Monday, June 01, 2009

Great Customers, Great Lilacs

Monday, June 1, 2009

8:30 PM and as I look out the window, I think it must be freezing cold out there even though the thermometer now reads 49.4 degrees. My reaction is justified by the way it was earlier this afternoon and for the past couple days. Yesterday I was on my hands and knees most of the day planting hostas and it warmed briefly each time the sun came from behind a cloud but then reverted to just plain damp and cold. At 7:30 last night it was snowing. The limited customer count during the day was reflective of the temperature too. Who would want to garden when it was so cold and windy?

Customers at our Peacham Pond location were habituated to our presence and after more than 15 years, many knew better than us when certain flowers would be blooming. As we made the move to the valley last year, we lost some customers. How many we lost is still a question as our neighbors keep reminding us how many people they see in the driveway each day when we aren't here. We hope in time they will all catch back up with us. In the meantime we are picking up new customers from Route 2 traffic. This road is a major east-west highway and many of our new customers are from Maine.

Saturday a Montpelier couple that missed us last year showed up again. They each have their own garden at their home and they both enjoy daylilies. Many couples seem to share this concept and kind of try to best the other in dynamic affect or color contrast or balanced bloom time or highest bloom count over the season--got me--but it seems that variables like these come into play. Anyway it was good to see them again and they asked for suggestions and bought some of what I suggested after confirming how well all previous purchases had done. Austin did the digging and Gail checked them out so I could get back to planting.

We're still missing Eric from Massachusetts and haven't a clue where he is. He's our resident bird adviser as he is an internationally experienced bird fanatic and we haven't stumped him yet. Well, that's not quite true. He was emphatic one time that pileated woodpeckers were very territorial but he still didn't answer why we have 4 in the maples across the road from the house. Anyway, Eric has a summer camp in Groton, Vermont and he scoots up there every weekend he can from Memorial Day until as late as Thanksgiving depending on the temperature. We know he's out there someplace but just haven't seen him yet. Maybe mentioning Gail's blueberry coffee cake will bring him in. She hasn't brought any down for customers yet but he doesn't know that.

Today I stopped by the nursery after a day at my real job. It seemed that before both feet were on the ground, Gail shouted out "Hosta questions for you over here." I could see a person squatting by a display but I wanted to grab a jacket first as the wind was coming up and I was stiff from the ride in from Waterbury.

James Macfarlane Lilac

As I approached the unknown customer, he was looking over some epimedium Gail was in the process of rearranging into a new display. A pot of Japanese primrose, a variegated polygonatum, and a small hosta had already made the cut and I assumed were assembled for purchase. In short order I met Warren Oakes, Secretary of the International Lilac Society. He was en route back home to Maine after attending the 2009 International Lilac Society Convention and Annual Meeting in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. We struck up an instant conversation and it took me no time to ask for advice on a reliable lilac grower from New England. I explained that I was really interested in lilacs and I wanted to plant a border around our entire 5 acre nursery.

Customers often have something to share and very, very few are secretive about their knowledge. I always try to learn from customers and Gail and I have always tried to share what we know with other gardeners. This always helps as a new customer today is probably a customer for a long time. I told Warren that I was taking a couple days off soon to visit the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens probably Acadia and a couple nurseries in Searsport and Belfast. He suggest that I might consider Syringa Plus, a lilac nursery he likes in West Boxford, Massachusetts since I'm going to start or end my journey in southern New Hampshire.

Warren had been driving for a long time and had a ways to go but during our short time we exchanged good information and when we all said goodbye, I knew I'd see him again sometime. That's how good customers, good gardeners are. They're like great lilacs. Every year they please you with their presence. Here in this part of Vermont the tiger swallowtail butterflies first hatch around Memorial Day and they always head for the James Macfarlane lilac. Both sights please us a great deal.

With special thanks to all customers!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm A website that seeks to describe our business while making your plant
choices easier. Take a look or come visit in person!


Teza said...

Thanks so much for the birthday greetings!

I love the aroma of Syringa, and in memory of my Grandmother I have a light mauve S. vulgaris. Unfortunately I have a very small front and back yard, so one is the limit.

I did come across a wonderful dwarf Japanese maple today, Acer palmata 'Mikawa Yatsubusa' and like all people on their birthdays, found a reason and then a gorgeous pot to bring him home in!

We had weather at the 30 degree mark last weekend, and they are calling for chillier nights for the remainder of the week! Hope it's warmer for you! I hope you have luck with your Astilboides..... I love mine but know in a year's time I will have to find a new home, as it is already crowding out other precious gems in the garden! Take care!

Jeff Branch said...

You mentioned planting hostas - which ones?

lynn'sgarden said...

Hi George, I can't believe you had snow! Well, maybe I can..the weather has been whacky all around! That last photo of the pink lilac and butterfly, beautiful! Enjoy your visits to the public gardens.

George Africa said...

Hi Jeff;

43 degrees here this morning and a beautiful start to a sunny day. The hosta planting continues. So far I have planted Torchlight, Whiskey Sour, Summer Breeze, Amber Tiara, Platinum Tiara, Golden Tiara, Sea Fire, Sun Power, Yellow Waves, Kiwi Sunshine, August Moon, Wylde Green Cream, Ice Cream, Lemon Lime, First Frost, Elegans, Moonlight Sonata. Have two more truck loads ready to go in today. Looking nice but will be a lot nicer 1.) when it's finished and 2.) Next year!!

More later.

George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm

Carol said...

Hello George,

Thanks for dropping by Flower Hill and for your thoughtful comment. So true about the plight of bees... I am so happy to have wild honey bees living here... You might enjoy the swarm post... it was exciting to be around them during that time. I am so thankful to see your post here on the James Macfarland Lilac! I have been trying to remember that name for years! I have two next to a Miss Kim. I am confused, however, about the pink ... is that Miss Canada? The swallowtails love mine too. Great to have found you and I love your blog. I have added you to my links and will visit often. Be seeing you! Carol