Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunny Labor Day Coming

August 31, 2008

Ten minutes before 8 PM and I just heard the water stop running to the roadside garden here on the mountain. Gail has been out watering potted daylilies for over two hours but the darkness has pushed her to the limit and she will settle in for the night.

August has sped by for us and we cannot figure out where summer went. The bad weather will be a forever memory but the amount we accomplished in a few months will encourage us on for the balance of this season and on into the next. In most all respects it was a very good summer.

Two nights back we looked at pictures from early May when our new business was but a flat of groomed crushed stone and a pile of lumber. Three and a half months later as business winds down, we can look at a very nice building, two shade houses, electricity, a water pump, twenty four planted gardens of daylilies, a full five acre perimeter fence, and the makings of a very nice daylily display garden. The "things-to-do" list is very, very long but in a four days we'll take a break and head to Maine as we always do. Then we'll return and work as long as the ground temperature remains at 50 degrees or better. We need eight more 12 X 50 foot gardens for more daylilies and two 30 X 60 foot gardens which will shadow either side of a new shade house of that same dimension. That shade house won't arrive until next spring but we want to begin to get the accompanying gardens ready now.

I guess what this shows is that two people, with a business plan, with a dose of mental and physical perseverance, with some good friends and with some loyal workers can really take big steps in a short season. We are very proud of what we have accomplished but without everything and everyone mentioned, it couldn't have happened this quickly or this well.

For a couple weeks now hundreds of sunflowers have welcomed us each day. Like the smiling faces we saw every morning when we started work, the bright sunflower colors encourage us to continue. As summer really ceases and fall moves into winter, I will try to fill in the blanks of moving a business like this. When I started this blog I promised to offer thoughts about this type horticultural business. I've gotten off course at times and missed cues when I had good opportunities but considering the work accomplished, it's understandable. Bear with us

and like two sunflowers sharing sunflower stories, we'll catch up soon.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond, where evening quiet is just that.....quiet.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

August Colors Continue

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's quiet now, almost 8:30 PM and an in-between time that occurs just after the sun's last rays absent themselves and before the night celestials turn on or the night animals begin to sing. There's an interruption of sorts going on in the kitchen as Alex is mixing a grapefruit spritzer--cling-cling-cling with the spoon and Gail just took a Honey Spice Cake out of the oven--the second in as many days. The recipe comes from a World War II cookbook Alex and I found at the used bookstore in Plainfield some time ago. We have cooked many recipes from it and this one served as Alex's birthday cake yesterday. Three boys came over, all friends from pre school days. They are all good guys who have learned to accept their friends autism and not forget him despite how the world turns.

Gardeners ask for help this time of year in their quest to bring more color to their gardens. For us, much of the color is accidental as everything we plant has a purpose and a place but for some, this is difficult. The top picture includes orienpet lilies from Judith Freeman and The Lily Garden, Vancouver, WA. If you like the lilies, go to her site by the same name and you'll be fascinated by your opportunities. The backdrop includes a hydrangea of unknown origin but one Gail acquired and planted several years back. It started slow this spring after begin covered by 8 feet of snow this winter but it is a champion and adds nice contrast. Look carefully and you'll note a yellow hollyhock flower which adds the contrast collections like this need.

The Lilium superbum are bordered on the left by hosta flowers and backdrops of shasta daisies. The fence post that is sticking up was salvaged perhaps 15 years ago, maybe longer from a long fence that someone was throwing out in Woodstock, Vermont. It's covered with blue and gray fungus now but it sure provides a definition to our gardens.

There are many, many cimicifugas out there now and these are an example. Gail goes for the dark one like James Compton, Pink Spike, Hillside Black Beauty or Brunette but I'll take waves of ramosa or the height of atropurpurea any time. These were renamed actea but I'll accept cimicifuga for some time.

August color is a must and this year, although our new nursery gardens are lacking in maturity, they are on their way to being special too. Sometimes gardens that reside in past memory or current mind have sufficient display to get the garden designer in us working better when we visit plant club sales and nurseries we like. If you have a question or an incomplete thought, ask Gail when you stop by. She is forever completing sentences for me so i'll bet she can help you too.

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl the Wonder Dog is already snoring and spice cake aromas seem more tantalizing than tv convention noise. Maybe with vanilla ice cream tonight--the spice cake, not the convention!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm Our website that can serve as a place to pull together great gardening ideas

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Zinnia Time

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Heading for 9 PM already so it has been a long enough day here at Vermont Flower Farm. I was later than usual getting to Route 2 to open for business today but figured folks would not stop by until well after lunch because of the good weekend weather. I was right about that so I had some time to get a few things caught up. Every morning we begin by picking a representative daylily from the garden of each variety we have in bloom. This time of year things are slowing down so it didn't take as long.

I just got in full swing with one row remaining to draw from and I heard a car coming down the flat, obviously in trouble and sputtering like an engine on it's last leg. It coasted into our driveway entrance, half blocking the area. Before I could make it to the top of the field, the owner, a woman with three kids in tow, asked if she could use the phone as her cell phone didn't work in our area and her car, (why yes!) just "stopped".

Many people in Vermont, and around the country for that matter, try to make a car go forever. Cars are expensive and so are clothes for three kids going off to school next week. This car was a 2000 Ford van and my money is on the fact it won't ever run again. Two calls to her friends, one to AAATravel for the wrecker and by 9:40 things were back to normal for me but not for the "carless" family.

I got back to picking sunflowers for sale as cut flowers and then zinnias by the bucketfull. People always have liked zinnias and I remember them from my first days in Vermont when the neighboring farm ladies, Fidelia and Lillian, and their mother, Eunice, had a flower garden with rows of 'State Fair' zinnias growing tall all season.

As I finished the picking, I checked the water pump and happily found that it was still working well. I began dead heading the daylilies in the field when Winnie, our Chief of Hydrological Services (80 something years old and better fit than me!) called to see if Gail had arrived and if so was she ready for some fresh coffee. Winnie is a special person who does the work of many local people helping our community. We are somehow on the list she maintains and she helps water plants and do odds and ends including making coffee for Gail when she needs a cup.

Gail arrived and the coffee and conversation seemed to give sufficient jump-start on the bouquet making project which went on for an hour. I had picked buckets of various sizes of zinnias as well as foliage from cosmos and some stems of Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway' I thought would make nice filler..... and it did.

I had some errands to run too including a stop to pick up a load of calcium sulphate, more commonly known as gypsum. I am getting closer to tilling 8 more 12 X 50 foot gardens and as soon as that is finished, I need the gypsum to break down the clay. By the time I got back at 6 PM, the place was quiet and I could sit for a minute and enjoy the things we have accomplished so far this summer. If you get a chance to come visit, you'll probably be as amazed as we are.

As I sat in the hosta shade house, I was reminded that Austin is with us for one more week before returning to college. He'll keep the Chevy loaded next week and will continue planting the various display gardens. He's been a real asset too and like the zinnias, has grown this summer and learned a lot about this kind of business.

Time for sleep as I have to move the tractor in the morning. Hope you enjoyed the day.

Good gardening!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Daylilies Continue To Bloom

Alice In Wonderland

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

58 degrees here on the hill with a heavy fog hanging down towards the pond. It would be a great morning to tour the various kettle ponds around here and take pictures of the fog over the water and the moose and deer drinking at the edge. The nursery calls me to set up for Gail for the day before I head out to the real job. Sadly for me, there's no time for taking pictures or enjoying the wild critters. Today it's just a thought, but maybe I can squeeze out one early morning this weekend.

The summer has been a summer with no summer with heavy, constant rains which have made the daylily fields a muddy mess. Just the same the daylilies are blooming and blooming and some like the Chicago series are now putting forth more scapes. Double Dream and Classy Lassie are two basic daylilies but if you don't have them in your garden, you should stop by and take a look or call Gail and order some. They bloom on and on, not with a couple blooms here or there but with a profusion we haven't seen before. I expect them to bloom for a couple more weeks like this but the weather will be the influencing factor I am sure.

Patio Parade

Around the garden there are some daylilies that catch my eye. These are not fancy, new-to-the market, collectors favorite type plants but daylilies that are backbones of a garden, daylilies that bloom dependably and fill the palette. Patio Parade is blooming strong and 32" tall right now. The petals are thick and high winds don't waste it away. I planted two dozen this spring by the lower nursery border next to some tall white veronica and close to some Eupatorium maculatum 'Gateway'. Next year this spot will be an attention-getter as the contrast in foliage, height and color are dynamic. Folks who want a couple noticeable daylilies by the back garden or entrance are noticing Patio Parade for this use.

Grape Velvet

This is not a good picture of the beauty of Grape Velvet. I can't seem to get the color right. The name says it all but the picture doesn't show what I want. This is an older daylily which is difficult to find. We grow on all we can and never have enough. For three years now Gail has tried to order in a quantity from our supplier and they never are correct. The color is really darker and the velvet part of the name is very true. We have about three dozen left for sale this year so if this tickles your interest, call Gail soon.

Double Firecracker

Doubles never intrigued me--kind of like streaked hostas but it's something that grows on you. I always loved Double River Wye, a light, lemon double that has started blooming in our garden again. This Double Firecracker and Double Dream, Double Yellow and Double Gold are all blooming off and on now and it's nice to see the stand-out colors as we are half way to September.

Guess I better get going here. I was interrupted once already by Karl the Wonder Dog. He heard a small buck entering the hosta garden and I don't know what possesses me to try to protect a garden that has been neglected and well eaten so far this year. Just the same, we ran out and non stop barks with mild ferocity got the buck down the road far enough that he knew Karl wasn't coming. The buck's challenge was really an insult to Karl's ability but Karl and other dogs seldom pick up on animal insults. A dog with a wagging tail clearly thinks he "did good".

Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where good gardens soothe tired bones and sore muscles and make me feel proud about what we have accomplished this year at the new nursery. Come visit if you can!

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

Friday, August 08, 2008

Flying Beauty

Friday, August 8, 2008

A wet evening here on the hill. Gail and Alex and I had a hasty dinner, caught the first ten minutes of the local news and watched a 47 minute recreation of an H.P. Lovecraft tale. It was a movie recreation made to look like a silent movie from the early 1900s. The similarities between an icon in the movie and something in the Johnny Depp/Pirates of the Caribbean series were amazing. Alex says that Lovecraft was not enamored by spiders or octopus tentacles so I guess that explains some of this. This all has absolutely nothing to do with gardening except that it was a prelude to our getting outside before the sun retreated in fear of more rain.

We made Karl the wonder dog go out back for a walk. He hates evenings like this because it is so silent he can't pick up the sound of intruders to his space. We walked some and stopped to pick wild blueberries which he loves. Too much sitting and riding for me in the past two days so the berry picking (bending) was brief.

When it rains like this, I wonder where the butterflies and moths go. The Great Spangled Frittillary pictured above is one of many here this year because the food sources they enjoy are so plentiful. The thistles, milkweeds, bee balms, and coneflowers are too thick to believe and the butterflies abound. I have been intrigued by a bumblebee-like clearwing hummingbird moth and I have found this website very useful because it can be made specific to Vermont's counties. We live in Washington County but you can find yours too.

As we walked around tonight I noticed some of the flowers were drenched from too much rain but still looked nice to me. The Oriental lilies have great fragrance when they first come out but even after today's rain, the perfume was apparent. Gold Band and Sheherazade are a couple I like.

As we walked along, I noticed that the purple echinacea which have been blooming at the nursery for two weeks are just unfurling petals here on the hill. 700 feet does make a difference.

In contrast, the beautiful color of the vase shaped hosta, Liberty, is as pleasing as ever. This one lost part of a leaf to a nibbling deer but it's still a beauty anyone would like in their collection.

The weekend is almost here and we hope for some improvement in the weather so gardeners can get out and see us. If you live nearby, stop in for a visit and let me know if you read this blog.

From the mountain above Peacham Pond where the rain has started up again. The sound is tranquilizing and a little reading should put me away for the night.

Best weekend wishes,

Tired George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Flower Farm

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thistle madness

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A damp day here on the hill created by residual rains which just won't stop. Today is supposed to be the only half nice day between now and next Monday so we will have to make the best of it. I start the day at Root Canal City and hope the balance of the day improves.

The amount of rain we have received over the past three weeks is measured in quantities greater than one foot. I don't know the total here because I never had the courage to put up the rain gauge. Three storms measured in excess of 3" each and many other storms exceeded an inch at a clip. Just when the water in the daylily fields was receding a little, it rained another .7 of an inch and we are back to mud. I have had to use survey tape and re-bar to block off certain areas where it's too slippery for folks. The other day when I arrived at the nursery, Gail had a woman doing kind of a grape stomp dance with her feet inside 5 gallon buckets of water. She had
tried to do what Gail said not to do and got buried down around the daylily, Garnet Hager. The color caught her attention but the mud caught her feet. As soon as she exited the buckets, she slipped on Gail's spare boots and went back into the mire to pick daylilies herself. I guess Gail will go to lengths to make a good sale.

Forty Carats (above) just came out. There are a lot of goldy-yellows out there but this one is special. It's big and thick and the ribs coming out of the throat are powerful.

Daveo Holman is a plant I picked up from a supplier in Wisconsin. It's a giant flower but after two years, it's still quite short here.

Decateur Bullseye has made Gail quite happy. She likes distinct eyezones on big, tall scapes. That's this one for sure. On any given day, we try to pick three dozen or so daylilies to show customers what is in bloom. The table always draws attention and sure encourages sales, especially from those who can't easily walk into the gardens, slippery mud days or not.

If you're out and about today, stop by our nursery at Route 2 and talk daylilies with Gail. She's juggling home care for her 91 year old mother right now but my guess is she'll be at work by 9 like she always is.

Gardening wishes from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Karl is barking at a feral cat and I better be heading to the world of work.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Vermont Gardens
Vermont Flower Farm A website that should remind you to visit us on Route 2, just west of Marshfield Village