The spring season brings a welcome return of color to the Connecticut landscape, with warming temperatures signaling the start of a new growing season. We’re taking off our winter coats, starting preparations for our home gardens, and marking our calendars to get a bouquet for Mother’s Day.
It all makes for a busy time for CT Grown greenhouses, nurseries, and flower and sod producers. Across Connecticut this spring, you’ll find cut flowers, potted plants, bedding plants, hanging baskets, and more to make your home and garden beautiful this year.
This guide will share some of the amazing flowers grown locally, and give you tips on where to find them.
Perennials are a favorite among gardeners because they return year after year and don’t need to be replanted. An underground structure, such as a bulb, allows them to stay dormant over the winter and regrow in the spring.
Popular options for spring-flowering perennials in Connecticut include:
- Cranesbill geraniums
Once the risk of a final spring frost has passed, you can also plant bulbs for perennial flowers that will bloom in the summer. Some options include begonias, dahlias, and lilies.
Annual flowers grow for a single season and need to be replanted each year. They work well alongside perennials, which usually have a shorter flowering period, and allow gardeners to experiment with new and interesting flowers each year. Some flowers are technically perennials, but are grown as annuals due to their shorter lifespan.
Some popular options for annuals that can be planted in the spring include:
- Sweet alyssum
Flowering shrubs are large, woody perennial plants that are well-suited for landscaping purposes. They can be used not only to make your home more attractive, but also as a natural way to define property lines and create a privacy screen.
Some popular options for flowering shrubs in Connecticut include:
- Mountain laurel
Some farms in Connecticut specialize in growing cut flowers, and spring allows them to start hosting pick-your-own occasions and other events.
One example is the “Dancing Daffodils” field at Halfinger Farms in Higganum, where visitors can collect the bright yellow flowers for 70 cents apiece. At Wicked Tulips in Preston, a ticketed pick-your-own event lets you stroll through the fields and collect 10 tulips; the farm also hosts Yoga in the Tulips events during the spring.
Farms may also grow flowers alongside their other crops, and these blooms have become an increasingly popular option for CSAs. These programs let you regularly pick up bouquets of freshly cut flowers, bringing a bright and aromatic addition to your home for several weeks. Traditional CSAs may also offer an add-on option for flowers.
Plant and seedling sales in Connecticut
While early spring is typically too cold to begin growing plants outdoors in Connecticut, you can get a head start by planting seeds indoors and transplanting them once it gets warmer. You can also find seedling and plant sales across the state that have already started this process for you.
Plant and seedling sales offer annual and perennial flowers as well as seedlings for herbs and vegetables. Some give a special focus to native plants — species that occur naturally in the region and thus are beneficial to the local ecosystem.
Sales are sometimes hosted by farms to help generate revenue early in the season. They are also a popular fundraiser for organizations like garden clubs and arboretums.
Some upcoming plant and seedling sales in Connecticut include:
- Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District 2023 Native Plant and Plug Sale, Chester, April 28-29, 2023
- Connecticut Horticultural Society Plant Sale & Auction, Berlin, May 5, 2023
- Hill and Dale Garden Club Plant Sale, Glastonbury, May 6, 2023
- Friends of Hammonasset Plant Sale, Madison, begins May 11, 2023
- Bartlett Arboretum & Gardens Plant Sale, Stamford, May 13, 2023
- West Hartford Garden Club Spring Plant Sale, West Hartford, May 20, 2023
Connecticut flower festivals
The Connecticut Flower and Garden Show, which occurs annually in late February, attracts upwards of 40,000 people. Flower festivals, hosted by garden clubs and other organizations, continue into the spring. These are some of the upcoming events that herald the return of spring:
- Cherry Blossom Festival, New Haven, April 16, 2023
- Daffodil Day, Middletown, April 23, 2023
- Daffodil Days, Essex, through April 23, 2023
- Fine Art and Flowers, Hartford, April 28-30, 2023
- Meriden Daffodil Festival, Meriden, April 29-30, 2023
- May Market, Farmington, May 5, 2023
- Colorblends House and Spring Garden: Bridgeport, through May 7, 2023
- Dogwood Festival, Fairfield, May 13-14, 2023
Nurseries and greenhouses
Greenhouses, nurseries, and flower and sod producers represent the largest farm sector in Connecticut, accounting for more than half of the state’s agricultural production as measured by gross sales. They also have a considerable add-on impact to the state’s economy, supporting additional businesses such as florists and landscaping services.
While the terms are often used interchangeably, greenhouses and nurseries serve separate purposes. Greenhouses shield plants from the elements under glass or other protection, allowing for year-round cultivation. Nurseries don’t necessarily use this protection, and primarily serve to grow plants to a mature size. However, greenhouses can still be considered nurseries if they are used for this purpose.
Connecticut has almost 600 greenhouse growers, primarily specializing in cut flowers, flowering plants, and garden plants. Greenhouses shelter nearly 13 million square feet of cultivation space, and Connecticut ranks 15th in the nation for total greenhouse area.
Greenhouse operations are often paired with outdoor acreage to grow more flowers and plants during the warmer seasons. Connecticut has a mix of both small businesses and larger wholesale nurseries, which distribute plants throughout the world.
Gardeners may have the option to visit a nursery or greenhouse directly to browse the available selection. However, some businesses only deliver their products to landscapers, wholesalers, or garden centers.
Garden centers receive a selection of flowers and other plants from producers. They are also set up as one-stop shops for all your gardening needs. Some garden centers operate independently, while others are an on-site feature of greenhouses and nurseries.
In addition to flowers and plants, garden centers provide items like soil mixes, gardening tools, seeds, fertilizers, and garden decor. They can also offer services like landscape design and installation, as well as clubs and events to provide gardening advice.
As an added bonus, Connecticut garden centers may partner with local farms to sell CT Grown items like fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, honey, and eggs.
CT Grown flowers at local retailers
Connecticut farms, greenhouses, and nurseries often supply both local businesses and major retailers with freshly cut flowers and other CT Grown plants. You can find the CT Grown label on flowers sold by florists, supermarkets, and chain stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
Additional resources for Connecticut flowers
The following organizations can provide additional information and resources on flowers in Connecticut:
- Connecticut Flower Collective: This collaborative market in Meriden connects several Connecticut flower growers with businesses ranging from florists to event planners. The market focuses on wholesale transactions on Wednesdays, but is open to the public on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays
- Connecticut Horticultural Society: Since 1887, this organization has worked to encourage and improve the practice of gardening. The organization regularly hosts events including speakers, workshops, and trips.
- Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association: An organization dedicated to promoting and enhancing Connecticut’s green industry, the Connecticut Nursery and Landscape Association also provides tips for home gardeners and referrals for professional services.
- Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut: Founded in 1929, this organization aims to encourage high standards, civic beauty, and the conservation of natural resources in Connecticut’s garden clubs. It oversees numerous programs including events, projects, and educational workshops.
- University of Connecticut Extension: Part of UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, the Extension runs numerous educational programs including a master gardener’s course.
February 23 @ 10:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Spring in February arrives annually at the Connecticut Convention Center! Explore exhibits overflowing with fresh flowers, plants, herbs, bulbs, seeds, gardening books, garden equipments & much more. View beautifully landscaped gardens full of greenery and stop by the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut design & horticulture competition. We also offer over 80 hours of seminars and demonstrations across a variety of topics.
“I don’t think I need a box of vegetables every week.”
It’s a leading concern we hear from people who aren’t sure if they’ll benefit from joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. They worry that their CSA will have more vegetables than they can use each week (or that it won’t have the kind of produce they’ll use), resulting in wilted vegetables and lost money.
Rest assured, CSAs aren’t just limited to boxes of vegetables; there are options available for a wide variety of products, including meat, flowers, and seafood. Just like traditional CSAs, they allow CT residents to enjoy fresh food, get to know their local farmers and producers, and enjoy member perks while supporting Connecticut’s agricultural economy.
CT Grown farmers have also improved the flexibility of their CSAs in key, innovative ways. Read on to find out about the different types of CSAs that can fit your lifestyle.
Across Connecticut, livestock farmers are raising thousands of animals from the traditional beef, poultry, and pork to a bit more exotic such as bison and emu.
While traditional CSAs provide different types of vegetables, meat CSAs offer a variety of meat cuts such as chops, sausages, ribs, roasts and ground meat. The program may provide a few pounds of meat every week, or monthly pickups with a larger selection.
CT Grown livestock producers are open to sharing the sustainable practices they use to raise their animals. Some practices include grass-fed diets, pasture-raised practices which are said to yield a higher nutritional value and better taste.
Meat CSAs can work particularly well for those who are worried that their CSA shares will be inconsistent or that they will let food go to waste. Since meat CSAs are based on weight, you’ll be guaranteed a set amount of food with each share. Any meat you don’t use can be stored in the freezer until you need it.
Community Supported Fisheries (CSF)
Similar to meat CSAs, Community Supported Fisheries (CSF) programs let you enjoy fresh seafood soon after it has landed on Connecticut’s shores. In exchange for your upfront payment, you’ll get regular shares of aquaculture products like fish, shellfish, and kelp.
CSF programs work to make these products available to the consumer as quickly as possible. Seafood is purchased from local fishermen, then processed and made available for pickup.
While traditional CSAs help farmers cover the costs of each new growing season, CSFs help CT Grown aquaculture producers to pay for expenses like boat repairs and the purchase of new gear.
Flowers and seeds
Countless families have picked up locally produced flowers to add beauty and fragrance to their home. If you want to keep these displays as a more consistent part of your home decor, you might consider a flower CSA.
Flower CSAs offer bouquets of flowers with an ever-changing variety based on what’s in season. You may have the option of picking your own flowers, and some CSAs even provide seed packets so you can grow additional lovely blooms in your own garden.
This type of CSA gives you the freshest flowers possible, since you’ll be getting them directly from the farm. It can also be a good option for those looking to try out a CSA for the first time, as flower CSAs tend to be less expensive and cover a shorter span of time.
Subscriptions and customizable shares
Farms can offer programs that are similar to CSAs but provide more opportunities for flexibility and customization. Vegetable subscription boxes let you choose how frequently you receive your produce and how many weeks your subscription will run. CSAs also may have a “market style” setup, allowing you to pick and choose what you’d like to take home.
Programs may involve collaborations between multiple producers in order to provide a range of goods. Some Connecticut dairy farms have started subscription delivery services that not only bring milk to your doorstep, but also goods like eggs, granola, and breads.
If you frequently use a certain commodity, you may find a farm offering a CSA exclusively for this item. These specialty CSAs include items like bread, cheese, eggs, honey, maple syrup, milk, and mushrooms.
CSAs sometimes invite you to pick your own produce as part of the experience. Instead of getting a preselected portion of fruits or vegetables, you might be invited to head into the fields to take your pick of items like berries, flowers, herbs, hot peppers, snap peas, or tomatoes.
To learn more about how CSAs work, visit our previous blog. To find a CSA near you, visit this map.