Friday, February 22, 2008

Time For Garden Planning

Friday, February 22, 2008

The moon is rising over Peacham Pond and it's looking smaller and smaller as it gets higher into the sky. It has been special to us this week with the eclipse and then its clarity in the mornings as it sets over Route 232 at the top of the hill. I went to Springfield and White River Wednesday so I was a little later than usual heading up the hill. As I crested the top and headed down, I could see all the way to Camp's Hump behind the lunar giant. I reached for the little camera that is sometimes with me but the shot was missed again.

Tonight as I write, the sky is clear and the temperature is dropping. I was in St Albans this afternoon and I had a scary ride home. For a guy that drives 45,000 miles a year, I know bad driving. The road glassed over quickly today as the snow hit in blinding, blizzard format. When I arrived here I came in and hit the couch. Not moving was good. Prying white knuckles apart was better. Then the phone rang, "Hello, I'm calling about astilbes."

For a couple weeks now the phone has been ringing and customers have been asking for astilbes. Gail and I have, without doubt, grown and sold more astilbes than anyone in Vermont. We've been growing them since we first met and generally we have over 70 varieties, sometimes more, but never less than 60 varieties. I usually remind people that if they see something they like, buy it now because when we have to stop selling certain varieties to grow some along, it might take several years before we are ready to offer them again.

During the past two years, astilbe sales have been exceptional. We've been happy because we have really promoted them for years now so it's nice for us to have sales coming together on another plant product. Just the same we couldn't figure out why people were calling and all asking for astilbes. I always have to remind myself that when the snow is thigh deep here, gardeners someplace in America are out in their gardens tilling the soil and planting. When it's cold and snowy or icy, those thoughts just don't germinate with me.

A few nights back the phone rang at around 2 AM. We have been receiving too many 2-3-4 AM calls lately from a certain 91 year old mother-in-law who has a.) succumbed to macular degeneration and is blind and b.) dropped her talking watch too many times so that she has to guess...and let me confirm, she's not a good guesser....what time it is. About the time I was putting together a response for the old gal, I found out the caller was not my mother-in-law at all but a gardener from the west coast. She wanted astilbes. She was from Oregon, second from that state in two weeks, and she was very, very pleasant. I took the order and then couldn't stand not asking how she found out about Vermont Flower Farm. "You know, I saw your address in the back of Better Homes and Gardens Perennials". I agreed as if I knew what she was saying to me, thanked her for her order and said goodbye. With sleepy eyes and a sore elbow I rolled over, checked the order for accuracy and went back to sleep.

Morning came quickly and I felt more like an old boxer than an old gardener as I don't do well with interruptions while I'm sleeping. I don't need more than 5 hours of sleep to get by but it has to be "hours in a row". Boy was I tired!

When I returned home that night, Gail wanted to know who I talked to on the phone. I had a question for her too. "Who put our name, number and website in Better Homes & Gardens Spring Perennial Issue???" For a response, I received a question. Understand me, if I ask a question it's because I want an answer but truly, I have never seen anyone like Gail. She can answer a question with a question and get a conversation mixed up in seconds. Without doubt she could bring down a political debate in just minutes. This time I received a half question "So that's what that was about?"

"What's about what?" I asked. Now I was confused...and tired. Then it came out. Last summer in the middle of a rush of customers and everyday confusion, someone called and said they had been referred to us as sellers of nice astilbes. It was the magazine and they wanted permission to add us as a source. Gail gladly replied but forgot the conversation. All the recent calls had obviously been generated by the spring issue of BH&G Perennials. Two days later I found a copy in Barnes and Noble and the mystery was solved.

Astilbes are a great flower. I wrote about them in 2007 and will continue to praise them time and again. Although I'm in the process of changing our website to a Dreamweaver format, take a look at the Astilbes page and you'll see some of the varieties we carry. Check back in mid April and with luck you should see a new look and some new astilbes. Feel free to call with questions, but try if you can to reach us before bedtime.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's an even 10 degrees above zero.

Good night!

George Africa

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