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Conway farm a green classroom

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Lilian Jackman of Wilder Hill Gardens

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Lilian Jackman of Wilder Hill Gardens

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Lilian Jackman of Wilder Hill Gardens
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Intern Julie Etter of Brattleboro and owner Lilian Jackman cut flowers at Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway.

CONWAY — Across 5.3 acres of this small hilltown, blue, purple and yellow perennials blossom, blueberries grow plump and a flock of laying hens roost.

On South Shirkshire Road in Conway, Lilian Jackman cultivates a perennial, herb and cut flower nursery, called Wilder Hill Gardens that utilizes sustainable methods and traditional farming techniques.

The buzzing garden also often becomes a classroom.

Over the past 25 years Jackman has owned the garden, about 100 students have learned to cultivate soil and propagate plants over the years.

Each gardening season Wilder Hill Gardens has two apprenticeship programs, one tailored to the serious home gardener or aspiring professional landscaper/grower, the second focuses on cut flower production and arrangement.

Jackman doesn’t offer housing and most students come from cities and towns close by. In addition to the practical learning, Jackman provides study material for students.

“Students get learning from both directions. They study and apply the hands-on experience,” Jackman said.

During the first apprenticeship, students learn to make table arrangements and boutonnieres and how to market. The second apprenticeship teaches students botany and soil science.

“Botany is essential if you want to be a grower,” Jackman said. “You need to know the structure of a plant.”

This summer, Julie Etter of Brattleboro was one student who spent the warm days learning to garden.

The 25-year-old has learned landscaping and the techniques for caring for plants.

“It’s been everything I was looking for without even knowing it,” Etter said. “There’s a lot of benefit to working with someone who has been here and has a lot of skills to share.”

Etter has always been surrounded by gardens. Her family had a vegetable garden, and in college she worked in gardening retail. Someday Etter would like to own a farm.

Jackman brings with her extensive experience in the field.

For 20 years, Jackman has worked in the garden and growing business.

She studied horticulture at the University of Connecticut. After school, Jackman worked on landscaping crews and orchards in her home state of Connecticut, as well as in Michigan and Florida.

Wanting to return to New England, Jackman moved to Conway 25 years ago, where she began Wilder Hill.

In addition to Wilder Hill, Jackman works on residential projects across western Massachusetts, including the Sustainable Energy Demonstration Garden at the Greenfield Energy Park. She also teaches at conferences throughout New England.

“I’m passionate about small scale agriculture,” Jackman said.

Wilder Hill Garden offers nursery, landscaping and wedding services.

On the nursery side, Wilder Hill has a pick-your-own garden operation using the different shrubs, fruits like blueberry, currant and gooseberry bushes, Asian and European pear trees, medicinal and culinary herb plants.

Jackman also provides a variety of landscaping styles from a formal vegetable garden to a terraced rock garden.

For weddings, Wilder Hill provides original floral arrangements using the wide range of flowers, grasses, shrubs, roses and herbs grown organically in Conway.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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