The windshield wipers never stopped as pal Sandy Janes and I drove into Sharon, Connecticut, a charming town surrounded by white-fenced horse farms and gracious estates hidden behind lilac hedges. Our destination: the 18th annual “Trade Secrets” garden show, the major fundraiser for Women’s Support Services. This nonprofit organization provides crisis intervention, counseling, legal and medical assistance, and lots more for women and children suffering from domestic violence.
Both Sandy and I wondered as we passed by the signature green common in Sharon’s center if we would bump into anyone we knew on this Saturday morning in late May. And we did … sorta.
Shortly after arriving, we encountered two ladies swathed in yellow slickers and Wellies who told us they had driven “all the way down from Maine.” So had we. But they had travelled from two hours north of the Kennebunks, which underscores the magnetism of Trade Secrets.
People come from far and wide to peruse and shop in the more than 60 white tented kiosks showcasing handmade garlic baskets, antique urns, blooming pocketbook plants, wrought-iron gates, unique ceramic pots and ornamental garden accessories.
Then we met and chatted with Martha Stewart. But more on that later.
The rain had been pouring for nearly 12 hours before our arrival, completely soaking every inch of LionRock Farm, site of Trade Secrets and home of Wall Street’s legendary Elaine LaRoche. We parked in a muddy field which later became a near-quagmire. Phew for 4-wheel.
On a sunny day visitors probably stroll through the maze of little shops, admiring the array of flowers, kneeling down to pinch the unusual herbs, and picnicking al fresco on LionRock’s grassy turf. We darted through raindrops and downpours, constantly opening and closing our umbrellas, marveling at everyone’s cheerful disposition. Despite tough soggy conditions, not a frown to be seen!
At one point we spotted a long line outside the main house. “Martha Stewart is in there signing books,” someone told us. Sandy and I both agreed that we didn’t want to wait, what was the big deal about meeting Martha, the rain was coming down harder, yadda yadda.
Then we looked at each other and said,”Wait a minute. Yes, I want to meet Martha!” So we joined the queue which, in fairly quick time, led us right to the signing table. And there she was!
Martha took time with each person to sign her new book, Martha’s Flowers: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering and Enjoying. Sandy placed her copy on the table and I introduced ourselves.
“Hello, Martha, we are from Maine,” I said. She smiled and said, “I have a home there near Mount Desert.” Then Sandy’s and my tongues loosened. I told Martha that I’d originally seen her 35 years ago on a Merrill Lynch rewards trip to Hawaii. “You told us how to decorate a tray by cutting out different fabrics and putting them in the bottom, then placing glass over the fabric.” She said, “Oh yes, I remember that.” Really?
Sandy told her she had collected every book Martha had written and was saving them for her granddaughter. Our new best friend smiled and said, “That’s so sweet.”
By then I could feel the book-signing organizer’s breath on my neck, indicating it was time for us to move on. We drove back to Maine elated with our purchases and so glad we had finally "done" Trade Secrets. Check that off the bucket list!
By the way, did I mention that it rained that day?