I went to visit my hometown over the long July 4 weekend (a small town named Brooklyn in the NE corner of Connecticut) and on a whim, I decided to swing by Logee's, a local greenhouse, in Danielson, CT on my way home. This is a great trip if you are looking to get out of the city:
However, I felt like those Bigfoot hunters do, the ones who have problems with their cameras. They come back with big stories and a blurry photo that could very well be their wife running out of the shower, wrapped in a fuzzy towel. This is a greenhouse with a long history (100 years+) that has anything and EVERYTHING, and is well-known especially with orchid growers. The moment I arrived I knew I should snap photos.
We were on a mission to find a few good houseplants for our back reading room (north and west light). On that day we were helped by a woman named Jody, who reminded us of why these rural shops are so special. She spent as much time with us as we needed, gave us a wealth of information, and was never pressuring us to buy. Somehow she felt like an extension of the greenhouse; possibly they also grow their own workers, too? But the battery light was blinking, only a limited time before my digital camera would leave me high and dry. Her enthusiasm was infectious and we soon found ourselves imagining plants in all of our rooms. The greenhouses are a mixture of large, old growth (not for sale) that has become a part of the architecture of the greenhouses, and new growth that is put out for purchase. It feels as if you are shopping in a tropical rainforest, a fantasy place that you might have seen in a childhood dream. After showing us other options, Jody led us to begonias. At first I yawned because it seems as if that is what you find in every flower shop in the city, What I did not know is how many varieties there are, and how many Logee's would have. We walked away with three different varieties, all looking like they could never be related.
We also bought a flowering maple, which does very well in partial sun and has beautiful, papery, poppy-like blossoms. Ours is flourishing after only two weeks at home, even after our cat, Popcorn, ate all of the delicious blossoms (bad kitty!). Jody also helped us to pick plants that would not harm our cats. We picked up different herbs, like thyme, oregano and mint, which look great when potted together. We even purchase a small flowering cactus that is enjoying its spot in our one sunny area. And catnip. It does well in low light and has been giving our cats a constant buzz. Jody suggested it as a hanging plant so that the cats will only munch on what dangles, since cats will eat it down to the roots and then sit on top of it if given the chance. She also suggested papyrus, but it was bigger than what we could bring back. Logee's has an online store and will ship to you (do a search for begonias and see how many they have!). They also are available by phone if you need advice on caring for what you ordered. Everything you order online is plucked right from their greenhouses and packed in their shop. But there is nothing like visiting to inspire you to grow your own plants, and get firsthand advice from employees like Jody. What we learned from her is that you can focus on growing just one type of plant as a way to build up your basic knowledge. Begonias are great because there is so much variety and they are fairly hearty - a good chance you will have great success. We also got advice on repotting, which you can do right at the store. They have a potting station with free soil (see photos). Repotting is only necessary after a plant has outgrown its pot. If you put a plant in too big of a pot too quickly, it can be bad for its health. Plants thrive when they have JUST enough room for the roots and proper drainage. The soil needs to be packed evenly, with no air pockets - mold can build up in these areas and kill the roots. She also showed us that you can weigh down a pot for a top-heavy plant by putting a rock or ceramic pieces in the bottom. Once you have this down you can start enjoying your plants and taking care of them as they grow. MN