By Colleen O'Neill Nice
Returning to the Southtowns of Buffalo for my eighth outing to area nurseries, I mapped out a route encompassing several rural towns. I invited my mother, our family’s grande dame of the vegetable patch, to join me. Since I can remember, my mom has always tended a garden. While growing up, our large fenced-in yard was an edible paradise. Traversing the back of our property was our vegetable plot, a cornucopia of goodies. Three apple trees were equally spaced in the middle of our yard, providing shade and an abundance of fruit. In spring and early summer, the fallen, immature apples were great ammunition for wars with my three siblings. A large arbor smothered in grape vines camouflaged the garage. My mom canned applesauce and grape jelly. She preserved tomatoes and peppers for sauce and chili. Snacking was simple back then – a bunch of grapes, a few radishes or a handful of chives. Yum! Today, transplanted into a smaller home, my mom tends four raised beds overflowing with veggies. Our childhood home and garden – just a memory. So off we went – in search of exceptional ornamentals and edibles – just me and my mom.
Cool, early morning temperatures greeted us as we meandered through the multicolored fields at Lasting Dreams Daylilies. Orderly beds contained rows of clearly labeled plants, some with blooms screaming for attention, others blanketed with buds. Passionate and enthusiastic, owner Anthony Haj and his wife Carol, maintain a six acre farm with three acres dedicated to northern hardy daylilies. They work with hybridizers in both Canada and the United States offering an impressive collection of over 1200 AHS (American Hemerocallis Society) registered cultivars. Anthony designs custom perennial beds for his clients by orchestrating daylily colors, heights, bloom times and flower sizes. According to Anthony, “daylilies offer a long season of bloom with the peak for our region in mid July”. Early varieties like Hemerocallis ‘Electric Man’, start blooming in mid June with bright red flowers. H. ‘True Devotion’, one of many late blooming cultivars, flourishes with six inch white blooms in late August and continues blooming into September. Fragrance is always a welcome attribute and H. ‘Dutch Yellow Truffle’ exhibits jazzy double blooms of lemon yellow with a rose halo and an intoxicating scent. Incorporating a rebloomer like H. ‘Cosmic Courier’ adds double the show, with four inch pale orange flowers outlined with gold bubble edging. See the Haj’s complete list of daylilies at www.lastingdreamsdaylilies.com.
Our next stop, Eden Valley Growers, is a ten member vegetable-growing cooperative that has been in existence for over 50 years. Strong communication between these third and fourth generation farmers has resulted in a successful wholesale business servicing local retailers and wholesalers in Western New York. Wegmans and Tops Friendly Markets purchase spring, summer and fall vegetables from the co-op. One of the members, D&J Brawdy Farm, operates a greenhouse open to the public and stocks flats of spring annuals, geraniums, tropical plants, hanging baskets, herbs and vegetables. They also sell supplies including soil mixes and fertilizers.
Do you love to cook? Visit Agle’s Farm Market to not only purchase fresh, locally grown vegetables, but get free recipes too. Are you zealous about zucchini or ravenous for rhubarb? Try zucchini soup, chocolate zucchini cake or custard rhubarb pie. Collected from local farm families, recipes are strategically placed around the fresh produce to tempt you. If plants are your passion, be sure to check out Agle’s impressive containers. “The girls at the market do the combination planters,” says owner Karyn Agle, “as well as custom combinations for anyone bringing in their own planters to be filled.” Here, the common houseplant, wandering jew (Zebrina pendula) adds spunk to silver leaved plants like dusty miller or helichrysum. Toss in Rex Begonia ‘Salsa” and your planter squeals “PERFECT!” Familiar coleus were grouped together in a wall trough overwhelming a humdrum brick wall. Ordinary plants used in extraordinary ways, just amazing! Be sure to stop in and see the new 2014 colors of trailing petunias, million bells and zonal geraniums.
Henry’s Gardens, in its second year of business, focuses on providing customers with beautiful flowers at a fair price. Here you can find a generous selection of unusual cut flowers, both annuals and perennials, to grow in your garden. Some favorites include giant zinnias, gomphrena, matricarias and several varieties of crested and plumed celosias. A state-of-the-art greenhouse is chock-full of green-roofed bird houses, living wreathes and winter-hardy succulent containers. Window boxes, spilling over with color, texture and diversity, truly reflect the very talented owners. Visit Henry’s Gardens in April, May and June for hanging baskets, containers, annuals, perennials, vegetables and herbs. In July, August and September locally grown “Fair Winning” zinnias are fresh cut and ready for a vase. One of a kind dried wreathes along with dried flower bouquets are available from September through November.
Open all year long, Bella Terra Greenhouses grows plants for every season and stocks accessories for every garden. Fountains, bird baths, gnomes, locally made bird houses, fairy doors and flower-themed canvas prints are just a few of the unique garden novelties. Well stocked shelves include fertilizers, pond supplies, tools and containers. As we browsed the generous selection of edibles, we discovered artichokes, cheddar cauliflower, broccoli rabe and Tomato ‘Topsy Tom’.
A new perennial introduction at Bella Terra, Coreopsis ‘Mercury Rising’, was blanketed with velvety, magenta petals. It blooms all summer and into the fall, when the flowers develop white streaks highlighting the dark red blooms. Just 15 to 18 inches tall, it grows mildew free and attracts bees and butterflies. It is one of the first coreopsis to display a vigorous, spreading habit, often intermingling with neighboring plants. Another interesting perennial I discovered was a variegated, drought tolerant, Silene dioica ‘Clifford Moor’ (variegated campion or catchfly). From early summer to fall, dainty purple star-shaped flowers contrast with the duple green foliage on two foot tall plants. Low maintenance, ‘Clifford Moor’ has a fine and delicate texture which remains dense right to the ground. Use it to full effect as a border edging or for naturalizing in a woodland garden. This slow grower prefers bright shade, but will tolerate full sun.
Bella Terra focuses on five planting seasons. Spring commences with colorful and fragrant Easter plants like primroses, tulips, daffodils, azaleas, mums and calla lilies. Mother’s Day ushers in gerbera daisies, Rieger begonias, hydrangeas and charming container plantings. Summer launches an abundance of bedding plants, herbs, vegetables, perennials, hanging baskets and shrubs. Fall is highlighted with chrysanthemums and fresh flower arrangements for Thanksgiving. Poinsettias, fresh wreathes and greens complete the Christmas season.
A lunch stop at Dan’s Diner in Angola featured “home cookin” at its best. Established in 1980, Dan’s serves breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 2 PM with specials posted daily near the entrance. Breakfast is served on Saturdays from 7AM until noon. The restaurant is closed on Sundays. All meals are cooked to order and reasonably priced. Try their homemade, fresh-cut curley fries, grilled sandwiches, soups, and more.
Just down the road is Chiavetta’s Potatoes and Greenhouse, a fourth generation family farm. Jumbo pots of mandevilla and black-eyed susan vines climbed skyward between voluminous hanging baskets dangling from above. Flowering annuals, herbs and vegetables paraded on the tables below. Searching for a unique spiller for my mixed containers, I spotted Solanum jasminoides ‘Aurea’. It’s common name, variegated potato vine, should not be confused with the vigorous Ipomoeas. Bright yellow leaves are splashed with irregular mid green centers. The mottled foliage makes a perfect backdrop for petite white blooms. Cascading S. ‘Aurea’ grows six feet long and prefers sun to partial shade. It can be overwintered as a houseplant in a sunny window.
Chiavetta’s grows several ornamental grasses which can be used to fill holes in the perennial border and add height to container plantings. Pennisetum setaceum ‘Cherry Sparkler’ counts on cream and green striped foliage, with a pink blush, to captivate its audience. Red burgundy flower plumes, two feet tall, arch effortlessly all summer in full to part sun. A bit taller, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’ forms a mid-sized mound reaching three feet tall. Its burgundy-purple blades are striped with hot pink edges. Nodding, red bottlebrush seedheads appear in late summer, turning tan with age. Deer, heat and drought tolerant, the annual grasses offer a big bang for your buck. They are low maintenance and fast growing. According to gardeningknowhow.com, overwintering fountain grass is possible. First, cut the grass back to about three inches in the fall before a frost. Then place the pot in a sunny, cool location or in your basement. Water once a month, keeping the grass slightly moist but not soggy. Following the last spring frost, move the grass back outdoors. Be sure to browse Chiavetta’s large selection of perennials and their produce stand, stocked with a complete array of vegetables.
If you are looking for unusual plants, as well as tried and true favorites, Turnbull Nursery and Garden Center has it all. The Summer Chocolate Mimosa Tree (Albizia julibrissin 'Summer Chocolate') standing alongside several tree-form cultivars of hydrangea paniculata, was eye-catching. It’s chocolate-burgundy, fern-like foliage reminded me of an exotic tree fern. It’s umbrella-shaped canopy and fragrant clusters of pink, puffy blooms begged me to reconsider. A fast growing, sun loving, deciduous tree, the chocolate mimosa is hardy in USDA zones 6b to 10. It reaches 30 to 40 feet tall. Don’t allow this charmer to jump into your backseat before giving it some siting considerations first! On the lookout for small evergreens for my newly created rock garden, I discovered the extremely hardy groundcover, Massachusettes bear berry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi "Massachusetts"). It sat amongst the likes of ‘Mr. Bowling Ball’ arborvitae and ‘Blueberry Delight’ juniper. Bear berry is a multi-stemmed shrub growing just twelve inches tall and four feet wide. Pink flowers highlight it’s fine texture in the spring. Tiny, glossy forest-green foliage turns burgundy in the fall and is dotted with a multitude of red berries. This long-lived, low maintenance shrub is a slow grower, prefers sun to partial shade and requires poor acidic, sandy soil. Consider using this evergreen in your rock garden to add winter interest.
Turnbull grows edibles to incorporate into your landscape for a delectable bonus. The ‘Chicago Hardy’ Fig (Ficus carica) is easy to grow in full sun and produces medium-sized, sweet fruit in summer and early fall. It can withstand subfreezing temperatures (USDA zones 6-8), dying back in autumn, then resprouting in the spring. Heavy mulch with hay or leaves is recommended for northern zones. This fig grows just two to three feet tall and can be grown in a large pot or out in the garden. Leaves are 5-lobed and form a bush shape. Looking for a bizarre Harry Potter-ish plant? A Flying Dragon Hardy Orange (Poncirus trifoliata “Flying Dragon’) may be the answer! With a twisted, irregular shape and sharp curved thorns on the branches, this wicked shrub produces fragrant white flowers and yellow-orange fruit. The ping pong ball-sized pomes are very bitter and can be used as a substitute for lemons or made into marmalade. Originating in China and hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9, the Flying Dragon requires full sun and moist soil to reach a mature height of eight to ten feet. Due to its density and spines, it is useful as a barrier hedge and is not recommended for gardens with children. Turnbull grows a colorful mix of sedum called ‘Flaming Carpet’. The hardy, drought tolerant trio includes ‘Angelina’, ‘Blue Spruce’ and ‘Voodoo’, all growing in one pot. Mark your calendar for Turnbull’s annual spring bare root sale. The bare root barn is open from mid-March until May and offers a wide selection of cost saving bare root trees, shrubs and vines. Go to www.turnbullgardencenter.com for more information.
A visit to Windy Acres is a must for every vegetable gardener. Paul and Beverly Wojtaszczyk opened their small and personal greenhouse in 1999. Seventy percent of their nursery plants are grown from seed. According to Beverly, “Patio tomatoes are one of our most popular items. I grow them in large pots, and by selling time, they are loaded with green tomatoes. By May, our patio cherry tomato plants are very large and in fruit as well.” Two of the Wojtaszczyk’s recommended cherry tomato varieties are ‘Chocolate Cherry’ and ‘Cherry Falls’. “We grow ‘Cherry Falls’ in hanging baskets and they were fantastic last year,” comments Beverly. New heirloom tomatoes for this year include ‘Pineapple’, ‘Black Pineapple’, ‘Big Zac’ (huge and delicious), ‘Black Krim’ and ‘Kelloggs Breakfast’. A new Japanese cucumber ‘Natsu Suzumi’ and a container cucumber, ‘Patio Snacker’, are also newcomers for 2014. Vegetable plants include all colors of hot and sweet peppers; a large variety of kale and lettuce; and an assortment of basils and other herbs. Squashes, melons, chard, cauliflower (both orange and white), pak choi, corn, onions, and celery are grown as well. “Candy onion is huge and sweet, and is very popular here,” points out Beverly.
Visit Windy Acres to find uncommon hanging baskets of trailing snapdragons and colossal containers of Colocasia gigantea ‘Thailand Giant’. Many customers, enticed by the purple tinted leaves and large bell-shaped flowers of the Cup and Saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), return year after year. Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) and begonias are also favorites, along with tropical milkweed (Asclepius curassavica), which provides nectar for butterflies. Long blooming, this milkweed is a perennial in the southern U.S., but can be grown as an annual in the north. Try potting it up in the fall and growing it indoors over the winter. Beverly’s favorite perennials embody several colors of coneflowers and gaillardia, heuchera, asclepius and exemplary varieties of hosta. The Wojtaszczyk’s even grow fruit trees. Amongst the ‘Honeycrisp’ and ‘Fuji’ apples are Asian pears, cherries, apricots, plums, plumcots (a natural cross hybrid between plums and apricots), nectarines and quince. Espaliered apples and combination fruit trees, with four or five different varieties grafted on one tree, are popular for small gardens. Fruiting shrubs include ‘Spartan’, ‘Coville’, ‘Berkeley’, ‘Pink Lemonade’ and ‘Blue Ray’ blueberries; ‘Red Lake’, ‘Consort Black’ and ‘Jostaberry Black’ currants; ‘Hinomaki Red’ and ‘Pixwell’ gooseberries; and ‘Chester Thornfree’ blackberries. Paul and Beverly find time to offer a container-grown veggie class; host a dog rescue fundraiser on May 18, 2014; and cultivate a “concrete garden”. “Everything we grow in the greenhouse and in our own gardens, is also grown in containers on our driveway,” reveals Beverly. Windy Acres is open seven days a week from 8 AM to 8 PM from April first until July first. From July first to November first, business hours are 9 AM to 6 PM except Tuesdays when they are closed.
Masterson’s Garden Center and Aquatic Nursery is the largest pond supplier in WNY with over 30 years of experience installing ponds, water gardens and natural farm ponds. They offer one hundred different varieties of floaters, oxygenators, marginals and deep water aquatic plants including lotus and water lilies. One of my favorite aquatics is Ludwegia sediodes, commonly called the mosaic plant. I first encountered this cutie at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens where it intermingled with water lilies and lotuses on Lily Pool Terrace near the Conservatory. Tiny diamond shaped leaves glistened in the sunlight and formed perfect rosettes of red and green floating on the surface of the water. They look like stained glass and at first, I could not believe they were living, breathing plants. Small, cup-shaped flowers, which bloom from June to August, add a glint of gold. What a surprise to find it flourishing at Masterson’s. Be sure to visit their display gardens and greenhouses. Both are stocked with annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees and loads of ideas. Beautiful plant combinations overflow from unusual containers; cucumbers climb inverted tomato cages; and do-it-yourself Gronomics kits include vertical and patio gardens to build. At Masterson’s you can find a complete line of beekeeping, equine and chicken raising supplies. Parents and grandparents will appreciate the Melissa & Doug gardening supplies for kids including wheelbarrows, shovels, brooms, butterfly nets, gloves, totes and more.
Tired at the end of a long day of nursery hopping, we unpacked our treasures and collapsed. Our scenic drive spanned over a hundred miles, encompassing nine amazing greenhouses stocked with a multitude of plants and plenty of ideas. We met some wonderful plants people, who took time to share their expertise and knowledge with us. And we discovered several new plants that we just couldn’t live without.
Colleen O’Neill Nice is a passionate gardener in Clarence, New York and specializes in fern propagation.
Printed in the Upstate Gardeners’ Journal, March-April 2014
Lasting Dreams Daylilies
6425 South Abbott Road
Orchard Park, New York 14127
Travel time: about 11 minutes to Eden Valley Growers
Eden Valley Growers, Inc.
7502 N. Gowanda State Road
Eden, New York 14057
716-992-9721 or 716-992-3454
Travel time: about 1 minute to Agle’s Farm Market
Agle’s Farm Market
7952 Gowanda State Road
Eden, New York 14057
Travel time: about 9 minutes to Henry’s Gardens
7884 Sisson Highway
Eden, New York 14057
Travel time: about 18 minutes to Bella Terra Greenhouses
Bella Terra Greenhouses
8607 North Main Street
Angola, New York 14006
Travel time: about 2 minutes to lunch
69 N. Main Street
Angola, New York 14006
Travel time: about 4 minutes to Chiavetta’s Greenhouse
Chiavetta’s Potatoes & Greenhouse
9784 S. Main Street
Angola, New York 14006
Travel time: about 4 minutes to Turnbull Nursery
Turnbull Nursery & Garden Center
10036 Versailles Plank Road
North Collins, New York 14111
Travel time: about 21 minutes to Windy Acres Greenhouse
Windy Acres Greenhouse
6175 Wagner Road
Springville, New York 14141
Travel time: about 30 minutes to Masterson’s
Masterson’s Garden Center, Inc. & Aquatic Nursery
725 Olean Road
East Aurora, New York14052
At Lasting Dreams Daylilies, Hemerocallis 'Dutch Yellow Truffle' delivers fragrance as well as double lemon yellow blooms.
Hemerocallis ‘Cosmic Courier’ is a rebloomer with pale orange flowers outlined with gold bubble edging.
Hemerocallis 'Electric Man' is an early variety of daylily which starts blooming in mid June at Lasting Dreams Daylilies.
A 36” coco-lined wall trough was used to create a stunning display of coleus, sweet potato vine, licorice plant and variegated periwinkle at Agle’s Farm Market.
Agle’s Farm Market uses an ordinary houseplant in this stunning display. Zebrina pendula (wandering jew plant) happily climbs through Begonia rex ‘Salsa’ and Helichrysum thianschanicum ‘Icicles” in a 16” coco-lined wall basket.
Welcome your feathered friends with a green roof birdhouse from Henry's Gardens.
At Turnbull Nursery and Garden Center, mixed pots of sedum include three varieties – ‘Angelina’, ‘Blue Spruce’ and ‘Voodoo’.
Artichokes – just one of the many edibles at
Bella Terra Greenhouses.
A mix of annual ornamental grasses at Chiavetta's Potatoes & Greenhouse.
Mixed succulent planters at Henry's Gardens.
The chocolate-burgundy foliage of the Summer Chocolate Mimosa Tree at Turnbull Nursery.
Windy Acres displays various begonias inside their greenhouse.
Water lettuce, water lilies and the mosaic plant are just a few aquatic plants at Masterson’s Garden Center & Aquatic Nursery.
Mixed containers feature several aquatic plants at Masterson’s Garden Center & Aquatic Nursery including iris, water lettuce and Houttuynia cordata, commonly called the chameleon plant.