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Trade Secrets Weekend: Plants, Antiques & Garden Tours

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Trade Secrets 2008, photographed by Anne Day

Trade Secrets is northwestern Connecticut’s grandest garden party of the year. What started nine years ago at Bunny Williams’s Falls Village house as a community rare-plant-and-antique sale for charity has morphed into a two-day, horticultural carnival—our region’s unofficial kick-off to the planting season.

Day One of Trade Secrets is devoted to shopping at sprawling Lion Rock Farm in Sharon, CT. Many nurseries and antiques dealers put aside special merchandise for Trade Secrets, because they want their wares to shine among the 50 booths set up under tents on the picturesque property which is both a grand estate and working farm. Trade Secrets is fun even if you’re not a high-octane shopper because of the people watching: Many women come dressed in haute garden regalia as if they lived in the English countryside—they’re decked out in MuckBoots, Barbour jackets, pearls, and straw hats.

The Best of the Best
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The volunteers who organize Trade Secrets are picky about the dealers whom they invite to participate and the dealers are just as picky about what they bring to sell. “We always bring out our best for Trade Secrets,” says Roberta Scott (above), who stays behind to run the immaculate Falls Village Flower Farm, while her husband, Tommy, runs their Trade Secrets booth. “We always bring a lot of plants that bloom and Tommy will have lots of tree peonies.” The Scotts, who only sell perennials,  say that the hot plant now is the hellebore. “People are rediscovering them,” says Roberta. “They’re ancient—the Romans brought them to England. They bloom from the end of March through May and come in colors from white to almost black, and the deer don’t eat them!”
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Tree peonies from Falls Village Flower Farm

Serious shoppers come with pick-up trucks and vans (only a masochist would arrive at Trade Secrets in a MINI Cooper and not be able to take home a tree peony or wrought-iron bench, though there is a shipping service on site for large items.) Plantaholics—such as Trade Secrets regular Martha Stewart who is always the first to arrive—purchase the $100 Early Entry tickets which allow them to shop from 8 - 10 AM (continental breakfast included). The regular tickets for shopping from 10 AM - 3 PM are $35, and all the proceeds benefit Women’s Support Services,  a not-for-profit agency that provides support to victims of domestic abuse and violence in northwestern Connecticut and nearby towns in Massachusetts and New York.

Day Two of Trade Secrets is devoted to self-guided tours at four exceptional gardens. As always, Bunny Williams’s Falls Village garden will be open for roaming and visitors can explore its aviary,  parterre garden, apple orchard, woodland garden, vegetable-and-cutting garden, greenhouse, conservatory, and Adirondack-style pool house. Around the corner,  Falls Village landscape designer Nancy McCabe will greet guests at her romantic spread with its kitchen garden, espaliered fruit trees, woodland walk and sunken garden.  The rarely-open-to-the-public enchanted garden of Michael Trapp in West Cornwall is a genuinely magical spot—a terraced half acre overlooking the Housatonic River that makes you feel like you have been transported to Italy. And you’ll get to see the private side of redoubtable Old Farm Nursery in Lakeville, which is a testament to rigorous planning, maintenance and patience.

Trade Secrets 2009

May 16
Plant & Antique Sale
Early Buying 8 - 10 AM: $100
Regular Admission 10 AM - 3 PM: $35*
(*Arrive on the early side for the best selection)

May 17
Garden Tours
$50 with advance purchase; $60 on Sunday

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 05/11/09 at 11:13 AM • Permalink