Your Success is Guaranteed.
We're here to help! Contact Us |

Questions? Try Live Chat

| Catalog Quick Order | View Order View Cart
Send me a

Shop All Online
Fall 2015


Holiday 2015


Join Our Email:   

You'll enjoy gardening advice, email offers & more

The Perfect Gift:
A White Flower Farm
Gift Certificate
Search our Products:

Home >

Down on the Farm -- What This Winter Taught Us, And Maybe You
Star Magnolia in its ful glory

The White Welcome Daffodil Mix greets visitors to our store.
The White Welcome Daffodil Mix
greets visitors to our store.

May Day Bouquet Hyacinths are blooming two weeks early this year.
May Day Bouquet Hyacinths are
blooming two weeks early this year.

Warmer weather meant we could begin shipping annuals earlier, too.
Warmer weather meant we could begin shipping annuals earlier, too.

We'd be delighted if Hummingbird Mint starts surviving our winters.
We'd be delighted if Hummingbird
Mint starts surviving our winters.

Rose 'Constance Spry' has big blooms and fragrance to match.
Rose 'Constance Spry' has big blooms and fragrance to match.

Rose 'Strawberry Hill' won a top prize for fragrance in 2007.
Rose 'Strawberry Hill' won a top prize for fragrance in 2007.

Dear Gardening Friend,

The undersigned is in his 34th year in this chair, and susceptible to all the foibles and frailties of the long term incumbent. In all of these years in this peculiar tributary of commercial agriculture, the single principle most often demonstrated by events is to hope for the best, prepare for the worst. This concept applies about equally to the trial performance of new varieties, the price of heating oil, the predictability of customer tastes and, most of all, to the weather. That said, the winter just past seemed somehow to represent a tipping point with implications worth considering.

The headlines will, of course, be familiar. In extremely simplified terms they are:

- The drought was broken just about everywhere in the U.S.

- There was a day in mid-winter when there was snow on the ground in all 49 continental states, which we understand to be a first.

- The Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions had the kind of winter normally reserved for the Northeast.

- Meteorological extremes in terms of high temperatures, wind speeds, rainfalls, snowfalls, etc. seem anecdotally to be ever more numerous.

- Professionals seem agreed that the driver behind this set of phenomena was a strong El Nino effect that repositioned the path of the jet stream across the North American continent.

All of this data is useful, for gardeners, mainly as cocktail party chatter. But embedded in the data is the continuation of a larger trend, at least where we live, and that trend is the continuing rise in the average LOW temperature of winter days. We have recently reviewed our local (northwestern Connecticut) history, which includes many days in the 1970s and early 80s with winter lows of minus 20°F and one especially memorable night (Christmas Eve, 1980) of minus 33°F. We grew accustomed, and were thus prepared to deal with, a week or more each winter in which the daytime high did not get above zero and we had snow in May five times in 12 years. In this context, it is striking to note that there has not been a single day below zero on this property for the last 12 years. Putting aside the continuing debate about causes, we'd like to point out that it is the winter low temperatures that are the primary determinant of the hardiness range of plants, and when the winter low changes by something on the order of 20 degrees, even for a while, plants will notice and so should gardeners. For the record, 20 degrees represents the two full horticultural hardiness zones and, if permanent, would reclassify our property from Zone 5, edge of 4 to Zone 6, or maybe even 7B.

Here at the nursery, we will continue to grow plants in double skinned greenhouses, maintain alarms attached to every greenhouse thermometer, and overwinter dormant crops in huge refrigerators, rather than in the ground. This is the "prepare for the worst" part of the model. BUT, we are also keenly aware that the universe of ornamental plants is a pyramid, at the top of which is a short list of genera that are reliably hardy in Zone 3. This pyramid expands rapidly between Zones 5-7, which is one reason why Great Britain has many of the world's best gardens. Under the tutelage of the late Christopher Lloyd, we installed a large mixed border here at the nursery, which was deliberately planned to include, for extended bloom, many plants that we did not expect to winter over, but some now do. We hear reports of gardeners in Boston growing Camellias and Ilex aquifolia (the magnificently shiny English holly) outdoors. A rosarian friend in New Jersey was accustomed to heavy losses each winter among his beloved Hybrid Tea Roses, but now finds that most come through in great shape.

So what? The point is simple. Maybe it's not forever, but it certainly looks like you may wish to review the data on your last few winters, recalibrate your thinking about your local hardiness, and expand your horizons. You can have more fun, get more beauty, and learn more by trying new plants in your garden and there is no better time to start than right now. Yes, this advice does pose a bit of a puzzle for us. If we encourage you to be ambitious, and your efforts are wiped out by a severe winter, who will pay the piper? The answer is, of course, that we will act in good faith as we have always done, and trust that you will do the same. So, open your catalogue, either the printed or the electronic version, and take a fresh look at the plants available one, or maybe even two zones south of where you thought you were. Look like fun?

  Hollister House Garden  

The Garden Conservancy

An easy drive from our nursery, Hollister House Garden opens in May.
An easy drive from our nursery,
Hollister House Garden opens in May.


A remarkably foresighted and generous man, also an enormously gifted horticulturist, named Frank Cabot created a nonprofit organization called the Garden Conservancy 21 years ago. In some respects a non-government version of England's national trust, the Garden Conservancy seeks to preserve great gardens. To raise funds and to educate people about the role of gardens in our cultural heritage, Open Days, the Conservancy’s major outreach program, allows public access to private gardens on a controlled basis. The Conservancy has come a long ways in two decades, and this year during its Open Days program, 360 of the best private gardens in 21 states will be available to the public. We are extremely pleased and proud to partner with this fine organization and would encourage you to both visit some of the gardens (there can be no better source of both information and inspiration) and, perhaps, to contribute to their operating costs. The first step is to click here, which will take you to their Web site for more details. We trust you will return. Incidentally, representatives of the Conservancy will be in attendance at our annual Tomatomania™ event at the nursery, and they will be pleased by your interest.

  The Spring Season at White Flower Farm  

Enjoy shopping for your favorite Tomato varieties, and pick out new ones!
Enjoy shopping for your favorite
Tomato varieties, and pick out
new ones!

From spring to fall, there's always something to inspire you in the Lloyd Border.
From spring to fall, there's always something to inspire you in the
Lloyd Border.


Join us at the White Flower Farm Store on May 21-23 for the largest sale of Tomato seedlings on the East Coast. Tomatomania™ is a fun and friendly event now in its 5th year and features over 130 heirloom and hybrid varieties started from seed and carefully tended in our greenhouses. We've expanded the offering to include 40 varieties of Peppers with flavors ranging from sweet to incendiary, plus our top picks of vegetables, herbs, and supplies for home gardeners. Don't miss this opportunity to get advice from experts, share tips, or just spend the day with folks who love to garden.

The other event to mark on your calendars now is our Open House day, when we welcome old friends and new for iced tea and cucumber sandwiches on the lawn by our house. The date this year is Saturday, June 26 and we'll start serving around 2:30. Once again, our children have agreed to judge the best hat. The wearer will receive a White Flower Farm gift certificate, a post on our Facebook page, and a year's worth of bragging rights.

Our display gardens are off to an early start this year and will reward a visit with some outstanding displays starting with roughly 7,000 Daffodils right NOW, followed by 2,000 Tulips in late April, followed by some of the finest mixed borders in this part of the country for the rest of the summer. If you’ve never been here, we think you’ll enjoy a visit, and we know we’d enjoy meeting you.



As gardeners, we're conditioned to take in the beauty of the present moment. The success of our fresh Lily bouquets (shipped year round) convinced us you would appreciate the same quality and fast delivery of specialty cut flowers that have short seasons and limited supplies. Starting with this newsletter, we'll occasionally introduce special bouquets on a first-come, first-served basis. You can be assured that each has been carefully planned and trialed by our talented staff, then photographed and enjoyed right here in the office. For April, we offer a 20-stem bouquet of Ranunculus asiaticus, also known as the Persian Buttercup. Our grower has a designer's eye for color, and we know you'll be as pleased as we were with her choice of blooms. The silvered Mint Julep vase is available separately.


Last year visitors to our nursery followed the progress of a new potager-style garden that was a colorful, productive mix of annual flowers and edibles. In our video, nursery manager Barb Pierson gives tips on growing herbs, such as basil, thyme, sage, and cilantro, cuts mesclun lettuce mix, thins young carrot plants, harvests swiss chard, and snacks on sugar snap peas. We'll be adding four raised beds to the kitchen garden this year as well as making it larger. Stay tuned.

Our Vegetable Garden Video


We continue to maintain a small herd of Angus cattle who graze in our pastures year round and whose life style includes no chemicals, no antibiotics, no interstate travel. They get sweet hay baled here, and are finished on a grain supplement for the last few weeks before harvest. The result is beef that we are proud to share with our neighbors. This beef is offered only by pre-order and interested parties can purchase 1/4, 1/2, or a whole steer. We will harvest the animals and deliver them to a local butcher who will cut to your specifications, then vacuum pack and freeze the meat until you pick it up in Litchfield. With the grilling season shortly to be upon us, the timing is about right. We expect 2-3 animals to be ready for harvest before Memorial Day. Please chat with the staff at the Store, call us at 800-411-6159, or send a note to for details.

Amos Pettingill

P.S. For more information on growing edibles, perennials, shrubs and other plants we offer, please visit the Gardening Help section of our Web site for how-to videos, articles and tips, and an A-Z list of Growing Guides.


Look for the product review and 5-star rating feature. You can comment on every product we offer and read what other gardeners have to say. To tell us what you like and don't like, click the "Write a Review" link on any product page, located just under the item's photo and also at the bottom of the page.

White Flower Farm
P.O. Box 50
Litchfield, CT 06759
(c)2010 White Flower Farm, Inc.

Persian Buttercup Bouquet Perfumed Garden Lily Bouquet
About Us:
Our Story
Our Guarantee
Media Room
Down On The Farm
Ordering Info:
Shipping Info
Customer Service

Zone Map
Contact Us
Privacy Policy
Indoor Favorites:
Forced Bulbs
Perennial Favorites:
Product Ideas
Fall Favorites:
Bearded Iris
Oriental Poppy
Our Partners:
Botanic Gardens/Hort Societies
Better Homes and Gardens
Midwest Living
Family Circle
Traditional Home®
Garden Center Partners

Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover

White Flower Farm Home