Thursday, December 16, 2010

Paperwhite Narcissi—Locally Grown and Sourced

This past weekend we attended a holiday Farmers' Market in the village where we live in the Hudson River Valley.  It was held in the parish hall of the local Dutch Reformed church and included many of the vendors that appear at the Farmers' Market we attend in the nearby town on Saturday mornings from April through November.  I am pleased to report that the holiday market looked to be a great success and was thronged with customers actively buying when we visited it shortly after it opened on Saturday morning.

We were happy to see that one of our favorite vendors, Cedar Farm, was at the market.  Cedar Farm is a wholesale supplier of locally grown, unusual cut flowers that they grow on their property in Ghent, New York, and sell to independent florists in the region.  In addition to their wholesale business, Cedar Farm also sells cut flowers, cut branches, floral arrangements, potted flowers, and other floral ephemera at farmers' markets in the area.  Cedar Farm's flowers are lovely and old-fashioned, and a far cry from the over-hybridized and rather pedestrian offerings found in supermarkets and from catalogue-based chain florists.

At the market we bought a large clay pot of paperwhite narcissi from Cedar Farm that was artfully decorated with black privet berries, bay leaves, yellow twig dogwood and pussy willow branches, eucalyptus berries, and a pine cone.  It looks like a fantasy of a natural woodland outcropping of narcissi, ready to burst into flower.  However, one could never find such a combination in nature in real life—it is only through the artistry of a sophisticated plants person that such an arrangement appears to be so natural.  We photographed it in our dining room at Darlington House, where we have placed it on a large, early ninteenth-century Wedgwood creamware charger.  I feel fortunate to have such a lovely pot of paperwhite narcissi, and I look forward to seeing it blossom in the coming days.

We are regular customers of Cedar Farm and usually buy something from them whenever we attend the Farmers' Market when it runs in the nearby town.  We bought the twig wreath that we have hanging on our barn from them when we attended the season's closing market at the end of November.

At the holiday market I spoke with Marilyn Cederoth, who was manning the Cedar Farm booth.  I learned that she co-owns the farm with her sister, Kate Swift, and that both of them have been in the flower business for their entire working lives.  Marilyn started out as a floral designer in Chicago, followed by a lengthy stint in the wholesale business there, and then moved to Ghent, New York, ten years ago, where she joined her sister growing wholesale cut flowers.

Cedar Farm's informational post card

I bring the potted paperwhite narcissi we bought from Cedar Farm to your attention, Dear Reader, as an example of what you, too, can find at knowledgeable, dedicated, and sophisticated independent local florists if you look for them.  What such plants people offer is a treasured, and increasingly rare, alternative to what is available in supermarkets and from members of the national and internet-based floral sales organizations that we are all too familiar with.

If you aspire to live a life of aesthetic integrity, as we do at Darlington House, I urge you to eschew the degraded and hybridized offerings that blanket mass-market florists and retail chains this time of year.  Instead, I recommend that you seek out and patronize the independent local flower shops where you live.  Not only will you be supporting locally owned businesses that are the backbones of our communities, but you will be assured of surrounding yourself with beautiful flora that you won't see everywhere else you go this holiday season.

And please tell them that Reggie sent you.

You can learn more about Cedar Farm by visiting their interesting, information-packed website:

Please note that Reggie has received nothing in return for this post, nor does he expect to.  He is posting it solely for the pleasure of his readers.

All photographs, except where noted, by Boy Fenwick


  1. I found the most amazing brass container yesterday and then went and bought a dozen paperwhites!

  2. One of the smells of Christmas is that of narcissus and I like banks of them so that the room fills with the scent. I keep some on the dining table next to a Dutch tulipiere, the clay pots contrasting beautifully with the blue-and-white. The perfume of white lilies, a year-round thing, in the living room and narcissus in the dining room - heaven!

    As to local sourcing - I fear in Atlanta, beyond the local farmers' market at the cathedral down the road, there is little to be bought that is locally grown. I bought the narcissus at a local garden centre and when the growers at the farmers' market have garden flowers, good old-fashioned varieties, I buy. I'm sick to death of supermarket flowers - they all look like plastic graveyard decorations.

  3. I love my holiday paperwhites! We cover the little white pebbles with a layer of seaglass, in keeping with our locale.

    A landscape designer friend alerted me to Horticular Magazine's tip on adding liquor to keep the stems shorter and sturdier:

  4. I find the scent of paperwhite narcissus intoxicating whereas Mr E's olfactics lead him to conclude the waft is reminiscent of "death", as he so eloquently put it during a conversation last evening. Perhaps a
    funeral parlor comes to mind for him. Not so for me! Your narcissi must give you great pleasure knowing that you've not only supported a local business (hear, hear!), but also provided your home with an arrangement to delight the senses.

  5. These photos are just so beautiful. I love the color of your walls.

  6. Love forced paperwhites at holiday time. Mine are in full bloom now and I cannot get enough of the earthy aroma that is emitted from the tiny blooms.

  7. As an interesting tidbit and follow up to my previous comment, I'd like you to know Mr. Darling that your narcissi are a rare commodity here on the West Coast of the United States. I visited the San Francisco Wholesale Flower Market this past Saturday and it struck me as odd that I did not see a single narcissus, either potted or bunched. When I inquired about my observation with one of the vendors, I was told that the entire crop had failed and that not one grower from California to Washington state had any for sale this winter. How very, very sad. I, for one, shall miss them.

  8. Your paperwhites are lovely, and you're exactly right about finding the right florists. The independents around here do such amazing things.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails