Okay, you know I’m a teacher, so there has to be a field trip every now and then! One of my personal favorites is the forty-five minute drive into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to Groff’s Plant Farm.
What you need to know is that getting to Groff’s is half the fun since you are driving through Amish farm country. It literally feels like stepping back in time. Today, I saw an Amish farmer and his two boys working the fields with their draft horses and plow, Amish “plain clothes” hanging on the laundry lines and Amish farm women tending their vegetable patches. A young woman waved at me from her one-horse rig as we passed each other. Some little straw-hatted, barefoot boys were rolling hoops across their yard having a great time. Of course, stopping at the Amish farm stands for fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods and brown eggs is always part of this journey. (No pictures of the Amish or their homes since they do not like to having their pictures taken – and I respect their privacy.)
Up over the rise of the last hill, and there it is, Groff’s Plant Farm. This is a wonderful nursery run by several generations of the Groff Family, each one more welcoming and helpful than the next. Right away (before I got dirty or sweaty in the heat!), I asked Kris if she would mind taking my picture. (My daughter had suggested that my profile picture made me look “teachery” and I needed a new shot to show the garden side of my personality.) Kris even suggested I hold a day lily and snapped a great shot. Well, now you see the true me!
Then it was time to grab a wagon and get going – off to the shrubs first to make sure I remembered I needed another ninebark “Coppertina.” A “Lil’ Miss Sunshine” Caryopteris and “Little Honey” Oakleaf Hydrangea beckoned to me with their lovely chartreuse foliage, and a sweet little purple-flowered Leptodermis oblonga hopped into my cart, too. From there, I rolled my treasures into the shade garden collections and found more Dicentra “Gold Heart”, Euphorbia “Blue Haze,” Eastern Wood Fern and a “Pineapple Upside Down Cake” hosta that reminded me of the “White Feathers” hosta I can’t find anywhere yet. By now, the first wagon was stuffed, so I headed back to drop it off and fetch another.
Now up the hill to the sun lovers collections which just took my breath away! Every row was a mass of bloom and butterflies accompanied by bird song. Just the coneflowers alone took me a half hour to read about and admire (each plant section has a write-up hanging above it). Not an easy decision, but I finally selected more of the “White Swan” variety because the garden needs more of this beauty and “Burgundy Fireworks” and “Maui Sunshine” as first-timer tryouts. After that, I found one wonderful plant after another: Sedum “Mr. Goodbud”, Stokesia “Peachie’s Pick”, “Burgundy Glow” Ajuga, “Amethyst “Adenphora, Perovskia “Filagran”, Platycodon “Astra White”, White Campanula Glomerata, Phlomis and “Royal Ruby” Hens and Chicks. Another wagon filled and I know that’s the limit for my little Subaru hatchback!
The reward for coming out of your way is financial, too – buying from the grower, you pay about one-third what the suburban nurseries charge per plant! Kris checked me out, I tucked all my new babies into the car and started the drive back past Guernsey cows, sheared sheep and fields of corn. On Street Road, I stopped to pick out cantaloupes and bush beans picked fresh this morning and brown eggs. Nothing is better than seeing the chickens that laid those eggs out pecking away in the yard! No baked goods today. The Amish farm wife apologized: It has been just too hot to bake.
Slowly the country road turns back into a highway and the return to civilization, as we know it, is complete. But I have a car scented with ripe cantaloupe and beautiful flowers to keep my country heart happy.
My all-time favorite nursery!