Tuesday, December 18, 2018



A below zero morning with wind gusts in the 15-22 mph range. Not a nice day to travel as the wind is blowing the snow so hard that visibility at times is difficult. Just the same, memories of summer and gardens makes everything seem a great deal better. Here are some pictures of our daylily display garden from mid July when the daylilies were just beginning to look nice.

Years ago Gail hired a young college aged guy for a couple-three summers. This was when we were getting the  flower farm set up and Austin got this daylily display garden started after Brien Ducharme layed out some incredible stones. Austin was like Alex, he had no fear of using a shovel and he planted a couple hundred clumps of daylilies to get us going. Now twelve years later the garden is still not what I want it to be but it's getting closer. It's certainly worth a look-see if you come to visit.

The garden now has well over 300 clumps of the +700 daylilies we raise and those daylilies have plenty of company. 20 varieties of astilbes (we grow 55 varieties)  join 5 varieties of vernonia/ironweed  and three varieties of veronicastrun which add some height. Ninebark Diabolo, some Dolgo crab apples, and half a dozen different dwarf conifers add to the mix. Hollyhocks in whites, dark reds, roses, and yellows are planted here and there. Garden phlox are coming along and should look great in 2019 in the company of butterfly weed, 400 liatris, helenium 'Salsa', a turtlehead name 'Hot Lips', and three varieties of monarda/bee balm. Jacob Cline, Raspberry Wine and Gardenview Scarlet.  Jody and Michelle planted a couple bushels of daffodils this fall so they should catch your eye as you pass along Route 2 this spring.It's coming!

Gail is our authority on Hydrangea paniculata and she has this habit of laying out pots of new-to-us varieties she thinks will look nice incorporated with the daylilies. I'm the planter! Little Quickfire, Zinfin Doll, Invincibelle Wee White and Pillow Talk are some I remember planting this fall. There may be others. One thing is certain.... in 2019 this will be one  very nice garden. Come visit!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Marshfield Vermont

Friday, December 14, 2018



Sometimes it takes me a while to catch up with a plant I have been looking for. Last summer I found a Vermont wholesaler and I didn't even ask the price, I just bought myself some. Mayapple. I wanted to add some to the perimeter of a shade garden but especially wanted them because they pop up early, have a nice shape, a noteworthy little flower to which a fruit follows. Buying them created trouble from those who, like me, were looking for them for a while. I could tell what the question would be whenever I saw lips pursing "Where....?" (did you find those? I did not sell many last year and may not have any for sale this year. Too early to tell. The plants are poisonous but I still think they are neat! Still interested?

Here's a link from the University of Wisconsin which will provide a few more details. I am intrigued by mention that it belongs to the barberry family too.  Read on!


Best gardening wishes!

George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens
Marshfield Vermont 05658


Hollyhock Seed Pods Drying On The Stalk

Hollyhock Seeds

Hollyhock plant showing root system

Hollyhocks are admired, especially by older gardeners who remember them from their youth at times when hollyhocks were planted near every barn, outbuilding, outhouse, house door, woodshed. Rarely do I grow any for sale because they require care when transplanting because of their root system as evident in the last picture here. If the roots are injured when transplanting, they will look great for the balance of the growing season but probably will not overwinter. I hear questions all the time from people who have had repeated failures and tell me they must have a black thumb. The issue is the roots, not the color of the gardener's thumb!

The easiest way to grow hollyhocks successfully is to start with seeds. They need sun, benefit from good soil, and do not need a great deal of moisture. Plant them in the spring by sprinkling them on the ground and then covering the seed lightly. They will bloom the following year. Single and double flowering types are available.

If they are planted in a windy location, stake them early on or they might topple and be lost for the season. This happened to me last July. They typically produce copious amounts of seed as shown here and the seed can be picked  and direct seeded in the fall or saved until spring. If you want an individual color .....say white, dark red or dark pink....... order early as these flowers are not grown for seed as much as they were even 15 years ago.

Hollyhocks are best planted at the back of the border or some distance from walkways because they are a natural magnet to Japanese beetles and they are susceptible to rust. Neither of these problems will kill the plants but will discolor and misshape the leaves. If you plant them back a bit, neither problem will be obvious.

My mother used to dry hollyhock blossoms in a 50-50 mix of Borateam (boraxo) and corn meal.  Mix well and then layer the bottom of a container (she used to save shoe boxes for this)  with the mix and then spread out the blossoms so they don't touch. Cover with a layer of the mix, add another layer of the blossoms and continue on. In about two weeks they will be dried and can be used in dried flower arrangements by threading a plant wire through the center. They hold the color very well! Surprise!

Best gardening wishes!

George Africa
Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens
Marshfield, Vermont

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Welcome Back!

December 12, 2018

Welcome back to The Vermont Gardener.  We have completed another successful season growing flowers and have retreated to our home here on the mountain above Peacham Pond for the winter. We hope that you followed us during our programs at the flower farm or on our Facebook postings at either my George Africa site (https://www.facebook.com/george.africa) or at our FB business site Vermont Flower Farm & Gardens (https://www.facebook.com/Vermont-Flower-Farm-Gardens-198640921659). Perhaps you have begun reading our monthly article on The North Star Monthly (http://www.northstarmonthly.com) , or maybe you read the article  about growing astilbes that we contributed to in Fine Gardening Magazine's last Spring issue.  You might have seen some of our commentaries on other social media sites which discuss horticultural,  flower gardening in the northeast,  or Vermont hardy perennials including astilbes, baptisia, daylilies, hellebores, hostas, hydrangeas, iris, lilacs, monarda, primula, pulmonaria, trollius....on and on. We truly love flowers and hope you do to.

Now that the gardens are put to bed for a few months we are ready to get back to writing. If you have topics you wish to see developed, drop me a line at vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com or call 802-426-3505. Besides growing fine perennials for your gardens, we feel obligated to share good information with you. Growing green thumbs is part of that! Follow us!