There’s an unwritten rule about Trade Secrets. In case you’ve missed all previous mentions of Trade Secrets, it is one of this country’s premiere plant sales, held right in our own backyard. Every year, Women’s Support Services puts on a benefit like you wouldn’t believe and we’re all the benefactors.
Originally the brainchild of Bunny Williams, it’s a rite of spring in Litchfield County. Volunteers donate their time and talents to invite the finest plant vendors and garden antique purveyors from New England and far beyond. Held rain or shine and located at LionRock Farm in Sharon on Saturday, May 14, it is followed by a tour of local knock ‘em dead gorgeous gardens on Sunday, May 15.
As for the unwritten rule: You should never plant the purchases that you’ve scored at Trade Secrets the very next day. What you want to do is give those little botanical newbies time to adjust to your property while still in their pots. Park them at home and go to the Sunday tours. That’s the tradition.
So, after you’ve scarfed up all those wonderful woodland treasures and every delightful little succulent, shrub, or savory (herb and vegetable plants are also on the sales field) of your dreams on Saturday, let them cool their heels for a day and go on the tours of this region’s finest gardens. Trust me, you’ll come home inspired and your plantings will be wiser as a result. Think of the Greater Good.
You don’t want to miss an opportunity to stroll Weatherstone. If ever there was a landscape that guarantees a direct link to cloud 9, it’s Carolyne Roehm’s confection of incredible water features, sumptuous greenery, and blossoms galore. From blossom-bedecked rose gardens with cultivar names you can’t pronounce to ton-loads of tulips, spring is done right on this 59-acre ode to joy.
Basically, Carolyne Roehm came to Connecticut to create a garden. Of course, she didn’t know it at the time. The fashion designer just thought she was moving to Sharon for a little green. The whole rainbow was not really in her reach when she first began visiting Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass.
“I just wanted to find a tiny place to rent in the country,” says the Missouri expatriate. The Hamptons were all well and good, but she’s not really the beachnik type. Give her green instead.
After she began dating Henry Kravis, the ante got upped beyond a little rental. That’s how they happened to be in the neighborhood of the expansive 59-acre Weatherstone estate. Roehm liked everything about the presentation from the wallpaper to the land—although the scape was more about cornfields than ornamental plantings when the purchase was finalized in the winter of 1983. Of course, the cornfields had to go. But beyond that, there wasn’t really a game plan beyond Roehm’s desire to get outdoors as much as possible.
Gardening started with a modest rose and perennial garden but ultimately expanded to earthmoving and pond digging. Although the original intent for the waterworks was nothing more elaborate than a trout pond that Kravis had admired in his travels, somehow that concept mushroomed into a canal and a “necklace” of water features scrolling beside a studio/library. The scale was beyond what Roehm had in mind.
“I felt like they were building Versailles,” she admits in retrospect. But doesn’t gardening always seem to snowball? The results are unparalleled in this country.
Over the years, all sorts of tapestry gardens, parterres, wonderful brocades of blossoms, vegetable beds, and other delights have sprouted to draw the nature-lover outdoors. Roehm claims she’s currently trying to simplify, but any sort of downsizing does not mean diminishing the flowers that she craves. Famed far and wide for her cut flower finesse and the author of numerous books on the subject, Carolyne Roehm could not possibly wean herself of that addiction. The results are everywhere at Weatherstone. The tulips move into primroses and hostas and roses by the bucket load. Surely some of those perks will be performing for the Trade Secrets tour date.
Carolyne Roehm would rather be bonding with her garden than pursuing any other pastime on earth. As she explains, “Gardening is like a love affair. It’s breathless, heartbreaking, sad, and joyous.” After producing her many flower arranging books, she realized that many photographs of the bigger picture remained unused. That’s when the idea for her latest sumptuous book, “At Home in the Garden” (Potter Style, 2015), was born. Undoubtedly, the book will be available at the tour site, but Roehm will also be signing copies at the Trade Secrets Plant Sale on May 14 alongside Page Dickey, editor of the Garden Conservancy’s “Outstanding American Gardens” and Chanticleer’s “The Art of Gardening.”
Also on the map for the Trade Secrets tour on May 15 is Michael Trapp’s residence. Admit it – you’ve always wondered how Michael Trapp lives in his own personal domain. Although we’ve visited his shop plenty, his 21-acre home site remains a secluded mystery. We’ve caught glimpses of its interior in magazines, but here’s an opportunity to experience the landscape firsthand. Bought in 2008, “The house was a ruin,” says Trapp, who loves classical ruins, but not messes. Abandoned for seven years, vandals had removed everything from the copper pipes to the newel posts. “And you’ve got to be pretty desperate to steal newel posts,” Trapp observes.
Originally, the 18th Century house was a ten-bedroom inn. “It was the Motel 6 of its day,” asserts Trapp. He removed the surplus bedrooms, moved into the renovated garage, and then turned his attention outside. Rather than alter the bucolic view he was given, he left the surrounding scene largely unaltered but created magnificent stone terraces fitted with Dutch Colonial furniture and a pergola (made of 18th Century beams in typical Trapp fashion) with two pools and fountains as an observation deck. His perfect outpost to enjoy the distant scenery will fill you with envy.
Also on tour will be the gardens adjacent to Old Farm Nursery where Judy and Pat Murphy strut their own personal style. Always evolving, always cutting edge, this garden is a showpiece filled with take home ideas that you can translate into your own personal grounds. And of course, Old Farm Nursery’s garden antiques barn and extensive sales area will also be open. Plus, the gardens of Bunny Williams and John Rosselli will also be on tour. Many of us come on the Trade Secrets Tour to watch the progression of the very personal gardens of this incredibly talented designer/antique dealer/tastemaker pair. Take the opportunity to make your annual visit.
This year, the Trade Secrets Sale takes place on Saturday, May 14, with Early Buying from 8 to 10 a.m., available for $125 (breakfast is included) and regular admission commencing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., available for $40. Tickets for the tours are available for $60 when purchased prior to the event, or $70 on the tour day. For more information, go to www.tradesecretsct.com or call Women’s Support Services at 860-364-1080. Trade Secrets benefits the programs of Women’s Support Services, a nonprofit organization providing educational and counseling programs as well as direct funds to help regional victims of domestic violence and abuse with legal, housing, transportation and medical emergencies.