Friday, February 12, 2016

Images Help Me Remember

 Friday, February 12, 2016

A bright but very cold morning here on the mountain. The birds are feeding heavily, trying to warm up their bodies with fluffed up feathers as they pound away on the suet and peck at sunflower seed and cracked corn. It is pleasant this morning but the wind is quiet and the rising sun changes our surroundings, but with silent notice. The outside beckons Karl the Wonder Dog and me for a morning walk but the thermometer scolds us for the thought with a reading of -14.9° as we already head for 8 o'clock. Winter prevails!

So for the present at least, I will continue with reviewing images from this summer that need to come off Smart Cards and get filed away in the appropriate folders. It takes some time but it's a job fitted to an inside-the-house morning and its accompanying interruptions.

My pictures serve as reminders to what I planned but never got around to doing. To the viewer they might seem like garden pictures but as I move pictures around, I add notes to a clipboard to help prepare me for Spring. The top picture is an example. As I look at it, I notice a shovel leaning against the  deer fence. The shovel is leaning in the office building now, stored for the winter, but I had left it there one time as a visible marker that I found a patch of poison ivy encroaching from the faraway bank of the Winooski River. The ivy is dormant now, but it still needs attention come spring. It's one plant that I am highly susceptible to and if I contract it, two months pass--sometimes more-- before it leaves me. It spreads fast and has to go because visitors have a habit of touching things and it is not a plant to touch.

The picture includes a patch of yellow trollius. We received these several years ago as Trollius superbum but they are actually a wonderful trollius that we absolutely can not find anyplace on the market. This comes after asking for help from a couple of the most knowledgeable plantsmen in the world and waiting for the true identification to come to us from Europe. This is Trollius stenopetalus. It's a single trollius, 3 feet tall in time, with a beautiful flower that comes later than other trollius and it blooms for some time. I have to dig and divide these come spring and it will be another couple years before I chance to sell any despite regular comments of "Can you help? I cannot find these in your pots section anyplace." They aren't in pots because I don't have enough to sell yet and cannot find another source. We both must be patient.  If you know of a source, please share with me and others as this really is one very nice plant!

The next image is of Gold  Standard. The originator was Pauline Banyai, 1976, and this plant is an original. It has become a giant and it's on my "must do soon" list because it needs to be dug and divided. People who know hosta recognize this as different that more recent Gold Standards in the trade. Perhaps it is the impact of repeated  tissue culture that has influenced how much nicer this one looks but regardless, come on George, divide the original and sell the best!

For me, looking at my pictures serves different purposes. As snow melts and the ground thaws, my list of chores will need to be reworked a few times because it will be too long to accomplish. I am hopeful this will change this summer as I have a good friend who will be working in the hosta garden. She loves hostas, she likes to barter, and she wants to help. I think it will work fine. Come and walk with us, and see for yourself!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where blue jays and mourning doves devour cracked corn and various small seeds and hope that I will make a trip to the store today for more sunflower seed. It's on the list!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as a Like Page Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Carried on various other social media where gardening is special!

And..."Always here to help you grow your green thumb!"

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Planning for Hostas

 Sunday, February 7, 2016

Now 9 AM and the temperature has risen to 29.3°. The wind is up to 3 mph, the birds are feeding heavily and the gray sky is offering up a few snowflakes that drift slowly to earth. Karl the Wonder Dog has been out for two walks and is now snoring in front of the wood stove. Life is good!

 2015 was our 8th growing season on Route 2. For Gail, Alex, some very special friends who help, and for me, it was a rewarding year too. I taught Alex how to use the rototiller and he helped me begin to get control of the weeds. Almost 5 acres of plants, lawn, and weeds is a challenge. I prefer not to rototill the large gardens for various environmental reasons but tilling is a way to eradicate some weeds before they get established. Our plan last year was to till and then in fall apply 6"-8" of maple leaves between the rows and then top as many rows as possible with wood chips left from last winter's logging operation at our home. We probably ended the fall-early winter with 60% of the gardens completed. 

My passion has always been hosta and the hosta display garden is beginning to reach the vintage that I have been waiting for. It has not been without major challenges. Hosta are not for all gardeners because they require patience which is often absent in modern day, "I want a mature flower garden today" gardeners. I can appreciate that as I get older. The gardens were just underway nicely, perhaps growing on into years 3-4 when a tropical storm flooded the area and covered the gardens with ten feet of water. Many hostas were lost and many were buried  under a couple feet of silt.  During the 2015 season, the survivors were looking great and some of those that were buried began to rise to the surface with shouts of "Guess my name" because of course the labels and my memory had been washed away.

Now the gardens deserve your visit if you already grow hosta or if you are considering a new hosta garden or incorporating some in existing gardens. Almost all the hosta on display are available for sale in gallon and 6-quart pots and some have been planted so they can be field dug. There is a peacefulness to the hosta display that we understand now. When visitors we have never seen before get out of the car and say "We'll be in the hosta garden for a while." we know word has gotten around and folks want to enjoy the peace that the various sized leaves in shades of green, blue, white and yellow now offer.

We always ask "Do you grow hosta now?". Sometimes it's uncomfortable and embarrassing because there's no way I can remember all the customers, especially when Gail handles sales more often than I do. Just the same, my curiosity is rooted in my desire to be sure that people know how to grow the best-looking hosta as quickly as possible in a manner that will keep them looking nice for a long time. I share my methods with others freely and encourage questions.

Initial spacing is always a trick because no matter how experienced you are with your gardens, the variables of sunlight, annual water supply, temperature and growth of surrounding trees and shrubs impacts on how quickly the hosta mature. Personally, I like to see space between the mature plants but hosta don't stop growing. Six to eight foot on-center spacing at initial planting time looks silly for sure but as these pictures show, in time the space between more mature hosta fades away in 4-5-6 years. You can use annuals or smaller, quicker growing hostas to fill in during the interim but chances are that you'll need to get out the shovel and make some adjustments over time.

If you have some questions or just want to find out what hosta are all about in a garden setting, stop by this summer. By mid-June each spring the hosta are usually looking good and they are their best by mid July.  We traditionally open on Mother's Day but any time you see the gates open in Spring, stop by. We're always here to help you grow your green thumb!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On a variety of other social media related to gardens and gardening!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Vermont Farm Show 2016

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I went to the Vermont Farm Show yesterday as I do most every year. If you haven't been, today is the last day for this year. Don't take the kids if you want they to see animals. There are 3 goats and a Morgan horse. Get going anyway! There was an exceptional crowd and I was surprised to see so many old farmers, a few still wearing dungaree frocks, using canes, walkers, wheelchairs, getting support from wives, sisters, children, but getting to the show to see automatic milkers and tractors and round balers that probably cost more than the first farm they ever owned.

I got there at about 11 and noted the number of government agencies that had displays. I stopped at the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education booth to see if they had resolved any of the issues I had with them several years ago. They hadn't. A young guy bumped into me and said "I have a couple questions for you." Before I could say I wasn't manning the booth he asked the questions and I told him I couldn't help him, didn't work there, didn't have the info. He said he had been there twice since 9 AM looking for someone and there was no one to speak with. I referred him to another USDA booth but that didn't work either as I watched him walk away.

My gripe with SARE has always been that they give lots of tax dollars for research projects but never require good follow up documentation of what people use the $$ for and what success/problems are discovered that could save other people some money by not recreating the wheel. My negative feelings were supported recently as Channel 3 covered a grant for growing a type of switchgrass that can be made into pellets and burned to make heat, etc. I saw a similar project granted in 2008 in Cabot that went nowhere. New ideas do come from experimentation but I don't think we need another ethanol program.

When I finished with the show I headed south on Route 7, then 22A to get to Addison 4 Corners and head for Dead Creek to see if I could spot any snowy owls on the vast fields of Addison County and the slangs that eventually enter Otter Creek. I hadn't been there in almost 2 years and it was a surprise. Agriculture in Vermont really is changing. From Shelburne south, the number of vineyards was interesting. As I got to 22A, the number of farms that have gone out of business was a different kind of surprise and it was sad to see old houses and barns abandoned and falling apart. Fields of solar arrays have interrupted the landscape, extremely large, expensive-for- Vermont houses dot the hilltops and there is a very minor number of wind turbines. The turbine thing is a surprise because the wind always blows down there.

When I see a farm that is a farm no more, I often wonder if there is anything we can do to help that type of agriculture retool itself for a different agricultural endeavor. Apparently no one has figured that out yet. I am a big advocate for crops related to the new start up artisan beer breweries or the distilleries, the specialty foods industry, the new vineyards that produce their own wine, the specialty cheese makers. What I don't have is the answer. Do you? #vtflowerfarm; #vermontagriculture; #specialtyfoods; #artisanbeer; #vermontdistilleries; #vineyards;

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the gray sky is offering up occasional snowflakes and looking like it might snow later.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as a Like Page Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On various social media platforms related to gardening

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Plant Sources, Plant Societies

 January 27, 2016

The temperature is hanging at 31° this morning but I expect more change in the weather soon as the wind has increased to 5 mph in just an hour. I am pulling a few things together here at the house before heading to Essex to the Vermont Farm Show that continues today and tomorrow. I have been going to this show  "forever" and although farmers and farming have changed in Vermont in recent years, the show always introduces me to something new I should consider at the flower farm.

Before I head out I want to mention plant societies because during winter months, and starting in mid-January, we receive almost daily inquiries that begin with "Where'd you get that?" Gardeners see plants we add to this blog or our other social media formats or they notice things in the abundant seed and plant catalogs that have been arriving. We always try to answer all the questions but if you are serious about a plant, the associated plant society membership is the way to go.

There was a time when we belonged to about 15 plant societies. Each membership comes with  journals  and often with regional associations and annual meetings and then some sort of national event. The most useful part of the membership is the resource info which includes lists of growers.
Here are three examples.

We grow several hundred hosta, have a wonderful display garden and have thousands of potted hosta ready for sale and displayed in 2500 square feet of shade houses. If you are interested in hosta, we don't believe there  is a better society than the American Hosta Society. The Hosta Library is a special compliment to the society. It's a public pictorial library of about every hosta in the world and it includes registration information. Take a look.

The American Primrose Society is not as large as the hosta society but if you enjoy primroses, a membership is a must. Currently they are sponsoring their annual seed exchange. Obviously members have first choice with members who contributed seeds having the priority but if you want to try growing primroses from seed or just want to find places that sell plants, you will be pleased with a membership. Vermont has some talented primrose collectors and growers and just ten miles from our flower farm is one of the most incredible primrose gardens on the east coast. 

The American Hemerocallis Society represents the 75,000 registered daylilies and offers good connections to the half million unregistered daylilies on the market or growing in gardens around the world. Daylilies have always been the number two most popular perennial flower (second to hosta) but the numbers and the plants sure are impressive. It's a great society with instant connections to growers. (Some of our daylilies pictured up top here).

During those rainy or snowy days that remain between now and your planting time, give plant societies a try. I know you will ask yourself why you waited so long.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where an irruption of Evening Grosbeaks just arrived at the feeders. About 30 birds cover the ground with a dozen or so more in nearby crab apples pecking out seeds. Nice!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and as a Like Page Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Writing on various other garden related social media

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lists, Just Lists

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A beautiful morning here on the mountain. 3 mph breezes provide a wind chill of -7° but the sun is so bright, only the thick hoar frost reminds us to dress well before heading out. I have been out twice with Karl the Wonder Dog and each time he made a hasty retreat for the house and curled in front of the wood stove even before I could get my boots off. The birds were tardy getting to the feeders this morning but they are there in great abundance now. One mature blue jay sits on a fence post outside my office window calling nasties to me about "where's the seed, where's the seed?" 

January means different things to different gardeners. At our house, Gail prepares the income taxes and I try to do web work and review the summer's photos and sort them into the appropriate folders. I am a terrible photographer but with the digital world, I take a lot of pictures and seem to get by. The pictures help with our website, blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin, and all the other social media formats we use. 

Reviewing pictures reminds me of things I accomplished and things I never got to. This picture includes more things I didn't accomplish than those that I did in the hosta display garden. The orange handled shovel marks the spot where I got far enough to dig an oversized hole for a couple Quick Fire hydrangeas. The soil there is really gravel except for the top 8"-10" because the area was originally a staging area for sand and gravel for the nearby road system. I amended the soil and got it ready to plant but something big must have interrupted me because I never even brought down the hydrangea from the display area.  

The box elders should have been trimmed last year but that didn't happen either. Box elders belong to the maple family. They have a lifespan of maybe 30 years and their wood grows quickly with a few twists and turns that make it susceptible to winter and summer storms. The tree is also a magnet for the box elder bugs which reproduce in large numbers and seem to enjoy trying to get into nearby buildings. If I had my way the elders would be gone but I have to be patient as the sugar maples, lindens, yellow locust and North Pole Thuja I have planted mature.

Perhaps two dozen of the hostas on display are ready for dividing. Few of those are potted and ready for sale so although their presence on display is great, it's poor customer relations to say "next year" instead of "let me help you with a pot or two." This spring before our new plant orders arrive, my plan is to begin with the small sized hostas that need division and get them divided out for Gail to pot up. As many gardeners downsize their homes and gardens, smaller hosta seem more popular now than the larger types. In fact, many of our hostas that are registered as medium have grown so wide in the display garden that I fear they scare people with their width. 

I always have good intentions but 2-3 people--me, Gail and Alex-- caring for almost 5 acres of garden is a challenge at times. Just changing the oil in three tillers, the zero turn mower, the golf cart and the tractor takes an entire day if I'm not interrupted...or find an additional mechanical problem that I didn't know about. Just the same we are reminded every day how nice things look and with some luck, those very fine compliments will continue. Come visit in 2016!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where interruptions have brought me up to 11 o'clock and the temperature to 16.2°. Lookin' nice outside.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as a personal page, George Africa, and as a Like Page, Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens.
Also writing on a variety of gardening related social media.

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Some Self Seed

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I just returned to the house after a chilly morning moving some gravel around a new culvert I installed in one of our woods roads yesterday. From yesterday to until today the ground froze solid and cleaning up the crushed rock from the bottom of the pile was a treat. I still have a few more things to clean up in the same area but need a couple more loads of gravel and those won't come until spring. This fall I have been outside every day working on one project and then the next. Blogging has taken a backseat to outside chores but the weather has been great and I am feeling good about what I accomplished.

During the past week Alex and I rebuilt two platform feeders and since we have not seen a bear here in a couple  weeks we decided to go for it and put the feeders up. The mourning dove count is at 15 right now and the first evening grosbeak of the season just arrived.

As we brought truckloads of spent flowers and old weeds from the flower farm, I was reminded how much seed was available on certain annuals and perennials. As we clean up every fall, Alex and I rub the seed pods on several plants just to spread the seed around and get some free crops growing early-on in the spring. Consider these.

Foxglove, pictured up top and again right here in pink, has been known for years as a biennial. In recent years some hybrids have been brought onto the market that flower the first year. These flowers are poisonous but oh so beautiful. If you have some already growing or have a friend who has some, a little seed goes a long way. Just sprinkle it on the soil. Nature does the rest.

Cleome is another favorite. It comes in heights from 8" to 6 feet and again, it self seeds nicely. For the amount of seed that is produced annually, only a small per centage germinate but it's always enough to remind you "I really like these!" The shorter varieties work well in containers too!

Verbena bonariensis makes me smile. It is an annual that self seeds here in this portion of Vermont but does not germinate in great numbers. Perhaps this is because I have always planted it close to the river where our soil is not that good. It is known as being invasive in many states even to the point of being prohibited and being placed on invasive/prohibited-to-plant lists. It is a pollinator magnet and butterflies of all sorts spend their winged days on it. It's great in flower arrangements and has a color that catches attention from the distance.

All forms of rudbeckia exist. Goldsturm shown here, is regularly seen in gardens, big and small. After several hard frosts you'll notice many small birds seeking out the seeds and in the process they disperse the ripened seed so some may grow next year. The birds never know what great farmers they are. There is a 6-7-8 foot tall perennial rudbeckia named Herbstsonne that is very nice and also a helianthus named Lemon Queen. Both self seed. 

As you clean up your gardens, spread some seed around and see what germinates in next spring's gardens. You may be surprised. I have been!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where open water will continue into mid December according to the long range weather predictions. Kind of a surprise because on December 11, 2014 we had a foot of heavy wet snow that took out the power and made a mess around here for a week.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as a Like Page, Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens
Visit Twitter at vtflowerfarm
Contributing on various other garden related social media sites

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Planning for Butterflies

 October 11, 2015

35.1° here on the mountain, windless, quiet. I have been thinking about how many fewer butterflies we have seen this summer and am searching for resources that will help me improve what we grow for flowers that will entice more butterflies. As with honeybees, there are many variables that impact on the health of butterflies. First we need to understand those variables and then monitor our progress. This past spring for example, I intentionally planted a large number of tithonia to serve as a monarch magnet. I really hoped for the best. The bright, fiery red-orange tithonia, 

sometimes known as Mexican sunflower,  did very well but the monarch count at the end of this summer was still only three. This is a sad commentary for sure!

Part of being successful requires knowing what the butterflies feed on and what their host plants are. This process takes some time. Perhaps five years back I became interested in a wonderful late summer plant named turtlehead or chelone. I had seen the flower at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden and started to plant it here and there to try to get a sense of gardener's reaction here in Vermont. We do this when trying to decide what flowers to offer. After planting some turtlehead, it took a couple years but I began seeing a butterfly I did not know. It was the Baltimore Checkerspot. Here are pictures of the butterfly and the caterpillar. 

As I continue to try to match butterflies and food and host sources, a few more butterflies appear.  Here are a couple on-line resources 

that may help you identify some butterflies you see and at the same time better understand what crops you should be planting to make them happy in your neighborhood.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl the Wonder Dog woke me after hearing an as yet unknown critter walked outside the back door. My guess is the bears are back.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook on a personal George Africa page.
On Facebook as a Like Page Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens.
On various other social sites related to horticulture.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Dividing Daylilies

 Wednesday, September 9, 2015

For a couple weeks now I have been mentioning that my daily routine has involved digging and dividing daylilies to line out (plant in rows) in our gardens to replenish plant stock for next spring. I have received several requests asking what "line out" means and have also been queried as to how I divide plants.

Dividing daylilies, or any perennials for that matter, requires a simple understanding of how the plant grows. It also requires that you remember that you aren't going to kill the plant and that you need to be a bit ruthless. Here's an example of how I do it. I am using a daylily named Strutters Ball. It's one of our favorites because it produces lots of scapes and is a nice purple. In this example I wanted double and triple fans when I was finished but in a recent example demonstration I gave to the Waterbury Garden Club I divided a similar  plant of Strutters Ball with my hands and ended up with 11 single fans. How small you divide the plant depends on what purpose you have in mind for the plants when you are finished. Smaller divisions to the point of single fans will take extra time to mature and offer bounteous scapes and bud counts for your enjoyment.

I start by digging deeply around the plant. Over time you will have a good idea of how the roots grow. With Strutters Ball I know the roots will extend underground about 8 " from the perimeter of the root ball. With a plant such as the daylily Cherokee Star I know that the roots are more rhizome-like and grow thick roots horizontally from the root mass and more distant from the plant. That means I have to begin to dig further away so as to maintain the important roots which will serve to make more plants themselves.

When I have cut into the ground all the way around the plant, I carefully pry it out by putting pressure on the shovel or spade handle in a couple places around the plant perimeter. Lately it has been so dry here that the plant balls come out easily. Then I shake the root ball a few times to remove as much dirt as possible. This action shakes out insects and lets you see where worms and other critters may be living. It also makes it easier to identify any weed roots which should be pulled out. I remove any older leaves and essentially clean up the mass as best I can.

Dead plant scapes should be pulled out of the plant ball or cut as close to it as possible. They dry as hollow tubes and those serve as good places for bugs to lay eggs and over winter. By removing all the spent scapes you are removing problem areas. I have never read anything that speaks to fungal problems originating from the old scapes but I am sure old scapes could be a problem too---so--eliminate all you can. Then I trim the entire root ball so the fans are 3"-4" tall. 

Next I wash the entire root ball with the garden hose using as much pressure as I can get. My goal is to wash off as much dirt as possible. This makes it easier to see how the plant has matured and how the fans are related to each other.

I use cheap knives with serrated edges that I buy in quantity from box stores. I always tie a piece of orange surveyors tape to the handle so when I drop the knife, I can find it. I try to cut down through the root mass so that I am dividing the plant into two or three fans per piece. In this case I cut 6 pieces out of the original three year old clump of  Strutters Ball.

As soon as I have divided plants for planting, a get them back in the ground or in  pots. If I intend to grow the plants on in quantity so we can dig and pot them in the future, I spray the rows with horticultural oil. This is a common surfactant that is often used by orchardists because it smothers small insect pests and their eggs. 

Dividing daylilies is not that difficult a task depending on how old the plants are to begin with. Ending up with more divisions than you want can always be timed to garden club, library or school plant sale fund raisers or you can trade your extras with a friend. Give it a try!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature is an even 63 degrees, the morning is windless, the sky is light grey. We may have a thunderstorm by 4 PM but the expected rain totals sound like less than we really need. If you grow peonies, be sure to water them as they set buds for next year's flowers and since mid August when this began, it has been hot and very dry. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens.
Appearing on various other garden related social media venues.

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Sunday, August 16, 2015


 Sunday, August 16, 2015

Just a quick note of interest on caring for your peonies and insuring better bloom next year. Mid August in New England is when peonies set buds on the root stock for the following year. The best bud production requires moisture in the soil. Although we have  

received what might seem like a great deal of rain this summer, the wind usually followed the rain and dried up what we received.

If you want to enjoy significantly more peony bloom in 2016, be sure to water your peonies well right now. A 5 gallon bucket of water on each plant a couple times a week for the next couple weeks will really make the difference.

Don't fertilize the plants as it's too late to encourage more root growth that won't get a chance to harden off before soil temperatures drop below 50 degrees in mid October here.

Just provide the extra water and next June-July you will see the difference. It will make you smile!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature is an even 64 degrees and very warm days are expected for today and tomorrow.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens.
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On various gardening social media sites helping you grow your green thumb!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Great Hosta Year!

 Sunday, July 5, 2015

55.2 degrees and foggy at the flower farm. Almost 8 AM. Gail just arrived for the day. Even though it rained last night, I have the sprinklers going on the hostas. They look wonderful this year because of the temperature and the almost constant rain. The slug and snail population is not as bad as I thought it would be but the thinner leaved hostas and those with white or cream edges are getting some leaf marks now. Slug/snail control is something you have to think about in the early spring and by now it's too late to take action because the hostas are too big to address the problem. Reality.

 If you get a chance in the next couple weeks, come visit us. We are located on Route 2 just a half mile west of Marshfield village. The hostas are exceptional because of their age and because water is the best fertilizer--- and we sure have received enough rain this season. 

 Last weekend we held "Walk & Talks" in the hosta garden and we will do the same again this coming Saturday and Sunday, July 11 & 12 at 1 PM. These are informal "walk the gardens" tours followed by half an hour of instruction on how to plant and care for hostas. I explain how to divide, site and plant hostas and share some hosta resources I know.  It seems to be well received information and the number of questions asked seems to confirm the growing interest in hostas in Vermont and other eastern states.

 The benefit of visiting a hosta display garden is that it adds reality to the hostas you consider buying that you see growing in pots. Some folks sell small tissue culture plants in 3" pots. Some sell everything in 4.5" pots, we use number 400 and 600 pots (4 and 6 quarts) and have limited pots in the 15 gallon range for instant gratification gardeners.  The truth is that a potted plant may give you an idea of leaf shape, color, texture but it leaves eventual plant size to your guess. Most gardeners prefer to plant a hosta and leave it to develop to maturity but planting the wrong plant can cause future work. I always mention the customer who was convinced a Sum and Substance would work well by the back door. I protested but the purchase was made and years later I didn't hear a "you told me so." but I did hear a complaint about how big it got and how crowded the entry became. I did not volunteer to come move it!

So if you get a chance, come visit us, ask questions, walk the gardens or come on the 11th or 12th for a talk and tour. We never know who will show for the tour but we can guarantee you will learn something about hosta you may not have heard before. Give it a try!

Writing from the office of the flower farm where I can see clearing sky and bright sun from the east. Traffic is building on Route 2 and it should be a great day here. Come visit!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as  George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On a variety of garden related social media sites.
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Planting Hostas

 June 9, 2015

59 degrees and pouring rain here at the flower farm. May and early June always bring us rain and here at the farm we always watch the Winooski River with caution as it rises and falls, rises and falls, first with spring runoffs and then with rains such as this. A week ago when I was hiking in Maine, Gail had Steve fertilize everything and then when I returned I did the hosta display garden myself. Gail is working on the potted hostas and she is about half way through getting them rearranged and fertilized for the start of the busy season. Things are looking great.

 Just prior to the floods in 2011 I had the hosta garden walkways mulched in stay mat. That's crushed granite which is abundant in this part of Vermont. The walks looked great and walking even for older folks was quite easy. Michelle spent a week mulching all the hostas and although they were small at the time, they looked super. The floods ruined that in sort order and it was on a morning that looked just like this morning that I came to work to find 10 feet of water on the fields. Some plants were lost but today you would not know that as the hostas are reaching maturity and the weather has been perfect for them.
 This morning I have a little correspondence to catch up on and then I will be out planting hostas. It's a perfect day. I dig oversized holes, fill the bottom 6" with old maple leaves and then mix the soil with manure and compost, some commercial fertilizer and then I plant the hostas. Hostas in pots need to have the bottom few inches of soil loosed and the roots spread out so they "catch" quickly to the new soil. Once planted I water well with Epsom salt in a ratio of 2 cups to 5 gallons of water. I pour half a bucket on each plant. This is magnesium sulfate and it stimulates root growth which is very important for subsequent growth.

As the hostas start to grow, I pick off any leaves that may have been injured in the process and I continue to water as needed. Water is truly the best fertilizer for hosta and it really does encourage growth in all directions.

If you have not planted hostas before or have doubt about doing it, stop by and I'll give a demo. On any given day there are usually potted hostas at the entrance to the display garden waiting to be planted. We are always here to help you grow your green thumb too! Come visit!

Writing from a very wet, foggy, rainy flower farm this morning. Stop by for a visit. I am probably working in the office until the rain slows some.

Best gardening wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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