Text by Tovah Martin
Sarah Partyka might be Rhode Island’s most fervent cheerleader for fall. After all, it was in autumn 20 years ago that this third-generation farmer first opened her shop. “I vividly remember the day we launched The Farmer’s Daughter,” Sarah recalls. After scrambling to stage a knock-your-socks-off display of homegrown heirloom pumpkins and mums at her newly constructed shop, she was tempted to sit around biting her nails awaiting customer reaction. “Instead, I made lists, brainstorming ideas for making autumn better,” Sarah says. And she’s been wowing customers ever since in a greatly extended venue with greenhouses, display areas, and gardens galore.
Of course, The Farmer’s Daughter stocks items to infuse every gardening season, but autumn holds a special place in the heart of this shop. Other nurseries might call it quits when the trees start changing color, but not The Farmer’s Daughter. For Sarah, the growing season isn’t over until hard frost forces a full shutdown. Up until that day, the New England garden shop is scheming ways to augment autumn.
Coming from a family that launched the first pick-your-own berry patch in Rhode Island and armed with degrees in urban horticulture and turf management from nearby University of Rhode Island, Sarah had to think deeply about how to fit into the family tradition. “Gardening is in my blood,” she says. How to weave her genetic penchant together with her creative bent was the challenge. “I’ve always been drawn to unusual plants,” she says. “It’s grown from there.”
The autumn eureka came when Sarah realized that fall’s downtick is due to the lack of promising products available on the market. Given options, autumn can be a major moment on the map. “You naturally want to refresh in autumn,” she notes. “This is actually the perfect time to plant,” she explains, referring to the cool temperatures that make transplanting stress-free for plants. “And there is a whole litany of perennials and annuals that love to thrive in cool weather.” Finding those fall-performing plants was a nearly unexplored niche. “The potential goes far beyond mums and asters,” she says, something she discovered after researching her options. Before long, she had amassed a stellar inventory of strong players that come into peak as the days shorten.