Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Garden Construction

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A cold, windy day here on the mountain. The temperature struggled to get to 10.2° and then faltered and slipped suddenly back to 9.3° and now it is slipping further. We are on the edge of a front that is moving up the coast and apparently delivering some snow but all we have here is the cold. Inside work is providing a chance to catch up on overdue thoughts and today it involves garden design. 

When Gail and I purchased the land on Route 2,  we wanted a place to reconstruct a very popular part of our business on the Peacham Pond Road. That involved an intensively planted shade garden that grew bountifully within the confines of an old barn foundation.The place had acquired a reputation and for us the good part was it sold a lot of hostas and associated shade plants when gardeners could see mature examples of what they were seeing in 1 gallon pots. I knew that recreating what was in place for +6 years was going to be a challenge in an age of gardeners wanting "instant big" and I knew folks would be disappointed for a while. Not only were they disappointed, they regularly shared their feelings!

The new land had what I thought was a great site and I learned the land as I learned how to pull stumps with a new tractor. Weeds and vines were thick, alders, both dead and alive, were everywhere and the land went from bone dry on the east side to damp-all-summer on the west. It was wrapped on two sides by the Winooski River but the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.

I was working days back then so each night after work I'd cut brush and load the truck until it was full and another area was ready. When everything was cleared I began with herbicides to get rid of the weeds and vines. Then I came in with the tractor and rototiller and spent hours going back and forth to bring up hidden tree roots and stones. 
I cannot say it was easy but passing friends and people I have never met beeped horns and waved encouragement and I kept going. This was not a home sized garden by any means but the principles of good site preparation remain the same. You have to get to soil level, rid the area of unwanted vegetation and debris and then see what you have for soil, sun, shade and moisture.

With the soil well amended and a layout in mind, I began planting. Some mature hostas were brought in from our house while others I took from pots, grouping 3 to 5 together to form a showy example of each variety over time.
I added three varieties of maple trees for autumn color, some lindens, and some yellow leafed locusts and Nugget Ninebarks to contrast with the yellow hostas. I used orange flagging markers to lay out the paths so I could change them as the planting continued. By this point in the process I had a helper digging, labeling and crating hostas during the day and I was planting each night.

Now it's been five years since the garden was started. It's far from planted and atypical interruptions like the biggest floods in the history of Vermont slowed it's completion. But now the hostas are looking fine and the companion plants are maturing too. Most of the hostas on display are available for sale as potted plants and some are freshly dug depending on inventory.

The garden is worth a look-see if you are in the neighborhood as it provides lots of lessons in garden construction. I'm usually available for a tour but call or write ahead to be sure I'm there. Garden clubs are welcome too as long as Gail knows what's going. 

Questions about construction? 
George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens and also as George Africa
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
Always here to help grow your green thumb!

1 comment:

BERNIE said...

Lovely site. Hostas are to me a calming relaxing-sit under the apple tree, beside the hostas and sip lemonade-nice way to enjoy a summer day in Vermont.
Just came across your blog. Great postings-esp. flower/plant photos to look at while we are in winter wonderland.

Have added your site to my links page of my web site. Even though litter picking is my blog topic, growing plants/trees and remediating soil fertility is an interest as well.

Love the Peacham/Groton VT area for State park camping/paddling. Also enjoyed your Hosta retail & viewing establishment.

I am experimenting a bit (small scale-non commercial) with growing hazlenuts, Evans Bali cherry trees with thought of larger scale in ~ 3yrs.

Ck out my web site-under Content tab there are some backyard flower & critters postings.

Bernie Paquette
SB Vermont
My web site: