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Into the Garden: Roane Grown Nursery blossoming in new home

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Mark Bossert's Roane Grown Nursery recently was transplanted to a new home.

The popular purveyor of unusual herbs, native plants and hardy perennials was started by Pete Freed many years ago. He grew his customer base at the Capitol Market by selling top-quality plants that came with a lot of knowledge on the side.

Bossert and his former wife started supplying Freed with perennials five years ago, and he eventually ended up buying out Freed. Bossert moved the nursery to a new location high atop Chestnut Ridge in Spencer last year. As part of the "back to the land" movement of the 1970s, he's made Roane County home for many years.

The Pennsylvania native laughs when he's asked what to do with a certain herb.

"I grow it, you cook it, I'll eat it," Bossert said with a laugh. That's where his greenhouse assistant, Liberty Fetty, comes in. She's trained in commercial food preparation, so she's quick to point out ideas for using the different herbs.

"This pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) would be great used in a marinade for chicken," she said while hand watering some of the tender herbs in the greenhouse. Her infant son, Baehr, rides along in a sling on most days.

Bossert grows odd varieties -- like the "Vicks" plant (Plectranthus purpuratus) that smells a lot like the medicine Mom used to unstop a stuffy nose.

He's bringing asparagus and rhubarb to the Capitol Market, as well as an estimated 1,000 flats of herbs.

"We sell 50 flats of different parsleys, and a couple hundred flats of basils," he said. The grower divides his own root stock to propagate his plants, ensuring high quality. He's got aloe, rosemary, and multiple varieties of mint and basil and stevia.

Pepper plants include reds, greens and yellow bells, lots of spicy varieties, and the infamous Ghost Pepper -- purportedly the hottest pepper in the world.

Bossert moved into his stall at the Capitol Market on April 15 and business has been brisk. Additionally, he's working on a bigger online presence, and he ships many perennials around the country. His plants can be found at www.roanegrown.com.

According to the website, the plants continually flow from starts, into various sized pots, bumped up to larger pots, into the ground, then divided again. Sizes change from year to year. Price is based on several factors: size of the plant; availability and demand, propagation results, and source (i.e. patented plants are purchased every year).

Typically, the prices run as follows:

Perennials: divisions and small pots (4-inch, quarts) $5-$6.50; established gallon pots and select varieties $6.50-$8; selected varieties $10 and up. First year from seed in 3-inch pots are $3.

Herbs: potted herbs (2-inches to 3 inches) $1.50-$3; larger pots (4-inches, quarts) and select herbs $5-$6.50.

Garden Festival

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will hold its annual Garden Festival from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on May 5.

This year's festival will feature the following programs:

West Virginia University Extension Services Kanawha County Extension Agent John Porter will share tips about how to transform a flower garden into an edible garden landscape, mixing flowers, vegetables and herbs into beds around the house.

• West Virginia Division of Forestry Partnership Coordinator Andy Sheetz will lecture on how to prune properly and then take class participants on a tour of the Capitol grounds to demonstrate pruning techniques.

• Center for Excellence in Disabilities Rural Health Program Specialist Mary Slabinski-Schmidt will talk about how to design a garden and adapt garden tools for people with disabilities and limitations.

• Sue Cosgrove of the West Virginia Herb Association and Robert Wong, Bridge Road Bistro owner and chef, will team up to talk about herbs -- Sue will talk about how to grow them and Robert will present a cooking demonstrations.

• More than 25 vendors will be on hand selling items that include organic seeds, plants, homemade soaps, candles, jams, candy and items for home and garden.

Call 304-558-0220 or visit www.wvculture.org.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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