Field Trip: Flower Shopping at Halligan's Greenhouse
by Janice Bailor
Every year in early May I take my annual pilgrimage to Halligan's Greenhouse in Thompsontown, PA, USA. I say pilgrimage because it is like a little chance to touch heaven for the day, worship the most beautiful flowers, and pray for a beautiful garden season to come. Nature and flowers in particular are a huge influence on my work. I love the showy blooms, mixture of colors and textures, and seasonal changes found in nature and the garden as a whole. Therefore, gardening is a huge joy in my life and another passion I get a chance to cultivate and play with every year.
Established in 1990, Halligan's Greenhouse has been serving the small rural area of Perry, Juniata and Mifflin Counties of central Pennsylvania for nearly 30 years. I first began shopping at Halligan's with my mother in the late 1990s and have continued the annual trip for blooms as my own family tradition ever since I've had a garden to call my own.
Driving through the countryside, farms and fields tucked quaintly into the valley, you'll arrive at the heaven that is Halligan's Greehouse located at 11218 Route 235, Thompsontown, PA17094. The greenhouse is run by a Mennonite husband and wife team along with several family members. (Due to religious beliefs, they declined to be photographed, but were happy to provide information for this article.) Shortly after marriage, Mrs. Halligan had the idea to start a small greenhouse to help supplement the family's farming income. Encouraged by her husband and father, not just one, but several metal framed greenhouses were constructed on the property. Over the years the business has steadily grown with the continued addition of more greenhouse space into a complex now consisting of four large metal frame greenhouses as well as a few sheds for potting materials and other garden related items. In addition to the greenhouse business, the family also raise chicken eggs for nearby hatcheries and markets to sell.
Beginning as early as November for the next spring season, the family receives and begins planting slow growing plant seeds which they nurture throughout the winter. In late winter, usually around the beginning of February, plug plants such as petunias will arrive from national growers to continue to be reared by the family throughout the early spring. Thousands of seeds, plugs and seedlings are nurtured by Mrs. Halligan, her children and occasional family friends as the busy season builds. The week before Mother's Day is the crescendo of the season, when the greenhouse is a buzz with happy bees and patrons from several area counties all happily shopping for their yearly plants.
Though the greenhouse offers a staple selection of petunias, tomatoes and snapdragons, the selection does vary from year to year, making each season a hunt for the next best bloom. Of the four greenhouses, one is dedicated almost exclusively to geraniums of all colors and varieties. Another house is almost exclusively petunias and their cousin, calibrachoa, again in just about every color you might imagine. It is easy to get entranced in wandering the greenhouses and it often takes me an entire morning of shear pleasure walking back and forth amongst the buildings to make sure I've seen and selected the perfect combinations.
Halligan's Greenhouse is a charming family business lovingly revered by all who visit. Each year it is a treat to converge on the small family farm tucked in the rolling valley and wander though the rows of blooming joy. If you're looking to start or expand your interest in gardening, check out Halligan's Greenhouse if you're local, or consider shopping your local family owned greenhouse. It is likely to become an experience you will revel in from year to year. A spectacular experience for any flower lover, I hope to shop at Halligan's Greenhouse for another 30 years!
Returning home with my haul, I will spend the rest of the afternoon - or maybe a few days- playing and planting in my garden. Playing with color and texture both in my studio and in my yard is my favorite part of the creative process. Mother Nature simply does color so much better than us mere mortals and gardening provides the perfect opportunity to be schooled by the best. So many inspirations can be found in the garden.
I made a short video of my trip for you to get a better sense of the experience as a whole. I also stopped at a junk shop on the way home and picked up a few very rustic wash basins to add to my galvanized planter collection. I included a small demonstration of how I prep the galvanized containers and plant them up for a shade loving, eyesore hiding summer display. Enjoy! xoxo, Janice
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