By Thom Schoeller
This is is a follow-up article to a popular blog I wrote a few years back (March 17, 2014). It was published on the New England Photographer's Guild website and originally titled "Litchfield's Laurel Ridge Foundation Daffodil Festival". My intent was to create a guide for photographers while at the same time to place some good light on a Connecticut attraction that has been popular with local Litchfield Hills residents for years. (I happened to be the very first, and ONLY Guild member from Connecticut for years) The images in this article can be purchased directly from myself by visiting my online gallery of Connecticut Photography.
Head To Litchfield's Iconic Daffodil Fields
After a long winter and a solid month of the dreaded "stick & mud" season, everyone's ready to shake off the cabin fever and head to the hills. What could be better than millions of blooming daffodils on a beautiful unspoiled rolling hillside with a serene pond? Ever since that first article was published, I've been contacted on a regular basis by folks each spring. Inquiries from folks begin around late March, and most of them live in lower Fairfield county and are unfamiliar with Connecticut's Northwest Hills.
The shrubs and trees may be greening up nicely in towns like Wilton, Westport & Norwalk - but up here in Litchfield county, we may be 10-15 days behind. Jogging my memory back just a few years, the winter of '14-'15 was brutal! That February was the coldest on record, and the snow was still 20" deep at Laurel Ridge in mid-March. Thus, this is a good example as how the daffodil display peaked very late in 2015 - thanks to the extreme cold temps and snowpack.
Advice for Photographers & The Workshops
Some most common questions I'm asked are "How are the daffodils progressing up there, Thom?" or "I'm headed to Laurel Ridge this weekend, I'm @ 3 hours away. What do you feel is the best time of day to photograph?" I've found most inquiries are from enthusiast photographers, excited as a box of kittens to get out there and photograph some beautiful Litchfield Hills scenery! I've received wonderful compliments and feedback from so many that were inspired by my images from Laurel Ridge over the years, and to thank me for writing such an informative article.
Anyhow, I unexpectedly had become a "go-to-source" for regional photographers that planned to shoot Laurel Ridge landscapes at some point. I started to update the daffodil blooms each spring on my Facebook Fan Page beginning late March (be sure to LIKE and follow) and I'd plan my spring photography workshops accordingly.
About Laurel Ridge
So, I've reminisced about the March 2014 published blog long enough, let's dive into the specifics of Laurel Ridge Farm and the narcissus plantings! Laurel Ridge is located @ a mile off Rte 254 on Wigwam Rd. It is a private property, and the public is invited to stop by and enjoy the beautiful landscape and blooms until the blooms begin to shed. All told the narcissus plantings cover around 17 acres, including the island on Laurel Pond. There is a plaque on the grounds that notes "these daffodils were planted for all to enjoy by Virginia and Remy Morosani", and is dated 1941. Their efforts netted a total of about 10,000 bulbs in the ground! I've been told the bulbs were split and replanted annually for decades so they would continue to expand.
It's quite a sight to behold, in fact one might say its extraordinary. There are approximately 50 varieties of daffodils that can be found here, and usually by late April through the first 2 weeks of May its a virtual sea of Yellow and White blooms. The story as to why and how this all happened goes like this. The pasture (current daffodil fields) is directly across from the Morosani's home, and it was deemed "too rocky" for them to make into a productive hay field. Luckily for photographers like myself and nature lovers, they surely had a gifted eye for scenic treasures. They felt the pasture had a rugged kind of beauty to it, and were inspired to begin planting the narcissus bulbs. The Laurel Ridge Foundation was established to protect the property for future generations to enjoy.
Licensing my works for various publications (magazines, books, calendars & puzzles) are all part of my photography business. The image above is just one sample of my photography from these lovely daffodil fields that has been featured by major national calendar publications. I work with a handful of calendar publishers annually, and occasionally I get inquiries from new to me publishers. Connecticut scenery doesn't often find its way to nationally printed high-end calendars, and I can say I'm quite proud to be one of the top contributors.
The image below is the cover shot for the Connecticut regional magazine "Seasons" of the Northwest Hills edition. I had supplied the imagery for 4 consecutive cover shots dating back to when the magazine was first published. Ugh, I was mildly disappointed when I found they only were able to use a squared crop at the time for the magazine covers. I've noticed since 2018 they've finally gone to a more traditional full page cover.
Getting Around The Fields - What to Wear
As previously mentioned, the Laurel Ridge foundation is open to the public to enjoy. However, you do need to keep in mind that you are out in nature and exposed to ticks, mosquitoes, gnats (no see-ums) and the occasional in-ground yellow jacket nest. Be sure to take precautions if you plan to walk about the fields. The closer you get to the pond, the grounds can become quite damp. When I lead photography workshops here, I recommend the photogs to wear sturdy waterproof hikers. I've been ankle deep in muck on several occasions, and I cannot remember a time that I didn't have to pick a hitch hiking tick off my clothes, arms or legs before I get back in my truck.
Black Bears are very common in Connecticut's Litchfield Hills, and Laurel Ridge is not far from Humaston Brook State Park Preserve, the Mattatuck State Forest, and Black Rock State Park. When I shoot here, I'm often the very last person remaining until the colors in the sky melt away and dusk turns to dark. Yes, I've seen bears here on several occasions well after the visitors have all arrived home. As a nature photographer, I experience bears while shooting landscapes quite often. I wouldn't venture to say you need to be overly concerned, especially if there are dozens of people nearby. If you are at the daffodil fields late, just be aware of your surroundings - and by all means, DO NOT leave food bits, candy's or pet foods behind.