The Road Less Travelled

Two Hidden Gardens in Northern Vermont

You can be sure that anyone who devotes a lifetime to raising and selling plants will have amassed a vast storehouse of horticultural knowledge.

But it is less obvious that this dedicated nursery owner can also find the time to create and maintain a large personal garden where we, the public, are invited to wander at will.

Two such gems are hidden away among the backroads of Washington and Lamoille counties. And, since they just thirty miles apart, you can easily visit both in a single outing.

Interestingly enough, these two gardens were actually born at almost the same time, in the early 1980's. But they are completely different from each other, thus providing a wonderful study of contrasts.

Von Trapp Gardens in Waitsfield

After passing through the picturesque village of Rochester, and stopping for an early lunch at Sandy’s Books and Bakery,  head north along Route 100, through the beautiful Gulf of Granville and on to Waitsfield. Turn right through the covered bridge and follow Bridge Street to Common Road and up to the von Trapp Greenhouse and Nursery.


The view from the end of the garden at von Trapp Nurseries



The von Trapp Nursery is set high on a wide open hilltop, with marvelous views to the Green Mountains.


It is also the home of Tobi and Sally Von Trapp who, for over 35 years, have made it their life’s mission to raise an amazing array of beautiful plants for our gardens—annuals, perennials plus a few shrubs— all of which they sell right at their nursery.

And, while visiting the nursery, you are also invited to wander through their own expansive display garden--a wide swarth of open land with view to the mountains, and their eclectic mix of plants arranged in an eclectic manner.

Stroll along gravel paths between the wide flower beds that positively brim with beautiful plants. Shrubs and perennials, tall and short, all mingle easily together to create a delightful tapestry of color and texture all season long. This is a great opportunity to see first hand the current gardening trend--that of naturalistic design (see Planting: A New Perspective, By Noel Kingsbury and Piet Oudolf : published by Timber Press in 2013).




This enormous 200 foot long garden culminates at a rocky fountain gushing into a large pool.

Stop and admire the splendid view across the nearby fields to the Green Mountains some six miles to the west.






Return by a different path and relax on the benches beneath a rustic pergola, with the mountains still visible across the garden.




Cady's Falls Gardens in Morrisville

After leaving the von Trapp Nurseries, retrace your steps to Waitsfield and continue north on Route 100, past the famous Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury, and through the scenic village of Stowe.

Hidden away on Duhamel Road in Morrisville (some 10 miles north of Stowe) you will discover Cady’s Falls Nursery. This renowned nursery is the creation of Don and Lela Avery who, like the von Trapps, also started their Vermont adventure back in 1980.

Cady's Falls Nursery is set in a hollow encircled by the nearby hills, giving it an enclosed and sheltered feel. The Avery's chose this particular site for its rich bottom-land soil--the result of occasional flooding of the nearby Kenfield Brook.

Like the Von Trapp's, with the help of a very small staff Don and Lela grow almost everything they sell in their nursery. Whether it is raising conifers by grafting or propagating ferns from spores, they grown it all right there.


The legendary Himalayan blue poppies, Meconopsis betonicifolia

Lela oversees the production of beautiful and unusual perennials.

For instance: the incredible Himalayan blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia), which seems quite at home in my Vermont mountain garden, is one of many wonderful plants I have acquired from Cady's Falls over the years.


Showy Lady's Slippers--Cypripedium retinae



Cady's Falls also offers several types of of  Lady's Slippers.  For the past six years a large clump of the showy Lady's Slippers (Cypripedium retinae), a Vermont native, has thrived in my garden.  Recently I divided this single original to make five new plants.


Don’s specialty is propagating exceptional dwarf conifers.

The number of different cultivars Don propagates and sells at Cady's Falls is nothing short of amazing. If you are looking to expand your own collection of these individualistic plants, I suggest you download and study his comprehensive list before you visit. Then, when you visit, Don will be happy to guide you toward your final selection.

Also, like Sally and Tobi, Don and Lela have created the most beautiful gardens where you can see many of their special plants grown to perfection.

In order to showcase a variety of habitats and different types of plants that will thrive in Vermont they laid out the overall space to encompass several ‘gardens within a garden’.

Look left as you come in the driveway to admire the rustic arbor draped with a weeping larch. This marks the entrance to a sunny space with wide garden beds surrounded by a curvaceous lawn. Here you will find many unusual shrubs and perennials which have been carefully selected to create a spectacular display in every season.

By contrast, in the nearby shady garden it is the spring flowers —such as hellebores, primula and trillium— that are the center of attention. To see these in bloom you need to visit in May or early June.

Soon after coming to Vermont Don and Lela decided to convert a natural stream bed into a water garden where many kinds of bog-loving plants now thrive. As an interesting contrast  they grow alpine plants up the steep rocky walls.

And last but by no means least, on either side of  pine-needle covered paths, Don grows a large collection of dwarf conifers, which are all displayed to perfection. If you are wondering what a particular cultivar will look like after,  perhaps a decade in the garden, this is the place to check.

Last year, after 35 years of hard work, Don and Lela decided to begin cutting back on the demands of their nursery. Going forward they expect to open their garden for visitors every weekend throughout the season, while restricting plant sales to Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in May and June. (But, before making the drive up to Cady’s Falls, be sure to check their website any updates.)

And a reminder: wherever you go take your notebook and camera

And off course, since we gardeners are always thinking ahead and making plans for the future, at both gardens, take note of your favorites and plan to try them in your own garden soon.

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