Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hurricane leftovers

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A wet day here on the mountain. I have been up since about 4, listening to the rain pound the standing seam roof. Karl the Wonder Dog just awoke and asked to go out but the walk was short, as in seconds, and he hastily returned to catch a few more winks with Gail. Although all the computer reports suggest it's a mild storm right now, the rain is bucketing out of the dark sky and hasn't shown any sign of stopping since I have been up.

Gardening in this part of New England is beginning to slow down. Mums and asters are prevalent at all the gardening stores although I notice that people are still having a tough time adapting to adding perennial asters to their gardens. Gail grew a bunch again this summer but the cold, wet spring slowed them down and she has them on sale now to move them along. When you buy a good perennial, pot it, care for it all summer and then have to send it down the river for $5 or less, you have lost money and time. Just the same, in the gardening business you don't want to carry over anything you don't have to as continued maintenance of a smaller plant is just asking for the loss to continue. In contrast, people who grab these fall bargains get great plants that always grow well once in the ground. We continue to work at cutting labor and supply costs so Gail has quite a collection of good plants at reduced prices now, trying to limit what we carry over. Stop by and see!

The daylilies have slowed but they have been glorious this summer. Gail continues on with her bare root sales as we eliminate slow movers and overstocks. She sells roots for 5 for $15 and this is great for anyone who wants a border by the drive or walkways or wants to plant a hillside and give up on fighting the lawn mower at weird angles all summer. Sales have been very good and people often pick up another pot or two along the way. We are still seeing a number of people just getting around to planting large gardens and they arrive with a list from our website and go home with a car full of fine plants. We always try to offer planting advice and there is an encouraging number of new gardeners this year although very few younger gardeners. Plants don't seem to come with enough technological enticements to please younger folks.

This is very busy time at the nursery as we need to divide daylilies now and fill in rows that have been reduced by good sales. Austin just left to go back to UVM and Michelle is back at her teaching job so that leaves Gail and me and Gail from Peacham to finalize the work. I have from now until mid October to contribute to the process as that's when I am having my right hand operated on for carpal tunnel and trigger finger. The same operation this past January gave me instant relief and made me wonder why I had waited so long. By the time the white stuff falls from the sky, I should have both hands, not just one, working well again. If you're in the area, I can make an excellent recommendation for a hand surgeon at Mary Hitchcock Hospital in Etna, NH (near Hanover/Dartmouth/White River).

As I prepare to pour another coffee and head for the nursery, here are a few more daylily photos. We have perhaps 150 more daylilies here at the house that need to be moved to the nursery, Many are late bloomers which will help next year by offering daylilies that bloom well into September and some into early October. Yesterday I started working on a new daylily garden that's 140 X 50 and then a 60 X 10 display garden adjacent to the new hosta garden. Both should be visible from Route 2 next year and should add some more variety to what is already a good offering for area gardeners.

Miss Amelia

I really like this daylily as it blooms from July and well into the second or third frost. Right now it is flowering at the nursery and here at the house it is backed up by So Lovely, another really good match.

So Lovely
See what I mean?

Highland Lord

Elain Strutt
Registered in 1969 but still a strong variety at 38-42" tall

Talbott 1991
Actually a little darker than this picture.

Have to scoot! Writing form the mountain above Peacham Pond where this morning's wake up sounds are limited to heavy raindrops and hurricane leftovers. As the skies clear today, stop by the nursery. Lots to see and some good deals too!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Morning Drips and Drops

Vera Biaglow

Sunday, August 23, 2009

64 degrees here on the mountain this morning. It rained again last night but not enough to amount to much. Some places in Vermont are still cleaning up from Friday's downpours but here the rain was limited and the gardens are dry enough that even the zinnias are almost falling over.

Karl the Wonder Dog was up again at 4:30 begging to go out. Morning walks are common in our house as it's a nice way to start the day. It's trickier now because the sun is still sleeping until almost 6 and the local bear population is staying close to the house eating choke cherries and creating scents that Karl cannot avoid. This morning the walk was going fine until Karl jumped off the roadbed and growled and barked as something heavy crashed through the brush. My aging eyes couldn't even pick up a form but there was an odor in the air suggesting to me that it was probably a bear. They don't practice great hygiene!


I like this spider. It's an older one, a vigorous grower and the right height to show off it's special curl.

Yesterday at the nursery was a good day for us. In Vermont, the governor came up with this "no tax day" which makes no sense at all but some people love it so they can save a couple bucks on big ticket items like washers and dryers, stoves or furnaces. People will drive a hundred miles to save $60 on something they should have bought anyway but they think they are getting a good deal. All the financial pundits say this makes no sense but the Governor is the top dog and just like Karl he can jump off the road if he wants to. For us it means that no one shows up at the nursery until after they have done the "important" shopping.

About 2PM yesterday I told Gail to go home and I'd call her if I needed help with customers. She had been gone a little over an hour when I looked up from pulling weeds and six cars had rolled in to look at daylilies. I called for help and got digging. The balance of the day until 5:30 was busy and that was good. Gardeners like sales and bought several anenomes, a few astilbes and lots of bare roots. I dug 15 daylilies and Gail probably dug another six. It was sticky hot but at closing time we celebrated the good day and began to dig bare roots for today's sales.

Although the field is not as colorful as it was three weeks earlier, many of the later daylilies are worthy of note. Remember that we go for the older daylilies, not the newer, more expensive ones but we can offer real good clumps at "not bad" prices. You kind of have to see the place to understand what we sell.

Here are a few more pictures of what is blooming or just finishing up. Stop by for a visit if you can!


Dragon's Eye
Smaller bloom, good bud count.

Catherine Woodbery

Sometimes people miss on the spelling but this old flower, now on 4 foot tall scapes in the garden, waves like colorful flags, drawing in honey and flower bees from afar.

Beauty To Behold

I really like this plant but it doesn't sell that well. Lots of bloom substance and a great bud count that goes on and on but I guess the shorter statute and the way the bloom is held to the plant body detracts from what folks want.

Bama Music

We are selling these as bare roots today. Can't miss that bargin!

Amazon Parrot

This is one of Alex's choices from some time back. It finished blooming Friday but has been very popular this year even though it's been around a few years.

Have to go!

Good gardening wishes from the mountain and the nursery!. Stop by and visit if you can. We are open every day until Labor Day, then by chance or appointment.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Web sales continue year 'round at

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Where's George?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

5 AM on the mountain above Peacham Pond. Where's George? Last night's heavy rains have all the trees hanging low and the critters of the woods are out and about in numbers now that 10 hours of rain has stopped. Rutland and Chelsea, Vermont got hammered yesterday with inches in minutes as the rains of Summer 2009 continue.

Karl the Wonder Dog had to go out before five. His sniffer was in full gear and he half ran from here to there trying to pick up scent of big animals and small. The bears have been through here again and it drives Karl silly as he tries to figure out which way they went.

Daylily season is different today than it was back on the 8th when I last wrote but the bloom has been special and customers and visitors alike have kept us very busy. The early morning sunshine of June is long past and this morning's darkness reminds me how much I already miss early summer. Gail is already up trying to get ready to head to the nursery before 6 so we can split up all the daylilies we will be selling today as bare roots. When we have too many of one variety or something is not moving along or has lost popularity, we dig up most all and prepare them to sell 5 for $15.

I have tried to manage the new gardens at the nursery as if they were shelves at a supermarket. In those situations vendors pay for shelf space so items must sell or they are replaced. Same thing is happening at Vermont Flower Farm. We are often sad to see nice flowers go but part of selling flowers is an eye of the beholder thing and what's nice to me might bring harsh opinions from others. Up top is Apricot Sparkles which Gail bought in this year. We both think that by next year it will form nice clumps and be a great bloomer but for now it is an unpopular apricot which needs too much conversation to sell. It's on the table this morning, marked down enough not to make me happy but some gardeners should be all smiles come summer 2010.

Pastel Pink is a daylily that I really like. When it clumps up, it is a nice addition to the later garden here and it has a nice flower and a strong rib. I can never keep enough of it and this year's offering are a couple fans each even though summer rains were perpetual. Some things you cannot grow fast enough.

Double Yellow intrigues me as many of the doubles do. They are a little different from flower to flower but they bloom very well. This one is a late bloomer and brings forth dozens of buds that go on and on. I like it more than Double Gold with its habit of buds hanging on too long after they bloom. Mix in a couple blues or purples with Double Yellow and Apricot Sparkles and you'll catch folks attention in seconds. These two show that you don't have to spend lots of money on a nice late display. Late displays is what Gail continues to work on because she maintains gardeners need color until Columbus Day and it truly is possible, even in this part of Vermont.

Dominic is another mid to late addition we like. This picture is a bit duller than the color really presents. It's interesting and creates attention but this year for some reason it also drew in rose chafers, an insect we never had to deal with before.

There's plenty to do this morning so I must get going. I'm sure you have things to do today too but if you have a few minutes, stop by and look over the bare roots. Last night I dug some Fragrant Treasure, some large Bama Music, some fair clumps of Stella and there are a few Grand Masterpiece, Siloam Space Age, Butter Curls, Autumn Red and a Chicago I cannot remember right now. Good choices for a garden, along a drive or to cover a bank that you're tired of mowing. Come see!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where brown trout fishermen are heading to the pond and ravens are waking up everyone with harsh calls using words I do not understand.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Check out Vermont Flower Farm our website of pictures and good information. If you are trying to learn a little about autism, a non gardening topic for sure, try our autism page. Autism may not yet have touched a family you know, but the incidence suggests it will. Be thoguhtful, be supportive!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Pat's Nearly Famous BBQ


Just past 8:30 PM here on the mountain. It's been a hectic week but with sunshine at last, Gail and I cannot complain. When I finally made it to the nursery this afternoon, Gail had customers scattered around, she had a tired look on her face and what appeared to be Bela Lugosi stains on her shirt. She pointed in the direction of a couple in the lower shade house and I knew that meant she had not greeted them yet. Everything that happened from that point on for the next couple hours remains a blur.

When gardeners and visitors stop at the nursery, we always try to greet them as soon as possible and orient them to what is available. Many haven't been to a nursery that digs daylilies from the garden and some don't even feel comfortable walking into the daylily fields or down to the work-in-progress hosta garden without asking first. Making that first connection with first time visitors is really important. It shows we care and shows what kind of folks we are.

Gail had called me at work earlier in the day to say that Lynn from Lynn's Garden: Best In Bloom Today had phoned to say she would be stopping by for a visit. I really wanted to get in the truck and come back to meet her personally but I had a meeting that just couldn't be changed. Lynn and I have conversed via our blogs for some time and she has made some purchases from Vermont Flower Farm. It was quiet when she arrived and she and Gail got to spend a little time together. Maybe next time for me.

Later in the day, a family from Utah finally made it to the nursery. They have bought hundreds of daylilies from us. It was really great to meet them at last and let them see where their plants were grown. They have become ardent daylily fans although there's no doubt they are real gardeners anyway. I say "ardent" because the Utah deer ate the buds on their daylilies and they moved everyone of them from their first planting spaces to protected gardens within a fence at their house. I've never been keen on planting things twice but gardeners have a devotion and a drive for success that doesn't stop.

As customers and visitors thinned out a bit I got on the tractor and began mowing the 3 acres of grass lawn that intersects the gardens. About half way through it occurred to me that I'd really like a pulled pork sandwich for dinner. There was no convincing Gail that after the long week, one less meal to prepare sounded good. She picked up Alex as I finished mowing and we headed to Hardwick, 20 miles away.

Hardwick is an interesting town that to a degree has become almost a suburb of Montpelier. Housing in the Barre-Montpelier area has increased in price and people have moved 20-25 miles away for quieter living and nice houses at less expense. The community is reorganizing and there is a great restaurant there named Claire's. Hardwick is the home of the Center for Agricultural Economy that deserves a lot of praise, is just down the road from High Mowing Organic Seeds, offers up the Galaxy Bookshop and the Buffalo Mountain Coop and has an assortment of other restaurants, coffee shops and stores. Hardwick is not big but it is fun to visit.

Hardwick has had several fires in recent years and the tragedies have encouraged rebirth and everything has been very positive. The old boxing club building along the river that offers up histories you don't necessarily want to know about needs a little help; so does the three story store/apartment complex at the center of town that caught fire but was saved--kind of. The mix of residents is interesting for sure and there's plenty going on. Then there's Pat's.

Earlier this summer, a small trailer moved alongside the highway over towards Riteway Sports. It's the seasonal home of Pat's Nearly Famous BBQ. Pat and his wife and helpers make a pulled pork sandwich and curly fries and slaw that just tickles my fancy even though I have to drive to get it. This is one of those walk-up, place-your-order, sit-outside-under-a-little-tent places. There is a little chit chat as tables get bused and food is delivered. White vinegar in a spray bottle is in the condiment tray. Pat's wife told me Pat was a pipe fitter for a while but I am happy he mastered pulled pork sandwiches. Gail and I enjoy them while Alex repeatedly has less creative sauerkraut piled on his hot dogs. If you're in Hardwick in season, try Pats. He's open 11-2 daily and until 8 at night Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There was a chill in the air as we left Pat's. The Eye On The Sky weather folks at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium predicted 40 degrees or less tonight and it feels as if there's a good chance for "or less".

Daylilies at Vermont Flower Farm continue to bloom. Many have slowed to occasional flowers while some later ones are just starting their first bloom. Every morning we pick representatives of what is currently in bloom and put the blooms on display in the shed in small jelly jars so you can see everything in one small place for easy comparison. The fields are colorful and have dried out from July's 15" of rain so walking is easier now. If you have some time this weekend, stop by and walk with us. if you aren't familiar with daylilies, we're sure you will be impressed.

Now in bloom including Bonanza up top and about 140 others:

Becky Lynn

Barbary Corsair

Anne Warner

Best garden greetings from the mountain above Peacham Pond. Karl the Wonder Dog just said "Let's walk" so I have to get going!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Business Cards

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Almost five AM right now. Dark and quiet. Very much darker than the 4 AM mornings I enjoyed in June. Just the same I have been up since just after four when a combination of circadian rhythm and melatonin change boosted me out of bed pretty much on time. We don't use an alarm clock at our house unless we are heading to the airport at 2 or 3 AM and it's a very rare occasion when we are a few minutes late. Alarm-clock-less: Life without the ringing or buzzing sound of a clock going off. We like it.

Yesterday was a busy day at the farm. Gail had worker bee Gail T. from Peacham spend the day with her as I had to take Alex to a program in Jericho. People stopped by the nursery to walk the gardens, some to buy plants for themselves, one family to buy perennials for a cemetery location. The fields are wet from what totalled over 15 inches of rain in July. Holes left from vacant daylilies have become mini ponds and the rows where water gushes out of the clay soil have sprouted mini rivers that flow in all directions by gravity to the Winooski River. We caution everyone to stay out of the rows themselves and on the grassy paths as warning to stuck boots and dirty shoes. What a summer! It still hasn't hit 90 degrees for even a day and +80 degrees can be counted on fewer than one handful of fingers.

This year Gail had some business cards made and she passes one along to every visitor whether they visit to look around or they make a purchase. Our card has our web site URL and the blog address for The Vermont Gardener. Many people find us through Google but many more just don't know we have had a site for over 5 years and a blog too. The business cards confirm what we explain and make it easier for folks to remember. We know it works based on gardeners getting back home, planting their plants and then telling us the visit was fun, the plants good and the blog or site entertaining. That's great to hear.

Many times, people exchange cards with us. Here are two from this week that I put in my pocket for too long. One is from The Marble Man, Jack Hahn, who travels with his wife, Sue as they go from craft show to craft show. They are daylily enthusiasts too and they stopped as they headed back south after a show in Camden, Maine. Jack gave Gail and Michelle each a hand made marble. They use recycled glass and the thought of marbles brings back memories of games from fifty years ago. Just finding marbles in a store to share with grand kids is a chore so Jack's visit was valuable as a resource. He and Sue make and sell game boards too and board games are something families should get back into versus the techno stuff kids expect now.


We also had a visit from Robert Bangs, owner and designer at Windswept Gardens in Bangor, Maine. He is another daylily collector and he spotted Corky which he purchased because he has a dog by that name. The daylily was registered in 1959 by HA Fischer so it's been around a long time. I like to use a single scape with a florists frog and a piece of clematis to make a quick and easy Ikebana-like arrangement but for Robert it's another Corky now residing in Bangor, Maine.

I keep looking out the office window for wildlife this morning but it seems quiet. Karl the Wonder Dog wants to go for a walk and the coffee pot gurgles "I'm ready!" so it's time for me to get going. If you're out and about today, stop by and see us. Try 2263 US Route 2 Vermont Flower Farm in your GPS and you'll be there soon. We'll be open until 6 tonight, maybe a little longer if the predicted rain doesn't come too early. Hope to see you. Web orders are fine if you aren't in the area.

Good gardening wishes!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener

Vermont Flower Farm