Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

CREATIVE DESIGN: “With my pots, I emphasize contrasting texture and color. I try to make each one an individual work of art. For me, it is an opportunity to paint with plants.” Polly Burlingham, owner of Polly’s Pots, one of three shops in the co-op Verde in Kingston, is shown in the doorway of her new establishment. She holds samples of her “Garden in a Pot”.

Polly’s Pots at Verde Co-op in Kingston Features Array of Garden-related Items

Polly Burlingham wears many hats: Master Gardener, owner of Green Gardens design firm, chairman of the Shade Tree Commission, and now owner of Polly’s Pots, a brand new shop in Kingston.

“I wanted a place to bring clients to see my Green Gardens projects,” she says, “and people are coming in already. We share the building with Woodwinds, and it is a great location, right on the canal, and next door to Eno Terra. They’re a great neighbor.”

Just opened at 4497 Route 27, Polly’s Pots is one of three shops in the co-op Verde. The others are the Christine Cancelli Gallery and Jewelry By Suzanne.

“Christine specializes in pet portraits, especially dogs, and Suzanne finds unusual semi-precious stones and handcrafts them into wonderful necklaces,” explains Ms. Burlingham. “I think we are unique in the area. The three of us share the responsibilities of running the co-op. We hope eventually to have artists’ workshops and small events.”

Charming Setting

Ms. Burlingham’s shop offers a charming setting, featuring an eclectic selection of potted plants, hanging baskets, containers of assorted sizes, and beaded earrings (created by her daughter, Isabel). A collection of the artwork of area artists is on display on consignment, and there are also photos of Ms. Burlingham’s Green Gardens designs.

“I am also doing ceramics now — after a 30-year hiatus — including wall sconces. I love being creative.”

Her creativity is certainly on display with the wonderful potted containers, filled with a colorful medley of blooming plants. These will make a charming hostess gift, she points out. “Also, I can use people’s own containers, or find the perfect container for them.”

Regarding her choice of plants, Ms. Burlingham notes that she enjoys an eclectic selection. “I like to have unusual plants and interesting foliage. I also do a lot of herb pots for people now, and I have made ‘edible’ containers, with rosemary, cherry tomatoes, etc.”

Ms. Burlingham’s gardening expertise has had a positive influence on the Princeton downtown streetscape for a number of years. It began when she took an interest in the Barbara Boggs Sigmund Garden, adjacent to the Barbara Boggs Sigmund Playground at Hamilton Avenue and Chestnut Street.

Over time, it had begun to lose much of its vitality, and was languishing.

Small Stipend

“I had been driving past the garden for a long time, and it bothered me that it was going steadily down hill,” she explains. “The raised bed garden had been installed after former Mayor Barbara Sigmund died in 1990, and it slowly became neglected. There had been no improvement to the soil and no watering. I thought it was a shame that such a lovely start wasn’t being maintained.”

An admirer of the late mayor, Ms. Burlingham had lots of ideas for the revitalization of the garden, but no budget. With the help of concerned citizens, including Anne Reeves, former head of the Arts Council of Princeton, she was able to obtain a small stipend toward the purchase of bulbs, soil amendments, etc.

Her enthusiasm was contagious, and friends and family came to volunteer. Princeton Borough donated mulch, and the Public Works Department delivered it, and did the heavier work. In time, she was able to get donations of plants from nurseries, and gradually, the garden took shape.

Ms. Burlingham was careful to select plantings that would guarantee a full-season garden, including flowers, bulbs, trees, and shrubs, with early-blooming perennials and plants, and a variety of foliage. And today, as she points out, “It is a particularly beautiful spring garden, with bulbs and gorgeous flowers — daffodils, crocuses, columbine, bleeding hearts, lily-of-the-valley, and azalea. Annuals are added to carry the garden through the summer and fall.”

The success of the garden inspired her to establish her own business, Green Gardens, specializing in container and patio gardens and revitalizing existing gardens.

“Container gardens have grown over the years,” she reports. “People are interested in beautifying their own space. And it is something you can change seasonally. Also, one of the things that’s important is that I’ve been careful not to grow too fast. I develop a very nice relationship with a client. They like the personal connection with me and their garden and environment. I can come in and create a special place for them that is affordable.”

Visual Designer

Ms. Burlingham works on a variety of projects of all sizes, including residential and business. “I have done work for the Alchemist & Barrister and Bon Appetit, and others.

“Also, I love to use shade gardens,” she adds. “The right plant in the right place is crucial. I like to do the exterior design and I’ll provide the plants, trees, etc. I am a very visual designer, and I like to work with photographs.”

Ms. Burlingham is also busy with the responsibility of preparing the hanging baskets in downtown Princeton, and keeping her status as a Master Gardener current, which entails donating a number of hours to help field gardening questions, and also participating in continuing education.

She will be in her shop at least twice a week on a regular basis, and come in from time to time on other days. The work space in the back of the shop gives her ample room for potting and other projects. The co-op format ensures that even if she is not present, someone will always be on hand to help customers.

“I look forward to getting to know the Kingston community,” she adds. “I’ve been in Princeton on and off since 1969, and of course, I have many customers from there. I have lots of regular Green Gardens clients who I hope will become customers at my new shop.”

Gardening is often hard and time-consuming work, but while labor-intensive, it offers great rewards — stress-relief, among them. Not to mention the beauty of a landscape filled with blossoming plants of every color and style.

“The thing about gardening is that it always feels as if there is something new to learn,” points out Ms. Burlingham. “There are always new plants to play with.”

Now, she has plants and pots “to play with” at her own shop, where customers are welcome Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, weather permitting.

A wide price range is offered, with a small cactus at $10, and many potted plants from $25 to $45.

(609) 947-1015. Website:

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