(photo: Jill Wellington Photography)

Good to Grow: Meet Janet Melrose

By Sandra Sperounes

Janet Melrose caught the gardening bug early on.

One of her first childhood memories is of her family’s garden in Trinidad. “I was watering my mom’s planters and out jumps this scorpion,” she laughs.

Despite the scare, her love of gardening only kept growing. Her family eventually moved to Canada and she’s now a garden consultant, educator, horticultural therapist and co-author of the Guides for the Prairie Gardener. Melrose is also a master gardener and a former board member of the Master Gardeners Association of Alberta (MGAA), volunteering her time and knowledge within the community, conveying her passion for all things gardening to Albertans.

Melrose is one of the experts digging into AMA’s new online gardening community, Good to Grow. She’ll be sharing tips with budding green thumbs and posting updates from her garden in Calgary throughout the summer.

What’s your favourite fruit, flower or vegetable to grow?
I grow the full range—from annual flowers to vegetables to perennials to native plants and trees & shrubs. If I had to pick, I’d say my favourite plant is Hepatica. It’s the one just finishing blooming right now. It’s a harbinger of spring.

headshot of Good to Grow community contributor Janet Melrose

What’s your favourite gardening success story?
Snowdrops. They remind me of my English heritage—I come from a long line of English gardeners. They’re not the easiest of things to grow in our world. About 10 years ago, I bought a package of 10—two came up and now those two are six. To me, that is a success. If I ever remodeled my house, it would have to be remodeled around that little tiny patch of snowdrops.

What do you wish you could grow in Alberta?
Mangos—and that’s because I grew up in Trinidad. There’s nothing like a fresh mango. But it’s never going to happen and hey, we have plants that they can’t grow. For example, in Florida, they have to go to great efforts to grow tulips—it doesn’t get cold enough, so they have to put the bulbs in the fridge. Here, we just plunk them in the ground and they bloom.

How much do you grow indoors over the winter?
I have house plants galore, a fair amount of microgreen sprouts, lettuces and then I do a lot of propagation. I do all sorts of goofy things—like bring in kale plants to see if I can get them to stay alive over the winter. I’m constantly mucking around, experimenting and learning from the experience.

What’s your No. 1 tip for beginner gardeners?
Don’t stress out. Gardening is an experience. It’s always changing, you’re always learning. A lot of us stress out because we feel it needs to be perfect or it failed. But to me, it’s the experience of gardening that’s more important than the actual results.

For more gardening tips, watch our first Good to Grow Q&A with Janet Melrose and Sheryl Normandeau. The session covers everything from seeds to soil to small-space gardens to getting rid of slugs.

The Guides for the Prairie Gardener are available through Indigo. AMA members earn up to 5% back in reward dollars on online Indigo purchases—including books, giftware, electronics and more—made through the AMA Rewards eStore.