Archive for July 2011

Daylilies For Sale

Marshfield is at its best in the summer. The Farmers Market runs every Friday (2-6pm). The beaches beckon. We dine al fresco. My garden flourishes and the yard becomes a leisurely extension of daily living. Other local resources make summer special, too. I recently discovered a new (to me) nearby marvel — Dick & Carolyn Houseman’s Daylilies For Sale on Union Street, Marshfield.

I know the Housemans from our bookclub. When Dick speaks, we listen. I had heard about their daylily event and Carolyn invited me to visit this year at the peak of their season. Post heat-of-the-day last Saturday, I dropped by and beheld the lilies of their fields. Wow.

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Carolyn gave me the overview: They started about 9 years ago on a partial whim, heading toward retirement.

Now both are retired and working tirelessly full time to tend the field that they started small and have grown to include over 250 daylily cultivars.

Names like:  Chicago Ruby, Cisty, Kindly Light, Maurice Rivero, Kwanso, Web of Intrigue, Siloam Red Ruby, Chicago Sun, Lemon Dazzler, Cedar, Monrovia Gem, Chicago (it goes on…). What’s with the preponderance of lilies named “Chicago?”

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They also have grown their mailing list to over 150 devoted followers. Loyal customers even bring plants to them – sometimes for identification, sometimes for donation. It suits them just fine and Carolyn marvels at friendly gardeners who stop by to exchange daylily tales. Gardeners are the nicest people, she says.

July is winding down. According to their schedule next weekend is the 2011 finale, until next year. Give ’em a shout, drop by, get on their mailing list (abijahfarm  @ Tell them a nice person sent you.

Marcia Greenhouse Lady

I’ve tried all sorts of early planting tricks – sprouting seeds under my own grow lamp, shopping on-line, buying big box store seedlings and local nursery sprouts. Gardeners like me eventually realize that getting the darn things germinated and ready for planting is an art and a science in and of itself. My focus, as readers should know by now, is enjoying the garden and minimizing the hassle. (Some day, in my retirement, I will putter around aimlessly, joyfully, deliberately poking and prodding seeds and seedlings into their full stature — until then, I’m stuck with a work schedule that robs me of daylight.)

So, who you gonna call when you need healthy, happy, locavore plants that will thrive (guaranteed!) in your garden: Marcia – the Greenhouse Lady who runs “A Family Affair” nursery in Hanson, MA.

Marcia Baker started her greenhouse and nursery business with her father, a retired carpenter, in 1983, under the name “Greenhouse Club.”  Marcia says

I sought people who would pay a small fee to help me in the greenhouse in exchange for plants at a wholesale price.  Then, some of the girls wanted to start their own seeds and thus started the table rental program.

And thus was born her off-season business – winter greenhouse table rentals for gardening enthusiasts who haven’t the space or the infrastructure to support their habit.

She knew nothing about running a business  except that her retired father needed to be kept busy. In the early days, it truly was a family affair. They sold all sorts of stuff: mums, pumpkins, squash, consignment goods, wreaths, and Christmas trees. There were ups and downs. Eventually, Marcia shooed dad out of the way and focused on floral and vegetable items. Weddings, wisteria, galas, geraniums, ageratum to zucchini.

My brother, Chris, and his wife, Heidi, live across the street. Chris has succored his seedlings under Marcia’s roof for a while (10 years?). It sounded like a good way to chase off winter’s blues. I signed up. I failed to show up. The 40 minute trek after dark via back roads didn’t work for me. So, I switched horses in mid-stream and instead of growing my own, consigned my list of annual favorites to Marcia. Come spring, Marcia selects the adolescent plants, gives me a pickup date, and I show up, ready to transport them into my garden. She even helps you load up!

It’s the best of all worlds because I get hand-tended, hearty plants nurtured in my planting zone, tended by a caring person (ix-nay on ig-bay ox-bay ores-stay) and an email when they’re ready. This year I forgot and ordered some online plants (sweet potato vine) as well as ordering them through Marcia. Folks, the jury returned its verdict: the mail order batch is guilty of failure to thrive. Marcia’s stock? Full and bushy and beginning to trail (sorry I didn’t order more from her).

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In case you’re planning your plantings for next year with Marcia in mind, this may be her last season. After decades in the biz, she longs for her summers back to cruise and chill with recently retired hubby. Understandable but sad. Another local institution will fade when “A Family Affair” shutters its year ’round retail business. Marcia says she will always be available for special events. Floral arrangements and weddings are a specialty of hers.

But with heating oil at $600/month and table rentals pulling only $90 she knows her loyal, longstanding customers cannot absorb her higher costs. And then, there’s always the travel and family affairs she’s missed around Easter, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day in order to support her business.

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It has been both a job and a passion for Marcia Baker. A Family Affair may be winding down (VISIT WHILE YOU CAN!) but it’s unlikely to fade away entirely. We are sorry to lose her, happy for her future endeavors.