Monthly Calendar: Chelsea Flower Show May 21 – 25, June 1 -30 Lupines in New Hampshire




Photo Credit: Stephanie Stanton Photography


Trade Secrets May 18 and May 19

This is the long-awaited weekend in Sharon, Connecticut. Those of us who live in New England know that it snowed recently. And that when it wasn’t snowing it was raining. So spring is very green. And it’s not too late to consider buying some additional plants for the garden. Just in time the annual TRADE SECRETS rare plant and garden antiques sale. Some of the plants are not so rare, like gerbera, African daisies, which are always so cheerful and will keep blooming all summer. And those shade-loving tuberous begonias, which brighten up those dark corners. Then there is Issima, from Rhode Island. If you are looking for something on the wild side, take a look at their crazy hydrangeas. This is certainly worth the trip. If the $125 causes sticker shock, remember that’s for the fancy 8 am breakfast. But it’s all for a good charity, Women’s Support Services, which helps women who are victims of violence. There is a 10 am ticket, without the breakfast, for $50 And there is a last minute, dash and two-hour shop, for only $25 admission, at the gate. That starts at 1 pm and ends at 3 pm.

Warning, there are 60 vendors, so we suggest you study the list of vendors in advance. There are 60 of them, and you can’t see them all.

It takes place at Lionrock Farm, 30 Hoosier Road, Sharon, Ct. Sunday there are self-guided tours of four nearby private gardens, including one by Bunny Williams. Tickets for that are limited, and sold only in advance. See information on the web site.

Information at


The Phoenix Art Museum show “Flora”: detail, embroidered leather boot by Mark Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, 2002

to August 18 “Flora” at the Phoenix Art Museum, an examination of how flowers have inspired fashions throughout the ages. Ensembles by Marc Jacobs, Comme de Garcons, Charles James and others. Historic garments with embroidered floral motifs. In the Ellman Fashion Design Gallery and Lewis Gallery. Admission, $23 adults.


Open Days: Before we list garden tours, consider joining the Garden Conservancy and getting their list of “Open Days,” a chance to tour your region’s best private gardens on select open days. It is a rare chance to walk through local success stories, and to see how someone has solved problems that may have stumped you. It’s a wonderful way to spend a weekend, a great excuse for a short excursion, and a chance to be a snoop. Membership is $50 for an individual, $75 for a family. You get immediate access to the Open Days schedule, which is available in March for those up north who enjoy walking through mud.


May 10 to 19 Rochester, New York, Lilac Festival An annual event since 1892. There are more than 500 varieties of lilacs, although most people end up calling them purple, pink and white; visitors to Rochester should be certain to stop by Dinosaur barbecue.


May 15 to May 19 The 84th Annual Rhododendron Festival, Port Townsend, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. There are those who do not understand the rhododendron. Unlike the lilac, it’s not something you bring indoors and welcome. Mostly you look at it from afar. But here the giant bushes have become the focus of an end-of-winter celebration. This winter has been particularly brutal, with a heavy snow pack. That means spring will be especially green and rivers will be running high, making the Waterfall Trail an exciting trek. There is a web site with all the deets, but the main ingredients seem to be wine, chocolate and cider. Pets are welcome. Many other places have their own Rhododendron festivals, including the 33 acre Dexter Rhododendron Garden in Sandwich, Massachusetts, with 100 varieties, and no admission charge.

May 21 – 25 The Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show (London), held on the 11-acre grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The show is so popular it is covered by the BBC, and tickets must be bought in advance; many days sell out far in advance. Because the Duchess of Cambridge is participating this year, the rush for tickets will be greater than usual. If you have any connections in the Royal Horticulture Society, or the Royal Family, now is the time to use them. Prince Charles, he-who-will-be-king-some-day, has won several prizes at the Show. It’s a family duty to support the Royal Horticulture Society and the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Duty calls.



June 1 through 30 The 26th Annual Celebration of Lupines in Franconia, New Hampshire and surrounding towns. Visitors are welcomed to participate in photo contests, concerts, art exhibits and special tours. Yes, the word “lupine” is related to the word for wolf. And that’s because it was believed that both killed livestock. In fact, both do kill livestock. Various strains of lupine, lovely as they are, can kill animals and even make people sick. You won’t hear much about that in Franconia. Instead you will be encouraged to take photographs, listen to music and eat at local restaurants. Just don’t eat the lupines.


June 5 – 9 The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show. Capability Brown designed the gardens at Chatsworth, and the Chatsworth Flower Show is of the most important on the British calendar. The grounds, the exotic orchids, the show gardens, roses, and, not unimportant, strawberries and cream. All in Derbyshire.



July 1 – 7 The RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. Roses, a healing garden, teaching workshops, plants for sale, demonstration gardens, competitions, and strawberries and cream as well. Last year (2018) was a scorcher, which is perhaps why the tropical display below was the gold medal winner. Everyone can find something to love here, and it’s convenient to London.

Dennis Schrader & Bill Smith run a splendid green house and nursery on the north fork of Long Island. In July, for a day, they open their landscaped grounds, which they call Landcraft Environments, as part of the Garden Conservancy Open Day program. It’s one the private gardens that are open to the public starting in the spring and running through the fall. Go to to register for an email reminder of open days for gardens in your regions. The visits are free, but it is nice to support the Garden Conservancy.


The Grand Garden Show at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, running for three days, starting the last Sunday in the month; transportation is by bicycle or horse drawn carriage (no cars): there are tours of private gardens, garden lectures, demonstrations. Advance registration (pricey) required; day rates available.

September 8 – 13  Dream for a while: Four nights at a four-star country house south of London, visits to manors including Great Dixter House, Chartwell House (home of Churchill) and the home of Mrs. Greville and 13 gardens including ones designed by Gertrude Jekyll, Piet Oudolf, Edwin Lutyens; a dahlia flower show, guided tours, lectures and more English charm than you can handle. The trip ends at the 35-acre Savil Garden in Windsor, consider among the great ornamental gardens in England and beautiful in late summer. About $3,575 per person, including ground transportation, breakfast, four dinners and two lunches from

October 4 to October 10 The Festival of Flowers on La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain, Yes, people say Las Ramblas, and it is five sections but it’s one street, a former river bed, so, please, La Rambla. Normally colorful, for these seven days this Catalan market street, alive with food, bird stalls, an opera house, street performers, artists, strollers, becomes even more colorful with thousands of roses in honor of the patron saint of la Rambla, the Virgen del Roser. As if anyone needs an excuse to go to Barcelona.



November 1 – 23 All over Japan chrysanthemums are pinched back, primped and lovingly tended to peak this month. You will find displays of them here and in China, and it’s hard to pick one spot to recommend. But try the Bunkyo Chrysanthemum Festival at the Yushima Tenjin Shrine, which is convenient to central Tokyo. The 2,000 plants make an overwhelming display, especially the helmetlike ozukuri specimens: 1,000 flowers on a single stem.


December For holiday spirit, it feels good to go to a small town in Pennsylvania, one like Kennett Square, with about 6,000 people, some modest holiday decorations, cheerful store windows, caroling by the Brandywine singers, horse-drawn carriage rides, a couple of weekends of village holiday markets and the fire department brings Santa to have breakfast with the children. Kennett Square has something else: shuttles that will carry you to Christmas at Longwood Gardens, where 200,000 lights turn on at 3 pm every day it’s open, and carolers warble every evening. If this one-two punch doesn’t give you ideas for decorating a table, door or mantel, you aren’t paying attention. For admission and hours: