Thursday, April 01, 2021

Vegetables

 

FIRST  TIME  VEGETABLE  GROWERS


If you have followed my writings over time, you have heard my praise of Johnny's Selected Seeds. I have used the Maine company for +30 years and have never had a criticism. Their website is an accurate display of everything they sell and the opportunities increase every year. The descriptions and images of vegetable and flower seeds are excellent and you know how many seeds you are ordering whether a packet, an ounce or more.  Flower farmers and vegetable growers,  farmer's market growers, wholesaler growers --name the grower profile and you'll find that they might well purchase seeds from Johnny's. Give them a look-see at https://www.johnnyseeds.com. Unlike some companies I have tried, their germination rates are always accurate.


In more recent times, Johnny's has added a great video library which is ever so helpful to America's new crop of gardeners that has developed since Covid. It's free and easy to use. This morning I found this link that might be of interest if you are planning to grow some vegetables this year.  Garden writer Niki Jabbour chose 8 vegetables to learn about. Since I have committed to growing pickling cukes this year and making my family's very special recipe for Bread and Butter pickles, I was interested in Niki's video on growing cucumbers.  Watch the video and tell me what you think. Her point about replanting for a second crop is important. Also the mention of not letting your cukes get too big as they get bitter and slow down the production of more cucumbers because fruit production slows as some get big and go to seed. 


https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-library/vegetables/8-great-vegetables-for-beginners-from-seed-to-harvest-with-niki-jabbour.html


Happy gardening!

George Africa

The Vermont Gardener

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

ADD SUNFLOWERS IN 2021!


 

 

 A very inexpensive way to add some "vertical" to your gardens at the same time you are adding color is to plant sunflowers.  A package of  4-10  different seed varieties will cost $5-$12 total and the result will be impressive. At the flower farm, I usually buy ten different packages and plant one seed of each variety together in a hole 3" deep. Germination is always better than 90% unless you have a squirrel or chipmunk watching you plant. By the middle to end of July here in Zone 3-4 Vermont, the sunflowers are beginning to show some color which lasts until a hard frost---or a flock of hungry birds looking for fresh seeds.


As I purchase seeds I always try to vary the size of the flower heads I expect to see. That way I have some 8-9 foot tall attention-getters from way across the field as well as plenty of 5" diameter blooms on single stems that I can cut for bouquets. Do this once and you'll wonder why you didn't always include sunflower seeds on your list. Although the seed packages of sunflowers you might find in racks at box stores may seem incredibly inexpensive, sunflower seeds tend to be large and the husks protect them from dehydrating so the price is not only "right" but the varieties will get this project underway at little cost. 













Friday, March 05, 2021

CABIN FEVER GARDENING

 Reposted from my writing in the North Star Monthly, a very old Vermont publication from Danville, Vermont. Subscribe to the journal and always have a piece of Vermont close by. I love it and know you will too!  Enjoy!  George


CABIN   FEVER   GARDENING  


It was clear, bright and beautiful this morning so I decided to go to the flower farm and walk the perimeter to check for animal intruders. I hadn’t seen any deer tracks when I passed by on Route 2 but last year deer came in and ate a couple of dwarf conifers even though I had enclosed them with a wire fence. One experience with any kind of loss will always remind me to check. I know from many reports from customers last spring that I was not alone in seeing some damage from deer. This year, things look good….so far!

 

As I walked along the river, I noticed a pair of cardinals hiding in a wild honeysuckle and later on a small irruption of evening grosbeaks resting in a Katherine Havemeyer lilac before heading for the village where bird feeders are available. I have noticed that the colder temperatures have caused snow and ice to hang on the trees for three weeks now and this has made it more difficult for birds to find their favorite foods. That causes them to move into adjacent fields and appear at feeders. It also has given bird watchers an opportunity to see birds they might not normally see. Snow buntings have been at our feeders this week and despite their hyperactive moods they are nice to see.

 

Covid has kept us inside more than we want so this year it’s more than seasonal affective disorder and deepening snow that reminds us that it’s winter. Cabin fever has kept more than just gardeners inside but there are some things we can do to boost our spirits. We belong to plant societies and online specialty groups for the plants we grow and sell. As example, hostas are an important plant that has always interested us and the American Hosta Society (americanhostasocity.org) is one of the best organized societies I know. I think they have the absolute best journals which arrive twice a year as a published, image packed, journal and then again as an online journal. It costs $30 per year for an individual membership which arrives with a voucher for $15 towards a hosta. I especially look forward to the journals because they have biographical sketches of hybridizers, terrific pictures and stories about display gardens, hosta history, advances in viral testing, and great information on the latest registrations.

 

In addition to hosta journals, I use the online Hosta Library (hostalibrary.org) which is free. It contains summary information, abundant pictures (1000’s) and registration detail on all hostas, registered and unregistered.  It is the best resource I know of for anyone interested in this shade tolerant plant that’s perfect for Vermont gardens. Take a look-see and you will see what I mean.

While at the flower farm I decided to take some lilac cuttings. I usually take them a few weeks after the lilacs have bloomed in June but I read that you can also take cuttings now and root them in sand, covered for the first weeks in plastic wrap or plastic seed tray domes. I took cuttings from 8 lilacs to try this out and I’m being positive about my success. I dipped each one in rooting hormone and then put them in the front room under an eastern facing window. I mist them every day or so. If you have visited us at the farm, you might have seen that we have much of the perimeter dotted with multiples of +20 varieties of lilacs. Each spring by mid-May we have 8-12 varieties for sale if you are interested. The International Lilac Society is a great organization for lilac lovers and it’s very helpful as you learn about growers, retailers and how to grow successfully.

This time of year the larger grocery stores often have primroses in their floral departments. Primulas have become very popular perennial garden flowers in recent years even though they are sold as houseplants too. They come in all colors, bloom for some time and are attention getting, front-of-the-border plants. If you get serious about them, the  American Primrose Society (americanprimrosesociety.org) is a membership you might want to purchase. It publishes 4 information filled journals and can direct you to specialty gardens and retail sources. The Society has just completed its annual seed exchange which is an inexpensive way to purchase primula seeds from around the world to add to your collection.

Garden blogs, garden clubs and societies, plant societies, university and extension service groups as well as a plethora of gardening magazines can help you get through cabin fever. All gardeners are generous with their time and information. Be positive. Have questions? Can’t find something you’re looking for? Need a gift certificate? Drop us a line at
vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com. We’re always here to help you grow your green thumb!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WINTER GARDENS

I'm still playing catch up with articles I wrote for the North Star Monthly. Take a look at this really special journal and see if you are interested in subscribing.  

http://www.northstarmonthly.com



WINTER   GARDENS

PLANNING   THROUGH   CRISIS

 

It’s been a cloudy morning here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. At 6 AM, I asked myself “Where’s the sun?” and now at 1 PM, I am asking the same thing. Minor snowflakes float to earth from a gray sky as the temperature holds at 26.8° and birds and red squirrels share the feeders for a late lunch. They seem very happy despite Covid.

 

Each year a company named Pantone® announces its color choices for the upcoming year. They factor in their complete understanding of the psychology of color and come up with colors which influence everything from fashions and home and garden furnishings to the vehicles we drive, and every purchase we surround ourselves with from home to work to vacation and back…including…. the plants we grow. This year the color choices include Pantone Illuminating and Pantone Ultimate Gray. The color descriptions tell it all. “Illuminating is a bright and cheerful yellow sparkling with vivacity, a warm yellow shade imbued with solar power. Ultimate Gray is emblematic of solid and dependable elements which are everlasting and provide a firm foundation.” If you scan through gardening or home decorating magazines by late Spring you will see these colors surfacing. New colors make us review our gardens and decide what additions, subtractions or rebuilds we need to make come spring….as the new colors warm us in difficult times despite the fact that in a sense we have been here before. Here’s a thought.

 

Rewind to 1943. America was in the throes of war and times were tough. In some respects, it was different than our current Covid crisis but some of the problems were the same. A broken food supply chain was an example. From the war came the Victory Garden Manual, a book that taught us that gardening was a way to feed ourselves, our friends, neighbors and soliders. We learned what fruits and vegetables would grow in our temperate zone and we were reintroduced to the Universal Food Grinder, the Foley Food Mill, hot bath canners and pressure cookers. Not only did we learn to grow and harvest food but we also learned to put foods by.

 

Now more than 75 years later, 1/3 of American farmers are over retirement age but still working. 6% of all farmers are under age 35. Climate change is upon us, and pollinators, ever so necessary to help with our food production, are in decline. Invasive plants and invasive insects which we have never before seen in such large numbers are prevalent in our backyards. Beetles are taking down red and white pine trees, tamaracks, hemlocks, ashes, sugar maples and beeches. Is positive change possible? Yes, it is! Gardeners by their nature are always changemakers striving for a better tasting fruit or vegetable, earlier and higher production, and resistance to more viral or fungal issues. Gardeners share with us the importance of learning about new plant or seed varieties before we buy and plant them. They learn the right plants for where we live, and the right place to plant respective of sunlight, soil type, hydrology, and the plant’s growth rate to maturity. Gardeners teach us the importance of pollinators and how to grow plants that pollinators can reproduce on while they carry out their work.

 

If you haven’t gardened much before, give it a try. Raised bed or container gardening are two ways to get started. You can add fruit trees or bushes to your property and start that way with blueberries, elderberries, strawberries or apples, pears, or plums. In the process you can expand your backyard bird and animal habitat as your gardens grow. Add vegetables to your perennial flower gardens and consider when your gardens bloom and how to add color from flowers next to the blooms of vegetables you grow to eat. Blueberry bushes planted in flower gardens provide red leaves as fall approaches. Tricolor beets—the reds, oranges and yellows—seeded into flower gardens provide color and textures that contrast with your flowers and grace your table with healthy food. Clumps of purple, pink or white liatris or swaths of 3-foot-tall blue Verbena bonariensis lure all sorts of pollinators and in so doing provide entertainment as you watch them work and learn to identify them one by one. Kids love to learn insects and teaching them early on will encourage their respect for environmental concerns forever. Clumps of grasses such as Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ become floral targets for insects you probably have never seen before while offering 5 foot scapes by year 2.

 

Yes, gardeners and their gardens truly are changemakers. In times such as these, gardens offer a peacefulness, a place of respite, an activity that calms when other news is something to avoid. Give gardening a try! We know you will enjoy it!!

 

 

 

 

 

 I'm trying to catch up on reposting brief articles I posted on the North Star Monthly, a very special journal posted in Danville, Vermont. It is a historical journal, it's a current-day journal and it's a journal that shows that it cares dearly about the people of its own community. No matter where you live, I know you would enjoy a subscription. In the meantime, read on about what my thoughts were back in late 2020. 


Positive Gardening Thoughts

 

Winter has arrived in New England and although the weather temperatures and precipitation fluctuate from south to north, it’s still certain that our outside garden work has come to a halt for 2020. During the summer the higher than usual temperatures and very limited rainfall challenged all of us who enjoy farming or gardening. Drought conditions required more attention to our annual and perennial flowers, shrubs and trees than we might have been accustomed to providing.  In addition, we had to keep an attentive eye out for new insects set upon eating up our favorites. If you thought the Emerald Ash Borer was a big threat to ash trees,  the Eastern Larch Beetle has appeared in our area with a vengeance and in less than three years has devasted all the mature larch trees on our property. Fir Balsams, our favorite “Christmas Tree”, has also been doomed by insects and some reports suggest that a high per centage of native ash, larch and balsams will be totally decimated in 4-5 years. Throw in the problems with invasive plants such as Wild Chervil, Japanese Knotweed, Hogweed, Wild Parsnip, Common and Japanese Barberry, honeysuckle, and with invasive exotic earthworms –including those Crazy Snake Works/Alabama Jumpers and the gardening challenge broadens. Be positive and try to learn as much as you can about insects and invasives that are causing harm to your gardens. Gardeners often can be heard commenting about weeds in their gardens but as the quality of your soil improves to a better pH balance, weeds, which often prefer poor soils, with become less of a problem.

 

Having healthy soil is a great place to start but by itself it requires other “helpers” too. When I bought the land for our flower farm in Marshfield, I was visited by a member of a federal agriculture program. The immediate recommendation even before a soil test was ordered was the need for a soil management plan. A simple soil survey of our 4 acres determined 4 distinct soil types, each with separate needs.  The predominance of heavy clay soil in the middle portion of the acreage came with its own list of special needs as did the alluvial soil piece that historically was overrun by springtime flooding, the sand and gravel piece that parallels the Winooski River, and the wet loam that absorbed underground water runoff from the mountains across Route 2. Soil analysis is not expensive and worth requesting but it comes with a caveat—the cost in money and time to add the suggested amendments to bring the soil up to the appropriate level. It really can be a financial surprise and requires planning for. With all the new gardeners in Vermont because of Covid, it’s difficult to find manure to amend the soil and that means manures from your local farms or processed and bagged manures from far away too.  But planting green manures such as buckwheat, clovers or winter ryegrass or by adding composted leaves are ways to start the process. It takes time to improve soil but the results are always worth the effort.

 

In times like these, it’s ever so nice to look at our gardens and be able enjoy the colors of the flowers or the food we can harvest. There are abundant annual flowers that can be started from seeds if you are so inclined or purchased from your local greenhouse or nursery. If you visit our farm you’ll notice zinnias in all colors, the blues of Verbena bonariensis, mixed colors from single and double flowered cosmos, different blues from ageratums, whites, creams, oranges and yellows from marigolds with heights of 10-36”, 6 foot tall Rose Queen cleomes along the fence lines or 10” varieties included in our potted displays. There is amaranthus in lime-green, bronze, burgundy-red and coral, calendulas in oranges, yellows and straw colors , 3 foot tall dill, and sunflowers from 4 to ten feet tall. The list of perennials flowers doesn’t end and when combined with annuals you’ll always have a smile when you tour your garden. Your flowers will be yelling out “Don’t you love us?” and of course you will.

With winter upon us now, this is a great time to catch up on garden reading. Plants often have societies of gardeners interested in growing them. Annual memberships are typically in the $25 to $30/year range which includes newsletters and/or journals, meetings, lectures and display garden tours. We belong to societies for daylilies, hostas, peonies, lilacs, and rock gardens which keep us current on the latest and the greatest of each plant. And above all, belonging to plant societies provides a world-wide friendship which is ever so dear when times are tough. Yes, recognize the reality of negativity but turn to your gardens and your gardening friends for warm and positive experiences. Dirty hands are a good thing!! And don’t forget to get your kids, your neighbor’s kids and your grandkids involved too. Kids love gardening and you’ll admire their positive thoughts and behaviors too! Best gardening wishes from your friends at Vermont Flower Farm. Be safe!


LATE FALL GARDENING

 


Sometimes I get busy at the flower farm and forget to post articles that are published in North Star Monthly, a very special monthly journal that I write for. NSM is a Danville, Vermont publication with a long Vermont history. Whether you live in Vermont or not, it's a subscription that will keep you entertained. Here's what I wrote this summer.



LATE FALL GARDENING

 

Still dark here at our home on the mountain above Peacham Pond. I truly miss those days in May when I can get into the garden by 4:30. No more of that luxury now! I just returned from 5 glorious days hiking trails in Down East Maine and I’m ready to take advantage of these last few days of good weather and do some more planting at the flower farm. By the time you read this there will be snow for sure.

 

What a summer we had with record setting heat, drought, a short water supply in our water source—the Winooski River. On the positive side, and despite or maybe “because of” Covid, there was an incredible interest in gardening—all gardening—and we saw first time gardeners come to the farm, bring their kids, bring their parents, bring their pets. They were interested in all plants, trees and shrubs, vegetable starts, annual and perennial flowers. I will never forget the beautiful little girl who accompanied her Mom and asked if we had cucumber plants. I asked what they were growing this year and then learned they were excited about their vegetables. They lived in Washington DC before and had never gardened. They told me they were going to can vegetables—a new experience for them—and went on to say they were excited about canning vegetables but were having a terrible time finding canning jars and lids. This was back in June when I was still offering ideas for people before the supply dwindled. The kiddo told me they love tomatoes and couldn’t wait to can them. “How many tomatoes are you growing?” I asked. “Two”. I smiled. Like my Dad used to tell me, you have to start somewhere.

 

This past year we cancelled many plant orders and worked hard to dig and divide a few thousand more perennials from our own stock than we usually do. We had no idea the season would turn out as well as it did—our best summer in 35 years. But when you get older like me, you have to make better decisions on money so we limited hydrangeas and many other plants and shrubs we typically buy in. By the end of this growing season, we placed large replacement orders so regardless of what Spring 2021 brings us, we will have stock for when you are ready to plant again.

 

Three plants that have gained in popularity are lilacs, peonies and hydrangeas. I mention them because of how many we sold this past summer and of a renewed interest in each one based upon magazine articles and new-to-the-shelf gardening books. Gardeners always grew these, way back when and now they want them again. Lilacs and peonies bloom here in June and hydrangeas begin to bloom later in July. They all like full sunshine and do not like wet feet. For 2021, we will have 6 varieties of lilac, 33 varieties of peony including 5 Itohs, and 20 different hydrangeas. The lilacs and hydrangeas will add a new dimension to your gardens with their height and width. Both of these require some annual pruning to grow to their best flowering potential. They also require some forethought before planting so you are clear on how they will look by years 3 or 4 when their maturity brings great pleasure with abundant flower.

 

We have a successful collection of pollinator plants available at the flower farm and two years running we almost ran out of everything. Our 10 foot by 60 foot pollinator display garden will be entering year three and it’s a beauty and worthy of a visit. It’s a combination of perennial and annual flowers that backs up to the river and an adjacent field of wild flowers. The garden is a magnet for insects, butterflies, moths, bees and birds. Our friend Jody loves the place as she takes bazillions of pictures of previously unseen beauties and then retreats home to identify them. Each insect loves a specific plant and as it feeds, it entertains. We love them! The garden is a great one to share with your children, grandchildren, neighbor’s children. It is a fun place with many opportunities to work into your home schooling or remote learning programs too.

 

Gardens have a way of bringing a peacefulness that is ever so necessary in times like these. Consider building a place in your garden to sit and relax. Maybe just establish a time each week, each day, each time you need to recharge yourself and walk your gardens, see the change, enjoy the new color, the new birds. Be safe! If you need any help planning gardens—even over the winter when you might think we aren’t accessible—give us a call at 802-426-3505 or email us at vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com. We’re always here to help you grow your green thumb!

FALL PROJECTS

 Here's an article I wrote for North Star Monthly last fall. Gardening thoughts, whenever they appear, serve as reminders to good garden design, care and maintenance.



FALL   PROJECTS

 

It’s a noisy, gloomy morning here at our house on the mountain above Peacham Pond. Last night’s storm brought another .92” of rain accompanied by gusts of wind that have now “tapered” to 11 mph. The electricity is still flickering now and again so someplace there’s probably a tree across a power line. The weather folks just said that the temperature will only rise into the mid forties today and then by tonight it will be below freezing. That’s sufficient notice that we have a couple more weeks to clean up our gardens as snow will probably be here by early November.

 

I have visited various gardening departments in a variety of stores this week and have noticed there are plenty of spring bulbs still for sale. I have always felt these bags of bulbs were good investments for the home gardener because for $12-$15 you can get about 40 bulbs of good size. Everything from those nice blues of the  muscari and scilla to hundreds of varieties of narcissus, hyacinths, crocus and tulips that come in lots of colors. These don’t take long to plant and the jobs seems very worthwhile come spring when the snow finally melts and your gardens color up. Personally, we plant a few tulips every fall, knowing full well that deer love them and the blooms may or not be enjoyed for more than one day.

 

If you grow hydrangeas, either any of the paniculatas or the arborescens, they can be pruned in fall or spring. We try to get ours pruned in the fall and this year we were lucky to have friend Jody come by and volunteer to prune the 50 or so we have lining parts of the farm perimeter. She likes pruning and does a great job.

 

Raking gardens and blowing, vacuuming or shredding leaves is another fall chore. We usually leave this until the last thing we do and sometimes it’s early spring before we finish the task. All our leaves go into a compost pile made simply from a 50 foot piece of old snow fence and half a dozen fence poles. We use this exclusively for leaves and advise not to add leaves from oaks, butternuts or walnuts—any leaf that might contain tannic acid. We try to keep this compost pile clean of any plant materials which might have viruses. “Tree leaves only” will provide a nice addition to your spring gardens either worked into the soil or layered an inch or so deep between perennials on top of the gardens.

 

Fall is a good time to plan for spring. I was fortunate to find a source for 2-3 year old cow manure and bought 9 yards in September and just had 6 more yards delivered and three more yards coming. Covid 19 turned many folks into first time gardeners and the supply of garden amendments about dried up. Planning ahead is suggested!

 

This is a great time to build raised beds for next year if you never got that far this summer. In this area, Fontaine’s Sawmill in East Montpelier and P&R Lumber in Wolcott usually have hemlock cut any way you want from board sizes to 6” X 6”  timbers. Hemlock holds up well and lasts for many years. If you want to use your own trees and have any tamarack (or hemlock) on your property, portable sawmills can be hired to cut what you want. Tamaracks/larch are the only conifer where the needles turn yellow and fall off this time of year. They are a great garden accent and have a history of being used for boats and bridges because the wood does not rot. The current problem is there’s a new bark beetle that is destroying them as far north as Pennsylvania and I have read that they will have reached into Canada within four years. If this is true we will have lost another useful tree so consider it now. Under no circumstances use any pressure treated lumber. Although arsenic isn’t used anymore to prevent rotting, any chemicals just don’t mix well with fruit  and vegetables you want to grow.

 

As a final thought, order your seeds soon so you are not disappointed. Millions of people began gardening this past summer because Covid 19 kept people home. I expect that shortages will probably be greater by spring 2021 as more people want to garden. As you put together an order be sure that what you are purchasing will grow in the area you have in mind and will mature to flowering or fruiting before the end of the season. Learn what temperature zone you garden in and buy seeds you can use. Most catalogs tell the number of seeds per package or per ounce and there’s a big difference between seeds for verbena bonariensis, digitalis, or cleome versus cukes, squash or sunflowers. If you are looking to try fingerling potatoes, plan ahead as they have become very popular and sources are quickly dried up. No matter what you plant, we know you’ll have fun. Questions? Email us at vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com. The farm is closed until April but we’re still available to answer questions and sell gift certificates. We’re updating our website now and it should be finished by February. If all else fails, give us a call at 802-426-3505.

 

 

 

 

LATE SUMMER PLANTING

Sometimes I get busy at the flower farm and forget to post articles that are published in North Star Monthly, a very special monthly journal that I write for. NSM is a Danville, Vermont publication with a long Vermont history. Whether you live in Vermont or not, it's a subscription that will keep you entertained. Here's what I wrote this summer.


LATE  SUMMER  PLANTING

 

48 degrees this morning here at our home on the mountain above Peacham Pond. Gail and Alex just headed for the flower farm and I’ll be on my way soon. It’s a foggy morning with heavy dew dripping from the branches but sun is on the way. A doe and two fawns are in the field below my office window having breakfast as crows fight over scraps at the compost pile. The morning serves as a reminder that fall will be here before we know it and there are many garden chores that need attention.

 

For two weeks now we have been digging and dividing daylilies. Some have been potted up as replacement to what sold out during our greatest sales season ever. Others have been lined out in rows in the field so we continue to have adequate inventory for subsequent years. It’s all part of the nursery business. Covid-19  brought us a new crop of wanna be gardeners and I’m happy to report that many brought their kids along to see the plants, walk the fields and learn about pollinators and gardening. Many maintained the thought that we only plant flowers in the spring so they would announce that they were just looking for plants for next year. When I’d mention that fall is the absolute best time for planting perennials, they often acted surprised and decided to make purchases. It’s all part of educating the public about gardening. If you have been growing daylilies and think you need to divide what you have but are afraid to try, stop by the farm and I’ll give you a quick demonstration. It’s really easy to do and there’s almost no chance you’ll ever kill a daylily.

 

Hostas are a popular plant and over time they form large clumps that some times have grown out of proportion to their surrounding plant companions. Again, fall is a good time to divide these. I use a shovel and dig all the way around the clump about 10-12” away from the edge. Then I use a pry bar to pop the clump out of the ground as they tend to grow heftier than we think. I hose the clumps off and then cut them into small clumps depending on whether I want to pot some for spring sales, spread them throughout the garden or pass them along to friends.

 

Peonies are a favorite at Vermont Flower Farm and each year we offer more varieties for sale. We rely on commercial growers for our product as our 4.4 acres of flower farm is not large enough to put peonies into production. Peonies must be divided each three years when grown commercially so the roots are easy to divide and each root has 3-5 eyes. I tried to grow them to dig and divide for sales but quickly learned how difficult it is to successfully divide large quantities and not break larger roots while dividing them.

 

During 2020 we offered 45 varieties of peony and for 2021 we will order another dozen or so varieties. My message on peonies (actually on any plant in today’s strange commercial world) is that whatever plant you see at a nursery that you want should be purchased when you see it. Here’s an analogy. Gail questions my sanity at times when I go to the hardware store or farm equipment store…even the grocery store because if I see something, I know I will use again—such as oil filters for the tractor—I buy them in multiples when I see them. Many items are just not consistently available anymore and I dislike being disappointed.

 

We sell our peonies in 12- quart pots so they are likely to bloom during their first year. Peonies are very hardy plants that live for lifetimes but to get them to flower in abundance you must plant them at the correct depth. I suggest that gardeners follow the “two-digit rule”. Plant the roots so that if you push your finger into the soil until it touches the top of the root, you will have extended your finger two digits into the soil. This translates to no more than 2 inches. We pot our peonies at the correct depth so if you carefully remove them from the pot and keep the soil together, you will have it at the correct planting depth. We recommend over- digging the hole and adding good compost 4-6” deep in the bottom of the hole. Peonies have lots of leaves and large, abundant blooms so they require plenty of food to grow successfully. Keep the future of the plant in mind.

 

Fall is a great time for adding any perennials into or around in your garden. We seem to have this “spring is best” attitude about our flower gardens but should reconsider fall planting. If you have questions, give us a call at 802-426-3506 or stop by the nursery. We’ll be open until mid-October. Garden design questions? Ask Gail.

Friday, February 05, 2021



GYPSY   MOTHS




I often read news releases from  Michigan State or Penn State University Extension Services  because they give me a great idea of what problems might be heading our way here in Vermont. These are two schools that have super agricultural programs and they offer ongoing social media releases and webinars via Zoom. 

Here's a release on gypsy moths that is important. I have seen the caterpillars in larger numbers over the past few years. If you travel  US Route 2 between Plainfield and Marshfield and look south across the big fields and the Winooski River, you can spot a straight grey line across the mountains. The line delineates the tracks of the old Montpelier to Wells River RR that was thrown up in the early 50's. It also shows where gypsy moths are prevalent in this area. After dealing with these moths for over 50 years we know the reality involved. Just the same there are some controls that are organic and do make a difference. Read on to learn about a program that I am certain will offer good information.

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/gypsy-moth-populations-explode-in-michigan


Tuesday, February 02, 2021

 

HOSTA  CONFUSION?


We have been collecting, buying, growing and selling hostas since the early 80s and we love them. Last I looked there were around +8000 registered hostas and many, many more that were never registered. Each summer without fail, gardeners arrive at the flower farm with baskets or bags full of hostas leaves (or daylily blooms) and ask for help identifying them. Here is an example: Hosta Dream Weaver and Hosta Thunderbolt. A casual glance will challenge you to ask which hosta is which.





Dream Weaver




Thunderbolt


Dream Weaver is a sport of Great Expectations and Thunderbolt is a sport of Elegans. Notice similarities---or not---next.



Great Expectations



Hosta Elegans


I would say that 8 of 10 people who visit our hosta display garden and see Dream Weaver, Great Expectations, Elegans or Thunderbolt prefer Thunderbolt.  I guess this is a perfect example of eye of the beholder. My problem has always been that I have one very nice specimen of Thunderbolt and I have never been willing to divide it for propagation. I finally found a source online from a reputable grower and I may spring for a couple-three plants and get some going. In the meantime, make your own choice. Any of these are very nice!


Writing this morning from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the sky is dark, the temperature is 20.1° and the on and off wind is currently at 9.8 mph. We only received 3" of snow compared to our hosta friends in New Jersey. Be well!

Gardens With A Personal Touch




I prefer to share articles I have written for limited publication sometime after they are released. Gardens With A Personal Touch appeared this winter in The North Star Monthly, a Danville, Vermont publication I admire. Covid-19 has changed many things but it will never change how important gardens are to us. In a time when we need calm from the storm, our gardens can help.Read on and think how to make your gardens more personal.



GARDENS WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH

A snowy morning here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. I’ve finally shaken off several weeks of a cold virus. The woodstove is going, the birds have been fed and it’s time to turn to garden thoughts. I read an article yesterday about a gardener who bought the house of her dreams and always wanted a row of Hyperion daylilies along the road out front. Hyperion is a wonderful daylily introduced in 1924. It’s +40” tall, a nice shade of yellow and it’s fragrant. Sixty feet of garden is a great deal of work so the woman started 10 feet at a time each year, turning the soil, removing the stones and roots and debris and then amending the soil to accommodate healthy plants, 30 inches on the center. The article included a picture of the finished garden and it was really impressive!

The message here comes with a suggestion that this time of winter is perfect for planning new gardens and improving upon those you already have growing. Garden catalogs have arrived in the mail and online catalogs have been updated. So grab a pad of paper and pen and map out what you have and what you want to create. Think in terms of adding a personal touch that is specifically yours. Think of adding items that will remind you and your visitors that this garden is really “you”. This can included new plants, shrubs or trees, anything vertical, bird houses or bird baths, stone features, a piece of pottery, a piece of garden art, a single garden bench or a set of garden furniture, an arbor or a trellis….or just a good cleaning out, soil amending and a few complimentary plants.

When folks visit the flower farm and say they would like some help picking out an assortment of plants for a new garden, the first question we ask is whether the garden space is already prepared.  If the whole thing is still a vision we explain we don’t want to sell plants if the garden isn’t prepared yet. Garden shortcuts never work and only create more work down the road. We also verify soil condition, whether the soil has ever been tested, sunlight, soil moisture/proximity to streams, ponds, seasonal water runoff, and visiting wildlife. When we hear plants or shrubs that other nursery and garden center staff have said “it should grow for you” we validate the temptation with reality and our experience. We encourage our “plan it, validate that it will be a success here and plant it once.” We have never been believers in “There’s never time to do it right but there’s always time to do it over.”
Think about pockets of spring bulbs that you always wanted but never got around to planting. Spring is the wrong time to plant spring bulbs but the right time to figure out where you want to plant them come fall, and then mark your calendar with a note to order or purchase bulbs in September. Consider primulas, the primroses you see almost year round now in grocery stores and garden centers, Vermont hardy perennials that begin in late spring and grow into summer. They often self-seed well and come in many colors and leaf types. The Japanese primroses work well at the perimeter of shade gardens and can be planted in moisture-retentive soils. They stand tall enough to offer a showy presence, especially after a couple years when they have started to make colorful colonies. Consider the penstemons, the salvias, the veronicas for a variety of heights, bloom and leaf colors as well as bloom times well into summer. Spend a little extra on brunneras and pulmonarias for leaves that offer excellence as attention getters even after the flowers have passed. Give hellebores a try for early spring color and forget about the notion that they are difficult to grow or won’t survive here. And consider saving a package of dill to sprinkle around your gardens in mid-spring. Dill plants are home to hoverflies which love to eat aphids. They also are a magnet to a variety of butterflies such as the tiger swallowtails. Add a package of Verbena bonariensis to your dill seed and the result will be 3.5-foot tall flower scapes with a wonderful blue color that all pollinators adore. And finally, if through the process you have questions, send us an email at vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com or call us at 802-426-3505 with questions. We’re always here to help you grow your green thumb!