The adventurous gardener
Terri Sauerhafer thinks outside the windowbox
Terri Sauerhafer didn’t plan to go into the business of growing plants—she was just trying to find interesting varieties for her own vegetable garden. She’s an avid cook and had little interest in the standard selections available in the nurseries, so she started scoping out seed catalogs and quickly decided that growing her own was the way to get what she wanted. It didn’t take her long to jump from vegetables to flowers. “You have so much more freedom over what you grow when you order seeds,” she explains.
Her first greenhouse, which she describes as “a little plastic tunnel home-made affair,” was built around fifteen years ago, and it put her on the road to serious growing. At first she gave extra plants to friends or put them on a little table by the road to sell. Later, with the help of her friend Marcia Booth’s pickup truck, she began selling her plants at the Rochester Public Market. Not long afterwards, Sauerhafer installed a bigger greenhouse, then several others, and started her business, Good Earth Greenhouse.
You won’t find orange marigolds and red geraniums here. “Too boring,” she says. “The whole fun of gardening is all the new stuff.” Sauerhafer thinks most gardeners want to create something unique and need something interesting to work with. She has a reputation for growing annuals and perennials you won’t find anywhere else. Her quest for the new and exciting doesn’t follow the latest trends; rather, she has an uncanny ability to predict them.
Always looking on the edges to find things no one else has scooped up yet, she’s a confirmed plant nerd, susceptible to falling in love. Studying trade magazines and catalogues and tracking down plants not always available on the market is a time- consuming business, but that’s the fun. Her sleuthing often leads Sauerhafer to small specialty seed companies. In the early years she got a lot of seeds from England and the Netherlands, but now the newer plugs and cuttings come from the West Coast. “More has become available in the last few years [in the United States], and there’s definitely a trend toward newer plants,” she says.
Sauerhafer orders from about fifty different places—a little hard to keep track of but, as she says, “It’s the only way to get the variety I want. Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise,’ a milkweed with variegated foliage, is one of my favorites this year,” she says enthusiastically. Favorite annuals on her list include double flowering vincas ‘Soiree Crown Pink’ and ‘Soiree Double Pink’. ‘Phasion,’ a new dark-foliaged canna marked with orange and yellow stripes, promises to be a striking addition to any bed or container. ‘Night Sky’, a luscious dark purple petunia spotted with little white dots, is absolutely irresistible. She grows flipped out vegetables too—noodle beans, a runner bean with lime foliage, lychee tomatoes, and pink cardoons.
Perennials that can do double duty in containers and the ground fill a couple of pages on Good Earth’s plant list. Headliners include Dicentra ‘White Gold,’ a striking beauty with little white heart shaped flowers and lacey gold foliage, Bergenia Dragonfly ‘Sakura,’ and a long-sought favorite lavender-blue delphinium, ‘La Boheme.’
“Every gardener needs a stash of cool plants to play with,” says Sauerhafer. But even if you’ve only grown red geraniums, there’s no need to feel intimidated. Everyone on her crew knows, grows, and talks plants. Most can give firsthand advice about how to grow any of them.
Part of the charm of Sauerhafer’s small business is her passion and personal touch. She has no plans to get any bigger—she’d lose her connection with the plants and her customers. “Plus,” she laughs, “I don’t have a place to put another greenhouse!”
Good Earth Greenhouse
877 Larue Rd., Clifton Springs, NY 14432
Good Earth is open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.–3 p.m. from April 25 through June 11 (closing at 2 p.m.) and at the Rochester Public Market Flower City Days May 8, 15, 22, and 29, and June 5, plus Memorial Day weekend: Friday, May 27, Saturday, May 28, Sunday, May 29, and Monday, May 30.
Christine Froehlich is a landscape designer and garden writer and executive director of the Rochester Civic Garden Center. She blogs at