Friends of Holcomb Farm

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The American yellowwood, a tree of year-round high landscape value, is a new addition to Holcomb Farm’s growing Tree Trail. All are invited to come see this tree and 60 others we’ve planted and labeled throughout this arboretum in the East Fields (across the street from our main campus). Submitted photos

Holcomb Farm celebrates Granby’s Open Farm Day September 18

Granby’s own farm—Holcomb Farm—anchors the West Granby part of town, along the watershed of the West Branch of the Salmon Brook, and Open Farm Day is the perfect opportunity for everyone in the community to visit and enjoy this town treasure. The fertile fields of plenty will be enjoyment enough but, in addition, several events are planned in and around the CSA Barn/Farm Store at 111 Simsbury Road. Here’s the line-up to help you plan, as we know it will be a busy day for everyone looking to visit all of Granby’s great farms.

10 a.m.—Cooking Demo in the Farm Store with celebrity chef Chris Prosperi of Metro Bis. His cooking demos at the farm are a thing of simple beauty. Armed with a few staples and a hot plate, Prosperi will walk through the bins of produce, piling up veggies to cook, and then have at it. Everyone can watch, learn, and taste: the results are always delicious.

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.—The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will have an informational tent at the Farm displaying pelts of our local wildlife. Kids of all ages will enjoy learning more about the animals that live in and around Granby.

11 a.m. and 1 p.m.—Guided hikes on the Friends of Holcomb Farm’s growing Tree Trail. These hikes will begin at the main campus of Holcomb Farm at 113/115 Simsbury Road (all other events are at the CSA Barn/Farm Store).

All Day Guess the Garlic Contest—We have our largest crop ever of seed garlic hanging and curing in the Barn Store. Come guess how much we have hanging. Whoever comes closest will win one of the bags.

Tree Trail continues to grow

At last count, more than 60 trees have been planted, labeled and lovingly watered by our many volunteers. Absent an available water source on the East Fields, this is a heavy labor of love. We have plans to seek grants and raise funds to put in a well to support the growing arboretum, and perhaps, support grazing animals, but for now, its brute force.

On your next walk along the trail, be sure to take note of the American yellowwood, a tree of year-round high landscape value. With its leaves off, the American yellowwood’s smooth gray bark would strike many observers as perhaps a beech. The bark’s resemblance is very close, as is the surprisingly beautiful yellow fall color. Other than the bark, the resemblance is not close. 

The yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) displays 15-inch hanging clusters of fragrant white flowers in May and June, and clear yellow seed pods. It makes superb bee pasture, attracting swarms when in flower. It usually grows 30 to 50 feet high, with a 40- to 55-foot spread. The Kentucky champion is 80 feet tall. Its growth rate is medium, but can be accelerated with water and fertilizer. It’s not native to Connecticut, but is found from North Carolina to Kentucky and Tennessee, then scattered in Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Despite its Southern range, it does just fine as far north as Minnesota and Maine, withstanding winter temperatures of minus 25 to 30 degrees.

While it has a considerable range, it is not a common tree. We are not aware of any along Granby’s roadsides. Our tree was sourced from Rare Earth Nursery in Cazenovia, N.Y., and was grown by the Missouri Gravel Bed Method. Just Google “Missouri Gravel Bed” to find out what this term means.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the yellowwood is its bright green leaves, which stand out in the landscape against the darker-leaved oaks and hickories. The leaves are pinnately compound, with 7 to 11 leaflets. (“Pinnately compound leaves” take their name from their feather-like appearance; the leaflets are arranged along the middle vein, as in rose leaves or the leaves of hickory, pecan, ash, or walnut trees.)

It produces flowers every other year, or every third year, usually starting when the tree attains a height of about 12 to 18 feet. Ours is only about seven feet tall and will likely not bloom for five years or so. It may not bloom at all. Leading authority Michael Dirr says in The Tree Book that he grew one from seed, but it’s never bloomed in 17 years.

The name “yellowwood” comes from the color of the heartwood, which was once used for gunstocks.

Holcomb Farm’s Summer Season is in full swing. Not a CSA member? No problem! Stop by the Farm Store (111 Simsbury Road in West Granby), to purchase Holcomb Farm produce a la carte. The store is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Another year of growth for the Friends

By the time this issue is published, our Annual Meeting will have been held, and the terrific work of the FOHF—including all its members, donors and volunteers—celebrated. A complete annual report has been published and is available on our website, at

In August, New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis) puts on quite a show in the Southwest Field along Simsbury Road to the south of the Day Street South junction.