Wednesday, January 09, 2019

That New Garden

Here are some thoughts about fall planting that I wrote about recently for an area newspaper. I describe our current customer profile at the flower farm and some considerations as you plan for a new garden--either by your own design or with design assistance from someone with different experience. Give us a call if you have some ideas that need our confidence 802-426-3505. Leave a message if you miss us.


November 2018 was an unusually different kind of month as rain and winds turned white and cold early, and record setting snow piled higher than we remembered. Gail and I received many phone calls and emails from gardeners who had ordered bulbs and perennial plants including peonies which never arrived until we were well into November. Some called with questions such as “There’s snow on the ground, can I plant bulbs? Can I still plant peonies that just arrived? Can I still dig my dahlias and glads (or are they dead)? Is it still ok to prune my hydrangeas? When can I prune my apple trees? We said “yes” many times along with words of encouragement to get going.

As I reflect on questions gardeners asked during the past summer, I keep returning to thoughts of the people with the gardening questions…the actual people themselves. At the flower farm I try to track where people come from, their age and their gardening experience.  When we first moved our flower farm down from Peacham Pond Road to Route 2, I was taken by visitors arriving in cars and trucks with Maine license plates. Over time I determined that more than 15% of our customers were from Maine and many had used Route 2 to travel to Burlington to visit the airport, the hospital, one of the educational institutions (kids in college) or to work at remote offices. The numbers were significant because they represented more people from far away Maine than from nearby Montpelier or Barre. In addition to my findings on source of customers, I confirmed what many in the horticultural field had already determined—that the average customer to a modern day nursery is a 55 year old woman. Finally, I tracked new homes, either newly built or newly purchased homes. Significant was that it was usually in year two or three after arrival that homeowners visited the nursery to seek landscape design advice and begin making purchases. To us this was important because of the number of new property owners we regularly met from the towns of Newbury, Barnet, Peacham and Danville, Vermont as well as Hanover, Orford, Haverhill, Monroe, Woodsville, Bath, Lisbon, Littleton and Lancaster, New Hampshire.

The customer profile might not seem important but the inherent message to you the gardener might be. It’s a message I try to tactfully work into garden design requests. In a world where age discrimination is well known to us, I ask realistic questions about the gardener, who will build  or renovate the gardens if we design them, and who will handle the maintenance to keep things looking nice after the initial planting. I also try to get a handle on how long people intend to stay at their property, is the home a permanent or seasonal home, and is the landscaping plan really intended to encourage resale at increased profit in the short term.

Attractive gardens which bring us nice compliments require an investment of time and other resources. As such it’s best to do things correctly from the start. If you are thinking about doing some landscape work at your home next year, do you want to do most or all of the work or do you prefer to hire the work done for you. Consider whether you will provide ongoing maintenance or whether this is something you also wish to hire out. Define what you would like to see in general terms and ask a designer to give you a ballpark cost estimate. This will narrow the opportunity for surprises.

Winter is a good time to work on design ideas you have in mind. If the snow isn’t too deep yet, take some pictures of the areas you want to change. Always include any adjacent buildings and trees in pictures so shadows and summer light conditions can be calculated. Make notes of any underground services such as water lines, electric, gas, sewer, telephone/television cable, electric generator, and solar array lines. If you have any experience with underground ledges or large boulders that you are aware of, make note of them before beginning to design. Be confident that you can collect much of this information yourself and that it’s all important to whoever you might work with to finalize a plan. If you have questions, give us a call at 802-426-3505 and we’ll help. We love to see great gardens—and smiling gardeners!!

The Vermont Flower Show

Every other year the Vermont Nursery and Landscape Association sponsors the Vermont Flower Show. For Vermont gardeners,  this is a big event. It comes at a time when Vermont is often snow covered. It strikes a fancy with attendees  through a collection of  equisite landscape architecture, the fragrances of flowers, trees and shrubs in bloom or coming into bloom, a trade show with all sorts of vendors, and two and a half days of seminars and workshops.

Gail and I have gone every year since the show's inception and now we find ourselves going for a couple days to be able to attend the seminars and workshops that interest us. You're not likely to see  us there together as we each have individual interests. I like clivias, bee keeping, pollinator gardening,  and berries while Gail goes for container gardening, garden design, underused perennials, and wildflowers.

Plan on attending, March 1-3, 2019 at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, Vermont. The excitement is overwhelming! Say hello if you see us.

Other Thoughts

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A blustery day here on the mountain. I just came in from cleaing off the car and trucks and getting the tractor plugged in so I can move more snow in half an hour. It rained from 6 PM last night until  4:30 this morning when it changed to snow and it offers no sign of stopping yet. Estimates range but over the next 24 hours we may receive a foot of snow.

I do writing for social media and for an area newspaper. I have copied some of those pieces before and will add a few here. They may seem out of date according to their titles but there are some great rescources between the lines. Here's one from November. Tell what you think. Questions are always welcomed. 

Holiday Gardening Thoughts
45.1° with 9.8 mph wind gusts and a cloudy morning as I prepare for what will probably be the last day without snowflakes on the ground or in the air as November takes over. By the time you read this, winter will be more certain and you might already have left home without a warm enough coat.

When you live and garden in the northeast, summers seem too short but if you garden, you take pride in what you grow and share with others. When the land turns white some folks turn to indoor plants or birdwatching to fill that gardening void and either pursuit has a large following. Years back I collected begonias and these got me through the winter. For a few years Alex collected pots and pots of cactus and I learned a great deal from his interest. As for birdwatching it’s a funny recollection that when my family moved to Vermont in the early fifties, even at age 5 I thought that feeding the wild birds was something you had to start doing every fall because everyone seemed to do it. That’s when I found out about suet and cracked corn and sunflower seed and chickadees, nuthatches, blue jays and woodpeckers.

With the holidays close by, thoughts of gifts for gardeners, either friends or family, rise in importance. We sell lots of gift certificates redeemable at our flower farm for any of the perennials we sell. We make the certificates ourselves and each one includes a picture of one of our display gardens. They always seem popular. When I am asked about other gifts I always start by recommending a pair of Felco pruners. If you garden you always have clean-up to perform and Felcos are the best pruner out there. They handle well, stay sharp and clean up well after use with conifers that produce sticky pitch. Buy a pair with a holster and really make a gardener smile!

Books bring mixed reviews about the creativity of the gift giver but they have always been part of the holidays and I love receiving them. There are tons of really special gardening books on the market now and you can find one specific to your plant interest. Give a book and include a note saying that a complimentary perennial plant will arrive in springtime too.

Every plant has a well-organized society and membership to such a plant society is an excellent gift. All the societies have newsletters during the course of the year and these are great because they describe upcoming tours or training events, gardens that are open to the public for viewing and growers and vendors who sell that specific plant. They might seem expensive at first but for the amount of information provided, they are excellent. We belong to plant societies for about everything we grow as it’s the best way to keep up on changes. Here are some web addresses of some of the societies we belong to.

American Daylily Society

American Bamboo Society

American Bonsai Society

American Conifer Society

American Hosta Society

American Daffodil Society

American Dahlia Society

American Hydrangea Society

American Peony Society

American Primrose Society

International Lilac Society

North American Rock Garden Society

A final gift idea is a membership to an actual garden club. Chances are there are clubs close by regardless of where you live. I always promote the Hardy Plant Club of Northern Vermont which I joined 25 years ago—maybe longer. It was originally gathered by a number of botanists and University of Vermont botany/plant and soil science professors and grew to include gardeners and growers like me and Gail. It is a great group which has quarterly newsletters, an annual plant sale, and a number of lectures and many visits to private gardens. It’s an incredible experience which puts you in touch with the most experienced growers and collectors out there so no question goes unanswered for very long. And for $10 annually, how can you miss?

That’s it for 2018. Best holiday wishes from your friends at Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens! Thanks for following us!