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In 1978, before I moved away to the craziness of New York, I was living in the little village of Coventry, Ct. As a poet, photographer and singer/songwriter, I have always drawn much of my inspiration from nature. I had visited Caprilands several times and been enchanted by the smells of all the herbs on the grounds and in the gift shops. One memory stands out in particular, which has since become a Proustian memory for me.
When the sun came out a day or two after the February Blizzard of 1978, I decided to cure my cabin fever with a long walk. I took my camera, put on my boots and winter layers and proceeded to walk from Coventry village up to Caprilands Farm. The bright winter sun was shining on the huge snowdrifts, creating those bluewhite shadows on the fields and in the woods. When I passed Caprilands, I realized I still had some of the little anise pastilles in a tin that I had purchased a week earlier on a visit there. I popped a couple of them in my mouth, and as the licorice flavor exploded in my head, the sights of the sun-filled snowy day and the subtle yet powerful taste of the anise pastille imprinted themselves in my brain. Now whenever I taste an anise pastille - or even think of that taste, my mind is flooded with wonderful memories of Caprilands, of my life back in 1978, of writing a ten minute song called "Bluewhite" about the snow in Connecticut hills (which I finally recorded thirty years later on my 2010 album "An American Record"). And I can see the stone walls of Caprilands, the barns, the gift shops, the herb gardens. the dining room with its Christmas tree adorned with fragrant herbal garlands. And I smell the overwhelming symphony of all the herbs. And I can see Adelma Grenier Simmons' smiling face, presiding over it all like a guardian angel. Thanks, Adelma - for your gift of Caprilands!
- Grayson Hugh, Danbury Ct.
ndantonio New York, NY (1 review) September 3, 2012
I grew up in Tolland, CT and have wonderful memories visiting Caprilands Herb Farm during the 1970's & 1980's. My sister and I were in that area this past weekend for a highschool reunion and drove over there to visit. We had found a blog posting from 2008 indicating that it was still in operation.
The sign in the parking lot said they were open, but the house and barns were in a state of disrepair and no one was around. The gardens were highly overgrown, and although there were signs of farm vehicles on the grounds, nothing was tended to and the place was clearly closed.
I hope that some day Caprilands can be restored to it's magical past, as it really was a very special place, as others have posted here.
But for now, anyone interested should know that they are CLOSED!!
Caprilands herb farm was a wondrful place to visit. My first experience with herbs came when I visited 30 years ago. and many of the herbs in my garden came from those gardens including the little bay tree I purchased from her. What a magical place indeed! I remember the teas I atended in the old house were always so much fun. The classes held by Adelma were wonderful as well. Her personal tours of the gardens were delightful. She had great storeies to tell and was always explaining about the wonderful herbal vinegars she made and hoped we would as well. WE purchased many of her books over the course of time and she signed all of them.
One year Margret Hamilton (the bad witch from the Wizzard of Oz) was Adelma's guest of honor. What a special day that was. All the girls who worked at the farm wore red and white striped stockings and big witch hats. My 2 neigbors and I brought our young children --1 boy and 2 girls. The girls wore witch hats as well. How happy we all were when Ms Hamilton allowed us to have them hotgraphed with her. It was such a fun day as we were fortunate enough to score tickets to the luncheon. Ms Hamilton presented a book to Ms. Simmons on the making of the Wizzard of Oz which had gone out of print. The entire atmosphere was directly out of the now popular Harry Potter!
Years later I found some pictures of the 3 children taken at Caprilands including the one of the 3 of them with Ms Hamilton. My husband and I made a special trip to Caprilands but the place was not the same as it was. We encountered Adelma sitting quietly indoors in a big chair. I was a bit startled as I did not realize at first that she was in the room. I then introduced myself to her and spoke about the times when I first visited the gardens, and my herb garden. She gave me wonderful advice on my lavender. At that time we spoke about the time Ms Hamilton visited and I then gave her a copy of the picture of the 3 children taken together with Ms Hamilton. I remember that she graciously accepted it saying she had remembered when they were there--- I think that they were actually the only 3 kids in attendance at the luncheon.
Time goes on. Now my neighbor just informed me that she read that the farm is no longer in operation--how sad for the old "goat" farm ----- Adelma would say that her family raised goats. I know that the farm had fallen on hard times but am sad to learn that it is no longer opened.
Are there any plans for the "foundation" to reopen it? The NY Botanical Gardens has a program this summer ----ends in October ---called the Edible Garden. They have vegetable, flower and herbal gardens and also have had cooking demonstrations all summer. One of the ones I attended was on herbs. It was informative and I was reminded of the Caprilands. Perhaps gardens such as these would be interested in Adelma and there might be people who could help. Are ther grants available?
If it is true that Cprilands is now closed, I hope that one day someone will have the vision and can secure the funds to redo the place> HMMM...an extreme redo----restoring the landscape and home---TV home/makeover garden crews where are you?
Ms. Simmons passing was indeed terrible for the farm. The onset of legal issues concerning the conservatorship has probably also taken its toll as well. I was there in fact the summer before she passed on as well as throughout the fall and actually had visited for her funeral. The farm was not that bad at all. The employees were as they always were; friendly and educating. I had visited there many times since then to find this was not the farm it had been even in the year she passed on. I know her children were involved to some extent with a fair regard for the one daughter and wonder if she is involved again? If not maybe she could be? I know that the relationship between Mr. Cook and her must be stressed however in regards to the farm and its current condition she might be needed as well as some of the old employees like Tina. I know this farm to be enchanting... almost bewitching, to say the least. When last visited one must know this is not the farm with the reputation of what we all remember. Insofar as the farms comments back onto the web site here... The farm was not that bad before her passing, Danielson could be the length of an hour and half due to two very different routes taken. One from Mass. the other route 6. Please stop making excuses for the farms lack of organization and get the dirt flying!! Stop battering the old herbal customers that have sat with Adelma and made pomerander balls while it snowed and start figuring out how to put every cent that you make back into bringing this farm back to where it was even to the year she passed because even just that would be an improvement. Find the old employees, find Adelma's old herbals, get some lecturers into the green house, serve some tea and make this a great year for Adelma's sake. I know you can do this Mr. Cook.
jessesgirl Willimantic, CT (1 review) August 17, 2008
The last time I went to caprilands was on a cool autumn day several years ago. It was wonderful. The wood stove was going and you could smell the herbs and incense. The shop had all sorts of things to look at and to buy. The grounds were a bit overgrown but I was okay with that because the atmosphere was so welcoming and warm. I saw the "company's" response to a visitors complaint and thought that things must be going well. I listen to the phone message about hours of operations and events etc. and again it sounded good so off I went. But the place is in total disrepair. The shop has all old products, there are cobwebs..it is just a mess. I understand that it is now in the hands of a foundation. I hope that they can revive the beauty and the spirit of capriland's. But, until they have made some headway it would be best not to be open for business. I think having people see the place in its current state will do more harm than good. Your phone message should explain that Capriland's in going through a period of renewal and ask that people check back in from time to time to see what stage you have reached or how they could help..that should probably be the focus of the website too.
I wish the foundation good luck and I hope to have the opportunity to visit a healthy Capriland's in the futrue
I'd always meant to visit and finally Memorial Day 2008, I made it.
A merchant at a local garden shop (Edmunson's) pointed me in the right direction with a warning that the place had fallen on hard times.
So glad I made the effort as my car wasn't working too well and I almost didn't bother.
Really, how many old farms can you roam around at will and enjoy a beautiful day in the country with no one bothering you and no pressure to hurry.
I took many photos and this is a place I can't recommend enough to the amatuer or pro photog. You just can't take a bad picture here, the compositions are out of this world.
As a passionate herbalist (a hobby), it was great fun to try and identify plants and wander about seeing where help was needed and where progress was underway.
I think it is harsh to be critical of this place in any way...after all, property is hard to maintain under the best of circumstances and it is in the natural life cycle for places to have times of neglect and deterioration and times of rising and peaking.
Even in dishevelment, Caprilands was a truly magical place that feels like coming home.
I spoke briefly to a guy there who seemed to be the proprietor, I guess he was pretty busy and gets asked a lot of dumb questions, so I didn't get to engage in real conversation about the place. I'd love to know more. I think there should be a "dish" where people could throw in a few dollars donation and some literature about ways to contribute. Maybe I missed this, as I never found the shop...I guess I got sidetracked.
Anyway, a wonderful place, don't hold its once glorious past or currently rambly personality against it.
I read Shatioya and Richard De La Tour's book, "The Herbalist's Garden" in which there is a chapter on the late Adelma Simmons and Caprilands. I wanted to find out more and went online and was directed to a number of links of which this site was one.
In support for the renewal and rejuvenation of the gardens I think the comment in an earlier post in regard to setting up some type of volunteer program is a great idea. I have been a volunteer for a non-profit called the Brandywine Conservancy Wildflower Gardens (http://www.brandywinemuseum.org/gardens.html) which is geared to native plants but the principles can be used in similar programs. At the Conservancy the maintenance of the gardens is largely stewarded by volunteers. For 2 mornings a week volunteers gather to work alongside one another in 3 main areas of the program: Propagation, Seed Collection/Packaging/Labeling thirdly working as Gardeners who are assigned specific areas of the garden and work within alongside of a small group of others for common weekly written goals in that area. At times the whole garden team may get together to work in one part of the garden that needs extra hands depending on the time of the season and the needs of the Conservancy. There is also an annual spring plant sale which is very popular with the public and so volunteers help pot up plugs of plants earlier in the spring and also help set up the plant tables on the day of the sale.
Prior to volunteering an interview is arranged in which prospective volunteers are met with and a talk about their interests, experience and goals in regard to being a volunteer are determined and considered within the framework and needs of the organization.
In return for their commitment of time and energy volunteers make new friends as they garner a sense of camaraderie while woking together and learning more about their chosen areas of interest. They are guided by the expertise of the Horticultural Volunteer Coordinator who has known the gardens intimately over a long period of time as well as one full time gardener who also helps manage and guide the activities of the volunteer program. After the spring plant sale a yearly potluck luncheon is held at the either the Horticultural Coordinator's or the Full time gardener's home and a informal tour of the gardens precedes the meal. There may also be a trip to other prominant gardens for the volunteers to enjoy as well as a mid-winter lecture on interesting and/or ongoing developments in regard to native plants. Volunteer appreciation luncheons are held throughout the year as well.
It is a great way for both the organization as well as the volunteers to meet their individual and overall goals while furthering each's sense of helping to promote the larger vision of the Consvancy. Many of the volunteers have been long term and take great satisfaction of being part of the program as evidenced by their years of service.
I am sure something similar could be visioned and created by Caprilands and that there would be sufficient interest on peoples part to get involved to be a part of the revitalization of the wonderful legacy that Adelma Simmons left - it may start small but as word got out it would have the potential to take off and be a success. Good luck and I hope to come up to Caprilands someday and see the gardens at their peak!On December 23rd, 2007, gardengirlygirl added the following:
I hasten to add program volunteers meet one morning a week either on a Tuesday or Thursday. Of course if time and interest is there, volunteers are always welcome to come both days as their schedule allows.
Another possibility would be internships where people come and learn in different areas of the program in exchange for their time and energy.
We were camping in the Willington, CT area and decided to be typical tourists, gathering literature and visiting any place that sounded interesting. We actually hoped for a visit to a gift shop and a dinner at the restaurant. We were unaware of Adelma's dream and of her passing and felt sadness, yet a glimmer of hope for what some assistance there could do. I hope to dialogue with Dave about some ideas I have that might bring Caprilands back up to a busier level of function, yet retain the image created by Adelma. She did a lot of work there and invested herself in her dream. I can still sense her essence of positiveness and reaching out to help others through her gifts and her great love of what she was doing. We could have left the shop feeling discouraged...the supplies there have been somewhat depleted, yet we found some items that were new to us. We found some literature of the sort that I will treasure. We did not find an operating restaurant.
What was bustling a few years ago is somewhat dormant now as people put their lives back together and get a new start. A new start does not mean that Caprilands will be lost; instead, it means that if folks join together, Caprilands can be rejuvenated. Let's read what Adelma wrote, let's dream with them and be creative in our thinking. What they have there would be so difficult for most of us to re-create, but we can lend a hand in bringing Caprilands back. Adelma meant for it to last...let's help her...and Dave....let's help bring it back.
I'll be back here again soon with some suggestions, but I want to toss things around with Dave a bit before I post those.
brokencrow Thomaston, CT (1 review) March 24, 2007
It has been many years since I have visited Caprilands, but I still have the wonderful books and recipes Adelma provided me with, I wish to keep my good memories, therefore I dont think I will be visiting "the new Caprilands" although I know things must change. I wish you luck in renovation and all the success in running the "new Caprilands"
Disappointed but hopeful- Yes I too, have wanted to visit Caprilands for many years and finally this summer we departed from vacation iteniary and decided to find it. We never found it.... We stopped to ask locals and know one seem to know what we were talking about. I hope the restoration will continue and we will look forward to finding it again another year.
Bucks County- PACompany representative comment on August 6, 2006: On Aug 6, 2006 11:28 AM, Caprilands Herb Farm added:
Caprilands has about 65 acres of land and has never moved and never closed. Directions to the Farm are posted on our Web site and a sign pointing to Caprilands has stood for decades and still stands on US44 at the head of Silver Street in North Coventry. Directions are also available by telephoning the Farm and listening to the recorded dirtections, available at all hours.
An artist last week found a full day's work with her canvas, oil paints and easel at the Farm so you missed much.
As one of my favorite places on earth, I too have been loyally visiting Capriland’s, quite literally, every single year for OVER 25 years now. And like others, I have seen her in her prime and I have missed the wonderful, magical place that it was. These sad visits over the past decade or so have been much the same experience as the two most recent reviewers here. BUT this is by no means intended as a criticism. I have simply been waiting and hoping for this restoration that is obviously being carried out now and I could not be more delighted to hear of it. I am certain many, many others share this feeling of excitement. But it might just be missing the point to challenge whether this visitor actually drove an hour or less than an hour to see her. The point is, people still love Capriland’s, still remember her magic and people will still continue to come.
We are all rooting for her, you see…
Have you thought of publicly appealing to people in an effort to recruit volunteers to help restore the gardens? For the many who remember, it would be a labor of love. And for those who have never met her, a magical learning experience.
Snomittens West Greenwich, RI (1 review) June 23, 2006
My Mother and I have been wanting to go to Caprilands for some time now. I have seen photos of Caprilands in many of my herbal books. When we decided to go I went online to find out when they were open and what they had to offer. I found this comment section and read them. So today I went up there with an open mind not knowing what to expect. Yes, it is very obvious that there is a lot of work that needs to be done but there are only two of them doing it so it is slow going. They have had to get things settled financially first and now they are starting to concentrate on the gardens and getting things back to normal. The lady that we spoke with at great length was very helpful and knowledgeable. I will be going back to see their progress. It is well worth the trip.
I was so bitterly disappointed last Spring when I invited my Aunt to join me on a day trip to Caprilands. She drove an hour and a half to my house and then another hour to Caprilands. I remember visiting with my mother about 15 years ago and falling in love with gardening. We spent the day looking at lush beautiful gardens with intricate patterns and plants I had never heard of before. (Mind you I was in my late teens) When we arrived what we saw just made me want to cry. The gardens were overwraught with weeds, the few plants in the back greenhouse were infested with white flies or were half dead. We came across the book store (I remember Adelma Simmons signing one of the books we purchased that day) only to find the rotting remains of something on the floor. The giftshop was still open but the selection of items (except the teapots which were beautiful) ie: herb packets, potpourri, soaps, etc looked as if they had been there for years. I expected the herbs to be dried not petrified. It was indeed very sad to see Ms. Simmons dream wasted away like that. I hope someone will take it upon themselves to revive this once magical place and to restore the dream that was Caprilands.Company representative comment on May 20, 2006: On May 20, 2006 10:40 AM, Caprilands Herb Farm added:
These comments are very mistaken.
First, the gardens became overgrown long prior to Mrs. Simmons passing in 1997. By then, Celastrus orbiculatus, had choked much of the garden and killed many trees. It was removed in 1998 when as many as 15 years of growth rings were counted on the larger vines. The gardens had some critical replanting to replace lost specimens, e.g., colonial apple seedlings on East Malling dwarf rootstock , much major work had to await critical restoration of the buildings. So, in 2003, the buildings were repainted and windows reglazed; in 2004 the entire plumbing renewed to assure that water from our 300 ft well remains as pure as when pumped; in 2005 quarry tile floors installed in the two kitchens.
Thr “Bookstore” was shuttered and locked after Mrs. Simmons death and her books removed to the barn gift shop.
All of the dried herbs in the gift shop were upgraded to the best to be found anywhere in the world. For example, lavender flowers are imported from Provence directly in bulk and many hundreds of pounds sold throughout this country each year.
All plants sold are clean and fresh and our greenhouse is clean and certified by the State.
Extensive work on the gardens has begun this year with trimming of the lower limbs of the large trees bordering the main gardens to admit more light. We receive seed annually form the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at Wisley and the plants raised from them are not sold but added to the gardens.
It is unreasonable to expect the receipts from the gift shop to support the extensive needs of the gardens and Caprilands in in process of becoming a Public Charity to assure the historic and famous gardens remain.
And the driving time for this this visitor to Caprilands is about half that claimed.
I have dealt with the herb farm for about 25 years now and find it to be most exciting each time I visit. Adelma G. Simmons books are so informative and sweet. The oils are exceptional. Love this place.