Friday, June 11, 2010

Hostas Days Begins!

Friday June 11, 2010

6 AM and still clouded over, 51 degrees, 98% humidity, 29.70 on the barometer and windless. When I checked the rain gauge last night there was almost an inch of new water so that's almost 3" in 5 days. Today is supposed to be clear but another front is coming in and rain is expected again this weekend.

Rainy days often keep gardeners away from the nursery unless they are dedicated or bored. Last night 12 ladies from a Circle of Friends group that reaches from Burlington and Williston to Barre and Williamstown visited Vermont Flower Farm in Muck boots and crocs and carrying all color and size of umbrella. They came prepared and I think enjoyed what they saw despite the rain. I offered to show them our new hosta and shade garden which continues under construction for now its second year. In the top image the new garden is on the right just behind my tractor. The garden on the left is a new daylily garden where I have lined out quick sellers such as Red Ribbons, Tetrina's Daughter, Valley Monster, Orange Vols and Wayside King Royal. That garden is also planted with annuals such as giant cactus flowered zinnias and cosmos.

If you remember some previous posts about this new garden I started out with removing all the weeds and swamp grasses from an area of about 3000 square feet. The front of the area accepts water run off from the adjacent slope so I had to trench the runoff into a settling pool and accept the fact that an eighth of the new garden would have to be used for plants that can tolerate lots of moisture.

I had access to hundreds of burlap bags from a Vermont coffee company so I laid them down for further weed control as I planted. My plan was to cover the bags with maple leaves and wood chips as I planted so moisture would be retained and weed control would be easier. My most recent accomplishment has been covering the bags that form the paths.

Just down Route 2 a couple miles from the nursery is a quarry that crushes granite into stay mat. Stay mat is a common name for crushed rock material that includes an assortment of fines which help the entire mass pack down like concrete. The granite stay mat is less expensive than shale stay mat which I would have preferred but in my situation granite is a good start. It costs $13.65 a yard and is closer by so less transport cost for my limited budget. This stone material is very heavy and it's a job best left to a tractor whenever possible. It's the same material I have used in the parking lot and under all the plant display areas and inside the shade houses. It rakes over easily when fresh and begins to pack as rain falls or you resort to a hose.

Just below is a picture as I started to lay out one path. Big blocks of the same eye catching daylily variety form the garden's border on the left and three varieties of maples and a few lindens are joined by 6 katsuras, 6 yellow ninebarks and some small (very small!) yellow locusts. The natural backdrop to this garden is box elders, a tree belonging to the maple family and one I don't care for. Let's just say the area is in transition and the trees while change over time.

I have the main walkway artery designed to accommodate folks who use scooters or power chairs for travel. That's not possible yet as the work is in progress and the paths aren't packed yet but that is the plan. More slender paths allow those with easier access a chance for different views now but over time I will insure that access is equal for everyone. This is a challenge because the garden is more than a hundred yards from our main display area and down a fairly steep bank. As with everything I do there is a remedy in mind, slowed only by one man's energy, time and money.

Two years ago I explained the plan to a customer and she returned yesterday. Her first response was to the amount of work I had accomplished in such a short amount of time but there was an air of misconception in her reaction. She had purchased a number of hostas during her last visit and I gave my customary "here's how to get them growing as efficiently as possible" speech. When she looked at the new garden she was in awe over what she felt were one gallon pots of hosta like she bought growing to mature garden giants in one year. I corrected the observation and rehashed my method of using Epsom salt and fish emulsion with kelp to encourage my plants along. I added that some use lots of triple phosphate but I try to steer clear of that fertilizer because in my opinion it changes the leaf color.

There's a lot of work left with the paths but they should be settled within the week if the rain gives me a break and I don't run out of stay mat. I have that feeling of conflict going on where I'd really like to get the paths done but I'd also like to have so many customers show up that I'd be forced into customer service and grabbing money and loading cars. We'll see what happens.

Over the next couple years I think the garden will mature nicely and the view to and from the parking area will be sufficient to entice new arrivals to want to come see what's going on. if you like hostas and other shade plants, stop by for a visit. There's lots to see!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the sky is clearing already and there's promise of a nice Friday. Rain gear and umbrellas should be packed in the car if you're heading anywhere this weekend. We hope Vermont Flower Farm is on your list as Hosta Days begins today with some special prices! Have to get going to the nursery.......

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
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Isadora said...

Epsom salt and fish emulson? I have not heard of that formula before. What is the mix? What a lot of work! I can see it is going to be beautiful in a couple of years!

Jeff Branch said...

Do you ever have problems with voles?