Ok... it's been a bit busy around here... and it's going to get busier

Autumn colors close up cropped.jpg

Hello, flower lovers. As many of you know, I have been quite lax with blog posts and have been relying on my newsletter to keep you all up to date with flower happenings here at Butternut Gardens. I don’t exactly have a stellar record with getting out many newsletters this year, either, but that is another matter. I hope to get back to blogging because I miss it, and I have heard that many of the Butternut Gardens flower lovers “out there” also miss it. Time is always the limiting factor. Well, this year, rain was a bit of a limiting factor as well. I am not sure I am ready to talk rain just yet. Today had to be one of the first sunny days in months. Boy, did I love it! I have been soggy all season, except for a few weeks sometime in the mix.

So, what’s new here? I did not install the drip irrigation this year. Oh, that’s right, I wasn’t going to talk about rain, but it was such a big factor this season, I seem to have ended up on the subject again. Moving on.. we ventured into corporate pop up shops this year, and had such a fun time bringing wonderfully fresh flowers to a workplace. Imagine walking into a corporate conference room or cafeteria and seeing tables of flowers blasting color and fragrance in every direction! Yahoo. Even better, as purchases were made, gorgeous blooms “wandered” into personal office space and, after work, into homes. I loved it! Totally made my heart soar. Sharing flowers really makes me happy. I keep saying, if others did not enjoy Butternut Gardens flowers and designs as much as I do, I could not have nearly so much fun growing nearly so many flowers or varieties of flowers. So, thank you, one and all, for your continued support (and for your great taste in flowers). If any readers in the Butternut Gardens region (say an hour’s drive to hour and a half’s drive or less) want to have a pop up shop at their work space, please contact me through the contact us page of this website.

A recent pop up shop came with an extra bonus, as new autumn wreath designs were debuted. In the next week or so you will find some totally awesome handmade wreaths - with dried flowers and “silk” - available for purchase through the Butternut Gardens website, and also at some of our retail partners. Each one will be unique. We can ship anywhere in the United States. This is truly exciting from my end as it enables another area of creativity to emerge. Items will be limited this year as we gear up this area of design, but many of you know already how beautiful they are through workshops we have given. Check the website in another week or so for offerings. Also, on Sunday, October 14th, Butternut Gardens will be a vendor at the Fairfield CT Fall Harvest Festival at Fairfield Town Hall Green (10 AM to 4 PM) and these gorgeous new wreaths will be a big part of our display, and will be available for purchase.

Also new this year, Butternut Gardens will again create beautiful handmade winter holiday wreaths. It has been several years since we offered these. Some of you still have magnolia wreaths created by Butternut Gardens years ago. i am most happy to offer these again. Like the autumn wreaths, these will be available online through this Butternut Gardens website and also through some of our retail partners. Please check back here in a week or so and, hopefully, we will be up and running. A few other surprises are also in the offing - can you say, “winter bulbs” to brighten those short-day months? Yes!

Piggybacking on the corporate flower popup shops, Butternut Gardens is working on some in-home flower parties as well. Stay tuned for details.

This year, we have added several “flower partners” to our little flower operation. That means more flowers being grown and more customers having access to our farm fresh flowers. Needless to say, that takes time and lots of hard work. Definitely fun and worth it, but definitively cut into blog time this year. Weddings, too, kept up pace with former years, and kept my communications limited.

All in all, it has been another wonderful flower-filled growing season. It is not over yet. The dahlias are blooming their little heads off right now, and some specialty mums are just about ready to get started. It is, however, coming to a close sooner than later. That does not mean the work ends. It simply means the work changes. Lots of garden cleanup lies ahead. There will come a day when the season officially ends, and I always meet that day with very mixed feelings, but that day is still a couple of months away.

I want to wish you all the best in your gardens for the rest of this season. Enjoy the time in the sun, fresh air and soil. It is very special to have this all at our fingertips.

How well do your dahlias multi-task?

Are your dahlias good multi-taskers?  Of course they are!  Look at what they are doing above soil level -- lots of great foliage coming out and flower buds on the "to do" list. Now consider what is happening below soil level -- roots, roots, roots... Yes, your dahlias are GREAT at multi-tasking. 

As a flower farmer, I want this multi-tasking to continue SORT OF.  From now until frost I get a lot of requests for dahlia FLOWERS but not so many requests for "roots". As a result, I am out pinching my plants to push them into bloom and flower mode.  So, what is pinching? It is simply cutting off the tip of the growing shoot. As a result, the plant sends out two new shoots on the sides and just below this pinch point, and starts to put more interest in leaf and flower growth. Hurray. Success. In all actuality, the plant would get to the bloom stage without my doing a thing, but this gives me two potential flower stems instead of one at a low point on the main stalk. This helps ensure good sturdy flower stems as well. So, here at Butternut Gardens LLC, "Operation Dahlia Flower Production" is on the front burner and it won't be long now until you can pick up some amazing dahlia blooms here at The Little White Flower Cottage or at one of my wholesale customers. Why not give your dahlia plants a pinch as well?

Fleur du Jour - Bright Yellow Zinnias in only 4 more months

I feel like all I have doing this winter is staring at spreadsheets, as I plan this upcoming season, and staring at snowflakes. Add in a bit of shoveling to make pathways for the dog, and that just about sums it all up. This is what makes it so hard to believe that in only 4 months I will likely be looking at some amazing rows of zinnias - true summer flowers. One of the hardest things for me to do is to wait to start all of the seeds.  Some seeds, including zinnias, simply do not take very long to get going. Starting seeds too early is counterproductive. There is no benefit to having a seedling waiting unnecessarily for warm enough weather to be planted outside. It is best to be patient (and finish up the paperwork while you still have time to think). Once the season starts, thinking time is all but nonexistent.

Booking 2015 Weddings with Dahlia Love

I thought I would offer up Dahlias as today's fantastic Fleur du Jour as both a way to really make us miss, I MEAN LOOK FORWARD TO, summer and as a way to say I AM NOW TAKING BOOKINGS FOR 2015 WEDDINGS.  

While many people think of Dahlias as fall flowers, which they most certainly are, Dahlias here start blooming at the tail end of June and early July. Different varieties are earlier or later by nature in showing off their remarkable blooms. Some variability also results from how early or late spring arrives and from how "on time" I am with putting the tubers in the field. Last year it was cold longer and I was later. That said, I cut the first flower on July 7. If you are planning a wedding before July, no need to worry as plenty of amazing flowers bloom before the dahlias!

For couples looking for late summer and fall weddings, Dahlias can be a lovely addition to bouquets, centerpieces and other floral designs. As a rule, I like to limit my full service weddings to one a day so as to give the best of myself and my flowers. I will add bulk flower orders for DIY brides who are making their own arrangements and will put together bouquets or other wear and carry pieces for the same day for my "Something In Between" brides if I feel I can do so with the quality I demand.  So, as we wait for dahlias together, please contact me soon if you, or someone you know, are looking for your 2015 wedding florist. Congratulations to all the BEAUTIFUL  wedding couples and their families.

More June Blooms

The bright yellow yarrow in lower right puts real zip into any bouquet. Yellow and orange red hot pokers can be seen in the center of this grouping.

The bright yellow yarrow in lower right puts real zip into any bouquet. Yellow and orange red hot pokers can be seen in the center of this grouping.

In the previous Fleur du Jour I highlighted the bright and smashing red hot pokers, which actually come in many shades from red to orange to yellow as well as mixes of the above.

Today I want to share a lovely pink and yellow combination from June, in which the yellow red hot poker and amazing yellow yarrow work beautifully with the season's pink dianthus, pink larkspur and pink Canterbury bells.

Last year I cut 295 stems of the truly striking yellow yarrow known as Coronation Gold for early summer bouquets, and saved another 125 stems for fall cuts.

By the time I take the fall cuts, the once bright yellow flower heads are a perfectly muted golden tone for the fall palette.

With first cuts of Coronation gold yarrow made on June 10th last year, we have just over 120 days (and much snowmelt) to go to 2015 blooms.

Zinnias are Coming!

Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous.

Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous.

I choose today's Fleur du Jour - beautiful and bold Zinnias - to brighten up this white, wintry landscape. I cut thousands of Zinnias each year. They are one of the best cut and come again flowers going for summer and fall. Last year's first Zinnias popped open on June 10th and continued to frost, gracing bouquets and arrangements for a good 4 months. In 2014 I cut 3,242 stems of one variety alone (many different colors). It was not the best year for "zins" but I would say that was certainly good enough! Based on last year's first cut date, only 128 days to beautiful show-stopping Zinnias! Wow!

A Dahlia's Year

One of the rites of summer around here at Butternut Gardens is seeing which variety of dahlia will be the first to bloom, and when it will happen.  Some naturally bloom a bit earlier, but of the early bloomers, there is always a bit of variation. Two years ago, 'Bashful' broke the barrier on June 28. Last year it was 'Jitterbug', also on June 28, and this year, a red Karma won the race, but several weeks later owing to a late spring, and my delay in putting the tubers in the ground.

From that day in mid-summer until the first

hard frost, which is usually around October

15, I enjoy hundreds of dahlias blooming

every day in their absolutely stunning array of



Look carefully, and you will see one of my

dinner plate dahlias, called 'Ice Cube' to the

left. It truly is the size of a dinner plate! 



Dahlias survive the first light frosts of fall, as do many bees, which end up spending the night on the blooms.

As a rule, I will not cut a bloom with a resting bee. Come cool days and nights, I often delay my morning cutting until the warmth of the sun gets my little friends wiggling and buzzing. In fact, a number of bees even survive the first hard frost, when the dahlias do not.

As soon as this first hard frost hits, the dahlias are immediately done for the season as far as cut flowers go.

For two weeks or so in mid- to late-October, I do nothing, but I know each of the dahlia tubers is hardening off underground.

The leaves, meanwhile, turn brown and black.

Come early November, I cut the stems to about six inches above ground.

Within the week, I gently pull all dahlias from the ground by hand, and maybe the slight help of a shovel.




It amazes me that what went into the ground as a single "fingerling potato-sized" tuber, emerges as a mammoth cluster of tubers, some nearly two feet in diameter, others more round, but with equally numerous new tubers attached.

Digging dahlias in bulk is heavy work, as so much growth quietly takes place under the summer sun.


Once out of the ground, I physically cut the clump apart (not easy work) keep one tuber per plant, rinse off the soil and write the name of the tuber variety on the tuber itself with permanent marker. For several days, I let the tubers dry in the sun on newspapers. Then, it is time to box them up for winter storage. I overwinter dahlias in moistened pet shavings place in cardboard boxes. I use clear shavings, not cedar shavings, and I mix in just enough water to make the shavings moist, but not truly wet. Too wet will promote rot. Too dry, and the tubers will shrivel and may not be as viable come spring.

My dahlias "winter" in the cooler where they enjoy temperatures in the low 40's. Every month, or so, I peek in a couple of the boxes to make sure I don't have rot, or to sprinkle a bit of water if anything seems dry.


Depending on temperatures, dahlia planting for the new growing season begins mid-April to mid-May.

By then, rows are tilled and waiting.

I put a bit of bone meal at equal intervals down the rows, and this helps me set my spacing for the tubers.

Following the advice of a long-time dahlia farmer, I plant my dahlias close to the natural surface level and then "hill up" over the tubers.

I do not water when I plant.

It takes weeks for the first shoots to break the surface, which is long enough for me to wonder if anything is ever going to happen.

Sure enough, it does, and it is always very exciting watching rows of soil become rows of dahlias! If, by chance, a late spring frost hits after shoots emerge, it does, in fact, kill off early shoot growth, but the tubers underground fare fine, and the dahlias thrive nonetheless.

I try to set up support netting as soon as

possible once the shoots appear, since

dahlias tend to grow and branch rather


First I do a careful weeding, and then set up

rows of 6" x 6" support netting.

Even though it costs more, I personally do

not like to see plants growing in bare soil, so

I add wood bark mulch (not fresh wood

chips) at this time as well.


When new shoots reach 12" to 18" I do a single "pinch" meaning I cut the stems to prompt the remaining stem to branch at the pinch point. Then, once again, I wait, as each plant pushes out more leaves, the first small buds, and, finally, sometime in late June or early July, that first fully developed dahlia bloom. Thus, the dahlia's year comes full cycle, once again, and it is time, once again, for the myriad of dahlias to shine in farm bouquets, table arrangements and the hands of many radiant brides.

Ummmm.... that's a lot of dahlias and it is only one of my dahlia growing areas! Hard to believe they all start from scratch every year.

Ummmm.... that's a lot of dahlias and it is only one of my dahlia growing areas! Hard to believe they all start from scratch every year.