A Wonderful Array of Plants for All Seasons Is Available at Green Haven Garden Center
VISUAL SPLENDOR: “Gardening can be a stress release. It provides exercise, fresh air, and you are creating something beautiful now and beautiful over time. Even if it’s on a small scale — just a terrace or window box, it will enhance the space. It’s therapeutic, it’s fun, and you’re creating beauty.” Carol Thomas, owner of Green Haven Garden Center in Hamilton, is shown amid a colorful display of knockout roses.
By Jean Stratton
A gorgeous display of floral splendor awaits visitors to Green Haven Garden Center.
Located at 1181 Hughes Drive in Hamilton, Green Haven is a complete gardening resource. Not only does it offer a full range of plants, shrubs, and selected trees, including unusual varieties, it also provides workshops to help customers learn how to make the most of their gardens.
As owner Carol Thomas points out, “We don’t necessarily focus on the product, but on the person. We ask what the customers want, where they will plant it, etc. If they are new to the area or from another country, they may not know what grows well here. We help guide the customer with help and advice.”
Like the garden center, Thomas’ background is filled with fascinating variety. Not only does she have a background in horticulture and landscape architecture, having studied at Rutgers, she also has a master’s degree in language arts, and taught at the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart.
Horticulture has always been a passion for Thomas no matter what other interests she was pursuing, however, and her enthusiasm for it began at an early age.
“My mother and grandmothers were all avid gardeners,” she explains. “My mother set me up with my own garden plot when I was a little girl, and I loved it.”
Now that she has her own garden center, she is delighted to share her passion with customers. They come from all over the Princeton area, are all ages, and range from knowledgeable gardeners to novices.
“We help people to create their own haven,” says Thomas. “It could be a porch or patio, window box, or a large garden. We can also help with landscape design. We tend to specialize in unusual plants and also container gardens, hanging baskets, and planters on terraces. Even if you have a small space, you can still have a beautiful garden.
“People are always concerned about maintenance, whether plants should be in sun or shade, and how often they should be watered,” she continues. “Watering depends on a lot of things. For example, the weather, and also the wind. If it is windy, it can dry out the plants.”
Green Haven offers classes and workshops to help people with their gardening questions, she adds. “We have gardening 101 classes with information on how to prune, how to plant, and how to mulch, among others. Regarding mulch, we constantly tell people, ’Not a volcano!’ The mulch should be a hands-width from the tree trunk and only a thin layer. Too much can create excess moisture and lead to bacteria and insect infestation.”
Other classes focus on planting for multi-seasonal interest, learning about annuals and perennials, planting bulbs in the fall, pollinators, and other helpful gardening information.
Indigenous plants have become a concern for many gardeners, reports Thomas, and as she notes, “If plants are acclimated to their surroundings, they will do better. They have evolved to cope with the environment they are in. We can give customers a list of native plants, and we can also provide a list of deer-resistant plants. Among them are marigolds, Siberian iris, peonies, hardy hibiscus, clematis, and lavender. Deer resistant shrubs include boxwood, false cypress, spirea, and weigela.
Plants that attract pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, are important, she explains, and they include milkweed (butterflies) and lavender (bees). Hummingbirds are drawn to the color red.
Green Haven has a pollinator display section, designed with plants especially attractive to pollinators.
In fact, the displays are all designed to help customers as they look for specific items. Pictures of plants with explanatory information about sun and shade preferences, size, etc. are all available, and displays are focused on color, perennials, annuals, sun and shade, deer resistance, and other designations.
In addition, there is a special herb and vegetable section. “Our ‘food court’ contains our herbs and vegetables,” explains Thomas. “Basil is super popular, also tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and lettuce. In addition, parsley and oregano attract the pollinators.”
“This is a good time to plant anything,” she adds, “except bulbs, which are planted in the fall. Right now, people want the annuals, including impatiens, geraniums, begonias, and petunias — we also have million bells, which are petite petunias, and we now have mildew-resistant impatiens.”
Also popular are azaleas, rhododendrons, and hydrangea, and knockout roses, which are available at Green Haven in hard-to-find yellow.
Perennials, such as yarrow, columbine, forget-me-nots, peonies, phlox, salvia, and hollyhocks are all favorites, too, as are Shasta daisies, lavender, and iris.
Making sure the soil is in the best condition to support the healthy growth of the plants is crucial, and Green Haven offers special products. “We have organic compost to help the soil texture, depending on the condition, if it’s too sandy or has too much clay,” points out Thomas. “We also have organic fertilizer and organic mulch.”
“We tend to be set apart because we offer unusual plants,” says Thomas. “We try to get something different. For example, we have Hort Couture Canary Wings begonias and Dragon Wings begonias from Peace Tree Farm in Pennsylvania. In addition, we offer Hort Couture canna lilies and Sea Urchin Red coleus, which you will not find everywhere.”
Another way in which Green Haven is set apart is its association with Bower & Branch, a Pennsylvania grower, focusing on sustainability.
“We are a Bower & Branch affiliate and the only one in the area,” says Thomas. “This is a partnership of growers and garden centers. Customers can shop online, make a selection, and then buy it at the garden center. They can come here to get it or we will deliver.
“By going online, when you select the plant, you can then find all the information about it, and if you have further questions, you can consult the ‘Plant Whisperer,’ who will help you with advice and suggestions. This is a perfect match of the natural world and the technological world.”
Green Haven can also help people create gardens with multi-seasonal interest, so there is always something visually appealing. And it’s not only the flowers — it can be plants with interesting bark, berries, or intriguing textures.
Thomas also offers one-hour coaching sessions at the customer’s home (within a 10-mile radius). “For $50, I’ll come to your house, and give advice on whatever help you need. We can teach you how to prune, fertilize, water, divide and relocate plants, etc. We can also help to identify the insects, disease or condition that is ailing your plants, and suggest appropriate treatment.”
Thomas is a member of the American Horticultural Society, New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association, Philadelphia Horticultural Society, and Perennial Plants Association.
Green Haven offers a selected collection of garden tools and ornaments, as well as a variety of garden-related artwork from area artists. Assorted pottery planters in bird and animal designs will intrigue adults and children alike.
Carol Thomas is pleased that many customers have become regulars, and she offers thanks to them in special ways. “We have water for people and the pets they bring, and we offer dog biscuits. Every child receives a flower, and we also have a changing table for babies.
“It’s wonderful having people come in and say ‘It is so beautiful here.’ They say that the display gardens are so beautiful it makes them feel good. I couldn’t be happier about that.”
Green Haven Garden Center is open seven days, Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (609) 584-6930. Website: www.greenhavengardencenter.com.