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|2012 Newsletter - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly!|
Last year, in this newsletter I wrote about Mother Nature needing to cut us a break; it took twelve months yet maybe she is finally starting to loosen her grip. 2011 brought us record snow in January, a near miss with the June tornado in Western Massachusetts that impacted a number of our customers and knocked down four trees here at the nursery, the tropical storm in August that brought us flooding and uprooted a couple more large trees, and finally the nasty Halloween snowstorm that disrupted power for a week and wrecked havoc in our display gardens and across the region. We feel lucky our damage was no worse than any of our neighbors and, of course, the hostas and other perennials will be none the worse for wear in the spring.
Overall, we will have many good memories from last year; we were a tour garden during the American Hosta Societies' National Convention (what a treat to welcome hosta royalty from across the country and abroad), we had visits from the Hardy Plant Society of Philadelphia, the Garden Club of Detroit, and we even welcomed garden clubs from Connecticut! We were fortunate enough to write an article on hostas that appeared in the July/August issue of Fine Gardening. It sure was fun to go to the local grocery store and pick a magazine off the shelf and find our article inside. We also had some nice local press. The moist late summer and fall made for a very productive growing season, which should result in robust plants this spring! Finally, this winter has been a welcome reprieve. With last winter still fresh in our minds, we have been busy clearing storm damage and prepping a new area for planting. We have plenty of firewood put up for next winter and plenty more wood ready to split for many winters to come!
As usual, a short introduction for the folks who don’t know us. O’Brien Nurserymen is a specialty nursery in Granby, Connecticut. We specialize in hosta, America’s #1 selling perennial. Our extensive display gardens feature over 1,900 hosta varieties as well as other shady characters including epimediums, woodland peonies, primroses, spring ephemerals, tricyrtis and arisaemas. The gardens also include a wide variety of unusual dwarf conifers as well as over a hundred varieties of Japanese Maples.
O’Brien Nurserymen is open for retail sales on designated weekends from April through October. The sales area features over 1,100 hosta varieties in containers, ready to go. We also carry many other gems, such as coralbells, dwarf conifers, Japanese Maples, daylilies, sedums and daphnes. We love to hear customers say, “We knew you had hostas, but we didn’t realize you had all this!”
Our off-site vending schedule continues to be a lot of fun, visiting friends and their gardens as well as offering our plants away from home. This year’s schedule will include; . . the Hill-Stead Museum’s May-Market, May 11 - 12 in Farmington, Connecticut. . .the En Plein Air Market at Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut on July 28. . .the Tri-State Hosta Societies’ Picnic and Tailgate Sale in Oak Ridge, New Jersey on August 4. . . the Hollister House Garden Study Weekend in Washington, Connecticut August 24 - 25 . . . and, finally, the American Conifer Society’s Eastern Regional Tailgate Sale, September 16 in Rockland, Massachusetts. At all of these events, we enjoy seeing old friends as well as making new ones.
We are excited to be able for the first time to be included in the nurseries that will offer plants with the Proven Winner Trademark. These are exclusive, high quality, top performing perennials that will be in special Proven Winner containers for easy identification in the nursery. These plants will have special Proven Winner labels with a Quick Response code that, when scanned with a SmartPhone, will reveal much valuable information.
We are also happy to offer for the first time in Connecticut hostas hybridized by our good friend and helper Kathie Sisson. She has been having fun making hosta babies for a few years now. Hosta ‘Cranberry Wine’ and H. ‘Gretchen’s Grace’ are two outstanding varieties from Kathie’s breeding program. Many other new hosta varieties will be making their debut in our sales yard this spring including Hosta ‘Emerald Scepter’, H. ‘Celtic Dancer’, H. ‘Blarney Stone’, H. Irish Eyes’, H. ‘Irish Luck’ (you would think O’Brien likes the Irish theme!), H. ‘Rockets Red Glare, H. Little Miss Sunshine’, H. ‘October Sky’ (which breeder Don Dean calls “one of his best blues”). Returning favorites that have been sold out in the recent past include H. ‘Cadillac’, H. ‘Risky Business’ and H. ‘White Wall Tire’. Oh, we would be remiss to not mention the very exciting Hosta ‘Wheee!’ from Connecticut hosta couple Bill and Carol. We also divided hostas from our gardens; the highlight of this group is the very rare Hosta ‘Flashdance’.
Yeah we love hostas but, boy, do we love the shade perennials that compliment the hostas. We divided the much requested Polygonatum odoratum ‘Double Wide’ from our garden last fall, this is the spectacular wide-edged form of Solomon’s seal. Another special Solomon’s seal returning to the sales yard is Polygonatum odoratum ‘Hillside Lime’ from the McGourty’s former Hillside Gardens. A close relative to the above is Uvularia sessilifolia ‘Blizzard’ a beautiful diminutive streaked form of bellwort. Finally we divided Asarum caudatum forma alba which has amazing unique flowers.
Always on the lookout for new exciting plants to offer, we peruse catalogs and visit many nurseries near and far. We feel we have once again found some treasures for which you will have to find a place in your garden. Our friend from Western Massachusetts will once again supply us with awesome lady-slippers, spring ephemerals, exclusive toadlilies and, this year, six different species of trilliums as well as the rarely offered trillium relative, Paris quadrifolia!
Karen Perkins from Garden Vision Epimediums will make a special guest appearance May 25 - 26. She will bring along a wide selection of epimediums and other collector plants.
For the sunny garden, from Michigan comes Paeonia ‘Cora Louise’ an intersectional peony with white flowers and deep lavender, purple flares. P. ‘Cora Louise’ joins P. ‘Bartzella’ and P. ‘Kopper Kettle’ that sold out quickly last year and had to be reorder. Other hard-to-find peonies came from Wisconsin, including P. tenuifolia and P. smoothii. Check our full list of peonies on our website. Our extensive daylily collection continues to expand, we are pleased to offer Hemerocallis ‘Stephanie Returns’ named for our friend and perennial diva Stephanie Cohen. This is a short, bi-colored, nearly continuously blooming daylily, therefore appropriately named for this diminutive lady!
Woody plants are numerous as well. We added many exceptional conifers and now offer nearly eighty varieties of maples. We are grateful to fellow UVMer Adam Wheeler for propagating our selection, Daphne ‘Carol’s Limelight’; we will have these on hand for sale this year. Lastly we found a grower in Rhode Island who propagates rhododendron so we have small plants of R. ‘Francesca’.
Wow, I’m out of breath just thinking of the work ahead in spring. We can’t wait for the weather to improve a little more so we can get to it. Hope to see you in the garden, and “Thank You” for helping O’Brien Nurserymen continue to grow.