Taking Your Gardening Dollar

WTF, WFF?

White Flower Farm Says It’s Time To Plant Classic Garden Bulbs

It seems like a leap of faith — planting dormant bulbs for a display that won’t be seen for 4 or 5 months. But to enjoy early blooms from daffodils, crocuses, tulips and other colorful bulbs, gardeners know it’s important to get them in the ground well before the soil freezes hard. And of course it’s worth it – many bulbs increase their display each year and will faithfully return to signal the end of winter.

Fall is the time to get gardens ready for a strong start next year. Bulbs and plants added now will settle in quickly and be ready to produce beautiful spring and summer blooms. White Flower Farm offers a wide selection of bulbs (daffodils, snowdrops, alliums, crocuses, lilies, tulips and dozens of others) and supplies all the information needed to grow them: soil preparation, site selection, planting depth, fertilizer, and how to force bulbs indoors.

White Flower Farm stands out from the rest of the pack because they visit the best growers in Holland and the U.S. to purchase their bulbs, and then trial them at their nursery in original combinations. The colorful photos in their catalog and on their web site show the results.

Do you like bouquets of tulips? They’ve selected 50, long-stemmed varieties in a range of forms and colors — perfect for cut flowers — for their Stretch Tulip Mix. Do you enjoy alliums — the distinctive and long-lasting globes that stand out in spring gardens? White Flower Farm offers many, including new ‘Silver Spring’, whose unusual, pale-green flowers with dark-rose centers seem like silvery, garnet-encrusted jewels. Are deer a problem? Plant daffodils. White Flower Farm’s premier mix is called The Works, Daffodils for Naturalizing and contains 30 different kinds of daffodils that will multiply with little care and create a legacy for generations to come.

For 58 years, the experts at White Flower Farm have grown thousands of bulbs in display gardens at their nursery, combining them with perennials, shrubs, and annuals for a long season of interest. Their pre-planned bulb gardens and collections take the guesswork out of design and ensure success, even for beginners. There’s no guessing because instructions for planting and care are included. White Flower Farm — We make your garden grow.

Posted by on September 18, 2008 at 5:31 am, in the category Taking Your Gardening Dollar.
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17 responses to “WTF, WFF?”

  1. tai haku says:

    so you’re saying wine and cheese go well together? Interesting….I may have to try that

  2. LOL…I’m on the WWF mailing list, but *I* get photos in my emails! :-) Their latest email had a headline so similar to one of my blog articles recently, that I had to really read what they had to say. Nope, it wasn’t my work (darn, I was hoping).

    Anyway, I come from a marketing background (software) and often the “domain expert” will just give some talking points to a writer (who isn’t a domain expert) and that writer in marketing is the one that generates these emails.

    We do want to keep the domain experts in the garden and the marketing folks out of the garden…wait a minute, I left marketing for gardening! Cameron

  3. Michele Owens says:

    That email smells of desperation. Having trouble with their business after years of sending out under-sized, over-priced, half-dead plants?

    I’ve planted Princess Irene many times, mainly because it’s a great companion for my all-time favorite tulip Purple Prince. I’ve never noticed Irene’s scent. Irene is diminutive, and blooms just slightly after the Prince. Very pretty. However, I’ve largely abandoned Irene in favor of Orange Princess, the double version, which moves beyond pretty into the realm of gaudy and spectacular.

  4. Layanee says:

    Princess Irene has a color blend within, streaks of purple, that transcend its’ soft fragrance. It is a ’50 mile per hour’ tulip. WFF? The best thing about WFF is the beautiful, informational catalog. They used to have cutting edge perennials but I haven’t seen those within it in a while. Still, an order now and then does put the catalog on the shelf for reference.

    I will have to try ‘Orange Princess’.

  5. Eliz says:

    I had Irene last spring and really liked it.

    But why in gods name would I buy expensive bulbs from WFF when I can get them just as good and cheaper from John Scheepers? I do remember WFF introducing me to some plants I had never heard about before like Persian Shield and Astrantia, so there’s that. And their gifts are great.

    That press release makes my head hurt.

  6. bill aldrich says:

    amy; fabulous rant. can’t believe no one has mentioned the halcyon days when anything from wff was a wordsmith’s dream and was signed by amos pettingill. hope you noticed this was written by an outside flack so maybe you won’t hold it against wff itself.

  7. Judybusy says:

    I, too, imprinted very early on WFF. It’s how I learned 90% of my garden Latin! These days, I persue for the joy, and order from Bluestone Perennials and John Scheepers. Sad, because I love the orderliness of their catalog and alphabetizing by Latin. Others seem messy and sloppy in comparison, but I can’t pay $10-20 per plant.

    Also, I recently read Michael Pollan’s book about his garden (too lazy to recall the title or look it up.) He has a very funny chapter on the major catalogs, circa 1993. In it, he claimed Amos Pettingill was actually made up, a fictional character. True? Or was he joking?

  8. Rosella says:

    Isn’t WFF owned by Burpee now? Seem to recollect that Amos sold out a while ago. And I join in the “why pay premium prices to finance their pretty catalogue pictures” group. I have ordered from WFF and from Scheepers, and I prefer the latter. Plus, one year Scheepers got muddled and sent me the wrong tulips. When I complained gently the following spring, they gave me a coupon and a credit, so I got not only the bulbs I wanted but something extra to make up for the loss of a year. But I agree — WFF’s gifts are fabulous if overpriced.

  9. Kim says:

    I’ve never ordered from WFF because the prices are so high, but I love their catalogs. If it’s true that Burpee owns them, then there goes any magic I might have attributed to the name. I ordered clearance plants from Dutch Gardens and was pleased with their condition on arrival. I also bought sale plants from Brent and Becky’s Bulbs – only one plant arrived dead, but it was supposed to be dormant, so they didn’t know. The others thrived. My Bluestone order came today. I have been pleased with ALL three of these places, and the prices are so much better than WFF.

  10. shira says:

    I too, am in love with this catalog. However, I live close enough to actually visit White Flower Farm. The nursery itself is quite unimpressive, plants are just okay – and prices are outrageous as others have mentioned. Their catalog is plant porn at its best.

    There crowning glory however as I see it, doesn’t get coverage in the catalogs. They have several mixed borders designed by Fergus Garrett (disciple of Christopher Lloyd) which are just spectacular.

  11. Lois, Zone 5 says:

    If memory serves, the fictitious Amos Pettingill used to write more gracefully in the olden days than does his current ghostwriter. He used to seem quirky and even a little bit genuine. Now he writes ad copy. Here’s some background on Amos:
    http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/White_Forsythia.htm
    http://www.greenhousegrower.com/grower_tools/200709_whiteflower.html

    Thank you for mentioning the fabulous Katharine and E.B. White. I’m another person whose brain romantically associates them with WFF. By the way, I did enjoy that magazine, The Gardener, they put out briefly. Lovely illustrations.

    Have any GR readers visited White Flower Farm recently?

  12. susan harris says:

    Judy, the Pollan book was Second Nature and the fun chapter you’re remembering was named “Made Wild by Pompous Catalogs” – LOVED that.

  13. I think all of us who’ve been gardening a long time got imprinted by WFF. I actually have a bleeding heart that was a giveaway at a garden program here in Madison WI in the mid 1980s. It was when David Smith, a Brit and 2nd generation horticulturalist, was WFF’s main man. I still like the catalog but have not ordered from them in years.

    And I got the same bizarre promo piece and just trashed it thinking they’d resend the correct one when someone pointed out their mistake. Of course, that never happened.

    Do you ever order tulips from Brent and Becky or Old House Gardens? They are more expensive but good specialty nurseries. I ordered Princess Irene this year from OHG because last year’s General de Wet was so fragrant I could smell it 20 feet away.

    And I love OHG descriptions and associations. I am a sucker for the intersection of gardening and history. Though I get the basics from Scheepers.

  14. Barbara says:

    The content and tone is ideal for customers but you are so right on about gearing it to the press. Someone should have done a spin on it.

    I ADORE White Flower Farm…just got my bulbs and can’t wait to overdo my hands and back! ; ) I suggest them highly to clients – – they have a true guarantee on their plants.

    I do cringe on – – won’t you enjoy an armful of tulips, a two-hour spa massage, etc.! DUH!

  15. Karen says:

    I think WFF is still technically “family-owned” but they have become a big company, sucking up smaller ones like Shepherd Seeds and slacking off on quality everywhere. For bulbs, at least in the Pacific Northwest, I prefer Roozengaarde (www.tulips.com) or just going to the Univ. of WA Arboretum bulb sale every fall. B & D Lilies is great for lily bulbs. I wouldn’t really consider WFF “the little guys” anymore, sadly.

  16. I’ve got to agree with Michelle- Princess Irene pales in comparison with Orange Princess- I’m getting more this year- 50 more, and 600 other various bulbs to put in-yippee!
    What a disappointment to have a dull email from WFF, that’s so odd. What were they thinking?

  17. Casey says:

    WFF is still owned by the Wadsworth Family, who bought it from William Harris, the original owner. Yes, they did buy and dismantle Shepard’s Seeds, also the original Daffodil Mart (Brent and Becky’s original company), as well as Lewis Creek Clothing Company. All are gone with no trace left at WFF. All seem to have reformed as new companies with new names and no attachment to WFF. Ironically, they order Renee’s Garden Seeds to sell in their retail store every Spring.

    Their focus now seems to be on their meat enterprise! They sell the cookbooks of Cook’s Illustrated and are sponsoring the new Cook’s Country PBS show, both of which the Wadsworth Family have a stake in. No, they don’t think of themselves as one of the “Little Guys” but they do pride themselves on being “Family Owned”

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