January 13, 2013

A Winter Garden Party

Elisabeth Zander Berkshire Chapter of NARGS, (L), Gail Read, Horticulturist and Garden Manager at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in RI (center), and Peter George, President of the National Rock Garden Society share notes on plants that they are taking home from my greenhouse ( note-to-self:  Always have divisions of rare and interesting plants to share with other plant lovers! Spread the joy).

A few years ago we decided to raise the bar at one of our plant society meetings, specifically, the New England Primula Society ( a chapter of the American Primrose Society). Our local club consists of many active and friendly members throughout the north east, some come from as far away as New York,and  New Jersey, others come down from Vermont and New Hampshire. Funny thing, not all members are primrose fanatics, most are just plant lovers, and we all share all sorts of plants - so if you've ever thought about joining a garden club but felt that they might be too snooty, I suggeest joining a plant society ( there are many - just Google a plant name, and include the word 'society') and find one near you. Most will allow you to attend a meeting before you join, to see if you might like it.

Plant societies are friendly, active and often composed of people of all genders and ages rather than the traditional garden club.

One of the perks of becoming a member of these specialty plant groups ( aside from the fun meetings and new friends) are things like this - seed exchanges. The American Primrose Society has it's own seed exchange for members, where one can purchase seed, but our club went a little further, and sponsored a share in an expedition to Tibet last year. The collected seed? We all shared - here is my lot- so excited to have this rare seed typically only found in botanic gardens.

We are not primrose fanatics, but we do grow primroses, but the main reason we are active in this club, is simple the people. We all have become great friends, and look for any reason to get together. Our greatest problem has been finding a location to meet - no place seemed perfect during the winter, since most Botanic Gardens are open, but only offer meeting or class rooms, it left us cold grange halls, or church cellars, which never felt inviting, Joe and I suggested that why don't we make these winter meetings an 'event'.. and even through we don't live in a fancy house, the greenhouse is interesting if we hold the meetings at noon, and since I can cook, why not just light the fire, and make this more of a ski party than a boring meeting. And so our winter primrose bash was born.

Momofuku's Milk Bar Cookies topped off the lunch - yumminess with butter
All plant societies can learn from this - make your meetings 'events', and people will come. We even had 3 young blog readers attend, and many people brought curious friends. Some participated in the meeting, others, toured the chicken yards, the greenhouse in bloom, played with super-cute puppies or played video games. All enjoyed lots of good food and laughs.

The business part of this even lasted only an hour, and focused on tasks being assigned for the upcoming National Primrose Show which will be held at Tower Hill Botanic Garden  May 3rd, 4th and 5th, 2012)

After lunch, down to business ( and more cookies and even more seed being shared). Some of friends here: ( left to right)  Amy Olmsted( left, from Vermont), Mark Dyon( from Newton, MA), Rodney Barker ( Newton, MA), Judith Sellers from NY,  Rod and Elisabeth Zander, (CT), and Jacques Mommens,(NY).

Remember those Lily of the Valley pips that I dug up the week before Christmas? The first pots are coming into bloom.
The pots in the greenhouse are still barely showing any growth, but once I brought a pot into the warm house, and
placed it under lights, it popped into bloom in one week. All free from the garden.

The Hamamellis ( Witchhazel) branches that I picked last Sunday, just popped into bloom on time. I think if I had picked them two days earlier, they would have been more impressive, but they did the job.

The greenhouse was not as full of blooming plants as it normally is in January, but there were a few Camellias that I could pick to place about the house, and in the kitchen to brighten things up on this dreary, over-cast winter day.


  1. LOVE it. Wish there was a chapter in NC..just ordered seed from Barnhaven, France.
    Hope you post lots if pictures of the whole process as I am new to primroses!

  2. Hi Matt. Discovered your blog via Paradis Express this week. It is gorgeous! Would it be o.k. if I used a couple of your pictures for a post about you? It would be to share your blog with my readers, and of course link to you. Thanks if yes!

    Happy Growing!


  3. Delane7:35 PM

    I'm just about to move into my first house with my fiance. I've always had a big interest in gardening, but don't know where to start. It's very comforting to know that groups like this exist where a person can get involved and create beauty with nature. Thank you!

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  4. Thanks for the suggestion of joining a (flower) society. I think I would like that better.

  5. Well , I am one of the people who didn't know that there is such thing like plant groups. After I've red your article, I searched and now I'm a proud member of a group in my area! I'm so happy- it's so nice to be member of a group where people have similar interests to you! And all that is thanks to your post!!!


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