Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Garden of Change

 Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A cold morning here at the flower farm. 39.1° right now but rising to +70° by noontime. Everything seems to be growing despite the lack of water. The weather folks said June would be cooler and it is but the lack of rain is very obvious. Rain is predicted for tomorrow and I do hope that materializes.

Everyone who likes hostas and their companions cannot make it to our place so I am posting more pictures. I'm really busy so do not have time to add comments to each but take a look and forward questions if you have any. We are giving tours every day because the hosta are all large enough by now that the name tags are hidden. The great thing about the garden is you can see the actual mature size and plan for your own gardens.

A great resource if you love hostas is the Hosta Library. http://hostalibrary.org. The thousands of different hostas which are pictured have an accompanying database which provides great information on the plant, sports, sizes, etc. Take a look.

Best gardening wishes from your friends at Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens!

George Africa
2263 US Route 2
Marshfield Vermont 05658
802-426-3506













Wednesday, June 06, 2018

A Hosta Display Garden To Visit




Wednesday, June 6, 2018

It's a busy time at the flower farm. The weather has been up and down and today as example is a day to have a jacket and be prepared for showers. I want to point out  that our hosta display garden is in its prime right now and deserves a visit if you're in the area.

Over 500 hostas are displayed with a variety of accompanying shade related plants. Hostas from 2" tall to 7 feet tall are available in various stages of development. These pictures should give you an idea of why a visit will become something to remember. Come see us!

George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens















Friday, June 01, 2018

Growing Great Hostas!


Friday, June 1, 2018

Announcement


This Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3d at 1 PM each day, Vermont Flower Farm, 2263 US Route 2, Marshfield, Vermont will offer a program on growing great hostas. The farm grows and sells over 500 different hostas and displays them in a special shade garden with companion plants. Owner and grower George Africa will discuss growing and dividing hostas, and garden design. The program will be held in the garden so wear appropriate footwear and consider insects and weather. If you have special accessibility needs, please advise in advance.


Questions? Call us at 802-426-3505

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Rural or Urban Tree Loss


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It's been a rainy day here in Marshfield today and as I write,  there's a rain delay in Boston on the Red Sox baseball game. A big storm is going through Massachusetts and once again we are experiencing storms like we have not seen before. Storms are relative to a heated atmosphere and as tree coverage declines, heat has a way of increasing.

In the past few years we have had to become more cautious in our daily review of weather reports. There have been many more serious wind storms and floods. The winds dry the fields and slow the growth of the flowers we raise. The water loss means we have to draw more water from the river to raise the same number of crops which require more labor to reach the same goal. In the process, our net revenues shiver, not from the cold but from our attempt to manage a profit.

Scientific American Magazine recently published an informative article on tree loss. The article mentions heat but also the human losses we don't often think about. It's worth  reading. Try to apply  what you read to your family and your community. There's a great deal to consider!


George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Marshfield, Vermont 05658

802-426-3505
vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com




Monday, April 30, 2018

Polymerous Daylilies


Monday, April 30, 2018


A very white morning here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. I am not surprised about it but that doesn't mean I like it. I have a ton of things to do at the flower farm and all of them require outside work which is difficult with 6" of heavy, wet snow on everything. By tomorrow it will be gone as rain is on the way by this afternoon.

I can tell when the weather is bad based on the email questions that I receive. I just received the third question this week about polymerous daylilies. I suspect gardeners are reviewing last year's garden photos and wondering in this case about daylily blooms with more than usual petal counts. 

Here's an explanation from the American Daylily Society. Read on!



George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens

Find us on Facebook as my personal page, George Africa, or the Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens page.

We're always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Epimediums







Epimediums

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Epimediums are becoming more and more popular each gardening season. We have been growing a few varieties for 10 years now and are just now receiving regular requests. Some things take a while to get established in Vermont!

Here's a very nice blog from Karen Chapman. You'll pick up some new thoughts and some picture ideas which will perhaps help you in your own gardens. Sign up for her blog.









Best gardening wishes!

George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
2263 US Route 2
Marshfield Vermont 05658


















Thursday, April 12, 2018

Peonies

Bowl of Beauty


Thursday, April 12, 2018

A nice morning on the mountain above Peacham Pond. The sun is out now and the temperature has risen 5 degrees in an hour. Rain is predicted for later this afternoon but for right now, there is a suggestion to get outside and do some clean up work.

I want to post a copy of this recent newsletter from Garden Design Magazine about peonies. With two feet of snow still on the ground here around the house, it seems premature to talk about peonies but the fact is, they will be with us by late June and that's coming quickly.

Here's the article. Peonies are wonderful perennials, easy to grow and they are very nice cut flowers too. And no, they do not need ants to be nice flowers. Ants are on peonies at times because they use the waxy coating on the buds to build their colonies. Try some!  Peonies, not ants!





George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Marshfield, Vermont 05658

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

802-426-3505
vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com






Monday, March 19, 2018

Tool Care


Monday, March 19, 2018


Early morning here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. Another cold night but warmer now at 4.6° than the below zero it was when I was heading to bed. Actually it's still below zero with the wind chill but that seems to be slowing down even though morning is approaching.

Even the best of gardeners stops  in the middle of a project and walks away leaving a favorite tool where he last used it. I'm no different. One time I looked around for my spade fork and found it laying on the ground after it had fallen over right next to where I had planted a perennial. Pot and fork were a reminder but I couldn't find the fork in the shed where it was supposed to be.

With deep snow here in Vermont and winter weather hanging on, it's a good time to clean up your hand tools for the coming spring. It doesn't require much to do a good job but it does take some time. Here is a link to one of the garden blogs I read regularly, Serenity in the Garden. The article is named Time to Renew Your Garden Tools and it offers simple, easy to follow advice on what to do and what not to do to get your tools ready for another season. I like it!

http://serenityinthegarden.blogspot.com/2018/03/time-to-renew-your-garden-tools.html


Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's even too cold to think about starting seeds inside--but I do think about spring, warmer weather, daffodils!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm


Thursday, March 08, 2018

Allium Leafminer

The Allium Leafminer

allium leafminer female ovipositing on onion plant


Here's a recent article about another insect gardeners should be on the lookout for. Although the allium leafminer has become a serious problem with edible alliums, I am seriously concerned about alliums which have become so popular in our flower gardens. Purple Sensation, Globemaster, the blue allium,  A.caeruleum, the yellow allium, A. moly, and A. cristophii are examples. 

If you see examples of this troublesome insect in your gardens, otify your Department of Agriculture.


George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Marshfield, Vermont

Saturday, February 24, 2018

An Extraordinary Daylily Site


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Daylilies are the second most popular flower in the world with hostas continuing to be number one in sales. Last I knew there were over 75,000 registered daylilies and as many as half a million in the trade. I once read that shades of red amount to somewhere around  80,000 of the total number. That's a lot of daylilies and a lot of color!

Daylily growers, hybridizers and commercial sellers are obvious throughout most of the United States and websites abound. One site I have always enjoyed is the creation of Charlotte Chamitoff who lives just over the Newport-Derby, Vermont border with Canada near internationally famous Lake Memphremagog. Charlotte does an outstanding job promoting daylilies on her website, Charlotte's Daylily Diary 2018. She offers readers a weekly piece named  International Garden of the Week in which she highlights a daylily garden. This week she covers the gardens of Don and Susan Church, in Blue Hill, Maine. Their business is aptly named Blue Hill Country Gardens where you can find cold hardy lilacs, dwarf conifers, heathers, magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas,  interesting flowering trees....and....lots and lots of daylilies.

If you like daylilies and you're traveling the Maine coast, turn down Route 1 and stop and see Don and Susan. During my last visit I picked up a lilac, and two of Don's daylily registrations, Teaberry Tycoon and Dancing with Ellen. Don knows a great deal about bud count and Teaberry Tycoon sure does please in that respect. This past summer Dancing with Ellen exceeded three feet tall and made me smile! If you do stop, plan some time as there's plenty to see, the plantings are mature, and the design impeccable. Safe travel! 

Oh yes, and if you do head down that way and you enjoy hiking, try Harriman Point. It's part of the Maine Coastal Heritage Trust network of properties that allow public access to some absolutely pristine coast. Plan to go at low tide if you can and you'll see why I recommend that!



Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the sky is gray but the birds are happy about the warm weather.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and also as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens where lots of pictures and good stories abound.
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Another Blog







Blogs


Friday, February 23, 2018. This morning started out looking like another fine day but now, three hours later, it has clouded up and a weather alert just came in for Vermont. Between 1 and 10 PM we are to expect mixed precipitation including freezing rain, ice and snow. Not good.

Days such as this one give me an opportunity to catch up on some writing. I haven't worked on the links page for this blog in over a year so today's the day. No matter how the weather turns out, there won't be any slip slidin for me.

Here's a blog by Bobbie Schwartz  https://clevelandlandscapegarden.com that I will add as I update a few things. Always some great information for gardeners no matter where you live. Thanks Bobbie, for your great writing!

George Afric
The Vermont Gardener

Weigela



Friday, February 23, 2018


When sunrise became obvious this morning, the sky was clear and it was nothing but good news for the day...if...you didn't read the weather report. Here it is at 8 AM and it's already clouding over with a forecast that says late morning snow showers followed by warming and mixed precipitation by 3 PM. It's been like this all winter.

A couple years ago I wanted to try weigela at the flower farm as I had tried a couple at the house and they did quite well. I picked a nice red flowered variety with deep red foliage. They sold but not that well and last summer friend Dan took home the last 4. 

This year Proven Winners, one of my suppliers, came out with Spilled Wine, another red that grows to 3 feet wide  and 2-3 feet tall. PW recommends you space them at 3-4 feet apart so they can grow into each other as they picture them in their promotional card above. I'm holding off on them for another year as I get the long strip along the Winooski River ready for more planting in between the lilacs and hydrangeas I have started there. In the meantime I am sure they are available in Vermont from other sources so if you have trouble finding Spilled Wine, let me know and I'll try to find them for you.

Gardening questions? Drop me a line at vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com and I'll try to help.

Writing from the cloudy moutai above Peacham Pond.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook with lots of pictures. Try my personal George Africa page or our Like page, Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter at vtflowerfarm
Regularly writing on various gardening related media.
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!



Thursday, February 22, 2018

Asian Longhorn Beetle


The Asian Longhorn Beetle


Friend Michael G. from Somersworth, NH asked if there were any reports yet of Asian Longhorn Beetles in Vermont. During the recent Vermont Farm Show I tried to get close enough to the US Forest Service booth to ask them the question. I didn't make it but I think as of right now, the answer is "no". I have seen one report from Massachusetts so regardless of the response, it's just a matter of time before we see them in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Here's a site from the University of Vermont to help with identification. It is confusing because of the number of beetles around. I remember seeing a display at the Montshire Museum in Norwich where they showed 143 longhorn beetles that live in this part of New England. I haven't been back to the Montshire in years so I don't know if the display is still there. The number is coming from memory but I think it is accurate. 



Since I work outside much of the year, I am regularly "seeing" new beetles. I am amazed how many beetles are large enough to make you notice when they land on you. Many of these are longhorn beetles but so far not the Asian. 

Equally as confusing is when I am splitting sugar maple wood. I am forever finding larvae in the wood from various beetles but have not found what I believe is Asian Longhorn Beetle yet. The number of beetles in sugar maple trees is getting scary.

Here is a picture of the larvae that was posted by the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Image result for images asian longhorn


If you see a beetle that you think is an Asian Longhorn Beetle, try to catch it and put it in a baggie or a jar for reference. Then call your local, state or university agriculture folks for identification confirmation. You may be surprised how the beetle feels like it's biting you when you try to pick it up. In the meantime, keep your eye out.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as a personal gardening page--George Africa, and as a Like Page named Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens.
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!




Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Spotted Lanternfly






Be aware!

USDA awards $17.5 million to fight spotted lanternfly






On February 10th I read my first report on the spotted lanternfly, first identified in Pennsylvania and now in Virginia. Regardless of where you live, if you see this insect, call your Department of Agriculture immediately and if possible capture an insect for reference. Over time I have heard "It can't live here." but more often than not, that's not true. A couple years ago when Zika broke the news, many said the mosquito that carries the virus would not survive here. I wrote a piece contradicting this and immediately got a couple negative emails. When the Vermont Dept. of Health confirmed its presence four months later, I did not receive any replies. Nice!

Here is some more information. It's always a mystery how long it will take for an insect to migrate to our home state but commerce and people both travel more now than ever before. During our travels it's easy to have an insect hitchhike with us without even knowing it. As example, in 1945 the lily leaf beetle entered the United States through Montreal. In 1992,  it entered through Boston. Today it covers most all lilium growing states east of the Rockies. In 2006 I found it here in Vermont.
#spottedlanternfly; #vtflowerfarm;#lilyleafbeetle;

Read on! Be aware!















Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Emerald Ash Borer



Tracking the Emerald Ash Borer

As a farmer, any kind of farmer, your time outside puts you in a position to see and feel the changing climate and the influences those changes  have on the crops you manage. Part of the change comes about with the advent of insects which were absent from your geography prior to the weather changing. In 2002, the emerald ash borer arrived in the US and since then it has had a serious and negative impact on the forestry industry. Attempts to eliminate it have involved widespread and total removal of ash trees from city landscapes. Here are some recent presentations on a continuum of approaches. If you find this insect in your landscape, secure a sample and notify your forestry department or Department of Agriculture. Send us a note too as we follow this insidious insect. #emeraldashborer; #climatechange; #vtflowerfarm;

Image result for emerald ash borer

https://entomologytoday.org/2018/02/09/emerald-ash-borer-cities-towns-prepare-invasion





George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Writing on Facebook as George Africa and as a Like Page Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
On Twitter and various other social media platforms that cover gardening.

Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Scale Insects



Almost 20 years ago now we were heavily into growing lilium of every variety we could find. We  were gardening in Shelburne on the shores of Lake Champlain and we had found a gardener in Cabot who had started growing Asiatic lilies. We knew nothing about lilium and went to the man's home. I'll never forgot driving to the house and spotting him sitting outside in a chair enjoying the day. We walked over, introduced ourselves and chatted for a while. "Lilies are in the garden, shovel and boxes in the shed. Dig what you want and put the shovel back." We bought a box full at some absurdly inexpensive price and away we went. We didn't know at the time that within ten years we would be selling the most potted lilium in New England and that by 2006 we would have made a giant decision not to grow them any more. The reason for the change:  because of the arrival of the lily leaf beetle that entered Montreal in 1945 and into Cambridge/Boston in 1992.  It took that many years from two directions for the beetles to reach Vermont.

 Adult lily leaf beetle

Larvae exit the soil and eat their way to the top of the lily stem in about 2-3 weeks.

If you  are familiar with the lily leaf beetle you know it's an insidious beetle, 3/8" long, bright red in color, and it squeaks if you try to squish it. It has great eyesight and if it sees a hand coming its way, it rolls off the plant and onto the ground to hide. In the springtime the beetles appear consistent with the ground-breaking approach of the lily stems and in short order the lilies grow taller but the beetles grow more prolific.
Hungry beetles defoliate the entire plant and over a couple years the bulbs decrease in size and die


Lily growers began writing about various chemicals that they used with success while others mentioned hand picking the insects every day. Neither approach was feasible when you're growing thousands of pots. Chemicals made no sense to us because our son faces each day with autism and environmental involvement with chemicals prior to birth is still researched as a possible cause of a diagnosis that never goes away. As such we sought other solutions.


One day a devoted gardener from Burlington stopped by to purchase his annual collection of new lilium. He mentioned using dormant oil spray by accident on his lilies while spraying some fruit trees for scale. He said the organic character of the spray pleased him because he raised honey bees too, and although the spray required fairly regular repeat spraying, it suffocated the insects at various points in their life cycles. Once we tried the horticultural oil (mixed it with Dawn dish detergent as a sticker) we never looked back. It worked. Not 100% but it was inexpensive and environmentally it was a good choice. The key was repeat spraying and the time involved was what made it clear that we should not sell lilium at the flower farm when we moved. We knew that at our new, more visible Route 2 location we would be selling bazillions of lilies and the time element of keeping them insect free just didn't fit with a 5 acre, two person business. 


So in 2018, lilium are history with us although we miss them dearly. They are a very important part of the American floral industry and as such introductions hit the market with new colors and new names all the time....so much so that I don't even know the names any more. But the key to me mentioning this floral journey is the use of hort oils and insecticidal soaps which worked so well on the lilies and are used regularly by orchardists growing almost any fruit that grows on a tree. And one of the big issues with trees and shrubs is scale, another insidious insect that does not receive enough attention. So-o-o if you have a chance to learn about scale and have found any on your property, read this little article on treating scale. It appeared in a recent issue of the GrowerTalks Newsletter by Ball Publishing. If you have any questions, write or call. Read on!




"Oil or soap for scales?
Scale insects are my specialty. These’re tough little buggers to kill. Systemic insecticides work great for some species, but not for those that feed on woody tissues. Sprays work best when hatchlings (or crawlers) are coming out from their mamas’ shells.
For years I recommended horticultural oil and insecticidal soap for sprays, and thought they worked equally well against all species. A recent article by Cliff Sadof of Purdue University and his graduate student, Carlos Quesada, in HortTechnology (October 2017, volume 27, page 618-624) shows me that I need to update my recommendation.
Carlos and Cliff did a series of lab and field studies on two armored scales (pine needle scale and oleander scale) and two soft scales (calico scale and striped pine scale). Oil and soap, both applied one time at 2%, killed 67-93% of crawlers of all four species; that’s a pretty good level of control. But both oil and soap became less effective as the scale insects settled comfortably and grew. Spraying oil or soap against adult scales was as good as spraying water. No surprises so far. The basic recommendation still applies: You need to spray against crawlers to achieve the best control.
Here’s the good part: In the field studies, oil was more effective against settled armored scales, whereas soap was more effective against settled soft scales. Who knew there are differences between oil and soap on which group of scale insects they are most effective against? I didn’t!
Carlos and Cliff speculated that the difference arises from the chemical properties of the chemicals and the scale insects. Both oil and soap kill mainly by suffocation, but, chemically speaking, soap is polar (so it likes to stick to another polar object) and oil is non-polar (it is repelled by a polar object). As armored scale crawlers settle, they produce a waxy cover over their bodies within three days. Most soft scales, on the other hand, do not usually produce a thick wax layer until adulthood. Wax, being non-polar, reduces penetration of polar soap but allows penetration of non-polar oil. Skin of soft scales is polar, so soap sticks and penetrates the layer more effectively, thus doing a better job of killing soft scales.
Fascinating, isn't it?!
What about those soft scales that produce plenty of wax when they are babies, such as the wax scale? Perhaps oil works better in this case? I don't know; I will need to find out. More research!


Big, fat adult female oak lecanium scale is a common sight on oak trees in the spring. Good luck trying to kill these ladies! Kill their babies instead."



Writing this morning from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the moon is bright and the temperature just above zero.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
On Facebook as a personal gardening page, George Africa, and as a Like Page, Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Twitter every day!
At the nursery from Mothers Day until Columbus Day, 7 days weekly.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

GARDENING IN 2018






GARDENING  IN  2018

Here we are in early 2018 and I already seem to be far behind on everything. Despite an immunization in October, Gail caught the flu someplace she volunteers at during the winter and that pretty much changed my plans for the past couple weeks. Alex and I are fine. Things are finally coming around with her and anything above zero degrees has been a “warming trend” for us. Hope you have stayed healthy and your gardens did well for you last year.

Gardeners must love competition as every gardener I know competes with the weather and with nature. There’s nothing we can do about the weather although we should try to learn from what we see from year to year. Making notes of temperatures, sunshine, rain, snow depths, wind, and floods, is a start. I used to keep a weather and garden journal but now I do things online. Sometimes I would make entries like these below. I mention keeping a journal, as along with birdwatching it forces you to think about your gardens and what you want to purchase/grow/plant come spring. It also will get you through winter faster and with a bigger smile, less gloominess!

Trying to remember what spring is like from year to year serves as reminder to how things grew (or didn’t) or what and when you need to start more tender transplants from seed. I’m sharing a few entries I made over a few days from 1997-2001 just to give a hint of how it works.

January 29th, 1997. -23° wind chill at noon when I was in Burlington, then off to -17° outside at the Vermont Farm Show in Barre. Really blowing when I headed home. I stared at a beautiful piece of apple pie that had just been judged at the show. I wasn’t alone!

January 29th, 1999, Cold and sunny all day. About 4” of new snow here, 5.6” in Burlington. Yahoo bought GeoCities for $3.9 billion. I’m home with a bad virus. 46” of snow at the stake on Mt Mansfield. When I feel better, I’m going to take cuttings from some red geraniums I carried over last October in the cellar. Maybe three dozen.

January 31, 1999. Seed order came yesterday from Johnny’s. I want to grow more delphinium this year and think I ordered too much. Var. Pacific Giant. Will grow some 3 foot tall celosia like we did in Burlington for the farmers market. Probably bought too much of that too. Broncos beat Atlanta in the Super Bowl. -15 ° this morning. Then it warmed to +20 °

Simple entries such as these bring me right back to where I was those years and help me remember plant variety names I struggle to remember.

The other competition gardeners feel might come from their “people” neighbors but certainly from the critters of the forests or wood lines that adjoin their property. You’ll have some better luck controlling animals than the weather but it can still be tricky. Every summer the two biggest concerns gardeners ask about when visiting our flower farm are deer and woodchucks. When you live in Vermont there are no shortages of either. Before we started to grow flowers on Route 2, I encircled the entire property in Tenax fence www.tenaxus.com mounted onto 10 foot pressure treated 4X4’s. Back then the company was in Italy but now it’s here in the US. It is easy to find on lots of websites but remember to start with the tall stuff as deer really can jump. Some companies will pay the freight on the 300 foot rolls so shop around to learn how to put it up and what size you need. I cemented the 4X4’s in the ground so there was 8 feet above ground but there a number of variables involved in soil type, size of stones in your soil, wet swampy areas, etc. As for woodchucks I don’t want to get into Fish and Wildlife laws but there are some. I have relocated some woodchucks that I caught in Hav-a-hart traps baited with cantaloupe or watermelon. It works very well but read up on the process and be careful so when you’re finished you have fewer woodchucks but the same number of fingers….. AND  not a skunk!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where winter 2018 has made a serious start. Be well!

George Africa, Gail and Alex garden seasonally on Route 2 at Vermont Flower Farm just west of Marshfield Village. They are good at answering your questions! http://vermontflowerfarm.com