All posts by DebWFF

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.

Sincerely,

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.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Growing Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas (properly called Lathyrus odoratus) are one of the great plants for cutting, and they provide irresistible colors and fragrance for spring and early summer bouquets. The delicate flowers are available in a wide range of rich colors, and they scent the air with grapelike perfume. To help those who have never grown Sweet Peas in a garden or a container pot, we asked our nursery manager, Barb Pierson, to offer a bit of advice. Her tips will help any novice or green thumb enjoy a bountiful crop of these beautiful flowers.

Why do people grow Sweet Peas?

Sweet Peas are grown for their beautiful ruffled flowers in shades of pastels, blues, and bi-colors. Many varieties are fragrant making them a desirable cut flower. Sweet Peas have a long history of cultivation and breeding for both the home gardener and the florist trade.

Sweet Pea ‘Zinfandel’

How do I go about growing Sweet Peas?

Sweet Peas can be grown from seed and sown directly in the ground after a seed treatment or, more easily, from a started plant. Here at White Flower Farm, we sow 3 seeds per pot to produce 3 growing Sweet Pea vines.

Where do I plant them and when?

Sweet Peas enjoy full sun in the northern half of the US. In the South, they can benefit from afternoon shade. They like cool roots and cool temperatures so they are planted as early as possible in the spring. A light frost will not harm newly planted seedlings. In very warm areas, they can be planted in the fall and grown through the winter and early spring. For best results, add compost to the soil and check that the area is well drained. Raised beds can be a good way to grow Sweet Peas.

Sweet Pea ‘Cherie Amour’

Do they need any special care while they are growing?

Because Sweet Peas are vining, they need support to grow up and flower. Many types of structures can work such as a trellis, supports with mesh or twine, or fences. They need a structure that is well anchored in the ground to support the weight of the vines. The plants will form tendrils that wrap around the support you provide.

They like a nutrient-rich soil so adding compost at the time of planting is recommended, and mulching Sweet Peas will keep the roots cool and retain moisture while growing.

Once the plants have grown to about 6” in height, it helps to pinch the growing tips by 1”, which will help the plants branch out and produce more flowering stems.

Sweet Pea ‘Cupani’s Original’

What are the most common mistakes that people make with Sweet Peas?

  • Waiting until mid-summer to plant them – they don’t like the heat and won’t produce flowers as readily
  • Not providing support at the time of planting. It is difficult to add your trellis or support after the plants have started growing
  • Poor soil without adding compost or fertilizer will result in weak plants and fewer flowers
  • Planting Sweet Peas too close together without thinning them can create an environment for powdery mildew and crowding, which reduces flower count

Do Sweet Peas produce pods that you can eat like the ones you find in the grocery store?

Although the seed pods look like Snap Pea pods, they are not edible. You can save the pods and seeds to produce plants for the following year. Keep in mind that the seeds may not produce plants that are the same color as the parent plant.

Will the plants come back again next year?

In most climates, the plants are not hardy through the winter. Even in warm climates, they are re-planted with fresh seed and plants to produce the most flowers and have vigorous growth.

When do they bloom? Are there tips for getting extra blossoms?

Sweet Peas will start blooming approximately 4 -6 weeks after visible vining. Timing of bloom will depend on whether the plants have been pinched back. Pinching may slow growth somewhat, but it will produce bushy plants with more flowers. Sweet Peas will grow and flower faster as the days get longer in spring and early summer. Using compost or dried aged manure will help provide nutrients to produce large abundant flowers. A fertilizer with higher phosphorus than nitrogen can boost flower production as well.

Sweet Pea ‘Cherie Amour’

What is the process for cutting the blooms?

Cut the blooms in the morning before the sun has had time to dehydrate them. Choose freshly opened flowers on the longest stems for your vase. Do not cut the main stem of the plant, just the side flowering stems.

Why should I get my Sweet Peas from White Flower Farm?

Our plants are produced in our greenhouses in spring and are shipped to you at the proper time for planting in your area; no seed treatment or waiting for germination required. We ship our Sweet Peas in 4” pots – each containing 3 fully rooted seedlings – and they arrive ready to go into the ground. This saves you the time and trouble it takes to grow Sweet Peas from seed. Buying and planting our Sweet Pea seedlings is the quickest way to enjoy these fragrant flowers outdoors and in vases in your home.

How to Care for Houseplants – A Few Tips for Beginners

Sharing your home and office with indoor plants has plenty of benefits. For one thing, plants are beautiful to look at, and they generally enhance the look of any interior. Studies (including some conducted by NASA) indicate that indoor plants have demonstrated the potential to help purify the air. Living green plants with their pleasing, biomorphic shapes are also thought to reduce stress and promote tranquility. While most indoor plants don’t require much in the way of care, the little bit of nurturing they do need (mainly in the form of occasional watering) is, for many, a pleasing ritual.

Split-leaf Philodendron
 
If you have never grown a houseplant indoors (or even if you’ve killed a few in trying), there is no need for trepidation. Keep in mind the most common cause of houseplant trouble is overwatering, so most of us who grow indoor plants tend not to neglect our charges but to care too much. Most houseplants will grow and thrive if given their required conditions: adequate space, their preferred sun exposure, regular watering (and not too much), and occasional fertilizer. Most varieties can tolerate a certain degree of neglect so if you’re away for a week on vacation, there’s no need to anticipate plant carnage upon your return. The long and short is you don’t need to be a gardener or a green thumb to enjoy the beauty and benefits of indoor plants, but a few tips will help you ensure your plants thrive. Here is a helpful primer for beginners:
 
Clockwise from top left: Peace Lily ‘Domino,’ ‘Black Coral’ Snake Plant, and Silver Dollar Fern.

Choose the Right Plant for the Right Spot

Before adding any new plant to your home or office, survey the spot where you plant to put it. How much space is available? Is the space big enough for a large plant, or do you need a smaller, tabletop variety? What is the quality of light? Is the plant’s future home in shade, lit by direct sun, or suffused with bright indirect light? Most houseplants, including some of those listed below, require bright, indirect light. That means they are best situated in rooms with a south-facing window. But there are also plants that grow beautifully in the lower light of rooms with less advantageous exposures. Keep in mind that east/west-facing windows generally provide moderate light while north-facing windows have low light. So before purchasing any plant, take a few minutes to orient yourself in a room, determine the size of the plant’s future home and the quality of sunlight it offers. Keep this information in mind when plant shopping so you can choose the right plant for the right spot.

Rattlesnake Plant 
Read the Plant Tag
Any plant being offered for purchase should be accompanied by a tag or webpage that offers information including the plant’s botanical and common names, its light requirements, size at maturity, and, if relevant, period of bloom. Pay particular attention to the type of light the plant requires and its eventual size to ensure it’s a good match for the conditions you can offer. We’ve all made the mistake of buying a plant based solely on its good looks only to find we don’t have the right conditions to keep it looking its best.
Chinese Evergreen

Don’t Drown Your Houseplant

The fastest and easiest way to kill a houseplant is not by neglect but by overwatering. Over the years, our customer service team has fielded countless calls from well-meaning plant owners who are essentially drowning their charges. A plant’s needs for water vary by time of year, the humidity level in the home (which can change significantly due to conditions outdoors), the plant’s life cycle, and the type of container it’s potted in. (Clay pots promote evaporation at a higher rate than most other materials, which means plants potted in clay tend to need more frequent hydration.) Some people we know water their plants on a weekly schedule, i.e., if it’s Thursday, the plants get a drink. We don’t recommend this approach. If you do keep a calendar, use it to check on the plant to see if it needs water. Don’t automatically water every plant just because the calendar says so. Let the plant tell you what it needs. The best way to know if your plant is thirsty is to gently press the soil at the top of the pot with your finger. If the soil is dry to a depth of 1”, your plant needs a drink. Some plants appreciate a thorough watering, which is best done over the sink, if that’s possible. (Simply add water in a slow, steady stream until the soil takes it up and you feel the pot growing heavier in your hand. Let water drip out the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot before turning off the tap. When the last drips escape the drainage holes, return the plant to its saucer or tray. Don’t water the plant again until the soil at the top of the pot is dry to the touch. If a plant is too large to carry to the sink, or if, like Snake Plants and Dracaenas, plants prefer to be watered less thoroughly, pour in just enough to dampen the soil around the base of the plant.

A few overall watering tips:

  • Never leave any plant in standing water. If the saucer beneath a plant fills with water, empty it at once. Keep in mind that if the potting mix stays wet, a plant’s roots can begin to rot.
  • Some plants, including the Snake Plant, Dracaenas, some Philodendrons, and Chinese Evergreens prefer to dry out considerably before being watered again.
  • Plants with a dense leaf spread around their bases (African Violets, Peace Lilys, etc.) generally prefer to be watered from below. Pour a modest amount of water into the plant’s saucer and let the plant take it up by the roots before adding more. Do not saturate.
  • Before watering Snake Plants and Dracaenas, you can wait until the soil is dry enough to begin pulling away from the edges of the pot.
  • Plants require less water during the winter months when they are not actively growing.
 

As you get to know your individual houseplants, their watering needs will become apparent to you. During the time it takes you to familiarize yourself with the plant, err on the side of under-watering. A droopy, thirsty plant will recover better and faster than one that’s been overwatered.

For information about individual indoor plants, including when and what to feed them, refer to the Growing Guides on each plant’s product page on our website. Before you know it, the care of your plants will become second nature to you, and we can all but promise you’ll be delighted in their company.

 
We offer a Houseplant Success Kit with our favorite Joyce Chen scissors for pruning, a watering can, and our custom created fertilizer to help you care for your houseplants with confidence.

What Is a Hardiness Zone, and Why Is It Important?

If you’ve spent any time shopping for plants, you’ve likely encountered the term “hardiness zone.” Simply put, hardiness zones are numerical and alphabetical codes that are assigned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to each area of the country. Our hardiness zone at the farm is 5b. Other areas of Connecticut may have slightly different zones, ranging up to 7a depending on regional geographic and climactic factors. Why is it important for gardeners to know their hardiness zones? Knowing your zone is the key to choosing plants that can survive and thrive in your particular area. Choosing plants that are not hardy in your zone can lead to frustration, disappointment and unnecessary expense.

To help demystify ‘hardiness zones,’ and to help you understand how to choose plants that are hardy for your garden, read below.

What Is a Hardiness Zone?

Using historical temperature data, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) divided the country into 13 hardiness zones, ranging from 1 (coldest) to 13 (warmest). Each of these zones is further divided into “A” and “B” for greater accuracy, with A being colder than B. Click here to see the USDA’s hardiness zone map. These zones are defined by average annual minimum temperatures. For example, a zip code in which the average annual minimum temperature is between -15 and -10 Fahrenheit is assigned to hardiness zone 5B.

The idea behind the map is that a gardener may look up his or her hardiness zone and use it to identify plants that will thrive in their area. For example, a gardener in our region of Northwest Connecticut (hardiness zone 5b) may confidently plant a variety that has been rated hardy to zone 4 but would generally not plant a variety that is rated hardy only to zone 6, because the zone 6 plant is not likely to survive the typical winter in that area.

How To Find & Use Your Hardiness Zone on WhiteFlowerFarm.com

It’s easy to find your zone on our website, www.WhiteFlowerFarm.com, and our site is set up to help you shop with your zone in mind. First, at the top of our home page, just under the Search box, click on Find Your Hardiness Zone and enter your zip code in the box that appears, then click Look Up. When the page reappears, your zone number will be listed at the top of the page in the spot previously occupied by Find Your Hardiness Zone. As you shop for individual plants and collections, the site will keep track of your zone, so that just beneath each product name, the words “Within My Zone” will appear alongside a small green flag if the plant you’ve chosen is, indeed, hardy in your area. If a plant is not hardy in your area, a small red flag with the words “Outside My Zone” will display.

As you navigate our site, you may also use the filters on the left side of the page to narrow down a listing to display only plants that will thrive in your zone.

Some experienced gardeners may “push the zone” by taking a chance on a plant that is not hardy in their area. Some plants can, in fact, be pushed, but they may require coddling and special care to see them through winter. Please be aware that we cannot honor our usual guarantee on plants if they have been shipped and planted outside of their suggested hardiness range.

Sometimes Hardiness Ratings Include “S” or “W” – What Does This Mean?

When listing the hardiness range of a plant, we often “split” the warm end of the range—for example, you might see a plant listed as Hardiness Zone: 3-8S/10W. In this instance, the 3 refers to the “cold hardiness” of the plant—all else equal, this variety should overwinter successfully in zone 3. The 8S refers to the humid Southeast (the ‘S’ being for ‘South’) and the 10W (‘W’ for ‘West’) to the comparatively dry Pacific Coast states of CA, OR, and WA—this plant can tolerate zone 8 temperatures in the South, and zone 10 temperatures on the West coast. In Northern climates, summer heat is not typically a consideration.

So to summarize—a plant listed as 3-8S/10W should successfully overwinter in zones 3 or warmer, tolerate humid heat up to zone 8, and tolerate dry heat up to zone 10.

We realize this is a bit complicated, but the problem is that the USDA zones are not always sufficiently specific. For example, our nursery in Connecticut is in the same hardiness zone as Taos, New Mexico, a climate that could hardly be more different than ours. Furthermore, there are innumerable other variables that may determine how a plant fares in a given site. We find that customers, over time, gain a good understanding of which plants do and don’t work for them, and this understanding is much more helpful than a strict reliance on hardiness zones. When in doubt, please contact us—our customer service team is extremely knowledgeable and ready to assist. You’ll find them at [email protected] or by calling 1-800-503-9624.

Staff Favorites for Holiday Gifting

Around the farm, our staff is a wee bit busy picking and packing gifts for customers all across the land, but between things, we’ve all been placing our own orders holiday gifts. If it helps you wrap up your shopping, we put together a collection of some of our staff members’ favorites for holiday gifting. Please bear in mind, the standard shipping deadline for online orders is Dec. 19th at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Resplendent Reds Bouquet with a Vase and Starlight Bouquet with a Vase

‘I especially love the pinecones in the Starlight Bouquet, and the rich reds of Resplendent Reds. They’re both terrific for seasonal decorations, or for any day you or someone you love could use a lift.

Chinese Evergreen

Also great for gifting and getting are our houseplants. Philodendron ‘Congo Rojo’ and Chinese Evergreen, shown above, are great choices for low light. Draceana ‘Jade Jewel’ will add great color and interest to a bright spot. They’re all so easy and beautiful!!’

~ Lorraine

Honeybells

‘While I am typically a plant enthusiast, there is nothing like biting into our incredibly juicy Honeybells. Perfect to give or receive, as there aren’t many people who would pass up that incredible flavor in the dead of winter.’

~ Rob

Mini Red Cyclamen Quartet in Ceramic Cachepots

‘In addition to adding easy, festive color to a holiday dinner table, mantelpiece, or side table, these long-blooming little charmers are perfect for brightening small nooks around the house or the corners of office desktops. I’m giving my daughter a set to share with her coworkers to lend a touch of holiday cheer to their workspace. And the graceful blossoms and silver-patterned leaves will continue to provide enjoyment long after the holidays are gone. Plus, no green thumb is required to grow them.’

~ Ann

Armscote Bee Pot

‘I’m going to fill the Armscote Bee Pot with a few gardening supplies, a trowel, gardening scissors, and a pair of gloves. It makes a terrific gift for gardening friends.’

~ Mary

Organic Culinary Herb Set in Art Seed Packs

‘If you love gardening and cooking then you can’t go wrong with gifting or receiving the Organic Culinary Herb Set in Art Seed Packs. This set has an excellent variety of herbs that you can use everyday. Plus it’s so fun to get them growing indoors, it will help take your mind of the winter blues.’

~ Shantelle

 

Red Amaryllis to 3 Addresses

‘I have 3 favorite picks for gift giving: Red Amaryllis or Bicolor Amaryllis to 3 Addresses, and Holiday Cactus. The#1 is Red Amaryllis to 3 Addresses: It’s fast and easy, and foolproof. Holiday colors! #2 is Bicolor Amaryllis to 3 Addresses: I sent this last year. I don’t like to repeat colors so this year I switched to red.’

My #3 pick is Holiday Cactus Blush: It’s easy, takes all light levels, and plants are easy to keep alive.’

For receiving, I’d be happy with any Amaryllis.’

~ Cheryl D

Anthuriums in Terra-Cotta Cachepots

‘I love to give and receive anthuriums as gifts because they add a decidedly tropical flair to almost any location and  provide a welcome splash of color during the snowy months of winter.  Add to this that they are easy care and tolerant of a wide range of conditions and you have a winning combination!’

~ Martha

Pine Cone Party Holiday Wreath

‘For giving, I love the festive feel of the Pine Cone Party Holiday Wreath, and the simplicity of the colors and tones go with anyone’s holiday décor.’

‘For receiving, I’m asking for our Leaf Brush. Big-leafed houseplants are so fun to grow, but sometimes they need a little help in getting the dust off of their leaves. This brush is the perfect tool to gently clean them. It’s one of those items that I didn’t know I needed until I learned it existed.’

~ Liz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Allium Globemaster

Allium – Show-Stopping Globes, Spheres, & Domes for Your Garden

As visitors stroll the display gardens at the farm, they often ask us about the plants they see in the borders and beds. No plants generate more questions than Alliums. Members of this genus are available in a broad range of colors – from various shades of purple to pink, true blue, yellow, and white, but the hallmark of this family of plants is a form that is both playful and utterly distinctive. Larger cultivars such as Alliums ‘Globemaster,’ form sizeable spheres (in this case 8-10” flower heads) that appear to float like balloons above other plants in the border. Smaller varieties including the delightful Drumstick Allium (Allium sphaerocephalon), produce lollipop-sized orbs on slender stems at a lower height.

The globe-shaped purple flower heads of Allium shown blossoming amid Salvia, Iris and Poppies in the June border.

Alliums are more commonly known as Flowering Onions, a pedestrian name unworthy of these remarkable plants.

Allium caeruleum is a standout for both its color and its form.

It’s worth mentioning that Alliums, like Daffodils, are deer and rodent resistant, thanks to their faint oniony scent. The odor is not noticeable above the ground unless the leaves are cut or bruised, and many of the flowers have an enchanting, sweet scent. There are hundreds of species within this under-appreciated genus, and we annually struggle to restrain ourselves to a reasonable selection. They are reliable perennials when they get good drainage and plenty of sun.

The flower clusters of Allium roseum bulbiferum are less dense than some other cultivars, the pink florets and airy habit adding a graceful presence to the sunny border.

Using Alliums in the Garden

Alliums offer colorful, distinctive, and long-lasting flower forms that are standouts in the early summer garden (there are some fall bloomers as well). They love sun and prefer a well-drained, even sandy, soil as long as it has sufficient nutrients. Tuck the bulbs around clumps of summer-flowering perennials where the Alliums’ withering foliage will be hidden by the expanding perennials. Some combinations we use at the nursery include Allium ‘Globemaster’ among Echinacea (Purple Coneflower); Allium sphaerocephalon (the Drumstick Allium) with Yarrow, Asiatic Lilies, or Phlox; and Allium cristophii (Star of Persia) with Salvia ‘May Night,’ Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), or Roses. We offer 5 varieties of the shorter Alliums (10–30″ tall) as A Big Mix of Little Alliums. They look best along the edge of a shrub border or planted in front of late-blooming perennials.

Our popular Red Highlights Collection pairs Drumstick Allium with the reddish-yellow flower clusters of Achillea (Yarrow) ‘Paprika.’

How to Care for Your Allium Bulbs

Light/Watering: Most Alliums grow best in full sun, with at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Those we offer require well-drained soil and are longest lived in locations where the soil is on the dry side during summer dormancy.

The large white globes of Allium ‘Mount Everest” are a super choice for a white garden.

Planting: Plant Alliums more shallowly than comparably sized bulbs, just one to two times the diameter of the bulb deep.

Fertilizer/Soil and pH: Alliums prefer well-drained, fertile soil. Fertilize in fall and spring with any bulb fertilizer.

Continuing Care: The leaf tips of many varieties, especially the tall ones, begin to brown before bloom time. Remove the spent flowers (except from varieties that are sterile, such as ‘Globemaster’) if you wish to prevent them from self-sowing.

Pests/Diseases: Alliums have few problems except when planted too shallowly or in wet soil.

Companions: Place Alliums behind heavy-foliage plants such as Peonies and Iris. Good for bedding, and in mixed borders. Flower heads are good for drying.

Alliums pair beautifully with a wide variety of perennials including Echinacea (Coneflower), Phlox, Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle), Achillea (Yarrow), and Iris. Peonies are another excellent choice. Here a purple-flowering Allium pairs with a white-flowering Peony.

Dividing/Transplanting: Alliums rarely need transplanting or dividing, but this can be done when the bulbs are dormant.

Field Tips for Harvesting Cut Flowers

Most gardeners enjoy growing flowers for the beauty they bring to outdoor areas. But we also like cutting blossoms and bringing them indoors in vases. For advice on how to cut and care for your own fresh cut flowers, we turned to White Flower Farm staffer Mary Altermatt. In addition to her job here in the Publications department, Mary is the owner of Mountain Meadow Flowers of New Milford, CT, purveyor of beautiful, organically grown perennial and annual cut flowers.

On her farm in New Milford, CT, she grows approximately 200 varieties of annual cut flowers from seed using organic methods. Throughout the growing season, she creates cut flower bouquets, which are sold at the White Flower Farm Store in Morris, CT, at area farmer’s markets, and to private clients. She also sells flowers by the bucket so clients including restaurants can create their own arrangements.

After 25 years of growing, here are some of Mary’s field tips for harvesting flowers:

  • Have plenty of clean buckets on hand, lightweight plastic is fine. Before cutting flowers, wash your buckets, vases and pruners with a mix of 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water, let sit for a few minutes, rinse out and then fill with clean water, about 1/3 full. Bacteria growth in the water will clog the flower stem and prevent the flower from staying hydrated so these hygiene steps are well worth the effort. Buckets that are clean enough to drink out of is the rule of thumb.
  • Bring your bucket to the garden, preferably left close by in the shade, so when you cut a handful of stems they can go right into the water. When cutting, be sure to use a floral knife or scissors with thin blades to avoid crushing the stems. (If stems are crushed, it will inhibit or block the uptake of water.) As you’re harvesting, strip off the lower foliage that would be below the water line and shake off any excess dirt, to keep your harvest bucket as clean as possible.
  • It’s best to cut your flowers when they are cool and well hydrated, either early in the morning or later in the day, not in the heat of the day. Avoid harvesting flowers that are wet from rain or after watering. Damp flowers and foliage in a bucket will invite mold and fungus. Rather than over-stuffing your bucket and possibly crushing blooms, bring an extra bucket to the garden.
  • Do a little research ahead of time to know at what stage to harvest certain flowers. For example, a Sunflower should be cut when the petals start opening away from the center disk. A Peony should be cut before it opens at all, when the bud feels like a marshmallow.
  • After harvesting, bring the buckets into a cool holding area and remove any leftover lower leaves. The stems can be recut at an angle underwater. This prevents air bubbles from forming within the flower stems thereby blocking the flowers’ water uptake. For some flowers, like Dahlias, which have hollow stems, you can hold each stem upside down under the faucet, fill it with running water, hold your thumb over it like a straw, then submerge it into the bucket. This will strengthen the stem and prevent collapsing.
  • Transfer the stems to the “resting bucket” of clean water with a flower preservative, most commercial ones contain sugar for food, bleach to control bacteria, and a water acidifier. Let the flowers rest for at least a few hours in a cool spot or overnight, so they can take up plenty of water before more handling and arranging.
  • When it comes to arranging, Mary will provide a separate blog post with tips. But for some general guidelines, choose a color palette you like, choose a variety of heights, flower forms, and textures. Add something aromatic, if you have it, from fresh picked herbs to fragrant flowers.
  • After arranging your bouquet, hold it in one hand, if possible, and give a clean cut to even out the stem ends. For a longer vase life, the bouquet stems should be recut every three days and the vase water changed every other day to ensure clear uptake. If a flower completely wilts or becomes moldy, remove it from the bouquet. Display your bouquet out of direct hot sunlight and away from the fruit basket. Ripening fruit emits ethylene gas, which causes cut flowers to deteriorate faster.

 

For more information on Mountain Meadow Flowers, visit www.mountainmeadowflowers.com

 

 

White Flower Farm’s Moms & Daughters Choose Their Favorite Mother’s Day Gifts

Wondering what to get your Mom this Mother’s Day? To help you select a great gift from White Flower Farm, we asked a handful of our female colleagues, all of whom happen to be Moms, to choose their favorite gift from our wide array of garden plants, houseplants, garden accessories, gift sets, bouquets and more. Here are their choices, which might help you with your own.

Rough & Ready Garden Clogs

I gave my Mom a pair of the Rough and Ready Clogs for Easter. She loves the spring pattern, and said they are very comfortable. She wears them around the house, loves the airy feel of a slip on after all winter in boots or shoes. They’re waterproof and good traction so she can wear them to get the mail and check on her garden. Yes- I want a pair! – Mary A

Coleus Confetti Classic Collection

I have lots of partial shade, so this collection gives great color all summer long in my back yard. The colors and textures create a stunning combination. – Cheryl D

Flora & Fauna Trowel and Secateurs Set

With the gardening season in full spring, the best gift to give or receive would be any of the Flora & Fauna gardening accessories. I love that the colors, and patterns are trendy, yet the products are practical for your basic gardening and everyday needs. – Shantelle B

Morning Light Bouquet

When our staff put together this bouquet, I knew it was exactly what I wanted for Mother’s Day. I was drawn by the pastel colors and their quiet radiance. The gray-blue leaves of the Eucalyptus help create a silhouette that’s airy and light. – Jan C

Lavender Lover’s Basket of Treasures

As a working Mom, I know a thing or two about stress. One thing that always calms me down is the natural fragrance of Lavender. That’s why my favorite gift for Mother’s Day is the Lavender Lover’s Basket of Treasures. It’s a beautiful collection that includes a Linnea’s Lights® candle, a triple-milled bath-size botanical soap with a nail brush, moisturizing hand cream, a sachet, and a bundle of dried Lavender. The bud vase is a beautiful way to display and enjoy the Lavender flowers you cut from your own garden. I hope my husband and kids are reading this . . . – Nikki F

Iris ‘Caprician Butterfly’

The Japanese Iris, ‘Caprician Butterfly,’ is one of the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen. It’s romantic and exotic and bold. From far away the flowers appear purple, but as you get closer it’s revealed that the petals are actually white with thin purple lines running through them.   Mother Nature outdid herself on this one and every mother, including myself, would appreciate a ‘Caprician Butterfly.’ – Mary V

Hand-Painted Hummingbird Feeder

With the return of hummingbirds in May, this makes an ideal Mother’s Day gift. It’s an attractive garden ornament that provides hours of enjoyment all season long. – Ann T

Gossamer Bouquet 

Each year I give my mom a bouquet from White Flower Farm and I always get an exuberant phone call and a beautiful photo of the bouquet. This year, I am excited to give her the Gossamer bouquet. I know she will love it. – Liz Z

Tree Peony “Kamata Fuji’

Any Mom who is a gardener will fall in love with this Tree Peony. These shrubs are so easy and undemanding, and they have so much to give. Plant them in a site with full or part-sun and well-drained, evenly moist soil. Allow them the first season to settle in. The blossom count will rise gradually each spring. Mature plants can produce up to 50 flowers. ‘Kamata Fuji’ sends up semidouble lavender blooms with ruffled petals and golden centers. This garden treasure is a special treat for Mom, and she’ll be reminded of your gift when the gorgeous flowers return each spring. – Deb H

 

 

 

Spring’s Prompt Perennials

It was a heck of a winter here in the Northeast, and we use the past tense hesitantly because we’re now in the midst of one of the cruelest and coldest Aprils any of us can remember. The calendar says April, but it feels more like February. But even if the temperatures remain significantly below normal for this time of year, and even if our gardens are still being glazed by sleet and occasional snow, spring finally seems to be making a stand. At least that’s what some of our favorite, most reliable perennials are telling us.

These quiet stars of the early spring garden won’t upstage the colorful blossoms of Crocus, Daffodils, Hyacinths and Tulips, but they’re among the first perennials to emerge and they go on to give the some of the longest performances of any herbaceous garden plants, finishing only with the arrival of hard frost. The sight of these stalwarts never fails to stir our hearts. They soldier through the most brutal winters, and as the first signs of spring begin to appear, they bring color, anticipation and even hope to a new season. A handful of these plants are past winners of the Perennial Plant of the Year award, and they’re among the most garden worthy plants we know. Below, we show each of them breaking ground in early spring, then, in a second shot, you’ll see the same plants at the peak of their development later in the season. The “spring” photos were all taken in mid-April in a Zone 6a Connecticut garden amid the snow, sleet and chill of this late spring. The plants, as you’ll see, were unfazed. Roused by the strengthening sunlight and longer days, their presence keeps insisting that spring has arrived, even if Old Man Winter hasn’t quite gotten the message.

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (False Forget-Me-Not)

Prompt in its early spring arrival, the heart-shaped foliage of this shade garden favorite is a delight to behold. The green leaves, veiled and veined in silver, first appear as tiny as teardrops, and they gradually gain in size. Sprays of small blue flowers resembling Forget-Me-Nots arrive on slender stems in May and June, but it’s the foliage that counts. It continues looking beautiful straight through until autumn’s hard frost.

The enchanting leaves of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ emerging early in spring.
Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ fills in to create a lush mound of beautiful foliage. The tiny blue blossoms are a fleeting treat in May and June.

Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle)

A fuss-free beauty for the edge of part-shade borders, this tough but lovely plant is utterly distinctive in color and foliage. Pleated buds open into broad, kidney-shaped leaves with scalloped edges. The soft green color of the leaves blends beautifully with purples, blues, and pinks, and the the frothy chartreuse flower clusters that emerge in June and July energize and enliven any border’s edge.

Achemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) emerging in early spring. Note the pleated leaves. They will gradually broaden and become almost smooth, developing their signature kidney shape.
The indispensable Achemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) topped by its chartreuse flower clusters. A superb plant for the edge of the part-shade border.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

This essential, drought-tolerant perennial for hot, sunny gardens is simply unstoppable. The thick, blue-green succulent foliage breaks ground at the first signs of spring then rises on stems to 18-24”. Greenish-white flower clusters cap the mounding plants in summer, and the flowers open rosy pink in August. Toward fall, they deepen to wine, and they can be left on the plant to dry and catch snowflakes in winter.

The stalwart Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ breaks early in spring. Here, rosettes of succulent leaves emerge amid last season’s cut stems.
The greenish flower clusters of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ open pink in late summer. As the season advances to autumn, the color changes to a rich burgundy.

Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ (Catmint)

This Lavender-lookalike is one of the great garden plants. Starting early, it sends up masses of gray-green leaves, which appear in tidy mounds that are perfect for edging a border or walkway. As the weather warms, plants produce flower spikes with the lavender-blue blossoms. Adding to the pleasures this plant provides is the tangy scent of its leaves, which stirs the senses at the start of the gardening season. To help plants maintain a neat habit, shear them back by two-thirds after the first bloom. Plants will continue flowering until frost.

A nest of grey-green Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ foliage defies spring’s tempests and heralds the arrival of spring. Brush your hand against the leaves, and the tangy, revitalizing scent is another welcome sign that winter is packing its bags.
Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ putting on its show in our display gardens. After the first flush of bloom, shear plants by two-thirds to promote rebloom.

Geranium ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’

This Scented Geranium at first seems too pedestrian to belong on many must-have lists, but when you see the way it performs in your garden, you’ll want more. A superb ground cover for sun to part-shade, this rugged, carefree grower produces a mound of deeply dissected green leaves that look fabulous all season long. Spring brings a sprinkling of 1” pastel pink blossoms, but we love it best for the beautiful, aromatic foliage that blazes orange and red in the fall. These plants spread efficiently but are not invasive, they tolerate dry shade, and they smother weeds in the bargain.

A lush mound of Geranium ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ already filling in nicely in mid-April. Pink flowers appear in May and June. In autumn the leaves turn shades of orange and red.
Geranium ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’ smothered in pink blooms in late spring. Weeds don’t stand a chance.

Iris pallida ‘Variegata’

Like rays of sun emerging from the soil in spring, the yellow-variegated blades of this exceptional Iris show themselves early. The warm golden color is welcome in the spring garden, but so too is the foliage form, which creates lovely contrast amid a variety of bulbs. Lavender-blue blooms appear in June, and they carry a scent that is one of the great perfumes of spring. As the season progresses, the yellow variegation in the foliage shades to cream, like shifting light in the garden.

Sunlight gives the blade-shaped foliage of emerging Iris pallida ‘Variegata’ a radiant glow in the spring garden. The yellow tones mix beautifully with spring bulbs. Later in the season, the yellow shades to cream.
The fragrant, lavender-blue blossoms of Iris pallida ‘Variegata’ are another reason to love this carefree perennial. As the season progresses, the foliage continues to add striking form and color to the garden.

Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’

The first leaves of this favorite Phlox emerge green suffused with deep maroon in a colorful celebration of the start of spring.  By summer, stunning flowers open in shades of blue and purple that change with the light of day. In the morning and evening hours, the flowers are deep blue. At midday, they change to purple. This favorite of Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s beautiful planted with Ornamental Grasses or amid the feathery foliage of Amsonia hubrichtii.

The colorful foliage of Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ emerges gratifyingly early in spring. The mixed green and maroon colors are a prelude to the changing colors of the blossoms, which shade from rich blue to purple, depending on the light.
Phlox ‘Blue Paradise’ may have earned its name from the magnificent color of the blossoms at morning and evening. The rich blue tone changes to purple in the bright light of midday.