Return of the Native - About Us
Apr 22

Out of time - the Osage Orange

My Osage Orange seedlings are reaching upwards – only 15 cm tall, but with straight and slender stems and leaves that are a wonderfully green shade of green. I still bring them inside at night in case of a frost attack, and protect them from the brightest sun and harshest wind, but they are clearly unfazed by temperature swings that have dipped close to freezing recently.

Happy seedlings, I’d say, welcoming spring.

They give no sign of being stranded in our world long beyond their time, 10,000 years after their biological partners disappeared into extinction. The fruit of the Osage Orange is huge – 10 to 15 cm in diameter, several pounds in weight – designed for big mouths and big guts, belonging to the likes of mammoths, mastodons, gomphotheres, camels, giant sloths and shrub oxen.

Other trees engineered by nature in her complexity to appeal to such creatures include Honey Locust, Kentucky Coffee Tree, Avocado, and Pawpaw. The extinction of North America’s megafauna meant that these trees with supersized fruit no longer had natural dispersal agents. The fruit fell next to the parent tree and rotted. Their range shrank.

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Apr 22

Opening Day: Thursday May 16

The Return of the Native nursery will open at 10 am, Thursday May 16 2019. For the rest of May and all of June, our hours will be 10 am to 4 pm, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Open any time by appointment. Call 705-322-2545 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Orders can be placed before Opening Day and plants will be set aside if paid for in advance. 

All plants are potted and hardy in the Huronia area. Most are grown from seed at the ROTN nursery, where no pesticides or chemicals are used; some are sourced from other Ontario native plant propagators. The height cited at the beginning of each entry is what it can grow to in Huronia; the plant's present height, in the pot, is at the end of the description. Not all plants are availablle on Opening Day, as some are late starters and we work on nature's timetable without heated greenhouses.

Check this list for availability, additions, deletions. As the season gets underway, late starters will be flagged as 'not yet available.' 'New' means new to this list, not a newly created introduction to the plant world as those are not on offer here. 'Added' means available earlier or in other years and now back on the list. The list is updated daily as needed. However, as some quantities are limited, we could sell out of a species during the day, and the list would not yet reflect that. If you are coming from a distance, call 705-322-2545 before you set out, to be sure that we still have the plants you want.

Location : Just outside Elmvale, Ontario, inland from Georgian Bay, north of Barrie, east of Wasaga Beach, south of Midland, west of Orillia. See this map. The address is 1186 Flos Rd. 10. Elmvale ON L0L 1P0.
Dec 12

End of the day for popular Lake Simcoe orchard

Here's an article I wrote for the Lake Simcoe Living website, about an apple orchard giving way to development. It's been where I go every year to get the fresh cider I then freeze, as well as the less common varieties of apple. This is not a festive story, but it is seasonal. Winter marks an end. And then spring will come... Our best wishes to you for the holidays! 

There’s a popular orchard on Yonge Street south of Barrie called Carpe Diem -- “Seize the Day.”

That day is drawing to a close.

This area is part of 5,600 acres annexed by Barrie almost a decade ago. Now, ploughed fields proliferate with "For Sale" placards proclaiming them to be prime development land.

There’s no sign that the city is about to engulf the orchard lovingly planted 40 years ago by Henry Boer and his son-in-law John Juffermans. But news is getting out and long-time customers arrive to learn that this is the last season for stocking up on fresh-pressed cider and favourite varieties of apples.

“Yes, it’s sold,” Juffermans says. “You can’t farm in the middle of development. A lot of people are upset that we’re ending it - this is a very social business, and we’re part of many families’ traditions. But it’s time.”
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