In Drought Conditions, Water Until the Ground Freezes Hard

It’s no secret to any gardener based in New England that the region is experiencing a significant rainfall deficit. In Connecticut, where we’re located, assessments provided by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for September 2016, indicate that all regions of the state are in either “extreme drought” (a deficit of 2.75” of rain or greater) or “severe drought” (a deficit of 2” to 2.74” of rain). While October delivered a few showers, we still have a lot of making up to do. The situation is the same across New England. (See for yourself by clicking here.)

In September, according to NOAA, “Abnormally dry and drought conditions continued to contract in the Midwest and intensify in the Northeast, where extreme drought developed. The unusually warmer-than-normal temperatures increased evaporative stress which exacerbated the drought conditions in the Northeast. Soils were dry, vegetation stressed, and groundwater and streamflow levels low. According to USDA statistics, topsoil moisture was short or very short (dry or very dry) in 50 percent or more of Rhode Island (100%), Massachusetts (78%), Connecticut (76%), New Hampshire (65%), and Vermont (53%); subsoil moisture was short or very short in 50 percent or more of Rhode Island (100%), Massachusetts (91%), Connecticut (80%), New Hampshire (63%), and Vermont (52%); and pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition in 50 percent or more of Massachusetts (81%), New Hampshire (65%), Rhode Island (60%), Maine (59%), and Connecticut (56%).”

Massachusetts and Connecticut have been critically impacted, according to the NOAA data. “Fifteen states ranked in the driest third of the historical record for April-September, with two in the Northeast having the tenth driest, or drier, such 3-month period. These were . . . Massachusetts (at fourth driest) and Connecticut (at fifth driest). The last three April-September time periods have been drier than average for these two states.”

In southern New England, the dryness is part of a longer-term pattern. “Thirteen states ranked in the driest third of the historical record, with the severest dryness (driest ranks) persisting in southern New England — Connecticut had the fifth driest January-September and Massachusetts the seventh driest,” according to NOAA. “Four of the last five year-to-dates have been much drier than average for Connecticut.”

In forecasting trends for this winter’s weather, NOAA predicts New England’s drought conditions may improve somewhat in western parts of the region but dry conditions may persist in the east.

Given the drought conditions in many parts of New England, it's essential to keep watering plants until a hard frost.
Given the drought conditions in many parts of New England, it’s essential to keep watering plants until a hard frost.

What does all of this mean for gardeners? Water. Water. Water. Unless restrictions have been imposed in your area, continue to water your gardens and any new plantings including trees and shrubs until the ground freezes hard. Plants that have been stressed by lack of water are far more vulnerable to winter kill. New plantings are at particular risk. Keep your plants hydrated by watering on a weekly basis. (Ideally, you want to water slowly – setting up a sprinkler or drip irrigation system are two ways to do it. The goal is a slow but steady discharge of water that will seep down to the roots of your plants. You want to stop watering before the ground is too saturated to absorb more. Do not overwater or plants will be discouraged from forming good root systems. Standing water might also freeze overnight creating a hazard for you and your plants.)

The ground here in Litchfield County generally freezes hard sometime after Thanksgiving so we’ll keep watering until then.

Watering Guidelines for New Plants

For best results with new plants including potted perennials, shrubs, trees and vines, give their roots a good soaking in their pots on the day before planting. (You may even stand each pot in a bucket of water for up to 30 minutes so the soil is soaked through. Remove each pot from the bucket and let it drain.) On the day you put the new plants in the ground, water them again, as needed, before and after planting.

For bareroot perennial specimens, soak the roots in water for a few hours before planting. If the root is woody (as in roses), soak for up to 12 hours. Follow directions for planting your bareroot specimen then water it in once planted.

Water Restrictions

If you live in an area where water restrictions have been imposed, you may choose to collect “grey water,” the type that’s generated by routine household rituals including bathing, brushing your teeth, washing dishes, and rinsing fruits and vegetables. As you start the shower or run the tap to rinse something or wait for hot water, collect the runoff in buckets or jars and bring it outside. Please note: While grey water that contains detergents or soaps may be used for some things, it is not recommended for watering plants. Be sure your grey water is free of shampoo, soap, toothpaste, dish detergent, grease, etc., which can potentially damage your plants or attract critters.

Plants that are stressed by lack of water are more susceptible to winter kill.
Plants that are stressed by lack of water are more susceptible to winter kill.

Rainfall, if we get much, is another excellent source of water. Install rain barrels below your gutter pipes or set out buckets and pails to catch whatever falls from the sky. This is a terrific practice whether or not drought conditions prevail.

Take Care of Your Hose

To prevent your hose from cracking on nights when the temperature dips below freezing, remember to discharge any water that’s trapped in it after each use.


While You’re Out Leaf-Peeping, Stop by the Store!

30% Off Sign

Against all expectations (given the dry summer), it’s a dazzling autumn here in the northwestern hills of Connecticut. The trees are ablaze in colors of red, orange, yellow and gold. If you’re within driving distance of our retail location in Morris, we hope you’ll hop in the car, do a little leaf-peeping, stop for lunch in the Litchfield area, and while you’re in the neighborhood, visit the store. To help encourage you to visit, you’ll find all remaining perennials, shrubs and trees available at significant discounts. (It’s our way of helping them find homes before winter.) You’ll find our bestselling daffodil collection, The Works, on sale with 200 premium bulbs at 50% off (while supplies last). Inside the store, peruse the wide selection of top grade bulbs – from tulips and daffodils to alliums and hyacinths – for fall planting. You’ll also find an array of distinctive and unusual gifts – from field guides and stationery to garden tools, houseplants, and early blooming amaryllis bulbs – which will give you a head start on your holiday shopping and help you ready your home for upcoming festivities.

South African Amaryllis

To make bulb planting easier and more enjoyable, we offer a range of tools designed to facilitate the task. Our custom-made Bulb Planters make speedy work of digging holes. Our Ultimate Garden Fork loosens the soil in garden beds, which makes digging holes for bulbs a breeze.

Tools on display

If you’d like amaryllis to be blooming in your house (or someone else’s) at holiday time, the store is stocked with South African types. These varieties are harvested ahead of their Dutch cousins, and they consequently blossom earlier in the season with most producing flowers in time for the holidays. Decorate your entry table or sideboard with festive blooms in colors of red, red-and-white, white, and pink. Visit soon for the best selection.

Forcing Bulbs in Glass

For forcing amaryllis and other bulbs, the store is showcasing a variety of glass vessels including vases and hurricanes, for just that purpose. Our staff members will be happy to answer any questions you have about forcing bulbs.

Irish Firewood

To keep the yule log burning at your house, consider our Irish Firewood, which is made from 100% organic, authentic Irish peat.

Holiday shopping

If you’d like to get a start on your holiday shopping, we’re offering a range of gifts to suit gardeners and non-gardeners alike. In addition to the items mentioned above, choose from among our durable, top grade garden tools, lovely houseplants, hummingbird feeders, birdhouses, field guides, stationery, and wall calendars.

Enjoy your ride along the country lanes amid fall’s splendor. We look forward to seeing you at the store.


It’s Cleanup Time!

The garden staff is busy cleaning and carting away spent annuals, and the foliage and faded blossoms of some perennials and shrubs.
Faded annuals, and the foliage and spent blossoms of some perennials and shrubs have been pulled out and are ready to be carted away.

Here in northwestern Connecticut, the fall foliage show is nearing its peak, and in some places, the leaves have begun to fall. They rustle at our feet as we go about our rounds. This is Nature’s way of telling us it’s time to clean the garden.

Clearing out beds and borders means different things to different people. Some gardeners clear every last leaf and past-bloom plant from their gardens while others find reasons to leave everything as is until spring. We fall somewhere in the middle. We believe that maintaining a healthy garden and nutritious, well-structured soil requires different cleanup rituals for different garden spaces. At the farm, here’s how we go about it:

The spent flowers of a Zinnia are beginning to develop mold. Those will be cut and discarded, but for the time being, there is a certain beauty in decay.
The spent flowers of a zinnia are beginning to develop mold. They’ll be cut and discarded, but for the time being, there is a certain beauty in decay.

Remove Most Annuals

For starters, we remove most annuals. In general, these plants are easy to spot because after the first hard frost, many of them, including impatiens, begonias, and coleus, have withered and turned brown. If the spent foliage and blossoms on these plants are free of mold and disease, we put them in the compost pile. If we see traces of powdery mildew (zinnias are often afflicted), downy mildew or other diseases, the plants are put into trash that’s hauled off the property. Keep in mind that any mold or disease that’s allowed to stay in the garden will overwinter and reinfect new growth in spring.

Some annuals argue to be removed a bit later in the fall. “If the Cosmos or verbena bonariensis are still green and self-sowing, I will leave them until later,” says nursery manager Barb Pierson. “Plants like Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun,’ which can overwinter here, will be left until spring. Kale is pretty late in the season, too.”

Cleaning out the beds beside the store. Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' bows out after an exceptional summer performance.
Cleaning out the beds beside the store, Rudbeckia ‘Prairie Sun’ bows out after an exceptional summer performance. (Because the plant is sometimes hardy in our zone, some gardeners keep it in to see if it returns in spring.)

Clean Out the Vegetable Garden

In the kitchen garden, Pierson removes all vegetable plants, paying special attention to any varieties, such as tomatoes, that may have fungal leaf spots and mildew. Afflicted plants must be completely removed and put into the garbage (or carted to the dump) or the same afflictions will plague next season’s plants. “Most vegetable plants are best removed unless you are growing fall lettuce or other cold crops here in New England,” Pierson says. “If we plan to plant tulips in the raised beds for a nice spring show, this is the time to do it. If we don’t plant bulbs, we will remove any soil that comes up with the vegetables and add fresh soil in spring. Compost can be added in the fall if it is fresh, but we prefer to do it in the spring because we use fully composted material. Each spring, we replace the top 1/3 of soil – at the least – for best results. Mulching can attract digging rodents so we don’t mulch the beds during the winter months.”

Perennials & Shrubs

In the perennial garden, our methods vary. In the shady beds near the store, our gardeners clean and clear away dead and dying foliage. They cut back ferns, hostas, astilbes, and ligularias. Why? One year, when they let the decaying leaves lie, they discovered that the cushy, warm environment attracted critters who dug around and sometimes nested in the leaf mulch. That would have been all right except the critters didn’t stop at the mulch. They burrowed into the roots of the plants, inadvertently killing a few, and those had to be replaced the following spring.

Browning fern foliage being yanked out and hauled away.
Browning fern foliage is yanked out and hauled away.

In areas where critters don’t pose much of a problem, Pierson and many others believe that the decaying leaves of most deciduous trees are beneficial to the garden. For starters, they form a natural leaf mulch that provides insulation for perennials and shrubs. Oak leaves, which are waxy and don’t easily break down, are particularly good for insulation. Mounding them around perennials and shrubs protects the plants from seasonal temperature swings. Pine needles are another fine insulator, and they’re especially good for acid-loving plants including rhododendrons and azaleas. Leaves that break down more readily such as maple, ash and birch leaves add organic nutrients to the soil, and help improve soil structure.

The foliage of Phlox 'Robert Poore' is covered in powdery mildew. The plants need to be cut at the base and removed or the mold will return in spring to re-infect the plants. It won't inhibit the blossoms, but it's not much to look at.
The foliage of Phlox ‘Robert Poore’ is covered in powdery mildew. The plants need to be cut at the base and removed or the mold will return in spring to re-infect the plants. It won’t inhibit the blossoms, but it’s not much to look at.

As with annuals and vegetable plants, it’s important to note that any perennials or shrubs that exhibit mold or disease should be cut back, and the spent foliage and blossoms should be carted away to the trash (not the compost pile). Plants like Perovskia (Russian Sage) should not be cut to the ground, Pierson says. “The most important thing to remove is the foliage – not the crown or stems – so I would say remove leaf litter and prune stems as you would for that variety, in general 3-4” above soil level.” Some of the perennials and shrubs most commonly affected by powdery mildew include peonies, monarda (bee balm), phlox, and roses. As with vegetable plants and annuals, if you leave afflicted plants in the garden, the mold and disease will overwinter and reassert itself in spring. The mold won’t interfere with blossom production, but it will detract from the beauty of the foliage.

We like to leave the seed heads of Echinacea in the garden. Birds feed at them, and they also look lovely dusted in snow.
We like to leave the seed heads of Echinaceas (Coneflowers) in the garden. Birds feed at them, and they also add winter interest when dusted in snow.

As you cut down bee balms, phlox and peonies, keep in mind that there are other perennials and shrubs you’ll want to keep. While ornamental grasses can be cut back in fall (leaving 6” of growth to protect the crowns), the argument for leaving them until spring is that they look quite lovely dusted in snow. The seed heads of Echinacea and the berries of Ilex verticillata (winterberry) feed the birds as winter sets in. The pods of Asclepias, the flower clusters of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Eupatorium, and the seed heads of Echinaceas (Coneflowers) all provide winter interest.

Purple kale won't be taken out of the garden until a deep freeze. For now, the intense color adds beauty to the autumn landscape.
Purple kale won’t be taken out of the garden until a deep freeze. For now, the intense color adds beauty to the autumn landscape.

So clean as much or as little as you choose depending on the types of plants you have in your garden. But whatever you decide, it’s time to grab your rake and pruners, and spend a few days in the glorious autumn weather putting your garden to bed.

In one of the display gardens, the bright lavender blossoms of the autumn-blooming Colchicum have popped up amid a sea of lime-colored Sedum 'Angelina.' We won't be cutting these!
In one of the display gardens, the bright lavender blossoms of the autumn-blooming Colchicum have popped up amid a sea of lime-colored Sedum ‘Angelina.’ We won’t be cutting these!

Planting the Tulip Border: Going for Drama

By Cheryl Whalen, Head Gardener

Driving around the Litchfield hills the other day, all of a sudden it hit me! Wow! Look at the leaves! The subtle yellows and tans of early autumn had been set ablaze seemingly overnight by brilliant oranges and reds. I had previously resigned myself to the fact that this fall’s colors would be humdrum and subdued perhaps somehow due to our prolonged lack of rainfall this summer. This sudden fantastic burst of color jolted me out of my end-of-season slump. The cool crispness of the morning air further confirms my declaration. I feel fully confident and satisfied that fall has officially arrived here in northwest Connecticut. My thoughts immediately hone in on the fall to-do list in the gardens. One of my favorite projects rises to the top . . . bulb planting! Out with the annuals, leaving this past summer season in the rear view mirror, and in with the bulbs, each one sunk into the earth with hopeful anticipation of next spring’s colorful awakening after the winter slumber.

We have a border just south of our shop that has, more years than not, been loaded up with tulip bulbs each fall which then in turn greet our visitors with a dramatic welcome each May. During the summer, the garden plays host to a variety of annuals as well as tender dahlias. With the onset of fall, these seasonals are dug out and the garden is prepared for tulip planting.

Measuring tape and bamboo poles are used to lay out the design for the tulip border.

Back in August, I dreamed up my tulip planting scheme. Armed with my scissors and stack of pictorial catalogs, I fall back on my trusty collage design technique to create my planting plan. This year I decided to focus on the group of late-season blooming tulip varieties featured in our bulb offering. Because I’m going for the drama, I try to tailor my planting so the tulips will bloom all at once in order to achieve the maximum color impact when the bulbs flower. Collaging is effective for this type of scheme. I shuffle around my tulip picture cutouts on my graph paper until I am certain each variety will play well with its neighbors. Then I translate the lineup to the garden map below, filling in the tulip varieties in each section along with a corresponding quantity of bulbs needed to fill that space.

bulb planting plan
Using a collage technique, it’s possible to create tulip pairings and adjacencies that will flower in next spring’s garden.

The garden is 5’ wide by 66’ long. I happily cram just over 3,000 tulip bulbs into this plot. A little bit of prep work happens before I actually begin planting the bulbs. With measuring tape outstretched alongside the border, I use bamboo canes to divide the garden up into sections as dictated by my planting map.

A good garden fork helps loosen the soil before bulbs are planted.

Then, starting at the north end, I employ the use of my garden fork, which is affectionately named “Favorite” because that’s what he is . . . my favorite. I don’t know what I would do without him. I dig a section or two of the garden, loosening the soil to make planting easier. After smoothing out the soil surface, it’s time to lay out the bulbs. Spacing between bulbs in this garden is on the close side usually no more than 4” apart. Remember I’m going for the drama in this garden so I want to plant as many bulbs as I can in order to reach my theatrical goal.

Upwards of 3,000 tulip bulbs are planted each year in the tulip border.

The next step is to sink those beautiful bulbs into the earth. I prefer to do this on my hands and knees using a trowel to dig each hole. The soil is loose so the digging is easy and being close to the ground saves my lower back from being achy. My little white bucket contains ground oyster shells, which are part of my defense strategy against the underground assaults of voracious voles against my precious bulbs. After digging a hole and dropping in my bulb, I throw in a handful of oyster shells. The oyster shells are scratchy to the voles’ hands and skin so my hope is to have them think twice about coming close to my tulip bulbs. Hopefully they will go elsewhere for dinner. I don’t put oyster shells in every hole because that would be a whole lotta shells. Instead I put them in the bulb holes on the edges of the planting area in an attempt to create a “barrier” of shells that the rodents won’t cross as they enter the garden from the rock wall or lawn. It’s not 100 percent foolproof but it does provide some protection.

The effort is always worthwhile, don’t you think? This is how the border looked in May of 2016.


It likely will take a whole day and a half to complete the bulb planting but I don’t mind. I like to listen to the radio as I plant. Sometimes I will challenge myself to see how many bulbs I can plant while a certain song plays through and then I try to beat that number when the next song comes on. Time goes by quickly and before I know it, I’m all done. I stand up and stretch. Looking back at the border I squint and try to imagine the day next spring when all of those tulips will sing together and be in their colorful glory. I smile as I gather up Favorite and my trowel. On to the next bulb planting project . . .


Tour the Lloyd Border With Our Head Gardener

Did you get a chance to visit us this summer? If not (and even if you did), we’ve just released a new video that offers all garden lovers a tour of White Flower Farm’s Lloyd Border in the company of our head gardener Cheryl Whalen.

“The Lloyd,” as it’s known around here, is the brainchild of White Flower Farm’s owner, Eliot Wadsworth, who years ago chose to turn a large expanse of lawn in the midst of the Litchfield countryside into a mixed border in the English style. His aim: to create a garden with a long season of interest in New England. To design the garden, Mr. Wadsworth enlisted Fergus Garrett, steward of England’s Great Dixter, the world-renowned family home of the late gardener and gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. Garrett’s design, which was installed beginning in 2001, mixes trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals with the goal of ensuring a continual succession of bloom from spring to fall.

If you have the privilege, as we do, of seeing the Lloyd Border develop and change over the course of an entire season, you’re treated to successive waves of bloom and color, form and fragrance, and to the glorious alliances that occur when plants are successfully combined.

Lloyd Border (July):Phlox, Rudbeckia Goldsturm, Echinacea Kim's Knee High, Grass Leymus Arenarius, Agastache, Zinnias (possibly Profusion Orange?)
The Lloyd Border during a previous July: Phlox, Rudbeckia Goldsturm, Echinacea ‘Kim’s Knee High,’ Grass Leymus Arenarius, Agastache, and Zinnias create a riotous mix of colors, textures and forms.

Our new video captures the Lloyd during one “moment” in 2016 – a late summer day when the garden is at a peak stage of bloom, filled with the flowers and colors of Russian Sage, Rudbeckias, Dahlias, Zinnias, Verbena bonariensis, Ageratum, Phlox, Nicotiana, Sedum, Tagetes Marigolds, Salvias, and plenty more.

The garden changes each year, largely because there are new plants or plant combinations to try, but its essential bones remain the same.

You can build your own garden in the same manner as the Lloyd, anchoring your space with small trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses in repeating patterns that define the garden and give it year-round structure. Fill in with perennials that return each year to provide color and texture, and leave designated spaces for annuals, which, because they’re planted each spring, can be changed year to year according to the gardener’s whims.

Click the link, take the tour, and you may come away with some ideas and plant combinations for next season’s garden.

Breeding Daffodils

Breeding Daffodils

By Carlos van der Veek

Creating new daffodils is by far not as difficult as you might think. In fact, it is one of the easiest plants to hybridize. When you cross-pollinate two daffodils, you will very often be able to harvest some seeds after a couple of months. Every single seed you harvest is a new daffodil because with daffodils, same as with humans, not a single seed will look the same as another.

To cross-pollinate, you first choose two varieties you fancy. This can be anything, just choose two you like. When you look in the flowers you can easily find the pollen and the stamen.

1. breeding daffs_Pic 1 stamen and pollen
Stamen and pollen

All you have to do is collect pollen and put that on the stamen of another variety. To do so you can use a pair of tweezers to pick an anther with pollen, but I usually just pick a flower of a pollen plant (also called the “father” plant), flap it open and smear the anthers over the stamen of the “mother” plant.

2. breeding daffs_Pic 2 pollinating
3. breeding daffs_Pic 3 pollinating

After you have done this, you will see that the pollen easily sticks on the stamen. Be careful not to bruise the stem, neck or flower of the mother plant because on her flower the seeds have to grow for about eight to 10 weeks. During these eight to 10 weeks, you will see the seed bud, which is hidden on the back of the flower, slowly grow, and during the coming eight weeks it will swell to the size of a marble.

4. breeding daffs_Pic 4 seed bud
Daffodil seed bud

This size goes for a standard daffodil. When you pollinate smaller daffodils, you will have smaller seed buds.

After about 8 weeks, you have to be careful to inspect the seed buds often, and when they start to turn brown and shrivel a little bit, they are ready to harvest. When you are too late inspecting them, the seed buds might burst and the seeds will fall on the ground where they are hard to find. The seeds will be the size of a pinhead. Seeds from large daffodils will be slightly bigger. Seeds from miniature daffodils will be smaller.

5. breeding daffs_Pic 5 seed
Daffodil seeds

But now a part of the story that might be a little bit disappointing: you have to nurse the seeds for five to six years before you will be able to see your first results. It will take this long for the seed to grow to a large enough bulb to produce a flower. But to grow the seeds you really do not have to do much that is different from growing other daffodils.

In the fall, you plant the seeds, no deeper than half an inch, in a pot or tray. This pot can be planted in the garden in a spot where you also plant your other bulbs.

In the first spring, you will see each seed producing one single leaf that will not be much bigger than a leaf of grass from your lawn.

6. breeding daffs_Pic 6 one year old seed
One-year-old seed

The reason for planting them in a pot or tray is that you do not have to dig them after the first year of growing. In the first year, the seeds will grow into small daffodil bulbs, but these bulbs will be hardly bigger than the seeds you planted.

7. breeding daffs_Pic 7 1, 2, 3 year old seeds
1-, 2- and 3-year-old seeds

So digging and replanting will be difficult because you might not be able to find all the little bulbs. So I usually leave the pot or tray with seeds in the ground for at least three years, and all I do is keep them free from weeds.

After that, the bulbs really need replanting every year to give them more space. Bulb size is increasing rapidly these years so spacing will become more important. When you dig the seedlings in the fifth year, you will see that some of the bulbs have grown big enough to produce a flower. And finally in the sixth spring you might see your first creations, and you can really start to enjoy them. Some of your seedlings might need another year to grow big enough to produce a flower.

Not all of them are beautiful so selecting needs to be done. The good-looking ones may stay; the rest end up in the hedge or on the roadside.

During the next five years, sometimes even more, you keep on selecting, and only the ones that perform well year after year remain. For me the criteria for selection are, in the first place, a good-looking flower, but equally important is its garden performance. I prefer the flowers to be well above the leaves and not too much down-facing, and they have to look healthy and vigorous. Sometimes I discharge a nicer flower compared to the others because the others just are better looking plants and better performers in the garden.

Now after more than 10 years you finally might have a daffodil worth keeping, and you want to name her. To name a daffodil, you go the Daffseek website, http://daffseek.org, this is a database of the American Daffodil Society.

8. breeding daffs_Pic 8 daffseek
DaffSeek Daffodil Database

This is a perfect place to check to see if the name you have in mind for your daffodil already exists. A name has to be unique, and already over 25,000 daffodils are named, so you might find it hard to come up with something original. But once you find a name, you go the related links on the Daffseek site and they will forward you to the Royal Horticultural Society site (RHS) in the UK where the worldwide registration authority of daffodils is settled.

But before you name a daffodil you might want to know what other people think of your seedling. Best thing to do is go to one of the many daffodil shows that are held each spring by numerous different daffodil societies throughout the United States. You might be able to find a daffodil show close by on the website of the American Daffodil Society [http://daffodilusa.org]. Everybody can enter flowers in these shows, and judges are present to evaulate your blooms and advise you. When it is a good flower, you even might win a ribbon.

9. breeding daffs_Pic 9 Judging Daffodils
Judging Daffodils

When you are interested in hybridizing daffodils, it is best to first collect a wide range of varieties so you can find out which are most appealing to you. A mixture like The Works is an ideal start. Made up of 30 top quality varieties, it will provide you with a broad range of different daffodils to pick from.

Good luck with the breeding.

Our Hunt for Bulbs in Holland

As fall planting season approaches and you begin to consider which spring-blooming bulbs to add to your garden, we thought we’d tell you a bit about how we find those bulbs and introduce you to some of the bulb experts who help us do it.

To search out Daffodils, Tulips and other spring bloomers, we fly each spring to northern Holland, an area of the Netherlands that contains one of the largest concentrations of bulb growers in the world. Because of demands back at the farm, our trips have to be kept fairly short, only 2 to 3 days, but we pack in a great deal, visiting 6 to 8 bulb growers, and always making time for a visit to the legendary flower garden Keukenhof in Lisse.

On each trip, our first view of what awaits comes through the plane window. Laid out below is a colorful patchwork of Holland’s bulb fields in full and glorious bloom, stretching as far as the eye can see. As many times as we’ve seen this spectacle, it still does something to our hearts, stirring wonder and pure joy in equal measure.

The view from the plane. Photo credit: Eric Breed
The view from the plane. Photo credit: Eric Breed

At the airport gate, we’re met by two extraordinary men we’re privileged to consider our Dutch partners and friends. Carlos van der Veek and Eric Breed are two of the principals in Fluwel, an internationally recognized bulb breeding, growing, and exporting company. Carlos founded Fluwel in 1992 with Tulip expert Jeroen van dan Hoek, and Eric joined the company in 2008. “Fluwel” is an acronym for “Flowers love u, we enjoy life,” and it gives you some idea of the spirit that infuses the whole operation.

Our Dutch Partners

Carlos, a self-professed “bulb nerd,” grew up in the business. His late father, Karel van der Veek, was a renowned Daffodil hybridizer who collected and grew Daffodils behind the farmhouse where Carlos was raised and where his mother still lives. (Carlos is bringing up his own children in a house across the street.) Karel’s garden, which began with just two types of Daffodils, now contains 2,635 varieties. Carlos was “spoon-fed” bulb know-how by his Dad from an early age. Today, he’s internationally regarded as a “walking encyclopedia” on Daffodils.

Carlos van der Veek
Carlos van der Veek

Eric, who is “a bulb nerd like me,” according to Carlos, is the son of bulb breeder Kees Breed. His maternal grandfather was a 3rd generation bulb grower whose fields abutted Keukenhof. Eric spent his youth in and around the fields, deadheading flowers, scanning for virus, driving the tractor, and cutting Tulips. He also worked with Jeroen’s father to learn about forcing Tulips. A photographer and consultant, Eric has traveled the world hunting for Tulips, and his trips to Kazakhstan, Georgia, Israel, Crete, Turkey, Spain, and Tibet are chronicled in his booklet Going Wild for Tulips.

Eric Breed in Kazakhstan in 2001, hunting for Tulip greigii and Tulip kaufmanniana
Eric Breed in Kazakhstan in 2001, hunting for Tulip greigii and Tulip kaufmanniana

Guided by Carlos, Jeroen, and Eric, who seem to have new and creative ideas every 6 seconds, the men have made Fluwel an international force that is synonymous with expertise and the highest quality bulbs. Their flowers are sought by buyers all over the world and can be seen in displays in Keukenhof; at Germany’s Schloss Ippenburg; and at the Tivoli amusement park in Copenhagen, among many other venues. Their passion for bulbs inspires their efforts to educate people of all ages and to make learning about and living with flowers a fun and enriching experience for all. In Sint-Maartensvlotbrug, they created Tulpenland, a theme park and “land of eternal spring” that attracts visitors of all ages who are invited to walk through exhibits and playscapes inspired by the history of the Tulip.

The Barnum-like expansion of Fluwel over the years is governed by the same passion and enthusiasm that characterizes our meetings with Carlos and Eric, who are equal parts farmers, bulb experts, and ambassadors for all they grow.

The Search Is On

Leaving the airport, we hop into Carlos’ van, and we’re off, traveling across miles of Holland’s flat fields, all of them exploding with colorful flowers. Among our stops is Fluwel, where acres are planted with Daffodils, Tulips, and Crocuses. Over coffee, a tradition of Dutch hospitality, we talk bulbs. As Carlos likes to say, “Once you start talking about Tulips and Daffodils, just make another cup of coffee, because we won’t stop talking anymore.”

ea & carlos in field
White Flower Farm’s marketing director, Eliot A. Wadsworth, left, and Daffodil expert Carlos van der Veek

When coffee time comes to an end (about 3 cups later), we head outdoors.

Walking the fields with Carlos and Eric is an extraordinary pleasure and an inspiration. They might show us ancient Narcissus varieties rescued from abandoned home sites; talk about how the different colors of the blooms change over the course of time as the flowers age; help us learn about optimal planting depths and how they affect the overall success rate or possibly just the bloom timing; and point out planned and unplanned color combinations that we can translate into the garden pairings we suggest in our catalogs. What we learn on these walks, we pass along to our customers, the benefit of Carlos and Eric’s wisdom distilled not only in our plant choices but in the information we provide for growing and taking care of them.

Tulip 'Lalibella'
Tulip ‘Lalibella’
A yellow double in its habitat
A yellow double in its habitat

While at Fluwel, Carlos, Eric and our staff members work together to create the proprietary mixes of Daffodils and Tulips that White Flower Farm customers love. Many longtime favorites including our Pastel Stretch Tulip Mix, The Works Daffodil Mix, and the Golden Legacy Daffodil Mix were designed in the fields at Fluwel. (Both Daffodil collections include varieties grown and tended by Carlos’ father.)

Fluwel Mix at Keukenhof
The gardens at Keukenhof attract thousands of visitors each spring.

Before leaving Fluwel, the fittest among us take the time to climb one of the company’s wind turbines, reaching the top to get a bird’s eye view of the fields below.

In addition to showing us around Fluwel, Carlos and Eric don their hats as bulb exporters, and we spend the next few days visiting a handful of select specialty growers. These are individuals who have worked with and grown bulbs for Fluwel for years, and most are personal friends of Carlos and Eric. At each stop, we’re offered coffee, of course, and before the day is through, we’ll have had about 15 cups; which is quite useful when battling jet lag.

We visit growers who specialize in the hybridization of new varieties of Tulips; maintain stocks of existing varieties; grow for the cut flower market; or have a wide range of very special bulbs.

Muscari Maxibell
Muscari Maxibell

Everywhere we go, enchantments abound, with unusual flowers to see and choose from. One highly specialized grower produces only varieties of miniature Muscari, and the tiny blossoms are so small they seem suitable for dollhouses. With Carlos and Eric at our elbows, we take notes, snap pictures, and begin ordering samples to be shipped back to Connecticut for trials in our gardens.

Tulip 'Red Impression,' Tulip 'Pink Impression,' and Tulip 'Apricot Impression'
Tulips ‘Red Impression,’ ‘Pink Impression,’ and ‘Apricot Impression’

Keukenhof Gardens

No spring trip to Holland is complete without a detour to world famous Keukenhof. Carlos and Eric accompany us, escorting us through the displays of individual bulbs and the stunning combinations created by a variety of growers and designers including Fluwel.

Combinations we see sometimes become the inspiration for the bulb gardens we offer White Flower Farm customers at holiday time. But early on, we learned that bulb combinations that bloom simultaneously in Holland don’t always perform similarly in the United States. Because our climates are different, and the sun tends to be stronger in the U.S., combinations that work beautifully at Keukenhof don’t always succeed in our part of the world. Carlos and Eric tell us which combinations will work stateside and which won’t. (We also trial each combo we create to ensure that the results are as spectacular as they can be.)

As our Holland visit comes to an end, we place our bulb orders, and bid our Dutch friends goodbye.

Back in Connecticut, as we usher in the busy spring season, the bulbs in Holland continue to grow. When summer arrives in the Netherlands, the bulbs are harvested and cured by drying them or keeping them at particular temperatures, depending on their type. In the large warehouse at Fluwel, the bulbs are sorted, counted and packed by machines. Proprietary mixes, including our Pastel Stretch Tulip Mix, are assembled by hand.

Tutti Tulpi, the making of a mix
The making of a bulb mix in the warehouse at Fluwel.

Our brand labels are added, and the bulbs are moved to temperature-controlled containers for the trip across the ocean. Maintaining optimal temperatures is a critical part of the process because buying the best bulbs in the world does no good unless they’re properly stored during transport. To ensure our bulbs are kept at optimal temperatures, each container houses a thermostatic recorder to keep an account of temperatures from portal to portal. When we receive the bulbs at our warehouse in Torrington, Conn., in late August and early September, members of our staff carefully check the recorders to ensure that the correct temperatures were maintained during the trip. If everything is in good order, we transfer the bulbs to our own temperature-controlled coolers and keep the bulbs active and healthy until they’re shipped to customers.

Our partnership with Carlos and Eric is one of the highlights of being in the gardening business. It’s a relationship that’s built on friendship, trust, mutual admiration, and a common desire to share the benefit of our knowledge with those who plant bulbs in their gardens.

Narcsissus Pinza_colorful daff blue sky_RS

As Carlos puts it, “We gather knowledge and share it.”

For us, that’s what gardening is all about. That, and all those beautiful flowers.

House at Wisley DSC_0168

Visiting a Few of England’s Great Gardens

Sissinghurst, Wisley, Great Dixter, Beth Chatto – for American gardeners these are iconic names, alien but as resonant as Mantle and Mays are for baseball fans. This summer we had the opportunity, in between visits to breeders and growers, to see these legendary English gardens in all their late-summer glory. We came home feeling awfully lucky. Photos from other peoples’ business trips, we’re told, don’t often look like these.

Beth Chatto Gardens in Colchester

The Beth Chatto Gardens in Colchester was our first stop on this trip and perhaps the jet lag exacerbated the “through-the-looking-glass” sensation that we Zone 5 gardeners experience when confronted with the English climate. Fuchsia, Gunnera, Agapanthus – we’re not accustomed to seeing these plants used as permanent border elements, and these gardens feel, in places, quite tropical. In fact, this is one of the driest areas in England, and the gravel garden (converted from a parking lot) serves not only as a striking visual contrast to its lush green surroundings but as a long-running experiment in how a more “Mediterranean” plant palette fares with absolutely no watering.

Fuchsia in a mixed border
Gravel garden at Beth Chatto gardens
Gunnera manicota DSC_0028
Gunnera manicata at Beth Chatto Gardens

Our next stop was in Northiam, East Sussex, at Great Dixter, which holds a special place in White Flower Farm’s collective heart. Dixter was the lifelong home of plantsman and author Christopher Lloyd, and since Christo’s passing in 2006 the estate has been maintained by a charitable trust under the leadership of head gardener Fergus Garrett. In 2001, we collaborated with Mr. Garrett on the design and installation here in Connecticut of a 280′ mixed border (referred to as the Lloyd Border), which, under the subsequent care of our Head Gardener Cheryl Whalen, exhibits the same effusive density and variety of color and texture that make Dixter’s gardens so inviting. It was a special treat to see the “ancestral home,” as it were, of one of our own gardens, and to experience a gardening landmark that is so unmistakably a personal expression.

Great Dixter DSC_0056
Great Dixter
White Flower Farm's Lloyd Border
White Flower Farm’s Lloyd Border

Sissinghurst Castle Garden is in Cranbrook, Kent, just up the road from Dixter (with only a few potentially lethal “roundabouts” between), but it offers quite a contrast to the latter. Compared to the ecstatic wildness of Dixter, Sissinghurst’s manicured garden “rooms” feel carefully choreographed and managed. Like Dixter’s, Sissinghurst’s history goes back hundreds of years, and the gardens were designed and installed over the course of several decades by the last private owners, Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson. The property has been under the care of the UK’s National Trust since 1967.






RHS Wisley

Our last stop was in Surrey at RHS Wisley, one of four Royal Horticultural Society  gardens (there’s a fifth in the works) scattered across England. The RHS is a member-supported private charity that dates back to the early 19th century, having received its Royal Charter in 1861. In addition to maintaining gardens, the RHS offers educational programs, organizes flower shows (including the Chelsea Flower Show), and generally promotes horticulture and gardening. Wisley is the RHS’s oldest garden and serves as the administrative hub for the society’s extensive trialing program, which grants top-performing plants the Award of Garden Merit. We talked our way into an early entrance and spent most of a day exploring a garden that, unlike anything else we saw on this trip, offers grandeur on an imperial scale.





Wisley Trial Garden DSC_0035

We returned home with achy feet and fresh eyes, and are already scheming about when to return to soak up even more of all that these astounding gardens have to teach us.


Down on the Farm: A Look Back at a Magical Summer

The end of summer at White Flower Farm

At this address, the end of summer is attended by a flurry of activity both indoors and out because we are obliged to deal simultaneously with this year’s plants (being delivered to purchasers), next year’s plants (being propagated, potted, pruned, and sometimes imported), and plants that will be on offer several years from now (requiring photos, stock plants, hardiness trials, production plans, and greenhouse space projections). In the background is, of course, speculation about the likely date of first frost by which time greenhouses need to be covered, irrigation systems drained, and all outdoor equipment readied for winter. The mix of exhilaration and anxiety is familiar, even reassuring, as the sleepy saunter of summer changes to the brisk strides of fall.

It would be a mistake not to take note of the highlights of the summer just passed, not least because they contain both lessons and inspirations for next year. Perhaps most striking at this moment is the total absence of fruit in our small orchard. After two hard and late frosts decimated buds, our trees (apples, pears, peaches, cherries, apricots) are completely barren, a stunning contrast to the gigantic crop we enjoyed last year. The trees earned their rest, but it’s hard to explain to the pigs, who count on dropped apples as the mornings cool. Elsewhere, a long, mild spring, and a warm and dry summer produced contrasting abundance that started with the spring-flowering bulbs and continued through our various plantings of shrubs, perennials and annuals (with a bit of watering when the thunderstorms missed us in August). Especially noteworthy to the undersigned, who walked the gardens practically every day for four months, were the following:

–          Tulips in the beds adjoining our store that bloomed for an extra two weeks thanks to obliging weather.

White Flower Farm Perennial Tulip Mixture
French Single Late Tulip Mixture

–           Korean Dogwoods (Cornus kousa), planted to mask a greenhouse, became a feature on their own, alternating pink and white varieties that bloomed long and hard. A trial of ground covers at their feet produced mixed results about which more later. The trees’ fruits are now bright red and very cheerful, but seem not to be attractive to birds.

One of our Korean Dogwoods underplanted with a trial ground cover combination

–          Our Blackmore & Langdon Tuberous Begonia display moved to a new greenhouse two years ago, took a year to get adjusted, and then returned to top form, starting in June and still going strong this week. Our friends at the English nursery that bred these marvels actually called upon us to help them restore varieties they were struggling with, the ultimate compliment to our Head Gardener, Cheryl Whalen, who curates this collection. We sell the tubers only in spring, but you have permission to start dreaming now.

White Flower Farm’s Begonia House

–          After some nail biting caused by minus 18 degrees F in February, an astonishing border of Lavender ‘Phenomenal,’ 81 plants without a single loss, settled in comfortably in its second year and proved once and for all that Lavender can be grown in New England. The site faces south and is well drained. We trialed fragrant Sweet Peas on the fence behind and were entranced by the effect.

Lavender Phenomenal™

–          A marvelous late summer showing in our beloved Moon Garden where strong late-blooming perennials Phlox paniculata ‘David,’  Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album,’ and Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ matched up with annuals and tenders such as Cleomes and Dahlias to make last week’s full moon something quite out of the ordinary.

White Flower Farm’s Moon Garden

–          Containers of annuals that changed their look and feel with every week of the season and are still strutting their stuff at the first week of September. Ms. Whalen, mentioned above, generates new designs yearly with seldom a disappointment, and many recipients re-order annually.

Annuals in containers at White Flower Farm

–          The Lloyd Border, over 300’ long and 20’ deep, was once again heart-stoppingly beautiful through the entire summer and will remain so until a heavy frost. It’s worth a visit all by itself. A drone-based video is in production, which we hope will capture at least a fraction of this experience. It’s not too late to visit this year, and next year is a must.

The Lloyd Border at White Flower Farm

Looking backward in this way seems a little self-indulgent but perhaps can be justified on the basis of reminding ourselves, and you, what rich and varied joys are to be found in our gardens, and yours, at every time of year. Both big ideas and small can produce stunning beauty and deep satisfaction. In addition, our gardens serve to support our proud assertion that we are plantsmen first, merchants second. Please read the following overtly commercial messages with that in mind.

Shortening Days Are Sending a Signal

The message, lest you have missed it, is that next spring’s garden begins now, and we are standing by to help you make ready. A few practical suggestions follow:

The Works Daffodil Mix

First – spring without Daffodils (properly known as Narcissus) is like kissing your sister, a pleasant ritual with no zip. The answer we recommend is our longtime favorite Daffodil Collection called ‘The Works.’ The name reflects its unique character as an assembly of 100 bulbs from 30 different varieties of the best traditional and recent Daffodils varieties, chosen and blended to provide a broad variety of colors and forms plus the longest possible period of bloom, roughly six weeks in our climate. Our bulbs are purchased under long-term contracts by our partners in Holland who, being Dutch, are always working to get the best possible value. They secure top-size bulbs, all blooming size, that will put on a spectacular performance their first year in the ground, actually increasing their numbers thereafter in a site they like (good drainage and at least half a day of sun). Of course, everyone knows Daffodils, but not everyone knows that they are long-lived, pest free, extremely winter-hardy, and absolutely and unconditionally immune to deer, which won’t touch them. Thus, the biggest and brightest early flower of spring is also the toughest and most enduring. Scatter them in a meadow, along a path, through existing gardens, and at the edge of woods and count on a glorious display, plus armloads of fresh flowers for the house, for decades to come. Please note that their natural period of dormancy means that Daffodils (along with many hundreds of other varieties or spring-flowering bulbs) can ONLY BE PLANTED IN FALL. Click here for details.

Old-time Peony Collection

Second – To make your Daffodil commitment more efficient, Mother Nature kindly arranged that three other magnificent garden plants, all hardy from Zones 4-7, also require fall planting. This trio comprises Peonies, perhaps America’s favorite flower after the Rose, Tall Bearded (also known as German) Iris, the most overtly glamorous June blooming perennial (with one of the sweetest fragrances), and Poppies (Papaver) whose frilly June blooms can be as pale as dawn or crackle with the boldest reds and oranges in the world of gardening. If you can’t find something to love in this exquisite trio, have your eyes checked.

Rainbow of Tall Bearded Iris Collection


Papaver orientale ‘Turkenlouis’
Tulip Tango

Third – Many readers of this text will have nearby the ruins of the summer vegetable garden. In our patch, we perform fall cleanup as part of a sequence that terminates with the lining out of many dozens of Tulips of all shapes and sizes. Once in the ground, they are promptly forgotten until their noses appear in spring. A couple of weeks later, we begin snipping small bouquets of every possible description, which could hardly be more delightful. When bloom is spent, it’s a quick and easy task to fork out the bulbs, and probably about time to sow the peas. One of our imaginative associates named this switching process the Tulip Tango. That may be a little chic, but the principle is sound. If you want to give the idea a try, consider a bag of our Pastel Stretch Tulip Mix, a collection of 50 bulbs, all different. It’s good value, good fun, and an education in itself. Click here.

Are you getting the point? A few hours of scratching around in the garden on a bright fall day can deliver huge dividends in spring. It’s not hard work, and the possibilities are enormous, whether you are starting with bare ground or presiding over an established garden. Our remarkable Customer Service staff, all gardeners and many of them Master Gardeners, stand ready to provide all the assistance you can possibly require, with a little encouragement thrown in.


What’s That Weed? 10 Common North American Weeds

While many of you undoubtedly spent summer engrossed in the latest New York Times bestselling beach reads, around here, the books we can’t put down are Weeds of the Northeast by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. DiTomaso, and Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson and France Royer.

Both are indispensable guides to the pesky weeds that gardeners in North America regularly come upon in beds, borders, meadows and woodlands. Weeds of the Northeast was published in 1997 by Cornell University Press. At nearly 400 pages, it offers color photos of 299 weeds at various stages of their lifecycles – starting at the seedling stage. Weeds of North America was published in 2014 by the University of Chicago Press. It covers roughly 500 species of weeds, and includes color photos showing the majority of them at stages from seed to flower. (Interestingly, it also lists plant viruses that each weed could introduce into your garden and which may be harmful to other plants.)

As we continue to pull weeds from our gardens, we thought you might like a primer on 10 of the most common types that might be appearing in yours.

1a. weeds_pokeweed
Common pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana L.)

Common Pokeweed (Phytolacca Americana L.)

You can tell a lot by a nickname, and this one is commonly known as Inkberry (for its dark reddish-purple berries), Red Ink Berry (for the color that’s released when the berries are crushed), and American Cancer (for the toxicity of the leaves and fruits). The one thing Pokeweed is not is a poke. The herbaceous perennial emerges in spring and, left untended, achieves the height of a small tree. It will climb over shrubs and grow alongside trees. You’ll recognize the seedlings by their oval green leaves, which often have a hint of reddish purple. As they begin to stretch, you’ll see that the stems are also a reddish-purple. Green berries emerge in clusters, gradually changing to a gleaming purple-black. The shape of the berries is distinctive, too, like round balls that have been slightly flattened on each side. Large taproots make these a contest to remove, but it’s worth winning.

2. weeds_canadian clearweed
Canadian Clearweed (Pilea pumila)

Canadian Clearweed (Pilea pumila)

This summer annual has watery, almost translucent stems that remind us of Impatiens. The fresh, shiny green leaves are opposite and have three pronounced central veins and  serrated edges. The small flowers emerge from leaf axils and appear in clusters on the upper portions of the stems. Pull this weed, and it gives way very easily, which may account for our benign feelings about it.

3. weeds_Swallow Wort Vine
Black Swallowwort Vine (Cynanchum nigra)

Black Swallowwort Vine (Cynanchum nigra)

The bane of many a northeastern gardener, this twining, vining perennial can twist itself around shrubs and small trees. It has dark green leaves, purple-black fruit, and, most unhappily, a large root crown, which makes removal an Olympic sport.

“Although primarily a woodland species, black swallowwort has become an invasive weed in recently cleared areas, conservation habitats, Christmas tree plantations, nursery crops, and other perennial crops such as alfafa. It also grows in fields, pastures, and waste places and along fence rows, often in sunny areas and calcareous soils,” write Uva, Neal, and DiTomaso. In short, it can be everywhere. Our recommendation: Dig it out to be certain you’re getting it by the roots, or you’ll be seeing it in perpetuity.

4. weeds_bull thistle
Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)

Sometimes confused with Canada thistle, this biennial is distinguished by its leaves, which are spiny above and woolly below (Canada thistle leaves are the opposite: smooth above and smooth or spiny below), and by its taproot (Canada thistle spreads by rhizomes.) Bull thistle favors rich, moist soil. It presents in spring as a rosette of leaves that are prostrate to the ground then develops a stem, which is punctuated by lance-shaped, serrated leaves. Bulbous lavender-purple fruit appears at the tops of stems.

Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)

This perennial is hard to miss, especially if you’ve had the misfortune to step on it or come upon it ungloved. The spiny leaves appear first as a prostrate basal rosette and gradually lengthen. Allowed to mature, the Canada thistle will sprout stems topped by lavender-purple flower heads that open to release seeds that scatter in the wind. Where there is one, you may expect many more as Canada thistle spreads by rhizomes.

5. weeds_crabgrass
Crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis, Digitaria ischaemu Schreb. ex. Muhl, DIGIS, and Digitaria ciliaris (Retz.) Koel, DIGSP)

Crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis, Digitaria ischaemu Schreb. ex. Muhl, DIGIS, and Digitaria ciliaris (Retz.) Koel, DIGSP)

This one needs no introduction. There are three common varieties, Large crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis), Smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum Schreb. ex. Muhl, DIGIS), and Southern crabgrass (Digitaria ciliaris (Retz.) Koel, DIGSP). All are the bane of gardeners everywhere. The blade-shaped green leaves emerge along prostrate stems. The fibrous roots always seem to be rooted in cement because they’re just that difficult to pull out. The part of the plant that’s above-ground seems always to snap off in your hand before the roots can be dislodged so use a weeding tool to loosen the soil then pull.

6. weeds_creeping charlie_best
Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea L.)

Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea L.)

Also known as Ground Ivy, this is not an ugly weed, it’s just a perpetual land-grabber. It creeps along the ground by runners, each node setting down new roots as the spreading continues. It’s especially fond of vaulting the distance between lawns and garden beds, and it will even crawl across the patio, if it can find sufficient footing. The round, scalloped green leaves form a mat-like ground cover, and in spring, purple flowers appear. Grab a string (or six) of stems and give them a tug. You’ll feel individual nodes pop out of the soil. A firmer tug releases the developed fibrous roots at the base of the plant.

7. weeds_broadleaf plantain
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major L.)

Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major L.)

We feel a special animosity toward this one, a prostrate grower that holds tenaciously to the soil with a cluster of fibrous roots and single taproot. The broad green, deeply veined leaves hew to the ground, forming a mat from which sprout green flower heads that later turn golden brown.

8a. bishop's weed_Aegopodium podagraria
Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria)
8. weeds_variegated bishop's weed
Variegated Bishop’s Weed

Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria)

The variegated form of this super-spreader is called Goutweed. It’s offered at many nurseries as a ground cover, and while quite ornamental, it quickly manifests as a nuisance. To quote the Missouri Botanical Garden’s outstanding website, It “Will rapidly form a continuous mound of attractive foliage typically growing to 8″ tall with an indefinite spread. Unfortunately, once it gets going, it acts like the proverbial snowball going downhill and can be difficult to contain.” While it is easy to remove with a quick tug, you may find the constancy of the job gets tiresome quickly.

9. Alliaria petiolata_garlic mustard
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

This European native was originally introduced to North America in the 1800s and was valued for its medicinal and culinary properties. But since then, this shade-tolerant biennial has become too common in wooded areas of the eastern and middle of the United States where it crowds out natives. Now regarded as an invasive, it forms basal rosettes of heart-shaped leaves in the first year. The following season, the leaves become more triangular in shape, and the plant sends up a 1–4’ stalk that produces small white flowers in early spring. Apart from identifying the plant by its appearance, you can crush a leaf or stem. If you smell garlic, remove the plant.

10. weeds_lambsquarters
Common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L.)

Common Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L.)

We find this upright annual in lots of places at the farm where it likes to pop up at the edges of fields and meadows. The gray, felted-looking leaves make it easy to spot along with its broad, branching habit. Left to grow, it can reach heights of 3’ in a single season.