Category Archives: Holiday Gifts

‘Holiday’ in Atlanta

The winter holidays come to an end for most of us the day after New Year’s when empty champagne bottles and party hats are tossed out, and it’s time to get back to the office. But if you happen to work in the gifting business, which, in part, we do, mid-January requires that we celebrate all over again at the annual Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market®. This remarkable show, which this year attracted more than 7,000 vendors and 100,000 visitors to Atlanta, Georgia, was like getting a glimpse of Christmas Future long before the real event.

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Floors and floors of showrooms at the International Gift and Home Furnishings Market in Atlanta.

This year’s show was held from January 10 to 17 at Atlanta’s AmericasMart®. The focus, as always, is on holiday gift, floral and home décor, and to say the spectacle is a bit overwhelming would be an understatement. The 7,000 brands are spread throughout three buildings, each housing about 20 floors. Some of the vendors keep year-round showrooms, but many arrive just before visitors do, and they set up temporary showrooms for the duration of the show.

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This year, we were delighted to send our new hard goods manager, Nikki Fappiano, to the show. An experienced buyer, she went armed with a shopping list, camera and notepad. For three days, she hunted for treasures for our holiday 2017 season.

“It’s hard to get back into the holiday mindset the second week in January after just putting holiday 2016 to bed,” Nikki says. “But the excitement of the show – with new products, new vendors, and tons of people – really helps.”

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Nikki walked an average of 7 miles each day, visiting with vendors who currently do business with White Flower Farm, and meeting new ones. Two floors, called the “Gardens,” are dedicated exclusively to lawn and garden products. She spent time there, and also voyaged into other areas including Holiday, Floral, and Gift & Home Accents. She gathered up ideas, spotted emerging trends, and placed orders for items we’ll be trying out.

Overall, “trends are ranging from farmhouse to gleaming metal,” she says, with the continued popularity of copper and bronze, galvanized metals, and gun-metal gray colors all in abundance in vases, planters and boxes for 2017.

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Gleaming copper is still trending with bronze and galvanized metal also ubiquitous.

She spotted macramé plant hangers, a flashback to the ‘70s that have also been seen in magazines and catalogs and glimpsed in a contemporary style renovation project on HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.” Wall planters for creating “green walls” indoors were ubiquitous with presentations including receptacles for low-maintenance succulents, and ferns.

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Flat-sided wicker baskets create a “green” wall of ferns and other plantings.

Succulents were seen again alongside air plants, which have trended in the last few years. They remain must-have items for interiors, and were seen in any number of beguiling presentations from terrarium-size conservatories that house the plants in glass and metal structures to single plants tucked inside suspended glass balls.

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The popularity of easy-care succulents and air plants shows no sign of subsiding.

For color trends in planters, a palette of whites, beiges and pale grays could be seen with the neutrals providing an understated background for plants and flowers. Added detail was found in textures, which ranged from earthy to marble to geometric surfaces, including patterns on glass.

Rustic and natural accents abounded with bowls and candleholders made from driftwood, some providing a home for succulents.

One cute surprise was the prevalence of pineapples in gift items and home décor accents. The motif was expressed in everything from mantel decorations to large garden statues.

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Conservatory-style containers were glimpsed alongside a variety of other vessels designed for displaying plants indoors.

Nikki returned with notes, photos, and plenty of ideas. As we write this post in early February, the samples she requested have begun to arrive. Meetings soon will be had, selections will be made, and orders put in.

White Flower Farm customers can look forward to seeing her favorite finds when we roll out our Holiday 2017 collection in our catalog and on the website in October. (You might even get a sneak peek at some of the items this fall.) We can’t wait to show you!

 

 

 

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.

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.”

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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.