Connecticut Horticultural Society

Connecticut Horticultural Society

Latest News

CHS SPRING Auction & Plant Sale

Come join the fun at the CHS FallSpring Auction and Plant Sale, Friday, May 2 at 6:30 p.m. at TAC (Tolland County Agriculture Center) in Vernon. The evening will be educational thanks to the commentary of our knowledgeable nursery professional auctioneer including Kevin Wilcox of Silver Spring Nursery, John O’Brien of O’Brien Nurserymen, and  special guests. They are as smart as they are entertaining and  we 'll laugh as much as we learn.     *All proceeds contribute to the fund that provides scholarships to UConn and NVCC horticultural students.

The plant table viewing will be at 6:30 p.m. with the sale beginning promptly at 7 p.m. The auction will begin at 7:15 p.m. considering a plant donation, be selective. The bestselling items are usually hard-to-find and named cultivars, and unusual or one of-a-kind plants.

Donating?   Please mark your donations with as much information as possible (name, color, height, width, bloom time and zone). Donations are tax deductible and we can provide a receipt if you give us a list . 

*Don’t forget to ask your favorite nursery to donate.List the donated material with the donors name and address.

Bringing donations early is helpful. Someone will be at the TAC by 4:30 p.m. to accept plants and set up. If you need help getting your plants etc. to the auction, call.

Please let us know if you can help !  We need volunteers:                                                                                              Set-up: 4:30-5 pm: 6  people : help set up tables and chairs                                                                                          Taggers: 4:30-6:45; 3 - 4 people : with knowledge in perennials, houseplants, tropicals, shrubs, and/or trees to help tag donations.                                                                                                                                                                                            Runners: 3-4  to deliver plants to bidders.                                                                                                                                          Recorders:  2 :  write down ' winning' prices for the items. 

To volunteer or for more information please call Leslie at 860-747-8175 You can also email: Leslie at
Directions: TAC is off I -84 in Vernon. Take exit 67 (from 84 eastbound, turn left off the exit; from 84 westbound, turn right). At first traffic light turn right onto Rt. 30 (Hyde Ave.) The center is on the right just past the Rockville Bank.

Fall Plant Sale and Auction: Friday September 27, 2013

All proceeds from our Sale and Auction contribute to the fund that provides scholarship to UConn and NVCC students of horticulture.

Preparing for the 2013 Fall Plant Auction
by Leslie Shields

As the Fall plant auction approaches and you start to dig plantlets from your garden or solicit them from neighborhood nurseries, please consider the following:

* Please prepare donations early so they can adjust to life in their pots. Notice I said “pots.” Problems can arise when plants arrive in paper cups, plastic bags and food containers. One difficulty is that the plant does not look like it is worth much. Also, there is a greater chance that soil will be spilled. We do not want to wear out our welcome at the Tolland County Agricultural Center in Vernon, where the auction will be held.

* Resist the urge to make small divisions. A couple of substantial plants will bring higher prices than many small ones. If you find yourself with lots of babies of a particular garden plant, perhaps you are not alone. Such a plant may not easily find a home.

* Think creatively.  Consider giving your plants a nice container or basket or any treatment that might transform it into a gift. An unusual pot or planter can double the asking price!

* Ask your local nursery to donate to the auction. Remind nursery owners that donations are tax deductible and a good way to advertise to our members. Get or create a list of donated plants along with the nursery’s name and address so it can receive the proper credit.

* Pitch in. We always need volunteers to help set up and take down chairs and tables, receive, mark and display the plants, deliver plants to bidders, and clean up. Doors open at 5 p.m. for volunteers.

* If you are donating plants, plan to arrive no later than 6:30 p.m. Please provide a list of your donated plants, along with your name and address.

* Most important, join us at the auction and help grow the CHS scholarship fund that supports horticultural students at the University of Connecticut and Naugatuck Valley Community College.

Fall Plant Sale and Auction: 6:30 preview, 7pm--10 pm. Tolland County Ag. Center, 24 Hyde Ave. Vernon, CT



Flower Show Happenings

Come in from the cold –VOLUNTEER and visit a Backyard Paradise at the CT Flower and Garden Show!

February 20-23, 2014   CT Convention Center, Hartford CT
As winter continues to fight its way thru New England giving us some 5o degree days followed by single digit cold, the CT Convention Center will be blooming & bustling:   over 300 vendor booths, more than a dozen landscape displays , a Federation of Garden Clubs juried show  and most important for us CHS types:  48 seminars to learn –more, better and different garden techniques. 

Come Volunteer with us and get into the show for free! 
We will continue our role as CHS Ambassadors  for the show’s seminars.   By introducing yourself as a CHS member , introducing the speaker and facilitating  the speakers presentation , you give CHS the opportunity to meet people who are likely to become CHS members.   A membership table outside the rooms will help us enroll members  as they enter and leave the seminar rooms.

This link shows you where we still need volunteers: ( yellow highlights are open slots)
Volunteer: Ambassador 
Volunteers: Membership table
To request a requested  volunteer time slot , email your full name, tel.# to :
We will confirm your time and give you instructions for the day.
*Save 30+%  on Tickets:    $ 11 for members  (compare to $16 door admission)
We are offering, as a CHS member benefit, discount tickets to the show.  Tickets can be purchased at any of our events before Tues.  February 18th.  OR   Visit the Rocky Hill office11-4pm Tues. or Thurs. now thru the 18. OR send a stamped self addressed envelope to the office:   CHS 2433 Main St. Rocky Hill CT 06067



2013 FLOWER SHOW : Results

 “Breaking Up” Wins Five Awards 

After more than 1,100 greenhouse-growing hours, 28 hours of planting 150 varieties of plants and bulbs, 14 hours of building and nine hours of painting, we got the message across: Break up with your Lawn!  The message was so clear that the CHS exhibit won five show awards: Most Educational, Most Environmentally Sensitive, Best Urban Garden, Most Creative Design, and WFSB Favorite Landscape.

In frugal CHS gardener fashion, we made 95 percent of the display from recycled materials from previous exhibits of ours. We used bulb crates to build the display to a height of 4 feet so as not to waste wood-chip base material. We borrowed fencing and props. We enlisted the artistic talents of Leslie Shields for key visual elements of the rock cat, the spirals and the echeveria sun face. Bravo and thanks, Les. These efforts helped us come in at 25 percent below our budget.

On behalf of the board and members, I would like to thank all of our volunteers—
more than 80 members and friends—who trucked, toted, planted, painted, planned, hoisted, hosted, watered, and made our educational message clear. (Find a list of volunteers and photos at The display gave us the opportunity to tell 30,000 show visitors about CHS and enroll 28 new members.
                                                            —Nancy Brennick, flower show committee chairman

Emerald Ash Borer Found in Connecticut, July 2012

Editor's note: The following article by Lea Anne Moran, a member of the CHS Education Committee, was published in the March 2011 issue of CHS Newsletter.  It is worth rereading following the discovery of the emerald ash borer in Connecticut in July 2012, in New Haven County.

Fact sheet and control strategies>

Know the Pests: Emerald Ash Borer
by Lea Anne Moran

As we near the end of the snowiest winter in recent memory, it’s time to think about the pests that might be waiting to emerge when the timing is right. The emerald ash borer (EAB) is one pest to be concerned about.

It spends the winter in the pre-pupae stage embedded under the bark of the ash tree, a wood that is often used for firewood. The insect can become established in a new area when moved with infested firewood.

The borer (Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire) was brought to the United States and Canada from Asia in wooden packing materials. It was first identified as the cause of widespread decline of ash trees in southeastern Michigan and Windsor, Canada, in 2002. Scientists believe that it was brought into the country in the 1990s.

By last summer, infestations had spread to 14 states, including New York and Pennsylvania, the closest states to Connecticut, where ash species (Fraxinus) account for 5 percent of the state’s trees.

As its name implies, the insect is a metallic emerald color. It is less than one half inch long. Its wings overlie a coppery red, bullet-shaped body. It is sometimes confused with other green beetles commonly seen in our trees, such as the six-spotted tiger beetle.

Emerald ash borer larvae are 1 to 1.3 inches long, creamy white in color, and have bell-shaped body segments. The eggs are yellow-brown, laid in crevasses in the bark. The larvae burrow into the bark after hatching, and all stages of the insect feed on the cambium and phloem under the bark, which cuts off the flow of nutrients and water to the tree, ultimately causing it to die. 

The insect makes its home in all species of ash tree. Ash trees can be recognized by the compound leaf, which has five or more leaflet pairs opposite each other along the central stem. The double samara or seed is shaped like a canoe paddle.

Know the signs and symptoms
The larvae are found under the tree bark in the serpentine or S-shaped galleries or tunnels. The frass made by the larvae tunneling into the wood looks like sawdust. It is usually seen in the galleries under the bark.

Look for D-shaped holes in the tree bark, made by adult beetles as they exit the tree in May and early June, and for vertical splitting in the bark. This is caused by callous tissue forming over the galleries or tunnels made by the larvae under the bark. The galleries may be exposed when the bark splits.

Watch for thinning in the tree’s canopy and eventual dieback of the tree. Epicormic sprouts, also called water sprouts, grow from the roots and the trunk. The leaves on these sprouts are larger than normal.

Woodpeckers feed on the larvae, so watch for increased woodpecker activity in trees. The birds make large holes in the bark to find the larvae just under the bark.

If you see what you think is an emerald ash borer adult or larva, put it in a jar and freeze it, or take a digital photograph of it, and contact the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, 203-974-8474.

Finally, don’t bring in firewood from out of state, or transport it from one home to another or to and from campgrounds or parks. If you buy firewood, get it from a local source. Leave any unused firewood where you bought or store it. The prepackaged bundles at the grocery or hardware store have been kiln dried to kill the EAB and many other pests.

More information: U.S.D.A. Forest Service,  Don't Move Firewood


Karen Ellsworth Wins 2012 CHS Service Award


Karen Ellsworth of Farmington (center) displays the 2012 CHS Service Award presented to her at the May 2012 program meeting. With her are CHS Awards Chairman Elaine Widmer and CHS President Steve Silk.

2012 CHS Service Award Winner: Karen Ellsworth
by Elaine Widmer

Consistently, quietly and with a smile on her face, Karen Ellsworth regularly gives back to the Connecticut Horticultural Society.

As chairman for 10 years of the CHS Hospitality Committee, she has ensured that members and guests have coffee, tea and kosher cookies at each CHS meeting. She buys the goodies, sets a beautiful table and then, yes, she cleans it all up. 

You’ll also find Karen helping at CHS plant auctions, giving volunteers sustenance in the form of food and drinks. Over the years, she has volunteered at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, helping to plant the display gardens or serving as a greeter. As Holiday Potluck Chairman Fran Schoell’s right-hand assistant, she helps ensure that the annual event goes off without a hitch.

Karen joined CHS about 20 years ago as a diversion from her full-time job as an elementary school teacher in Farmington. She loved the society’s meetings and the pleasant distraction of learning about plants. She recruited her mom to CHS, and they have enjoyed many overseas and day trips. 

“It’s the camaraderie and friendships that I’ve made at CHS that keep me coming back,” Karen says. “I’ve found the people to be so welcoming.”

Her advice to new members is to “take your time to consider the many opportunities available at CHS, then choose one and just get involved. There’s really something for everyone in this plant community.”

In her garden, Karen has taken the advice of many recent CHS speakers and removed most of the grass in her backyard. Her flower garden includes her favorite spring plants—daffodils, jonquils and hellebores—and she also maintains a small vegetable garden. That garden gives sustenance to the chipmunks, squirrels and rabbits.

Her commitments don’t stop with CHS. She volunteers at her church, where she maintains the memorial garden and has become an expert apple pie baker. Four days a week she is a patient-relations volunteer at the John Dempsey Hospital at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. She also volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages in West Hartford.

Congratulations to one busy lady. 

CT Agricultural Experiment Station Wins 2012 Mehlquist Award

The Connecticut Horticultural Society has presented its highest external award to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) for its focus on solving agricultural, public health and environmental problems.

“Through their research and educational efforts aimed at growers, students and the public at large, CAES employees have touched the lives of thousands of Connecticut residents,” society Awards Chairman Elaine Widmer said. “Their work has made us more skilled, informed and aware as gardeners and as stewards of the environment.”

The society’s Gustav A. L. Mehlquist Award honors prominent Connecticut plantspeople who have advanced the art of gardening or made an extraordinary contribution to horticulture. CAES Director Louis A. Magnarelli and Sharon Douglas, plant pathologist and head of the plant disease information office, accepted the award and $500 check at the society’s June 21 program meeting in West Hartford.

 Flanked by CHS Awards Chairman Elaine Widmer (left) and CHS President Steve Silk (right), Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Director Louis Magnarelli and scientist Sharon Douglas accept on behalf of CAES the society's 2012 Gustav A. L. Mehlquist Award.  

Founded in 1875 with a research-based mission, CAES was the first experiment station in the United States. At laboratories in New Haven, Windsor, Hamden and Griswold, CAES scientists conduct experiments on plants and pests, insects, soil and water quality and provide analysis to state and federal agencies, the horticultural industry and the general public. 

Their many duties include testing food for safety, evaluating new fruit and vegetable crops, diagnosing pest problems and inspecting nursery plants before they leave Connecticut. CAES scientists work to protect people’s health by testing ticks, mosquitoes and bed bugs for a variety of diseases. They work to protect the environment by investigating controls for invasive plants, for plant diseases such as boxwood blight and for pests such as the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.

“Anyone who has had contact with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and its talented employees will understand just why they are so very deserving of this recognition,” Widmer said.

The Connecticut Horticultural Society is a statewide, mostly volunteer organization dedicated to enhancing the appreciation of gardening. Gustav Mehlquist, for whom the award is named, was a professor of plant breeding at the University of Connecticut. He died in 1999 at age 93.

Check out CAES 2012 Science Day  Aug. 1 at Lockwood Farm in Hamden.


Plant of the Month

In the June spotlight: mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

 Kalmia latifolia 'Keepsake'                                                                                                              Photos: Adam Wheeler

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is one of the most attractive native, evergreen shrubs in the eastern United States. It is common throughout much of Connecticut and is the state flower. It requires acid, well-drained soil and some sun and is hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 8. In New England, the shrub can grow up to 15 feet tall, but heights of 5 feet to 8 feet are more commonly found in the landscape.

For years, it was underappreciated as a garden plant but has gained in popularity and is now recommended for the foundation or shrub border or as an understory plant beneath scattered trees. The flowers typically are light pink in bud and near white when open. Only in relatively recent times, through the efforts of nurserymen and plant breeders, has the variability in the species become apparent.

Flower selections from pure white to near red, and even some with rich purple centers, are now available, as are variations in foliage and growth habit. For example, little leaf laurels are notable not only for smaller leaves but also for more compact growth habit, yet with normal-size flowers.

Despite its tolerance for apparently uninhabitable sites in the wild, mountain laurel can be a challenge to grow in the garden. Site requirements are similar to those for rhododendrons and azaleas, but good drainage is an absolute necessity. A raised bed is required on marginal sites. The use of organic mulch is preferred—leaves that accumulate under plants are best left and not raked away. Light annual pruning to keep plants shapely is recommended.  Flowering will be heaviest in sunny locations, and to lengthen the viewing period, place some cut flowers in a vase; they’ll last longer than flowers on the plant.

Enjoy the native mountain laurel and check out some of the new cultivars at your local nursery or garden center.

    —Richard A. Jaynes, owner, Broken Arrow Nursery, Hamden, which hosts a mountain laurel festival June 2-10, 2012.

 K. latifolia 'Elf'

Plant of the Month

In the May spotlight: redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)

Flowers of redvein enkianthus (Photos: Kevin Wilcox)

Editor's note: A CHS audience admired this plant at the February program meeting, when Kevin Wilcox described and showed photos of it. The following description comes from Sharon Harris, co-owner of Acer Gardens in Deep River.

Redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus) is an excellent shrub for the landscape, showcasing form, texture, flowers in May and fall color. An upright shrub, it reaches heights of 12 feet to15 feet and becomes more rounded with age. Hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 7, its foliage is finely textured and whorled and creates a layered effect. This large bush could be grown as a specimen near a patio or deck and underplanted with groundcovers or perennials. It also works well in shrub borders and could be combined with azalea, rhododendron, clethra and fothergilla.

Enkianthus grows best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. It prefers a moist, well-drained, acidic soil, rich in organic matter. It is resistant to insects, disease and deer.  

Bell-shaped flowers (yellow to light orange with red veins) hang in pendulous clusters and bloom in May. The flowers appear as the leaves emerge, so the blooms are easy to see. Several cultivars are available with red, pink or white flowers.

The shrub retains its seed pods and is a good source of food for northern juncos in winter. Fall color is spectacular, with the leaves turning brilliant reds and oranges.  It is definitely our favorite shrub for fall color.

Plant enkianthus where it can be enjoyed and admired throughout all seasons. Plant it near a patio and you will see birds surrounding it through winter and early spring. Hanging hummingbird feeders near it in summer will add to the continuous pleasure this shrub gives.


Attack on Boxwood

by Colleen Fitzpatrick Michelson

A virulent fungus that attacks all species of boxwood (Buxus) has been found in Connecticut and is threatening what one expert estimates to be at least a $20 million crop in the state. The fungus that causes boxwood blight (Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum) was identified in Connecticut in October. Infected boxwood plants were detected first in landscapes, nurseries and garden centers in Middlesex County and then in Fairfield, Hartford and New London counties, according to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES).


Because there is no known effective fungicidal control for the blight, and because infected plants die quickly, CAES instructed nurseries and garden centers to bury or burn clusters of infected plants upon detection. CAES Director Louis A. Magnarelli told the Hartford Courant that widespread compliance by the industry means that the likelihood of homeowners buying infected plants has been reduced. But he cautioned that the blight can be hard to detect early in the infection and that some infected plants may be circulating.

The fungus causes brown spots on leaves and distinctive black cankers on stems. After symptoms appear, leaf drop is rapid. While the blight affects all species, American or common boxwood (B. sempervirens) and English Boxwood (B. sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) appear to be highly susceptible.

The Courant quoted Bob Heffernan, director of the Connecticut Nursery & Landscape Association, as estimating that the crop of the highly popular landscape plant exceeds $20 million in the state.

Scientists don’t know how the fungus got to Connecticut. It may have arrived with plant shipments from other locations, or fungal spores may have blown in on Hurricane Irene’s winds in August. Unusually high amounts of rain and relatively warm fall temperatures have favored fungal growth, scientists said.

CAES recommends that gardeners do the following: isolate any newly purchased boxwood from other boxwood plants for at least one month and ideally for several months; avoid overhead watering of plants; pull and remove infected plants immediately, putting the entire plant in a plastic bag and then in the garbage (do not compost it); and rake up and similarly dispose of infected leaves.

Boxwood blight has been reported throughout Europe and in New Zealand since it was first identified in the United Kingdom in the mid 1990s. Until October in the United States, only Virginia and North Carolina had reported its presence.

For more information, visit or call 203-974-8496

Great Plants for the Fall Shade Garden


Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana); Photo: Steve Silk

by Cathy Zbuska

Allan Armitage, who runs the research gardens at the University of Georgia, once wrote that “Shade is to gardening as Oreos are to cookies: too many can give you a stomachache but having none is cruel and unusual punishment.”

I’ve always moaned and groaned about my shade. Being an avid organic gardener, however, I was reluctant to cut down trees just to allow some sun in for a garden. After taking garden classes, touring and photographing gardens and experimenting, my husband and I learned which plants work well in shade.

I try to use perennials, shrubs and trees that have more than one season of interest. Most of the plants I recommend here have foliage whose texture and color can carry the garden along once blooming has finished. Come with me as I describe a few fall plants that work well in the shady garden.

Aster novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’.  The rose pink flowers of this aster bloom in mid-September through early October. The plant performs well in full sun but will also grow in part shade if it gets two to three hours of sun each day. Soil that is too rich will cause this aster to flop. Consistently moist soil is best, but the plant will tolerate drier soils. To prevent this aster from reaching its full height of 2 to 4 feet, cut it back in early June. I cut the front portion of my stand and leave the back alone. This extends the bloom time and it eliminates the need for staking, as the shorter front portion supports the taller stems in back. Combine this aster with Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’, which has chocolate leaves, purple stems and white blooms in September and October.

Tricyrtis ‘Tojen’ (toad lily).  The name may be horrible, but the lovely orchid-like flowers make up for it. The small, 1-inch-round, light lavender blooms with yellow throats grow along arching stems amid dark green leaves. This variety blooms even in deep shade, and its flowers are a sight to behold in mid-September to early October. Plant it in moist, well-drained, humus-rich soil. Reaching heights of 2 to 3 feet and with a weeping habit, this toad lily makes a pretty sight over a bed of ferns. It is a late arrival in spring.

Hamamelis virginiana (common witch hazel).  This native small understory tree or shrub grows 10 to 15 feet tall, and sometimes taller, and 15 feet wide. The leaves emerge reddish bronze and turn dark green. Fall foliage is a clear, bright yellow. The last woody plant of the year to bloom, its yellow spider-like, crinkled flowers appear after the foliage has dropped, starting in mid-October. The blooms have a spicy fragrance. This witch hazel performs best in part shade but it tolerates full sun. Plant it in moist, slightly acidic soil. ...

(For more plants and to read the full article become a member of CHS )