To arrive at the secret gardens of Morning Dew Farms, we made our way off of the county road, up a narrow drive lined with tall grasses and trees. Greeted by a mountain-high mound of fresh mulch, and Melissa’s smile, paired with the best garden attire; overalls detailed with fresh peony buds in her chest pocket, and so the garden story begins…
A feeling of joy, calmness, and security washed over us as we began to walk the grounds, the air somehow seemed fresher and cleaner, the birds were singing their happiest tunes, bugs were buzzing and our hearts and eyes were filled with awe.
Perhaps we should better introduce you to Melissa Gagnon, she is a flower grower and nature-loving wildcrafter. She creates magic with native flora and fauna on her once barren 2.5-acre property in Wheatley, Ontario and we instantly fell in love with her down-to-earth welcoming nature!
We started our tour closest to the road, in what Melissa calls “Wild Areas Number 1 & 2”, to give you a bit of background when Melissa first moved to this sacred land 18 years ago, the front garden areas were just grass- meaning a lot of lawn to cut, so she decided to stop cutting it and began planting trees from her dad’s forest. Wild Area #2 is considered a favourite garden at Morning Dew due to its low-maintenance beauty and serene winding path. As you move through this garden, you feel hugged by nature, with tall dancing grasses, arbour-ing trees and pockets of wildflowers everywhere you look – the perfect home for critters of all kinds or children with a brimming imagination!
Next, we made our way towards the Woodland Garden, our personal favourite – a shaded sanctuary offering large trees, like Momma Maple and a beautiful Catalpa, hostas, ferns, and a variety of relentless perennials popping with colour amongst the sea of green. Sparkling sunlight broke through the trees and bounced off the pond water, where a friendly frog sat as if waiting to say “hello!”. A garden we didn’t ever feel ready to leave, included perfectly positioned benches and Adirondack chairs angled in just the right way to soak up the sights, sounds and feelings of nature’s gifts.
As we made our way past Melissa’s living quarters surrounded by garden beds, we were introduced to the homes of Morning Dew’s signature Peonies, Strawflowers and Zinnia’s. This collection of flowers is what you will find filling up Morning Dew Farms’ social media feed – as Melissa offers fresh garden arrangements in the summer and dried wreaths in the winter!
An Interview with Melissa Gagnon of Morning Dew Farms:
What does gardening mean to you?
Love. Connection. Passion. Tending to the Earth. Being at one with Nature. Nurturing the land instead of controlling it.
What type of garden do you have?
Fruit/Vegetable/Herb & Perennial/Annual
How would you describe your garden?
Wild, tame, magical, calming and alive.
How has Anna’s been apart of your garden story?
I have purchased many plants from Anna’s, from my first Hellebore to annuals in the early summer.
How did you get into gardening?
When my daughter was born, I started my garden to bring me a sense calm.
How many years have you been gardening?
Do you have any resources for helping to make your garden succeed and where do you draw inspiration? (Books, podcasts, people. etc. )
The Monty Don -I love watching his stuff on YouTube and TV when TV was just TV. He’s older but he is awesome. I find inspiration from magazines and things but mostly just doing it!
With Peonies edging the front garden bed that leads to the backyard, we were enthralled by the assortment- finding ourselves anxious to see what was behind every corner. We loved that some of the plants were planted by Melissa and some somehow made an appearance all on their own – as she so perfectly put it “nature has a way of taking care of itself and creating it’s own beauty if you let it…”
What is your favourite thing to grow and why?
Zinnias because they just keep giving you flowers and they make me smile, and they make people smile and their super easy to grow. Hummingbirds love them, Butterflies love them! They’re just awesome.
What does gardening bring to your life?
Joy, calm sometimes when I’m not getting ready for people to come in it. Connection to nature.
What do you feel when you are gardening or sitting in your garden?
How would you describe your garden style?
What is your favourite month and time of day in your garden?
June is pretty awesome before everything gets tired and ragged and everything is still fresh from the rain and Spring and when it isn’t so hot so sunset time – 4 o’clock.
What inspires your choices when it comes to plants?
Native plants, and having a balance between everything that you have. I AM not just all native, I want to grow all of the things, I think that mother nature likes all of the things.
When you are choosing a plant is it because of the flower, the colour or all the things?
It’s probably all of the things, so it’s basically if I think it’s pretty.
Do you share your plants with people?
I do, I love doing that!
Little did we know that there was a full garden bed lined with peonies, where Melissa explained that she would be trying a new trick to savouring the peony blooms well outside of their typical blooming time! Check out the trick for how to do this below:
How to choose the right peony blooms to save:
Pick budding flowers that haven’t quite bloomed- aren’t too tight and are starting to loosen. It helps to gently press each bud with your thumb, they should squish slightly and have a density similar to a marshmallow.
How to save your peony blooms:
- After you’ve found the soft buds, use pruners or garden snips and cut just above a set of leaves. (Make sure to cut stems so that they are an inch or two longer than what you need for your vase because they’ll need to be trimmed again before arranging.)
2. All you do is take a sheet of newspaper, take one stalk and wrap it in the sheet.
3. Keep the leaves attached since this acts as food for the bud while in the fridge. Once all stalks are wrapped individually (but not too tightly) you can place them in your fridge for safekeeping. You can take a paper grocery bag and organize the stalks in that so they would lay or sit easier. You can plan to store them in the fridge for one to two months.
To the right of what felt like a field of peonies, we fell in love with Melissa’s homestead-style greenhouse filled with terra cotta pots, seedlings, garden tools and thing-a-ma-bobs, a cozy space for Melissa’s wreath-making in the winter and seedling planting in the summer!
What dreams do you have for your garden?
I want people to come here and feel the things that I feel because I think everybody needs that right now. Everyone just seems so sad. It makes people happy here and I really like making people happy.
What would you say is the thing you do best in your garden?
I dunno, I’m not really sure, I make it happy! We think Melissa is best at keeping het flowers blooming long into the summer, by cutting them to the ground, and they will grow back beautifully
Visiting Morning Dew Farms was like taking a mini-vacation – it’s not only the gardens that radiate healing energy but Melissa’s passionate commitment to creating a space that can bring happiness to others is at the root of her mission. Melissa has dreams of inviting people to have celebrations in her gardens someday, but for now, be sure to follow along on Facebook and Instagram for a daily dose of the garden magic!
Even in the darkest of days, nature can remind us and teach us so many lessons if we simply take the time to slow down and watch.
Follow along with Morning Dew Farms on social media:
Photography: Emily Gignac | Videography: Anna Kwiatkowski