Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Stone Cold Reading

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

It's a beautiful late afternoon winter day here at Vermont Flower Farm. The beauty I must admit, is best "viewed, when not bundled" .......kind of like when James Bond calls for a vodka martini, "shaken, not stirred." It is furiously cold this afternoon despite the bright sun and the only way you will get me back out there is if I bundled in layers. Tonight's low is predicted to reach minus 15 degrees. 'Nuf said.

The birds are feeding at all the feeders as if there is no tomorrow. As I watch them, I can feature Charles Schultz-like chickadees in tiny sweaters and nuthatches in little hats--that's how cold it feels with the wind.

Competition is fierce. Earlier I saw my first Northern Shrike of the New Year. They are the blue jay sized harrier jets that make quick meals of smaller birds. We have seen them here fall and winter of every year with increasing regularity and spring and summer in less frequency. It's easier to see them when the feeders are out; there's a chance they are always here but summer foliage makes spotting them more difficult.

Cold days make the wood stove and a good book or magazine feel all that much better. Gail just brought me a cup of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Gingerbread coffee to encourage me to write faster and get on with income tax preparation. It won't work. Tracy and Diana from Marshfield Inn brought the coffee on a recent visit and I have to say it's a very nice change for holiday time. A little gingerbread man to dunk would be very nice but those were devoured days ago.

Christmas was good to me in the book department and one nice gift from Gail and Alex was Dan Snow's In The Company Of Stone. Dan is a southern Vermont drywall stacker and an accomplished stone craftsman to say the least. This book gives a great pictorial review of his work but if you get a chance to hear him speak, be sure to go and listen. He crafts good travel stories twined with a picture show of his accomplishments. He's one of those presenters that you hope will not stop.

Stone has always been of interest to me. When I was a kid I started a rock collection and my grandmother, who liked to travel the US, sent me pieces from all corners. Our first house in Vermont had an old barn foundation upon which my father planted an American flag and declared it my mother's new rock garden. I helped her toil through that creation until times got rough and the bank felt their mortgage was more than overdue and we moved on. I can still remember the creeping phlox in the spring that slowed dirt road travelers, and the blue Campanula persicifolia that was a gift from one of my dad's customers.

Stone belongs in gardens, at least my gardens. I know that many spend years ridding their gardens of stone but I like the way the hardness works to soften the garden and brings new lines that draw focus to special plants in close proximity. Here at Vermont Flower Farm I have incorporated stone in many ways. Our website contains pages titled Building A Hosta Garden and Stone Steps: A Garden Journey These pages should give you an idea of my philosophy and how I go about moving stones.

Back in 2000, I dragged the "seven sisters" out of the back lot and "planted" them as the next picture shows. These are big, odd shaped pieces of granite around which I have begun a new hosta garden incorporated with a small collection of epimedium. There is a back drop of Hosta 'Tall Boy' and Lilium superbum with a mix of Lilium henryi and a row of Hosta 'Fragrant Bouquet' The picture shows the start of a really nice garden vignette.

I have placed pieces of green shiest at various locations. This is a native stone that I buy in from John Cleary's stone yard in Richmond. I took a couple pieces and "planted" them next to two pieces of native granite (next photo). This was three years ago. Various monardas have encroached on the left and daylilies, actea, lilium and hemerocallis have filled in on the right.

Gardens, as with people, age quicker than we hope for. This last picture shows Alex and his friend Mat in heavy snowball combat five years ago. Today both kids are 15 and about 5 feet 9 inches tall and still growing.

Although it's cold outside today, there couldn't be a better time to think about a new garden or restructuring one that you planted years ago. Some graph paper, a pencil and garden thoughts will be a fun project. If you get a chance, take a look at Dan Snow's book. The inspiration you'll find will jump start you even at below zero.

Writing from the mountain above frozen Peacham Pond where the sun has fallen, the birds have retreated and the temperature is minus 3.

Garden wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Vermont Gardens: Another Blog


James Trundy said...

How I enjoy receiving these blog entries! Particularly during the winter when the gardens are sleeping snuggly under all the snow.

Nice to have the snow insulating the new plantings this year.

You did remind me to take care of my People, Places and Plants subscription.

I never did get up to say "have a good winter, see you in the spring" but I look forward to the spring visit.

I see the work you are doing on your new location when I drive Rt 2 and while I understand the reasoning and need, personally it will not be the same experience!!!

Further surgery on my hand jan 16 which will restore movement and useage faster than the regenerating nerves which will still take another year. Hope to be healed and have functioning hand again when it is time to get the spade out!

Will communicate later about what you have avaialable for peonies.. want to start that project this year and you have some beautiful and unusual examples.

Continue having a good winter and bring regular joy to those of us who receive your postings.

May 2008 be a great year at Vermont Flower Farm

George Africa said...

Hello James;

I recent computer crash left me "addressless" so please accept a response in this format. I appreciate your good tidings and wish you well with your hand surgery next week.

Many visitors have shared opinions about our move to a new location fearing the worst. Change is difficult and for us it is a little scary. Just the same, this move is in full motion and we will be open for business in May.

I remember one day you visited
here.I had no idea how long you were here before it occurred to me the empty car belonged to someone, some place.I looked over the bank into the foundation garden. You were down there in peace with the gardens and enjoying yourself. My guess is that is part of what folks think will be missing. That garden represented a place that was almost church-like in what it offered. Give us time.

Gail and I just planned an alley of trees extending from three shade houses to the river. From there a path will lead back towards the village and that entire half acre will be planted in wildflowers and shade plants. On the Plainfield side of the property we have done extensive planting of Siberian iris and every shade plant we have ever grown. Next week we meet with a salesman to map out trees and shrubs that like wet feet to work with all the large stones you may have seen paralleling Route 2. That area will eventually become a certified American Hemerocallis Display Garden.

What won't be missing is Gail, her laughter, her knowledge and her desire to make people happy even if she doesn't make a sale. Good or bad, I will be there too. We have no intention of changing what we sell because we have spent years doing a good job with what we have. In time we will add on but for this year, other than a dozen new phlox and a couple dozen more hosta varieties, things will be the same.
Until plants and owners get a good grasp on "relocation", things will not be the same but in time I guarantee a special place.

Again, success with surgery and remember that physical therapy directions are made to follow.

George Africa