Sunday, April 13, 2008

Johnnys Seeds

Sunday, April 13, 2008

31 degrees this morning with a snow squall occurring at the top of Hooker Mountain but not a flake floating to earth here. There's light frost on the truck and the wooden walkway is a challenge for Karl and me and he has four feet to my two. Too early to get a handle on the weather, especially after yesterday which defied everything two different forecasters predicted.

Yesterday morning Karl and I stopped at our new place for the first time. The snow had melted off the entrance and parking area enough that we could get off the highway. The sun was warm even yesterday morning and Karl was eager for a walk and to have an opportunity to determine who had intruded on "his" domain since last fall.

As we looked west towards Plainfield, the large rocks we had placed last fall were finally out of the snow cover. They will be the bones for a 120' X 75' display garden for hemerocallis but will also be a place to sit and get out of the sun. No telling what trees we will plant there but Gail is working on that right now with a couple suppliers. These will be native trees and shrubs from Vermont nurserymen no matter what we arrive at.

The fence didn't do as poorly as I had expected. Several fence people told me to expect a lot of movement of the 4 X 4 X 10 pressure treated posts because the area parallel to Route 2 is quite wet. The far right corner post heaved the most and that was one I didn't put in myself but should have. It moved about 18" so the entire line of fence slackened enough to begin to sag. That stretch alone will be about two hours work to bring back together.

Up at the top, things look quite sound and the parking area we started last fall compacted nicely and remained firm. Since the ground is heavy clay underneath, I put down some sand first, then highway fabric, then crushed stone and gravel. It seems good except for the leftover potholes from so many trucks bringing in topsoil and manure. The picture just above here faces the Winooski River. In the middle of the picture is kind of a line of dirt which is really the end of a soon-to-be 10 X 200 foot display garden. Towards the top of the picture is where the building and shade houses will be built. There's another $5000 in preparatory ground work to do first and that will start in a couple weeks when the rest of the snow is melted and things settle a little more. Any year but this one, we would already be building but 7 feet of snow slows the best of plans a bit.

The land to the east facing Marshfield Village is as yet unspoken for in our plan. There is a little less than two acres there that rolls down the hill from where the building will be. It continues to a flat plain bordered by some trees and a wet area. Long term, the wet area will become an extended wildflower and hosta garden with an assortment of plants that like wet or damp feet. The perimeter will work into flowers that can take some moisture. The main field is still up for grabs and we've had suggestions for grapes and pick your own berries on the hill and propagation fields below. We're always happy to hear ideas but right now we are intent on getting the other areas established and the buildings up.

When I returned yesterday morning, Gail and I sat down and ordered a bunch of flower seeds. Johnny's Seeds in Winslow and Albion, Maine is a great company that's been around for a long time. ( 1-877-564-6697. It's employee owned and in fact the originator just retired (sort of) after a long and successful career building one of the finest seed companies in America. After going through the on-line commercial catalog three times we agreed "that's all folks" and we transmitted the order.

Not only was the order a success but we found that they carried the tomatoes I was looking for as a gift for Winnie, our Director of Hydrological Services. The good thing about these seeds is they are tried and tested in New England and there's no guessing, no disappointment. Gail and I were on a mission for asters, zinnias, calendula, ....a whole raft of cut flower varieties and then sunflowers, also for cuts. Johnnys has about 50 varieties of sunflowers and we were looking for an assortment of early to late 4-6" flower sized sunflowers which would make good cuts, by themselves or mixed in with other flowers. Sunbright Supreme, Autumn Beauty, Sonja, Velvet Queen, Pro Cut Lemon, Chocolate.......the list went on. Some places do cut your own but our plan is that we will do the cutting. They will be planted along the Winooski River so they will serve as a backdrop to the gardens and will hopefully produce a little revenue while brightening up Route 2. Sunflowers have become a popular cut flower as they hold up about a week in a vase, a little longer if you recut them when you get home and add some lemon juice to the water.

As I head out in a minute for the Sunday paper and a carton of milk, I want to remind you to consider trying some alliums this year. Like most all bulbs they are typically planted in the fall but alliums, a member of the onion family, are readily available in the spring too. They come in heights from 3" dwarf varieties up to 4 foot giants and different ones bloom from early spring on through into late July here. I wish they would self seed better than they do but it could be the acidity of the soil here that slows them down. Just the same they aren't really that expensive and they are very interesting flowers. Spring for a few bucks and try a few. I guarantee the comments from your friends will be pay back enough.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the snow shoes just got hung in the cellar until next year even though there's still over 4 feet of snow in the woods. Plenty to do here at Vermont Flower Farm even though I really wanted to get out back to the swamps around Peacham Pond to see how the deer made out. Next year????

Spring gardening wishes,

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

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