May 18, 2013

Endulging at Trade Secrets

Whose that with Martha Stewart in the middle of this image? Why, no other than Kevin Sharkey.  I covet my Podophyllum pleianthum as much as Martha does, which only confirms her secret that many of us in the plant world already knew - that she really does know great plants, and appreciates them too.

It's become an annual fete - and one every plant and garden lover should attend, for thirteen years now, the private home and farm of Elaine LaRoache and her Lion Rock Farm in Sharon, CT opens it's gates offering many of us so privileged to attend,  access to simple the best in rare and unusual plant, garden sculpture and pottery, and well, imagine jumping into the photo of one of the finest British gardening magazines ala Alice in Wonderland, and you get the picture. Trade Secrets is just that sort of experience. No kidding. It feels edited, fancy, down-to-earth, and authentic, and the plant material is choice. I should add, I expected everything to be out of my price range, but I barely spent more than $100 for each tree and shrub ( many under $50) but the selection was impeccable.

If you are a stylish gardener or even a plant collector living in the New York/New England area, then the posh garden sale/event called TRADE SECRETS, should come as no surprise, most likely you already know of this even, and have made the trek to the small, idyllic Connecticut town of Sharon, CT. What started thirteen years ago by interior designer Bunny Williams, of Bunny Williams Inc ( one of the world's largest and most prestigious commercial design firms), when she started what then seemed to be simply a small fundraiser  - a simple plant sale to help raise money for Women's Support Services (WSS provides services to persons in the north west corner of Connecticut who have experienced domestic violence of abuse). Today, the event has grown into something more like the sales tents at Chelsea crossed with Brimfield Antiques Fair ( on one of those really good days!). Now, throw in rare plants, and you can begin to get an idea of what Trade Secrets is like. 
Here are just a few of the many things that I saw.

First time exhibitor, our friends from Kennebunk, Maine, Thanks to the always inspiring and talented Todd Carr from Snug Harbor Farm.
 I drifted between the beautiful and tempting displays of some of my most favorite nurseries, from Ed Bowen's Opus Nursery, to this year newb Todd from Snug Harbor Farm in Kennebunk Maine, and the impressive work of Todd Carr.  Broken Arrow Nursery is clearly everyones first go-to booth, for rare trees and shrubs ( thier Davidia involucrata in full bloom kept iphones and cameras out.

Hand made garden tools, books, as well as plants were for sale.

I was so happy to be able to meet Guy Wolff  today.  We've chatted on line, and we even tried to meet up a few times but things just got in the way. Of course this is his territory - his studio is nearby. and we buy our clay just up the road at the same place, Sheffield Pottery. So really, there is no excuse. I really need to go spend some time in his studio.

Guy's always so warm and nice, and approachable. People just smile when he chats with them.

I could have spent a gillion dollars....but my lottery ticket won't be available until tonight, when I will the big one.....but I still left with a huge Guy Wolff Rhubard forcer! Joy. I have always wanted one. Well, ten, but I can start with one.

I fell in love with this fox, but it was out of my price range.

I also had to leave with this fabulous bird house from Snug Harbor Nursery. It was so well made.

Yes, there were plants too. Oh, the plants. Nothing common, which made for some challenging budgeting. I did leave with the golden English Oak and a few amazing plants from every one's fav nursery, Broken Arrow Nursery in CT.
Thank God I paid the extra fee for early admission.

I was delighted to be introduced to these beautiful copper plate illustrations by botanical illustrator Bobbi Angell, who just finished illustrating the latest ( and, sadly, last) book by Joe Eck and the late Wayne Winterrowd entitled  TO EAT - A COUNTRY LIFE, which will be published on June 11, 2013. Bobbi's illustrations are remarkable, not just because of her style and talent, but becauseshe too is a gardener, if not a horticulturist so there are illustrations of horticulturally interesting plants.

The rural farm, where the even is held in Litchfield County, CT, near the Massachusetts and New York border.


  1. What a great exhibition. I wish I could have been there.
    One thing I found interesting was that the pottery booth was actually about pots! In the Chicago area you expect to find bowls and vases but never pots.

  2. Anonymous8:11 PM

    What a beautiful oak. I've wanted one of those for the past couple of years. I do hope there is another blog post about other plants that you purchased and plants that caught your eye at the sale but you did not purchase. Would you say the event is worth a trip/lives up to the hype?

  3. Hi Anon ; Yes, it was better than the hype, for me, anyway. OK. I bought two Quercus, first the Quercus robur with the golden leaves, and then a rare Quercus pinnatifida - very tropical looking, from Japan, and small growing with giant, palm-like leaves. I also bought a large pot of Spiranthes covalarioides, fragrant, and a new ground cover for shade, and finally, a Viburnum plicatum v. tomentosum 'Molly Schroder", a new pink Viburnum bred in New Zealand, which has been difficult to find here in America.

  4. Wow, almost glad I'm in Toronto and can't get to this event, I'm saving myself a fortune! As an aside, I recently saw some Guy Wolf pots for sale in my local Loblaws (Loblaws is a big big food retailer that has temporary garden centres every year). They were white, similar to the pots shown in your photo...but...to my surprise (and dismay)...Made in China. I don't like being charged premium prices when I know the people making the stuff are being paid a pittance. Needless to say, I passed.

  5. Laura
    I know what you mean. Look for Guy Wolff pots that just say Guy Wolff, for original ones. Look carefully at the name and visit his website for an explanation of where a pot was made (and why). Sadly, he himself can only throw one pot at a time, so pots that have touched his hands will always remain rare. When it comes to production numbers, it takes many hands ( or molds, in some cases). Guy has been very upfront with his moral position regarding using outside sources.

    Look for G, WOLFF with a date and the poundage number on a pot. If a pot says G.Wolff and Co, it's from his guild ( potters in other countries who he works with personally). For other names, see his site.You can order online from him directly and not get a pot made in China . Some pot designs by potter Peter Wakefield, have now been sourced out to a trained groip of hand trowers in China to take on a line of white pots that do say G. Wolff & Co. Then, there is a relationship with potters in Honduras, in either case, these are still hand thrown pots, but marketed under & Co, Some pots are cast, so they are a bit more fragile, but remember, these are all less costly than actual hand-thrown pots by Mr. Wolff himself. Guy needs to keep a business going, and I believe in his model of controlling who throws his pots under his name,and I respect him for keeping his quality high. Imagining that there is a huge factory with little kids running machines stamping out pots that cost hundreds of dollars each, is not true. Rather, a few craftsman overseas are trained to produce similar pots, but in volumes that help others afford some of these quality pots, in a world where there are far too many crappy pots from Viet Nam and India being produced by corporations who don't care about anything other than the profit margin.

  6. Thank so much for clarifying the G Wolf production. It must be difficult to build a quality business and brand while dealing with cost pressures from other companies who have no qualms about out sourcing to the cheapest countries. So many manufacturer's are doing this sometimes it's very difficult to make a sound ethical choice when buying. I have nothing against goods made off shore as long as the quality is there and the people are being paid in line with the cost of the product.

  7. Looks like an amazing event! I think I would also find more things that I wanted than I would be able to buy :)

  8. Thank Matt for the super kind words about Snug Harbor Farm! We have all been preparing for that show for months and it was great to see it all come together on one day!
    It was great to meet you in person and we are looking forward to having you come up this summer and meet the whole team!
    Send us a picture of your "Snug" birdhouse on your chicken coup once it is hung!
    We will see you soon!


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