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Door County Horticulturalist
Name: Richard Briggs
Occupation: Owner of Briggsville Gardens and Orchid Inn in Sturgeon Bay. Briggsville Gardens is open by appointment only until it opens to the public again for the 2015 growing season on April 11.
Lives in: Sturgeon Bay, at the bed and breakfast, Orchid Inn, located adjacent to the gardens, where he and his wife Tammy are proprietors.
Claim to fame: The specialty and theme gardens on display at Briggsville Gardens, including a formal white garden, a rose garden, an English garden, a Southwestern garden and “the zoo,” which features topiaries wire-framed animals like giraffes and elephants.
Favorite Door County activities: Gardening and being in touch with nature.
Q. How did you get your start in horticulture?
A. I’ve been interested in horticulture since I graduated from high school, and I studied it in college. I’ve been doing this all my life, from floriculture to wholesale to nursery growing to retail. My wife, Tammy, and I started our nursery greenhouses, the retail business and our Briggsville Gardens in 1992. We built a house on the property in 2000 and converted the rooms into three bed and breakfast suites and started that endeavor in 2009 after the kids moved out. The suites are open year-round and even though the gardens aren’t in bloom over the winter, they are still worth seeing under the snow.
Q. Why is Door County a good place to plant a garden?
A. The neat thing about Door County is, it’s surrounded by water. From spring into summer, we tend to stay a lot cooler than other places in the region. We normally stay between 70 and 85 and usually have adequate rain so we don’t have the extreme heat and dryness that stress plants out. Annuals and perennials seem to thrive here, where it’s cool and moist. The plants here tend to blossom two to three weeks later than they do in neighboring states so visitors often get a chance to see their favorite plants blooming again. Door County stones are also seen incorporated in retaining walls or patios or other landscaping elements. Our native stone is the Niagara Escarpment, which is an abundant limestone-based stone found here. If you dig into the ground in Door County, in some places it’s solid like cement, and in other places, it comes up in pieces. In the northern part of the county, you can even see fossils of lake creatures and shells in the stone.
Q. Why are Door County gardens so vibrant?
A. A lot of visitors are surprised at all the color in our plants, and we have the mild climate and ideal growing conditions in Door County to thank for that. Homeowners and business owners seem to take a lot of pride in the area and plant lots of perennials, annuals and flowering shrubs that create an aesthetic that’s appealing to visitors and locals alike. We have an extended flowering season on many plants, from spring, through summer and into fall.
Q. How can I see some of Door County’s most beautiful gardens?
A. There are a lot of great gardens here, just walking around in the different communities. Some local galleries and studios incorporate art into their gardens, which is a unique thing you might not see elsewhere. Many gardens are private, so I would recommend attending a home and garden walk put on by a local gardening club like the Master Gardeners of Door County.
Q. Do you have any spring gardening tips?
A. The most important steps for any gardener to take are preparation and education about the type of garden you want and what it will need to thrive. Whether you’re planting a vegetable garden, a shade garden, or a sunny perennial garden, you want to make sure the location and soil are right for those plants. Ensure a better chance of survival for your garden by making sure it’s weed-free, that you have good soil, and access to water. Also, be careful about heavy mulching — it’s a trend right now and while it keeps weeds out and looks nice, it can also smother plants that don’t like that much moisture or need some breathing room.
Q. Do you have any words of advice for gardeners?
A. With gardening, you’re always learning. I still learn every day. Gardening is a challenge because everybody’s environment and circumstances are a little bit different and plants don’t always grow the same in every place. Soil might be different, temperature might be different — it can be very unpredictable and that’s just the nature of dealing with plants. Sometimes it’s very enjoyable and you get great rewards, and sometimes things may not work out the way you expected and that’s when you can learn some lessons from Mother Nature about gardening!
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