By Pamela Brown
Life has come full circle for Eliot Wadsworth. As a child he lived on the property of White Flower Farm, a family-owned nursery in Morris. As owner, he continues that legacy. “I’ve been around the company my whole life. When I was small, I enjoyed exploring the nursery, checking out who lived in the ponds, catching butterflies, and running around outside,” says Wadsworth who appreciates seeing generations of families visit.
White Flower Farm was established in the 1930s by William Harris and Jane Grant whose hobby evolved into a business, and by the early 50s a thriving mail-order catalog that introduced the latest hybrids from Europe, Japan, and elsewhere. “My dad was an entrepreneurial sort of guy, and at the time was looking for a business to run and an enterprise to make his own. He came across White Flower Farm and over time built a relationship with Mr. Harris and had an apprenticeship,” explains Wadsworth. After Grant’s passing, Wadsworth’s dad purchased the business in 1976.
Since then, the farm has added greenhouses, display gardens, and a retail shop. “I’m proud of what my dad built,” says Wadsworth of his father, also named Eliot, who is 80 years old and keeps his hand in the business. “He spends the summers in Connecticut so he’s walking the nursery and poking his head in greenhouses and keeping an eye on things the same as he ever did.”
Wadsworth likes giving visitors a memorable experience. “People who may have been getting the catalog or are familiar with the farm get a kick out of seeing the place. I’m happy to hear people say, ‘I remember the nursery’ or ‘I remember the catalog on my mom’s coffee table.’ It’s nice to be in the kind of business that people can have an emotional attachment to.”
Visiting the nursery is an annual tradition for Jacob Studenroth and his family. “My Nana Gladys and Papa Zane made the annual trip to White Flower Farm to purchase heirloom bulbs for my grandmother’s garden,” explains Studenroth, owner of The Wise Old Dog in Morris. “My family would make a day trip of it, too, in the old station wagon and drive North from Long Island for a special picnic near the benchmark nursery and visit with Nana and Papa.” Years later, Studenroth rediscovered it. “The time spent on property at White Flower Farm inspires and delights. When I visit now with my young children and wife, I wander about seeing not only the beauty that is but the beauty that can be back at our house. It’s relaxing and exciting to be there, and of course, very nostalgic,” he says.
Spring is peak time for flowers and Wadsworth notes there will be interesting new varieties in their spring line up. You’ll find Celosias, Didiscus, Ptilotus ‘Matilda,’ and a number of new Zinnias. Among perennials, White Flower will be featuring new Daylilies, Hosta, Geranium, Primula, Liatris, and more.
“We hope visitors learn something, see an unfamiliar plant, and come away feeling empowered and excited to experiment at home,” says Wadsworth. “Even if things don’t work out quite well or it’s not exactly what you planned, just keep planting.”
167 Litchfield Road, Morris, whiteflowerfarm.com