All posts by White Flower Farm

Problem Solving Plants for Your Garden

The simplest way to increase your success in the garden is to select plants that match your conditions. Sun-lovers such as Peonies and Daylilies will be less vigorous and less floriferous when grown in shade, and shade-lovers such as Hostas, Astilbes, and Ferns tend to get crispy and bleached when they bake all day. No amount of fertilizer will change those performances.

These huge blooms of Old-time Peony Collection are on display in June.
These huge blooms of Old-time Peony Collection are on display in June.

It’s easy to fall in love with a plant, but you’ll spare yourself a lot of heartache if you can match that plant’s needs with the conditions you have. It may be worth experimenting once in a while, but you’ll save time and money and frustration when most of your choices fit your site. Beyond the basics of sun and shade, you can also look in our quick guide for plants that resist deer, attract butterflies, rebloom with abandon, or even tolerate tough conditions.

The blooms of Digitalis purpurea Excelsior Hybrids show off shades of pink to lavender pink, light pink and white in June and July.
The blooms of Digitalis purpurea Excelsior Hybrids show off shades of pink to lavender pink, light pink and white in June and July.

Whether you’re lucky enough to have mature trees providing shade or you live in a new development with lots of wide-open sunny spaces, there are perennials, bulbs, and shrubs that will love to grow in your garden. So size up your site, make notes on your aesthetic preferences and enjoy browsing for just-right plants. Our Web site provides an A-Z List of Growing Guides in the Gardening Help section so you can be successful with every plant you choose.

Colchicum 'Rosy Dawn'

Fall Blooming Bulbs

Magazines and TV talk shows exhort us to live in the moment, and gardening is a way to encourage that practice — to stop and smell the Roses. But gardening is also very much about anticipation, eagerly looking ahead to the first ripe Tomato or the blooming of a favorite perennial.

Elegant, goblet-shaped blooms of Crocus speciosus are violet blue to mauve in color.
Elegant, goblet-shaped blooms of Crocus speciosus are violet blue to mauve in color.

We find it’s easy to extend that sense of anticipation far beyond the summer growing season with fall-blooming bulbs such as Crocus, Colchicums, Sternbergia, and Lycoris. These charmers provide a delightful way to bring the gardening year to a close.

Sternbergia lutea, a lovely fall-flowering Crocus look-alike with bright yellow blooms.
Sternbergia lutea, a lovely fall-flowering Crocus look-alike with bright yellow blooms.

Like bulbs that flower in spring, most fall-flowering bulbs need a sunny or partly sunny site (although Lycoris radiata prefers partial shade in warm climates) and moderately fertile, well-drained soil. To improve drainage, incorporate organic matter into the soil and to boost fertility, apply bulb fertilizer on top of the ground after planting. Sternbergia often benefits from a bit of limestone worked into the soil.

Bright red flowers, adorned with long, curling filaments make up Lycoris radiata.
Bright red flowers, adorned with long, curling filaments make up Lycoris radiata.

Plant fall-flowering bulbs as soon as possible after you receive them because they need to establish their root systems. Plant Crocuses 2-3in deep and 3in apart. Colchicum bulbs are larger; plant them 4-6in deep and 10-12in apart. Plant Sternbergia bulbs 6in deep and 4in apart. Set the bulbs of Lycoris so that the neck sits just below the soil surface and space them 5in apart.

As long as the soil is well drained, pests and diseases are rarely a problem with these bulbs. Deer and voles do not bother them. Fall-flowering Colchicums and Crocuses usually bloom about 3-6 weeks after planting. Lycoris requires more time to settle in; it may not bloom until the following year, but the wait is well worthwhile.

 

Emerald Isle Hosta Collection

How to Create an Enchanting Garden Pathway

Make a Path with The Works Daffodils
Make a Path with The Works Daffodils

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.
  • On a long or winding path, add some surprise elements with a handful of tall plants such as the soft yellow Digitalis grandiflora or fragrant Oriental Lilies. Mark a turn in a sunny path with a tuteur or trellis embellished with a Clematis or Climbing Rose.
  • 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.
Plant perennials along the path
Consider Iris, Baptisa, Hydrangeas, Salvia or Heuchera for your path garden.

 

  • 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.

Staff Favorites for Spring

Each spring, about a dozen of our staff members participate in plant trials. Each of us takes home flats of annuals, perennials and shrubs that are being considered for addition to our lineup. We grow these plants in our home gardens, and we take copious notes and photos as the season progresses. When autumn arrives, we all have a pretty good idea of which plants live up to their breeder or grower’s claims and which don’t. We also know which have won a permanent place in our gardens.

As you peruse our offerings for spring and examine the new items in our Spring 2017 Garden Book and on our website, you might like to give special consideration to plants chosen as favorites by our staff members. While we asked staff members to name a single favorite, several had trouble narrowing down the choices. The result? We let them cheat a little. After all, what’s the harm? We apply the same logic in our gardens where there’s always room for one more.

Hellebore Gold Collection® Madame Lemonnier

Hellebore Gold Collection® Madame Lemonnier

When our Director of Horticulture Rob Storm and our Nursery Manager Barb Pierson both agree on which plant is the most exciting choice for spring, it’s worth taking note!

‘The foliage is dark green, large and vigorous, but the real show is happening right now in our greenhouses. The flowers are very large for a hellebore, over 3” across, and the color is a burgundy pink that is stunning. Looking across the crop, there are flowers everywhere. Madame is a beautiful strong lady!’

Barb

‘I took a shot of a Madame Lemonnier bloom next to a blossom from Hellebore Gold Collection® Pink Frost, and it is easily double the size, maybe even bigger.’ [That’s Rob’s hand you see in the photo above.]

Rob

Monarda fistulosa

Monarda fistulosa

‘A favorite of mine is Monarda fistulosa. Subtle and more modest in its appearance than newer hybrids, this native Bee Balm is anything but subtle when it comes to attracting pollinators to the garden. The blossoms’ generous supply of nectar draws a steady stream of butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds all summer. (Love watching the dueling acrobatics of hummingbirds as they dive, hover, and defend their favorite nectar source.) In fall, birds visit to feed on the flowers’ dried seed heads. I’m planning to add a few plants to our sunny back hillside and look forward to sitting on the porch enjoying the show.’

Ann

Tomato ‘Chocolate Sprinkles’

Tomato ‘Chocolate Sprinkles’

‘Being one who loves chocolate, I was intrigued by the name and color. I was pleasantly surprised by the taste. This is a delicious, small and mighty tomato.’

Lisa

Heliopsis Burning Hearts

Heliopsis ‘Burning Hearts’

‘This grabbed my attention from afar in acres of growing fields. Its rich foliage is outstanding and the flowers are so unexpected as they are very large with reflexed petals. Heliopsis are overlooked because they aren’t in bloom during the rush of spring but they can play an important role in the garden as false sunflowers bloom when many home gardens are looking tired. Being a bit taller than the average perennial gives it a commanding stature in a mixed bed of ornamental grasses, Joe Pye Weed, Hydrangea, Liatris and Rudbeckia.’

Tom

Coreopsis ‘Leading Lady Sophia’

Coreopsis ‘Leading Lady Sophia’

‘A real workhorse in the summer garden, it blooms earlier, which is a big bonus, as well as being sterile so the showy floral display goes on for months. Clean foliage, large, bright flowers, no dead-heading required, compact size and heat tolerance all add up to a great selection for the novice or expert alike.’

Tom

Hemerocallis ‘Marque Moon’

Hemerocallis ‘Marque Moon’

‘Being a daylily enthusiast, an amateur collector and a garden retailer, I see a lot of daylilies, and I found myself continually impressed with this selection. The ruffles, the diamond-dusted petals, the clean white coloration and the slightest contrast of butter yellow throat and edges really earns this a place in any garden. It has replaced H. ‘Joan Senior’ as my favorite white daylily.’

Tom

Petunia Tidal Wave® Silver

Petunia Tidal Wave® Silver

‘I’m blown away by Petunia Tidal Wave® Silver. Unlike your grandmother’s petunias, which tend to collapse after a rainstorm, this one just keeps coming. In the farm’s display garden, it grew up the base of a tuteur, forming a remarkable wave. At home, it stood up really well for me in containers, blooming its head off all summer.’

Eliot

Coleus Chipotle

Coleus Flame Thrower™ Chipotle 

‘My favorite new plant introduction is Coleus Flame Thrower™ Chipotle. In addition to growing it in my garden, I saw it at the trial gardens in containers at Ball Horticulture in West Chicago, as well as at DS Cole’s Open House in New Hampshire. It gives structure and color to mixed annual containers. I like how it plays well with others in color, shape and habit. Apparently I am not the only one who likes it – two of our new annual containers have it as a supporting element, Nectar Depot and Chipotle Spice.

Cheryl D

Hummingbird Kit

Hummingbird Kit

‘I’m most excited about our Hummingbird Kit. I have several Hummingbirds who visit our backyard each year, and I’m looking forward to identifying them with my new field guide as they take a little rest and perch on my new feeder!’

Mary

Dahlia ‘AC Dark Horse’

Dahlia ‘AC Dark Horse’

‘I love all Dahlias, and I think it’s absolutely necessary to try new varieties so I can make sure that I am growing the very best ones available. I choose new varieties by going on a garden walk at WFF and taking in the entire Dahlia border (it must be 50’ long). I let my eyes jump to the most stunning of them all, and this year it was ‘AC Dark Horse.’ The color combination is electric, and I am sure it would be a stand-out in any garden, even one that is filled with Dahlias. I am ordering 6 of them.’

Margret

Cardoon: Cynara cardunculus ‘Porto Spineless’

Cardoon: Cynara cardunculus ‘Porto Spineless’

[Editor’s note: Cardoons are not new to White Flower Farm, but when we reintroduced them last year for trials, they were new to some of our staff members. They might be new to you, too!]

‘I couldn’t resist planting 3 Cardoons in a small and rather pathetic garden bed near the front of my house. I think I have seen them in every English garden I have ever visited or read about, but I could never find them for sale anywhere near me. At the beginning of the summer, they looked like pretty ferns. By the end of the summer, they were about 4’ tall and absolutely amazing looking. At least three neighbors told me that my garden looked “fancy.” Apparently, all it took was 3 Cardoons.’

Margret

Digitalis purpurea Dalmatian Peach

Digitalis purpurea Dalmatian Peach

‘What an attractive plant to brighten the back of a flowerbed.’

Alyson

Summer Magic Roselily Mix

Summer Magic Roselily Mix

‘Our mix combines four varieties of fragrant Oriental lilies, each the product of years of selective breeding. The beauty of these blossoms is reason enough to plant them in your garden, but in addition to what you see in the photo, you’ll enjoy a long season of bloom and a rich perfume. Also impressive is the amount of bloom you can expect in the first season.’

Lorraine

Miltonia Orchids

Miltonia Orchids

‘Lots of us grow orchids in our homes. We’re delighted to be able to offer a colorful array of richly patterned, fragrant Pansy Orchids. The name is derived from the patterning on the flowers, which mimics the masklike faces of pansies. Descended from wild orchids found in the cloud forests of the Andes Mountains, Miltonias are a lovely, easy-care addition to any interior, and they’re bound to attract lots of attention.’

Lorraine

Months of Mini Moth Orchids

Months of Mini Moth Orchids

‘These delicate mini moth Orchids are so cute! These kinds of Orchids are hard to find, and the colors and patterns on the leaves are so intricate and interesting. You get to try a new one each month. Plus they are low maintenance and tiny, so it’s easy to make room for them.’

Liz

lindera-benzoin

Lindera benzoin

‘I am looking forward to planting out Lindera benzoin in the gardens here at the farm. As it is a larval host for the Spicebush Swallowtail, I’m hoping to lure in and meet one of those “big-eyed” green caterpillars in person. It’s on my bucket list!!’

Cheryl K

 

Jasmine Polyanthum: A Wintertime Treasure

Jasmine in bloom on a wintry day
Jasmine in bloom on a wintry day

In the depths of winter, when the air is cold and dry outside and hot and dry indoors, there is no indoor plant we cherish more than Jasmine polyanthum. This beloved subtropical vine forms a trailing mound of small leaves and curling tendrils. The dark green glossy foliage is beautiful to look at, but it’s the small white flowers and the heavenly fragrance they release that makes this plant such a treasure. The perfume can fill a room, and no matter what the weather outside, it lifts our spirits by conjuring warmer, balmier places.

Keeping Jasmine moist but not soggy is the key to maintaining healthy plants
Keeping jasmine moist but not soggy is the key to maintaining healthy plants.

Our Jasmine plants are grown here in our greenhouses, which are overseen by Nursery Manager Barb Pierson and her staff. They’re shipped to customers starting around mid November and can be shipped through late March, depending on the weather. We asked Barb to talk about Jasmine and to offer a few tips on how to keep these plants thriving through their season of bloom or beyond.

Jasmine buds
Jasmine buds

“There are lots of varieties of jasmine,” Barb says. “Confederate Jasmine is the one you see growing down south. It’s not for indoors. Ours is Jasmine polyanthum. You don’t often see it in the landscape. It’s more of a houseplant. Other indoor varieties don’t produce the same number of blossoms. Jasmine polyanthum gives one big flush, which may continue for weeks. The fragrance is in so many perfumes, soaps, candles and infusers. In addition to the fragrance, the vine itself is lovely, delicate yet strong, the dark green leaves spaced along tendrils. The small, star-shaped white flowers stand out against this lush, beautiful background.”

Jasmine production in greenhouse, Sam tending plants
Nursery staffer Sam is an experienced jasmine grower, and she takes superb care of our plants.

Last summer was “super hot,” as Barb puts it, and while Jasmine polyanthum doesn’t like that kind of heat, the plants did beautifully, largely thanks to Sam, the staff member who tends them. “She’s now a seasoned jasmine grower,” Barb says. “She’s been doing it for at least four years, and she doesn’t let them get too dry.”

WATERING

The key to keeping Jasmine polyanthum happy is to give it “steady, even moisture,” Barb says. “If jasmine gets very dry, it doesn’t bounce back. At any point in their life cycle, if you let the plants dry down to where they’re physically wilting, they really don’t bounce back without getting brown leaves and looking awful. These plants like humidity – you can spritz them or use a humiditray.”

FERTILIZER

While some customers keep their jasmine plants and summer them over to encourage rebloom the following winter, the majority (and most of our staff members) treat the plants as winter “annuals,” tossing them out when the bloom cycle is done. If you do choose to keep a Jasmine polyanthum plant going through the warmer months, take it outside in spring once temperatures have settled above freezing, and give it a shady spot. The plant will appreciate fertilizer. “They take a lot of feed,” Barb says. “We use Organic Gem® Liquid Fish Fertilizer, a foliar feed, and they really like that. (Be advised that the smell persists for two days so do the feeding in summer when the plants are outside.) Feed them once per month from April to the end of October. Use a water soluble fertilizer for houseplants, and use it at half the recommended rate.”

TEMPERATURES

In autumn, the plants are cooled naturally. In mid-September, “we begin cooling them to 42 degrees F at night,” Barb says. “This is part of what initiates flower formation. Starting in mid-September, we hope for cool nights, not below 40 degrees F, until mid-October. Then we turn up the heat gradually to 65 degrees F.” The days begin to shorten at that time of year. “That’s probably a trigger, too,” Barb says, “but we have no scientific material to back that up. Indoors, the plants don’t like hot air from radiators or fans blown on them. They prefer shade to bright, indirect sun. They do not like direct sun.

While the fragrant white blossoms of Jasmine tend to get all the attention, we also love the delicate vines, which send tendrils up and out in a cascade of lush green.
While the fragrant white blossoms of jasmine tend to get all the attention, we also love the delicate vines, which send tendrils up and out in a cascade of lush green.

PRUNING

If you summer over your plant, “Stop pruning by August 1 or you will lose blooms,” Barb says.

Jasmine plants in handcrafted Barnsley Bowls_
Jasmine plants in handcrafted Barnsley Bowls

SHIPPING

“We start shipping jasmine around Thanksgiving when they’re fully budded and ready to begin flowering. We’re sometimes delayed if the fall is warmer than usual,” Barb says. “They can take the upper 20s in temperature so shipping continues, but we try not to ship after it’s below freezing.” If the box is left on someone’s front stoop for hours, the buds will fall off.

“They like 40 degree to 50 degree cool weather, and the flowers last longer in cooler temperatures. A cooler room of the house with bright indirect light is ideal.”

Wrap ‘Em Up, and Ship ‘Em Out!

You know how our Tabletop Trees arrive fully decorated and strung with lights? Here, members of our staff pack up the batteries you'll need for the lights.
You know how our Tabletop Trees arrive fully decorated and strung with lights? Here, members of our staff pack up the batteries we send with the trees.

The holidays are always a hectic time at the farm, and that’s just the way we like it. The phones are ringing off the hook. Orders are coming in on the website, and the greenhouses and our warehouse are buzzing like bee hives with staff members rushing to and fro. Things get even more hectic when you factor in the December weather. Shipping live, tender plants out of Torrington, Conn., is tricky business. We’re obliged to wait and watch for windows of mild weather so our plants can travel without the threat of freezing. But with only a limited number of days until Christmas, and a determination to get as many plants to our customers as is humanly possible in time for the holidays, any weather window becomes a spontaneous game of “Beat the Clock.”

All hands on deck. Members of our staff who work in Publications, Marketing, and Finance joined forces with the Shipping Crew to take advantage of a window of warm weather for shipping tender plants.
All hands on deck. Members of our staff who work in Publications, Marketing, and Finance joined forces with the Shipping Crew to take advantage of a window of warm weather for shipping tender plants. Here, our bushy, fragrant Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ plants get packed for their travels.

This year, a window opened on Dec. 12 and 13. Like a well-timed Christmas miracle from Jack Frost and his friend the Polar Vortex, daytime temperatures rose above freezing, and the call went out for “All hands on deck!” Almost the entire staff rallied, descending on the warehouse to help the Shipping Department get the plants packed, boxed, and onto the waiting trucks.

Bushy Jasmine plants in Wrenthorpe Pancheons, bundled and wrapped in sleeves and waiting for boxes.
Beautiful Jasmine plants in Wrenthorpe Pancheons, bundled and wrapped in sleeves, waiting for boxes.

Packing plants is a bit more complicated than, say, packing sweaters. Jasmine, lavender, holiday cactus, succulents, culinary herbs, azaleas, gardenias, and potted amaryllis, paperwhites and bulb gardens all need to be carefully secured inside their pots and then inside their boxes. If the job isn’t done right, the customer receives a badly damaged plant amid a box full of loose dirt. So over the years, we’ve made a small science of packing and shipping our plants so they’ll arrive looking just the way they did when they left our greenhouses. To secure the soil or potting mix in each pot, we use a combination  of specially sized die-cut cardboard pieces, packing paper, grass, cello tape, and/or plastic sleeves. The plants are then packed inside specially designed cardboard boxes so if, for instance, a carton containing a Topiary Azalea becomes part of a festive game of “football” at a shipping facility or if it’s accidentally dropped upside down by a driver or a recipient, the plant and pot both survive intact and show no traces of the mishaps.

A Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) wrapped in a plastic sleeve, waiting to be boxed.
A Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) wrapped in a plastic sleeve, waiting to be boxed.

Part of the joy of packing plants is spending time with them before they leave. Those of us who work in the Marketing, Publications, Human Resources, and Finance departments don’t often enjoy the hours in the greenhouses that some of our colleagues do. So as we all stand around the packing tables, securing our charges for their journeys, we fall in love all over again with the soft, felted grey leaves of Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’; the intensely fragrant flowers of Jasmine polyanthum; the delicious scents of Golden Sage, Rosemary, and English Thyme in our Cook’s Herb Trio; the delicate but unstoppable blooms of the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger); the dazzling color the Pink Topiary Azaleas; and the spiky forms of Aloes and Succulents. It’s easy to see how happy these plants will make someone when they’re discovered under the tree on Christmas Day or presented as part of any celebration. Imagining the happiness of our customers is a holiday gift to all of us at White Flower Farm. It’s a very large part of why we do what we do.

Amaryllis 'Clown' packed and ready for shipping.
Amaryllis ‘Clown’ packed and ready for shipping.

Quick Decorating Ideas for the Holidays!

Need a couple of quick tips for decorating your home for the holidays? Think greens. Step outside with a pair or pruners and take cuttings from evergreen trees, shrubs, and perennials (being careful to prune judiciously and not to offend any neighbors), or order a 7- or 14-lb box of our Decorating Greens. The key here is to amass an assortment of ingredients that come in a variety of colors, textures, and forms.

Here you can see some of the contents of a 7-lb Box of Decorating Greens from White Flower Farm.
Here you can see the contents of a 7-lb Box of Decorating Greens from White Flower Farm.

Spread out the collection of elements on a worktable or floor so you can see everything you’ve got to work with. Next, round up a few pots, cachepots or vases. Then, play. Generally speaking, it’s easiest to start by placing the largest and tallest elements in your pots and then filling in around them. Trim and prune the greens as needed to fit your pots, and save the clippings to make other decorations.

3-the-arrangements-are-coming-along-the-dried-white-statice-in-our-box-of-decorating-greens-resembles-a-sAs you make your arrangements, keep in mind where you’ll be displaying them. If they’ll be on a mantel, with one side against a wall, there’s no need to fill in all the way around. But if your arrangement will be viewed from all sides, be sure to keep turning the pot as you go so all sides have a finished look.

6-the-finished-product-near-the-front-door
A small and festive accent just inside the front door.
7-lb-box-of-greens_closeup
This is why it’s wonderful to have a mix of different colors, textures and forms.

If you have any leftover greens or dried flowers, use your imagination and whatever you have on hand to create additional decorative arrangements.

Use your imagination with leftover greens.
Use your imagination with leftover greens!

Where greens aren’t the central element in your decorating scheme, they can be used to add a color to other adornments, including a wide variety of houseplants.

One of our favorite things to do is mass a particular indoor plant in groups along a mantelpiece, atop a sideboard, or on an entrance table. Depending on the effect you’re going for, Azaleas, Gardenias, Lemon Cypress, Wintergreen, Holiday Cactus, Jasmine, and potted Hydrangea all work beautifully.

2a-cyclamen-on-the-mantel_closeup

This year, we took home some of our new Cyclamen Fantasia® Deep Magenta to spruce things up for the holidays. The rich, deep pink blossoms with white trim are a lovely and unexpected surprise. They’re attractive enough to stand alone, but to create a fuller effect, add some other simple elements, the sort most of us have around the house. Here, we added candlesticks and votives, some clippings of Noble Fir left over from our box of Decorating Greens. The silvery color of the candlesticks picks up the patterning in the beautifully veined leaves of the Cyclamen, and the candlelight makes the whole scene glow.

3a-cyclamen-in-candlelight

We decked the mantel . . .

cyclamen-on-the-sideboard

And the dining room sideboard . . .

When the holidays are over, the Cyclamen will keep blooming until early summer, adding vibrant color and lush greenery to any room where you have bright, indirect light. (For helpful tips on caring for Cyclamen, visit our Growing Guide.)

The best part? Our decorating took only an hour or two, leaving us plenty of time for other holiday preparations.

Helleborus niger: The Best Gift Plant Ever

By Margret Delves-Broughton

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Tucked away on page 51 of White Flower Farm’s Holiday 2016 catalog is a plant that is, in my humble opinion, the very best gift plant, ever. It is so pretty that when my friend Henry walked into my house a few years ago and saw it in bloom, he paid the highest compliment I have ever gotten on any plant I have ever grown. “Those are fake, right?” he asked.

img_1947

 

As a houseplant, Christmas Rose, or Helleborus niger, is densely packed with shiny dark green leaves at its base. Above that, delicate white buds and open flowers with yellow stamens bring a little bit of woodland garden inside. I have had great success with them just by keeping them evenly watered all winter long. True, they did not look as great in April as they did in December, and some people might opt to move on to other houseplants at that point, but I think that would miss half the reason to buy this plant: In spring, you add it to your garden.

img_0175
After living for a few months as a houseplant, Helleborus niger was loaded with seeds that dropped all over my kitchen counter (warning: they look a lot like mouse droppings!).

Our catalog and website state that “once spring arrives, add this exceptional perennial to your shade garden, where it will soon settle in and bloom the following year. Plants are hardy in Zones 3–8.” I figured it was worth a try, so in about April I dug a hole and added a good amount of compost and planted my slightly tired-looking houseplant. That was probably 4 or 5 years ago, and I have since added several more in the same spot. As an outdoor plant, Helleborus niger acts a bit like a groundcover with lots of twisted stems and a ton of evergreen leaves, but unlike many groundcovers, it forms a clump that does not seem to be getting much bigger (this is a good thing for me, though I couldn’t think of anything nicer than a carpet of Christmas Rose).

Hellebore in garden
This picture gives a sense of scale. The flowers are not enormous, but they pop in a winter garden. Photo taken on December 16, 2015,

But here’s the best thing about my beloved Helleborus niger – it blooms. In December. In fact, it’s loaded with buds in my northwest Connecticut garden right now. It has blossomed every year that I’ve had it at this time, though I must add that some years we’ve had snow cover by this point so technically, I can’t verify that it bloomed during those winters. Any new gardener will laugh when they hear that the first few times it bloomed in December, I asked other gardeners what they thought was going on. Most of them looked at me funny and said that the plant must be “confused.” It turns out that it’s not confused – it’s supposed to do this! According to the Missouri Botanic Garden, “Helleborus niger, commonly called Christmas rose, is a winter-blooming evergreen perennial which blooms around Christmas time in warm winter regions, but later (February or March) in the cold northern parts of the growing range…. Flowers sometimes bloom in the snow and bloom can survive spurts of sub-zero temperatures.”

Christmas Rose in snow
This photo was taken on December 31, 2015.

If you’re thinking of adding one to your holiday list, here are a few tips: I planted mine close to my front door so that it’s easy to keep an eye on their pretty blooms when I am coming and going. As a houseplant, it dropped a ton of seeds in my house by the end of winter, so if you know what to do with Hellebore seeds, you could possibly grow more (I scattered them in my garden and hoped for the best – nothing happened). Another reason it’s a wonderful gift plant is that it doesn’t seem to be widely available, so it is a treat even for the person who has everything. If you are already convinced, you can order one here.

Giving Thanks

White Flower Farm in the Snow
White Flower Farm in the snow.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Jack Frost blanketed parts of northwest Connecticut in snow. It was a lovely kind of snowfall, with fluffy flakes swirling down gently, accumulating slowly on hillsides and tree branches. Early Monday, we stood at the window, warm cups of coffee in hand, watching the show and observing things we hadn’t been able to see in some time. All around us, the majestic shapes of trees were etched against the winter sky, their essential beauty laid bare by the absence of leafy coats. Evergreens stood like sentinels in the storm, never bowing to the gusts of wind, their dark green shapes more visible now against a white background. The tracks of deer and rabbits told tales of early morning foraging beside shrubs and, yes, our gardens. The bright red berries of our native Ilex verticillata stood out against the snow, glittering like ornaments, and inviting us to begin our celebrations of the winter holidays.
In the run-up to Thanksgiving, our thoughts always circle back to the things we’re thankful for, and in the stillness of that snowy morning, we offered up a list. It begins, as it does each year, with the most obvious and essential things: our loving families and friends, the good, honest work that keeps our hands dirty and our hearts full, and the amiable, hard-working colleagues with whom we share our days at the farm.
Equal in measure is our gratitude to you. As customers, fellow gardeners, and gardening friends, you inspire us every day. Your visits to the farm and the website, your calls and your questions keep us striving to do our best, and seeking to learn and improve so we can provide you with the best of everything there is to have and to know in the world of gardening. In the clarity of winter light, it was plain to see that it’s the sharing that counts. Whether we’re passing around plates of turkey and stuffing at our Thanksgiving table, or introducing you to new annuals and perennials, our purpose and our joy are derived in sharing what we have – and what we have learned – with others. In case we neglect to say it during busier times, we’re thankful each and every day for your interest, enthusiasm, curiosity and support.
In this year of turmoil and strife on the national level, we’re especially grateful for the steadying force of nature, which tells us that seasons change, and storms come and go, but essential structures, like the big trees on the farm, will almost always stand fast and hold steady at least until their time has come. 
As you celebrate Thanksgiving, we hope you have the time to count your blessings, and to find pleasure, purpose and peace in thecompany of those you hold dear.