Cady’s Falls garden is a Vermont gem

A Vermont garden gem
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in early June when Dick and I set off to visit some of our favorite haunts. After crossing the Green Mountains at the Brandon Gap we began our afternoon in fine style, enjoying a delightful lunch at Sandy’s Cafe and Books in Rochester.
Then we took Route 100 north through the beautiful Gulf of Granville, past Waterbury and into Stowe, where we followed the Stagecoach Road to its end and, after two successive quick left turns, reached our final destination.
Cady’s Falls Nursery and Garden, and the home of Don and Lela Avery, is hidden at the end of Duhamel Road, which runs alongside the meandering Lamoille River.
Almost 40 years has passed since Lela and Don discovered the old dairy farm that was for sale. They immediately saw the unique potential of the site, with its old farm buildings and the rich bottomland of the Lamoille River, and decided to make Vermont their home.
And since then they have devoted their lives to creating a remarkable nursery in this beautiful setting, and also to raising all kinds of rare and interesting garden plants from around the world.
Gradually word got out about Don and Lela’s amazing plant collection, and before long people from all over New England were making the trip to Morrisville to seek out the special nursery at Cady’s Falls. Indeed I have visited Cady’s Falls on numerous occasions and today my own garden is enriched by many of their beautiful plants.
Changing times for the nursery
But, as everyone knows, all good things eventually come to an end. This past spring plant aficionados were especially saddened to receive Don and Lela’s email saying that 2017 would be their last season for selling plants. Indeed it was their aim to have everything sold by July 1.
So for this reason I felt a real urgency to head back up there one more time. And sure enough, when I left Cady’s Falls that day, our tiny car was crammed to the roof with many beautiful plants.
But the garden lives on
The nursery is only part of the Avery’s story. Over the years Don and Lela have also developed a most amazing garden, where nursery visitors have the opportunity to see many of those special plants, growing in perfect harmony with one another.
And now, although Don and Lela have decided the time has finally come to close the nursery, every weekend they will continue to welcome visitors to their garden. All they ask is that you contribute a goodwill donation to help with the cost of upkeep.
Thus the ‘Garden at Cady’s Falls’ will continue to be a special destination for all — gardeners and photographers as well as non-gardeners — and is surely worth a trip from every corner of Vermont.
Gardens within a garden
The Garden at Cady’s Falls actually comprises several distinct garden areas that merge seamlessly together to create a continuous whole. And since each of these “gardens within a garden” offers an individual growing environment — such as sunny, shady, wet or dry — each also supports a unique palette of plants adapted to the particular environment.
Of course these environmental differences are of immense interest to plant lovers. But these inherent contrasts also create a sense of mystery for all visitors as they stroll from one part of the larger garden to another.
Many people start their garden wanderings by dipping under the arbor draped with a weeping larch, entering a wide sweeping lawn that is surrounded by deep planting beds filled with all kinds of unusual shrubs and colorful perennials. Although lovely in every season, this garden comes to a natural climax in July and August.
From the lawn area it is but a short step before we find ourselves in a shady woodland glen criss-crossed by meandering paths. These narrow paths, all meticulously covered with pea gravel or soft pine needles, provide a beautiful way for visitors to enjoy the individual plants up close.
Like its wild counterparts, in springtime the woodland garden is a spectacular tapestry of colorful flowers—from the rhododendrons and azaleas, to diminutive primroses and trillium. But by early-summer, after the spring flowers have begun to fade, on the ground level it is the numerous varieties of ferns and hostas that combine to create a quieter textural composition which lasts for the remainder of the season.
Continuing along the narrow gravel paths we soon encounter the spectacular water garden, which supports numerous plants that are adapted to growing in wet or even standing water. You will easily see the huge broad-leaved Umbrella Plant (Darmera pelata), contrasting with clumps of slender linear variegated iris. But look closer—and you may spot the carnivorous pitcher plants with their clever traps to waylay a curious insect.
 In complete contrast to the bog-loving plants at the water’s edge, the steep slopes rising up on either side of the water garden become the perfect environment for a delightful collection of Alpine plants that thrive in dry conditions.
A plant-lovers delight
In addition to wandering through the beautiful garden spaces and absorbing the ambience of each, part of the pleasure of visiting the Garden at Cady’s Falls is the chance to enjoy the enormous variety of individual plants up close. And, should you want to know the identity of a particular plant, look down for the helpful label with large clear lettering.
Since Don and Lela have always loved the challenge of growing unusual or fastidious plants, today the garden offers an abundance of special plants to enjoy. For instance, about a decade ago, they perfected the technique of propagating the various species of our native Lady’s Slippers — orchids that grow wild in just a few locations across Vermont.
As Don points out, while Lady’s Slippers (all species of the genus Cypripedium) are extremely hard to propagate in a nursery setting, they are actually not hard to grow in the garden. So unsurprisingly, in early summer you will find many Lady’s Slippers in flower in his garden.
In addition Don grows a profusion of both rhododendrons (evergreen) and azaleas (deciduous). Indeed the azalea season starts in April and continues through August. So whenever you visit, you are likely to find some in bloom.
Don is also a renowned expert on dwarf and slow-growing conifers. These are genetic mutations of forest-sized conifers, and most bear little resemblance to the parent trees. So it comes as no surprise that Don has a multitude of these interesting plants growing in the garden and he is always delighted to share his knowledge of the growth habits of different ones with interested visitors.
More pictures to enjoy
See more photos of this lovely garden at northcountryreflections.com/roving-gardener/road-less-travelled and pictures of individual plants on the Cady’s Falls website cadysfallsnursery.com.
Judith Irven and Dick Conrad live in Goshen where together they nurture a large garden. Judith is a Vermont Certified Horticulturist and teaches Sustainable Home Landscaping for the Vermont Master Gardener program. You can subscribe to her blog about her Vermont gardening life at northcountryreflections.com. Dick is a landscape and garden photographer; you can see more of his photographs at northcountryimpressions.

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