Sunday, June 29, 2008

Persistent Peonies

Sunday, June 29, 2008

A breezy morning here on the hill. It has rained on and off all night and this morning's 59 degrees is supposed to climb until the next front arrives with thunderstorms and bad times. The gardens look lush but the sales have been down due to weather and gas prices. Just the same we have met a lot of new customers and our loyal following continues to appear, carrying rain gear and umbrellas and wearing warm greetings and encouragement for a successful new nursery. We'll take all the good thoughts we can get!

The peonies have been great this year. Part of it is that I watered them well last August when they were setting buds for this year. That's a mid-August thing here and something I really recommend because the pay off is so great. Gail has been picking peonies to sell in bunches of 6 or 7 for $9.50 and they have been moving well. Some days there are some left and the last customer gets quite a deal but mostly it has been consistent sales with the preponderance made as people scoot home after work.

Our supply of potted peonies is now down to under a dozen and the selection is slim. Mrs Margaret Truman, a nice double pink prevails, but there are a couple Festiva Maxima and a couple Adolphe Rousseau. They have been potted since last year and well cared for so they are a buy at $25. Most are six or more stems so folks should be happy with what they receive.

As is typical in peony season, we receive many inquiries about why the foliage is nice but the flowers never bloom in home gardens. The answer is in the planting as these are a plant which must be planted shallow and not more than 2" deep. Over time the lawnmower or falling leaves sometimes packs around the stems and the flowers just don't develop. Bend down there and clean out around the stem and water well for this year and you'll be back on target for next year. Oh yes, ...sun. They need sun and that too will make a difference.

Well I have to get going here. I have a couple loads of Hosta 'June' to take down as that has been selling very well. Amber Tiara and Golden Scepter, small, luminescent springtime beauties are about gone so I have to do some repotting so they will be set in well in a week. I hear Gail clinking the coffee pot so that means the day is under way and we'll be back into the flower business by 9 AM on Route 2. If you have some time, please stop by.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I hear the ravens in the distant red pines as a lone hen turkey struts slowly through the lower daylily garden, looking for food in the fresh dugs holes left from our daylily relocation program.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm Our website, old but packed with good buys!
Vermont Gardens Our other site about our new nursery and other thoughts of gardening

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Assorted Astilbes That Amaze

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A quiet morning here on the hill where even the birds appear waterlogged after days of rain. Nothing seems to be moving save for the raucous ravens in the distance who seem to disturb mornings as if it is written in their job description. I can smell the fresh coffee which means that Gail will be in here in a minute with a replacement for the remainder of last evening's leftover. Gail cannot start the day without fresh coffee so I usually play cleanup.

The regular rains have really changed how the plants are looking this year and it's worth a ride to our new Route 2 location just to see how things are improving. The astilbes were originally housed under a very nice 80 foot shade house which took flight a week and a half ago when a giant storm passed through. The house was completely destroyed in a storm that made me think I was entering Oz. But between the rain and the average temperature, the astilbes have flourished and they are excellent. The pictures here are not fresh as they are now just setting buds now but I expect many will begin to open today. The pictures will give an idea of the colors and maybe encourage you to think about them more. If you check our website
you'll get to read a little piece I wrote about astilbes and see some of what we offer. The grossly outdated astilbe section is lacking another dozen-fifteen varieties Gail added in the past couple years but just the same you'll get the idea here. I'm starting with Amethyst above.

The whites and cream variations are very nice and I am surprised I don't see more of them used in wedding and anniversary floral work. They are easy to pick and ship and with sturdy stems they hold well in displays and arrangements. Deutchland and Weisse Gloria are a couple more not pictured here in company with Bridal Veil which I like.

Europa (above) and Sister Theresa (not pictured) make the move away from white and have value for contrast. There is the airy, open look and then the tighter flowers which work very well as fillers and background stems in arrangements. Within the garden they add a texture and a height variation which makes a rolling display much more complete.

Glow is sometimes sold as Glut and I guess that just represents another of the challenges in the flower world where the same plant is registered with different names. This situation is far different than the phony mail order places that say they are wholesalers who buy in masses of plants and put their own made-up names on to confuse the public and make it difficult for people like me to explain to gardeners that "No, we do not have Pink Weeping Raindrops, but we do sell Strassenfeder, an ostrich plume type astilbe I really like."

Astilbes can be planted individually or in mass plantings. This pink Hyacinth astilbe is a favorite of many as it puts out lots of scapes in time and flows nicely in the wind. The only problem I have is the name as I always have to think and insure I don't confuse my "hyacinths" and my "hyacinthias"
Kreimhelde (above) and Lolypop (below) have interesting coloration in the stems which adds to the garden and arrangements. The foliage variation in astilbes is one of their strengths and adds to garden opportunities.

Years back a great astilbe was released named Visions. We could never get enough of it. Then Vision in Red and Vision in Pink (above) were released. The tight bud count and long lasting flower period offer just what the gardener ordered.

It's 6:30 am now and one of our new astilbes is named 'Rise and Shine'. I've been up for a couple hours already but for some, it will take a blast of an alarm clock to actuate the day. Good garden wishes for a pleasant gardening day!

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl the wonder dog just finished a morning walk with Gail and our gardening day has begun. If you don't have astilbes included in your garden yet, check out Vermont Flower Farm and place an order soon. At our new nursery, Gail has planted great swaths of the various astilbes we sell in a garden which parallels Route 2. She began planting the taller varieties near the road and worked them out over 75 feet towards the daylily display beds. In a couple weeks the ribbon of color will be special. Come see!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm:A website with useful info
Vermont Gardens

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Busy In Marshfield

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day stretchers would be a popular product but they just aren't available. Working full time and helping Gail move our nursery to a new location leaves little time at the end of the day. Most days now I only get as far as what thoughts to share on The Vermont Gardener and Vermont Gardens

Please accept my apology and scoot over to The Vermont Gardener for today's post on growing extra crops for the hungry. This reminder is more important this year than ever before. You can play a great part in only minutes so don't put it off as you can make a difference.

In the world of flowers at Vermont Flower Farm, the peonies are glorious, the astilbes are just beginning, and 6 different daylilies are already in bloom. The perennial bachelors buttons are as blue as can be, the poppies are exiting the garden after last night's rain, and the trollius continue to bloom in places I don't remember planting them.

As you survey your gardens, look carefully for wild parsnip and giant hogweed, two very bad and noxious weeds which have the affect of poison ivy on many. A lady told me the other day how much she enjoyed watching kids pick Queen Anne's Lace to give to friends and parents. I recommend great caution with kids because sometimes white and lacy is not safe. Give it some thought and start the summer with family and friends not dealing with a terrible, uncomfortable rash and infection.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where Gail just said "Let's go there!" Kinda like a farmer with a team of work horses, eager to start the day. Do I get breakfast first?

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Growing great flowers for sale in person or on the web at

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Colorful Mornings, Noisy Ravens

June 18, 2008

52 degrees here on the hill. The sun has come up quickly above Peacham Pond and the ravens are apparently hosting a breakfast convention as they are noisy this morning as if protecting their young from an intruder. Perhaps they have just found a lazy owl and are practicing harrassment techniques. I yelled at them twice but decided to save my breath as they are intent on what they are saying.

Mid-June in Vermont has flowers coming and flowers going. I wish I had taken more pictures of the Japanese primroses this year as they were special. They are easy to grow and they naturalize well in short order. Raking the gardens in the fall moves errant seeds to new locations and the color spreads over time.

The trollius are about 85% passed now and the hellebores have of course formed fat seed pods with all the rain. Gardeners up this way don't seem to be too familiar with this flower and should use it more as coupled with some early pulmonarias it gives the hummingbirds food when they arrive here about May 8-9-10.

The tall bearded iris are coming along nicely and some of the Siberian iris are starting. Gail loves Double Delight and also Caesars Brother, which looks striking when paired with lemon lilies--the old, nocturnal, fragrant, slowest-of-all-to grow daylilies. There is a beautiful planting of this combination on Route 2 at the entrance to Goddard College in Plainfield. It just went by this week but is something to keep in mind for next year.

Poppies are in abundance and we enjoy them until they finish blooming at which time they become a problem. Dozens of people ask for poppies every year and 95% of those folks do not know what a mature poppy after a rain storm or after bloom time looks like. I should get out and take some close ups of some as they are very neat flowers (remember Georgia O'Keefs painting of the orange ones? If you cut a bud when the outer casing has just cracked and color is showing and you hold a match to the cut stem to sear it, they make a beautiful cut flower. Just make yourself toss them out when they begin to droop or you'll have a table full of black pollen.

Besides the lemon lilies, Lemon Lollypop, Eeenie Weenie and Bitsy or out for daylilies. There are probably others but I haven't really looked yet. The five foot tall thalictrums with fluffy lavender blooms are quite showy and worth the price for what they lend in color and texture to gardens this time of year.

Here on the hill the James MacFarland and Miss Kim lilacs are butterfly magnets and Miss Kim can be the location for a night time training session in entomology. The flowers have a fine fragrance which lures anything with wings, especially at night.

The list goes on but there's nothing like a garden walk in mid June when you know the snows won't return for some time and while you wish the deer flies, black flies and no-see-ums would go away and never come back. Speaking of going, I have to get to the nursery and get going.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where be have closed our nursery and continue the move to Route 2, on the western edge of Marshfield village. Come visit, and give us some encouragement to keep gardening, even in tough times. If you can't make it, try our website and order something you cannot find elsewhere. The site is old but the products are excellent.

good garden wishes.......

George Africa
The appropriately biased "Vermont Gardener"

Vermont Flower Farm
Vermont Gardens

Monday, June 09, 2008

Heat and Hostas

Monday, June 9, 2008

Almost 7:30 PM and still 80 degrees out. The girls on the evening news were commenting on this being the third day of high temps in Vermont but since today missed 90 degrees by one degree and since you need three days to make a heat wave, we have to settle for "damn hot" (92, 91, 89) instead of "heat wave". Winter is a long time for me, so "damn hot" or "heat wave" are just fine. Gail just fired up the grill and is making supper outside tonight even though I said I'd settle for a nice salad and an iced tea. Gail always tried to do a great job whether it's family, friends or customers. (Hope she can find a little leftover potato salad as it was special!)

After work today I painted the last of the trim boards for the new building at our nursery in anticipation that this will be the final week and we can really settle in. Kim and Lennie will be there tomorrow after their regular work day and if it's raining, the electric and insulation will be finished. If it's just hot, the last of the siding and the trim will go on. We're really pleased with how it looks and feel especially good when folks ask us who designed it. They don't seem to believe that the firm of Gail and George have been designing together for some time and work well together.

As I walked around waiting for the primer to dry, I noticed a pot of Golden Tiara hosta which was sporting. All plants do this but it's more noticeable with hostas because you're always looking at the leaves. Rearrangement of genetic material results in new plants which when separated from the mom need to be grown on for a while. If they are stable, you're in business with a new plant. In the case of Golden Tiara (leaves on left of above photo), the new, all yellow, very luminescent leaves have been registered as Golden Scepter. It looks like this later on.

If the sporting goes forward and a white outline develops around each Golden Scepter leaf edge, then you have another registration, Platinum Tiara. I sold three of those Sunday so I guess they continue to be popular even though they have been around for some time. Here's Platinum Tiara taken today in one of our gardens. Looks kind of neat with the Japanese Primroses and "less" neat with the wild impatiens.

I've got a ton of paperwork to get through tonight so writing will be short. If you get a chance, stop by our new place on Route 2 in Marshfield. Same name, same people, same plant varieties, new look, new ideas. If you cannot make it in person, relive what we grow and sell at our website.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the ravens are speaking in nasty terms I cannot decipher and a male hummingbird just perched on a light blue bearded iris outside my office window. The day is coming to an end.

Gardening wishes;

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm
Vermont Gardens

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Fire Up The Tractor

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sun begins to break through the fog as my mind races with the list of today's things to do. It has been busy at Vermont Flower Farm as we make the final changes and close out everything at the Peacham Pond location. If you haven't stopped by our new location on Route 2, Marshfield, just a half mile outside the village coming from the west, today couldn't be a better day. If you can't make the journey, our Vermont Flower Farm website is a tad behind but still has a good representation of about 75% of what we have to offer gardeners.

In the gardens, the trollius are in full bloom. We have six varieties for sale this year and they are all special. A lady called them double buttercups yesterday and she was close to correct as they are members of the same family. The poppies are about to pop and today's heat should be sufficient encouragement. Poppies are something people always want until they see what they look like after they complete the flowering process. That's a story of itself but if you know poppies, you know what I mean. The early astilbes are quite early this year and are forming thick buds already. This is encouraging as they are a foundation to many of our gardens and we have one of the largest offerings in New England. Gail and I began planting 30 foot swaths of them in a new garden we are building so people can see them as they travel along Route 2. Next year they will be incredible, this year they will be more than special.

Tall bearded iris are in bloom and for some reason there seems to be more interest in iris than ever before. We don't sell the tall bearded types any more, only the Siberians but we might be coaxed back into them in the future. The colors are incredible and they really aren't all that expensive. Just don't try to plant them in wet or well amended soil as they will disappoint you.

Some daylilies are setting flowers and the peonies are going to be incredible with all this rain. I picked a bouquet of fern leaf peonies the other night for Gail and got a very nice reaction for my time. We have four varieties potted and for sale on Route 2 including a nice double pink I really like named Mrs. Margaret Truman.

Guess I better get going here. The tractor is parked by the compost pile as I need another trailer full to plant hostas with today. I'm doing a little "watch-me-work" talk on hostas today so if you are around, stop and see us on Route 2. The gardens are fun to watch grow!

Good gardening thoughts;

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

From the mountain where red breasted grosbeaks remain at a friend's bird feeder prompting him to leave it up versus a black bear walking another friend's porch, this time looking for a bird feeder and prompting her to take theirs down. Oh yes, saw an Indigo Bunting yesterday too! A blue that cannot be described. Come visit.