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Brighten Your Home And Yard - Find Unique Gifts and a Plethora of Plants at Kathan Gardens

Jun 28, 2022 11:38AM ● By Katherine P. Cox Photography By Ian Raymond Except As Noted
Step inside Kathan Gardens in Newport and you’ll know this is not your standard garden center or gift shop. The merchandise is distinctive, fun, and even elegant with a nod to USA made products and local artisans, such as the mugs from local potter Christine DeFazio. Fun summer hats, handbags, totes, botanical prints, rugs, dish towels, jewelry, glassware, candles, children’s toys and books, and so much more lend an extra dimension to what Chris and Jill McIntyre offer at Kathan Gardens. “I try to keep it unique,” Jill says of the gift shop. “Some people don’t even know we have a gift shop. You come here and it’s something different. I’m constantly looking for new things. We listen to our customers and what they want.” The garden center is equally alluring with flowering plants, indoor plants, trees, and shrubs that inspire even the most timid gardener.

Shirley Cartier, Kathan Gardens sales manager, checks the water needs of a 10-inch hanging basket.


A Natural Fit

In the Kathan family since 1953, the garden center was purchased by the McIntyres in the winter of 2021 when they decided they wanted a change and were ready to put down more permanent roots after years of moving around the country and overseas while Chris was as an Air Force pilot and then a flight instructor. He retired from the Air Force in 2013 and was hired by the state of Maine to fly as a forest ranger pilot. They were in northern Maine and far away from family in Nashua. A year and a half later, he was offered a job at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center as a Medivac pilot, and they decided to relocate. By 2020, he was looking for a change and a predictable schedule. “We were looking for business opportunities,” Jill says. “We’ve always done our own landscaping and we’re DIYers.” Chris’s parents are both master gardeners, so it was a natural fit when they bought Kathan Gardens.

The McIntyres (kneeling) and their key staff.


Now Chris and Jill oversee more than 11.5 acres and 30,000 square feet of growing space for 180,000-plus plants, vegetables, and herbs that their team grows in 15 greenhouses. All are filled with plants on tables or hanging baskets overhead. Early in the season, one greenhouse is designated just for these popular flowering plants, a sea of 8,000 geraniums. The other greenhouses keep local gardeners supplied with hundreds of varieties of popular annuals and perennials for their yards, hanging baskets, window boxes, and planters.

Trees and shrubs that thrive in our Zone 5 are carefully displayed out back. “Everything we grow here does well here,” Jill says. In addition to growing individual plants, they create custom mixed container pots and planters. Earlier in the year they created hanging baskets with blue lobelia and small yellow petunias as a fundraiser to assist Ukrainian refugees. All proceeds from the sales were donated to Shelterbox USA, a nonprofit providing emergency shelter to communities stricken by natural disaster and conflict. “All the baskets were sold in three days,” says Chris. “We’re already growing our second round.”

Annuals, Perennials, Natives, and More

An enormous amount of work goes into cultivating all the plants; on a sunny day, annuals and perennials are hand watered, which takes six hours twice a day. The McIntyres have 10 employees including a head grower, Dayna Veach. “There is so much to know,” acknowledges Chris, from how to schedule fertilizing (they do a week on and a week off. “You have to give time for the salts that are created by the process to leach out of the soil.”) to knowing what plants attract hummingbirds. (Don’t go with the double-bloom varieties of some flowering plants, Jill says.) She does a lot of research and is constantly learning, knowledge she will occasionally share on her Instagram page. Head grower Dayna is particularly interested in native perennials, so the McIntyres brought in some native plants such as Joe Pye weed and swamp milkweed, marsh marigolds, and asters.

Hanging baskets galore in GH-2.

Among the popular annuals are petunias, zinnias, cosmos, salvia, begonias, impatiens, begonias, coleus, and geraniums—“We have six or eight varieties,” Jill says. Perennial favorites include bleeding hearts, astilbe, dianthus, and sedum, while lilacs, hostas, and hydrangeas top the list of shrubs in demand in the area. While annuals bloom all summer, perennials often have just a few weeks of bloom, which is why Jill says that in designing a perennial garden it’s important to make sure your garden has color at various stages of the growing season.

The busy summer season blends into the fall and winter with pumpkins, cornstalks, seasonal plants, and wreaths. “We bring in about 600 Christmas trees, focusing on Frasier fir and balsam fir,” Chris says. “We’re doing a room at the Fells for Christmas in the Fells this year,” Jill says of the annual decorator showhouse at the John Hay Estate at the Fells in Newbury in November, where she’ll decorate a room with a botanical theme.

Kathan Gardens is a bit off the beaten path but well worth the visit. Attention to detail and the care taken is evident throughout in the vibrant, healthy plants and the fun, thoughtful merchandise in the gift shop. The McIntyres and their staff take pride in the quality of their plants, their expertise, and their attention to customers. “It’s about the entire team,” Jill says. “We work hard but have fun.” I

Tips for Planning and Growing a Successful Garden

Chris advises gardeners to do the research on their property and consider basic rules of thumb for gardens that will thrive all summer long and for perennials to return year after year. Know your environment, he says, and the sun and shade demands of plants. “Know your yard. Know where the sun comes up, where it sets, where it’s shady, and how many hours of sunlight certain areas of your yard get,” Chris says. It can make a difference, Jill says, “because some plants can take full sun but they need morning sun; the afternoon sun may be too much.”

“Sun location, winds, soil moisture—this knowledge combined with how you’d like to use your space will help greatly in drilling down to what you can put where,” Chris says. Always plan spacing based on the mature size of the specimen. “Crowding leads to unsightliness, unhealthy plants, and wasted money.” Plant trees, shrubs, and perennials for year-round interest. Use annuals for seasonal accents, he says.


Many annuals will need to have their spent flowers cleaned up (dead-headed) to keep them looking their best. Plan to spend a few minutes a day on this task or select plants that are “self-cleaning.” Pinching back plants is also important to keep plants blooming, Jill says.

Most annuals are sun lovers, but there are a number of varieties out there—impatiens, begonias, browallia, fuchsia, torenia, and bacopa—that are shade tolerant.
Annuals such as petunias, marigolds, nasturtiums, chrysanthemums, and geraniums can assist in repelling pests in both a vegetable garden and a container garden, Chris says.


Trees, shrubs, perennials, and combination planters line one of the displays. Photo courtesy of Kathan Gardens.

Most perennials will blossom for a short time, Chris says. “To provide for complete seasonal interest, keep this in mind and make plans to have several different species in your garden that bloom at different times. Even the dead stalks of a plant like Joe Pye weed can provide an interesting backdrop to a winter scene, while providing seeds as a food source for birds.

“Many hybridized perennials look beautiful, but the process has robbed them of their nutritional value to pollinators. Keep this in mind if planning a pollinator garden and focus on native species.”

Trees and Shrubs

Consider the byproducts of propagation such as fruit, seed pods, runners, etc., and whether you want to deal with cleaning them up, Chris says. Like perennials, trees and shrubs will blossom for a short time. “This being the case, most designers focus on one or a combination of bloom timing, general shape, color, or purpose (such as dappled shade) when selecting their specimens.”

Kathan Gardens
146 Elm Street
Newport, NH
(603) 863-1089

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