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Down on the Farm -- Take the Long View
Fagus sylvatica -- European Beech at the nursery
 


Fagus sylvatica var. hetrophylla f. laciniata, the Fern-leaved Beech
Fagus sylvatica var. hetrophylla f. laciniata, the Fern-leaved Beech


F. s. 'Pendula', the Weeping Beech
F. s. 'Pendula', the Weeping Beech

Pinus strobus 'Nana', Dwarf Eastern White Pine
Pinus strobus 'Nana', Dwarf Eastern White Pine


Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula', Sargent's Weeping Hemlock
Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula',
Sargent's Weeping Hemlock




Dear Gardening Friend,

We have recently had news of the pending arrival of two grandchildren, our first, which has prompted a good deal of thinking about what the world, and of course this nursery, will look like when they are adults. Having no realistic hope of influencing the former, we chose to concentrate on the latter and took, as our first step, a leisurely review of our land to note afresh those elements that have endured the test of time while providing pleasure and satisfaction. Because we operate on what was a colonial era farm, we have buildings, and walls, and fields, and forests that were built or carved out by our predecessors, and are maintained with care but little changed by our presence. More relevant to our current thinking are the many living landmarks on the place, which include the following.

First - We have three massive Beech trees, all planted in the mid-1950s, one each of Fagus sylvatica, the European Beech, one Fagus sylvatica var. hetrophylla f. laciniata, the Fern-leaved Beech, and one F. s. 'Pendula', the Weeping Beech. These photos scarcely do justice to their astonishing beauty and gravitas which daily reward the foresight of our immediate predecessor who planted them. Incidentally, none is yet approaching its full stature.

Second - Among the remnants of a once large collection of Dwarf Evergreens are a dignified and sculptural Dwarf Eastern White Pine, Pinus strobus 'Nana', and a perfectly splendid Sargent's Weeping Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula'. The latter is, we believe, among the largest of its ilk in the northeast and has twice caused revisions in the layout of our gardens as it continues to expand beyond its expected dimensions. Both were installed in the mid-1960s and the Pine has since been moved twice without complaint.

Third - Our dear departed friend Christopher Lloyd came to the nursery a decade ago to collaborate in the creation of a new border above our retail store and he pronounced the site to be ideal, with the exception of the working greenhouses to the west that he found inconsistent with his esthetic vision. After a wine-fueled discussion of walls, fences, trellises, and hedges, it was determined that nothing would do but a proper Beech hedge, this being widely accepted, in our circle, as the ultimate statement of elegance and permanence. As the border is 280ft long, a significant commitment was involved which, after site preparation, involved the purchase of 125 seedlings of Fagus sylvatica and planting them directly into the site in 2002. Despite good conditions and good care, they ALL died, a problem we were finally able to attribute to poor winter storage. The following year, we purchased the same stock again, but this time they were potted and overwintered in one of our greenhouses, then planted out in early spring. From this litter, about half turned out to have purple foliage. Like good fanatics, we then redoubled our efforts, acquired yet another crop of seedlings that were potted and stored here, and finally got the take we wanted. Thus began a long process of successive prunings, which was one of the most frustrating experiences of our lives. Wanting a broad, dense hedge to provide both a visual barrier and a winter wind break, we were obliged to encourage side growth by serially nipping out the top shoots, producing a classic example of two steps forward and one back. Our goal was for a tall person, standing in front of the new border, to be completely unaware of the greenhouses behind, meaning we needed roughly 6 1/2 vertical feet of hedge AND a smooth, level top. As the picture taken this spring shows, the 8th year of the planting, our goal is now fully met and we are able to enjoy a stunningly beautiful and highly functional garden feature, which will, with luck, endure for a hundred years or more. We are proud of ourselves, and of Christopher Lloyd, and especially of Cheryl Whalen, our head gardener, who has nurtured this project from its beginning.



 
Fagus sylvatica, the Beech hedge along the Lloyd Border at the farm
Fagus sylvatica, the Beech hedge along the Lloyd Border at the farm
 

Fagus sylvatica, the Beech hedge
Fagus sylvatica, the Beech hedge


Platanus x acerifolia 'Bloodgood', London Planetrees
Platanus x acerifolia 'Bloodgood',
London Planetrees
 
Having completed this tour, which included numerous other interesting but less spectacular examples, we fell into thought before the fire, trying to decide what we might do to celebrate and honor the current batch of grandchildren and their anticipated siblings. The obvious answer, on a property graced by many open spaces, is to plant our own generation of legacy trees, one in honor of the arrival of each grandchild, to label each with a plaque with the child's name, and to create in this manner a grove of what we hope will be very solid and distinguished horticultural citizens. We have begun to explore availability of treasures such as pink-flowered Horse Chestnuts, the best of the new, blight-resistant Elms and American Chestnuts, Dawn Redwoods, Walnuts, and perhaps some southern genera that would not have survived our climate of 30 years ago. As the trees and the children grow to maturity, we hope they will come to know and love each other, and this place, and to begin thinking about their own roles in a way of life that is much more than a business.

If this approach to the future makes sense to you, and you would like help in finding stock (not from us) to do something similar, please drop a note to apettingill@whiteflowerfarm.com and we will try to steer you in the right direction. Obviously stocks are limited and moving trees any distance is difficult and expensive. But we are thinking for the long term, are we not?

London Planetrees
Over the years, we found ourselves uncomfortable with the bare pavement in the parking lot between our production office and the propagation greenhouses. The space was hot, dusty, and ugly in summer, bleak as can be in winter. The area needed some shade and some structure, preferably from tall, handsome deciduous trees that would cool the buildings in summer. Since the site is practically all construction waste, we knew that most trees would not survive, but we also knew that in cities all over the world, with conditions worse than ours, London Planetrees are almost universally successful street trees, tough enough to prosper in adverse conditions and handsome enough to enhance the environment. It took a little chasing around to find the size we wanted, but in due course three 2in-caliper London Planetrees trees (Platanus x acerifolia 'Bloodgood') were planted along the north edge of the space. That was in 2006. As the photo shows, they are now broad-shouldered adolescents growing 2ft up and out each year, and have completely changed that challenging environment.


   
The Best Daffodils for Naturalizing -- 200 bulbs for $99 until 7/1
 


Double Down on The Works
If there is a better Daffodil mixture for naturalizing than The Works, we have yet to hear of it. With the help of our Dutch partners, we gather and mix premium-size bulbs of the best modern varieties of Daffodils to provide the widest possible range of colors and forms plus an extended season of bloom that runs close to 6 weeks where we live. This mixture is made up of top-size bulbs designed to provide the widest possible range of color, form, and blooming time. Included are classic Trumpets in shades of yellow, gold, cream, and white; Large Cups and Small Cups in great variety with wide petals and ruffled cups; members of the delicate and graceful Poeticus division; some Split-coronas; fragrant Jonquilla hybrids holding smaller flowers; and Tazetta hybrids bearing clusters of sweet flowers on each stalk. While the mixture changes from year to year to take advantage of the market, it always represents the best that this glorious genus has to offer. These choice bulbs are blended by the 100, with each collection including at least 30 varieties, never more than 5 of each, and bears no resemblance whatsoever to the tragic leftovers found at big box stores for 10 days in fall. In addition, our bulbs are shipped, stored, graded, and packed in a temperature-controlled space that preserves their health and vigor. They will bloom enormously their first year in the ground and actually expand their display in future years in the kind of sunny, well-drained site they like.

If you are new to Daffodils (properly called Narcissus), these glorious first flowers of spring are among the hardiest, most pest-free, and long-lived perennials known to man, often persevering in a site for generations with no management by the gardener. The bulbs are planted in the fall, a process that is pleasant, reassuring, and as good for you as it is for your garden. Best of all, deer won't touch Daffodils, which guarantees bushels of flowers for the garden, the table, or bouquets for loved ones. They are literally too good to be true.

The Works is bought far in advance on contract and we do what we can to control cost factors like currency arbitrage and freight rates. At the suggestion of our supplier, we have this year conjured up another way to save you money. His analysis indicated that we could mix, grade, pack, and ship 200 of the Works for significantly less than it costs to deliver two separate orders of 100. We call it "Double Down," an expression from poker in which the player divides a pair of identical cards so as to play two hands at the same time. There is no magic to it, and we supply the same top-quality bulbs. Here is the math.

The Works -- 100 bulbs shipped for fall planting, item S984310 priced at $62 until July 1. After July 1, $69

The Works, Double Down -- 200 bulbs, same quality, same delivery schedule, item S984316 priced at $99 until July 1.

Get the point? Please act now. And if you already have 200 bulbs of The Works on order, we'll credit your account for the difference.


 
Abies homolepsis -- Nikko Fir | Pinus parviflora -- Japanese White Pine
 

Three Choice and Unusual Trees for Sale - Big Ones
Even carefully conceived plantings sometimes outgrow their space and we have three magnificent examples that are now looking for a new home. The first is a stunning specimen of the Nikko Fir, Abies homolepsis, that was installed here, out of sheer curiosity, about 15 years ago. It is already out of scale at 25ft, has a mature height upwards of 100. It is in excellent health and form, and would require a large tree spade to move it. Not far away are two plants of Pinus parviflora, the Japanese White Pine, which are roughly 16ft tall and have the exotic, irregular shapes of large bonsai, which they did entirely on their own. They will reach 60ft, but not here. Once again, too big to move by hand. We cannot bear to cut these treasures down, but can no longer live with them, so a divorce is inevitable. If interested, please E-mail apettingill@whiteflowerfarm.com. Price flexible, schedule less so.

Sincerely,
Amos Pettingill

 
 
 
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