By Helen Brody (January 22, 2010)
Nestled among tall evergreen trees at the top of a hill and amidst stone walls, cellar holes, and the rocks of an old homestead, visitors might very well wonder how Greenfield, New Hampshire’s Stonegate Farm and Flowers manages to grow much of anything let alone be a flourishing perennial and tree farm.
During the winter, the hill is a sculpture of rocks and snow. During the summer months, the hillside is a colorful sheet of over 300 varieties of perennials, day lilies, hosta and exotic conifers all grown in containers. “Actually,” co-owner Maggie Sauvain confides, “We did have to clear away lots of rocks with an excavator and backhoe, but since my plants are grown in re-cycled containers, we don’t need much plantable soil, and the rocks that remain, well, they give points of interest to the flowers, don’t they?”
Ten acres of the 40 acre farm have been cleared by Maggie and her husband, Ron Lucas, for the house which Ron, who used to ply his trade as a carpenter, built; four or so acres were set aside for pasture land and to house their sheep, chickens and pigs; and two acres of rocky hillside are for the plants that are laid out up to the forest’s edge during the summer. ‘The forest,” says Ron, “we leave in its natural state except for the wood that we take for our own use.”
Ron is a founder of the Temple-Wilton Community Supported Farm in Wilton, New Hampshire. As a longtime supporter of Temple Wilton’s philosophy of bio-dynamics Ron regards the soil as a living organism to respect and one that should be nourished within the workings of the farm itself. Their pigs and sheep not only provide meat for the family, but equally important, they are the good and prolific providers for their display gardens and vegetable plots.
“We are pesticide and herbicide free because we don’t believe in them.” To help keep slugs and snails at bay,they use buckwheat hull mulch on top of the soil in the containers.”The grasshoppers, slugs and snails may get a bit to eat,” but Ron is downright sanguine about such encroachment. “So what?” he shrugs.
It’s Maggie who loves the flowers and is very knowledgeable about them,” he continues. “ I’m her backup and helper.” And Maggie’s response to that suggests that Stonegate Farm is a bona fide partnership; ‘We’ve gotten so large,” she says, “that I could not manage without him.”
Maggie got the gardening bug when she took a class called “Practical Botany” at the University of Michigan where she was studying for a teaching degree. “It’s the only course I really use today and the only one whose text books I’ve saved.”
Although she did go on to teach Special Education at several schools for over 30 years, there were all those meetings in the spring of the school year – meetings that interfered with her Spring planting – and the classroom began to fade from her life.
Except for a few specially ordered shrubs and new or patented plants, all of Maggies’s flowers come from cuttings, and a few from seeds. We grow what the “big guys do not,” she asserts. In fact, Stonegate Farm and Flowers began by selling to the “big guys” like Home Depot. Their mentor and neighbor, Wesley Williams, a conifer specialist and expert, introduced them to some of the box stores. However, the stores were not overly inclined to take proper care of their stock, and the couple decided after they saw that they were receiving half or less of what the retailer was bringing in, by 2003, had switched to direct sales.
Stonegate Farm & Flowers
84 Driscoll Rd. Greenfield, NH, 03047 (Hillsborough County)
At the farm:
The farm is generally open on weekends May thru July and by appointment. Watch for a Daylily/Hosta Jamboree in July and August when these plants are at their best for a couple of weekends in July or August. Always best to call first.
Peterboro Amherst Bedford
Plants to landscapers