Have you ever looked at one of your houseplants and wondered why it wasn’t looking its best? Our team put together a series of videos to help you keep your houseplants thriving. We cover common problems with houseplants, when to water your plant, and also when and how to repot your plant.
Still have questions or haven’t found the answer you were looking for? Visit our website to chat with one of one of our knowledgeable customer service team members, or browse our collection of products for growing plants indoors.
For starters, “forcing” is a misnomer because it sounds too much like work. We’re just tricking the bulbs into thinking winter is over quite a bit sooner than it is. Forcing is an easy sleight of hand that offers the soul-restoring scents and colors of spring at a time of year when spirits sorely need reviving. But you need to plant now, in autumn, to enjoy the results when the snow flies! Although we usually think of forcing Daffodils, Hyacinths, and Tulips, many of the smaller bulbs are also extremely easy and gratifying to force: Crocus, Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Scilla, Dwarf Irises, and Anemones also will give great results.
Forced bulbs can be divided into two groups: those that require a chilling period and those that don’t. When bulbs do need chilling, what they actually require is many weeks less than typical northern winters. (See the list at the end of this post for details.)
In a nutshell, here’s what you do . . .
Force Bulbs That Need Chilling
Pot the bulbs in any well-draining potting mix, water them, and set them aside in a cool but not freezing dark spot for the required minimum time (see below), then bring them into warmth and light in the house. The bulbs think spring has arrived and quickly sprout and flower. It’s that easy — the bulbs do most of the work.
This is a great project to do with young children, if you want to invite the kids or grandkids to participate. The actual planting is a little messy, so it’s a good idea to spread some newspapers to catch any spilled soil, gather all your pots in one spot, and do all the planting at one time.
Containers and Potting Mix
You can use any pot you like to hold bulbs you want to force, as long as it allows room for root growth — about 3-4” of space below the bulbs. This is a great opportunity to showcase flea market finds and tag sale treasures, or your favorite terra cotta pots. If you choose a pot without a drainage hole in the bottom, you’ll have to water your bulbs carefully, because bulbs that sit in soggy potting mix soon will rot. Consider using a ceramic or terra cotta pot if you’re forcing tall Daffodils or Tulips. These flowers can be top-heavy when in full bloom and may topple if grown in lightweight plastic pots.
We recommend that you plant bulbs in a soilless potting mix (available at garden centers and hardware stores). A soilless mix holds moisture but allows excess water to drain away readily.
Potting the Bulbs
To pot the bulbs, begin by placing potting mix in a plastic tub or bucket. Slowly add water and stir until the mix is moist but not soggy. This is an ideal job for a very young assistant, if you’d like to invite a child or grandchild to join the fun. Add the moistened mix to the container until the pot is about three-quarters full. Set the bulbs root-side down on top of the mix (or on their sides if you can’t tell which end is up, as with Anemone blanda). Space the bulbs much more closely than you would in the garden – they should almost touch. Then add more mix. Cover small bulbs completely with a ½” layer of mix; cover larger bulbs up to their necks, leaving the tips of the bulbs exposed. Water thoroughly after potting.
Chilling the Bulbs
To force cold-hardy bulbs into bloom, you must first encourage them to produce new roots by keeping them cool and moist for a period of time that varies by type of bulb (see listing below). The ideal rooting temperature also varies, but most bulbs flower best if stored at 40-60°F for the first 3-4 weeks after potting, then at 32-40° for the balance of the cooling period – a shift that mimics the drop in soil temperature outdoors as fall turns to winter.
The easiest way to chill bulbs is to put them outdoors and let nature do the rest. To insulate the bulbs from rapid changes in air temperature and from freezing cold, bury the pots in a pile of dry leaves held in place by a plastic tarp or in a pile of mulch, such as bark or wood chip, and cover the pile to prevent formation of a frozen crust. You also can chill bulbs in a cold frame if you’re lucky enough to have one; a cold basement; or an unheated garage (provided the temperature doesn’t fall below freezing). If you choose to chill bulbs in the refrigerator, be certain there is no fresh fruit stored inside. Fruit releases ethylene gas as a natural part of its natural ripening process, and the ethylene will interfere with flower development. In locations other than a refrigerator, it may be difficult to arrange for the ideal shift in temperature described above. Fortunately, most bulbs haven’t read the manuals, and they will root beautifully if the temperature does not stray too far above or below 40°F during the rooting time. Professional growers fill huge walk-in coolers with potted bulbs and control the temperatures precisely. Using an old refrigerator in a basement can deliver great results without ever touching the temperature controls.
The possible downside to outside storage has four little legs. If mice or other rodents have access to your bulbs, they will devour all but the varieties that are poisonous or distasteful to them (such as Narcissus, more commonly known as Daffodils). Protect potted bulbs with steel mesh, such as hardware cloth.
Please note that moisture is as important as temperature in the successful chilling of bulbs. Check the potting mix in the pots every few weeks and water thoroughly when the surface is dry to the touch.
Toward the end of the recommended rooting time, begin checking the pots for signs that the bulbs have rooted. If you see fleshy white roots poking through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pots, the bulbs are usually ready to bloom. If you don’t see roots, give the bulbs more time in cold storage. Don’t judge readiness by the appearance of shoots from the tops of the bulbs; without roots, the bulbs won’t flower properly.
Once the bulbs have rooted, you don’t have to bring them out of the cold immediately. Most will tolerate extra chilling time, allowing you to orchestrate a succession of winter bloom.
Bringing the Bulbs into Bloom
When the bulbs have rooted, bring the pots out of cold storage and set them in a bright window in a cool room (one where the temperature stays below 65°F). Bright light will help keep the leaves and flower stems compact; in weak light, they tend to flop. You’re likely to find that the bulbs have produced white shoots during cold storage. Sunlight quickly turns them green.
Keep a close eye on the moisture needs of the bulbs as they send up leaves and flower stems. Initially, the bulbs probably won’t need to be watered more frequently than once a week (if that much), but by the time they bloom, you may need to water them every day or two.
Most bulbs will bloom 2-5 weeks after they come out of the cold, heralding spring with their bright colors and sweet fragrances. Duration of bloom varies with the type of bulb and the variety but is generally shorter than you’d expect of bulbs in the garden. Warm temperatures and low humidity indoors speed the decline of the flowers. Shifting the pots out of direct sunlight and moving them to a cool room at night helps prolong bloom.
When the blooms fade, we usually recommend that you toss the bulbs on the compost pile. If you keep them in a sunny window and continue to water them, forced bulbs can be planted in the garden after the threat of hard frost has passed, but they won’t bloom well again for at least two years. Tulips rarely bloom again, but Daffodils, Crocus, and Grape Hyacinth are more likely to be worth the effort of planting.
Forcing Hyacinths Without Soil
Hyacinths can be forced in pebbles and water, or in glass jars. They still require a cool rooting period if forced this way. Special forcing glasses, in use since Victorian days, are shaped like an hourglass and keep the bottom of the bulb dry—only the bulb’s roots reach down into the water. If you are using pebbles in another type of container, place a 2-3” layer of pebbles, such as pea stone, marble chips, or river rocks, in the bottom of the bowl or pot. Set the bulbs on top of the pebbles then fill with more pebbles, leaving the top 1/3 of the bulbs exposed. Add enough water to create a reservoir for the roots, but be sure the bases of the bulbs stay above water level. If they sit in water, the bulbs will rot. Then place the container in a dark, cool area (40-50°F) for 4-8 weeks. Check the water level occasionally and add more water as necessary, keeping the water level below the bottom of the bulb. When roots have developed and leaves begin to grow, it’s time to move the bulb into a bright window in a cool room (one where the temperatures stay below 65°F). Bulbs forced in water can be planted in the garden after the threat of hard frost has passed, but they won’t bloom well again for at least two years – if ever.
Recommended Cooling Period
Professionals often recommend very lengthy cold periods, but we’ve had good results at home using the minimums listed here. Remember that bulbs can keep chilling for longer than the minimum. Please note that Tulips do require the longest period to flower successfully.
Recommended Rooting Times for Cold-Hardy Bulbs
Anemone (Windflower), 8-10 weeks
Chionodoxa (Glories of the Snow), 10-12 weeks
Crocus (Spring-blooming Crocus), 8-10 weeks
Galanthus (Snowdrops), 10-12 weeks
Hyacinthus (Hyacinth), 12-14 weeks
Dwarf Iris (Iris reticulata and other spring-blooming bulbous species), 10-12 weeks
Leucojum (Summer Snowflake), 8-10 weeks
Muscari (Grape Hyacinth, to keep the leaves shorter, store cool and dry for 6-8 weeks, then give 2 weeks of cool rooting time)
You can read the video transcript for the video “Planting a Native Garden at White Flower Farm” below:
Hi, I’m Cheryl, the head gardener at White Flower Farm. Welcome to the latest addition to our display gardens here at the nursery, the native garden.
The cast of characters for this new garden is selected from the pool of plants that are native to our Connecticut region. The purpose of this garden is to provide a safe and bountiful haven for our local birds, bees, butterflies and insects.
My planning for this garden began last fall. The first step in my design process was lots of research. I came up with a list of native shrubs, perennials and grasses that I thought might work in my space, and using the maps in the plant database on the USDA website, I was able to determine if my chosen plants were native to Connecticut.
After paring down my initial plant idea list, a final list began to take shape. Working my way down that list, more research allowed me to fill in the specifics about each plant, such as its light requirements, mature height and width, flower color and bloom time, and most importantly, what role that plant played in sustaining wildlife. I also made note if the plant had an aesthetic attribute like showy fruit or outstanding fall color. Not only did I want the garden to be useful for wildlife, I also wanted to create a pretty garden.
After collecting all the necessary details about each plant, I started to put the pieces of the garden together. I began with the shrub pieces to my puzzle, which created the structural bones of the garden, which could then be flushed out with perennials and grasses.
The first plants went into the ground in early May, with a few more subsequent waves of planting as the rest of the plants showed up and reported for duty. Much to my surprise my paper garden plan translated pretty well to the earth, as I only had to make a few minor adjustments in spacing as I laid out the plants. It doesn’t always go that smoothly.
I’m pleased with the progress of the new garden this first season. The plants, for the most part, have settled in and have started to flourish. I’ve begun to make a few notes and a “to do” list that I think will improve the garden going forth. It seems I have a little too much Verbena hastata, and I need to replace some Eupatorium perfoliatum that never did quite establish. I still want to find some Coreopsis verticillata. The straight species is hard to source. In the meantime, Monarda punctata, a last-minute addition to the cast, fills in for the Coreopsis and the bees couldn’t be happier.
Why are native plants important? WIldlife and plants that share native habitats have co-evolved over time. Native plants provide food and shelter for your resident birds and insect populations. Consider creating your own native garden, or popping in a few native plants into your existing garden. Your winged and feathered friends will be most grateful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!’
‘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.]
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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!’
‘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.’
[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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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.’
‘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!!’
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
If you summer over your plant, “Stop pruning by August 1 or you will lose blooms,” Barb says.
“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.”
Here at the farm, we’re all breathing a lovely sigh – the kind that comes following months of hectic, hard work that abruptly comes to an end. The last packages have been loaded onto trucks. The conveyor belts have been silenced. Members of the Shipping Department have all gone home for the holidays, and the rest of us are soon to follow.
A festive mood prevails (a “hangover” from our somewhat raucous annual staff breakfast), and our hearts rejoice each time we hear employees warmly wishing one another “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy New Year!” as they depart for a few days, their arms laden with blooming azaleas, Christmas roses, and cyclamen.
In the stillness that settles over the farm and the warehouse, we count our blessings. We’ve just wrapped up our 66th year in business on a high note. We work diligently at something we love, and we’re lucky to enjoy the enthusiastic support of loyal customers, many of whom first introduced themselves years ago as beginner gardeners and who have since become experts. Their holiday cards and letters hang in our Customer Service department. We’re also privileged to work with a growing number of new customers, many of whom are novice gardeners. They seek out White Flower Farm not just for plants and garden gear but also for advice, inspiration and horticultural information. Our greatest joy is in helping them succeed, thereby nurturing a next generation of gardeners.
The next “blessing” we count may sound a bit silly, but we’re grateful, quite simply, for plants – their beauty, their endless variety, and their resilience. In our greenhouses and garden beds, they astonish, delight and revitalize us each day. They ask remarkably little – water, soil, and varying amounts of sun – and they give a tremendous amount in return. Against a backdrop of tumultuous world events, the plants we grow in our gardens and in our homes provide tranquility. Each is a literal green oasis that reminds us of all the beauty there is to be found and cultivated in the world.
From all of us at White Flower Farm, we wish you and yours a season of peace and joy, and a new year full of blossoms, beauty and possibilities.
Please note: To give our hard-working staff some well-deserved time off, we’ll be closed from Dec. 24th through Dec. 26th. We reopen Dec. 27th and look forward to hearing from you.
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.”
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.
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.
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.