Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Buckets of Daylilies


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A rainy morning, limited wind, 54.6°. I'm at the office now doing a million things as Gail is away for most of today. I have a couple orders to get out and then have more daylilies to dig for potting. The picture above is the end of 25 buckets of daylilies that we managed to get through on Sunday with the help of worker bee Gail T from Peacham. They are looking good and today's rain will help them bounce back.

Yesterday Alex and I put up another 90 feet of overhead irrigation using Wooblers that I described on Facebook. I went to order some more last night and found out that they are obviously gaining in popularity as the price went from $1.90 to +$5 a piece in a year's time. Plastic too but a worthwhile investment.  A run of 3/4" pipe with all the fittings and to drop the Wobblers 9" instead of several feet is under $60 for the extra materials. Then just a little time on the ladder. The way I have them set offers a 25 foot diameter spray of 20 gallons per minute but if you drop then 6 feet so they are closer to the ground the diameter is 35 feet.  I buy mine from Grifffin Greenhouse Supply.

Spring flowers, both wild and cultivated continue to emerge and bring joy to our gardens. Take some time to get out and see what's blooming!

Writing from Route 2 where traffic heading to work and working (lots of trucks today) is increasing. The rain continues.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener http://thevermontgardener.blogspot.com
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On other garden related social media

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

When is "Early" really "Early" for Daylilies?


Thursday, May 14, 2015

A bright and beautiful morning here at the flower farm except that the grass is white with a heavy frost, the water is frozen in all the hoses and at the pump and my last Dark Magic coffee cup for the Keurig machine blew up and the cup has grounds floating everywhere when really I wanted a second cup. Things happen!

The past couple weeks have been dry and  beautiful. Some days it was so hot we just gave up by 3 PM as the 85-90 degrees was too much. During those days customers stopped just the same and asked when the daylilies would start blooming. People were clearly tired of the winter and wanted to see garden color. Not yet!

Last summer I took a dry erase board and started on June 1st listing each daylily as it opened. I made it until July 12th when there were so many daylilies opening every day that I didn't have time to keep up. Here's what the board looked like (above pic).

On June 1st a species, Dumortierii opened as did the first daylily ever hybridized and registered. That one is Apricot from 1893. Early on in the season the oranges and yellows are first to bloom because they are either species daylilies or some of the earliest hybrids strong on their use of species. At our place it wasn't until June 21 that the first purple came out--Grape Velvet, with Bela Lugosi, another great purple opening on the 30th of June.

Last year's chart is available at the flower farm and we will do the same thing this year to compare seasons. Ask to see the charts when you stop by.


Writing from the flower farm as Route 2 hums with people heading to work, commercial trucks already on their way to delivery destinations. Today we are planting hydrangeas and daylilies. Stop and say hello if you are in the area.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens.   Like Us!
On Facebook as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Not So Dear Deer

 Sunday, April 19, 2015


Up to 48.2° from an earlier 35°. The sun is burning through and today is a day when I have a long list of things to do because the sun will shine unlike the balance of the week when it will rain part of every day. Alex is almost ready to go. We have a few plumbing items to pick up and then it's off to the flower farm.


This is the time of year when we receive phone calls about how to control deer. The deer are coming out of the woods where they have forded up all winter, especially this year when the snow was so deep. In a few days the grass will begin to green up but in the meantime deer eat anything that shows a sign of green and that includes daylilies. 


Years ago I wrote a little page on our website that  discusses deer control.  Try this and see if it helps at all. It all comes from experience. Mine.

http://vermontflowerfarm.com/Deer%20Control%20Ideas.html


I have to scoot. Lots to accomplish today! Be well!!


George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens. Like us!
Also on FB as George Africa with lots of garden photos.
On a variety of  social media sharing gardening thoughts & pictures

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!



Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring Hellebores

 Wednesday, April 15, 2015

As a slice of moon fades away and the sun pushes up from Peacham Pond, the temperature has risen too, from 28.1° to 35.8°. Unlike yesterday morning, the wind is not blowing so I am encouraged to get outside and get going. Normally by now the hellebores would be showing some color but this year, between the extreme cold and all the snow, they are still buried deep. This was the coldest winter in 121 years and the snow came and never left and a "January thaw" was only to be found in poetry, certainly not in reality this year.


Hellebores have long histories but they have never gained in popularity until recent years when they are regularly depicted in gardening magazines and appear in large swaths in famous gardens. They are liked and they are despised but once you learn how easy they are to grow and how early they bloom, you'll convert to the "let's grow some" side.



Hellebores are typically found at the edge of woodlands where they receive some sunlight but they can tolerate considerable shade. As with any plants, the key is an appropriate soil condition. Soil that is highly organic in composition, and neutral to even alkaline makes all the difference in the world. The soil needs to be evenly moist for best results but that never translates  to "wet". If you think that a location "where water puddles in the spring or after a hard rain" is a good place to try, forget that notion right away.


Here at the flower farm I have a spring regime in the lower display garden where I fertilize every plant with Epsom salts, lime and a commercial 5-10-10 type fertilizer. I use this same formula with hellebores and the results are encouraging. 


One of the reasons gardeners sometimes steer clear of hellebores is that come springtime the foliage looks a little ratty. I try to clip out anything that is easy to remove and do that early on as when the flowers bud, they come right along and I don't want to do anything injurious to a good display. As the flowers begin to pass by and go to seed, I let them be but do insure that they receive moisture if rain has not helped out. Although they are a plant that can tolerate dry conditions, similar to hostas they will grow on but they will be much better with supplemental watering. You'll see the difference in seed and leaf production.

Beginning in July 2015, we will again offer potted hellebores. These will be mixed colors and the pots will not have the colors marked. They are sure to please and will be an efficient way to get started with a New England hardy plant that is sure to please.  Stop by the flower farm early and pick up a pot or two to try. You'll enjoy your new find and your gardening friends will want to know where you shop. 

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the sun shines brightly, the mourning doves are calling, and about 50 juncos have been under the empty feeder sites for two hours cleaning up spilled seed. Spring feels great today!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens
On Facebook as George Africa with gardening information
Across various social media formats that make gardeners smile!

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Garden Curiosity

 Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just in from my first morning walk with Karl the Wonder Dog. He was exceptionally late this morning showing interest in going outside but once out he didn't want to return to the house even though my coffee cup was dry. He didn't listen. We walked the pond road until he turned himself  around because the mud and water didn't set well on his feet. The time it took him to figure out how to avoid puddles gave me time to look at the scenery and think through what plants would pop out as soon as the still-deep snow melts. 


Gardens offer an interesting curiosity this time of year. Spring 2015 in Marshfield is even more interesting because the deep snows of winter are only now leaving and it will be another two weeks before anything other than brown sparks attention. Just saying that we lived through the coldest January through March in 121 years says it all.


Gardeners themselves are usually the curious ones in spring as they seek out which plants lived and which did not. Four perennials I'd like to mention as gaining in garden popularity are epimediums, hellebores, primroses and trilliums. None of these have shown widespread  popularity until recently and now each has thousands of fans.


Epimediums have never been popular here at the flower farm because they don't bloom at a time that encourages their interest. They are like tall bearded iris in that respect. They are beautiful flowers that have yet to sync themselves with Vermont gardeners and their gardening schedules. This is apparent during home and flower shows when you rarely (never for me) see one on display. These are mid May through June blooming flowers with annual bloom time impacted by snow and cold. 


I enjoy epimediums because they are slower growing ground covers here in Vermont.  They stay under 18" tall and in time are covered with bazillions of small, spider-like flowers that sometimes bloom again come Labor Day. Their foliage is as much an interest to me as the flowers because the leaves of many are variegated , some mottled in color that intrigues.


As you tour garden centers or hidden nurseries such as our flower farm, stop and take a look at what is available for epimediums. They are not cheap but they do reward the gardener more and more each year with an abundance of flowers, some smaller than a dime, some larger than a quarter. Monetary reward, monetary requirement.



Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the small birds of the woods are cleaning up leftover bird seed that is becoming more obvious as the snow continues to melt down. Stop feeding the birds now, avoid problems with black bears and prepare to rake the spent seed soon. Clean is good. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens, a Like Page.
Also on FB as George Africa, a page full of garden pictures.
Employing social media to spread the word about gardening in VT.

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Thinking About Hosta



Thursday, April 9, 2015


Just back to the house after a couple hours putting things back together at the flower farm. It's a little slower this year because the ground is still covered with snow and in some places it's so wet that it's difficult to walk. Gail is convinced everything will be different in two weeks and I am convinced there is so much frost in the ground this year that the ground will still be cold come May.

Our hosta display garden and all the potted hostas that we carry over remain under an insulating blanket: either a blanket of snow or an actual insulating blanket covering the potted hostas and then snow. Like any hosta enthusiast I wish I could see them in their glory right now but it's just too early to expect anything.  Not only was there lots of snow this winter but there was lots of cold. The winter, January through March, set a record as the coldest in 121 years. That's cold! Many people think that deep cold means that all the bad insects have been killed off and it should be easier on our garden plants as a result. Nice wish but it doesn't happen that way. If anything the beneficials die off and the bad guys continue on.


If we are thinking about hostas and thinking about having great looking plants come mid June, it's important to think about making them as healthy as possible. One thing I learned twenty years ago is to save coffee grounds during winter months and then spread them around each hosta plant come spring. Slugs and snails are often a problem with hostas but the caffeine in coffee kills these troublesome animals and makes for much better looking plants. The research leading to this find came from Hawaii and is well documented. I have to admit that I had my reservations when first hearing about it but the research and the experience has convinced me. I have spread the word and some converts have gone to greater lengths than me to secure spent coffee grounds from restaurants and  gourmet coffee processors.

As I continue to look at weather forecasts for this summer, dry conditions bother me. Sometimes weather folks miss their mark and dry becomes wet. I mention moisture because the absolutely best fertilizer for growing great hostas is water. Do some weather research for yourself and come up with a plan for providing adequate water to your hostas. By the end of June you will be able to see the value of your work if things do turn dry.

Despite whatever we do as gardeners, there are times, conditions and plants that just don't do what we want. I just read a few comments from hosta gardeners on their trouble growing Empress Wu, that giant hosta with Big John heritage. People have had trouble and in some areas they have even lost their plants after a couple years. Those with success have said that proper placement is critical. This hosta requires a couple hours of good sunlight each day and also need consistent moisture. This description reminds me when Great Expectations was released publicly via tissue culture. It was very problematic until gardeners determined that it needed more than average sunlight and like Empress Wu, consistent moisture. Both Empress Wu and modern Great Expectations ask for one thing you will never find on a plant marker: Be patient!


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where we are at 33.2° with a three mph wind. Rain is on the way and warmer temperatures will be here into next week. Two deer went through the flower farm fence Tuesday night so maybe I'll get the holes patched up tomorrow. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as  Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens. Like us!
On Facebook as George Africa with gardening commentary
On Twitter, Linkedin, and other social media spreading the word of gardening.

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!


Saturday, April 04, 2015

On My Way Back


Saturday, April 4, 2015


It's 9 PM and I am about ready to close down for the night. The bright moon is high in the sky. The air is windless and 19°.  I just looked outside for my barred owl friend but so far he is absent from his fence post perch by the bird feeder. Alex continues to work on his computer studying Russian, Karl the Wonder Dog is stretched in front of the wood stove kicking his hind feet in apparent dreams and I have said enough of Dream Weaver and vermontflowerfarm.com for the night. 

I have been away from The Vermont Gardener since January 11th and that's an embarrassment. Winter is a time I enjoy writing and I know that in the depths of snow, gardeners really enjoy conversing about gardens and gardening. Winter 2014-2015 has been difficult for most for us.  The snow not only was deep but it is still deep here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. The snow dropped yesterday during an absolutely beautiful day but not enough to give us any sight of bare ground here at the house. At the flower farm I plowed the parking area a few days back and that is half bare now.

In January I caught some weird virus and although I am not a doctor person, I finally resorted to mine for assistance. He could not help or at least could only offer an assurance that I would get better in a couple more weeks. A bronchial virus lasted for almost six weeks and during that time I got as far as thinking about writing but not writing. I just couldn't. I coughed a lot but did not write.

Thursday morning I got up early and showing no regard at all for people here in bed, I headed to the flower farm. Last year I would have been there by 6:30 at the latest but this year the snow, cold and virus brought a halt to good thoughts and warm actions.

Just unlocking the gates and driving off Route 2 and into the parking lot at the farm is wonderful change this year. It's like leaving a physical space to me and entering something psychic that is both magical and emotional. I just sat there in the truck looking at the language of the fields and the Winooski River, the trees and the bazillion plant markers poking through the deep snow with names like Spacecoast Starburst or Decatur Pie Crust or Nosferatu. Red squirrels ran in great abundance parallel to the river, birds followed the open river and crows did what crows do as the first turkey vultures circled high above, apparently suggesting that I made it through another winter and would not need them. Life is good.

So now I am getting closer to feeling myself and spring really will be here soon. And I will be writing again, I promise. Come back soon and join me. 



Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I just took Karl the Wonder Dog out for the last time tonight. A very large sounding barred owl calls from down near the reservoir and coyotes call from outback. Their calls are deceiving and establishing how many I hear is difficult. It's ok. They live here too. Be well.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens

Also on Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest and places of social media made for gardeners.

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sizing A New Hosta Garden

 Sunday, January 11, 2015

The past three weeks have presented us with an interesting mix of weather. We would not have thought that almost two weeks of weather in the 40's and once even to 50° would have been our Christmas and post Christmas greeting. Rain and snow arrived and the wet snow clung to trees here on Peacham Pond Road for over two weeks. This morning as I write, the temperature has climbed from zero degrees to +9° but the gray sky convinces us that another storm will arrive soon.

I rely on the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St Johnsbury, Vermont for my weather forecast and they confirm 2"-5" of snow possible by tomorrow afternoon. Although the temperature will rise as it usually does with impending storms, we will not return to 40° for some time to come.

I used to be very good about getting out into the woods in the winter when gardening ended. The past three years, however,  have offered up lots of cold and wind after Thanksgiving and I have just not felt safe working where there is the possibility that trees will fall on me instead of the ground. My knees are not as strong as I wish and walking through snow of various depths has presented more of a challenge than I care for. We have a logger doing some work for us this winter and I make it a point to stay on the skid trails and wander off with care as we discuss different work. 

With safety in mind, I spend time planning new flower gardens and enhancing some that are already under way. This seems like good winter work and presents a different type of satisfaction.  This fall a customer asked if I would write something about planning a hosta garden after I suggested to her that "sizing" was the word I would probably choose.  Let me give it a try and you make the decision if it is helpful or not.

Hostas seem to be one of those "you love 'em or you don't" plants. When customers arrive at the flower farm and ask for suggestions, they are almost split 50-50 on their love affair. My opinion is that in Vermont there are few large hosta gardens to see and retail opportunities are slim so folks don't get an accurate idea on the gardening opportunities hosta offer. At Vermont Flower Farm we have always maintained a hosta display garden and we are finally finding the time to bring it to the level that it can be a place that generates ideas and confidence that hostas really are a plant to add to your gardens.

Hosta are no different than most plants. They come in sizes from miniature plants that are 2" tall to giants that have leaves 28" across and form 5 foot tall plants with 7 foot scapes. Each year the number of hostas available to gardeners increases and although probably over 6500 are now registered with the American Hosta Society there are hundreds and hundreds of new hosta someplace along the supply chain either waiting to be registered and propagated and distributed.  If you have not studied hosta, your appreciation for what is available may be limited to what you see at your local garden center. That may lead you to believe there aren't many hostas available beyond the basic green, blue or variegated you have seen. That's just not accurate.

If you have decided to give hosta a try you might find them to be more exciting and architecturally useful within your garden space than you first thought.  That's where the problem comes because that hosta you just bought in the gallon (or smaller) pot might  grow to 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall....or bigger....or smaller.  Then comes the question of how long does it take a hosta to mature and how will it/they look in your garden growing along for 4-5-6 years to maturity.

Designing a new garden requires some knowledge of the mature size of the hosta you want to use. I recommend referring to the Hosta Library to gather that information. It's easy to use and the pictures make your job easier.

Look up top and you'll see a picture of how our shade garden started at the flower farm. In it's previous life it was a staging area for sand and gravel for the local town. After that assignment ended it became a patch of alders, Japanese knotweed, wild eupatorium, goldenrod and various swamp grasses. When we started the eventual conversion it required removing all the unwanted plants, trees and shrubs and accepting the box elder trees as the shade producers to get us started. We trenched the lower area to drain off excess water and we planted a long border of Japanese fantail willows and curly golden willows to take up as much water as possible. Then we rototilled with the tractor and we rototilled and we rototilled. We pulled out roots and stones and debris and then we rototilled some more. A year later the area was ready to amend and plant. 


Soon after I began planting, a gardener stopped by late one afternoon and wandered down to see what I was doing. She was quiet at first and then told me she had been watching my progress when she drove by the flower farm. She shared her gardening credentials and then told me I was spacing everything too far apart. Some hostas were 4 feet apart, some were six feet apart, some even 8 feet apart.  There was a method to my spacing and the method included knowledge of the mature diameter of what I was planting. Gardening requires patience.

Take a look at the second picture and you can discern a pathway stretching diagonally across the picture from lower right to the upper left corner. In the background is a fence and some box elder trees and interplanted in the front is a blue cedar and above and to the left a linden tree or two. Some of the hosta were transplanted from gallon pots and others came from one of my gardens at our house. 

Does this planting look odd with so much space in between each plant? Perhaps the day it was started. My next step was to lay down landscape fabric and 6" of  maple leaves and bark mulch. The following year I interplanted with various annuals. I let the wild forget-me-knot flowers naturalize and I took small and miniature hostas such as Lemon Lime, Lemon Delight, Golden Scepter Chartreuse Wiggles, Little Sunspot, and Ice Cream and planted them here and there in between the larger plants. 

By 2010 I had the entire garden planted . Probably the last one third was planted with new-to-us 2 year old hostas. In May of 2011 spring brought us rain, lots and lots of rain and most of the recent plantings were washed down the river. What remained prospered and the next two pictures show the garden in July of 2014.  



The spacing that was in question in the beginning has worked out quite well although 6 foot spacing for a plant that will mature to 5 or 6 feet in diameter is not appropriate, especially if you want the opportunity to walk between the specimens during the growing season, hybridize, trim, fertilize or rearrange the signs. Blue hostas tend to be slower growing and they will take a little longer to reach full size so even now this garden doesn't completely represent maturity. Because room is now at a premium the annual flower plantings are no longer needed to fill in and the annual flowering of the forget me nots is a nuisance to keep cleaned up. 

Over the past couple years I have added four varieties of trollius because they add color in June and into July and then again just after Labor Day. There are Brunneras, European Gingers, a few pulmonarias, Nugget and Diabolo Ninebarks,  3 varieties of hybrid maple, some actaeas, hellebores, darmeras, winterberry, clethra and forsythia. The sizing is working. Patience was the key. Come visit! Come see!!



Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where occasional puffs of snowflakes drift from the southeast sky. Two runners just passed the house causing Karl the Wonder Dog to issue a strict warning. As for me, I have to go feed the birds. Be well. Enjoy today!

George Africa
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Facebook as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
And always here to help you grow your green thumb!
Gift certificates available daily 802-426-3505

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Break From Logging

Wednesday December 17, 2014

32.4°  here on the mountain this morning. It's been raining since just after midnight.The trees that have been hanging on to life for a week are now beginning to succumb to the weight of the ice and snow and branches are snapping. When the big pines and maples lose a limb, it's with a snap as loud as a rifle shot from nowhere.


The feller buncher is quiet today as the roads have been too icy for the log trucks to make it here. Our piles of logs, each separated by size, wood species and intended mill lay covered in snow and needing to get on their way before we stack more. No sense in moving things twice.




There are a couple day's worth of logs in the woods that need to come out by grapple skidder to be processed but that will happen when the current piles are moved along.



I didn't go too far into the woods today as the walking is difficult with trees down everywhere. Most are just a nuisance like the small ones pictured below but they have to be moved to keep the whole processe moving smoothly. Today is very smooth as nothing is happening. Probably tomorrow if the ice doesn't get too thick this afternoon.



I have some clean up work to do outside, first hand shoveling and roof raking and then some work with the tractor. By then it will be 1 PM and with a little luck I can get to Plainfield and get some more diesel for the tractor. Whatever you do today, be safe as people are out and about shopping and sometimes shopping lists receive more attention than driving. Be safe!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the mourning doves are now chasing the blue jays off the platform feeders. Neat to  watch!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On Facebook as George Africa; Like as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Very nice gift certificates available by calling Gail at 802-426-3505

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Snowy Crabapples


Thursday, December 11, 2014


Today is the third day of snow here in the east. It was not a surprise storm as it had been followed for well over a week with computer models sugaring off to pretty much what we received. Here on the mountain above Peacham Pond it was difficult to verify actual accumulations because the storm changed so much. Tuesday night at 7 PM the snowflakes were like half dollar coins and they fell so quickly they messed up the television reception. That night snow accumulated quickly and was at 6" around midnight but by 3 AM it was raining so hard that the snow started to compact.

Yesterday it was more of the same with a high around 33° and a mix of snow in the morning, then rain in the afternoon. I had an appointment in Montpelier at 3:30 and when I finished about 5 there were inches of water on the Barre Montpelier Road. Today snow fell lightly at the house as I finished shoveling the last of the roof. At times the rain came back and now as I write the temperature has fallen to 27.5°, the lowest since Monday.

22,000 customers are without power in Vermont right now. That's nothing like the problems in California. If the wind were to start up and simply reach 5 mph, the Vermont number could double in a few hours. The trees like the crab apple pictured above are covered with a snowy mix, frozen tightly to the branches. Even without the wind,  a step outside greets me with the sound of cracking branches and falling limbs. The white birches are a mess and will never recover from their new configurations where limbs touch the ground instead of reaching skyward.


The storm has brought many birds to the feeders. Doves (consistently numbering 22), white and also red breasted nuthatches, chickadees, hairy and downy woodpeckers, and redpolls in large numbers are here every day. What is strange is that the initial population of evening grosbeaks left after a couple weeks and the Bohemian waxwings which usually follow robins eating the crab apples--they never came at all this year. Irruptions are like that and I shouldn't come to expect them knowing that an irruption is just that--a temporary event related to local food supply. 

The large sugar maple that I dropped in a heap this fall had been visited regularly by all the woodpeckers. The flickers of course already headed for warmer climates but the pileated woodpeckers that loved the food source have moved over the hill to a standing sugar maple orchard and the other woodpeckers come mainly for suet but in lesser numbers now.

Yes, weather changes our lives as well as the behaviors of the animals from surrounding habitat. It will be colder in a few more days and I expect more birds will come to visit and probably stay for the winter. We'll see. Check your feeders and don't forget the Cornell Christmas Bird Count which is going on right now.

Writing from the mountain above Peachan Pond where the quiet, windless night is now at 26.7°

Best wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Twitter as vtflower farm
On LinkedIn as George Africa
On Facebook as George Africa
On Facebook as a Like Page: Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
And always here to help you grow your green thumb!
Gift certificates available for all seasons! 802-426-3505

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Tuesday, December 9, 2014


23.1° this morning, windless, quiet. 30 degrees warmer than yesterday at the same time. Big storm arriving by noon today and apparently sticking with us into tomorrow, maybe even Thursday.

If you enjoy reading this blog, especially during cold winter days, you might like to take a quick look at some pictures on Pinterest. Same board name as here--The Vermont Gardener. Send questions if you have any. Most plants I feature are available at the flower farm. Our business email has changed to:    vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I think I hear one of the log trucks coming down the hill. Our logging project continues in our quest for better forests and better wildlife habitat. Hope the truck makes it to the mill ahead of today's bad weather.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Personal FB page George Africa with lots of pictures/comments
LinkedIn as George Africa

#vermont; #gardenchat; #agchat; #pinterest; #logging; #wildlife;

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Garden Sleeps


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Too early to be awake yet but Karl the Wonder Dog heard something outside and he was possessed to identify the problem. Naturally when the event was over, he returned to slumber in front of the wood stove and I remain wide awake. That can happen with life in rural Vermont where I think most black bears have gone into hibernation this week. Whitetail deer come to the bird feeders many nights to clean up under them and sometimes actually stand on their hind feet and eat the cracked corn and sunflower seed from the platform feeders. 

Regardless of a solstice type confirmation, winter is here. It's 21.3° right now with a 5 mph wind. Yesterday was the lowest temperature of the season and it was 5.1°. We have a small weather change coming that is a bit behind schedule as we expected freezing rain by midnight but it hasn't warmed enough yet. Winds into the 25 mph range will be here by lunch time with temperatures rising to 35° to 40° and we aren't sure of the final outcome as weather forecasts keep changing. 

Our growing season has long been over and fall clean up is essentially finished. No....sort of finished. Of course there is plenty of work to do at the flower farm but not until we clean up all the messes here at the house that resulted from bringing various items back home. I always say it would be nice to have duplicates of everything we need at both places but that's not possible.

Wednesday's snow should be melted down by noon today and I plan to get down to the flower farm and cut some curly willow. I saw a couple really neat  holiday wreaths, one on Pinterest and one on Houzz. I belong to both of those social media sites because they give excellent ideas and good images makes replicating designs that much easier. At some point you might see some of my pictures as I use the same The Vermont Gardener name on my social media interchanges.

One thing I am especially happy with is how well Alex and I managed to get the daylily fields cleaned up this fall. Alex cut down all the old scapes and leaves and pulled as many weeds as he could. Then we rototilled between the rows and spread shredded leaves about 6" deep between them.We were fortunate to receive several truck loads of wood chips from a utility line clean up and we spread them on top of the leaves in some places and directly onto the newly tilled areas in other. Wood chips are not as good to use as they require longer to decompose and that process draws lots of nitrogen out of the soil. Just the same, after three years our clay soil is always better for it and to that end I don't mind adding some fertilizer to compensate for the loss. I have had a logging project going on at the house for a month now and since I have my own tractor and wood chipper, I'll chip lots of  limbs come spring and finalize what we started this fall.



As snows deepen, consider feeding the birds if you have never done this before. It's a great hobby and offers a different understanding of what birds winter in your area. Cornell University has a great website for birding and their 
All About Birds is a place to start.  The Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count starts in a couple weeks and that's another way to encourage yourself to get organized with reference books, websites and binoculars. Vermont winters can seem long at times but birds at the feeders or walks in the woods can shorten the time until spring. It also can teach you what birds eat and what flowers you might consider adding to your gardens next spring to become a more bird friendly gardener. Think about it!

Just heard some noise on the windows and notice the storm has started. The sound annoyed Karl again and he wants to go out so I have to get going. Have a nice Sunday. If you have any gardening questions, send us an email. Remember: We're always here to help you grow your green thumb!


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature has risen to 24.5° with the wind still at 5 mph. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On Pinterest as The Vermont Gardener board

#vermont; #gardenchat; #agchat; #birds; #birding; #ChristmasBirdCount; 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Bear Visitors


Wednesday, November 5th, 2015

Almost 4 PM and the sun is fading fast. Although the temperature has been around 48° most of the day, the 4-6 mph wind has kept it feeling much colder. At about 7 this morning I was bundled up and out working at the flower farm trying to finish the fall clean up. It rained on and off a little --just enough each time to put on a rain coat, then take it off again. 

By late morning my coffee was gone and I needed a snack. When I returned to the flower farm, my eye caught a section of fence along Route 2. Something looked odd. As I approached I could see the reason was a bear had climbed up over a 4X4 post and in the process of going down the other side dragged some of the fence with it. 

I tracked the animal through half the daylily garden and came to the picture above. This is not a big bear--perhaps 3-4 years old-- but it would no doubt surprise some by it's size. The print is slightly bigger than my outstretched fingers which spread about 8 inches each way. 

Later in the day when I was rototilling the oppostie end of the 5 acre property I came upon a place close to the northeast corner, again by Route 2, where the bear walked back and forth trying to figure out how to get out of the fence and back across the road. He probably wanted more of friend Carol's bird seed. I rode the perimeter of the property in the golf cart a couple times and found another place where the bear walks in and out through a broken spot. I have no idea what he is finding to eat among the flowers.

Dealing with critters of the woods is something that comes with gardening. When moose go through the fence it makes a mess because they are so big. With deer it's easier to fix and with bear--well, they usually are more careful.

Hope you don't have too many critter problems where you live. There's little native food for the animals this fall and I expect the bears will be into hibernation earlier this year as a result. If you have any animal tales to share, I'm always interested.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Gail and Karl the Wonder Dog just returned from a late afternoon walk. Karl apparenlty senses a cold night as he immediately stretched out in front of the wood stove. Good dog!

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
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Chores


Friday, October 17, 2014

The gardens that have entertained us all summer are quickly drawing to a close. Here in Vermont there is perhaps another day left and then freezing temperatures and possible snow where we live will end all hints of color. Although this has been a great summer, it's time to clean things up. 

When you have gardened professionally all summer, you truly are getting tired come mid-October. But regardless of the size of your gardens, to clean them up now now pays dividends come spring. As soon as a couple hard killing frosts come, we try to get as much old foliage out of the garden as possible. We have been cutting off daylilies for a couple weeks now and pulling the old leaves and scapes away from the plants. This eliminates many of the places where insects hide and fungus holds over and matures for a spring/early summer invasion.



One perennial plant we leave alone until spring is hosta. Hosta can carry a virus and like all viruses there is much still to learn about this one. It is spread via the sap of the plant so anything which wounds the plants and can inadvertently transfer sap from one plant to the next in the process can cause trouble. Although the virus doesn't kill the plant it can spread through an entire hosta garden. Learn more about this virus at the Hosta Library. Come spring this year's vegetation is flatter than a pancake and new vegetation has yet to break ground and that's the correct time to safely clean up around the plants.



As you're cleaning things up, remember that it's not too late to plant fall bulbs for spring color. It doesn't take too long to add a few hundred daffodils, tulips, crocus, snowdrops which will add late April-early May color while you wait for your perennials to return. 

I have to get to this farm supply store this morning first thing but I should be back to the flower farm by early afternoon. Hope your fall gardening chores are going well and that you have enjoyed a great summer in your gardens! Vermont has offered a wonderful summer!! #gardenchat; #agchat; #vermont; #perennials;

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens (Like us!)
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Frosty Vermont


Friday, October 17th, 2014


Gardeners have been asking me when the gardening season comes to an end in Vermont. Mark from Florida said he has never been to Vermont and he wondered how his daylilies would fare if he lived here. Here is the over view I just provided. As mentioned, the geography of our little state provides lots of variation in weather and when the first frost comes in the fall and the weather finally warms in spring.

"Weather is Vermont varies a great deal over the 125 mile length of the state because of the geography. Where I garden, a typical spring finds 3-4 frosts (24-28 degrees) from late April until about the 28th of May although we have experienced a killing frost as late as the first week of June when daylilies and hostas were beginning to look nice. In fall we always have a killing frost the end of September and then warm weather returns until mid October. We are on course for that now and Sunday morning will provide snow in the upper elevations, frozen plants everywhere.

Killington, Vermont which is central and western Vermont was on the national news last night with our fall foliage featured. This was the best year in my lifetime. For guaranteed  color, always come the end of September --say 28th on through the first week of October. October always brings big rain storms inc. wind and beautiful foliage can be gone in hours."

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Diggin' & Dividin'

 Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sitting in Wells, Maine this morning, watching people walk the beach with their dogs, coffee, kids, friends. Tide is heading back in. Tempertaure is 61° but the wind from the ocean makes it feel cooler. A nice day is headed our way.

I have been dividing daylilies for a week straight and just before I left I dug and divided some three year old clumps of Ruby Throat. Here are some pictures. Ruby Throat is one of the Griesbach-Klehm daylilies from the seventies that I absolutely adore. The registration info from the American Hemerocallis Society is worth a look-see.

Ruby Throat (Griesbach-Klehm, 1979)
height 21in (53cm), bloom 5in (12.5cm), season MLa, Dormant, Tetraploid,  Red self.


Sometimes plants are registered before their true size is known and I believe this is very true with Ruby Throat. In three years this daylily will reach three feet tall (registered at 21")  It is a heavy bloomer from mid season into fall as ours are just finishing up and this was an unusual year because plants broke dormancy in April and it never got cold enough again to slow them down. Last year as example, Ruby Throat was accompanied by Rooten Tooten Red and Prairie Wildfire as they bloomed towards the end of September.


This is a really nice red that warrants a place in your garden. I work hard to keep plenty ready for sale but they are popular enough that they seem to sell in multiples more often than not. Gardening magazines regularly promote planting flowers in threes now and I notice this is catching on. I also notice that when customers return the following year they share their satisfaction for how this option looks. Give Ruby Throat a try. Although we are only open by chance or appointment now through October 12th, we can set up a time to get you started with this fine daylily.

Now time for breakfast and my first beach walk. No Karl the Wonder Dog companion on this vacation but there are plenty of dogs that walk these beaches day and night. I have yet to spot the lady who walks her aging sheltie in a kid's baby stroller. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens Like us!
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Peony Reminder


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Just a peony reminder for our gardening friends. Mid to late August is when peonies in New England set buds on their root stock for the following year. Often this is the dry part of the summer. If you want a lot of wonderful blooms next June-July, be sure to give your peonies plenty of water now. Not fertilizer, just plenty of water. It will make you smile next year! Big smiles!!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Just Great Combinations!

 Saturday, August 9, 2014

Almost 5 AM here on the mountain. I have been out twice with Karl the Wonder Dog and he has settled back into a snoring routine on the floor next to me. The keyboard doesn't bother him but if I move so much as a toe he will be up and at attention. Nice dog!

At the flower farm, Gail and I plant things at different times and neither of us seems to be aware for the longest time. Four ladies arrived yesterday and seemed interested in the daylily Strawberry Candy but said we did not have one for sale. ???  They seemed a tad confused about what they were really looking for. Gail walked them down along the fence by the parking area where she had planted an interesting combination of daylilies I never even noticed before. Along the fence she had Red Volunteer and then in front of that had planted South Seas and then Strawberry Candy. They were surrounded by weeds but just the same looked stunning, each drawing companionship from the other two. The color contrast was excellent. 
 Gail walked down to the potted plants at the end of the large shade house where the daylily alphabet ends up, grabbed a couple pots of Strawberry Candy in bloom and brought them up. In the end the request moved to a single pot of South Seas instead of Strawberry Candy but I didn't care because I had finally noticed a great combination that I can recommend to others. 


Although the colors on my pictures seems a little off this morning, the concept is fine and the three daylilies actually are worth putting together. As each one matures, they bring special benefit to each other. The Red Volunteer is the tallest and grows thick and full with bloom,  South Seas, the best coral daylily out there,  has nicely branched scapes and spreads out its bloom in front of the reds, and Strawberry Candy, the shortest of the three, blooms on and on picking up hints of color from its companions and reminding how well it works with daylily friends. If you want three daylily additions to your garden or want an especially nice gift for a gardening friend, consider these. Sold without weeds.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where August mornings at 5:15 are a lot different than in May. Darkness holds on.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa;also as Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Front Page News: Gail at Vermont Flower Farm


Friday, July 25, 2014

Gail is on the front page of the Times Argus newspaper today. If you get a chance, pick up a copy or read online if you have a subscription. If all else fails and you're in the vicinity, stop by and see in person what a wonderful assortment of daylilies are in bloom right now. 

DAYLILY PESTS

 Friday, July 25, 2014

Daylilies are in full bloom at Vermont Flower Farm and visitors from all over North America are visiting our state. Many are taking a break from their travel as they stop to tour our gardens and ask questions. A frequent question is what is the name of the small insect that flies as gardeners approach flowers and what is the insect that carves trails and tracks in the petals, especially in the darker purples and reds of daylilies. The answer is the same--the very insidious Tarnished Plant Bug,  Lygus lineolaris.



Over the years reports of the Tarnished Plant Bug have increased annually and inspectors from the Department of Agriculture who visit each year as part of Vermont's relicensing format report the same findings. I have spoken with many vegetable growers and they have reported the same issues and control has become a difficult but imperative responsibility.


Yesterday I was out early in the fields with friend and helper Michelle who was helping with deadheading' She was waiting for it to dry up enough so she could get back to painting our house. Gail and I have a dislike for painting so we trade off work with Michelle at her house during the off season so the arrangement works well for us. As we deadheaded what amounted to 8-five gallon buckets of spent daylily blooms, many visitors stopped to chat. They all wanted to know our theory for this monumental, time consuming task. 

Deadheading daylilies makes them look cleaner and prevents some blooms from turning into seed pods which for us is a less positive way to use available plant nutrients. We would rather see the plants grow a better root system and grow larger and more fans for subsequent years than grow seed pods. We do not hybridize so this is a good reason to clean the plants up. But the real reason I think it's imperative to do this is because the Tarnished Plant Bug lays eggs inside the spent blooms which then drop to the ground and start another life cycle with the TPB. Stand in front of a daylily in your garden and you might be able to see the bugs come and go and you can confirm this for yourself.

The question then is how to get rid of these bugs. We have a couple products that work for us as we try to stay away from harsh chemicals but still minimize the damage and repeated cycles of more bugs. A Plainfield vegetable farmer recommended that we use pyrethrum based PyGanic, an OMRI listed product used by organic farmers. At $80 a quart it seems expensive but it does the trick and lasts quite a while. The recommended usage is two pints per acre mixed with 100 gallons of water. That may seem like a lot of spray but it's not just the buds that must be sprayed but the plant and other plants in the area. This is a great reminder to get rid of weeds--which for us has been a terrible challenge ever since the big floods a few years back. 

We have also been successful using horticultural oils early in the season. These are the same products that orchardists use early on to spray fruit trees. The oils suffocate the eggs/small insects and also work but you must keep up with the spraying in May to take care of those early infestations.

Hot, dry summers seem to encourage more and more cycles of this bug and having fields surrounded by other weedy fields encourages the problem. Think through these ideas and give your daylilies, especially the darker colored ones a good inspection and see what kind of a problem you might have. Sooner is better on a plan to get rid of this bug. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter at vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!