The Fragrant Witch 2/9/24

The Fragrant Witch 2/9/24

Posted by Mandy + Steve O'Shea on

Happy Friday dear friends!

   Spring is sending little teasers our way out here.  The unassuming Witch Hazel has been delighting confused olfactories for the last 2 weeks out here.  Always fascinating to the uninitiated, this 10 foot tall bush looks like a bunch of sad dead sticks and leaves, but upon closer inspection tiny little flowers (arguably also kinda dead looking) are wafting irresistable fragrance at passing noses.  It's lovely and very perplexing if you don't know Witch Hazel, but randomly happen upon it.  I couldn't figure out where that delightful smell was coming from for the life of me for many springs until Mandy observed my ignorance and unmasked the mystery of the witch for me.  It is a good witch.

   Not to be outdone, the entirely unmysterious, yet completely magical Winter Honeysuckle has unleashed her undeniably rapturous scent into a wide and intoxicating radius upon our farm.  Without doubt, my favorite of nature's perfumes comes bursting from these cute little flowers that fill the air and my head with joy each spring.  It literally has coaxed happy tears to fill my eyes on more than one occasion.  It's just that amazing.  Surprisingly, I was so busy and stressed trying to start this farm, that I barely noticed it for the first decade we lived here.  Now, as though I were a comet, I exist in an elliptical orbit around this bush each spring, always circling back for another sniff that flings me back out to work with a fresh smile.

  Speaking of work, for all you gardeners and farmers that have been waiting, the hellebore sale is launching next week! Everyone on the waitlist will have first access starting next Friday and we'll open the sale to the general public on Sunday.

  As a reminder, we are selling the pinnacle of all hellebore varieties, the Ice N' Roses series! So, those of you who missed out last year (we sold out immediately, then did a second sale, and sold out quickly again), not only do you get another chance at getting them (we tripled our inventory), but we've also got access to some brand new varieties this year too!

   Why are Ice N' Roses so sought after?  Ice N' Roses varieties are not only beautiful, but they produce tall stems, upright flowers, higher quantities of flowers than normal, and exhibit incredibly vigorous growth which makes them productive about 3 times faster than other hellebore varieties. If any one of those details wasn't enough already on their own, they are also deer resistant and they aren't too picky about how much sun they get.  They can be grown intensively in true farm style to increase yields, or you can just plant them in the woods and neglect the heck out of them and still be gifted with bountiful flowers each spring.  Normally farmers plant them in full sun in rows with irrigation and fertilizer to maximize yield, but we just covered almost 2 acres of the forest floor (mostly shade with only dappled sunlight) with them 4 or 5 years ago and have never watered or fertilized them and our woods are gorgeous each year when they start to bloom (which is right now!!).

   And here's the kicker…we had Sabine Seeling, who works with the Ice N' Roses breeder, visit us along with Dr. Armitage this Fall and they let us know that Ice N' Roses has proven to be resistant to Black Death!  We didn't even know that!  Hellebore Necrosis Virus, commonly called Black Death, is (no surprise) pretty bad for hellebores.  We were willing to take the risk because we love them so much.  Turns out…there's no risk.  Also, the breeder mentioned you don't have to cut back the dying leaves to clean them up and prevent diseases.  In fact she said that it's better not to!  Those dying leaves are feeding the plant in the process, so leave them be.   I love nothing more than when an authority figure tells me I have to do less work to enjoy my garden more.  I love doing less.  It's my true aspiration.

   Mandy(left) with Sabine Seeling and Dr. Allan Armitage.


   For you kind hearted senders of joy, who are looking to spoil someone, we are bringing back our Poppy gift box this week!  Our beautiful branded box decorated in floral design with soy based ink, comes with a handwritten note to elevate the whole process of receiving and opening a gift, even before the flowers are enjoyed.

   Speaking of gifts, if you are just now remembering Valentine's Day is coming and you completely neglected to think of something thoughtful, you are not up a creek just yet.  We've still got some spring flower subscriptions where you can get that loved one a symbol of your undying love and your extreme thoughtfulness in the form of weekly flowers for a whole month. You can find them here.  Outside of that, our poppy harvests are picking up a little bit, so if you rush to our shop right now, you may be able to pick up some flowers for a Wednesday delivery, but supplies are limited, so move fast.  And for those of you who will read this late and email me asking if the flowers are already sold out….yes…they are.…but… may have noticed that on Tuesday and Thursday we've been announcing more flower availability.  When our harvests come in and we discover we can add more inventory, y'all on our email list are the first to know, so all is not lost if you miss them on Friday at noon, just keep your ears and eyes peeled on Tuesday and you'll have an extra shot at securing a bundle of flowers that will arrive on Valentine's.

   Also of note, we're adding a new element to our weekly newsletter.  Mandy's really excited about spreading good vibes and has been consistently inspired by Blockshop Textiles' newsletter, so we're taking a cue from them to start sharing something special each week that we enjoy, whether it be a beautiful song, a favorite book, or an inspiring small business.

   For our inaugural feature this week we wanted to share about one of the most inspiring artists and creators we've had the pleasure of watching and admiring over the last 14 years as she spiraled out of her role as one of the best and most highly sought after contemporary flower artists of our time into a whole new life on a rural upstate New York farm. In this beautiful remoteness filled with sheep and flowers, she cultivates a gorgeous and peaceful space for others to curate their own artistic passions, whether it be floral design, painting, photography, or just the art of enjoying the calmness of a beautiful setting.  Couple that with homegrown and expertly cooked meals shared with new friends around a big farm table and you've got an absolutely delightful and fulfilling experience.

   For those locals that have bought that amazing soap from our Farm Store, these are the folks who make it from scratch.  Sarah Ryhanen, of Saipua acclaim, started World's End and has created such a beautiful and unique space in the world.  She's a modern day philosopher in farm clothes constantly reflecting on her place in the world and how she can influence her slice of it in a positive way.  World's End is a one of kind experience and we highly recommend a visit or at least a perusal of her newsletter.  For those who have been kind enough to say complimentary things about my writing, prepare yourselves for a whole different tier of thought, prose, and honest exploration of one person and one farm's interaction with what it means to be a part of this great global community.  She's a brilliant writer and the newsletter is very raw and open and in my opinion, fascinating.

   That's my time.  Stay classy America,


Worlds End Farm Located in Upstate New York in the town of Esperance