An escape down the rabbit hole. Logee's Greenhouses
Friday, February 12, 2016
Greetings. It’s coming straight for us on Valentine’s Day. Surprise! No chocolates, though. No flowers. No Cupid’s arrow of love comes with this greeting. Nope. None indeed. Rather, an icy dagger is plunging straight down from the Arctic into the heart. An extreme Polar Vortex is expected to arrive this Sunday morning, swooping frigidly into the Northeast coast of the United States. The weathermen seem to be unsure just how cold the greeting will be on Valentine’s morning. The estimates seem to have bounced back and forth between one and seven degrees Fahrenheit this past week. That’s about minus seventeen to minus fourteen degrees Celsius. Ouch in whatever scale you’re used to.
What’s a person to do? Escape down a rabbit hole, of course! Late last spring I was passing through Eastern Connecticut on my way back home from parts north and realized I was within a few miles of Logee’s Greenhouses in Danielson, Connecticut. The car turned itself. If you only know Logee’s from their legendary mail-order catalog or its website, you might only be vaguely aware of the wondrously mysterious maze of intricate greenhouses and passage-ways that make the place itself.
Logee’s started out as a simple cut-flower business in 1892. William Logee, however, soon seems to have caught on that the taste for tropical flowers and unusual plants for conservatories and parlors were the passion of his customers. In 1900, for example, he acquired a small Ponderosa Lemon tree, the so-called “American Wonder Lemon” due to the almost five-pound size its fruit could reach.
The tree would be shipped to him by train from Philadelphia, picked up with his horse and buggy, and then planted directly into the ground of his greenhouse. Astonishingly, Willam Logee’s original tree still grows in the same greenhouse (now appropriately called the Lemon Tree House) and still reliably produces the same five-pound lemons every year. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of cuttings have apparently been propagated from the original tree to be spread far and wide. And you can still buy it.
William Logee’s son, Ernest, turned the family’s attention to tropical plants in containers, especially hybridizing his own begonias. Ernest, unfortunately died as a young man in a fall from a tree he was pruning. William Logee died much later, in 1952, and his daughter, Joy Logee Martin, fully took over the business. The greenhouses remain in their family to this day. The first of Logee’s famous plant catalogues went out in the 1930s, with long lists of geraniums, herbs and begonias from Joy. It was Bryon Martin who would expand the greenhouses themselves and turn them in a destination to visit in the 1970s. (➤ Logee’s own long history.)
So, whether you’re bracing for the frozen embrace of a Polar Vortex, or just tired of the cold winter in general, come escape. Join me for a tumble down the rabbit hole into a wonderland world of refuge and tropical foliage called Logee’s. And if you’re ever in the general neighborhood, certainly take that tumble again for yourself.