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MEET THE GARDENERS AT WHITE FLOWER FARM
CHECKING IN WITH NURSERY MANAGER BARBARA PIERSON
Who is the "we" in the "We Make Your Garden Grow" tagline that White Flower Farm uses to promote its family-owned company? Behind each plant there is a dedicated staff ensuring every customer gets the very best product available.
"Meet the Gardeners" is a new feature series that will introduce you to the gardeners at White Flower Farm. First up is Nursery Manager Barbara (Barb) Pierson, who has been with White Flower Farm for 13 years. A graduate of Cornell University, with a degree in floriculture and ornamental horticulture, Barb developed a passion for plants at an early age at her parents' nursery. She's now a frequent guest on national and local radio and television, and interviewed as a gardening expert by national publications. Barb travels the country as a guest speaker and educator, too.
What are your top tips for growing tomatoes?
Wait to plant until the soil is warm and the danger of frost is over. Your plants will settle in and grow rapidly. Be sure your site has at least 6 hours of sun per day! Stake each plant and use soft twine or tomato clips to support the stems
As a longtime gardener, you must get a lot of the same questions year after year. Please share a few.
The most frequent questions in late spring are about pruning and fertilizer:
- When should I prune my lilacs? The best time to prune lilacs is after they bloom, or you will be removing flower buds. If you need to prune them hard, they may not flower the next year, but be patient, they will bloom again!
- How often should I fertilize my tomatoes? Dig compost into your soil before you plant to add nutrients, and then fertilize your tomatoes every few weeks (use a low nitrogen formula, such as 5-10-10) and stop fertilizing when the flowers begin to form. Too much fertilizer encourages stem and leaf growth, rather than flowers and fruit. The goal is plenty of ripe fruit, not lots of leaves!
- What is the best fertilizer for roses? Apply a layer of compost around the plants in spring and use organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion.
What are some of your favorite plants?
I have a few plants that I simply cannot live without -- too many to mention, actually! But if I had to choose these would be at the top of my list:
- Geranium 'Rozanne' – the 2008 Perennial Plant of the year and for good reason – with gorgeous blue flowers that continue all summer long. It's a perennial that blooms like an annual without any work on your part.
- Lily 'Casa Blanca' -- Huge, fragrant white blooms on tall stems make any garden look good in late summer. Lily bulbs are easy to plant, too!
- Hydrangea 'Blue Billow' -- This hydrangea brings color to shade with its stunning blue lacecap flowers. Little to no pruning is necessary.
Any suggestions for new gardeners?
First of all -- congratulations! Gardening is something you can enjoy and share with others for a lifetime. Here are some tips to make your garden look like a professional installed it. Expect to spend a few hours each week on care, depending on the size of your garden and the type of plants you choose. Start with low-maintenance varieties if your time is limited.
- Add compost around your plants and then mulch over it. Your plants will retain water and nutrients and need less maintenance. Be sure to use a mulch that is fully composted and not loaded with chunks of wood or unsightly dye.
- Use an edger around your beds to create a sharp, clean look. This really gives a professional appearance.
- Snip off brown leaves and faded flowers. The dead foliage can harbor insects and disease, so remove them from the garden area. Cutting off the faded flowers of annuals and many perennials encourages them to keep producing flowers.
What kind of garden do you have? Spectacular?
Actually, I've just moved and have a whole new garden to plant. I love to take an area and transform it. Since I don't want a high-maintenance garden, I'm choosing easy-care perennials and ever-blooming shrubs, such as Hydrangea Endless Summer™. I also have to have roses! Many of the new varieties are shrub roses bred for disease and insect resistance, so that's exciting. My new garden will be easy and colorful. Funky mixed containers with tropicals and colorful annuals are also a must-have. My favorite new plant for containers is Papyrus King Tut®.
How do you, and the other gardeners at White Flower Farm, keep up with all the new gardening trends and crazes?
Every year there are hundreds of new plants being touted as the best ever. Of course, we can't resist trying them! Some go into our display gardens and others to our own home gardens for testing. Recently, we've offered some great new plants after trialing, such as Syringa Bloomerang™, a lilac that blooms throughout the season rather than just once in late spring. We make sure each new plant is worthy, so our customers don't waste their time and money!
Here's the fantasy question -- IF you weren't a gardener, what else would you be doing?
That's not a fantasy! That's a nightmare -- I can't imagine a world where I wasn't allowed to indulge my plant obsession on a daily basis – it's frightening to think about! That said, I also love to cook and enjoy the arts -- can I at least paint flowers? Please?
If you are in the area, come meet Barb Pierson and the other gardeners at White Flower Farm's annual Open House on Saturday, June 25th. Barb is also available for interviews upon request.
Saturday, June 25 -- White Flower Farm's annual Open House. Staff and family will welcome old and new friends and serve iced tea and cucumber sandwiches on the lawn, starting at 2:30 p.m. It's also the occasion for the annual Best Garden Chapeau contest, which is judged by White Flower Farm family members on an entirely subjective basis. The prize is a $100 White Flower Farm gift certificate plus a year's worth of bragging rights and an appearance on their Web site, value beyond measure. For directions:
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White Flower Farm is a family-owned nursery located in northwest Connecticut. Since 1950, they have been gathering, evaluating, growing, and selling a wide range of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and houseplants representing the very best varieties from around the world. Plants shipped are true to name, free of disease, and in prime condition for growing. While in the area, stop by White Flower Farm with its five acres of display gardens, or visit www.whiteflowerfarm.com, where you will also find helpful gardening information including a how-to video library. Join our E-mail list for gardening advice and tips, From the Farm monthly newsletter, announcement of events at the White Flower Farm Store, and special offers not in our catalogues or on our Web site. White Flower Farm -- we make your garden grow.