In the Garden: April 2018

By Rhiannon Allen

Planting season is upon us, once again bringing challenges in acquiring plants for our gardens. There are times when I miss being able to hop in the car and zip over to any of dozens of plant sellers. However, there are several options for those wishing to expand or renew their gardens in this wonderful exclave. It just takes planning.

First, there are opportunities to acquire plants without leaving Point Roberts. This summer, Garden Club members will offer divisions, seeds and possibly produce at the second Saturday market of each month at the community center. It is worth stopping by to take advantage of this sharing (as well as good gardening talk and knowing your dollars go towards the Tyee Beautification Project).

Another option for acquiring plants within Point Roberts comes from the Point-Interface email distribution system. Point Interface circulates notices of available plants or requests for plants, along with other community notices. If you are not signed up already, email your name, address and phone number to with “subscribe” in the subject line. The cost is a $10/year annual donation to the Point Roberts Animal Wellbeing Society — a fabulous bargain; offers similar opportunities.

Still, nothing beats cruising the aisles of a garden center, taking in the myriad colors, scents and textures. So we are fortunate in having Ladybug Nursery on Windsor, offering a selection of annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, herbs, vegetable starts and shrubs.

If none of these yield the plants you want, then most plants, cuttings, and seeds can be brought from Canada as long as you obtain a certificate to present at the Point Roberts port of entry. There are easy, not as easy, and more difficult ways to do this – so think about the amount of time and money you want to invest in importing Canadian products. Moreover, before you buy in Canada, note that some plant material will not be allowed across the border under any circumstances, is subject to quarantine, or might require a specialty certification that is not available locally. Many fruit trees and shrubs are examples of such plants. The sales people at some nurseries will know which plants are not allowed to cross the border. If in doubt, check the APHIS manual at before purchasing a plant.

The easy option involves buying from vendors whose products have been pre-certified for entry into the U.S. First, West Coast Seeds can supply a pre-certification sticker for approved seeds purchased at their Elliott Street retail outlet in Ladner. Second, West Coast Gardens in south Surrey can supply you with certification for any plants that they have grown themselves.

An almost equally easy (but more expensive) option is to use a retail garden center whose staff will complete (for a fee) the paperwork required for the phyto-sanitary inspection required to import plants. Sunnyside Nursery in Tsawwassen, West Coast Garden in south Surrey, and Phoenix Perennials in Richmond will all arrange for and supervise this inspection when you purchase plants from them, holding the certified plants until you can pick them up.

A relatively inexpensive but time consuming way is to arrange the inspection yourself, but you need to store the plants until they can be inspected. It is certainly worth asking a retail garden center if they will hold the plants for you if you have no other place. In order to arrange the inspection, you must complete Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) form 3369, which can be downloaded from Make sure you specify a computer location to save the form, or you will find yourself with an error message and a messy search to find the form. And keep a blank copy for future use while you’re at it.

Once you have completed the form, email it and contact information to, so that CFIA can set up an inspection appointment with you. You can telephone the office at 604/292–5640 if you need to talk to an inspection agent directly. The inspection fee is CDN $12.25, exact change.

So, what if you cannot find a plant locally and it is not allowed to cross the border? Clearly, the plant must be purchased via mail order or in person from ‘across the big border.’ If you would like to search for a mail-order plant, then type the plant’s name into the search bar at to find gardeners or mail-order nurseries that can supply rare plants. If you would like to purchase the plants in person, be aware that Canada Border Services Agency has the right to prevent any outdoor plant from crossing into or through Canada unless it is being carried by a bonded carrier like UPS or USPS.

Happy shopping! If you would like further assistance, email or come to a Garden Club meeting.

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