There is a brief interlude just before the holidays when nothing is stirring at Pettengill Farm. Located in coastal Salisbury, Massachusetts, the farm is typically bustling throughout spring, summer, and autumn. But as the holidays approach, there is a hiatus when the greenhouses are emptied of inventory. Most nurseries use the slow juncture for a much-needed vacation, but not Pettengill Farm owner Jan Richenburg. Last year, she gathered her perpetual energy to seize that idle moment and create magic for her community: How about filling those empty greenhouses with sparkling glitter for a special sales event to ignite the neighborhood with holiday spirit? What if the halls were swathed with boughs of everything bountiful? What if the space was decked with dangling ornaments, framed botanical prints, sculpted candles, sleigh bells, and ornaments of every imaginable twinkle to offer for sale? Why not let heaven and nature bling?
From that lofty starting point, Jan’s imagination took flight and the Holiday Marketplace was conceived. But she didn’t go it alone—it was a brilliant group effort. Friends and family were rallied, buying sprees were scheduled, and suddenly, icicles weren’t the only things snapping in Salisbury. Ideas bounced back and forth faster than Santa’s sleigh.
Talent was no concern. Jan loves to shop and has an insider’s handle on sources for baubles beyond your fondest dreams. Together with her daughter, Liana Webb, the family can pull together anything imaginable. If it’s connected with greens, it’s a natural for this flower-linked family. Plus, a penchant for antiquing is embedded deep in the genes of this clan of ardent hunter/gatherers. Next, they found suitable accomplices. Longtime Pettengill Farm customer Brenda Bradley is an interior designer who can transform any blank area—even a stark greenhouse—into a wonderland. For flower arrangements, they brought in local florist and artist Margo Pullman. It was February when they first hatched the idea. Nine months later, something closely akin to Santa’s workshop was happening at Pettengill Farm.
Their starting point was color, and they went shopping for inspiration. For Jan, it was a copper sprig of leaves that got her creative juices flowing. Suddenly, she was finding that burnished copper patina echoed everywhere she turned—in ornaments as well as in pheasant feathers. Dried eucalyptus pods were the perfect hue, rusty metal became lustrous, dried mushrooms found their way into the dialogue, and all manner of other trimmings were enlisted. From there, other color themes orbited. The glimmering, moody white-and-black room (which sold out continually and required constant restocking throughout the event) was electric with adornments spanning the sphere from coastal seashells to birch twigs. Other themes from tartan to turquoise began to transpire.
Knowing that decorators often link to furniture-in-residence, Pettengill Farm brought in all sorts of delightfully hued tables, dressers, and bureaus to serve as foundations for each scene and give the fantasy a touch of reality. They laid out place settings and tablescapes and composed arrangements. Vintage was displayed beside brand new; rusty rubbed shoulders with polished. They pulled out all the stops, working like elves for a month prior to the opening. Meanwhile, they let it be known that the one-time Holiday Marketplace would commence the week before Thanksgiving.
After everyone had composed their rooms, transitional areas were needed, so they linked the spaces with festooned fabric and screens draped with merchandise. As a result, the festivities flowed without pause, luring visitors along to be continually dazzled as they moved deeper into the venue. To make evening hours festive, they gathered every outlet available to make their greenhouse glitter brighter than the night sky.
The event was a marathon, to be sure. But the community loved it and lapped up the merchandise, giving Santa a head start. From the moment the greenhouse doors were thrown open, people swarmed into the marketplace. Nibbles were passed around. Sparkling drinks were served. Laughter echoed throughout the crystal halls. The most fun of all? “Putting talents together with other creative people was such a treat,” Jan shares. Although the elves who made it happen were dutifully exhausted, they could rest later having staged an event to remember.