Monthly Archives: November 2016

Helleborus niger: The Best Gift Plant Ever

By Margret Delves-Broughton



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.



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.

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).

Hellebore in garden
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.”

Christmas Rose in snow
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.

Giving Thanks

White Flower Farm in the Snow
White Flower Farm in the snow.
On the Monday before Thanksgiving, Jack Frost blanketed parts of northwest Connecticut in snow. It was a lovely kind of snowfall, with fluffy flakes swirling down gently, accumulating slowly on hillsides and tree branches. Early Monday, we stood at the window, warm cups of coffee in hand, watching the show and observing things we hadn’t been able to see in some time. All around us, the majestic shapes of trees were etched against the winter sky, their essential beauty laid bare by the absence of leafy coats. Evergreens stood like sentinels in the storm, never bowing to the gusts of wind, their dark green shapes more visible now against a white background. The tracks of deer and rabbits told tales of early morning foraging beside shrubs and, yes, our gardens. The bright red berries of our native Ilex verticillata stood out against the snow, glittering like ornaments, and inviting us to begin our celebrations of the winter holidays.
In the run-up to Thanksgiving, our thoughts always circle back to the things we’re thankful for, and in the stillness of that snowy morning, we offered up a list. It begins, as it does each year, with the most obvious and essential things: our loving families and friends, the good, honest work that keeps our hands dirty and our hearts full, and the amiable, hard-working colleagues with whom we share our days at the farm.
Equal in measure is our gratitude to you. As customers, fellow gardeners, and gardening friends, you inspire us every day. Your visits to the farm and the website, your calls and your questions keep us striving to do our best, and seeking to learn and improve so we can provide you with the best of everything there is to have and to know in the world of gardening. In the clarity of winter light, it was plain to see that it’s the sharing that counts. Whether we’re passing around plates of turkey and stuffing at our Thanksgiving table, or introducing you to new annuals and perennials, our purpose and our joy are derived in sharing what we have – and what we have learned – with others. In case we neglect to say it during busier times, we’re thankful each and every day for your interest, enthusiasm, curiosity and support.
In this year of turmoil and strife on the national level, we’re especially grateful for the steadying force of nature, which tells us that seasons change, and storms come and go, but essential structures, like the big trees on the farm, will almost always stand fast and hold steady at least until their time has come. 
As you celebrate Thanksgiving, we hope you have the time to count your blessings, and to find pleasure, purpose and peace in thecompany of those you hold dear.

Our Top Garden Gifts

When it comes to shopping for gardeners, the good news is most of us always need something. It could be a few new plants for the border, heirloom tomatoes for the vegetable garden, or perhaps some new shoes or boots to muck around in. If you’re not exactly certain what the gardener on your list is pining for, you will always succeed wildly with a White Flower Farm Gift Certificate. These certificates invite recipients to choose whatever they’d like from our broad array of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, tools, pottery, and gifts. They also welcome recipients to ask questions of our friendly staff members, who are always delighted to help gardeners of all skill levels – from the most experienced to those who are just beginning to get their hands dirty.

If you’d like to see more gift ideas, scroll below. Whether you’re looking for a special present, a few stocking stuffers, or something in between, we’ve got a sleigh-full of great ideas for the gardener and non-gardener on your list.

Amaryllis 'Magical Touch'
Amaryllis ‘Magical Touch’

Amaryllis Bulbs, prices start at $17

At the risk of repeating what we have often said in catalogs and emails, there’s a reason Amaryllis bulbs are our No. 1 bestselling gift item year after year. All of our bulbs are top quality and guaranteed to produce 2 stems, most with a minimum of 4 blossoms each. In the middle of February, when the landscape in many parts of the country is a colorless expanse of white and gray, these easy care flowers come to the rescue, bursting forth with beautiful, colorful blooms. They are a great for gift for just about anyone on your list. No green thumb required.

'Ariel' Paperwhite in handcrafted green porcelain bowl with saucer
‘Ariel’ Paperwhite in handcrafted green porcelain bowl with saucer

Paperwhites, prices start at $22

The all-time favorite bulb for forcing indoors is the Paperwhite Narcissus. Large clusters of pure white flowers arch above graceful, blue-green foliage, and the sweet, heady perfume fills a room with fragrance. Paperwhites require no preparation and are absolutely foolproof. A bag of bulbs is a great stocking stuffer or hostess gift. We always keep a few bags around for unexpected visitors and spontaneous holiday gatherings.

Ultimate Garden Fork
Ultimate Garden Fork

Ultimate Garden Fork, $159 each

Every gardener deserves this hardworking, durable, beautifully crafted tool. We’re certain of it because we could not maintain our gardens at the nursery without it. The stainless steel fork topped by an Ash wood “D” handle is indispensable for digging up Hostas and Daylilies, loosening compacted soil, opening holes for new plantings, and turning the soil before planting bulbs, annuals and perennials. Built to last a lifetime, it’s a special gift that will be handed down to the next generation of gardeners. Overall length: 41″.

Lavender Sachets by the Yard
Lavender Sachets by the Yard

Lavender Sachets by the Yard, 8 sachets, $35

Give a roll of these wonderfully fragrant sachets to one lucky recipient, or cut them apart to make stocking stuffers for several people on your list. The lilac-colored organza fabric contains fresh heads of lavender, which not only smell heavenly, they discourage moths from invading bureau drawers and closets. We send a roll of eight 6” x 4” sachets wrapped with a butterfly ribbon. Hang them together in your closet, or cut them apart to tuck in drawers or stockings.

Red Long Reach Watering Can
Haws Red Long Reach Watering Can

Haws Red Long Reach Watering Can, 1 gallon capacity, $139 each

The superb quality of this professional grade watering can is evident in its heft and perfect balance. Made of heavy-gauge steel, it has a galvanized coating that resists rust and increases durability. Its classic English silhouette comes from the two-handled design and the long-reach spout that creates constant water pressure. The solid brass, oval rose can be attached to deliver a fine spray that won’t wash away new plantings. A filter is included to prevent dirt and debris from passing through the spout and into the rose. This superior watering can holds approximately 1 gallon. Made with exceptional craftsmanship that’s designed to last a minimum of 20 years. (Also available in gray metal 2.3 gal size for $169, or in 1½ gallon size recyclable plastic for $49.)


Cook's Herb Trio
Cook’s Herb Trio

Cook’s Herb Trio, 3 plants in 4” copper-toned cachepots with 16” x 5” tray, $50

Every gardener and cook on your list will delight in this trio of culinary herbs, which are great for adding fresh flavor and aroma to soups, stews, casseroles and omelets all winter long. Golden Sage, Rosemary, and English Thyme are as decorative as they are delicious. Enjoy cooking with them yourself, or give as a gift.

Cedar Tuteur
Cedar Tuteur

Cedar Tuteur, $120 each

This beautifully crafted, naturally weather resistant tuteur creates a dramatic focal point in any garden whether it’s smothered in Clematis, Sweet Pea, or Morning Glory blossoms, or standing alone and unadorned in a mixed border. It assembles easily with a Phillips screwdriver. The rot-resistant Western Red Cedar will weather naturally to a light silver gray. Measures 81″ tall, 2′ square at the base.

Seibert & Rice Agresti Vase
Seibert & Rice Agresti Vase

 Seibert & Rice Agresti Vase, $330 each

When only a “big” present will do, the gardener in your life will thrill to this heirloom quality hand-crafted terra-cotta pot from renowned importers Seibert & Rice. As much a work of art as it is a planter, the ornamental motifs on this exquisite vessel were formed using original molds from 19th century master craftsmen. Each pot is created freehand and signed by the highly skilled artisan who makes it. Pots can winter over in cold-climate gardens provided they are set on feet. (See full description of feet here — We recommend the use of 3 to support this pot.) Measures approximately 16″ wide x 11″ high, and has 1 drainage hole.

Garden Footwear

All of us at the farm have our preferred footwear for gardening and mucking around outdoors in all types of weather. From affordable Sloggers and Crocs to more costly Birkenstocks, Boggs, Hunter boots, Muck boots, sneakers, and hiking boots, every gardener needs durable, supportive, weather-proof footwear. Visit your favorite shoe store or e-tailer and choose something just right for your gardener.

A feature of the New York Botanical Garden’s 2016 Orchid Show.

Membership to a Botanical Garden

Give a gift that supports a special place. Your recipient will enjoy the privileges of membership at a lovely garden, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re supporting the work that goes on there – whether it’s maintaining existing plantings, educating the next generation of gardeners, or conducting horticultural research. Tops on our list in our neck of the woods are Longwood Garden in Kennett Square, PA, the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx, NY, and Tower Hill in Boylston, MA.

Garden Help

Hire a helper for your favorite gardener, someone who’s a dab hand at mulching, pruning, planting, and tending a garden. You not only give someone you love a helping hand, you support an individual who might make or wish to make his or her living as what we call a “greenie.”

potting shed

A Garden Shed

If your budget has a fair amount of elastic in it, consider building or buying a shed for your favorite gardener. Whatever the size, a shed is a terrific place to store pots, tools, and other supplies essential to gardening. Larger models might include windows and a potting table. Employ a local carpenter to build a custom shed, or choose from any number of prefabricated styles available from a wide variety of retailers and e-tailers.

garden magazines

A Subscription to a Gardening Magazine

Give a gift that goes on all year! Good gardening magazines provide year-round inspiration and information. Some of our favorites include Gardens Illustrated, Garden Design, Fine Gardening, Horticulture, Better Homes & Gardens, and Country Gardens.



Citrus Sampler Gift Box, starting at $35

Straight from orchards in Florida, our juicy, ripe Citrus makes a delicious gift for anyone on your list. The fruit is ripened on the tree before being harvested and shipped directly to you or your lucky recipients. We promise you can taste the difference. Our 10-pound sampler includes an average of 4 Ruby Red Grapefruits and 10–12 Oranges. A 20-lb box includes an average of 8 Grapefruits and 20-24 Oranges. To send three 10-pound samplers to 3 addresses for $135, standard shipping included, click here.

Staff Members Choose Their Favorite Amaryllis


Choosing which Amaryllis varieties to order for yourself or as gifts can be a challenge. This is especially true if you’re selecting from among the 84 varieties we’re offering this season. When choosing, some of us instinctively select by color – red, pink, white, or bicolor. Others by form – Single, Double, Nymph, Cybister, or Small-Flowering. If you’re looking for more help in narrowing your choices, read below. We asked 12 staff members to choose one favorite Amaryllis variety and to tell us why it’s their top choice. Their remarks might steer you to some surprises. (The photos of these glorious flowers probably won’t hurt either.)

Amaryllis 'Spartacus'
Amaryllis ‘Spartacus’

Amaryllis ‘Spartacus’

‘I’d have to pick ‘Spartacus’ for it’s large blooms and bold color and pattern. The red and white provide a wonderful contrast, while not overpowering each other. Plus when the sun hits it just right the petals produce an iridescent shine you can get lost in.’


Amaryllis 'Tres Chic'
Amaryllis ‘Tres Chic’

Amaryllis ‘Tres Chic’

‘I love this amaryllis because although it has smaller blooms it makes up for it by knocking my socks off with tons of long lasting flowers. I usually get three to four flower stalks per bulb with 4-6 blooms per stalk. The blooms are gorgeous, the green throat and the contrast between the white centers and the beautiful red outer edge is just classically beautiful. If I could pick just one to grow every year (which I never do), this would be it!’


Amaryllis 'Purple Rain'
Amaryllis ‘Purple Rain’

Amaryllis ‘Purple Rain’

‘One of my favorite varieties is ‘Purple Rain.’ The large, exotic bi-colored blooms are so striking you have to get close to see if they are real. The closeup reveals intricate veining and a gorgeous sheen to the flower.  (And it’s the perfect year to honor Prince!)’


Amaryllis 'Picotee'
Amaryllis ‘Picotee’

Amaryllis ‘Picotee’

‘I like ‘Picotee’ – it has a very delicate flower, neutral palette, and it strikes me as funny/fascinating that there’s genetic coding for the edging color, which seems like pure ornament . . .’


Amaryllis 'Lagoon'
Amaryllis ‘Lagoon’

Amaryllis ‘Lagoon’

‘My fave is ‘Lagoon.’ Years ago we had ‘Vera,’ almost the same, a gorgeous rich pink. No star in the middle. I love it after the holidays because it is not red or white. It goes with green so well, and we have lots of shades of green in our house. When I force paperwhites, they look beautiful together. And the blue hyacinth as well.’


Amaryllis 'Double Delicious'
Amaryllis ‘Double Delicious’

Amaryllis ‘Double Delicious’

‘I love the bright red pop of color, the sculptural flowers, and the large size of the double blooms! Every time I see it, it brightens my day, and lights up my office!’


Amaryllis Benfica®
Amaryllis Benfica®

Amaryllis Benfica®

‘My fave is Benfica because that rich, deep red has bloomed in my house through the beginning of February so it’s like love is exploding on my mantle on Valentine’s Day.’


Amaryllis 'Alfresco'
Amaryllis ‘Alfresco’

Amaryllis ‘Alfresco’

[Two staff members picked this one!]

‘As a gift or for myself, the white blooms go with any décor, and they are uniformly enormous and showy. They really do prompt people who receive them to thank me twice – once when they get it, and once again when it blooms. Last year, I got a hand-written note about one . . .’


‘Incredibly prolific, lots of stems holding lots of blooms, the blooms seem to just keep coming!’


Amaryllis 'Aphrodite'
Amaryllis ‘Aphrodite’

Amaryllis ‘Aphrodite’

‘The ‘Aphrodite’ Amaryllis is my favorite for its beautiful coloring and ruffled edges. It is a true feminine beauty that will draw you in, and the name speaks for itself!’


Amaryllis 'Flamenco Queen'
Amaryllis ‘Flamenco Queen’

Amaryllis ‘Flamenco Queen’

‘Best one I remember from last year’s trials was ‘Flamenco Queen.’ What struck me was the dark red color with white overtones on top of each flower with the lighter reddish white bottom. The lighter color on bottom most of the time had a red edge to the flower petal, not only very striking visually, but also the lighter bottom was very consistent in all the flowers.’


Amaryllis 'Terra Mystica'
Amaryllis ‘Terra Mystica’

Amaryllis ‘Terra Mystica’

‘In trials last year, this one stood out from all the others. A small-flowering variety, it produces a remarkable number of blooms in a warm terra-cotta color. Each petal is neatly edged in white as if a very fine tailor had seen to every last detail.’