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
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.
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.
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
Annuals, Perennials, Natives, and More
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
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.
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.
annuals are sun lovers, but there are a number of varieties out
there—impatiens, begonias, browallia, fuchsia, torenia, and bacopa—that
are shade tolerant.
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.
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.
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
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
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