Sunday, January 22, 2017

Getting Through Winter

Sunday, January 22, 2017

33.2° here on the mountain this morning. Windless and quiet save for the wild turkeys telling each other there's trouble brewing when I stand up and look out the window and my movement catches their attention. The feeders are now drawing more attention and there are 5 red squirrels under the feeder outside my office window and 14 mourning doves on the platform feeder on the other side of the house. Woodpeckers, both downy and hairy, are eating away on the suet that needs to be replenished today. Chickadees, nuthatches and evening grosbeaks come and go constantly now as 12-15 blue jays interrupt their presence.

This winter is different than last year when snow was absent and Vermont's economy was in a spin. The past few days it has been in the 30s and our winter sports industries are hoping for snow. Cold will not return for another week after we get through storms tomorrow night into Tuesday and then again on Thursday. The mountains have been receiving some snow and the ski industry has been able to manufacture snow most of the time. We hope for the best!

People often ask me what I do in the winter and want to know if I spend much time in the greenhouse. Well, that's a nice thought but I don't have a greenhouse. Well, I do and I don't. I have a small 14' by 22' house that I haven't put up here at our house for several years and for the past two years I have been able to use part of a nice greenhouse over Peacham way that a friend owns. I'm not sure what I am doing this year but just to be ready I ordered the annual flower seeds that I have to get going when we finally reach the end of April--start of May.

Everyone has seed sources and seed varieties that they have used over the years and I am no different. There are certain flower seeds that I will only buy from Johnny's Selected Seeds and that's because the quality is there and their posted germination rates are always the best. I like their Tall Blue Ageratum, Ruby Parfait, Eternity Improved, and Pampas Plume Celosias, absolutely any Benary's Zinnia they sell (best zinnia on the market), 5-6 foot tall Monarch butterfly magnet Torch Tithonia, Serenade Aster, Coral Fountain, Love-Lies-Bleeding, and Red Spike Amaranth, about any of their sunflowers, and the giant yellow and also orange marigolds that grow to 3.5-4 feet tall. This year I have added a Stock named Katz that grows 2 to 2.75 feet tall and works well with these other cut flowers.
Seeds that are easy to top seed on the gardens in the spring such as Pacific Beauty Calendula and Queen Mix Cleome, I purchase in large quantities from New England Seed. I also buy lupines, cosmos, foxglove, morning glory, and nasturtiums from them. Other specialty seeds come from single sources. 

I remember when I was a kid, the neighboring farm ladies taught me that Town Meeting Day on the first Tuesday in March was when you plant tomato seeds in the house. Most Vermonters back then did that although as I grew more experienced I knew this was way too early unless you really liked leggy tomatoes--and other seedlings. That's why I wait until the end of April. 

In Vermont,  there is an outstanding flower show for the size of the state. It occurs every other year and is held at the Champlain Exposition Center in Essex Junction, Vermont. It's an event that is sure to get you excited about spring planting whether it be flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs or a combination of everything.  This year it is held March 3-4-5. Here's the link to get you thinking about the summer that is still months away. 

So while you're thinking about gardening or planning or redesigning garden spaces, don't forget Vermont Flower Farm. We like to answer questions and help make your gardens better. And remember:  "We're always here to help you grow your green thumb!"

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the gray sunrise of 4 hours ago continues with its dull look except at horizon level looking towards Peacham Pond where a nice pink is beginning to form. 

Great garden thoughts!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Facebook as George Africa and Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Writing on Twitter as vtflowerfarm
And recently in an article in Fine Gardening Magazine that explored astilbes.