Friday, April 14, 2017



We have sold hydrangeas at Vermont Flower Farm for several years now. We began by offering some paniculatas we bought in from Montana because they are the most hardy. In spring 2011, we planted them around the fence perimeter and within a week or so of planting, the first of two May floods arrived and washed them away. I had planted around 25 hydrangeas and there were several varieties but of course when they were carried away, the name labels were too. I found every one and had worker bee Steve replant them although the names became a guess. A couple weeks later the same thing happened with more deep water and I recovered all but one that I found later that year in the top of a Japanaese Fantail Willow. Today those hydrangeas look great and are growing well despite the poor attention they received from Mother Nature.

Over the years we have added and grown on several Arborescens such as Annabelle, Incrediball and Invincible Spirit and they handle Vermont very well. We currently offer about 20 hydrangeas, potted and ready to go. We don't mail order any of these because of their size but they are always available for pick-up at the nursery. Last fall, Gail and Alex planted another display garden along Route 2 so the varieties are in one place and over time will be available to see close up as mature specimens.

Here is a list from our website of the hydrangeas we have available this spring and summer. We have a size for about any garden location. More mature heights will take about 3 years from planting time. 

If you happen to live in the Central Vermont area, the City of Barre has many older homes built as the granite industry grew there to be the biggest in the world. During that time, many, many hydrangeas and lilacs were brought from Europe as granite workers arrived in Vermont. Although finding the true names of many of these is close to impossible, it's worth a trip to drive around and see what is flowering. The world famous Hope Cemetary is nearby and contains some examples here and there of lilacs and hydrangeas and is worth a visit too.

Best gardening!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
In Facebook as a personal Facebook page, George Africa, with lots of gardening pictures and advice, and  also as a Like Page, Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens, 

On Twitter as vtflowerfarm 

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Taking Cuttings

Good morning from the mountain above Peacham Pond where last night's storm left us with 7" of wet, clingy snow. Central Vermont received about a foot and other places 2"-5". A year ago today the weather had been quite warm for much of March and there wasn't a snowflake to be found. A tad different this year as there is plenty of snow at the flower farm and "feet" of snow here at the house inside the field perimeters.

Although I would love another spring like last year, it will not happen so my attention turns to more work on the website, making signs for the gardens, getting plant labels written out for odd items that don't come in big numbers, and rearranging things at the flower farm so I can get the delivery trucks backed in exactly where I want them so as to save time and energy. One of the things I have found time to do this year is plant some cuttings from hydrangeas, willows, ninebarks and lilacs. 

I have been doing various cuttings for about all my gardening life. I started with house plant cuttings way back when and just went on from there. The farm ladies next door taught me how to do African violets, geraniums and coleus, and as a young buck I had jars of plants rooting on windowsills where free space and sunlight complimented each other. From there I got into grafting apples and rooting shrubs. It became an exciting hobby but not one I have regularly pursued. This year is different and Gail is showing a little attitude problem about the tables full of plants appearing here and there and taking up the limited space in the front room where sunlight prevails on less snowy days than today.

I purchase the plastic seed starting trays without drainage holes and sheets of plug trays in the 50 or 72 plug size. These are inserts for the seed type trays and the plug holes taper a bit from a total 2.5" depth. The taper encourages good root development. Here's a picture of a 72 plug tray. The taper starts at 1.5" at the top and goes to 7/8".

I buy the seed trays and the plug trays with accompanying dome covers. These are clear plastic and I use the 2" tall domes and the 7.5" domes which come with built-in ventilation holes top and sides and with little do-hickey's that let you adjust the ventilation.  The dome height needs to match the size of the cutting you want to take and I always seem to end up trimming after I have "stuck" the cuttings. The domes, by the way, are important to help control humidity and encourage rooting. It the old days I used plastic wrap and before that, we used a spray bottle on a regular basis and didn't cover anything. There weren't any seed trays when I got started so we used old coffee cans for a lot of what we rooted.

The most important part of this project is the mix. I use a mix of one-third peat based potting mix, one-third composted/dehydrated cow manure and one-third coarse (that's coarse!) sand. I usually mix in a five-gallon plastic bucket and as of last week use a power paint mixer that a friend gave me. Hands work fine but be sure to get the three components well mixed. I mix dry first and then add water. I truly dislike filling all the little holes but that's part of the job and I ensure that the mix is packed in --not hard packed but tight enough to hold the cutting well. 

The size of the cutting is what I receive the most questions on. Truly this is something you learn over time. I clip the end of the branch, try to only cut single stems/branches, keep the diameters to 1/4" or less, and ensure that there is a viable terminal bud. You will notice some top growth in a week and as long as you keep the cuttings misted with water and the soil mix damp, you will get an acceptable percentage of root cuttings.  

Hydrangea Cuttings

Lilac Cuttings

Taking cuttings is a way of expanding the numbers of your collection. There is one caveat which you can read about on my yesterday's Facebook page. It involves plant patents. It alludes to the plant police but doesn't go that far. Some plants are patented and that's a twenty-year affair. There are a number of very confusing things that people do when patenting or trademarking but regardless, the point is to follow rules, check when you have a question and show respect for what went into getting a neat plant, shrub or tree to your life!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature is holding a steady and even 31 degrees, the wind remains at zero and Karl the Wonder Dog wants to go for a walk. Have a nice day--and think about cuttings. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On Facebook as a picture positive personal page named George Africa and a Like Page named Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
And remember, we're always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Hosta Accents: Trollius Such As Stenopetalus!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Almost 7:30 PM and the sun is about gone for another day. We are all so pleased with the approach of spring despite the freezing rain that fell here most of the day. We still have lots of snow on the gardens and we aren't happy with that but friends from Burlington, Vermont to Littleton, Massachusetts all report that snow prevails on and in their gardens too.

I have been working on our website for days now and am finally working through the hostas. You'll notice a link at the bottom of the intro to hostas (first hosta)) page with pictures from our hosta display garden. Here's another garden picture. This may sound odd but the yellow trollius pictured center right is a Trollius stenopetalus. It's a large flowered flat, single petaled trollius. We received some by accident years ago and have never been able to find anymore any place in the world. I didn't even know the true name until receiving it from a botanist and horticulturist from Europe last year. No one I have asked has come up with any sources. If you know this plant, please advise. It is so nice because the flowers are big, flat standouts and the scapes are strong, even in heavy rain or wind. They are great accents in a hosta or shade garden and if you deadhead them after spring /early summer bloom, they will bloom again around Labor Day.

Be well!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener!
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and as George Africa too
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help you grow your green thumb.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tick Control Study

March 16, 2017

I am getting ready to blog about ticks, tick control and Lyme Disease. In the interim, read this research about control. It's a worthy read with some scientific investigation behind it.

George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Vermont Flower Show

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Almost 9 PM and I have forgotten to issue that last minute reminder of how important this weekend is to gardeners. Tomorrow morning at 10, the Vermont Flower Show opens at the Expo Center (fairgrounds) in Essex Jct, Vermont. This is a really big deal and since the flower show is an every-other-year event, we can't afford to miss it this weekend.  I'll be visiting tomorrow first thing and Gail and friends will be there when the doors open on Saturday. The show gets bigger and better every other year and this year it has taken over three rooms of the Expo Center. 

I won't say anymore. Get organized and get on over there. The parking lot is going to be cold...really cold... but when you get close to the doors and finally get a foot inside, the flower fragrances will warm you. Make notes, take pictures if you can, and report back to us what made you smile.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's +13° and windy right now with a sky full of stars and a slice of moon. The weather folks said it will be close to or below zero tomorrow morning but by Monday it will be warming again. See you at the show!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter at vtflowerfarm
And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Monday, February 06, 2017

Monday, February 6, 2017

It's a beautiful day here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. It started the day at +10°F and is up to 23.1° at just noon-thirty. The Channel 3 weatherman out of Burlington, Vermont suggests that we will have a mix of weather here by Wednesday and that prompted me to revert to my weather logs from the late 90s to see what was going on then. Yes, there is talk of climate change but we can also find repetitive weather over the years. Here are some examples from my logs.

February 4, 1997. A beautiful day, clear sky, no wind.
February 4, 1999. 4 PM raining in Waterbury, freezing rain in Montpelier, flurries here at the house. Temperature decreasing to 28° tonight and 25° by daybreak, Giant storm coming up the coast, will touch some of Maine. This morning in 1953 it was -26° (that's some cold!!) and in 1991 it was +52°.

February 5, 1997 +37° but in 1906 it was -27°. There's a switch!
February  5, 1999  +2° but below zero with the wind chill. In 1908 it was a seriously cold -28° but in 1991 the "heat" continued at +51°. Big storm continues up the New England coast. 
February 5, 2001 Weatherman says big storm coming this way.

February 6. 1999 Mid twenties and light snow
February 6, 2001. Big storm, lights out last night for 5 hours. +2 feet of snow,  more in southern Vermont, 26" in New Jersey. Lots of clean up to do.

February 7, 1997 Windy and 28°. Had to go down to Peacham Pond and help pull out a car at the fishing access--"well": stuck in snow. 
February 7, 1999 30s today, sunny. Friend Joe stopped with a bucket of perch. Good fishing. 
February 7, 2001. Home shoveling. Had to get the roofs cleaned off. +3 feet on east side. Neighbor got stuck on George Jewett Road. Spent two hours helping him get out. 

February 8, 1997. Zero degrees as sun came up. Clear. 
February 8, 1999 Reported that today in 1925 it was +51°, in 1934 it was -25°. 38" of snow so far this year in Burlington. 
February 2001, Difficult to throw snow over the piles along the paths, driveway. Another big storm coming.

Just since I started writing this, it clouded up outside and the temperature is down to 19.1°. Karl the Wonder Dog is barking non stop at wild turkeys coming up through the field to have some corn under the bird feeders. Guess I'll head out and see what the mail lady left for today.  Be well!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where ice fishermen are probably trying to catch big brown trout and a few smelt right now.

George Africa
On Facebook as George Africa and also as a Like page, Vermont Flower farm & Gardens
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Getting Through Winter

Sunday, January 22, 2017

33.2° here on the mountain this morning. Windless and quiet save for the wild turkeys telling each other there's trouble brewing when I stand up and look out the window and my movement catches their attention. The feeders are now drawing more attention and there are 5 red squirrels under the feeder outside my office window and 14 mourning doves on the platform feeder on the other side of the house. Woodpeckers, both downy and hairy, are eating away on the suet that needs to be replenished today. Chickadees, nuthatches and evening grosbeaks come and go constantly now as 12-15 blue jays interrupt their presence.

This winter is different than last year when snow was absent and Vermont's economy was in a spin. The past few days it has been in the 30s and our winter sports industries are hoping for snow. Cold will not return for another week after we get through storms tomorrow night into Tuesday and then again on Thursday. The mountains have been receiving some snow and the ski industry has been able to manufacture snow most of the time. We hope for the best!

People often ask me what I do in the winter and want to know if I spend much time in the greenhouse. Well, that's a nice thought but I don't have a greenhouse. Well, I do and I don't. I have a small 14' by 22' house that I haven't put up here at our house for several years and for the past two years I have been able to use part of a nice greenhouse over Peacham way that a friend owns. I'm not sure what I am doing this year but just to be ready I ordered the annual flower seeds that I have to get going when we finally reach the end of April--start of May.

Everyone has seed sources and seed varieties that they have used over the years and I am no different. There are certain flower seeds that I will only buy from Johnny's Selected Seeds and that's because the quality is there and their posted germination rates are always the best. I like their Tall Blue Ageratum, Ruby Parfait, Eternity Improved, and Pampas Plume Celosias, absolutely any Benary's Zinnia they sell (best zinnia on the market), 5-6 foot tall Monarch butterfly magnet Torch Tithonia, Serenade Aster, Coral Fountain, Love-Lies-Bleeding, and Red Spike Amaranth, about any of their sunflowers, and the giant yellow and also orange marigolds that grow to 3.5-4 feet tall. This year I have added a Stock named Katz that grows 2 to 2.75 feet tall and works well with these other cut flowers.
Seeds that are easy to top seed on the gardens in the spring such as Pacific Beauty Calendula and Queen Mix Cleome, I purchase in large quantities from New England Seed. I also buy lupines, cosmos, foxglove, morning glory, and nasturtiums from them. Other specialty seeds come from single sources. 

I remember when I was a kid, the neighboring farm ladies taught me that Town Meeting Day on the first Tuesday in March was when you plant tomato seeds in the house. Most Vermonters back then did that although as I grew more experienced I knew this was way too early unless you really liked leggy tomatoes--and other seedlings. That's why I wait until the end of April. 

In Vermont,  there is an outstanding flower show for the size of the state. It occurs every other year and is held at the Champlain Exposition Center in Essex Junction, Vermont. It's an event that is sure to get you excited about spring planting whether it be flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs or a combination of everything.  This year it is held March 3-4-5. Here's the link to get you thinking about the summer that is still months away. 

So while you're thinking about gardening or planning or redesigning garden spaces, don't forget Vermont Flower Farm. We like to answer questions and help make your gardens better. And remember:  "We're always here to help you grow your green thumb!"

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the gray sunrise of 4 hours ago continues with its dull look except at horizon level looking towards Peacham Pond where a nice pink is beginning to form. 

Great garden thoughts!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Writing on Twitter as vtflowerfarm
And recently in an article in Fine Gardening Magazine that explored astilbes.