Honeywood Heritage Nursery is located on the ¼ section of land originally owned by George Almanofsky who built a store about 1905 and the site was known as Parkside. When the rail line was built through Willis in 1912 its name was changed to Parkside the businesses moved to that location and the ‘old’ Parkside became the Honeywood district.
Bert Porter’s father J R C Porter purchased this ¼ section later selling it to Bert.
Bert built the original ‘Porter’ log home in the early 30’s and married Winifred (Winnie) Marshall in 1934. He added onto the original home in the mid 40’s and added the porch in the early 50’s. By 1970 the old home with no conveniences, needed to be replaced or at least remodeled so the decision was made to tear down the original old section (leaving the 40’s portion) and replace it with a new version. Bert cut the logs for the new building from the trees located on his property, cutting and peeling the logs himself. After more than a few set backs the renovations were finally completed by the mid 70’s and remains to this day as it was completed then.
Bert was a school teacher for more than a decade and in order to add to his income in the early years of the depression he became a salesman for Prairie Nurseries of Estevan. When his customers could not afford to pay for the nursery stock they ordered Bert planted it on his land instead of paying shipping to send it back to Estevan. This renewed his interest in Horticulture and he started his own nursery. Discovering that stock from Estevan did not withstand the harsh climate of the area he started crossing and propagating to produce the hardy varieties he became known for.
Although he originally propagated and sold various small fruit varieties (apples, plums, raspberries, strawberries etc.) he was known worldwide for his lily varieties. He shipped orders for thousands of lily bulbs at a time to Holland and England. Smaller orders were shipped to customers all over the world including places in Australia, Siberia, Iceland, South Africa and of course the USA. He corresponded with breeders from around the world and entered into partnerships to supply wholesale bulbs to nurseries in many countries.
The orange lily in the ‘Honeywood’ picture is Bert’s ‘Gale’s Favourite’. It is a magnificent orange/bronze lily with gold highlights, and a very eye catching strong black stalk. The lily was introduced in 1986 and named after Bert’s friend and employee Gale Muller because she chose that variety as the outstanding lily of the year.
The creamy yellow with gold center lily in the picture is Bert’s ‘Isis’. This lily was first introduced in 1986 as ‘Cover Girl’ and was actually the cover picture for a 1986 Landscape magazine (based in Ontario) issue. The name was changed to Isis the next year due to a lily by the name Cover Girl had already been registered.
The plants in front of the house are annuals. Mrs. (Winnie) Porter didn’t particularly like perennials and so she started a houseful of annuals each year to be planted around her yard. To carry on her tradition an annual flower bed is planted directly in front of the house each year using many of flowers she loved such as; pansies, petunias, nasturtiums, snapdragons & geraniums.
The shrub at the porch corner is a Waterton Mock orange which gets covered in fragrant orange scented white blossoms in mid to late June. The large shrub at the opposite side of the house is a Velosa lilac this variety is a soft ‘lilac mauve’ color and blooms after the common lilac is finished.
Bert Porter’s good friend and fellow plant breeder, Percy Wright is the breeder of the ‘Thunderchild Crab’ which is the purple leafed tree in the ‘Honeywood’ picture. Percy moved from his nursery at Moose Range to Saskatoon in the late 40’s as a result he had no place for many of his plants. Bert allowed him the use of 1 acre of land at Honeywood and he entered into a partnership of sorts with Bert to grow and take care of his stock. During his years at Honeywood Percy continued to work on his plant breeding and in the late 60’s produced the seedling (on his Honeywood acre) that became the renowned Thunderchild Crab. It was recognized at the time as a revolution in the flowering crabs for its color but most important it was resistant to the dreaded fireblight disease. Honeywood and Percy lacked the means to properly introduce and market this discovery so they had Lakeshore Nursery in Saskatoon take care of it.
The tall blue flowers are a Delphinium that has been growing at Honeywood for many years. In 2001 when I first started at Honeywood a friend pointed out an overgrown area just south of the house and said there was a Delphinium patch under all the mess. Sure enough when we cleared the deadfall and debris away there were the beautiful Delphinium’s that give such beautiful color in the summer. We have since planted a few in front of the house and in a few other flower beds around the yard.
Information put together by: Judy Harley, manager, Honeywood (Dr. A. J. Porter) Heritage Nursery Inc.