Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Assorted Astilbes That Amaze

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A quiet morning here on the hill where even the birds appear waterlogged after days of rain. Nothing seems to be moving save for the raucous ravens in the distance who seem to disturb mornings as if it is written in their job description. I can smell the fresh coffee which means that Gail will be in here in a minute with a replacement for the remainder of last evening's leftover. Gail cannot start the day without fresh coffee so I usually play cleanup.

The regular rains have really changed how the plants are looking this year and it's worth a ride to our new Route 2 location just to see how things are improving. The astilbes were originally housed under a very nice 80 foot shade house which took flight a week and a half ago when a giant storm passed through. The house was completely destroyed in a storm that made me think I was entering Oz. But between the rain and the average temperature, the astilbes have flourished and they are excellent. The pictures here are not fresh as they are now just setting buds now but I expect many will begin to open today. The pictures will give an idea of the colors and maybe encourage you to think about them more. If you check our website
you'll get to read a little piece I wrote about astilbes and see some of what we offer. The grossly outdated astilbe section is lacking another dozen-fifteen varieties Gail added in the past couple years but just the same you'll get the idea here. I'm starting with Amethyst above.

The whites and cream variations are very nice and I am surprised I don't see more of them used in wedding and anniversary floral work. They are easy to pick and ship and with sturdy stems they hold well in displays and arrangements. Deutchland and Weisse Gloria are a couple more not pictured here in company with Bridal Veil which I like.

Europa (above) and Sister Theresa (not pictured) make the move away from white and have value for contrast. There is the airy, open look and then the tighter flowers which work very well as fillers and background stems in arrangements. Within the garden they add a texture and a height variation which makes a rolling display much more complete.

Glow is sometimes sold as Glut and I guess that just represents another of the challenges in the flower world where the same plant is registered with different names. This situation is far different than the phony mail order places that say they are wholesalers who buy in masses of plants and put their own made-up names on to confuse the public and make it difficult for people like me to explain to gardeners that "No, we do not have Pink Weeping Raindrops, but we do sell Strassenfeder, an ostrich plume type astilbe I really like."

Astilbes can be planted individually or in mass plantings. This pink Hyacinth astilbe is a favorite of many as it puts out lots of scapes in time and flows nicely in the wind. The only problem I have is the name as I always have to think and insure I don't confuse my "hyacinths" and my "hyacinthias"
Kreimhelde (above) and Lolypop (below) have interesting coloration in the stems which adds to the garden and arrangements. The foliage variation in astilbes is one of their strengths and adds to garden opportunities.

Years back a great astilbe was released named Visions. We could never get enough of it. Then Vision in Red and Vision in Pink (above) were released. The tight bud count and long lasting flower period offer just what the gardener ordered.

It's 6:30 am now and one of our new astilbes is named 'Rise and Shine'. I've been up for a couple hours already but for some, it will take a blast of an alarm clock to actuate the day. Good garden wishes for a pleasant gardening day!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl the wonder dog just finished a morning walk with Gail and our gardening day has begun. If you don't have astilbes included in your garden yet, check out Vermont Flower Farm and place an order soon. At our new nursery, Gail has planted great swaths of the various astilbes we sell in a garden which parallels Route 2. She began planting the taller varieties near the road and worked them out over 75 feet towards the daylily display beds. In a couple weeks the ribbon of color will be special. Come see!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm:A website with useful info
Vermont Gardens


joey said...

I adore astilbe, George, and many are popping in my garden! A lovely post. It's been way too long for a visit. I've missed your heartfelt song.

Philip Bewley said...

I love astilbe. i have not have had my luck with them. Do you have any suggestions fror growingSomething or conditions we need)?
Thanks much,

George Africa said...

Hello Philip;

Growing astilbes is easy for us in Vermont because of our climate. Cold winters with snow cover for a good period of dormancy, lots of water in the spring,and summers that are usually not too hot.

We grow astilbes in partial shade to full sun. Although billed by some as "shade loving" they do not do well in heavy shade. Those that we plant in full sun require a little planning when first planted. We always use compost or a good mix of old maple leaves in the bottom of the hole to act as a sponge and save up nutrients and moisture. If there is a period in the 90's, then we insure that supplement water is provided that will get down to the root mass.

Over time, astilbes, like many perennials, will begin to die out in the middle. Noticing that suggests it's time to split up the root mass and replant pieces here and there. When the leaves begin to curl during times of drought is a critical sign/reminder to water if you have forgotten.

Sometime soon I will add a list of the new astilbes Gail has added this year. They are coming into bloom nicely and really are an underused plant.

George Africa
The Vermont gardener

George Africa said...

Hi Joey;

Moving a nursery even four miles from its current source is a big project. We are making progress but it is a challenge. My writing has suffered even though I enjoy sharing information about our gardens and what we grow. Until the ground covers with white frost, there is little hope that I'll write with regularity.

Be well and happy 4th to all.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener