Marijke Niles of Starksboro is the creative talent behind her sprawling plant nursery business, Marijke’s Perennial Gardens Plus.
Photo by Louis Varricchio.
Starksboro “God Almighty planted the first garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.” (Sir Francis Bacon)
As Amsterdam-native Marijke Niles, 66, tells visitors to her nursery business located along Robert Young Road in the foothills of Starksboro, she inherited the Dutch way of gardening in harmony with nature.
As a young girl growing up in a house along an Amsterdam canal, where flowers appear everywhere, Marijke (pronounced Mah-ree-ka) blossomed quickly—a little bit like the childhood tulip garden she lovingly tended.
Now, living an ocean away from her native Netherlands, this certified UVM Master Gardener continues to nurture her life’s passion—that is, turning a myriad of seeds and cuttings into healthy flowering, ornamental and vegetable plants.
“I opened Marijke's Perennial Gardens Plus in spring 2007 with no particular blueprint,” Marijke said. “All I knew is that, in my mind’s eye, I wanted to transform the landscape into a nursery that would be beautiful, educational, witty, and in harmony with the environment.”
Five years later, Marijke and her husband, retired Porter Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. Price Niles, have transformed what was a weedy eight-acre hillside property, situated at 1,500 feet above sea level, into a cultivated paradise.
While the couple keeps busy with the garden business during the growing season, in the dark winter months, Marijke works as a ski instructor at the Sugarbush resort. Skiing means a lot to Marijke and Price; after all, husband and wife first met each other on snowy slopes.
Unlike other garden centers, a quick scan of Marijke’s gardens shows no greenhouse in sight.
Since Marijke specializes in USDA Zone 4 and colder plants, she has dispensed with the need to winter-over tender plants in energy guzzling greenhouses. Instead, this master gardener has devised a unique system of layering her plants—using organic materials and tarps—at the start of cold weather. This neat trick appears to keep specimens in a healthy, dormant state during the winter months (with only minor losses); properly banked, these living plants are ready to reawaken come spring.