Esther was raised in an alpine plant nursery that was founded by her parents Harvey and Irene Wrightman 38 years ago. Home life revolved around the nursery with weeding, stamping out plant labels, sending catalogues, building all types of gardens, and leaping from rock to rock. Perhaps by osmosis, she was enraptured and apprenticed before she knew it.
Out of high school she continued working with her stone mason dad, constructing walls and sidewalks, until it became clear the work was getting too heavy for him because of his age, and for her because she just wasn’t going to get any bigger or stronger—ever. They were easily convinced to turn their focus to lifting little pots of alpines instead.
Jobs were divided up and she was handed the Kabschia Saxifraga and Primula collections to establish, propagate and care for. Catalogue creation, photography, and anything computer-related was sent her way, and her husband Daniel’s website knowledge gave the business a backbone and chance at expanding and managing all the paperwork needed to send plants to the United States and across Canada. Meanwhile Esther balanced a couple kids in buggies that usually carried a flat or two of plants on the handlebars.
In 2014 the nursery moved east to Saint Andrews, New Brunswick where gardens, greenhouses and workshop were re-established in an area that is fortunate to have cool summer nights by the sea, for both plants and humans. Before Harvey passed away in 2016, he handed the reins of the nursery over to Esther, promising “you’ll figure it out”, and that was all the encouragement she needed.
Wrightman Alpines Nursery regularly lists over 800 alpine plants a season, renewing the catalogue twice a year. Orders are shipped throughout North America, from New Mexico, to Newfoundland, and even to an inspiring gardener in the Aleutian Islands.
Most new plants derive from wild seed collected by intrepid mountain-exploring botanists from around the globe. Cuttings, divisions and seed harvested from the nursery gardens keep the cycle going year after year, with the best plants proving themselves in the garden as worthy of continuous propagation.