Sunday, January 28, 2018


Go Vertical

It’s a quiet morning here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. The rain gauge measures 0.43” of rain since 8 PM but the 35.2° temperature kept it as rain, not the 6” of snow it could have been. Yesterday Alex and I closed the gates at the flower farm for the last time this year after bringing home all the tools and equipment that need a little attention this winter. The impending holiday season keeps us all busy but the winter days that follow provide ample time to clean up the items that make our garden work easier, change oil and spark plugs where necessary, and get things in order again. Give it some thought after the New Year.

I have always enjoyed incorporating taller plants, trees and shrubs into our landscapes so for those who know me, it’s not a surprise to hear me suggest “Go Vertical”. In today’s garden designs, our aging population more often starts with smaller gardens to provide good color but easier maintenance. Adding some “vertical” can make smaller gardens appear larger while adding more color and texture afforded by edible and non-edible shrubs, small fruit trees and conifers we might not have considered before. When taller perennials are added to the mix we can extend our bloom times and color mixes and probably receive a few of those “How’d you do thats”.

Smaller conifers are often overlooked because they tend to be more expensive to purchase, are slower to mature, and are not commonly available in Vermont on the retail market. Green Works, the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association ( offers a member list which can point you in the right direction once you have an idea of what you would like to add. A membership in the American Conifer Society ( can also help. Almost every year I buy in something new to add to our gardens and offer for sale to customers until they are sold. In recent years I have added an arborvitae named North Pole that is eventually a 10-12 foot tall, 3 foot wide, dark green column the deer seem to avoid. I have contrasted it with a smaller, yellow arborvitae that’s also column shaped, in the 6-8 foot range over time, named Filip’s Magic Moment. To add some holiday red, I use one of the many winterberries that have those abundant, nice red berries that hold on until past New Years and provide food for birds that winter over with us. I also use a red stemmed dogwood named Arctic Fire. Conifers come in all heights, textures and many colors so if you look around you can find something that will meet your design and color needs. Try to research the maintenance requirements too so you don’t purchase something that requires an annual effort greater than you wish to extend.

Tall perennials are abundantly available in terms of heights and colors. I like the various veronicastrums, the green to green-brown, dark brown to brown black, 3 to 9 foot tall cimicifugas (now reclassified to actaea), Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’, any of the taller helleniums, and the wonderful penstemon, Dark Towers, with its nice foliage and bountiful lavender flower scapes that make great cut flower accents too. Add a cedar fence pole to the mix, wrap it modestly with a piece of knitted or nylon flower fence and plant a package of the new generation of annual sweet peas or a single pot of Honeysuckle Scentsation with its special fragrance and pale yellow flowers that go into September and your garden will have a vertical presence that magnifies your original design. Beyond making decisions on what colors and textures you wish to incorporate, none of this is difficult. Still have concerns or questions? Drop us a note at and we’ll help. Until next time, remember, “We’re always here to help you grow your green thumb!”

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