Shade is a wonderful opportunity for gardeners to play with the color, shapes, and textures of foliage, which plays an important role in creating cool, lush tapestries along woodland walks and under trees. When selecting plants, consider your site first. While few plants will grow in deep shade, many tolerate — or require — low light and partial shade. Surprisingly, sun-lovers like Daylilies and Geraniums perform well in light shade; their flowers may be sparser but they continue for a longer time.
Check soil composition and drainage. Be sure to include a generous amount of humus-rich organic material, to supply nutrients and help the soil retain moisture. Soil moisture is an important consideration. Astilbes and Primula, for example, prefer moist soil, while Hostas and Epimedium do well in dry situations. All Plants appreciate regular watering, particularly during their first year while their roots establish — about an inch of water each week. To help minimize moisture loss and moderate soil temperature, cover the soil around new plants with organic mulch.
When choosing plants that will thrive in your location, focus on foliage contrasts because flowers are fleeting. Look for plants with distinctive leaf shapes and colors, including variegation, and combine smaller-leaved linear plants with the bigger, bolder forms. One final point — plan for a succession of bloom, starting with early spring bulbs followed by plants with spring, summer, and fall flowers. Annuals are a big help here.
Now that you have created this beautiful shady respite from summer’s heat, consider making it destination. Welcome admirers with a pretty bench or other garden seating.
Paths serve many functions in a landscape, both practical and esthetic. A paved one can lead guests, mud-free, to the front door, or allow you to fetch the mail every day. A gravel path might provide access to a storage shed or garage year-round to fetch the lawnmower and snow shovels. A grass or mulch pathway could lead to the vegetable garden, or invite you to explore the far end of the backyard among shrubs and ferns. Paths should be treated as important design elements, allowing you to link different parts of your landscape or simply draw your eye to various focal points. Sometimes it helps to imagine yourself as a designer, not just a gardener!
Here are some ways to meet the challenge of creating successful pathways that are functional as well as pleasing to the eye.
Start with long-blooming perennials and those with handsome foliage. For a long walkway, plan to repeat some of the elements to impart a sense of unity.
Vary foliage texture for the most interesting display. Start with your favorite varieties and then look for contrast — narrow and broad-leaved or feathery and ferny leaves. For a full to partial sun location, consider the scalloped, sage green leaves of Lady’s Mantle and deeply cut foliage of hardy Geraniums. For the shade, Hostas provide handsome leaf coloration with varying shapes and sizes.
Consider compact shrubs for plenty of easy-care color. For partial or full sun, a number of Hydrangea varieties stay relatively short (3-4ft) and provide lush, showy flower heads. For full sun, there’s a whole new generation of Butterfly Bushes that mature 3-5ft tall with long-lasting, fragrant blooms.
Add romance by letting some plants grow over the path’s edge. Imagine a tumble of colorful perennial blooms such as Dianthus, Nepeta, or Coreopsis. Or the blade-like foliage of Ornamental Grasses that catch the slightest breeze and provide a sense of movement.
Using the path in the evening? White flowers remain visible for a long time after sunset, and reflect the tiniest bit of light. Hardy perennials such as white Astilbes, Gypsophila, and Leucanthemum will look clean and crisp during the day and glow at twilight.
Consider adding some annuals to a walkway, especially in the shade. Coleus, Begonias, and Impatiens provide long-lasting color and form tucked between perennials along a path.
For a simple, elegant display, a hedge-like planting of fragrant Lavender will transport you to Provence as you stroll along your sunny pathway. Plants are deer-resistant and stay attractive long after the spent blooms have been clipped off.
These ideas are just the starting points for successful pathway plantings.
Gardeners know a great deal about patience, and this spring, we’ve had ours tested by Mother Nature’s caprices. For the second year in a row, the Northeast has had a cool spring, and this year’s is a bit late. Our above average temperatures in February were followed by below average numbers in March. The better news for gardeners – and their plants – is that April, true to its billing, arrived with plenty of showers. As of this writing, several soaking rains have helped offset the drought conditions that became severe in some parts of the state and other areas of New England last summer.
Ups and downs in the weather cycle serve to remind all of us, no matter where we live, that we garden with Nature. Wise gardeners take this into account when choosing plants and tending them. Many are paying closer attention to native varieties in the belief that these plants may be better equipped to handle extremes of weather. They also play a role in supporting pollinators and wildlife. At the farm this spring, our head gardener Cheryl Whalen will be creating a garden reserved exclusively for native plants, shrubs and trees. Cheryl spent part of the winter doing research, identifying true natives, and winnowing down her plant list. Her selections will go into the ground soon, and we’ll watch them with interest over time to see how they develop. With Cheryl’s help and insights, we’ll be writing a lot more on this topic soon.
Longwood’s Exquisite Clivia
For another example of patience – and its remarkable rewards, we turn to Longwood Garden in Kennett Square, PA. Last year at holiday time, we were pleased to introduce to you the first named Clivia released from Longwood’s breeding program. Clivia miniata ‘Longwood Debutante’ is a yellow flowering beauty that was roughly 35 years in the making. That’s 35 years of patient hybridizing and cross-breeding that was begun in 1986 by the founder of Longwood’s breeding program, Dr. Robert Armstrong. Longwood subsequently released four more miniata varieties, ‘Longwood Sunrise,’ ‘Longwood Fireworks,’ ‘Longwood Chimes,’ and ‘Longwood Sunset.’ Each of these plants produces blossoms that are unique and exceptional. We are honored to be the sole mail-order source for these plants, which are otherwise available only at Longwood. When we introduced these plants via our emails and on social media in late winter, there was what some of our younger staff members call “blow back” about the prices, which are $300 for ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Fireworks,’ and $900 for ‘Chimes’ and ‘Sunset.’ How could a single houseplant cost that much? Imagine first the cost of keeping a greenhouse going summer and winter for more than 35 years. Then add to it the cost of the staff required to carefully cultivate and tend these plants. Factor in, too, the slow growth of Clivia, and the fact that ‘Chimes’ and ‘Sunset’ are excruciatingly slow to produce the offsets that become new plants. Viewed in that context, we hope the pricing makes a good deal more sense. Experienced gardeners know the value of these plants and the rewards that come from investing in rare, long-lived treasures whose beauty justifies the cost incurred by the process of creation.
Our Store Is Open
If you missed our recent blog post, the White Flower Farm Store is open for the season. Inside, it’s stocked with the top quality garden tools and supplies we use here at the farm. We’re also offering birdhouses, hummingbird feeders, garden art objects, a wide variety of houseplants, and many great gifts for Easter, Mother’s Day and other spring celebrations. Plants from our greenhouses are starting to fill the sales yard, and you’ll find a broad selection of potted annuals and perennials, plus shrubs and trees, a selection of containers, including our Cretan pots in a wide range of sizes and styles, and garden ornaments from benches to birdbaths. Our staff members will be delighted, as always, to help you choose plants for your garden and to answer any questions you may have. If you’d like to have your plants delivered, we’re pleased to offer this service for a nominal fee.
Our 12th Annual Great Tomato Celebration
For those who grow their own vegetables, we’re delighted to announce that our 12th Annual Great Tomato Celebration will be held May 19 through 21 at the farm in Morris. This year, we’ll be offering over 130 varieties of tomato seedlings, including treasured heirlooms and the top-rated modern hybrids (all non-GMO), along with everything else you’ll need for this year’s kitchen garden. Joining us on May 19th is tomato expert Craig LeHoullier, tomato advisor for Seed Savers Exchange and author of Epic Tomatoes, winner of the Garden Writers Gold Award for best book in 2016. Craig will be speaking and answering questions at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on May 19th only. Signed copies of his book will be available for sale. For a list of available Tomato varieties (subject to change) and more information on the event, please visit WhiteFlowerFarm.com/tomato-celebration.
A Season of Special Events
In addition to the Great Tomato Celebration, our staff at the store has put together a calendar of special events – from popular Annual Container Planting Make & Take Events, to Grow It, Cook It, Eat It workshops, and lecture/discussions on planting and caring for trees, and roses. Our annual Open House will be held at the farm on Saturday, June 17th, and we invite you to join us for iced tea and tea sandwiches served on the lawn by members of our family.
Our Greenhouses Are Loaded
While our hills were covered in snow, our greenhouse staff members were busy tending to what seem like indoor acres of annuals and perennials. The plants have been coming along beautifully, and as the weather warms, we’re shipping these plants to gardeners all over the country and transporting tractor-loads to the store.
We hope that as you get your spring garden going, you keep us in mind for plants, bulbs, gear and supplies, and that you visit our website for helpful information, inspiration and ideas. We’ve been helping gardeners of all stripes succeed for 66 years, and we’re mighty pleased to keep at it.
Welcome spring with a visit to the White Flower Farm Store! We’re open for the season and stocked with plants, supplies, gifts, and gear to get you going and growing.
While the weather is not quite warm enough to begin gardening outdoors, we have plenty to get you started inside the house. We offer a wide variety of Dahlia tubers, which can be potted up and started indoors then transplanted into the garden as the spring temperatures settle down – generally sometime in the middle of May in our part of the world. To bring color and life to your indoor spaces or dress up the house for Easter and other spring celebrations, we have a selection of beautiful, easy care houseplants – from cheerful primroses and beguiling, low maintenance Tillandsia (Air Plants) to fabulous foliage plants including Croton, Polka Dot plants, Song of India plants and variegated ivy.
Our Tools of the Trade section features the top quality, professional grade tools we use every day at the farm including trowels, forks, pruners, hoes and spades. We also include a selection of hats, gloves, and caddies for carrying tools and harvesting vegetables.
Our array of gift items ranges from hummingbird feeders and imperial vases to stationery, compact field guides, and California-made botanical lotions and body products.
Store staff made it a priority again this year to bring in items that are made in the United States. The store is filled with the vibrant and playful colors of decorative art poles, magnetic mailbox covers, and art planters that are all made in America. The planters come in an array of playful colors and designs created by artists including Mary Engelbreit. The frost-proof, fade-proof pots are equipped with raised bottoms for drainage and wheels on the bottom that make it easy to move them around on the patio or indoors. Choose one as a great gift for Mother’s Day or buy a group to display outdoors all season long. A variety of birdhouses include new styles made using reclaimed wood.
As springtime makes its somewhat tardy appearance here in the Northeast, the outdoor spaces surrounding the store are slowly but surely being populated with flowering shrubs and trees.
There are lovely red-flowering Andromeda, and yellow-flowering forsythia bushes, and as we were writing this, a cartload of hydrangea standards arrived to join the neat rows of evergreen shrubs and ornamental trees that are waiting for new homes.
Cold hardy perennials are also in stock with more arriving daily. You’ll find Hellebores, Jacob’s Ladder, Dianthus (Pinks), Allium, Columbine, Delosperma, shown above, and many more.
This season’s Calendar is crowded with activities including our 12th Annual Great Tomato Festival on May 19-21, and our 3rd Annual Container Planting Make & Take Event. For the complete list, see our Lectures & Events listing.
In addition to the great plants and other items you’ll find at the store, there’s one attraction that always makes any visit worthwhile, and that is our staff. Experienced gardeners all, they are friendly and knowledgeable, and they delight in sharing what they know and helping customers succeed in their own gardens. They can answer questions, solve problems, provide landscape solutions, and even help carry plants and supplies to your car. (A delivery service is also available. Just ask!) So bring your questions and cell phone photos of your garden. Our staff will delight in helping you create the garden of your dreams.
The White Flower Farm Store and display gardens are at 167 Litchfield Road in Morris, CT. Our hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily during the gardening season. If you’re looking for a particular item, please call before driving any distance to verify that we have it in stock. Our inventory is constantly changing. Phone 860-567-8789. We look forward to seeing you!
Please note: The Store will close at 2 p.m. on Easter Sunday, April 16th.