Trade Secrets: A Conversation With Bunny Williams
By Madaline Sparks
I managed to snag a moment with the incredibly busy interior designer Bunny Williams for a quick phone conversation between her road trips. She was just back from Highpoint, NC and leaving to give a lecture in Dallas. I wanted to chat about the upcoming 17th Annual Trade Secrets, the garden extravaganza celebration, which is a fundraiser for Women’s Support Services of Sharon, Conn. Bunny is a co-founder of Trade Secrets and hosted it the first few years at her home in Falls Village, Conn. Eventually it got so big, they needed a more generously spaced venue and it is now held at Elaine La Roche’s stunning LionRock Farm in Sharon. This year’s event is scheduled for May 13 and 14.
I asked Williams what it takes to pull off this weekend every year.
“The extraordinary outpouring of community spirit from the volunteers is what makes it so successful,” she said. “From the advance preparation to the many jobs over the weekend, it involves hundreds of generous people. Who would have thought this little idea we came up with 17 years ago would turn into an event that last year attracted more than 1400 people to the sale and sold 900 tickets sold for the garden tour! ”
One of things I appreciate so much about the sale is how well organized it is. I have never been to a plant and garden sale where the customer service is so exemplary. You don’t have to curtail your shopping because you can’t imagine how you’ll get that eight-foot tuteur to your car: there are legions of helpers to collect all your purchases for you and hold them securely until you finish shopping and can pick them up in your vehicle.
I asked the designer about the process of finding the more than 60 vendors of rare and unusual plants, birdhouses, containers, antiques and garden-related ornaments, furnishings and more. She told me the committee seeks out resources near and far and vets them carefully to ensure the selection they bring will be special and not run–of the-mill items you can find just anywhere. In addition to the regulars, this year there will be four new plant sellers and several new artisans, including a metalwork fabricator of garden ornaments and accessories.
Williams confessed that she cannot wait for the sale every year. “I get very excited about the thought of all the plants I’m going to find and the chance of finding a new garden ornament at Trade Secrets. I go with a list that’s soon forgotten about once I get on the field and see all the wonderful things the dealers have brought.” She joked that she‘s often thought of starting a 12-step program for addicts like herself (and me!) who can’t resist the temptation of the incredible array of garden goodies gathered all in one place. But we both know we don’t really want to go “cold turkey” when it comes to botanical treasures. And that’s the fun (and convenience) of Trade Secrets. It’s like a one-day Garden Super Store.
Whether you are looking for a fabulous groundcover for dry shade, a new inspiration for planting your containers or that special garden-themed vintage objet for your entry hall, there are thousands of items to covet, intrigue, and learn about at Trade Secrets. And the fact that your investment goes to support an important and worthy cause is icing on the cake.
Note: Tickets to view the four gardens on the tour for Sunday have been limited this year and are sold out.
Women’s Support Services (WSS) seeks to create a community free of domestic violence and abuse through intervention, prevention and education. They offer free, confidential, client-centered services focused on safety, support advocacy and community outreach. (860)364-1080 or 24/7 Hotline (860) 364-1900.
Trade Secrets Rare Plant and Garden Antiques Sale
Saturday, May 13
Tickets for Saturday’s sale at LionRock Farm in Sharon, CT, are available in advance or day-of.
Tickets: Early Bird $125 from 8 – 10 a.m. (includes Continental breakfast); Regular admission $50 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Late
Bloomer $25 from 1 – 3 p.m. For more information visit the website or call (860) 364-1080.