Avid Gardener


By Rachel Werner | Photographed by Hillary Schave

Living off the land is paramount to Christianne Laing, whose 3-acre farm sits off a winding country road between Cambridge and Waterloo.

Laing uses a greenhouse and an outdoor row of cold frames to grow the bulk of the seedlings, annuals and potted plants sold at her Cambridge garden store, Avid Gardener. Her husband Jay tends about a half acre of cabbage radishes and other vegetables to give the family fresh food for most of the year.

“We take pride in growing food that we can just pick and eat during the growing season and store for the winter months,” Laing says. “We have a big connection to the land and like being self-sufficient.”

“The earth beneath our feet comes alive in the spring, blossoming through summer eventually strengthening roots that find a way to survive in winter until they can next bloom.” -Christianne Lang

Jay also built the chicken coop with the extended run—a comfortable abode for the broods of Ameraucanas and Cooper Marans their daughter raises for 4-H and shows at the Jefferson County Fair.

“We’ve got a lot of nature happening out here, especially in the spring once the wood ducks return to live in our trees. All the subtle nuances that city folks miss out on leave in impression on us,” Laing says.

Strolling alongside the kitsch-ornamented rock bed, she points out another hidden treasure on their property. “The generations of farmers who’d lived here before us had used this as a dump pit to burn trash. But, we realized if we spruced it up, it’d fill up from the melting snow and rains in the spring, then we could have this beautiful dry creek in the warmer months,” she says. “I know now the time of year by what’s happening outside. I could easily live without a calendar or clock.”

The family makes the most of the natural bounty of their grounds. Laing even harvests violets, which many green thumbs consider a weed, to make jelly.

“Each season has its own orchestra to go with it,” Laing notes. “The earth beneath our feet comes alive in the spring, blossoming through summer—eventually strengthening roots that find a way to survive in winter until they can next bloom.

Need a hand sprucing up an outdoor space?

Pop over to Avid Gardener’s new boutique in downtown Cambridge. Recently expanded, the new digs on West Main Street are fully stocked with hanging baskets, solar accent lights and starter plants.

Owner Christianne Laing now sells more shade varietals, including some hard-to-find plants such as Corsican mint and bonfire begonias. She’s also excited about the additional locally produced items and specialty foods added to her inventory.

“It’s hard to walk past the WM Chocolate bars, mini jars of B’s Honey or bulky sacks of Deerfield Coffee en route to the checkout counter without scooping something up,” Laing admits. And she plans to use the extra square footage to offer more container planting classes and one-on-one assistance.

Follow the store on Facebook for updates on upcoming sessions or visit for more information.

This article is one of three articles in our “Home & Garden” feature from the June 2017 issue. Click to read Peace & Quiet and A Constant State of Rebirth.

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