Visitors to the farm this June are in for a splendid show. After two years of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) called “extreme drought,” our part of New England has been blessed with rain, and plenty of it. As of this writing, maps produced by NOAA and the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) show that drought conditions have eased in Connecticut and many other parts of the country. Even before the news was official, the plants in the garden were broadcasting the news, the effects of the abundant rainfall evident in lush growth that celebrates the end of a dry spell. It’s raining again as we write this, and our perennials, shrubs and trees all look vibrant and refreshed. The succession of bloom that began in late winter has segued into a June crescendo of Bearded Iris, Peonies, Poppies, Nepeta, perennial Salvia, Allium, and Amsonia hubrechtii. It’s an enchanting time in the garden, one of our favorite “moments” in any season, and this June is particularly magnificent.
Visitors to the farm often remark that we must be awfully busy at this time of year, and, of course we are, but not necessarily in the way you might think. While the garden staff is finishing up the mulching and is steadily weeding and tending the beds and borders, the planting is nearly finished, and a goodly number of us have moved on to making plans for autumn. The publications staff is finishing the final edits on the fall catalog (which will arrive in your mailbox sometime in early August). The nursery and product development teams are focused on clearing out the warehouse and greenhouses, which soon need to be empty to make room for the arrival of fall-planted bulbs and houseplants.
Lest you think we’re idling around the place, there is plenty to do. Pursuant to our need to empty the warehouse and greenhouses, we’re pleased to host our Annual Tent Sale & Open House on Friday and Saturday, June 16th and 17th.
Annual Tent Sale & Open House
We know some of you wait patiently each year for the Tent Sale, and for good reason. This year’s two-day event takes place, rain or shine, on the hillside beside the store. On offer will be an array of annuals, perennials, and shrubs, along with growing supplies, garden gear, and our exclusive Crete pottery in a wide variety of sizes and forms. For you early birds, please note we’ll be opening at 8 a.m. on Friday morning. If you’ve attended the sale in year’s past, you know shoppers line up well before start time. When the clock strikes the hour, aficionados and bargain hunters bolt up the hill like colts in the Kentucky Derby, racing to secure Crete pots, Tomato ladders, and plants, all at substantially discounted prices. To help with your shopping, we suggest, if possible, you bring along a garden cart.
Friday, June 16th: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday, June 17th: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
In the midst of the glorious madness, we’re a bit humbled and mighty grateful to be celebrating our 67th year in the nursery business. We hope you’ll mark the occasion with us by attending our free Annual Open House on Saturday afternoon, June 17. Free guided tours of our gardens begin at 1 p.m. At 2 p.m., we’ll set out free fruit, cucumber sandwiches, iced tea, and fresh strawberries, which we hope you enjoy as you mingle with a company of friends, fellow gardeners, and members of the Wadsworth family, the owners of White Flower Farm. While you’re here, we hope you’ll take the time to shop for a few great additions to your garden and landscape.
Among the new sights to be seen in our display gardens are the plants that have been settled into our Native Garden. Nearly all of the perennials and shrubs are now in the ground. The spring rains have been beneficial in allowing them to settle in nicely after transplant. Our head gardener Cheryl Whalen is pleased with her layout, the actual planting now fairly closely mirroring the original planting plan she created on paper. (Here is where beginning green thumbs may take heart: Even among the most experienced gardeners, there are often challenges and surprises in going from a paper plan to the ground, with adjustments and replantings often required as you go.) None of the freshly planted natives are in bloom at this writing, but that’s to be expected. “It’s only a first-year planting so I don’t expect much in the way of a big show of blooms,” Cheryl says. “It’s enough for the plants to just get well established.” (Beginning gardeners might also take note of the patience that is part of every great gardeners makeup.)
On the subject of blooms, with our spring planting mostly complete, our minds are shifting to plans for autumn bulb planting. Tops on our list are fall-planted, fall-blooming bulbs, which add surprise and help continue the garden’s color show right up until frost. Too little appreciated, bulbs such as Colchicum and Sternbergia are planted in the autumn, and they bloom a few weeks later. One of our favorites is Colchicum ‘Waterlily,’ which we like to tuck in amid the spiky chartreuse foliage of Sedum ‘Angelina.’ When the Colchicum blossoms in September and October, the color contrast is pure delight. Sternbergia lutea may be nicknamed the “Autumn Daffodil” for its golden yellow color, but in form, it most closely resembles a Crocus. Planted near blue-flowering Caryopteris or purple-flowering Salvia, the September-blooming heirloom creates lovely contrast.
On our list of fall-planted bulbs that will bloom in spring, we’re stocking up on Species Tulips. The most perennial of all Tulips, these charmers are available in a beguiling array of colors, forms and sizes. Last fall, Cheryl planted Species Tulip bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ under an ornamental Dogwood tree, and intermingled it with the dwarf Narcissus ‘Hawera’ and the perennial ground cover Ajuga reptans ‘Black Scallop.’ We can’t walk past a Dogwood without wishing to see the same combination planted under every one. Low-growing Species Tulip humilis ‘Tête à Tête’ will find a place alongside a few of our rock walls, the vibrant cherry red color being just the thing to banish winter when it peeks out in April or May. Golden orange Species Tulip praestans ‘Shogun,’ which grows 6-10” tall, is a welcome warming sight in the early spring garden, and it creates a burst of sunshine orange alongside Fritillaria imperialis.
If we can help with your plans for fall planting or answer any questions, you know where to find us. In the meantime, we hope you’re enjoying the beauty of your own June garden.