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Martha Stewart with Caleb Kane of Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, N.Y., during the Trade Secrets event Sunday, May 21. Photo by Anne Day

Gardens galore at Trade Secrets 2023

LAKEVILLE — Trade Secrets Rare Plants and Garden Antiques Sale, and garden tours, took place this past weekend in various locations throughout the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. Both days threatened rain, and Saturday delivered on that promise, but that didn’t keep hundreds of enthusiasts from touring the gardens on Saturday, May 20, or attending the plant and garden antiques sale at Lime Rock Park in Salisbury on Sunday, May 21.

Trade Secrets was started by well-known interior designer, gardener, and Falls Village resident Bunny Williams 22 years ago, as a fundraiser for Women’s Support Services. She has been involved with the event and the organization it supports continuously since its inception. The garden tours, usually sold as a package of four, were sold individually this year; Williams’ garden was sold out.

On Saturday Williams stood near the boxwood parterre at her home greeting visitors, who sought her out to say hello, and compliment her on the beauty of her gardens many rooms and different spaces. Guests meandered through the woodland garden, across the hedged lawn, down into the sunken garden, and out to the bird house village, snippets of conversation floating in the air behind them. “I love this!” “This is a garden I could handle.” “We could put something like that in the meadow.”

“You guys need these,” a woman said to her friends, pointing to a tree peony.

“Ideas and inspiration,” said Sally Hamilton, when asked why she came on the garden tour. Hamilton, from Athens, N.Y., more than an hour’s drive away, was wending her way around Michael Trapp’s magical, gravity defying, Mediterranean-inspired reverie in West Cornwall. Trapp opened his store and started his garden 33 years ago. “Though  it looks like it’s 1,000 years old,” Trapp said.

That’s intentional. Narrow cobblestoned paths hedged in boxwood, towering cedars, ancient terracotta pots, chunks of statuary, a reflecting pool tucked into the hillside, Trapp’s garden is inspired by his travels around the world.

Trade Secrets began as a plant sale on Williams’ Falls Village estate, and the next year antiques were added. It quickly grew in popularity, necessitating several venue changes. Last year it was held at Lime Rock Park for the first time, and the venue seems large enough to handle the crowds. More than 35 vendors displayed a wide variety of wares.

Nancy Henze from Pine Plains was admiring the selection of handwoven baskets displayed by Wendy G. Jensen Basketmaker. “These are fabulous,” Henze said.

Jensen of Monterey, Massachusetts, is an expert weaver. Asked if she designed the baskets for specific uses, she said, “Sometimes I just like a particular shape, but for instance this one, was inspired by a student of mine who wanted something to use when she was picking blueberries.” Jensen hand-weaves the baskets out of rattan, and also basket willow that she grows herself. After its harvested she dries it for nine months or so, then resoaks it to make it pliable for weaving.

Vicki Salnikoff, from Millbrook, confessed that it was her first time ever at Trade Secrets. She came with a trio of friends who are longtime supporters of the event. Salnikoff, despite being new to the scene, had scoped out the good coffee from Batchy Brew, a food truck positioned on the periphery, and she was enthusiastic about the topiaries she had purchased from Atlock Farm, and “the tablecloth from the linen lady,” she said. Then she was off to buy peonies from Peony Envy, a Trade Secrets participant for more than a decade.

Women’s Support Services was rebranded a few years ago, “to recognize that relationship violence affects people regardless of gender,” said Betsey Mauro, executive director of Project SAGE (which stands for “Support, Advocate, Guide, Educate”). “We want everyone to know that our services are available to anyone experiencing intimate partner violence.”

Jonathan Bee of Hunter Bee, the vintage goods shop in Millerton,  is not only a longtime vendor, but also a volunteer of many years. He is passionate about the need for the programs and services SAGE offers. “SAGE does a lot of great work, and I’m very glad they changed their name and expanded their reach. It’s really important to have an organization that deals with domestic violence issues.”

Mauro also talked about the importance of Trade Secrets as a fundraiser for their organization and the dedication of the volunteers and vendors. “I want to note the generosity of our vendors, who are very supportive of our mission; and our more than 250 volunteers, many of whom start working on next year’s Trade Secrets, months beforehand.”

To volunteer or support Project SAGE go to: www.tradesecretsct.com/project-sage


Update: Event organizers reported Tuesday, May 23 that some 2100 patrons came to Lime Rock Park for the sale on Sunday. The gardens tours on Saturday had anywhere from 400 to 850 attendees, depending on the garden.



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