Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Joyful Colors While Planting Bulbs

Thursday, October 25, 2007

38 degrees this morning and apparently just enough moonlight to give the coyotes reason to be having a convention in the lower field. I never learned coyote speak but they are certainly vocal this morning, and this time of year. Last week when I walked in to Kettle Pond at 5:30 AM for some pictures, there were a number on the hill within the group camping area. I listened in the dark and could differentiate 3 voices but have a great deal to learn about them before I can explain what they are discussing.

The flower industry has done a good job conditioning people over the years to do certain things at certain times while expecting industry events. I don't think this is good for gardeners but it sets parameters for growers, wholesalers and retailers. In Vermont there's something about buying plants for the summer beginning around Memorial Day when the frosts are likely to have passed. Then by the June 15-July 4th time frame all retailers have sales to unload any stock they have left. This schedule almost encourages people to think that garden color will fade by the first of August and be gone when the kids go back to school the third week in August.

This artificial schedule is not a good one and here are Vermont Flower Farm we have always tried to encourage the thought that color can prevail until several hard frosts have occurred. Operating a nursery is difficult enough without having your own industry direct people that you should be closed when you really just opened. We work hard here to change that thinking and the orders of hosta and astilbe that are going in the mail today remind us that we're making some headway.

Perhaps a way to lengthen your season with color is to integrate some small trees and shrubs into your landscape. There are many euonymous varieties out there like the one pictured above. These have colorful foliage and bright berries. Depending on where you live, some varieties verge on invasive personalities but if you like an abundance of color and like watching birds, these aren't bad. Be prepared to pull up or dispose of any seedlings and you can keep your area in control. I moved a couple here almost eighteen years ago and there are four that have self seeded and grown to five feet tall.

The red berries of winterberry (above) are super. I have transplanted some of the natives from out back (not that easy!) but the new cultivated varieties on the market now are exceptional. They hold their fruit longer, beginning to end, and some of the new ones hold tight to firm, bright berries even after many 25 degree frosts. Gail and I plan to use a number of these at the new nursery so in time they will be eye catchers for Route 2 travelers to muse about.

Dogwoods are in abundance and have received lots of publicity in recent years. Fall frosts encourage the leaves to redden in contrast to some continued green coloration. Their berries draw in birds and they respond well to shaping so there are various possibilities.

There is much discussion about problems in the dogwood world and a combination of viruses and insects is raising serious question to long term survival. As long as they do survive, they are a shrub to be enjoyed. There's something about the self styled umbrella growth of some that make them interesting to me.

Weigelia is another nice shrub although don't plant them under the eaves of the house like I did and expect them to last forever. A native of Japan and also found in Korea and China, there are a couple hundred varieties out there, perhaps more as we look closer and hybridize better. They range in size from 2.5 feet to 8 feet and flower colors include reds, rose, yellow and white. The offset leaves allow for good flowering and the leaf color is good. The taller ones can be Incorporated into a nice hedge of mixed shrubs that will provide color into late fall and serve as a bird magnet the balance of the year.

Years ago when Gail bought barberry bushes named 'Rosy Glow' from a friend I had my doubts but visitors ask about them all the time and someday I may even sell some. They are not invasive like the natives that have covered all of New England and they have a very nice cream and pink variegation to some leaves. These are not the same as the natives which have seriously impacted farmer's fields and salt flat swamps along the ocean.

Most of the maple trees have dropped enough leaves around here that the tamaracks, birches, poplars, oaks and beeches are now the mountain accents. Fall leaf color is yellow to yellow-brown to brown depending on the tree. They all have their merits. If planting oaks around the house, give some thought to where you plant and what your agenda is. An oak tree planted for summer shade in front of a south facing window may work well for summer sun but the leaves hang tight for so long, some back into spring, that expected winter warming will not be possible. Consider some of these trees and shrubs mixed with the vast variety of smaller conifers available today and you will have a garden of color your neighbors will enjoy too.

Although garden centers have already discounted spring bulbs, fear not, there's plenty of time to plant some spring color. We enjoy daffodils and historically buy them by the bushel. There are hundreds of varieties available with new varieties entering the market every year. A number of people are bringing back the old species and there are tons of resources available now. The American Daffodil Society is a good place to begin your research. If you buy a dozen of several varieties each year and plant them as a group, in time you'll have a nice collections that visitors will ask about. I always like to be asked "Where did you get that?" because it proves I have made a good choice.

The thermometer hasn't budged but I have to get ready for my real job. I'd rather be here on the mountain today raking leaves and chatting with late arriving tourists who stop to say they always wanted to meet The Vermont Gardener.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where noisy geese are having breakfast.

George Africa

1 comment:

Chrissy said...

I love all the different colors and different flowers
in spring time. I think they can just paint a picture of a thousand words.