Tropics tucked away in Danielson

By Denise Coffey
Danielson - posted Sun., Feb. 6, 2011
The "Lollipop Flower" is always in bloom.
The "Lollipop Flower" is always in bloom.

Humid air and the smell of tropical plants greet visitors to Logee’s on North Street in Danielson. Through a modest retail shop with ceramic pots, potting soil, and books written by owners Byron and Laurelynn Martin, is a chain of greenhouses that hold an amazing collection of tropical and subtropical plants. Fifteen hundred varieties are grown in the greenhouses and propagation shed that make up Logee’s.

Five steps lead down from the shop into the “Long House,” the first of the five connected greenhouses.  Green leaves and flowers of all shapes and varieties crowd in on the stairs and narrow aisles. Imagine walking through a greenhouse that looks like the set from “Lost.” That’s what it’s like to wander the five greenhouses of Logee’s.

The Long House is home to an amazing collection of begonias.  When William Logee opened the shop in 1892, his son Ernest followed in his footsteps.  William Logee loved begonias and became well-known for his hybridizing efforts.  You can find 29 different kinds of begonias in the 2011 annual catalog.  Thirty-one additional begonias are listed on the website, ranging in price from $7.95 for a 2.5 inch pot of “Cotton Candy” to $24.95 for a five inch pot of “Madame Queen.” And those are just the begonias. The Long House is home to a variety of other tropicals. Logee’s has so many plants that most of them are arranged alphabetically.  They flow from the Long House to the Potting House and into the Lemon Tree House, so called for its 110-year-old Ponderosa lemon tree that’s rooted into the very ground of the greenhouse. The tree is so big and its fruit so large that the fragrance envelopes you when you walk into the greenhouse where it lives.   

There are edible and ornamental fruit plants, herbs, carnivorous, hardy and windowsill plants.  There are vines and cacti, orchids and indestructible house plants.  And to make your purchasing decisions easier, you can browse by sun and temperature requirements, blooming season and hardiness zone. 

Paul and Linda Helvig brought Linda’s mom, Iva, to visit last week.  They travelled from Niantic for the day.  They first read about Logee’s in the New London Day years ago. 

 “You can smell the earth,” Paul said. “The plants are so unusual here.”

“You can feel the air. Here in the middle of winter in Connecticut, it’s tropical. It’s just such a hopeful place,” Linda said. She loves the plants, but she leaves the gardening to her husband. “I kill them with love,” she admits. She calls Logee’s a shot in the arm, especially in the winter.  “You get so sick and tired of the snow. Here it’s quiet. I’ve never been here when it’s busy or noisy. It’s always gorgeous. It’s always unusual.”

Iva picked up a pretty little purple-leafed plant in a 2.5 inch pot. “Coming here is like a breath of fresh air.  It’s always spring. Even though we come about the same time, there are new plants all the time, or something is blooming this time that wasn’t blooming last time.”

Except for the occasional sound of snow sliding off the clear paned roof, the greenhouses were otherworldly.  The air was so moist and so dense with plants that mold grew freely on a garden bench in one of the aisles.  It covered all wooden frames and even the trays underneath the potted plants.  Most of the aisles are dirt. Some paths are bricked. Water pooled on the floor in low spots. Vines grew along the metal pole that ran along the crest of the ceiling. Potted plants and trees crowded the two-foot wide aisles everywhere.  One particularly persistent vine grew up into the ceiling of the retail store so that its tendrils hung down like Christmas greenery.

Tiffany Debruycker wrapped a "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” in plastic for a customer.

The plant sported cascading colors of blue, purple, pink and white flowers. Debruycker said that business starts to pick up in January. “The peak season is March and April.  Summer is probably our slowest time. It’s brutal,” she said. It can reach 104 degrees in the greenhouses. “You have to drink a bottle of water an hour.”   

Logee’s received a grant recently from the USDA. With it, they built a new propagation shed that is open year round. In keeping with the terms of the grant, they have to dismantle the same amount of square footage for everything they put up in energy efficient buildings.  Some of the old greenhouses will have to go eventually. 

Kathleen Coppola of Woodstock has been coming to Logee’s for 30 years.  “I come every couple of months,” she said. “His citrus are out of this world.” She especially loves the fragrance of the Lemon Room and the “Red Powder Puff,” a cultivar that never stops flowering, even during winter. 

Debruycker said, “When you pull up, you don’t know what you’re getting into. We’re not known locally. We’re known more outside it.”

A woman piled a cardboard container with several small potted plants on the counter. She had been a garden designer for 16 years in England. “The place is famous,” she said. “Everybody knows about it.  It’s really a treasure. Look at what I’m spending today.” Her purchases rang up to over $120.00.  Apparently among plant people, the word did, and does, go out.

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