My late summer garden

It is great fun shopping for plants. In my overflowing garden, one would think I would not have need for new acquisitions. This is simply not the case! Plants die or just don’t perform as one hoped, and I love passing on my garden favorites to others. As a bonus, there is space for something new! The horticultural hybridizers are creating many new garden-worthy plants, and some that aren’t. Of course, the latter group is only discovered upon trial, with subsequent failure and/or disappointment. Not all plants make it to my “proven winner” list! One of the major benefits of a cadre of friends/gardeners is the wonderful advice, generosity, and sometimes, consolation when plants do not meet one’s expectations.

Lately, I am dissatisfied with chain establishment plant nurseries/garden centers. They look alike with rows of familiar plant containers accompanied by their predictable labels. I truly love going to nurseries run and cared for by individuals or families, sometimes for generations. I still travel moderate distances each year to visit my favorites, and to experience new ones. Sadly, some have closed their doors. I cherish the plants that I have acquired through their love, skill and advice. These nurseries often have garden beds that showcase the flowers, shrubs, and trees where one can see how plants are used to create a garden landscape. I may purchase plants, not based on their appearance in the pot, but by the presence in their garden. When walking around with the owner/gardener, I am often guided to yet another interesting plant that I would have easily overlooked. It is fun making these excursions with similar-minded friends. Then, the major challenge is loading up the car with everyone’s new “babies.”

On our way home from northern NH, I stopped by a gem of a nursery located in Glover, Vermont (Northeast Kingdom), called Labour of Love. I had visited previously, but this time I was met by the owner Kate Butler, shovel in hand, as she had been tending the day lily field located next to a picturesque running stream. The hollyhocks surrounding her home were in peak bloom, and the display flower beds were breathtaking. Over the years, I have come to love succulents, and that was the primary reason for my visit. Kate propagates these interesting plants in raised troughs which were all rebuilt this past year. As we walked together through her collection of 150 varieties, she dug out the chosen ones (I wanted all of them); and provided me with useful growing information. These potted treasures now line my entry walkway. More importantly, I have taken to my home and garden a piece of her “labor and love” and the memory of my visit to this unique garden and its artistic creator.

Recently, I visited Rocky Dale Nursery in Bristol, Vermont, a place I have gone to for almost 20 years. It is just under a three-hour drive (each way), but I am never disappointed! This year I again spent time with Amy, the nursery manager who has decades of gardening experience. I also spoke with Ed Burke, the current owner. During his 15-year tenure, he has added much, including a beautiful woodland path along towering granite cliffs and stream. This bed is filled with interesting plants, and there I discovered a new variety of creamy white monkshood in full bloom. Happily, I found the very last container of that plant still available for sale. Everywhere, there is the sound of flowing water from a spectacular fountain centrally located amongst the garden plants, many of which are grown on site. On an earlier trip, I discovered a pink flowering gentian, which Amy dug out of a growing bed for me. Whenever that gentian flowers, or I pass on a piece of that plant to a discerning gardener, I reconnect to those memories.

These small nurseries fuel my love of plants and gardening in a way that is almost impossible to express in words alone. They function like the small family-run farms and CSA’s that nourish us, while simultaneously meeting our needs of community. I feel good when I support them. Included are links to these nurseries, and of course, some photographs that capture the spirit of these special places.

The Nursery Tour

Succulents in a tree opening … I would never have thought this possible, and cannot wait to try this in my garden. [Labour of Love]


Plants of incredible texture. [Labour of Love]


And variety [Labour of Love]


And interest [Labour of Love]


Day lily field, beautiful brook with cooling sounds of water, and hollyhocks. [Labour of Love]


Hollyhocks in their glory! I do not think I have ever seen them more beautiful. [Labour of Love]

Hens and chickens in flower … [Labour of Love]


A sampling of the specimen trees at Rocky Dale. Over the years, I have acquired a few for my garden.


Absolutely beautiful stonework with inspired plantings; and above me, towering granite cliffs. I think successful gardens blend with their surroundings and reflect the creator’s spirit. [Rocky Dale]


Sounds of water and the energy of a joyful nursery. [Rocky Dale]


Interesting white monkshood. Perhaps my small, newly acquired ( yet to be planted) specimen might look like this in a few years time! [Rocky Dale]


Newly built arbor surrounded by plants … many of which I gave great attention to while Greg was hiking a portion of the Long Trail. He was worried I would not be occupied for the thee-hour duration. Hah! [Rocky Dale]