Main Street News

Trade Secrets Event Benefits Project SAGE & Domestic Violence Awareness

By Published On: May 1st, 2024

The 24th Annual Trade Secrets event in support of Project SAGE will take place on May 18 and 19 at Lime Rock Park in Falls Village, CT.

Project SAGE is a nonprofit organization based out of Lakeville, CT, that serves northwest Connecticut and neighboring towns in New York and Massachusetts. 


Trade Secrets started in 2000 when renowned interior designer Bunny Williams’ greenhouse was filled with a surplus of primrose seedlings. One of Bunny’s gardeners, Naomi Blumenthal, had become interested in propagating rare primrose varieties, and she was so successful in her endeavor that Bunny’s greenhouse soon became crowded with seedlings. 

In later winter of 2001, Bunny and Naomi came up with the idea to have a seedling sale. They quickly decided that all proceeds from the sale could go to benefit the local women’s shelter that Naomi volunteered with – Women’s Support Services – now known as Project SAGE. 

Bunny and Naomi ran with the idea, and Trade Secrets was born. 

The name Trade Secrets evolved from Bunny and Naomi’s desire to find garden and antique sellers who were only known by a few in the industry. The Trade Secrets website states, “Bunny and Naomi convinced these sellers to come to this new, special event that was going to happen in a few months’ time. All in all, they rounded up 45 vendors for that first year of Trade Secrets in 2001. Bunny graciously offered her pristine fifteen-acre property in Falls Village, CT, as the venue.” 

The event has only grown and evolved over the past 24 years. It changed venues multiple times as more and more vendors and people sought to attend. After being held at Bunny’s estate for the first two years, Trade Secrets moved to the Wake Robin Inn in Lakeville, then to the LionRock Farm in Sharon, CT, and finally, to Lime Rock Park, where they’ve held the event for the past three years. 

Trade Secrets’ reputation precedes it. Many vendors come from all over the region, and even the country, and patrons travel quite the distance to stay in Northwest Connecticut for the weekend each year. 

Trade Secrets

What can you expect at Trade Secrets?

The Trade Secrets event officially kicks off on Friday evening with an underwriting cocktail reception. Underwriters are donors who help cover the cost of Trade Secrets – ensuring that all of the proceeds from the event go directly to support the programs at Project SAGE. The reception is hosted by Carolyne Roehm at her home at Weatherstone in Sharon, CT. 

On Saturday, Trade Secrets hosts a full day of tours of both public and private gardens in the area. One of the gardens is Maywood Estate Gardens in Bridgewater, CT. Maywood is a private estate located at the southern tip of Litchfield County with panoramic views of the Berkshire foothills. The gardens are spread across the forty-acre landscape and provide fresh-cut flowers, vegetables, and field crops. 

Patrons can also tour Christopher Spitzmiller and Anthony Bellomo’s Clove Brook Farm in Millbrook, NY. The garden at Clove Brook farm started in 2014 following a full restoration of the farmhouse on the property. Since then, the garden has quickly grown into a series of interconnected spaces, beginning with a horseshoe-shaped garden near the house that is surrounded by a hornbeam hedge, and anchored by a dovecote – a structure built to house doves and other birds. The garden features tulips, sweet peas, dahlias, peonies, roses, and lilies throughout the season, and continues to evolve as more plantings are added.

Of course, patrons can also tour Bunny Williams and John Rosselli’s garden in Falls Village, CT. The property encompasses twelve acres of varied gardens, including woodland, vegetable, parterre, orchard, perennial, and many container displays that surround the home. In the vegetable and cutting garden, a variety of organic vegetables and herbs are grown with tulips, peonies, and dahlias from spring through fall. 

This year, Trade Secrets is also featuring an Underwriter Exclusive tour of Page Dickey’s Garden. The seventeen-acre property houses native and non-native perennials and shrubs, a curing garden at the back of the house, and a wetland rich with native shrubs and wildflowers. 

“We try to make Trade Secrets a full weekend event, so when people reach out to us about it, we provide local suggestions of places to eat and shop,” said Kaitlyn Robitaille, the director of appeals and fundraising events for Project SAGE.  

On Sunday, the Trade Secrets Rare Plants & Garden Antiques Sale event starts at 7:30am for underwriters, at 9am for early buyers, and 10:30am for general admission ticket holders. The event runs until 3pm on Sunday. 

“We are particularly excited about this year because we have so many new vendors coming from all over,” Kaitlyn shared. 

On the antiques side, they have Showrooms 2220 and Francis J. Purcell coming from Philadelphia, PA; Artifacts coming from Atlanta, GA; and Plain & Elegant Antiques coming from Carrboro, NC, among many, many others. 

Of course, we can’t forget about the rare plants. Vendors including Atlock Farm from Somerset, NJ; Helia Native Nursery from Alford, MA; and Snug Harbor Farm from Kennebunk, ME, will sell their plants alongside many other farms and gardening organizations. 

In addition to all of the vendors, Oblong Books will also be at the event on Sunday hosting a book signing with three authors. Tama Matsuoka will be signing and discussing her book Into the Weeds: How to Garden Like a Forager; Barbara Paul Robinson will be supporting her books Gardening, a Love Story: Creating Brush Hill and Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener; and finally, Bunny Williams will be signing her most recent book Bunny Williams: Life in the Garden.

Trade Secrets

Trade Secrets and Project SAGE

Bunny Williams has noted that the most rewarding part is watching the growth of Project SAGE. 

Trade Secrets is Project SAGE’s primary annual fundraiser. “We’re so fortunate to have such a high-profile event that brings in a quarter of our annual operating support,” Kaitlyn said. 

Formerly Women’s Support Services, Project SAGE started out in a small rented room in Falls Village with one part-time employee and an all-volunteer staff. Trade Secrets has enabled Project SAGE to expand to Lakeville, CT, increase its services, and double its staff. 

The services that Project SAGE offers are both impressive and necessary. They offer a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency shelter, individual and group support groups and counseling, criminal and civil legal advocacy, training for local professionals, and violence prevention education programs for pre-K through 12 in all Region One schools in Northwest Connecticut. 

Pre-K through second grade violence prevention education focuses on using stories and activities to explore empathy, identity, emotion regulation, communication, conflict management, and bystander intervention. 

Elementary through eighth grade education focuses on addressing healthy relationships, boundaries, consent, and online safety.

High school education focuses on deepening the discussions that address healthy relationships, consent, relationship violence, gender identity, and sexual orientation. These programs focus on supporting age-appropriate development as students prepare to transition from high school into the wider world. 

“Our prevention programs build upon themselves year after year, and they stress the importance of fostering healthy relationships in a variety of ways, such as teaching kids about online safety, naming trusted adults if you’re in an uncomfortable situation, and setting boundaries,” Kaitlyn said. 

The Trade Secrets website states that, “many of those involved, including Bunny herself, spoke about how from the beginning, Trade Secrets has been a ‘win-win.’ The growth and expanded services of Project SAGE are a testament to the power of a community uniting for a cause led by people driven to make a difference, encouraged by the passion of a woman with a heart of gold.”

Kaitlyn agreed. “The event is made possible by the community, and it benefits the community. It’s supported by over 200 volunteers that come out in a shared passion for gardening and desire to make meaningful change. Domestic violence is an unseen crime, and it’s one that impacts one in three women and one in four men. To see everyone join together to end domestic violence for this event is heartwarming.” •

To learn more about Trade Secrets and purchase tickets for the event, visit its website To learn more about Project SAGE, visit its website