Sunday, November 12, 2006

Autumn Textures

A busy weekend here at Vermont Flower Farm. Not busy as in July with flowers in bloom and customers lined up with plants and questions, but busy with seasonal chores. Friday and Saturday benefited from a changing weather system that dropped a few inches of snow in parts of the mid-west but brought high temperatures to Marshfield that even broke 60 degrees yesterday after lunch. Two such beautiful days made us change our schedules and get more things cleaned up that typically we would have been left until late April 2007.

Raking maple leaves isn't a great sport. I do have a leaf vac which shreds leaves nicely but during the past week the winds blew ferociously and twigs and limbs are everywhere. Raking was the only way to go and 5 truckloads later, things are looking better.

Maple leaves are precious to us because the soil here is so poor and maples have so much to offer. The trees have deep roots so they bring minor elements up from deep below the surface. An inch or so of shredded leaves spread on the gardens in spring helps add to the soil and provide a mulch blanket to hold spring rains. Some days I have to remind myself of this benefit to get the wind rows into the back of the truck. To see the benefit in healthy plants during summer days is sufficient reward to make me do the same task year after year.

I still have to get the weed whacker out and cut down the display beds now adorned with various brown shades from monardas, phlox, astilbes, liatris and the like. This refuse goes out back on a separate pile which never comes back to the gardens. The possibility of encouraging fungus is reason enough to separate it from the regular compost pile.

Yesterday I sat for a minute and looked over the various stems and seed heads and asked Gail what she thought about a nice autumn arrangement for the harvest table. She said she had already considered it and in minutes she set about picking an armful of materials. Cimicifuga (now Actea) atropurpurea, astilbes, Siberian iris 'Double Delight', and Sedum 'Matrona' seemed to fit the bill. In short order Gail had prepared a very nice arrangement in a Lucinda Rochester vase that had been in hiding for some time . The various heights and textures worked nicely with the teal color of the vase and it will serve as an anchor to a fall display in the front room.

Although these materials were destined for a compost pile, they can become a very nice decoration with just an ounce of creative imagination. I've been equally as happy to have an arrangement plunked into a Mason jar but finding Rochester's product in the back cupboard made for a nicer display. It also reminded me to remind you that the Holiday Craft Fair and Fine Arts Show starts this Thursday at the Sheraton in Burlington. It's billed as the "54th annual...". I don't know how it started but do know that with over 175 artisans exhibiting, it's worth a visit.

Vermont artisans are like Vermont gardeners--they spend inordinate amounts of time creating works of art that bring back smiles and compliments and move us on to the next project.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where six shiny yellow eyes in the night probably means Mrs Bear and the twin cubs are hoping I've changed my mind and put out all the bird feeders. Wrong!

Best gardening wishes,

George Africa

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