When it comes to garden shows, Trade Secrets draws the cream of the crop

Want to garden like a guru? Plant yourself firmly within earshot of a crowd with soil under their fingernails and listen up. Where are all the Wellies congregating this spring? At Trade Secrets on May 18 at Elaine LaRoche's LionRock Farm in Sharon, where




Want to garden like a guru? Plant yourself firmly within earshot of a crowd with soil under their fingernails and listen up. Where are all the Wellies congregating this spring? At Trade Secrets on May 18 at Elaine LaRoche’s LionRock Farm in Sharon, where a whole lot of people will be talking dirty.

At Trade Secrets, you need only loiter in the general vicinity of someone wearing well-worn, grass-stained jeans to learn what will work in your neck of the woods (or patch of sunshine). Nervous about adopting that Peucedanum ostruthium “Daphnis”? Worry aloud and half a dozen muddy types will talk you into or out of plunking your money down. So much knowledge and advice is shared on the field at Trade Secrets that it’s almost a botany boot camp. Attracting a crowd of connoisseurs was the intention when Bunny Williams first dreamed up the event 13 years ago. Granted, the primary impetus was to benefit Women’s Support Services—a nonprofit organization with the goal of creating a community free of domestic violence through intervention, prevention and education.

After mingling with garden-savvy peeps and tapping into the lingo, the next step is to get the goods. If you’re not the type to follow the Joneses straight to the same old, same old at the local garden center, then Trade Secrets is the place to stock up. This year, there will be 60 vendors on the field—coming from such distant points as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and western New York. Ever wonder how Bunny furnishes her garden with all those rare goodies? Line up at the entrance gate for early buyers at 8 a.m., and you’ll be able to race Bunny to her favorite vendors.

Rather than tooling all over the countryside picking up a plant here and a shrub there, you can walk onto a field and pull together an entire garden. And we’re talking about one-of-a-kind Japanese maples and flowering Calycanthus cultivars like the coveted “Hartlage Wine,” “Venus” and “Michael Lindsey” (get to the Broken Arrow booth). Just footsteps away, you’ll find a hydrangea that holds you speechless with velvety foliage and mossy stems even before it starts to flower (Hydrangea aspera subsp. sargentiana) and a mayapple with foliage like immense frog feet (Podophyllum pleianthum) thanks to Ed Bowen at the Opus booth. But that’s just the beginning. Vendors sell natives (guilt-free nursery-propagated lady’s slippers), annuals, herbs, orchids, vegetable starts, you name it. You can get a jump on your heirloom tomatoes without putting them through the postal system. Leery of planting your own containers? Preplanted containers are filled with rarities you can’t pronounce.

Beyond botanical swag, Trade Secrets is headquarters for hand-thrown terra-cotta pots, trellises, arbors and all the supporting cast of characters. Then on May 19, the day after the sale, go on the Trade Secrets Garden Tour and see how Bunny Williams does it on her home turf. Lee Link, Mudge Manor and Plum Creek are also opening their garden gates.

For the sale on May 18, early buying begins at 8 a.m. for $100. Regular admission, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., is $35. Advance tickets are available for the garden tour for $60 ($70 on tour day). Prepurchase tickets at tradesecretsct.com or call 860-364-1080. Don’t miss the opportunity to show off your green thumbs and muck boots with the best of ’em at the region’s premiere venue for trading secrets.

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