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Wethersfield, CT, and Onions

Corinne Willard presides over Comstock, Ferre today. (Willards have been in the business since the 1880s.) Years ago she had a Saturday-morning radio show on gardening, and people still ask her when she’s going to get back on the air. Mrs. Willard brooks little nonsense. Ask her what’s wrong with your ailing rosebush, and she’ll expertly finger the leaves and say, “You’ve got spider mite, under the leaves and on top,” as if any fool could see such an obvious thing.

Mrs. Willard despairs when Hartford’s urban refugees move here and plant lawns instead of gardens. “They put a pot of geraniums on the front step and that’s a big concession,” she says, shaking her head. “I have no front lawn. It’s all garden.”

Perhaps on this spring afternoon at Comstock, Ferre & Company, the heart of Wethersfield’s agricultural past still beats softly. See that toy wagonful of daffodils waving in the breeze? In the back, there’s a case of sheep mxanure, and some buckwheat hulls, and a bunch of saltmarsh hay. Corinne Willard’s in front, getting annoyed because someone put a packet of catnip where the chamomile should be. And just look outside at that one enthusiastically hand-scribbled sign. It says: “Onion Sets Are Here!” Judging by a certain whiff in the air, there seems to be a run on them.

Updated Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

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