All right, gardeners, are you ready for our first road trip of the season?
This trip brings us north to the Glens Falls area and includes a nursery that prides itself on carrying unusual annuals, a lovely spot to stop for lunch and incredible treats, a public garden and two places to do a little home and garden shopping.
You may want to pick and choose where you stop because there is a lot more you can do in the area, including The Hyde Collection, the Chapman Museum and peeking at the smaller-than-you-might-expect Cooper’s Cave, which was made famous by James Fenimore Cooper’s novel “The Last of the Mohicans.” These last three locations are all very close by.
From Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls is about 20 miles north. I got off at exit 17N. About 2.5 miles later, I was attracted by a display of birdhouses, wind chimes and garden accessories and made a left turn into the parking lot of The Murphys Cottage Crafts.
Glens Falls Road Trip
-- Toadflax Nursery: Open 7 days. 793-2886 or www.toadflaxnursery.com, 1621 Route 9, South Glens Falls.
-- The Murphys Cottage Crafts: Open 7 days. 793-1414, www.themurphyscottagecrafts.com, 1555 Route 9, Fort Edward.
-- The Chocolate Mill Pastry Shop & Cafe: Open 7 days. 338-3783 or www.chocolatemillcafe.com, 164 Glen St., Glens Falls.
-- Milk and Honey: Closed Sunday and Monday. 518 798-0700, www.milkhoneyonline.com, 16 Exchange St., Glens Falls.
-- Cooper’s Cave: Open Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Free admission. For more information: 761-3864, www.sgfny.com/Coopers-Cave.htm.
-- Chapman Museum: Closed Mondays. For more information: 793-2826 or www.chapmanmuseum.org
-- Hovey Pond Park Garden: Lafayette Street, Queensbury (behind Saturn dealership on Quaker Road) /www.queensbury.net/Recreation/HoveyPond.htm
-- The Hyde Collection: Closed Mondays. 792-1761 or www.hydecollection.org
There I met with Shannon Murphy, who said the business was a family affair. “The boys do the woodworking and the girls do the flower arranging,” she said. There were many gifts for the gardener, from birdhouses shaped like stars or birds, bird feeders, dried arrangements in baskets, wreaths, a trellis decorated with wooden sunflowers, wrought-iron plant holders, watering cans and lots more.
Reason to smile
Exit left out of the parking lot and travel only about a half mile to Toadflax Nursery, on your right. Gardeners: Prepare to smile from ear to ear.
Rich Morris, the owner, spends the winter looking for unusual plants. Some will catch your eye immediately. For example, the coleus “Pink Chaos” or the thunbergia “Raspberry Smoothie.” The colors of these annuals are unique and have a definite appeal.
There are other noteworthy plants available, such as the snow princess alyssum or the bubble gum pink petunias. He also had “Silverberry” petunias when I visited. They are white with a pink throat and look lovely when grown at the edge of “QuickFire” hydrangeas.
Morris is clever with his plant combinations, so pay attention to the hanging baskets for inspiration for your own containers. He planted yellow calendulas with blue Bacopa and the new green edged “Pretty Much Picasso” petunia with a solid purple petunia to make the unusual coloration of the Picasso stand out more.
While you are looking around, stop by the bench of Alternantheras, which are grown for their brilliantly colored foliage. These workhorses in the garden can range in color from dark reds to greens and can be boldly variegated with yellow, red or orange. The blooms are insignificant but the outstanding foliage make these great plants for a border. Another standout plant was “Rita’s Gold,” a Boston fern you are unlikely to walk by without admiring its vibrant color.
Among the two dozen different coleus you will find colors ranging from limey golds to pinks to reds to coppers to chocolates to burgundy and purples. Particularly eye-catching was the variety “Henna,” which is copper-colored with touches of greenish gold, and “Sybil” with its combinations of purple and green and hand-like leaf shape.
Before you leave the nursery, ask to see the Cordyline collection, a genus of plants that can add lots of color and be a striking focal point in the landscape. This is a favorite genus of Morris and he has some that are basal branching and fountain-shaped, others that are spiky with colors ranging from an electric pink to more familiar burgundy to the variety “Renegade,” which is “very dark, almost black,” he said.
There are other plants of note, such as the new “Francis” oxalis, the “Yellow Bird” magnolia and a Japanese maple called “Coral Tower” that has red stems and green leaves. “These plants overwintered here,” Morris said, vouching for the maple’s hardiness.
Gardeners looking for unusual accents for their gardens will find tufa troughs for planting, wire topiaries in the form of various breeds of small dogs and artfully decorated outdoor tables.
And, if all this shopping has worked up an appetite, make the next stop the Chocolate Mill Pastry Shop & Cafe on Glen Street, which is about 2.5 miles away. Take a right out of Toadflax’s parking lot on Route 9. Follow over the bridge and, at the rotary, go half way around the circle to continue straight on Glen Street. I took the first left — right after Achenbach’s Jewelers — into the Elm Street parking lot. There is a second entrance into the parking lot off Elm Street.
From here you can walk to lunch or tea at the Chocolate Mill Cafe. The menu has something for everyone. There is a soup of the day, salads such as a Tandoori chicken ($9.50) or an asparagus and portabello quiche ($10.50). They also have sandwiches, including a grilled barbecue pork sandwich ($9.25) and roast turkey sandwich ($8.25).
Whatever entree you decide to eat, make sure you leave room for dessert. They have a vanilla bean cheesecake that people rave about, eclairs, milk chocolate peanut caramel tarts, black forest cakes and a counter display of handmade chocolates. The chocolates and desserts are made on the premises and incredibly delicious.
After lunch, walk the short distance to Milk and Honey, a home and garden shop at 16 Exchange St. Owner Ann Parrish keeps her shop stocked with garden-theme decorating items. One best seller is the 4-foot lengths of wrought-iron fencing with birds or with fencing designed to resemble branching. “People love these,” she said, and you can understand why. The fencing has a whimsical appeal but would also be highly practical as a plant support or accent in a flower border. These sell for $59.95 per section.
The last stop, and a lovely place to linger later in the season as flowers burst into bloom, is the Hovey Pond Park in the town of Queensbury. Head north on Route 9 for 1.85 miles and turn right onto Lafayette Street. The gardens are on the right.
The Hovey Pond Park gardens were conceived by the late Robert Eddy and modeled after the British gardens he visited and admired. This is a terrific garden, totally maintained by volunteers, that keeps getting better as it matures. It has a mix of trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals that attract birds, butterflies and visitors. Recent renovations included the widening and addition of paths that make the garden even more welcoming.
If you have an idea for a road trip, let me know.