janine Pineo Photo | Outside the Mothership at Wren Robinson Greenhouses. Jennifer Frost (in pink, at right) talks with visitors on opening day. (Click to enlarge)

Jennifer called the structure state of the art, and having visited countless greenhouses over the years, it certainly qualifies as unique, with interesting ventilation and curious curtains held high in the rafters.

It had been scrubbed and polished in preparation for the coming year, when Jennifer and Patrick will launch their first growing season. Jennifer laughed off the enormity of the work of debugging the structure from insects and possible pathogens, but trust me when I say it is an amazing accomplishment.

When I arrived, a number of folk were chatting around the grounds, with children and a couple of dogs racing hither and yon, the yon mostly being the old horse pasture that Patrick said he finally managed to reclaim from nature. The attraction in the pasture for the herd of little boys was a pile of worms in the compost heap.

Dirt, worms and wee boys, always a winning combination.

Patrick and Jennifer also have laid out a series of raised beds for folks to come cut their own bouquets next year and have put up two new hoop houses, one for herbs and one for shade plants. A pergola went up just a month ago, a focal point where Jennifer would like to have people gather for classes.

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As I walked around, ate some delicious pork and listened to Jennifer as she flitted from person to person, it was easy to see the vision. And it was even easier to hear the passion in her voice as she talked about community and making Wren Robinson a solid part of that community, from partnering with a hardware store in town to having kids come for a field trip.

But the backbone of it all is her love of plants and knack for presentation. Even in the nearly empty greenhouse, one could see Jennifer’s love of color and ability to create a focal point with simple, homey objects such as an old window or a comfortable Adirondack chair.

A cosmos standard rises above a flower bed at Wren Robinson Greenhouses in Freeport.

Janine Pineo Photo | A cosmos standard rises above a flower bed at Wren Robinson Greenhouses in Freeport. (Click to enlarge)

As a plant person, she has favorites: dahlias and cosmos. Dahlias were everywhere, their perfect blooms glowing in the gray afternoon. As for the cosmos, I was dumbstruck by the sight of a lone cosmos standard.

I have seen a lot of standards in my day, usually roses, which are often called tree roses. I’ve seen a rosemary standard or two. But never a cosmos.

When I asked her, she declared she was developing a thing for standards. And I had to find out how she managed to grow the one that towered a few feet away from us. Hit it with fertilizer, she said, to grow it big and fast. Then she advised switching to fertilizer with more phosphorus than nitrogen to get it to branch out, in addition to pinching back the leader.

Jennifer said she trimmed up the stalk just a few days prior to get the magnificent specimen that was the focal point of a small bed. The result was an airy, ferny cosmos tree covered in blooms swaying in the slight breeze.

She had done the same with an amaranthus, love-lies-bleeding, which looked like an exotic bonsai dripping with velvety ropes of blooms.

I could get used to standards.

As Jennifer and I leaned against the weathered gray fence surrounding the pasture, it was easy to see the work ahead but also the rewards. Two of them were a pair of little red-headed boys, having the time of their lives.

“I found them in the pumpkin patch,” she said.

Crazy gardener. Good thing she found the Mothership.

Wren Robinson Greenhouses is located at 127 Durham Road in Freeport. Visit their website here and their Facebook page here.

An impromptu band formed as a guitarist (right) played during the open house at Wren Robinson Greenhouses in Freeport.

Janine Pineo Photo | An impromptu band formed as a guitarist (right) played during the open house at Wren Robinson Greenhouses in Freeport.