Friday, March 05, 2021


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.



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.

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