High summer has arrived, and we think Northwest Connecticut is as nice a place as any to enjoy it. Our cool, wet spring has our display gardens looking terrific, and we’re especially enjoying taking notes on a new Rose Garden that was installed last summer and fall.
Just as we hoped, it is provoking all sorts of observations and ideas about how to design with Roses and their companions, which varieties are particularly vigorous and which less so, and what maintenance routines are (and are not) necessary. As we come into the steamiest part of the year, we’ll be watching carefully for disease and stress, all with a mind towards refreshing and reinforcing our recommendations for customers.
We’ve been plenty busy indoors as well, including working on a collaboration with Superfolk, a design studio and print shop in western Ireland. Superfolk’s immensely talented (and, we must add, critically acclaimed) team has created a set of three block prints exclusively for White Flower Farm. Each print is of a plant that attracts hummingbirds – Monarda, Campsis (Trumpet Creeper), and Aquilegia canadensis (Canada Columbine). They are printed on delicate Japanese washi paper and will be available individually or as a set of three. Stay tuned for further detail on these special works of botanical art.
All the while, of course, we’ve been preparing for the autumn planting season, and our fall catalog will go in the mail in the next few weeks. It features hundreds of varieties of bulbs, perennials, shrubs and vines, not to mention some lovely gift ideas.
This fall we’re emphasizing the fun to be had in extending your garden’s “season of interest,” which is easily done with the addition of early blooming bulbs (Eranthis, Galanthus, Crocus, et al.) that jump-start the season, and fall-blooming perennials (Japanese Anemone, Sedum, Chelone, Aster, et al.) that sustain the garden’s vibrancy long past Labor Day. Most good gardeners try to squeeze the most they can out of their season, and we’re always happy to help.
If you’re anywhere near our neck of the woods this summer, I hope you’ll stop in for a visit. Aside from the display gardens (about which we may already have bragged too much), our greenhouse full of Blackmore & Langdon tuberous Begonias is just about to come into peak bloom, which it always does in July. It will remain reliably glorious through September, and it is, I assure you, worth the trip. (We are proud to say we remain the exclusive stateside source for these exceptional, luminous Begonias.)
Please note that the hours at our store in Morris, CT, have changed for the summer and fall seasons. From July 1st through Nov. 17th, 2019, the store is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but it’s closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The display gardens are open daily during this period. We hope to see you!
On behalf of all of us at the nursery, thank you for your ongoing support. I hope you’re having a wonderful season in the garden.
Spring is slow to arrive in northwest Connecticut but, while we’re not venturing out into the gardens just yet, it’s evident that winter’s grip is easing. The sun is higher in the sky, the greenhouses are smelling sweet and fresh, and it won’t be long before we begin shipping to warmer corners of the country. As per our custom at this time of year, we’re pleased to deliver a brief-ish update from the nursery.
A New Rose Garden, Year 2
Last summer we began installing a sizable new rose garden at the nursery, with design guidance from Julie Messervy and her team at Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio in Saxons River, VT. The garden will, as it matures, feature not only several dozen varieties of Roses, including both heirlooms and favorite modern cultivars, but our favorite Rose “companions” – Nepeta, Lavender, Clematis, Salvia, and many others.
This summer the garden will still be in its infancy, but over the years it will deliver us a tremendous re-education on gardening with Roses, and we’re eager for the school bell to ring. We trust visitors to the nursery also will enjoy watching this garden come into its own and perhaps take some fresh inspiration home with them.
Dates To Save
As usual, we have a number of fun events lined up at the nursery this spring. You can find details about all of them on our website. We’d like to alert would-be travelers that our Great Tomato Celebration, an annual offering of dozens of varieties of tomato seedlings and other kitchen garden supplies, is scheduled for Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18. (Please note there are no Sunday hours this year.) We’re excited to welcome back noted Tomato expert Craig LeHoullier, author of Epic Tomatoes: How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time. Craig will be on hand for lectures and Q&A availability on both days. Cross your fingers for decent weather, but the show goes on rain or shine.
An Update to Our Sales Tax Policy
Gardening is typically an escape for daily trials and tribulations. But when changes to tax law impact the way we do business with you, we find ourselves obliged to draw your attention to matters mathematical, at least for a moment.
As you may or may not have noticed, White Flower Farm has historically collected sales tax only on items shipping to Connecticut addresses. This is consistent with long-standing precedent that online retailers are responsible for collecting sales tax only on transactions to states where the seller has a physical presence, such as a store or a warehouse. White Flower Farm has a physical presence only in Connecticut; therefore, we have, until now, collected sales tax only on Connecticut-bound merchandise.
But last summer this precedent was changed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair. The court decided that the “physical presence rule” was outdated, and that states may charge tax on purchases made with out-of-state sellers, regardless of whether or not the seller has a physical presence in the state.
Since this ruling, many states have implemented new sales tax policies for out-of-state sellers, and White Flower Farm will shortly begin collecting sales tax on sales to many states beyond Connecticut. Our aim is to comply with all applicable laws and also to do our best to minimize confusion for our customers. With the latter objective in mind, here are a few further details:
• Different states have different sales tax rates; they also have different rules regarding whether shipping & handling charges are taxable, and what kinds of products are taxable at all. For example, in Connecticut, a tomato plant is not considered a food item, and therefore is taxable. Other states may handle that sort of item differently.
• If an item is purchased by a buyer in one state to be shipped to a different state (as many gift items are), the applicable tax rate is the one set by the state to which the item is being shipped, not the one in which the buyer resides.
• WhiteFlowerFarm.com displays sales tax as a single dollar figure in your order summary. If your order includes shipping addresses in multiple states, any applicable sales taxes will be combined into the single tax figure you see at checkout. The same calculations are applied to orders placed over the phone.
Thanks for your attention to this quite literally taxing topic. We welcome any questions you may have.
New Favorites for Spring
With more and more gardeners looking for ways to reduce their lawn space and support garden pollinators and other beneficial insects and wildlife, we’re thrilled to introduce our new preplanned Native Meadow Garden. This exclusive collection of carefully selected North American natives features low-maintenance perennials that provide food and habitat for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects while offering colorful blossoms and foliage for human admirers.
We trialed this garden extensively at our farm in Connecticut where it has become a magnet for Monarchs and other winged creatures whose visits add to its natural, wild beauty. If you have a fence or property line in full sun, or a sunny swath of lawn you’re willing to cede to blossoms and wildlife, we urge you to try it. Give the plants a season to settle in, then watch them take off the following year.
Also new this year is our collection of tropical plants for the patio. From nonstop flowering Mandevillas to glorious, large-flowering Hibiscus, to harder-to-find favorites including Alpinia ‘Variegata’ and Macho Fern, we have everything you need to turn your backyard patio into a tropical paradise. Our head gardener, Cheryl Whalen, put her talents to work last season, and she used a variety of tropical foliage plants to create two exceptional new collections, Bonito and Spicy Salsa.
Dahlia lovers will not want to miss our new Café au Lait Trio, which features longtime favorite Dahlia ‘Café au Lait’ with two of its siblings, Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Rose’ and Dahlia ‘Café au Lait Royal.’ The color blend, which ranges from mocha pink to fuchsia, is as harmonious as can be, and each plant produces the large, 10” dinnerplate blossoms that made the original such a favorite. Beautiful in the garden and superb for larger-scale bouquets.
We hope you’re as excited as we are to see the first signs of spring. It’ll be great to get out into the garden.
Gardeners know a great deal about patience, and this spring, we’ve had ours tested by Mother Nature’s caprices. For the second year in a row, the Northeast has had a cool spring, and this year’s is a bit late. Our above average temperatures in February were followed by below average numbers in March. The better news for gardeners – and their plants – is that April, true to its billing, arrived with plenty of showers. As of this writing, several soaking rains have helped offset the drought conditions that became severe in some parts of the state and other areas of New England last summer.
Ups and downs in the weather cycle serve to remind all of us, no matter where we live, that we garden with Nature. Wise gardeners take this into account when choosing plants and tending them. Many are paying closer attention to native varieties in the belief that these plants may be better equipped to handle extremes of weather. They also play a role in supporting pollinators and wildlife. At the farm this spring, our head gardener Cheryl Whalen will be creating a garden reserved exclusively for native plants, shrubs and trees. Cheryl spent part of the winter doing research, identifying true natives, and winnowing down her plant list. Her selections will go into the ground soon, and we’ll watch them with interest over time to see how they develop. With Cheryl’s help and insights, we’ll be writing a lot more on this topic soon.
Longwood’s Exquisite Clivia
For another example of patience – and its remarkable rewards, we turn to Longwood Garden in Kennett Square, PA. Last year at holiday time, we were pleased to introduce to you the first named Clivia released from Longwood’s breeding program. Clivia miniata ‘Longwood Debutante’ is a yellow flowering beauty that was roughly 35 years in the making. That’s 35 years of patient hybridizing and cross-breeding that was begun in 1986 by the founder of Longwood’s breeding program, Dr. Robert Armstrong. Longwood subsequently released four more miniata varieties, ‘Longwood Sunrise,’ ‘Longwood Fireworks,’ ‘Longwood Chimes,’ and ‘Longwood Sunset.’ Each of these plants produces blossoms that are unique and exceptional. We are honored to be the sole mail-order source for these plants, which are otherwise available only at Longwood. When we introduced these plants via our emails and on social media in late winter, there was what some of our younger staff members call “blow back” about the prices, which are $300 for ‘Sunrise’ and ‘Fireworks,’ and $900 for ‘Chimes’ and ‘Sunset.’ How could a single houseplant cost that much? Imagine first the cost of keeping a greenhouse going summer and winter for more than 35 years. Then add to it the cost of the staff required to carefully cultivate and tend these plants. Factor in, too, the slow growth of Clivia, and the fact that ‘Chimes’ and ‘Sunset’ are excruciatingly slow to produce the offsets that become new plants. Viewed in that context, we hope the pricing makes a good deal more sense. Experienced gardeners know the value of these plants and the rewards that come from investing in rare, long-lived treasures whose beauty justifies the cost incurred by the process of creation.
Our Store Is Open
If you missed our recent blog post, the White Flower Farm Store is open for the season. Inside, it’s stocked with the top quality garden tools and supplies we use here at the farm. We’re also offering birdhouses, hummingbird feeders, garden art objects, a wide variety of houseplants, and many great gifts for Easter, Mother’s Day and other spring celebrations. Plants from our greenhouses are starting to fill the sales yard, and you’ll find a broad selection of potted annuals and perennials, plus shrubs and trees, a selection of containers, including our Cretan pots in a wide range of sizes and styles, and garden ornaments from benches to birdbaths. Our staff members will be delighted, as always, to help you choose plants for your garden and to answer any questions you may have. If you’d like to have your plants delivered, we’re pleased to offer this service for a nominal fee.
Our 12th Annual Great Tomato Celebration
For those who grow their own vegetables, we’re delighted to announce that our 12th Annual Great Tomato Celebration will be held May 19 through 21 at the farm in Morris. This year, we’ll be offering over 130 varieties of tomato seedlings, including treasured heirlooms and the top-rated modern hybrids (all non-GMO), along with everything else you’ll need for this year’s kitchen garden. Joining us on May 19th is tomato expert Craig LeHoullier, tomato advisor for Seed Savers Exchange and author of Epic Tomatoes, winner of the Garden Writers Gold Award for best book in 2016. Craig will be speaking and answering questions at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on May 19th only. Signed copies of his book will be available for sale. For a list of available Tomato varieties (subject to change) and more information on the event, please visit WhiteFlowerFarm.com/tomato-celebration.
A Season of Special Events
In addition to the Great Tomato Celebration, our staff at the store has put together a calendar of special events – from popular Annual Container Planting Make & Take Events, to Grow It, Cook It, Eat It workshops, and lecture/discussions on planting and caring for trees, and roses. Our annual Open House will be held at the farm on Saturday, June 17th, and we invite you to join us for iced tea and tea sandwiches served on the lawn by members of our family.
Our Greenhouses Are Loaded
While our hills were covered in snow, our greenhouse staff members were busy tending to what seem like indoor acres of annuals and perennials. The plants have been coming along beautifully, and as the weather warms, we’re shipping these plants to gardeners all over the country and transporting tractor-loads to the store.
We hope that as you get your spring garden going, you keep us in mind for plants, bulbs, gear and supplies, and that you visit our website for helpful information, inspiration and ideas. We’ve been helping gardeners of all stripes succeed for 66 years, and we’re mighty pleased to keep at it.
At this address, the end of summer is attended by a flurry of activity both indoors and out because we are obliged to deal simultaneously with this year’s plants (being delivered to purchasers), next year’s plants (being propagated, potted, pruned, and sometimes imported), and plants that will be on offer several years from now (requiring photos, stock plants, hardiness trials, production plans, and greenhouse space projections). In the background is, of course, speculation about the likely date of first frost by which time greenhouses need to be covered, irrigation systems drained, and all outdoor equipment readied for winter. The mix of exhilaration and anxiety is familiar, even reassuring, as the sleepy saunter of summer changes to the brisk strides of fall.
It would be a mistake not to take note of the highlights of the summer just passed, not least because they contain both lessons and inspirations for next year. Perhaps most striking at this moment is the total absence of fruit in our small orchard. After two hard and late frosts decimated buds, our trees (apples, pears, peaches, cherries, apricots) are completely barren, a stunning contrast to the gigantic crop we enjoyed last year. The trees earned their rest, but it’s hard to explain to the pigs, who count on dropped apples as the mornings cool. Elsewhere, a long, mild spring, and a warm and dry summer produced contrasting abundance that started with the spring-flowering bulbs and continued through our various plantings of shrubs, perennials and annuals (with a bit of watering when the thunderstorms missed us in August). Especially noteworthy to the undersigned, who walked the gardens practically every day for four months, were the following:
– Tulips in the beds adjoining our store that bloomed for an extra two weeks thanks to obliging weather.
– Korean Dogwoods (Cornus kousa), planted to mask a greenhouse, became a feature on their own, alternating pink and white varieties that bloomed long and hard. A trial of ground covers at their feet produced mixed results about which more later. The trees’ fruits are now bright red and very cheerful, but seem not to be attractive to birds.
– Our Blackmore & Langdon Tuberous Begonia display moved to a new greenhouse two years ago, took a year to get adjusted, and then returned to top form, starting in June and still going strong this week. Our friends at the English nursery that bred these marvels actually called upon us to help them restore varieties they were struggling with, the ultimate compliment to our Head Gardener, Cheryl Whalen, who curates this collection. We sell the tubers only in spring, but you have permission to start dreaming now.
– After some nail biting caused by minus 18 degrees F in February, an astonishing border of Lavender ‘Phenomenal,’ 81 plants without a single loss, settled in comfortably in its second year and proved once and for all that Lavender can be grown in New England. The site faces south and is well drained. We trialed fragrant Sweet Peas on the fence behind and were entranced by the effect.
– A marvelous late summer showing in our beloved Moon Garden where strong late-blooming perennials Phlox paniculata ‘David,’ Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album,’ and Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ matched up with annuals and tenders such as Cleomes and Dahlias to make last week’s full moon something quite out of the ordinary.
– Containers of annuals that changed their look and feel with every week of the season and are still strutting their stuff at the first week of September. Ms. Whalen, mentioned above, generates new designs yearly with seldom a disappointment, and many recipients re-order annually.
– The Lloyd Border, over 300’ long and 20’ deep, was once again heart-stoppingly beautiful through the entire summer and will remain so until a heavy frost. It’s worth a visit all by itself. A drone-based video is in production, which we hope will capture at least a fraction of this experience. It’s not too late to visit this year, and next year is a must.
Looking backward in this way seems a little self-indulgent but perhaps can be justified on the basis of reminding ourselves, and you, what rich and varied joys are to be found in our gardens, and yours, at every time of year. Both big ideas and small can produce stunning beauty and deep satisfaction. In addition, our gardens serve to support our proud assertion that we are plantsmen first, merchants second. Please read the following overtly commercial messages with that in mind.
Shortening Days Are Sending a Signal
The message, lest you have missed it, is that next spring’s garden begins now, and we are standing by to help you make ready. A few practical suggestions follow:
First – spring without Daffodils (properly known as Narcissus) is like kissing your sister, a pleasant ritual with no zip. The answer we recommend is our longtime favorite Daffodil Collection called ‘The Works.’ The name reflects its unique character as an assembly of 100 bulbs from 30 different varieties of the best traditional and recent Daffodils varieties, chosen and blended to provide a broad variety of colors and forms plus the longest possible period of bloom, roughly six weeks in our climate. Our bulbs are purchased under long-term contracts by our partners in Holland who, being Dutch, are always working to get the best possible value. They secure top-size bulbs, all blooming size, that will put on a spectacular performance their first year in the ground, actually increasing their numbers thereafter in a site they like (good drainage and at least half a day of sun). Of course, everyone knows Daffodils, but not everyone knows that they are long-lived, pest free, extremely winter-hardy, and absolutely and unconditionally immune to deer, which won’t touch them. Thus, the biggest and brightest early flower of spring is also the toughest and most enduring. Scatter them in a meadow, along a path, through existing gardens, and at the edge of woods and count on a glorious display, plus armloads of fresh flowers for the house, for decades to come. Please note that their natural period of dormancy means that Daffodils (along with many hundreds of other varieties or spring-flowering bulbs) can ONLY BE PLANTED IN FALL. Click here for details.
Second – To make your Daffodil commitment more efficient, Mother Nature kindly arranged that three other magnificent garden plants, all hardy from Zones 4-7, also require fall planting. This trio comprises Peonies, perhaps America’s favorite flower after the Rose, Tall Bearded (also known as German) Iris, the most overtly glamorous June blooming perennial (with one of the sweetest fragrances), and Poppies (Papaver) whose frilly June blooms can be as pale as dawn or crackle with the boldest reds and oranges in the world of gardening. If you can’t find something to love in this exquisite trio, have your eyes checked.
Third – Many readers of this text will have nearby the ruins of the summer vegetable garden. In our patch, we perform fall cleanup as part of a sequence that terminates with the lining out of many dozens of Tulips of all shapes and sizes. Once in the ground, they are promptly forgotten until their noses appear in spring. A couple of weeks later, we begin snipping small bouquets of every possible description, which could hardly be more delightful. When bloom is spent, it’s a quick and easy task to fork out the bulbs, and probably about time to sow the peas. One of our imaginative associates named this switching process the Tulip Tango. That may be a little chic, but the principle is sound. If you want to give the idea a try, consider a bag of our Pastel Stretch Tulip Mix, a collection of 50 bulbs, all different. It’s good value, good fun, and an education in itself. Click here.
Are you getting the point? A few hours of scratching around in the garden on a bright fall day can deliver huge dividends in spring. It’s not hard work, and the possibilities are enormous, whether you are starting with bare ground or presiding over an established garden. Our remarkable Customer Service staff, all gardeners and many of them Master Gardeners, stand ready to provide all the assistance you can possibly require, with a little encouragement thrown in.