July 31, 2016

A Summer Visit to Connecticut's White Flower Farm Nursery

There are real reasons why many gardeners wish that they lived in Oregon or Washington, and there are even more reasons why some of the worlds most well know plant nurseries exist there - in the Pacific North West,  the mild climate rich with moisture and mild winters allow plants to grow as if they are within the protection of a greenhouse year round. Here in New England - no so much.
But we do have a few classic nurseries, in particular, White Flower Farm (and of course, Broken Arrow and Logee's Greenhouses - all are in Connecticut, but although each are treasures, White Flower Farm in particular is unique. 

What I find appealing about White Flower Farm is it's backstory. A small mail-order nursery started by two New York writers -  Jane Grant and William Harris in the 1930's whom grew it into a mail order business in the 1950's. Eliot Wadsworth bought the company from Mr. Harris in 1976 (about the time when I first visited while in high school- dare I admit), and the nursery continues to grow under both an active management team, closely watched by both Eliot Wadsworth and his son, Eliot Wadsworth II along with a talented staff of dozens of horticulturists and plant professionals. This makes WFF unique in todays world. Eliot Wadsworth (the younger) called me a year ago and asked if I could come visit - inviting me and a few other younger plant people down, to chat about ideas, so I gladly took advantage of this offer, for I have a special place for White Flower Farm in my heart.

July 22, 2016

International Can It Forward Day and a Give Away

A load of cherries comes in all at once, which means a few busy days of canning. Today, Friday July 22 is International Can-It Forward Day. Ball canning company asked if I would participate and help promote their new book on home canning.

If there is one thing that I remember that my mother used to tell me, was that when it was canning day, it would always be the hottest day of the year. Today, it was near 99 degrees F here in central Massachusetts, full-on cherry season, and of course, canning day. International Can-It Forward Day, to be specific. A couple of months ago, the fine folks at Ball Canning company contacted me to see if I would be interested in participating, and I gladly accepted - even though I try not review too many products or participate in too many partnerships, there are one or two a year which come along that are a good fit - an believe me, this was a good fit. This kitchen, which was my moms from around 1940 until her death in 1997 was canning central. Anyone who knew her, knew that canning was her passion. Our cellar was full of canned goods from my parents huge garden, if you don't believe me, look at the list below. I really wanted to help the home canning movement with #CanItForwardDay. TO make the whole thing sweeter, Ball Company is donating a dollar for every like or hit, on the posts we did for them, on their website. Good people.

July 17, 2016

My Lathyrus Species Project - A Rainbow of Rare Flowering Peas

Lathyrus annuus var. annuus, or 'Fodder Pea' has a flower color highly sought after by plant breeders looking to expand the palette of cut flower sweet peas - yellow. This species has a tiny flower, so will remain rarely cultivated, but it does have interesting foliage.

OK, arguably, the many species of Lathyrus or sweet peas are less exciting then their cousins, the hybrids and many selections of L. odoratus which we all adore. But, last February, when I announced my 'special projects' goals for the year, I mentioned that I wanted to grow a collection of Lathyrus species, and I felt that I really have to follow through. It's been a fun little project, and one which I may continue next year with even more species to trial. I've never seen a collection of peas raised in pots, in fact, I wasn't even certain if the pea species would like growing in pots, but I proceeded anyway, with my project goals (along with most of my other projects such as Phlox in pots, a collection of gooseberries and currants, and Mignonette (the Clematis in containers project was postponed for another year - Hey, I can't do it all!).

Lathyrus belinensis is a very short-vine, no more than a foot long, which I was prepared for. It makes a very nice small container plant, but it is short lived. Named n 1988, it's one of the newer species, and one I feel is the most garden worthy. It is short lived though, like most peas.

A collection of wild peas or pea species grown for their flowers seemed interesting enough, but I discovered,  seed was somewhat hard to find - so I am on the hunt for more interesting species - if you have a source, let me know. Most of these came from Roger Parsons Sweet Peas in the UK, but if you know of a better source, please share . This made the project even more desirable for me, as now I had to track down some rare species, as well as some named selections of species.