Thursday, November 10, 2016


Thursday, November 10, 2016

Although Vermont Flower Farm closes each fall on Columbus Day, our website, this blog, and our two Facebook pages, George Africa and Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens , continue on year round. We use various other social media opportunities including Twitter and we remain active with a variety of horticulture-related sites and medias. Getting information out to our gardening friends has always been a priority for Gail and me and we see this as a regular responsibility...even if we are sharing information about a perennial--such as lupines-- when there is snow on the ground. 

Without fail, each June, gardeners stop at the flower farm asking to purchase lupines. Customers start arriving as soon as they see them growing at roadside, sometimes planted, sometimes self-seeded or helped along by birds or other wildlife. From our experience, lupines do not transplant consistently well and as such we recommend purchasing a package of seeds, soak the seeds in water overnight and get them planted. They will grow the first year and bloom in subsequent years. Once they begin to bloom, they drop seeds and your patch of flowers will grow over the years. Robinson Hybrids was always "the" lupine name to purchase but in more recent years seed companies have begun to sell separate colors, not just mixes, or not just the dark blues that we frequently see growing in New Hampshire and Maine...... growing----well-----everywhere.

Lupines have a long taproot that is significant in appearance and important to the plant. Transplanting must be done carefully so as not to damage the root or the plants will appear healthy until the following year when they won't reappear. So to avoid disappointment, use the direct-seed-into-the-garden method and you'll be pleased.

Once your lupines are growing well, you're never out of the woods. They have a reputation for being aphid magnets as seen in this picture. Your plants can look clean one day and be totally infested with aphids a couple days later. For this reason, it's recommended that they are planted in the distance so the bloom colors are obvious and enjoyable but without the opportunity to see the plant foliage (and insects) up close.

Gardeners can always find recommendations for organic and chemical aphid controls. One that can be helpful to lupines and not their aphid friends is the hover fly pictured here on a pink cosmo. Hover friends eat aphids--just aphids--all variety of aphids. You might have seen these flies before and never knew the name or anything about how they live. These are smaller than a dime, can often be seen mid-air in front of you "flying" but not moving, and they look like tiny bumblebees to some. If you want to have happy hover flies and many fewer aphids, plant dill or fennel randomly throughout your gardens. The flies lay their eggs on these aromatic herbs and the flies eat your aphids!

Another problem for lupine lovers is the fungal problems that sometimes appear. Here is an article that was recently written by Paul Pilon of Ball Publishing. The story is geared to professional growers and it mentions chemical controls for the problems. By knowing what problems you are seeing, you can decide what action to take. 

"Diseases on Lupine
Each year, I come across growers who experience one or more diseases on lupines. Lupines have been known to be highly susceptible to Colletotrichum, which is an anthracnose disease. This pathogen has been shown to be seed-borne, so the plants are at a disadvantage even before they germinate. The scenario gets even worse: Lupines are also highly susceptible to Fusarium. In many instances, I observe both of these diseases at the same time. Although that sounds like a pathologist's dream, it’s not what any grower wants to observe in their crops.

With the history of this plant getting anthracnose, many growers commonly assume that they have Colletotrichum and their preventative or curative fungicide rotations may not be effectively controlling Fusarium. Here’s how you can tell them apart:

Colletotrichum (above left) is typically a leaf-spot disease, but it can progress to cause cankers on stems and kill entire branches. Many growers naturally assume when the plants collapse that anthracnose is the culprit; this isn't necessarily the cause. When you see wilt symptoms, don’t just assume you have anthracnose. Plants with blighted or wilted leaves are commonly infected with Fusarium (above right). Fusarium is a crown/stem rot that causes the leaves and stems to collapse. Again, it’s not uncommon for lupines to be infected with both of these pathogens at the same time.
The most effective fungicides for controlling Colletotrichum and other anthracnose diseases are Orkestra, Phyton 27 and Spectro. Rotate these products at seven-to-10-day intervals until the progression of the symptoms have stopped.

The anthracnose rotation listed above will go a long way towards preventing fusarium as well. If you're targeting Fusarium specifically, a great rotation would be Orkestra, Medallion and Daconil. Daconil cannot be drenched, but it can be applied as a heavy spray.
For both of these pathogens, it's best to provide preventative chemotherapy, as I call it, rather than beginning the applications after the symptoms are present"

So-o-o-o lupines are popular, they don't transplant that easily, they do grow from seed easily, and they experience insect and fungal problems over time. Just they same if lupines are what you want, spring for a package of seeds, give them a try, be patient for a year and watch the blooms appear in year two. We guarantee that once you have them growing you'll be asked where you bought them--and then you can tell the whole lupine story--and brag a little!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where our outside chores continue, knowing full well that any day now the ground will be white. Have gardening questions? E-mail us at And remember....We're always here to help you grow your green thumb!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Marshfield, Vermont 05658