Category Archives: Gardening

Trade Secrets Sale Is Saturday (Garden Tour Is Sold Out)

by Categorized: Antiques, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Vegetable Gardening Date:

The Trade Secrets garden tour on Sunday is now sold out, but tickets are still available for Saturday’s sale of rare plants and garden antiques at LionRock Farm in Sharon, Conn..

The Trade Secrets sale features 70 vendors, mostly from the Northeast, including some of the country’s best-known small nurseries and specialty growers, and dealers in choice garden furniture, antiques, cloches, wrought iron fencing, garden statuary and more. WebsmBunnyandMartha

Tickets to the May 14 sale — a fund-raiser for Women’s Support Services — are $40, with buying starting at 10 a.m.

Depending on your budget, and whether you’re an early bird or a later bloomer, you can also spring for an early buying ticket (including breakfast) for $125, with buying starting at 8 a.m. And “late bloomer” tickets — new this year — with buying starting at 1 p.m., cost $20.

(Pictured above right: Martha Stewart, who says the Trade Secrets sale is an event on her calendar that she considers “sacrosanct,” and renowned interior designer Bunny Williams, founder of Trade Secrets.)

For more information, go to or call 860-364-1080.

Although Sunday’s garden tour is sold out, here’s a link to a recent story by yours truly, so that you can virtually enjoy one of the gardens:  Carolyne Roehm’s Sublime Garden Is One Of Four On Trade Secrets Tour

hc-pic-roses-tablesetting-jpg-20160415Photograph by Carolyne Roehm, courtesy of Carolyne Roehm





Fall To-Do List: Don’t Forget The CHS Plant Sale

by Categorized: Gardening, Gardens Date:

plant salePerennials to divide, late fall vegetables to get planted, spring bulbs to get in, bird feeders to clean and get ready, garlic to plant, tender plants to move back indoors, apples to harvest (and what an apple year this has been!), dead heads to deadhead, and, of course, leaves to peep… and then to rake.

Etc. etc. etc.

You might have thought you could fall back, but hah! Fall gardening tasks sometimes seem never-ending — and, in fact, they are.

But take a breath. And instead, think of spring ahead.

plant saleYes, the Connecticut Horticultural Society’s Fall Plant Auction & Sale is this Friday, Sept. 25. It’s an excellent chance to stock up on perennials, shrubs, trees, houseplants, gardening books, bulbs and more. And a chance to support the CHS Scholarship Fund.

Admission is free at the sale, held at the Tolland County Agricultural Center, 24 Hyde Ave. in Vernon. Doors open at 4:30 for donations and setup, but the sale itself begins at 7 p.m., and the auction at 7:15.

plant saleThen, back to the garden! There’s still plenty of work to be done…




Glorious, Gorgeous Gardens Galore

by Categorized: Garden Design, Gardening, Gardens, Landscape, Landscape Architecture Date:

IMG_1185For many people, including yours truly, this is the time of year when one’s garden often starts to look, well, rather raggedy around the edges.

So it is hard not to marvel at the great number of private gardens that are still in such spectacular, well-tended shape that they are open to the public this weekend.

The national Garden Conservancy, sponsor of the wonderful Open Days program, is moving toward more in-depth, regional programs, and a slew of gardens are open around the state this weekend.

Visitors are welcome to stop in at as many or few as the schedule permits. Admission to each private garden is $7; free for children 12 and under.

On Saturday, gardens are open in Redding, Weston, Wilton, Meriden, Canton and Glastonbury. The action moves for the most part to Litchfield County on Sunday, with gardens in Roxbury, Bridgewater and several in Washington open for ogling.

The weather should be delightful, and the gardens inspirational. For complete details, including garden descriptions and directions, go to

Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek:

Acclaimed potter and photographer Frances Palmer is opening her garden in Weston, pictured above and below, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is especially noted for dahlias and her “Alice in Wonderland” flowers.

CTFF_Palmer_clyde_s_choice_barn_webThen swing over to Pixie Perennials in Wilton, where there will be a plant and local artisans’ sale as well as a beautiful garden to stroll through, pictured below:

CTFF_Pixie Perennials_4_fb


Fashion designer Linda Allard of Ellen Tracy fame is opening her garden, Highmeadows in Washington — pictured below, and featured recently in an article by Tovah Martin in Architectural Digest — on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fashionably designed garden with exquisite sense of color features a pleasing mix that is part formal garden defined by boxwood hedges and part more informal potagere, with fruits, vegetables and flowers. The new woodland garden is said to have been inspired by William Robinson’s 1870 classic, “The Wild Garden.”


And among the other gardens open on Sunday is Maywood Gardens, pictured below, the largest private estate in Litchfield County, with 1,000 acres. It includes a sunken perennial garden protected by 10-foot stone walls, a gazebo garden planted with butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting flowers and shrubs, a rose garden arranged in a French design surrounded by a circle of hemlocks, a woodland path, a heather bed, a white garden, an herb garden, an ornamental kitchen garden, a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse and more. Phew!


Outstanding American Gardens Cover ImageThis special weekend coincides with the release of the Garden Conservancy’s new book, “Outstanding American Gardens: A Celebration – 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy” (Abrams).


A Garden To Honor Garden Writer Lee May

by Categorized: Garden Design, Gardening, Gardens Date:

Harry Link, a master gardener who lives in East Haddam, had the great pleasure of being Lee May‘s friend. They were next-door neighbors for 12 years until Lee, a well-known garden writer, moved back to Atlanta from Connecticut in 2013.

Having just been in touch by email with Lee in November, I was stunned and terribly sad when Harry told me that Lee died in December after a short and difficult fight with cancer.

Now Harry is planning to install a memorial garden at the East Haddam Senior Center in Heritage Park to honor Lee. The garden will be dedicated on May 30 — and it will be a surprise for Lee’s wife, Lyn, who will be visiting for a memorial service.

Here’s Harry’s sketch:

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Harry told me that Nancy Ballek Mackinnon, a partner at Ballek’s Garden Center in East Haddam, is contributing “tons of perennials,” and other garden centers also are donating plant material. One section of the garden will be planted to attract lots of pollinators.

And, as an homage to the distinctive style of Lee’s own garden — with its rock assemblages and dry bed stream of stone — Harry plans to incorporate those sorts of elements as well in the memorial garden, on town property just off Great Hillwood Road and Route 149. The gently curved garden — about 90 by 45 feet — also will incorporate a rain garden and several pathways, and Harry says he’d like to buy an arbor for an entry.

He also says a granite bench will be carved with words of Lee’s: “Gardening … well, gardening is life.”

Harry has set up an account with the town for cash contributions (which are needed). They are tax-deductible, and can be made to the Lee May Memorial Garden Fund, East Haddam Finance Department, 7 Main St., East Haddam, CT 06423.

“Lee meant so much to me, so I just want to honor him the best I can,” Harry said.

I can’t think of a more fitting tribute.

I met Lee and Lyn when I visited to write about and photograph the garden back in 2010. Lee had shifted gears in the early 1990s from being an award-winning hard news and investigative writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta-Constitution to focus on garden writing.

Lee’s distinctive garden in East Haddam was one of Asian grace and playful touches. His quiet humor rippled through the landscape. For example, he tucked rubber snakes here and there in an effort to scare off squirrels. “They were amused,” he dryly observed.

Lee’s passion for pruning trees in search of their essence was fascinating, too.

Most of all, I was touched by Lee’s gentle demeanor, his sheer pleasure in both story-telling and in creating enticing and enjoyable spaces in nature. He worked with nature and shaped it, but he clearly revered it, too. Take a ramble through his wonderful blog: Lee May’s Gardening Life.

And here’s my story: Click here.

Lee May-1

Lee May-shrine

Lee May at his garden in East Haddam.

Lee May-stones




A Japanese lantern harmonizes with the stone and rock in the garden.











One of a number of handmade cairns.









Lee May-bridge

Japanese blood grass, one of many varieties of grasses in the garden, adds a brilliant jolt of color alongside a bridge over a dry bed stream of stone.

Lee May-bonsai

Bonsai played an important role in Lee May’s East Haddam garden.

April Is The Impatient Month

by Categorized: Garden Design, Gardening, Nature, Seasons, Vegetable Gardening Date:

stone bowlBefore you rush willy-nilly into the garden this month… the experts I talked with for my latest gardening story in the April issues of Hartford magazine and New Haven Living offer this advice: Wait.

You don’t want to compress the soil and the crowns of plants you can’t yet see by walking around on too early in the garden, or jump the gun by removing leaf debris and wind up exposing tender shoots to a late frost.

But there is a lot you can do this month to ensure a gorgeous garden ahead. Click here for the story.

Photo by Irene Jeruss / courtesy of White Flower Farm

‘I Am So Ready For Spring’

by Categorized: Flowers And Floral Design, Garden Design, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Horticulture, Landscape Date:

2015-02-19 04.24.14The temperature was in the 20s, yet flowers were in bloom everywhere.

The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, which opened today and runs through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, comes at just the right time of year.

I overheard this refrain at least three times this afternoon: “I am so ready for Spring.”

People were out in force, shopping for vegetable seeds, garden ornaments and big bunches of pussywillow branches, checking out landscapers’ displays, picking up ideas and brochures and inspiration, and delighting in the experts’ seminars (I caught Roger Swain’s delightful and information-packed talk on “Vegetables That I Have Known & That You Will Love”).

Vendors displayed everything from fencing, fountains, peonies, pavers, jewelry, soaps, outdoor kitchens, tools and tulips to books, bonsais and butterflies.

Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens of South Deerfield, Mass., displayed a case filled with exquisite, fluttering butterflies from around the world, and was selling cups of tiger swallowtail and black swallowtail butterfly eggs, which will hatch when the time comes. General manager Kathy Fiore also offered information sheets on which plants will attract specific butterflies to yards in New England. She said many people had been approaching her table to talk about the plight of monarchs and the need to plant milkweed, which monarchs require to lay their eggs and which newly hatched caterpillars need to feed.

“”People are aware of it, conscientious about it,” she said. “The plight is out there.”

The lovely sound of waterfalls and water features splashed gently through a number of the 18 lush landscaping displays, including Creative Contour Landscape Design in Middletown, which took best-in-show honors for landscape design (photo at top).

Creative Contour owner Jennifer Noyes created a marvelous gazebo topped with sedum and succulents, over an inviting outdoor table. A river literally ran through it: Water flowing through a narrow trench along the middle of the length of the table then cascaded into the shallow pool surrounded by daffodils and other plantings.

“My whole goal is to make people think differently about their yards,” Noyes said.

2015-02-19 03.34.37The landscape designed by Pondering Creations in Terryville (photo above) as a rock garden packed with plants also featured little waterfalls and a pond. It was honored with the Best Horticulture Award.

And Hillside Landscaping Co. of Berlin earned the Best Design Award.

A waterwheel gently rotated through the koi pond in the display created by Comets to Koi of Branford.

2015-02-19 03.40.53And Rob Townsend, owner of Aquascapes of Connecticut in Portland, had built an Oriental azumaya, hand-cut and hand-planed, with a panel of etched glass. The display (photo above) was landscaped with tulips, Lenten roses and Japanese maples, and an unusual copper fountain sculpted like a Japanese maple shimmered with droplets of water.

The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s flower show boasted several hundred entries in a variety of categories, all with a “Ports of Call” theme —  from the “Far East” (very petite arrangements) to “Caribbean Cruise,” “Jacob’s Ladder” trained plants, “Haku Lei” floral hair wreaths, and, in keeping with weather outside the show, “Into the Arctic,” where one cool arrangement paired orchids with silvered English ivy.

2015-02-19 03.08.27In the “Coral Fringed Barbados” division, the arrangement created by Alice Luster of Country Gardeners of Glastonbury (photo above) — with Asiatic lilies, green spider chrysanthemums and dried palm fronds — had collected a number of ribbons, including first place in the design division, the Designer’s Choice Award, Terry Stoleson Award and an Award of Design Excellence.

The show continues Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details, Click Here.

Photos on this page by Nancy Schoeffler.

For more photos at the show by Hartford Courant photographer Stephen Dunn, Click Here.



Spring Fever? Here’s An Intoxicating Cure

by Categorized: Composting, Crafts, Garden Design, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Gardens, Horticulture, Landscape, Nature, Plants, Seasons, Vegetable Gardening, Wildlife Date:

CTFlower&GardenShowCascade“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air.”  — Willa Cather, “My Antonia”

If you’re yearning for the intoxicating fragrances that are the very breath of spring, “the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere” that Willa Cather so aptly described, there’s no need to feel discouraged by the mounds of snow that still abound.

The 34th annual Connecticut Flower and Garden Show opens Thursday and runs through Sunday at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, and while the show is not the same as an actual spring day, it does offer a tantalizing preview of springtime to come, which is particularly welcome this time of this year.

Photo SwirlThe show covers nearly 3 acres and includes 18 professionally designed gardens that cover more than an acre. Yes, these gardens are indoors, but the sights and scents are so pleasing to one’s winter-weary senses.

Nancy DuBrule-Clemente of Natureworks in North Branford said her winter-battered spirits were completely turned around when she started setting up for the show earlier this week. “Huge witch hazel trees forced into perfect bloom, piles of mulch and sod, flowering plants absolutely everywhere — my soul was soothed and I came home singing a joyful song!”

CTFlower&GardenShowFlower&FireplaceThere are more than 300 booths with displays of flowers, plants, garden ornaments, bulbs and seeds, gardening books, patio furniture and more. If you can dig beneath the snow in your yard, bring along a half-cup of soil to the UConn Cooperative Extension’s booth for a free soil test.

I always love the eye-popping creativity of the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s Advanced Flower Show — more than 250 entries that could inspire you to new heights of artistry when arranging a few flowers of your own.

And through the show there will be more than 80 hours of seminars by horticultural, garden design and gardening experts, including:

Mar Jennings on “Creating Casual Luxury in Your Home and Garden”;

Garden photographer and author Ken Druse on “Making More Plants: Propagation” and on “Natural Companions”;

Garden author and photographer Amy Ziffer of Sherman, whose “Shady Lady’s Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening” is an invaluable guide, on “Shade Revealed”;

Roger Swain, former host of “The Victory Garden” on PBS and HGTV’s “People Places & Plants on “Vegetables That I Have Known and You Will Love”;

Bob Buettner, Connecticut Florist of the Year in 2010, on “Floral Arranging”;

Organic gardener, photographer and lecturer Karen Bussolini of South Kent on “40 Great Plants for Connecticut Gardens” and “Gardens in Winter.”

The list of seminar topics goes on and on — “Create and Enhance Wildlife Habitats in Your Surroundings,” “Rain Gardens,” “Daylilies,” “America’s Romance with the English CTFlower&GardenShowDaffodilsGarden,” “Composting and Soil Health,” “Water Gardening Basics,” “Working with Wetlands on Your Property,” “Disease Control in Home Vegetable Gardens,” and many more. For the complete seminar schedule and details about the presenters, Click Here.

The seminars are included in the price of admission, which is $16 for adults, $14 for seniors age 62 and over (Thursday and Friday only); $4 for children age 5 to 12, and free for children under age 5.

Hours are Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Convention Center is at 100 Columbus Blvd.

For more information and details on parking, including free parking, Click Here.

DSC05134Photos courtesy of Connecticut Flower & Garden Show





Tree Troubles? Send Us Your Photos

by Categorized: Gardening, Landscape, Trees Date:

2014-03-01 00.14.55So many of us have trees that have been damaged in severe weather in recent years or that are just seriously overdue for a pruning facelift.

Before trees leaf out, it’s easier to assess the situation, see what needs doing and determine how to proceed.

If you have a challenging tree, or are just unnerved at the prospect of possibly damaging a beloved tree with your loppers and chainsaw, send us a photo (you can include some closer detail views as well). We’ll consult with experts and arborists and offer as many pruning pointers as possible in a story here and in The Courant.

Send your digital photos (minimum 300 dpi) to, with the subject field “Tree Troubles.”

Photos: Storm Sandy tore off most of the back of the Bartlett pear tree (at top), but what remained bloomed prolifically this spring. The October 2011 snowstorm broke off about 25 percent of the branches of the cherry tree (below), including its leader. (If the tree were a clock, virtually all of the branches from midnight to 3 o’clock were snapped.) Most of the broken branches were pruned back, but now vertical branches have filled in that area, and a lot of interior pruning is needed. We’ll ask arborists if it’s healthy to let a tree’s vertical branches fill in gaps. (Photos by Nancy Schoeffler)

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New Roses, Less Of A Wait

by Categorized: Gardening, Gardens, Plants Date:

Royal-Jubilee---David-Austin-English-RoseAttention, rose enthusiasts: David Austin Roses, the renowned Shropshire, England, rose hybridizer, has five new English roses for Spring 2014. Each is a repeat bloomer.

The company also is now making the lineup of its new roses available in North America just two seasons after they’re introduced in Britain, which is speedier than in years past.

Here are the five new beauties:

Boscobel---David-Austin-English-RoseThe salmon blossoms of ‘Boscobel’ change with age to a rich, deep pink.  A Leander hybrid, its flowers start as red buds that open to blooms with an estimated 78 petals per flower.

(And an interesting note on the name: Boscobel is famed as the place where King Charles II hid in an oak tree when Cromwell’s soldiers were pursuing him during the English Civil War in 1651; it’s not far from Austin’s nursery.)

Tranquillity---David-Austin-English-Rose‘Tranquility,’ a Musk hybrid, has buds that “are lightly brushed with red and yellow” and open to petals of pure white, with about 110 petals per flower. The rose apparently has a light apple fragrance, and the plant is nearly thornless.







Deeply crimson ‘Heathcliff,’ named, of course, for the complicated and romantic character in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights,” is an Old Rose hybrid with large double flowers of rosette shape. The plant has shiny deep green leaves.




‘The Lark Ascending,’ named for Ralph Vaughan Williams’ sublime piece of music, is another Musk hybrid. The flowers with loosely cupped petals — just 22 each — are a soft pale apricot that lightens over time. Its tall, airy growth makes this rose suitable in a mixed perennial border or among flowering shrubs.

And finally, ‘Royal Jubilee,’ at leftRoyal-Jubilee-closeup--David-Austin-English-Rose and at top, is an Alba hybrid in a luscious deep pink. Introduced in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the large, semi-double flowers have broad inward-curving petals, about 35 each, known as a chalice shape. The blooms have a fruity fragrance and the plants have very few thorns. Its wiry stems help ‘Royal Jubilee’ fit in easily with other plants in a border.

Austin senior rosarian Michael Marriott says the right time to plant bare root roses is when the ground is no longer frozen but “but still cool and pliable.” The cool soil helps bare root roses establish strong roots. Optimal daytime temperatures should be 40 to 60 degrees,   before days routinely top 70 degrees.

That means this is about the right time to order.

The complete 120-page “David Austin Handbook of Roses 2014” is available free and is packed with roses, as well as information on classification and what kind of roses to plant in various sites.

To request a handbook, go to, email US@davidaustinroses, call 800-328-8893800-328-8893 or write David Austin Roses Ltd., 15059 State Highway 64 West, Tyler, Texas 75704.



Spring Is Just About Here

by Categorized: Composting, Do It Yourself, Elizabeth Park, Flowers And Floral Design, Garden Design, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Gardens, Horticulture, Houseplants, Insects, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Seasons, Trees, Vegetable Gardening, Wildlife Date:

MIO5X098_7873_9Forget about that pessimistic, unreliable groundhog. The surest sign that spring is just about here is the annual Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, which runs through Sunday at the Convention Center in Hartford.

After so much snow, the fragrance of flowers and mulch is intoxicating. Booth after booth — there are more than 300 — offer ideas and information for your “Backyard Paradise,” as this year’s show is titled. And there are numerous seminars from gardening experts.

Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For

The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s juried show also is inspirational, with designs that have rhythm, movement balance, intriguing textural contrasts and some playfulness.

2014-02-19 00.54.53This medley in chartreuse (right), including papyrus, carnations, hydrangea, spider mums, lily grass, bells of Ireland, variegated aspidistra, amaranthus and steel grass, is by Amber Pratt of the Garden Club of Kensington.2014-02-19 00.53.392014-02-19 00.57.11





Carolyn Bernard of the Garden Club of Madison (above left) plays around with the idea of apples and oranges in this whimsical tabletop display, which also includes Brussels sprouts, asparagus and spray roses.


The dynamic swirl of birds of paradise with monstera, apidistra and sabal palm (left) is by Barbara Deysson of the Shippan Point Garden Club.


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The artful drama of this design (right) by Cathy Ritch of the Long Hill Garden Club in Trumbull includes anthurium in and under water in a glass globe, accented with wire mesh and blue swirls.



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Duane Luster of the Country Gardeners of Glastonbury garden club combines heliconia with philodendron, bamboo, fasciated (fantail) willow and red maple (left).



ButterflyJuried flower show photos by Nancy Schoeffler

Rice paper butterfly from Magic Wings, a Massachusetts butterfly conservatory. Photo by John Woike | The Hartford Courant.