Fern Fascination

Exclusive Fern Provider for North America

With over 35 years of success in the greenhouse industry, Fern Fascination has become one of North America’s premier growers and provider of ferns.

The family business evolved from carrying over 200 species and sizes of plants, to a complete re-branding and specialization in ferns that took place four years ago.
Despite success in the business since 1975, in 2008, Fern Fascination dedicated itself to a new, fully automated business model. “We had a very strong balance sheet that allowed us to take the established business and reinvent it,” says Pete Wierenga, co-owner of Fern Fascination.

“We were in the position to re-start the business and promote Fern Fascination as our specialty as well as our identity. The net result is a fully automated greenhouse business running with only three employees. “Taking the leap into ferns came from a desire to create a niche market. Wierenga’s top priority was meeting the clients’ needs with a superior product. “Obviously when you brand something with a registered trademark, when you are ready to put your name on it, it has to be a quality product. “Being fully aware of this, every aspect of the business, from suppliers, production, grading and customer service must coincide with this core focus,” says Wierenga.

Applying this level of automation in the greenhouse is typically reserved for larger growers. The Wierenga saw an opportunity to adapt the available technology and create seamless production and growing processes. With the use of modern planting machinery and remote controlled conveyor systems, all plant material moves automatically to the exact growing location within the growing areas “For many growers, large and small, moving production material and plant material is a huge, labour intensive component of their business. Often product needs to be moved multiple times, at different stages, to optimize the growing and spacing requirements. It is a number of steps before retail ready product is finally headed to the warehouse for shipping to clients,” explains Wierenga. “Essentially all the moving systems work in reverse at that time, bringing sellable product to the loading docks for shipping – all in a single step. Previous to that, we utilized any number of methods to move product, tow motors, pallets, carts, etc with an employee attached to each one of them.”

By automating their greenhouses, the Fern Fascination team has been able to efficiently produce a superior product. Along with the product handling being systematized, the irrigation system is also fully automated. By dividing the greenhouses into various zones with crops at similar stages being grouped together, irrigation – a previously daunting task – is simplified and more efficient.

With a commitment to environmental responsibility, Fern Fascination employs irrigation collection and reuse as part of their effort to stay green. The modern greenhouse further operates different efficiencies and materials such as energy efficient natural gas heating plants, the latest environmental control computers, energy efficient cooling fans, internal heat retention systems, and more to further show dedication to the environment. Alongside the materials and internal systems, the production processes are developed to use recycled, recyclable or renewable materials. Plastic containers used in the greenhouse are chosen based on their composition, allowing them to be 100 per cent recyclable. The production process also employs sustainable coconut material pots, and the cardboard packaging used by Fern Fascination is only sourced from recycled materials. Furthermore, Fern Fascination has been a participant in the Canada-Ontario Environmental Farm Plan Program (EFP), a voluntary education and awareness program. Its function is to help Ontario farmers administer environmental risk assessments for their farms. With the use of this plan, Fern Fascination has taken remedial or preventative action in the following areas: fertilizer handling and storage, storage of petroleum products, waste reduction, ponds, erosion control, and more.

While streamlining their business, the Fern Fascination team made decisions about which species of ferns to grow, remaining mindful of what their valued clients require. “They need to have a fern that performs well.” The greenhouse now specializes in a select variety of ferns. With a client base that includes distributors, retailers, independent garden centres, and select chain stores, the specialized grower provides a unique product. A product that is directly distributed within the Golden Horseshoe and the greater Toronto Area, which lies at the western end of Lake Ontario, with its outer boundaries stretching north to Georgian Bay and south to Lake Erie. Beyond that, Fern Fascination products can be found outside Ontario in other Canadian regions and the U.S. through the use of their distributors.

Ferns are a versatile plant that perform well and do not require a lot of maintenance. They can be grown indoors and outdoors as a compliment to any decor. Recently, the use of traditional ferns as an outdoor decor choice has increased. “Someone that is buying our products in a garden centre in May, can place it out on their front step, or out on their patio, or in an urn pot, and with simple watering and occasional application of some mild fertilizer, will have a fern that grows lush and green. Most consumers are enjoying their plants right up until the first frost if they have not brought it indoors before then. Fern Fascination is dedicated to the end user being successful with their ferns and has taken a number of marketing initiatives to do so. All product is shipped with colourful, easy to understand plant care information tags. In addition, the tags have QR codes that link the consumer with online care and inspiration ideas. So the homeowner is getting great value in many ways and if they are successful with the product they will be a repeat customer,” says Wierenga.