Five Ways to Use Woodland Strawberries (Fraises des Bois)

Woodland Strawberries are about the smallest you will find. But don’t let their diminutive size fool you. These oblong berries, each about the size of a small almond, pack a remarkable amount of flavor, a burst of true, scrumptious Strawberry that puts the taste of many bigger berries to shame. You won’t find woodland Strawberries at the grocery store for the simple reason that they don’t keep. They should be picked when deep red and ripe, and eaten right away. At the farm, we love the variety called ‘Red Wonder,’ which produces intensely flavorful berries all season long.

‘Red Wonder’ also has great value as a garden plant. It does not produce runners, which are common to many Strawberry plants. Instead, it grows in neat, low mounds. Strawberry ‘Red Wonder’ flowers all season long, but in a very hot summer, it may take a break before blooming again as the nights cool down.

1. Edge a Mixed Border

Our White Garden has for years featured a neat row of these ornamental plants.

2. Edge a Vegetable Garden

We sprinkle a few of these berries atop our breakfast cereal in the morning.

 

3. Plant in Containers

Using a Strawberry Jar makes it easier to grow more berries since you can pick them from all sides of the container. We used Mara des Bois Woodland Strawberries in this Strawberry Jar.

4. Create a Strawberry Patch

Strawberry ‘Red Wonder’ is perennial in zones 4-8, and will return year after year.

5. Line a Walkway

Plant these berries along your walkway in sun or part-shade and enjoy the cute white flowers and tasty Strawberries all season long.

 

Our Top 5 Gifts for Mother’s Day

For moms everywhere, the last year has been a tremendous challenge. In addition to juggling the routine demands of family life, many were called upon to manage daily child-care duties and the ups and downs of remote learning all while trying to hold down their own jobs. Mother’s Day, May 9th, is a terrific time to show your Mom a whole lot of love and appreciation. Scroll below, and you’ll find a broad array of botanically inspired gifts. (For order deadlines for all of our Mother’s Day gifts, click here).

1. Lavender ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ in Pendu Pot

Moms who love the soothing sight and scent of Lavender will delight in this beautiful, fragrant favorite. We ship bushy plants in a handmade clay pot with saucer. The plants thrive indoors in a sunny room.

2. Burgundy Compact Moth Orchids in 5″ Ceramic Cachepot

Burgundy Compact Moth Orchids in 5" ceramic cachepot
Treat Mom to beautifully proportioned, long-blooming Moth Orchids that bear 2″ velvety blooms in rich burgundy. The plants are larger than Mini Moths and more compact than taller, standard-size varieties. We ship budded plants with blossoms that will open in sequence and last for weeks.

3. Lavender Fields Wreath

Lavender Fields Wreath
Picture our bestselling dried wreath in your Mom’s house. Sprigs of lovely Lavender and blue-gray Eucalyptus are arranged with the subtle purples, blues, and whites of dried Caspia, Phalaris, Rice Flower, Statice, and Larkspur. Our wreath is great for indoor decorating, and it’s a lasting beauty that mom will cherish for many months to come.

4. Grace Bouquet

Grace Bouquet
Send Mom a bouquet that’s as special as she is. The Grace Bouquet was designed exclusively for us by floral designer Semia Dunne of Providence, R.I. It showcases Roses in a smoky lavender color, vibrant Iris, and boldly hued Statice. In addition, fragrant Eucalyptus, Freesia and elegant white Peonies add beauty and unforgettable perfume.

5. Serenity Bouquet

Serenity Bouquet
Give your Mom a gorgeous bouquet in a soothing palette of pretty pastels. Our Serenity Bouquet blends white Roses, Peruvian Lilies, Carnations, and Baby’s Breath with pale lavender Stock and the leaves of Eucalyptus and Ruscus to create a bouquet that adds serene elegance to any room.

When in Doubt, Delight Mom With a Gift Certificate to White Flower Farm 

If you’re not certain what your Mom might like most for Mother’s Day, you can always delight her with a gift certificate to White Flower Farm. Our gift certificates never expire, and they invite your Mom to choose whatever she’d might like from our wide array of garden plants, houseplants, garden decor, decorative accessories and gift items. A gift certificate also welcomes her to White Flower Farm, where our knowledgeable, friendly staff will be happy to answer her garden questions. Gift certificates valued at $50 and more are 10% off. Click here to order.

 

Growing Roses Is Easier Than Ever

Today’s Roses are not your grandmother’s finicky, high maintenance plants. Thanks to the efforts of talented and patient breeders, many of today’s Roses are vigorous plants that more readily shrug off pests and diseases and bring years of classic beauty, and often fragrance, to the garden. What this means for gardeners is that growing Roses is easier than ever. For novices or those who could use a refresher, our nursery manager Barb Pierson offers these simple tips:

Helpful Tips for Growing Roses

1. If you live in a colder climate, as we do here in Connecticut, try growing Roses close to the foundation of your home. This provides plants with some degree of winter protection. Walkways are also good spots provided there is full sun. This is generally defined as at least 6 hours per day of direct sunlight.

Rose Suñorita™

2. Remember that light changes as the angle of the sun shifts throughout the season. If you live in the upper half of the U.S., choose a site that will offer full sun year-round. The more sun you have, the more flowers your plants will produce. In the lower half of the U.S., choose spots with a little bit of afternoon shade. This protects blossoms from the scorching sun and helps your flowers last longer.

Rose Ebb Tide™

3. Roses love sandy soil. Amend your soil accordingly to provide the best footing for plants. Also choose sites with good drainage, which helps ensure that Roses overwinter more successfully. They do not like wet, cold feet.

4. Do not crowd your Roses. Plants that don’t have adequate air circulation and sunlight are more susceptible to powdery and downy mildew. Remove any spent foliage from the ground around your Roses. The leaves contain natural fungal spores that can transfer to your Roses.

Rose Olivia Rose Austin™

5. Artificial liquid fertilizers tend to promote plant growth that is soft and tender, and this type of foliage can attract aphids and other pests. Instead, rely on compost and natural fertilizers to feed your plants.

Rose Julia Child™

6. If problems develop, horticultural oil and insecticidal soap can help control insects and mildews.

Rose Pretty Polly™ Pink

7. When pruning, be judicious. If you prune too hard in autumn, plants can be damaged beyond recovery. Instead, wait until spring, when plants begin to leaf out for the new season. (Roses are often not the earliest plants in the garden to respond to spring’s warming temperatures, so be patient.) Give the plant time to show its leaf buds then prune above that level.

Amending Your Soil to Maximize Tomato Harvest

One day's tomato harvest, rinsed and ready for cooking and freezing
Some of the fruits of our colleague’s 2015 tomato harvest, rinsed and ready for cooking and freezing.

When it comes to growing tomatoes, it seems every gardener has an opinion about how to get the biggest and best harvest. A recent staff discussion focused on techniques for amending the soil prior to planting tomatoes. The idea is to give the plants all the nutrients they need to produce a bumper crop of tasty fruits, a practice that’s particularly important for gardeners whose plots are smaller in scale or whose properties make it difficult to rotate planting beds.

Last year, one of our staff members did a good deal of poking around on the Web, which, while sometimes a hazardous pursuit, inspired her to try some traditional but more recently underused ideas. She decided to take a few chances with amendments that are more common to the kitchen waste bin or compost heap than the nearest big box store. The result? She enjoyed her highest yields ever on a varied crop of tomatoes that ran the gamut from cherries and paste tomatoes to slicers and beefsteaks. She feasted on salads, BLTs, gazpacho, and stuffed tomatoes all summer and still had plenty of beautiful, ripe fruits for making sauce and roasting tomato wedges with basil (for a bruschetta topping). She froze chopped tomatoes to use in soups and chili recipes, and froze tomato sauce, as well as the aforementioned bruschetta topping. (We’ll be running these recipes later in the season.) Needless to say, she made some of us a little jealous with her wintertime lunches. Determined to enjoy similar results and to share her rediscovered techniques with you, we ran her list of amendments by our nursery manager Barb Pierson, another champion tomato grower. Pierson applauded some of our adventurous colleague’s amendments but voiced concerns about others. What to do? We thought it best to set it all down, and let you make your own decisions based on circumstances in your own backyard.

We start by digging holes about 15in deep
To begin amending the soil, start by digging holes about 15 inches deep (this is not your planting depth, but the space you’ll need for adding amendments).

Soil Amendments Used Successfully by Our Adventurous Colleague

Since Tomato plants are deep-rooted heavy feeders and thrive in highly organic soils, the ground must be well prepared with nutrients to sustain them throughout the growing season, optimizing growth and fruit development. Everyone has their own recipe for improving soil with organic matter, but here’s what our adventurous colleague tried with great results:

She dug deep holes (at least 15” deep, if possible. Note: this is not the depth for planting a tomato but rather it’s a hole deep enough to accommodate the amendments before planting). Into the hole, she added the following:

Fish
Fish heads, fish fillets from the supermarket freezer section, or a handful of fish and kelp meal help boost soil nutrients.
  • Fish heads (or frozen fish fillets, if you can’t get fish heads): Put 1 fish head or the equivalent in the bottom of each hole. You also can add a handful of fish and kelp meal to help boost the nutrients.
eggshells
As winter shows signs of coming to an end, we begin collecting eggshells. Just rinse them and keep them a bowl in the refrigerator or in a protected outdoor space. Before adding to the soil, crush them with a potato masher or with your hands.
  • Crushed eggshells: These add calcium to prevent blossom end rot. Throw a couple of handfuls in each hole.
bone meal
Here we add a handful of bone meal.
  • Bone meal: This promotes strong root growth and abundant blooms. Add a handful to each hole.
Compost and composted manure
Compost and composted manure are great additions to the soil for tomatoes and lots of other plants. Compost adds basic nutrients and improves soil structure. Composted manure provides nutrients all season long.
  • Composted manure: This provides a slow release of nutrients over the growing season. Add a couple of handfuls to each hole.
  • Compost: It will add basic nutrients and improve soil structure so the soil drains well yet retains some moisture. Add 2-3 handfuls in each hole.
Combine all the ingredients, and mix!
Combine all the ingredients, and mix!

Please note that the 15” hole will be partially filled with the amendments, which should then be partially buried by some of the soil in your garden (think of the hole as a big mixing bowl). This process of amending can be done prior to planting your tomatoes when the soil temperature is still on the cool side.

Pierson does not recommend fish heads or bone meal because “they would attract critters and most likely your plant will be dug up.” (It should be noted that a family of raccoons in the neighborhood of our adventurous colleague left her tomato plants alone, but depending on how many critters live in your area and how well your vegetable garden is fenced, you may wish to select and tailor your amendments accordingly.)

Pierson agrees that compost and eggshells add beneficial nutrients to the soil, but she isn’t sure the quantity of eggshells noted above would be enough to provide calcium throughout the season. Perhaps the thinking should be that that every little bit helps.

Pierson ends by saying, “Preparing the soil should focus on: Did you have problems the previous season? And practicing good sanitation [i.e. disposing of plants and clearing the garden beds] at the end of the season so that disease issues don’t start again. Moving your garden location is essential if problems were severe.”

But the main thing Pierson stresses for successful tomato harvest is soil texture. “Soil texture is important – turning the soil, adding high quality potting mix and focusing on drainage are very important. Roots need air to breath and to take up nutrients, compost creates air pockets in the soil. Having a light well-drained soil is the most important thing.”

So there you have it. An array of options, some or all of which are bound to improve your tomato yield. Our best advice is to take into account the conditions in your backyard and vegetable patch, and choose the amendments that work best for you. Some trial and error may be required, but that’s just the way things go in a garden. As Pierson put it, “I like the idea of trying things, that is what growing is all about. There are no right or wrong answers, only what works for you in your particular environment.”

Early Spring Bloomers

Start the spring color show early in your garden with a variety of early blooming perennials, shrubs, and trees. From Witch Hazels, which blossom in late winter, and Hellebores, which generally flower before the last of the snow has melted, to Virginia Bluebells, Brunneras, and Magnolias, there are countless ways to incorporate a rainbow of rich colors into your spring planting schemes. What better way to celebrate the arrival of a new growing season?

Witch Hazel ‘Jelena’

The best antidote to winter is a planting of Witch Hazels. This genus of 5 species of upright, spreading shrubs or small trees provides the first big display of color, beginning in late February or early March and continuing for 6 weeks or more depending on the season (the flower petals sensibly curl up if the temperatures plummet). For an even earlier display, cut some branches in January and force them into bloom indoors. Plants thrive in average, well-drained soil.

We love Witch Hazels for the color they bring to winter gardens and for their hardy, problem-free nature. ‘Jelena’ is a favorite, with large ribbonlike petals that gleam coppery orange. In autumn, the shrub lights up again as its matte green leaves turn fiery shades of red and yellow.

Hellebore Gold Collection® ‘Madame Lemonnier’

Hellebores are considered aristocrats of the woodland garden. Native to Europe and western Asia, the genus contains about 20 species of perennials that bloom in early winter in mild climates and in late winter or early spring where the soil freezes hard, which makes them either the last or the first flowers in the garden. In our gardens here at the farm, they are among the first plants to bloom, bringing a splash of color to the late winter garden, sometimes blossoming amid the last of the snow. They require a moist but well-drained site under the shade of trees. Take care to amend the soil with plenty of organic matter, such as well-aged leaf mold and compost. You’ll be rewarded with long-lived, deer- and vole-resistant plants that will spread nicely on their own.

Hellebore Gold Collection® ‘Madame Lemonnier’ is a large-blossomed beauty that was discovered by a gardener in Normandy, France, where her passion for growing Hellebores turned into a full-fledged hybridization program. The plant’s 3″ upfacing blooms are rich purple red, and are held above lush green foliage on tidy, clumping plants. Under greenhouse conditions at the nursery, many of these impressive blossoms exceeded 4″. A magnificent addition to shade gardens.

Forsythia x intermedia Show Off®
Forsythia x intermedia Show Off®

It is impossible to live in a northern climate and be unfamiliar with Forsythia. The durability, vigor, and abundant yellow flowers of this early bloomer make it one of the most popular and important ornamental plants known. Forsythia Show Off® is perfect for a tight hedge or a specimen in a border. From France comes this compact variety whose golden flowers are brighter, larger, and stacked closer along the stems from soil to tip. Another bonus is the dark green foliage.

Magnolia ‘Genie’

Magnolia is a genus of over 100 species of trees and shrubs widely distributed from the Himalayas to East Asia and in the Americas. Introduced Japanese and Chinese species and their hybrids, such as the showy white Star Magnolia and the pink Saucer Magnolia, draw the most attention in spring. The handful of species native to Eastern North America include the magnificent, evergreen Southern Magnolia (M. grandiflora), Sweet Bay (M. virginiana), and the large Cucumber Tree (M. acuminata).

Magnolia ‘Genie’ is a fairly compact variety, growing 12–15’. In early spring, lightly fragrant, 6″ cupped blossoms appear on slender branches, like goblets of burgundy. A second, lighter flush of bloom arrives in midsummer when provided with full sun and adequate moisture. Bred in New Zealand, this slender, well-branched variety blooms for a longer period, even when young. An ideal small tree to feature alone, in pairs, or to put the finishing touch on a mixed border.

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’

A friend of ours once referred to this charming plant as “prompt” because of the way its beautiful silvery green leaves break ground quite early in spring. They’re followed by a haze of tiny azure flowers, which give this plant one of its nicknames, False Forget-me-not. (It’s also sometimes known as Siberian Bugloss and Heartleaf Bugloss.) Brunnera is most at home in woodlands or along shady stream beds, where it will form a lush understory of quiet beauty. Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ is a standout variety with frosted leaves veined and outlined in green. The plants grow to 12″ tall and as wide, and while the blossoms provide a fleeting show, the foliage looks superb all season long.

Mertensia virginica
Mertensia virginica

Everyone loves Virginia Bluebells (M. virginica) for their sapphire blue flowers on 18″ stems that gleam from shady spots in April and May, making them an ideal underplanting for shrubs and trees. Plants thrive in deciduous shade and moist soil, where they will seed themselves to create a charming colony.

Trillium grandiflorum 'Flore Pleno'
Trillium grandiflorum ‘Flore Pleno’

Trilliums are spring-blooming wildflowers much prized by woodland gardeners for their delicate, 3-petaled flowers and distinctive foliage. Trillium grandiflorum ‘Flore Pleno’ is an exquisite double form that produces pure white flowers in April and May, which will enchant you and all visitors to your garden.

Gifting and Receiving Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) for Christmas

Whether they’re a traditional gift you love giving to friends and family every December, or it’s your first time receiving an Amaryllis bulb for Christmas, the Amaryllis is a perfect way to brighten the darkest days of winter for your loved ones. Native to the subtropical regions of the Americas, with brightly colored flowers now available in myriad color combinations, the Amaryllis rivals the Poinsettia as the official holiday season plant in the Western Hemisphere. With a few easy steps, you or your giftee can enjoy stunningly colorful blooms this winter

Amaryllis for Christmas Gifts

If you guessed that the Amaryllis became a popular Christmas gift because it blooms in the winter, then you’re correct. But the Amaryllis’ winter bloom is not its primary bloom—in its natural state (planted in the ground) it flowers primarily during summer. The bulbs can be potted and induced to rebloom in the winter, making a perfect gift to add glorious, lively color to an indoor setting. In other words, by forcing dormancy, we can encourage this summer flower to bloom in winter, resulting in a vibrant display.

Ensuring Your Amaryllis Blooms for Christmas

Though it can bring colorful life into any home throughout the winter, many prefer the Amaryllis to bloom at Christmas, while others feel there is enough color during the holidays and prefer the company of the Amaryllis in the dark days of January that follow. This versatility allows you to buy an early-blooming South African Amaryllis for yourself or a loved one, with a planned blooming around Christmas, or to give later blooming Dutch Amaryllis as Christmas gifts to be enjoyed after the holidays.  

When you buy or receive an Amaryllis bulb, it’ll likely come packaged as a dormant, bareroot bulb, or already potted with soil. Pre-potted bulbs need only water and the proper temperature to grow healthy, tall flowers. While many bareroot bulbs will need to be properly potted before watering, the large size of White Flower Farm’s Amaryllis bulbs allows them to be potted with nothing more than stones and water, if you prefer to show them off in a glass vase. Larger bulbs in any variety also produce more stalks and therefore more brilliantly colorful flowers.

Once planted, a dormant bulb takes about eight to ten weeks to begin blooming, which means that to ensure a lovely, full Amaryllis for Christmas, you should plant and water them in early November (to be on the safe side). Keep in mind, this estimate is for dormant bulbs without stems (which is how White Flower Farm will ship them to you) under optimal conditions, with proper care. Retail stores and other shops that do not specialize in Amaryllis bulbs may sell bulbs that have already started to grow stalks, which may indicate poor storage conditions. 

Amaryllis growing in greenhouse

Also, if you are replanting your own bulbs that were once planted outside, you need to force them into dormancy at the end of summer, in order to control the bloom for winter. To force dormancy:

  • Remove the dead leaves from your planted Amaryllis
  • Remove the bulb from the ground
  • Pot the bulb in soil
  • Place the potted bulb in a cool, dark, dry room, such as a basement or closet
  • Make sure the temperature remains between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Store for 8 to 12 weeks without watering to ensure dormancy

You can then transfer the dormant bulb to a new pot and soil, or to stone and water potting as described above.

Storing Your Amaryllis Bulbs

The dark days of winter have been illuminated by weeks of flowering Amaryllis inside your home. Now what? Though many treat Amaryllis bulbs as annuals—buying new bulbs each fall and winter—the bulbs are perennials and some have been known to flower annually for as many as 75 years. To ensure your Amaryllis bulbs continue to brighten your winters for years to come, you’ll want to rebuild your bulb and plant it outside in the spring, following our step-by-step guide for rebuilding Amaryllis bulbs

Amaryllis ‘Flamenco Queen’

With a few easy steps, an Amaryllis can deliver gorgeous color when it’s needed most. Even a novice gardener can maintain a beautiful, flowering Amaryllis for many years, which is why the Amaryllis makes such a wonderful Christmas gift.

Late Season Perennial Garden

Top 5 Perennials for Late Season Interest

Create an autumn color show in your garden with perennials that come into their own late in the season. Asters, Ornamental Grasses, Rudbeckias, Russian Sage, and Echinaceas are among the plants that put on a brilliant display in the fall.

1. Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’

Aster x frikartii 'Monch'

Its graceful 2-3′ stems bear masses of 2½″ flowers all summer, in an extraordinary shade of lavender blue. An outstanding middle of the border plant with Achillea, Alchemilla, Alstroemeria, Antirrhinum, and Astrantia.

 

2. Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’

Ornamental Grass: Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

Also knows as Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ is one of our favorites because of its upright habit and good manners. It forms neat clumps of foliage 18–24″ tall. In June, the toasty brown, feathery flower spikes rise up to 5′ or more. By August they are narrow shafts of a buff color. Consider summer and fall-blooming perennials as companions: Achillea, Rudbeckia, Helenium, Asters, Monarda, Perovskia, Phlox, and Oriental Lilies.

 

3. Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

Rudbeckia fulgida sullivantii 'Goldsturm'

The Black-eyed Susan, is a glorious and traditional highlight of summer. While the native plant is enchanting, ‘Goldsturm’ improves upon an already good thing by providing more and bigger flowers in a consistent bright golden yellow on upright plants that reach 40″. Plant with Salvia, Phlox, Asters, or Perovskia.

 

4. Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Jean Baby’

Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Blue Jean Baby'

Topping out at 30-36″, this hardy, compact Russian Sage is a great choice for anyone whose garden is too small for the original Perovskia atriplicifolia which can grow to 3-4′ tall. Stems of silver-green foliage with small purple flowers erupt in a lilac haze in midsummer and the color lasts until fall. Companions include: Hydrangea, Salvia, Phlox, & Echinacea.

 

5. Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’

Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'

We find real value in this popular variety. The petals are an especially vibrant carmine-rose shade and are held almost horizontally, making a more open face than the shuttlecock shape of the species. Lovely with the blue wands of Perovskia.

 

Looking for more late season interest plants?

Every garden needs a sampling of easy-care, late-season stars to maximize the season of bloom and carry the garden into fall. A number of the plants on our Late Season Interest Plants page also provide essential food for pollinators, who need nourishment and support as the season nears its end.

Need a shrub or two to complete your late season garden? Hydrangeas are at their best in summer and fall—a quiet time for most woody plants—and are worth having for that reason alone. You’ll find the full range of Hydrangeas we offer here.

Hydrangea paniculata Fire Light®

Tips for Growing Peonies

One of our favorite sights and scents in the garden is the yearly parade of Peony flowers that happens each June at the farm in Morris, CT. These gorgeous, and often fragrant, plants are very easy to grow. Below you’ll find some basic information about Peonies along with keys to success that will help you grow your best Peonies ever.

What’s the difference between Herbaceous Peonies and Tree Peonies?

Herbaceous Peonies naturally die back to the ground in fall. Tree Peonies, which aren’t “trees” but shrubs, have a woody structure that remains above ground through the plant’s dormant period. The woody trunk and branches should never be pruned to the ground.

How deep should Peonies be planted?

Herbaceous Peonies that are planted too deep will fail to bloom. If you are planting a potted Peony (one that has top growth), set it in a hole so it sits at the same level it’s at in the pot. (In other words, do not sink the plant so deeply that soil must be mounded against the stems.) If you’re planting a bareroot Peony (a bareroot is just what it sounds like: a section of the plant’s rootstock with bare roots and “eyes” or growing buds), dig a shallow hole and arrange the crown so the growing buds or “eyes” are facing upward and are covered by only 1–2″ of soil in the North, barely 1″ in the South. (See diagram below for how to plant a bareroot Herbaceous Peony.)

 

When should I stake my Peonies?

Double-flowered Peonies (which have layers of petals so the blossoms tend to be fuller and heavier than Singles) generally need staking. Set the stakes and string in place when plants are a few inches tall, so they’ll grow into and hide the framework.

Are ants bad for my Peonies?

As Peonies produce flower buds, you may see ants crawling on the unopened buds. The ants do no harm. They simply like a sticky substance that covers the buds.

What if I see black leaves on my Peony plant?

In a wet season, botrytis, a type of fungal disease, may blacken the flower buds
and cause stems or leaves to wilt.  Promptly remove and dispose of any infected plant parts. Clean up all foliage in the fall and place in the trash, not the compost. (Ridding your property of any diseased foliage will help prevent the disease from wintering over and returning the following year.)

What can I plant with my Peonies?

Peonies are exceptionally long-lived, and even after bloom, they provide a mound of handsome foliage that adds structure and presence to borders and beds. Allowing for good air circulation, plant Peonies with Baptisia, Nepeta, Clematis, Roses, and Siberian Irises for a glorious June show.

To learn more about growing Peonies visiting our Growing Guide.

Catching Up – With Customers & Existing Orders

Dear Customers & Friends,

I write to apologize for what has become, for many, an unusual and uncomfortably long wait for order delivery. To the extent that any of you, our valued customers, have been disappointed or discouraged by our performance this spring, I sincerely apologize. These are not ordinary times. As the season has progressed, we have attempted to be forthright about our fulfillment capability, and we hope you can bear with us just a little bit longer. Please be assured that our team is working around the clock to address questions and concerns as they arise and to get orders out the door as expeditiously as possible. In the meantime, I can offer an update and some information that may be helpful.

When can I expect delivery of my existing order and/or newly placed order?

Our staff is now focused exclusively on fulfillment, and we anticipate that ALL existing orders will be shipped by the first week of June at the latest. Please keep in mind that our practice has always been to ship tender plants including annuals and vegetables to the warmest hardiness zones first. That means customers in southern-most states receive their plants ahead of those in cooler climates. Shipment of tender plants to customers in New England and other cooler parts of the country will follow. This year, owing to spring’s unusually cold temperatures in the northeast and some other parts of the country, shipping would have been delayed regardless. Plants are sent only when we believe they can travel safely and arrive in the condition consistent with our standards. Again, we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience these delays may be causing.

No More Plant Orders for Spring

Due to this spring’s unprecedented sell-outs and a sustained, high volume of orders, we have, as of May 12, 2020, stopped accepting new orders for all plants that are shipped in spring. This suspension will alleviate the pressure on our shipping line, providing our staff with a much-needed opportunity to catch up on existing orders. Please note that orders for items including tools, supplies, cut flowers, Orchids, and decorative accessories continue to be accepted at this time. Bulbs, perennials, shrubs and vines may be reserved now for autumn. They will be shipped at the proper time for fall planting in your area.

Store Events & Display Gardens

The White Flower Farm Store and display gardens remain closed to the public. All events through June have been cancelled. If it is possible to open the store and gardens sometime later this season, and to do so safely, we will be overjoyed to welcome you. In the meantime, we are offering a curbside pickup program that features a specific list of plants, you’ll find the details here.

How To Contact Customer Service

Our customer service team continues to work from home and is therefore not available by phone; please email custserv@whiteflowerfarm.com with any specific inquiries or concerns – response time is, at the moment, about 24 hours.

We thank you for your forbearance and for the patience and understanding this strange season has asked of all of us.

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.