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Published in People, Places & Plants magazine

Peckham’s - That’s all you need to know

Rick Peckham’s customers not only like to shop at his Greenhouse, they also like the trip to get there too. The beautiful drive to Little Compton shows off rural coastal Rhode Island at it’s best. And when you get there you’ll find the famous Peckham’s welcome - you are greeted as if you were a longtime and loyal customer, even if it’s your first time there.

“Peckham’s grows just about everything from scratch.”

Rick Peckham is the driving force behind Peckham’s Greenhouse now. He is not only a 5th generation Peckham - a large and well-known family in Little Compton, but also a 5th generation plantsman. It was his great, great grandfather, Albert, born in nearby Westport, who made the move to Little Compton and laid down roots on more than 100 acres there. He bought the land for use as a dairy and vegetable farm, supplying nearby Fall River. Over the generations the land and the farm have transmuted into Peckham’s as it stands now. The garden center covers 5 acres of this original land and more than 20,000 square feet of this is heated greenhouses, some of them the original structures. This aged patina lends Peckham’s a charm that is fast-disappearing in the era of plastic hoop-houses. In their defense, however, Peckham’s does have these too - a vigorous retail business demands them.
Rick took over the running of Peckham’s from his parents, Albert and Mary-Jane, in 1991 at the age of 28. He did not, however, just assume that he knew everything there was to know about growing and selling plants simply because he’d been doing it all his life. He went to the Connecticut School of Agriculture at the University of Connecticut to study floriculture before taking on the task of ownership. And, in retirement, Albert and MJ are still there almost every day but now they “get to pick their jobs.” Rick considers his parents to be his staunchest and most loyal supporters.

“The glaciers were good to us in Rhode Island making every kind of rock available, so I thought I’d start a rock garden section.”

Peckham’s grows just about everything from scratch. “We grow most of what’s important for the place,” says Rick. “We seed and grow-out over 300 varieties of annuals. Many other annuals we buy as rooted cuttings but grow them out from there.” They also offer a rich selection of perennials, climbing vines, shrubs, and herbs, some of which are grown by another Peckham, Rick’s sister Liz, at nearby Wishing Stone Farm. And the cut flowers they sell are supplied to Peckham’s by yet another Peckham, brother Brian who owns a wholesale cut-flower greenhouse just across the driveway, Ocean View Lily. This is definitely a family affair. Asked what is his “specialty crop” Rick answers: “I don’t have one . We grow whatever people are looking for.” This is a most unassuming response from a man whose Greenhouse offers such a heady array of plant material.

This year Rick is also offering rock garden plants. “Everyone thinks they want alpines,” he says, “but they don’t really know what to do with them. Here we are at sea level trying to sell mountain plants - it doesn’t make any sense. The glaciers were so good to us in Rhode Island by making every kind of rock available so I thought I’d start a rock garden section.”

People also make the trip to Peckham’s to peruse the large selection of terra cotta and ceramic containers - rooms of them. In addition, Rick also carries a small but carefully-chosen selection of garden tools. “ My mission is to help you be a good gardener,” he says. “I want to stay very focused on plant material, and the tools you need. I don’t want the most artful hoe - I want a hoe that works. I don’t want the prettiest shovel - I want a shovel that works.

“My mission is to help you be a good gardener.”

One of the products of which Rick is most proud, and rightly so, is their own secret recipe potting soil, and it’s no small thing: “We’ve been making Peckham’s Premium Potting Soil for years. We steam-sterilize loam and mix 15% into good soil. Our mix holds onto fertilizer and moisture better and the plants grow very robust. The purpose of most other artificial growing media is just to hold onto the roots. These mixes not only dry up quickly but you also have to liquid feed everything the plants need. They are almost 90% peat-moss based and in six months the peat moss has broken down into something that’s not peat moss any more. You end up with a different ph, and everything else as well. The plants suffer. Our potting soil is good for at least a year and half, in fact it’s often better the second year.” “It’s horticultural heaven,” says Ginny Purviance, landscape gardener from Newport. “I absolutely love going to Peckham’s - it’s very special. The selection is amazing, and everything’s so healthy.”

Peckham’s is open year-round with the help of ten employees, four of whom are full-time.

Peckham’s Greenhouse
Established 1866
200 West Main Road (Route 77)
Corner of West Main Road (Route 77) and Peckham Road
Little Compton, RI 02837
Phone: 401-635-4775
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 9-5
Sunday, 11-5
Open Mondays: May - June
Closed Mondays: July - April