Friday, April 14, 2017



We have sold hydrangeas at Vermont Flower Farm for several years now. We began by offering some paniculatas we bought in from Montana because they are the most hardy. In spring 2011, we planted them around the fence perimeter and within a week or so of planting, the first of two May floods arrived and washed them away. I had planted around 25 hydrangeas and there were several varieties but of course when they were carried away, the name labels were too. I found every one and had worker bee Steve replant them although the names became a guess. A couple weeks later the same thing happened with more deep water and I recovered all but one that I found later that year in the top of a Japanaese Fantail Willow. Today those hydrangeas look great and are growing well despite the poor attention they received from Mother Nature.

Over the years we have added and grown on several Arborescens such as Annabelle, Incrediball and Invincible Spirit and they handle Vermont very well. We currently offer about 20 hydrangeas, potted and ready to go. We don't mail order any of these because of their size but they are always available for pick-up at the nursery. Last fall, Gail and Alex planted another display garden along Route 2 so the varieties are in one place and over time will be available to see close up as mature specimens.

Here is a list from our website of the hydrangeas we have available this spring and summer. We have a size for about any garden location. More mature heights will take about 3 years from planting time. 

If you happen to live in the Central Vermont area, the City of Barre has many older homes built as the granite industry grew there to be the biggest in the world. During that time, many, many hydrangeas and lilacs were brought from Europe as granite workers arrived in Vermont. Although finding the true names of many of these is close to impossible, it's worth a trip to drive around and see what is flowering. The world famous Hope Cemetary is nearby and contains some examples here and there of lilacs and hydrangeas and is worth a visit too.

Best gardening!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
In Facebook as a personal Facebook page, George Africa, with lots of gardening pictures and advice, and  also as a Like Page, Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens, 

On Twitter as vtflowerfarm 

And always here to help you grow your green thumb!

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Taking Cuttings

Good morning from the mountain above Peacham Pond where last night's storm left us with 7" of wet, clingy snow. Central Vermont received about a foot and other places 2"-5". A year ago today the weather had been quite warm for much of March and there wasn't a snowflake to be found. A tad different this year as there is plenty of snow at the flower farm and "feet" of snow here at the house inside the field perimeters.

Although I would love another spring like last year, it will not happen so my attention turns to more work on the website, making signs for the gardens, getting plant labels written out for odd items that don't come in big numbers, and rearranging things at the flower farm so I can get the delivery trucks backed in exactly where I want them so as to save time and energy. One of the things I have found time to do this year is plant some cuttings from hydrangeas, willows, ninebarks and lilacs. 

I have been doing various cuttings for about all my gardening life. I started with house plant cuttings way back when and just went on from there. The farm ladies next door taught me how to do African violets, geraniums and coleus, and as a young buck I had jars of plants rooting on windowsills where free space and sunlight complimented each other. From there I got into grafting apples and rooting shrubs. It became an exciting hobby but not one I have regularly pursued. This year is different and Gail is showing a little attitude problem about the tables full of plants appearing here and there and taking up the limited space in the front room where sunlight prevails on less snowy days than today.

I purchase the plastic seed starting trays without drainage holes and sheets of plug trays in the 50 or 72 plug size. These are inserts for the seed type trays and the plug holes taper a bit from a total 2.5" depth. The taper encourages good root development. Here's a picture of a 72 plug tray. The taper starts at 1.5" at the top and goes to 7/8".

I buy the seed trays and the plug trays with accompanying dome covers. These are clear plastic and I use the 2" tall domes and the 7.5" domes which come with built-in ventilation holes top and sides and with little do-hickey's that let you adjust the ventilation.  The dome height needs to match the size of the cutting you want to take and I always seem to end up trimming after I have "stuck" the cuttings. The domes, by the way, are important to help control humidity and encourage rooting. It the old days I used plastic wrap and before that, we used a spray bottle on a regular basis and didn't cover anything. There weren't any seed trays when I got started so we used old coffee cans for a lot of what we rooted.

The most important part of this project is the mix. I use a mix of one-third peat based potting mix, one-third composted/dehydrated cow manure and one-third coarse (that's coarse!) sand. I usually mix in a five-gallon plastic bucket and as of last week use a power paint mixer that a friend gave me. Hands work fine but be sure to get the three components well mixed. I mix dry first and then add water. I truly dislike filling all the little holes but that's part of the job and I ensure that the mix is packed in --not hard packed but tight enough to hold the cutting well. 

The size of the cutting is what I receive the most questions on. Truly this is something you learn over time. I clip the end of the branch, try to only cut single stems/branches, keep the diameters to 1/4" or less, and ensure that there is a viable terminal bud. You will notice some top growth in a week and as long as you keep the cuttings misted with water and the soil mix damp, you will get an acceptable percentage of root cuttings.  

Hydrangea Cuttings

Lilac Cuttings

Taking cuttings is a way of expanding the numbers of your collection. There is one caveat which you can read about on my yesterday's Facebook page. It involves plant patents. It alludes to the plant police but doesn't go that far. Some plants are patented and that's a twenty-year affair. There are a number of very confusing things that people do when patenting or trademarking but regardless, the point is to follow rules, check when you have a question and show respect for what went into getting a neat plant, shrub or tree to your life!

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the temperature is holding a steady and even 31 degrees, the wind remains at zero and Karl the Wonder Dog wants to go for a walk. Have a nice day--and think about cuttings. 

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
On Twitter as vtflowerfarm
On Facebook as a picture positive personal page named George Africa and a Like Page named Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
And remember, we're always here to help you grow your green thumb!