Most Brattleboro folks know Laurie Bolotin from the Brattleboro Farmer's Market, where she sells a wide variety of interesting perennial plants and occasionally some hand-made crafts. We decided to ask her about Vermont, flowers, kids, and more.
When is your birthday?
April 18 and if you really want to know...1957!
Where do you live, and how did you come to live in this area?
Oh, it's kind of a "love" story with a town! Scott and I met when we lived in New Salem, MA. When we were ready to look for a farm to buy, we decided that we wanted to live in Vermont and ended up cruising with a realtor to lots of places we hadn't ever seen before. When we drove through Bellows Falls for the first time (this is back in 1986), half of the storefronts were boarded shut. Still, I looked at the architecture and "felt" the essence of the town glowing through the gloom! We then drove on to Rockingham, where we first saw the farm we now live on (Morning Star Farm) and knew in a second that this was the HOME for us. We love it here, and there's been wonderful changes in Bellows Falls since RAMP and Robert McBride brought the arts to town, and Charlie Hunter brought music!
It's come quite a long way. How has your life changed since coming to Vermont?
Well, let's see...besides having FOUR incredible children??!! And I have amazing friends here. And, of course, we started our business here, Morning Star Perennials, which is one of the passions of my life.
Tell us about flowers. How long have you been enamored of them, and what led you to start Morning Star Farm?
When we lived in Massachusetts we had a farm too, and we used to grow dried flowers and go out to craft shows with my arrangements. Actually, Scott courted me with a bunch of dried flowers he had grown, and then off we went! I've always loved flowers and planting but I really never thought I'd be a flower farmer. Scott helped me discover a part of myself that I didn't know was so powerful. As soon as I started farming flowers a deep part of me awakened.
It seems like everything we look at wants full sun. Are there perennials that thrive in part sun or even shady conditions?
Loads of them. I have an extensive variety. Some of my favorite plants for deep shade offer amazing texture, like Heuchera Americana, a plant in the Coral Bells family with really interesting variegation and fuzzy flowers. Or Ligularia Stenocephala, "the Rocket," which grows 4-6 feet tall and has huge leaves and yellow spires of flowers.
Sounds fabulous. We understand that you also do garden design. Tell us about that.
I don't have time for design work in the summer but starting late summer or early fall I can visit a site and draw up designs in the fall/winer. The first part of any design job for me is to talk to the homeowner and get a sense of what she/he would love, not just what I like.
You have a whole brood of kids it seems. What's it like being a rural mom?
I'm the most fortunate woman in the world! My kids knew more about flowers, plants and birds by the time they were five than I knew at 15!
So are you farming alone, or does your husband farm with you?
Scott is an amazing man. He has a total connection with the natural world. His knowledge about trees, flowering plants, stonewall building, and actually just about everything for that matter, blows me away! Not only is he a full time carpenter, he's also a dry stonewall mason, a grower of perennials, and an orchardist. I want to tell you about his apple trees. He's addicted to grafting! He has one tree here at the farm with over 60 varieties of apples on 1 tree! What he does is collect heirloom scionwood and graft them onto standard trees. His goal is to preserve the old varieties of apples, like "Somerset of Maine", "Edward VII", "Late Strawberry", and "Virginia Beauty", to name just a few. What's more wonderful is that he's growing them organically. Someday we will be open as a very unique pick-your-own organic orchard. Really, he's quite a gem of a man. And VERY funny too!
Do you have a life philosophy?
Always mirror back to others the goodness you see in them. Smile a lot. Always find things to appreciate.
What's your favorite time of year and why?
SPRING! It's all about hope.
Do you still do handcrafts? Your dried flowers and wreaths are beautiful. Any plans for new crafts?
Actually, I'll probably only be selling crafts for this one more year. The perennials have won my passions!
That is a big change. You heard it here first, folks - this year's crafts will be collectors items!
It's hard to imagine that you would have time for hobbies, but what the hey. Got any hobbies?
I love to walk and to listen to live acoustic music. Scott and I go to hear music at Oona's in Bellows Falls as often as possible. It's a great, intimate, musical space. If you haven't been there, it is worth a trip.
What was your favorite subject in school?
Crafts. I had a really innovative teacher. I also loved biology.
If you could have any meal you wanted, and you didn't have to prepare it yourself, what would it be?
My favorite meal would be a beautiful mixed organic greens salad with a very garlicky dressing and loads of raw veggies in it, to start. Fresh warm whole grain cranberry walnut rolls with real butter that isn't cold and hard. Then maybe a fresh pasta and seafood thing, again with tons of garlic and rosemary but no clams or oysters, maybe just shrimp and scallops. And for dessert some intense chocolate thing with a big wide cup of strong decaf cappucino and then maybe some more chocolate!
If people want to get in touch with you about perennials, garden design, or dried flowers, what's the best way for them to do that?
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802-463-3433. We're working on our website. It'll be at www.morningstarflowers.com, but knowing me it could be a whole year before it is ready.
We know a web design company you could call... heh heh. Finally, any questions we forgot to ask that you might like to answer?
Yes, I'd like to talk about the Brattleboro Area Farmers' Market which has been an extraordinary experience for me. I've been selling there for 14 years, first with my dried flower business and then/now with the perennials. I tell people that it's one of the best farmers' markets in the world! And I really mean that. People can go to Market and be thoroughly entertained and well-fed, and can go home stocked with produce, vegetable garden starter plants, annuals, baked goods, body care products, pure maple syrup, farm-made cheeses, cut flowers, beautiful handcrafts/artwork and of course perennials. (I hope I didn't leave too much out). It's a place where people visit and then go home feeling good. I believe that it's really important in this era of huge corporations such as Walmart, etc., for us to, as often as possible, buy directly from growers/producers/creators. And as vendors, we get great "visibility" by selling in a large group like we do. I feel like a lot of people have found out about our perennial business because of Market. I'm so fortunate to be a part of it.
Thanks for taking time with iBrattleboro!
Thanks for the great interview!