Business

Froggy Bottom's up on Earth Day

Purple-stem taro, gold comfrey and hearty geraniums pose with Heidi Kastor (L) and Linda Cochran next to the vivid Froggy Bottom Nursery sign. The nursery has moved to a quarter acre of the Suyematsu Farm on E. Day Road. - KATHRYN HAINES/Staff Photo
Purple-stem taro, gold comfrey and hearty geraniums pose with Heidi Kastor (L) and Linda Cochran next to the vivid Froggy Bottom Nursery sign. The nursery has moved to a quarter acre of the Suyematsu Farm on E. Day Road.
— image credit: KATHRYN HAINES/Staff Photo

You can tell from the bright pink sign emblazoned with a mischievous frog – Linda Cochran and Heidi Kaster are no shrinking violets.

The partners in Froggy Bottom Nursery – run on a modest scale at Cochran’s home for the past few years, and now operating out of a new greenhouse on east Day Road – like gardens that make a statement. Or shout one.

“We like really flamboyant plants,” says Cochran.

“Dr. Suess plants, I call them – things that make people say, ‘cool, what’s that?’” adds Kaster.

These range from showy native comfreys to more exotic tropicals – like the banana and kiwi plants Cochran raises in her own garden.

Both women are careful, however, not to let their predeliction for certain non-native species outweigh caution.

“Because a lot of our plants are on the margin of hardiness here, they won’t be able to get out of control. If we know they are invasive, we won’t grow them,” says Cochran.

The nursery – named in homage both to the swampy conditions at Cochran’s Ft. Ward home and the famed Foggy Bottom gardens in Bressingham, England – carries over two hundred plant varieties, mostly perennials, grown from seed or cuttings.

In addition to look, the two choose their stock for its adaptability to challenging environments.

“We believe in ‘right plant, right place,” says Kaster, who also owns and operates a landscaping and lawn care business. “So many people think they have to redo their land in order to make it usable. Our idea is, if it is boggy, don’t drain it – put in plants that like that kind of environment.”

The nursery also specializes in plants that are deer-proof and drought-tolerant, like yuccas or bottle palms.

“So many people create these elaborate systems to protect their roses from deer,” notes Cochran, “when they could plant things that are more beautiful than roses, and that deer don’t eat.”

An important benefit of adding unusual plants to the mix, say Cochran and Kaster, is to extend the performance of the garden throughout the year. “So many people have spring gardens here,” says Kaster. “Daffodils in the spring, roses in June, and then things drop off.

“These plants extend the attractiveness of the garden into July, August, September.”

“My garden stays good until December,” adds Cochran.

It’s a garden with quite a reputation. After being featured on the Bainbridge Garden Tour seven years ago, Cochran’s efforts attracted the attention of photographers and plant buffs throughout the region. Now, organizations like the American Horticultural Society, the American Association of Landscapers, and the Hardy Plant Society make her five-acre Ft. Ward home a regular stop on their tours.

Cochran and Kaster hope to use the new nursery as a similar showcase. “Gardeners are mostly unfamiliar with these kinds of plants,” says Kaster. “We want them to see how they grow, and learn how to group the plants well.”

They also hope to encourage gardeners to take pleasure in experimenting – even if the result isn’t always a first-time success.

“Our motto is, ‘you have to kill something three times before you give up on it,” says Cochran.

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