Monday, April 14, 2014


A beautiful morning here on the mountain. The mourning doves are cooing to each other from various white pines around the house and the morning is busy with male goldfinches wearing their new colors. Robins are ferreting out the last of the crab apple seeds from shriveled fruits dangling from the tree branches or scattered about the ground where early winter's irruption of gosbeaks left them. It's a great time of year because we have broken through the below zero cold and the big snow storms and although we will have more cold and perhaps more snow, it is apparent that our thoughts can turn to the flowers that many of us cherish.

New gardening books precede the spring season and they encourage us to reevaluate how and what we garden. There is something about fresh pictures and new ideas that jump starts us into the planting season again even if the real labor early each spring includes raking and till-turning chores that provides aches and pains along with the reward. It matters not as we accept those responsibilities in our quest for "There's no such thing as too many flowers."

This coming Saturday, April 19th, the New England Wild Flower Society reappears at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, Vermont like crocus in the spring. This year the Northern Gardening Symposium will feature three outstanidng speakers including Miriam Goldberger, author of Taming Wildflowers. Although the event is only a few days away, registration is still open and I encourage you to rethink your plans an get to this special event. Miriam has titled her presentation  "Taming Wildflowers From Seed to Vase:  A Celebration, Guide and Users' Manual". 

I have read Taming Wildflowers twice through which must seem crazy for a guy who already has lots of irons in the fire..... but......Miriam writes what needed to be written and she writes in a manner suggesting that you're standing in a field at her flower farm picking flowers for yourself, a friend, your table, a wedding. The feeling of "being there" is as welcome as the way the text flows and you absorb the detail, the instruction, the encouragement to go do it all yourself. 

Everyone has plant favorites and Miriam offers up 60 of hers but not before explaining seed germination instructions for "No pre-treatment Necessary", "Seed Needs Scarification" and "Cold, Moist Stratification". These are incedibly valuable words to my ears because the world of wild flowers has led more and more gardeners to try growing them from seed each year. I know this first hand as being a flower farmer myself, I am open to questions from everyone and Gail and I field weekly questions including "Why didn't my seeds grow?" If you know that your zone is apporpriate to growing a plant to maturity and you know how to bring it into germination in the first place, you're on your way to success.

Taming Wildflowers mentions pollinators with some good descriptions and appropriately so. As we all become more aware of the problems facing our planet, we want more information on how to exist with the pollinators, their pollination work, and resulting seed dispersal. These are all very important to insuring that the perennial plants you coax into growing the first year will grow again and multiply in subsquent years.

Miriam mentions anual flowers and grasses she likes and she offers an excellent section on design work and flowers for weddings. I really hope that she will write a book soon just on flowers for weddings because this is a very popular topic now and there is so much that brides need to understand before embarking on the "let's do our own flowers" route.

I'm happy that Miriam mentioned two of my favorite wild flowers, Veronicastrum virginicum, Culver Root, and Vernonia fasciculata, Ironweed. There are many varieties of each of these. They are tall flowers in nature with strong stems and they provide the designer with that tall verticle opportunity that affords easier design mechanics and show stopping attention.

I knew before I even opened  Taming Wildflowers for the first time that it would not disappoint. I had heard great things about St Lynn's Press and I knew for certain that Miriam's experience and St Lynn's perfection would be the match that it has become. So buy the book right now but jump on-line to the New England Wild Flower Society and register for this Saturday's symposium. It will be very special! I guarantee it! Gail and I will look for you there!

Writing from the mountian above Peacham Pond where the morning temperature now reads 65.7° and a 3 mph wind melts the snows of winter and encourages me to head to our flower farm to begin uncovering our potted perennials. Come visit!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
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And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

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