Friday, July 31, 2009

Bountiful Blossoms

Friday, July 31, 2009

The clock read 4:03 AM when Karl the Wonder Dog's thunderous commands brought me to attention. I neither understood his message nor really wanted to hear it. Yesterday's arthritic leftovers made thoughts of an early morning walk less than desirable.

I layed there for a minute waiting for the noise to stop and then between barks I heard the calling of a cat. The voice was different than any of the neighbors cats and I assumed that it was a "left-over", a cat that was brought on vacation to Peacham Pond and then left behind as it wandered while the family packed and left. Not all cats are good at adapting and this one is on that list.

With reluctance I got up, started the coffee and headed out with Karl. 57 degrees, still and overcast as if more rain is predicted. The previous night the rain gauge measured 2.75" here and exceeded 5 inches in southern Vermont. The wet summer that is not a summer continues.

I have to say the gardens are lush with all the rain and the daylilies are especially thick and full of blossoms. Morning walks here at the house are best for me because the absence of foot and car traffic allows me to hide from the embarrassment of gardens in shambles around the house. This is the second year we are trying to get the new nursery organized and priorities require that sacrifices be made. The wild impatiens is 4 feet tall with the rain and even some of the grand hostas in the lower garden are almost out of sight because of the rain and weed growth.

Up top is a picture of the Lilium superbum which came out yesterday. It's a poor picture but I'll get back to some better ones tonight if the weather comes around. These are tall lilies, sometimes reaching ten feet here. The bulbs are actually in the shape of a dog bone. They are easy to scale and start anew but even the simplicity of that reproductive process is something I couldn't find time for last fall or this spring. I have lost a few to voles and other critters and it's about time to get with some restoration.

Bee balm, monarda, Oswego tea, that mint family herb that does make a tea if you are into that stuff is in full bloom. I should dig and bag some and sell it but it's just another thing on the "to do" list that makes sense but I don't get to doing. I promised some more to Leslie down at the pond and I'll have to give her a call and tell her where the shovel is.

Again, my photography skills show the bad side of working in haste but this daylily picture is of a daylily known as the best coral colored daylily on the market. It's not new but it surely is nice. It's named South Seas. If you see it in our gardens, you'll think there's something wrong with the photo or the photographer and both are a little off. The daylily is a beauty!

Lilium that did not succumb to the lily leaf beetles are in bloom and doing well. An assortment that Brent and Becky's Bulbs sent me a couple years back to trial are in bloom now and most are longiflorum-asiatic crosses. These tend to be taller lilies with thicker stems and larger flowers. Some have faint fragrance, others almost none.

Some Asistic lilies have been with us since the 80's. Tags get lost, memories get foggy and yet some still return despite thick weed competition and the beetle. I forget the name of this 5 foot tall Asiatic over by the compost pile but it returns each year even though I dig away a few each season for customers who bug me for a chance to add a strong bulb to their collections. Some days when I am tired I give in because it's easier than repeating "No, not this year".

Gail is in the garden now making notes of things she wants Austin to dig and bring down to the nursery today. Some of the plants will require lots of digging as they are older, established plants. I sure wish Austin would find my 6 foot pry bar. I don't need it today but he will.

I'm heading to the nursery in a few minutes. Gail will have breakfast at Maple Valley mid morning with some friends from the autism community. Autism is an important reality in our lives and with a couple of the ladies attending this morning. They have sons, ages 25 and 43, who have presented them with lots of challenges. At some point in most gardeners lives, autism appears as a family member, friend or community acquaintance and things look a bunch different. Among the many things Gail juggles in life is how to make a better world for those on the spectrum. Her knowledge gets applied first right here at home. She is quick to answer gardening questions but speaks authoritatively about many aspects of autism too. If you have a question, feel comfortable asking her. We have a list of resources on our website

Got to scoot. If you some time, stop by and see us at the nursery.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where ravens and "raucous' are made for each other.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Gardening at Vermont Flower Farm where we grow hardy plants for hardy Vermonters and their friends. Come visit!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Presentation Of Lilies

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not too quiet at 4:30 this morning here on the mountain. For some reason there is heavy snoring competition going on in our house and Karl the Wonder Dog is one of the three competitors. It's probably well that I woke up during the competition as I have to move the tractor back to the nursery this morning and it's best to get going before the traffic begins to get busy.

This is lily time in Vermont and surprisingly, the presentation is gorgeous despite the cool weather and heavy rains which often complicate good flowering with botrytis and other fungus type problems. The bloom started around Fourth of July with the native Lilium canadense (directly above and just below inc. red variety) and the beautiful martagons. It continues now with the various Asiatics, the longiflorum hybrids, and early Orientals. The few trumpets we have left are mixed in someplace here and the Oriental-trumpet crosses, the orienpets, are not too far behind.

If you have followed our flower journey over the years, you recall that up until last year, we always presented gardeners with a super selection of potted lilies. Perhaps eight years ago now, maybe a little longer, we were one of the top lily retailers in New England. I came across a photo a few weeks back that I'll have to find again to post as it shows our old nursery with our house completely surrounded by thousands of potted lilies. That's the way it was when lilies were king here.

With the planned move to a new nursery last year, Gail and I decided we just could not deal adequately with the lily leaf beetle. If you search this blog and our former Vermont Gardens blog (use search option in upper left corner) you will find information about this insidious insect. Try for some info and pictures. For gardeners with a few lilies, perhaps hand picking is a good option but when you're growing in the thousands you want plants to be insect free and for that to happen, the challenge was near impossible and we disbanded a beautiful plant from sales.

For many gardeners, growing lilium is a "must do" and they are willing to exchange the use of strong chemicals with the luxury of nice blooms. We are not. We enjoy birds and bees and butterflies too much to spread chemicals at the level that would have been needed to control three annual generations of lily beetle. So for us, it means enjoying our lilies as they continue in our gardens, for as long as they live on their own. The beetles defoliate the stems and over time this weakens the plants, the bulbs shrink in size and finally they succumb to an inability to replace food matter with bulb size to live in Vermont's climate. That's just a reality. So for now, here are pictures of a few still showing in the gardens. Our good friend Winnie, our Chief of Hydrological Services, lives down the road four miles. She maintains a very nice representation of our lilies and does so through rigorous hand picking and use of dormant oil spray. For Gail and me, a visit during our busy schedule is a reminder to where we were a few years back. It's certainly not the same as looking out your window to your own gardens but that's just how it is.
Here are some pictures.

Asiatic named Update

Tiger Babies, a strong grower

Shiraz, an Asiatic

Mona Lisa, 18"-24" tall Oriental. One of the first Orientals to bloom here.

Asiatic Lollypop, well known, well distributed, quick to reproduce in large clumps

Golden Torch, a Longiflorum-Asiatic cross. Large flowers.

Arena, a strong Oriental that has been with us for over ten years. Someone should study the genetics of this one.

For this morning, these thoughts of lilies will have to suffice to jump start your day. I hope your gardens are doing well and you are enjoying this gardening season.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the snoring festival has subsided and I have to get moving. Stop and see us if you have some time. 2263 US Route 2 Marshfield, VT. The daylily field is intense and there's no way you can miss the color as you travel Route 2.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm Our easy to use web site for ordering plants when you aren't close enough to visit. A daylily order will not disappoint you!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Valued Colors Continue

Catherine Neal discussed below

Sunday, July 18, 2009

Already almost 5 AM here. I have been reading mail and looking out the windows since 4:30 when light started poking through the balsams. Karl the Wonder Dog has been sitting beside me at attention all the time and he senses something moving outside but neither of us can locate any real movement. I think the bears are passing through, looking for breakfast.

Just a quick continuation of yesterday's daylily pictures before I head for the nursery. Lynn from Lynn's Garden: Best In Bloom Today wrote yesterday after seeing my picture of Catherine Neal shown again just above. Lynn was questioning the lack of roundness to my example which admittedly isn't the greatest but it was one of the first on that plant to come out. Lynn included a picture of her Catherine Neal last Friday when she wrote Fertilizer Friday! Take a look for comparison. Lynn is a very good gardener and spends lots of time observing change so I value her question and pass it on.

Vermont is a long haul from New Jersey and this morning's 47 degrees is already down to 45 degrees as the sun comes up, dragging a very noticeable breeze with it. This has been the summer of no summer in Vermont and cool temperatures slow the bud size considerably. The coolness also prevents the flower from opening all the way and you find yourself questioning if the plant that's opening for the first time is really the one you bought last summer. Bela Lugosi is one we like a lot and pictures I took a week ago when it first started to open and those from two days ago are much different as the plant has slowly matured a little more and had the luxury of one day in the seventies. From what I have heard from other gardeners, parts of Maine, even on the coast where you'd think it might be a little warmer, are even worse off with bloom time than here.

There's nothing we can do about the weather but times like this prove the importance of getting daylilies planted right to begin with and sited where sun, however limited, is maximized for use when it does shine.

I've got to get going here as Karl needs a walk and I have to get to the nursery pronto. Breakfast will be lunch before I know it.

Try these on for size!

Tuscawilla Tigress. Our plants were split up three weeks ago so they are smaller than most we sell but we like this one nonetheless. Many folks in New England say they are tired with the oranges because the so called ditch lilies are everywhere. In contrast, I have been selling those oldies every day and have 20 Kwanso that have to get dug and potted today as people keep asking. Consider a garden of just oranges. You'll be surprised how many great ones there are. I place Leebea Orange Crush in that category and it is almost at peak bloom today. I hate to see it go as it has a special quality for bringing out adjacent colors.

Had to take this one, Silver Sprite, out of our offering as we sold more than we should have. The picture isn't that great but the color really is neat! More available next year or maybe this year if I keep forgetting to tell Austin to stop digging it.

Salieri has been with us a few years and this year the plants are monstrous and for some reason, people don't want them. Twice I have received repeat history lessons about the name "Salieri" and although I am aware of the background, I like to hear people tell their versions with authority. Salieri was a friend of Mozart and admired him greatly. Mozart's untimely death raised forensic questions of poisoning and there's a chance that the friend became a murderer. Records from the early 1800s are like records on early daylilies--some having missing pieces.

Ruffled Apricot is one I have grown to like. It's large, a real strong grower and it challenges you to combine it with other colors, other flowers for a stunning display. Sometimes the common plants deserve more commentary, more credit, than they traditionally receive. This is one of those.
Rudy Spider is no longer for sale this year. It's readily available at other places but we had to put the binders on our sales as we have to get our production up on this very popular daylily from Stamile. I noticed some rose chafers eating the flowers yesterday and that's the first time I have seen them here. This is the year of heavy rains and new bugs so nothing surprises me.

Gardeners always want reds and Rooten Tooten Red is not the dark red many are looking for but the center and the edge are admirable and it works well with some of the blue campanulas and delphiniums that are in bloom right now.

I have always liked Real Wind and these flowers are almost 8 inches across this year. The plants are robust and the flower works well with other pastels and accepts the accent from darker colors too.

Missouri Beauty blooms and blooms and that's what we like. It's clearly visible from the roadway here as the rows will be in peak bloom in about a week. The dark stamens are a nice contrast.

Our lemon lilies are about done--maybe one or two left blooming in the garden. This one was in a pot by the shed and is now in someones garden along with the bleeding heart in the background. The placement wasn't intentional but the gardener liked the look and bought a couple of each. That's good because lemon lilies are not quick to reproduce.

Lady Scarlet joins the available reds. It's been blooming for almost two weeks.

Joylene Nicole is a front of the border plant to me but you cannot beat the flower qualities. Sold a couple last night while we were closing up for the day.

That's it for this morning. The ravens are boisterous now and reminding me to get dressed and get out of here. Now 46 degrees and I am wimpy enough with the wind to think I'll change back to dungarees and worry about shorts when it (hopefully) heats up today.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where blue sky makes me smile!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Vermont Flower Farm A web site to visit before you come see us. We are at 2263 US Route 2, Marshfield, VT despite the fact that Google Maps still lists our old address too. If you know how I can get this corrected, let me know and I'll reward you with daylilies. I have been trying to get them to help since last November.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Valued Colors

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Greetings from Wet Marshfield, Vermont

Chorus Line
This is a beautiful flower that some seem to miss in the gardens. Early through mid season bloomer with a high bud count and some more bloom into August.

It's another wet morning here. It rained from late evening until about 4:30 and the air is still and quiet now, save for the dripping tree leaves. Karl the Wonder Dog wanted to go out early. He must have heard the bears go through as his sniffer went into action as soon as we hit the road. He's a funny canine because if he sees a bear, it's one of those tag-wagging, "Hello friend" ordeals but if he only smells their scent, he freezes tight and won't budge because he cannot relate the smell to the animal. By now he should be well versed in bears as he and Gail have seen enough but it hasn't quite connected yet. It still bugs me a little when I want to head down the Peacham Pond Road and he reneges before we really get started. Dog decisions don't always match people decisions.

Chicago Peach Parfait

The daylilies are beautiful this year and we should have a bountiful display today if the sun decides to shine. The colder temperatures as this morning's 51 degrees have delayed bloom times by over a week. The flowers are abundant on more scapes than we have ever seen before but some of the plants have smaller flowers because of the cold.

The rains which started when snow still maintained a patchwork around the nursery have continued so the daylily plants are extra large. I shouldn't, but I laugh on occasion when I see Gail dig one out for a customer and then has trouble figuring out how to get it into a wagon or cart. No customer has said he didn't want such a big plant as most are very good size after just two years in the ground. Were not talking 2-3 fans here but now they are often 5 and up to a dozen.

My plan was always to sell directly from the garden, no longer from pots, and this has worked well. It requires a little more thought and is a bit difficult to keep the production tied to the demand. Some reds such as Spider Man and Ruby Spider (no more for this year) have already been broken down to single fans to regrow for next year. Something as simple as Double Dream has been popular and we have stopped selling it to rebuild stock too. Respighi, Sir Black Stem and Sinbad Sailor have joined the list of "look and wait until next year".

I'm heading to Jericho with Alex in a few minutes as he has a program to attend there this morning. Gail and Austin will work until I return at 1:30 and we are all hoping for a busy day. If the sun shines, I am sure there will be plenty of company.

Here are some more blooms you can see today if you visit. Mail order is available on all these and as I mentioned, the plant size is impressive.

Chicago Arnies Choice
Large flowers on thick, strong scapes. Many concurrent blooms.

Catherine Neal
A little darker purple than this picture

Joylene Nicole
Long a favorite for the front of the garden. Shorter scapes but good quality and easy to match with many companions.

Gordon Biggs
This one blooms all season with lots of blooms and consistent color.

Golden Chimes
Gail and I have come to love this flower. Three feet tall, sturdy, bronze-black scapes, lots of substance. Easy to use in a quick flower arrangement.

Fragrant Treasure
A profusion of blooms so pleasant in the morning when the flowers open and you glance around wondering where the fragrance is coming from.

Good gardening wishes! If you are out and about today, stop by and stroll the gardens. The tall Citrinas, Hesperus, Lady Fingers are out. Spider Miracle may still be in bloom along with Jersey Spider, Amazon Parrot and Bela Lugosi. Thousands to see to complicate your decisions.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm: A website with great pictures to make your choices easier! Call Gail today at 802-426-3505 with questions.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

One Sunny Day

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A beautiful morning here on the mountain with an encouraging look about it suggesting that the sun may come and stay all day. That is unusual this year as rain and cold weather have prevailed.

For years now, Gail has predicted weather. Now she references the Farmer's Almanac but for years when she worked as a florist she simply predicted based on year upon year of wedding work. Even now, people will stop and ask her "What do you think about July 30? August 7th? September 11? She is quite accurate and the real "bad" days are obvious.

As I was reading daylily listservs last night, it became apparent that everyone is sharing the same problems. Cold weather and rain have postponed daylilies from flowering by more than a week and many flowers appear smaller this year. The good part is there are many, many scapes on very strong plants. At our fields the yellows, golds and oranges are obvious first bloomers but by now there is usually a variety of strong reds and velvety purples, some off whites and some big flowered oranges and dark purples with strong eyezones. Just today with very limited "don't go swimming yet" warmth, the buds are beginning to open.

At the same time we welcome daylilies, we have about said goodbye to the iris. Iris pseudacorus, the Yellow Flag Iris, has only a week left and the Siberian's had a very short bloom time to begin with because of constant, heavy rains. The tall bearded iris were very nice but again quite short on flowering time. When I saw the last petal on Beverly Sills begin to brown last week, I knew I wouldn't see any more until next year.

For those of you who have not grown iris yet and have questions or need some courage, try the American Iris Society. The journal is a wonderful source of suppliers and growing info and there's always a calendar of events and addresses of people who can help get you going.

Another perennial I hate to see go is the primrose. The candelabra style Japanese primroses with four or five tiers of flowers have been gone for well over a week. This new blue one name "Salvana" tickled Gail's fancy this past winter during the time she was putting orders together. It's a great looking primrose and has an interesting presentation. Try the
American Primrose Society if you have questions.

I'm getting ready to head to work now. I can see a little wind starting but I don't care as it will dry the vast wetness and freshen the smell in the gardens. If you get a chance today, get out and about and enjoy the sunshine. Vitamin D is important!!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where I have misplaced summer but I'm not alone.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm A great place to visit, in person or on the net

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Barely Bearly Morning

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Almost 8:30 PM and this gardener is a tad tired. The day was another day of rain and wind. I am glad I never invested in a new water gauge as the five gallon white buckets are doing quite fine this year. It is amazing to me that 2/3's of the surface of the world is covered in water and yet here in Vermont it has still been raining since Spring started and ended. A maple tree on the edge of the Winooski toppled into the river today and this is another bad sign as more of our land is heading west to Lake Champlain. Nothing we can do but watch.

Some days start better than others. Gail and I vowed that today would be a positive day. It was raining when I headed for the shower just before five this morning and when I made it to the kitchen Gail said that we had a visitor. Me and the towel did a quick rearrangement as I looked around for the visitor. In our house you really never do know what to expect. Gail smiled and then explained that as she left the front room for a second cup of coffee from the kitchen, a black bear was standing outside the kitchen window looking in. Gail said the bear looked and looked, then walked around to the front room and glanced in before casually walking over the bank and down into the old daylily nursery. This siting confirmed for me that Gail, often accompanied by Karl the Wonder Dog, has seen more bears around here than most Vermonters.

When I left real work in Waterbury today, it was with the understanding that I had the day off from nursery duty. I was prepared for a nice late afternoon to catch up on some paperwork here. Just about the time I got two computers in update mode this afternoon, the phone rang. It was Michelle with bad news from the nursery. The port-a-potty man had elected to take the truck into monsoon season's no-man's zone and he had gotten stuck big time. Michelle said the good news was it was 20 yards from my tractor.

As I arrived at the nursery (so much for a nice late afternoon to myself) the truck represented a problem. It was stuck to the rear bumper in clay and was a couple feet from sliding into my deer fence and was on top of a portion of the hosta garden. I had brought 25 feet of tow chain and a 100 foot wire rope cable. Although I knew I should try to get the truck out, I also knew it was pointless and the driver needed a big wrecker. What I knew best was that the same driver did the same thing last summer. My dismay at this repeat performance was a close match to last year's expletives. An hour and a half later the tow truck arrived, extracted the tank truck, and away they both drove, leaving me with an assortment of ruts that will take until late August to smooth out. Not all days that start nicely end the same way. That's part of business, part of life. My day still had a better ending than for the port-a-potty guy as last time the boss told him repeats were on his nickel. Big truck probably translates to a big bill.

On a slightly brighter note, Elizabeth Killian from East Montpelier left a showing of her artwork at the nursery. She's a good friend, a great landscaper and a talented artist. She is also a skilled picture and photo framer having owned a fine shop in Bradford. Her landscape work has taken her from here to Long Island, the Maine Coast and several places in Vermont. If you are interested in purchasing any of her work or having a landscape done, let me know and I'll send out her contact info.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where even the pond has set new height records and the current rain is going to make more to write about for the morning news.

Best garden wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm A place with fine perennials and oversized daylilies, dug from the garden and delivered by mail order for those who cannot visit in person.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Just Fizzle

Saturday, July 4, 2009
Independence Day Evening

Almost 9 PM here and the last bit of light is fading as it's Gail's turn to take Karl the Wonder Dog for a quick walk. Neither of them seem to mind the fact that the big bear is around here some place. I guess they have both resigned themselves to dealing with an encounter if one materializes and until then, to proceed as if it's just another day. Gail and Karl have met bears before and also a couple moose so they apparently have developed some sense of trust that works.

It was a dismal day that started bad and didn't get much better. The heavy rain held off until late morning and the real heavy rain began around 4 and continued for over an hour. Our road is already having that old fashioned washboard look that puts struts and shocks of the car and truck to a regular test. We live on a dirt road and the man with the grader has some self induced game of seeing how deep the pot holes get and how many irate calls come into the town garage before he fires up the machine and levels out the road. It's difficult to understand this whole game unless you live in a rural state where dirt roads are common and every town has a road grader that they covet.

In between rain storms I piled up weeds from this week's work, moved some more hostas into place in the new garden and helped a few (too few) customers with info and purchases. You just can't get interested in gardening when the ground is turning green with moss and the water, so frequent of late, is puddled up everywhere you turn. I really wanted to get the grass mowed today but the weatherman (person) was wrong again. It almost seems that if it's a great drying day tomorrow, it cannot possibly dry enough to get the tractor on the fields. We'll see.

The daylilies are coming out more and more and with one day of sun it will be like someone holding up a big stop sign out in front of the nursery. The question however, is when will the sun come. A little more "We'll see." I guess.

A few more daylilies that came out today include Custard Candy (top):

Over There

Jeune Tom

Beth Barth

Beloved Country

It's clear that I have to get into the picture taking mode as I have to catch up with these that are out too: Creepy Crawler, Respighi, Sinbad Sailor, Golden Prize, Fragrant Treasure, Salieri, Wayside King Royale, and Strutters Ball. There are others but my "thinker" is getting tired tonight. I ended the evening around 6 digging the last daylily of the day which was Red Volunteer. It about did me in as it was a monstrous plant with 6 scapes. Then when I got home I remembered I had promised to dig some spearmint for a friend. All the commitments are finished now and we should have a quiet night. I heard a couple fireworks from Peacham Pond kind of fizzle so I assume a hundred per cent humidity and a light rain are making lift off a challenge. In the days of our country leading to Independence Day, there have been challenges bigger than lighting fireworks. Take a minute before the day is over and think about how we got here. Pretty nice country, kind of like the daylily directly above here--Beloved Country.

Be well!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener