Monthly Archives: March 2020

Extra Care in a New World: A Message to Our Customers in the Time of the Coronavirus

To Our Customers & Friends –

Like you, we at White Flower Farm are continuing to adapt to a strange new world. I thought it might be useful to briefly address some questions that may arise as we all move forward. However, let me first emphasize that the health and safety of White Flower Farm’s staff, customers, community, and our respective families is our highest priority. Our goal is to conduct business as usual to the extent possible, and we are following the guidance of our public health officials and doing everything in our power to protect our staff. This includes increasing the frequency and rigor of cleaning and sanitation in our facilities, asking our employees to work remotely, expanding our paid time off policies, and adjusting work schedules to minimize contact across teams. Until further notice, our Customer Service staff is now available only via email at [email protected] and via Live Chat on our website between 9-5 EST Monday-Friday. (For Live Chat, just click the icon in the lower right of your screen.) Our staff members will respond as soon as they are able. We appreciate your patience, and we send hope and fortitude to you and your family. Please continue to check our website for updates. Long story short – all of our decisions are being made with the safety of our employees, customers, and communities in mind. Now to a few potential questions:

I have an open order – will it be fulfilled?

Yes. As of March 30, unusually strong demand combined with staffing shortages could cause some delivery delays. We ask that you bear with us, and be assured we are doing everything possible to ship your order as quickly as possible.  You may track the status of your order here. If our fulfillment operations are impacted by state or federal mandates, or compromised by illness or more prosaic considerations like weather or crop readiness, we will contact customers directly as soon as possible.

I’m considering placing an order – are there any limitations or changes I should be aware of?

The only change is that unprecedented demand and staffing shortages may delay some shipments. We are taking steps to remedy the situation and will continue to expedite all orders to the best of our ability. Otherwise, all the items you see on our website are available, with the exception of early sell-outs and the occasional problem crop. We will not accept any orders that we don’t believe we can fulfill to our usual standards.

I’m planning a visit to White Flower Farm – should I change my plans?

Under normal circumstances our store and display gardens in Morris, CT, would now be open for the season. These openings are delayed until further notice. Our popular spring events, including our annual Great Tomato Celebration, have been cancelled through the month of May, but please visit our website for updates. We have issued refunds to anyone who prepaid for our early spring events.

Our annual Great Tomato Celebration has always offered all of the kitchen garden plants we feature online plus an array of varieties that are made available only at the event. Because this year’s Great Tomato Celebration has been cancelled, our staff is working hard to expand our online offering of Tomato and other kitchen garden plants to include some of the varieties we typically offer only at the event. Please bear with us as we make this possible. In the upcoming days, we will publish a list of the additional varieties being offered. Please check back here for updates.

Thank you for your time and attention. As this unprecedented crisis continues, we stand ready to serve you to the best of our ability now and in the future.

In the meantime, we are grateful for your patience and ongoing support in these strange days. We are also grateful that gardens provide refuge and peace in even the most challenging times. We hope you find solace in yours.


Eliot A. Wadsworth

Here Come the Hellebores

In March, when the White Flower Farm display gardens are just waking from their winter sleep, the staff’s work detail is mostly about clearing away debris and making plans. But there is at least one notable exception: The Hellebores are showing plump buds that are ready to pop.

Hellebore buds popping up in the late winter garden.

In cold climates like ours, these rugged, beautiful perennials are one of the earliest signs of spring. Their habit of flowering in late February and March, during the season of Lent, and the Rose-like form of their blossoms, are why they are often called Lenten Roses. Gardeners prize these plants for their flowers and their foliage, and for a robust, cold-hardy disposition that makes them fuss-free, long-lived additions to any shade garden.

One of Spring’s Earliest Bloomers

Winter might not be fully over when Hellebores stoically send up their buds. Unlike other early performers that might get nicked by frosts, Hellebores are just fine in cooler temperatures. Plant them wherever you need a cheering early spring display.

The single, highly ornate flowers of Hellebore Honeymoon® ‘Rio Carnival’ can wake a garden from its winter slumber.

Hellebores come in a disarming array of colors – from pearly white and cream to butter yellow, rose, burgundy and almost black, with blossom forms ranging from single to doubles, all accented by a center of yellow stamens. Single Hellebore flowers are intriguingly complex in their anatomy but always large enough to notice from a distance. Showy doubles offer layers of petals. Many Hellebore blooms feature design details. There are freckles. There are hems and bands of contrasting colors. Breeders are developing varieties that have upward-facing flowers, which some regard as an improvement on the nodding or partially hidden blossoms that are characteristic of most earlier and classic cultivars.

The golden blossoms and buds of Hellebore Honeymoon® ‘California Dreaming’ bring the glow of sunshine to the late winter and spring garden.

The appeal of Hellebores lasts far beyond early spring. The flowers don’t fizzle when warmer weather arrives. The colorful blooms remain over an impressively long period. Months go by, and even as the flowers fade, they remain beautiful. Some would say they get better as time passes and the colors deepen or blanch.

The various colors and forms of Hellebores can be combined with splendid results. The Hellebore Honeymoon® Mix blends tones from ivory and pink to deepest red and near-black.

Ornamental Foliage for All Seasons

While Hellebore flowers often get the most attention, the glossy dark green, palmate foliage is of equal value in any shade garden. In many climates, the leaves are evergreen unless covered by snow. (In winters that are cold but not particularly snowy, Hellebore foliage may get scorched or tattered, but affected leaves can be pruned away, and as spring comes, the plants send up plenty more.)

The dark green, palmate foliage of a Hellebore, lower right, keeps its great looks all season. Here, it’s grouped with Hosta ‘June,’ left, and the golden, variegated blades of Hakonechloa (Japanese forest grass) ‘Aureola,’ top.

In an additional boon for gardeners, the leathery, serrated leaves are unappetizing to deer and voles (as well as other pests), which give Hellebores a wide berth.

It should be noted that Hellebore leaves, stems and roots are toxic and can cause a dermatological reaction in some people so we recommend wearing gloves and long sleeves when handling or cutting them. (Additionally, no parts of the plant should be eaten by humans.)

Hellebore Wedding Party® ‘Shotgun Wedding’ is a spectacular double with beautiful design detail on the multi-layered petals.

Caring for Hellebores

Hellebores prefer dappled shade and a compost-rich, well-drained soil. Under these conditions, they are trouble-free, but patience is imperative. These are not fast-paced perennials. Hellebores slowly but reliably gain size and bud count every year. When planting them, remember to give them sufficient space to expand. The winning formula is dappled shade and generous spacing.

In circumstances when Hellebore foliage gets beaten down by snow or tattered by the cold, some gardeners question whether to snip the foliage in autumn or wait until spring. In colder climates, you might as well snip it off in autumn and let the buds swell leafless. In warmer parts of the country, Hellebores may remain evergreen without suffering any damage. In that case, prune off leaves in late winter before the buds swell to make room for new growth. New leaves initiate rapidly no matter which way you play it.

Dividing Hellebores is not recommended. Although these plants may be slow to settle in, once they do, they rarely need division and may resent it.

Hellebore Honeymoon® ‘Paris in Pink’ pots up beautifully in a container.

Garden & Landscape Uses

Hellebores are at their best when planted in groups. Mass them in woodland areas where they will naturalize, or plant in 3’s and 5’s under trees and shrubs, along a pathway, or at the edge of a shady border. Create a dynamic display of contrasting colors, forms and blossom times by planting Hellebores with companionable shade-dwellers including Hostas, Astilbes, Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass), Ferns, Heucheras, and Tiarella.

Hellebores also perform well in containers, and they make an impressive window box display with lasting appeal. Due to their thick, plentiful roots, you’ll want to afford them sufficient space for root growth and provide regular water. If winter seems too long, consider hosting a Hellebore or two indoors during the coldest months. On a windowsill, these beautiful plants blossom in the dead of winter. You’ll have flowers to carry you through the dullest days.