Vermont Garden Journal

Before producing fruit, the Corneilian cherry tree comes alive in spring with brilliant yellow blooms that birds and bees are fond of.
Clement Peiffer / iStock

I just finished pruning my cherry trees. While I love the taste of the sweet and tart cherries, there are a few other cherries to consider for your yard.

Similar to these traditional raised beds, a keyhole raised bed not only gets you gardening sooner in spring, but also saves space.
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It's time to start thinking about your vegetable garden. Many gardeners have transitioned from flat, straight rows to raised beds. Raised beds warm up faster in spring, drain water sooner and allow you to garden more intensively without as much work. But the next level of raised beds is the keyhole bed.

David Gomez, istockphoto.com

I was on a roll in early March pruning my fruits. Then it snowed, got cold and I retreated to the cozy fire. But my blueberries still need pruning and once the snow melts, I'll be back at it.

An essential oil bottle next to lavender flowers laying down on a surface.
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The name "lavender" comes from the Latin word meaning "to wash" — referring to the Mediterranean herb's use in baths, beds and clothing. Its oil is used medicinally as an antibacterial, anti-convulsive, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic. Queen Victoria even used it to soothe her nerves. This herb also adds a slightly sweet flavor to breads, soups, salads and desserts — and it can be grown here in Vermont!

Not only does flowering quince provide food for pollinating bees, but its fruit can be used to make jam for human consumption.
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With spring knocking at our door, sort of, I'm always on the lookout for signs of the season. One shrub that fails to disappoint in my garden is the flowering quince or Chaenomeles.

Originating in India, the traditional cucumber has evolved over the past 3,000 years and includes an assortment of shapes and colors.
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The cucumber as we know it from our salad bowl is, in fact, a 3,000 year old vegetable from India. There are many variations of this melon-friendly veggie; let's look at a few. 

Your indoor seedlings may be pushing through the soil but even they need some extra TLC from time to time.
iStock/Vaivirga

The days are getting longer, the sun is stronger and with warm weather this week, gardeners are thinking about sowing seeds. Though it's still too early to sow outdoors, you can start seeds indoors and you may already have seedlings popping up. But sometimes your little seedlings don't look very happy. This could be due to a number of factors. So, let's do some seed-starting problem-solving.

When starting seeds indoors, open trays are good for large quantities while cell trays are best for smaller amounts.
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We're getting closer to indoor seed-starting time. Actually, some vegetables seeds, like leeks, could have been started already. But if you're new to indoor seed-starting or need a refresher, let's walk through the basic steps to growing transplants in your home.

Long-stemmed roses are a traditional Valentine's Day flower, but miniature roses are just as pretty, will continue blooming and can even be moved outdoors.
Kusska / iStock

It's almost Valentine's Day and, of course, the flower of love is the rose. But this year, instead of giving the usual cut roses, why not a rose plant? Miniature roses come in many shapes, with some being three- to four-feet tall, but still called miniature. But I'm thinking of the micro-mini rose plants found in garden centers and floral shops. These grow around 12- to 18-inches tall with small, colorful, fragrant flowers and can be grown indoors and outside.

In order to keep a pollinator garden active through the growing season, a diversity of flowers is needed to produce nectar and pollen.
Jill Lang / iStock

Monarch butterflies and honey bees have become the poster children for the plight of pollinating insects. More and more, we are realizing the importance they play in our food system and ecology. While the threat is global, there are things we can do in our own yards to help the local populations, like creating a pollinator garden.

When planning a cottage garden, remember to allow space for a seating area to sit back and enjoy your creation.
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Everyone loves cottage gardens! They overflow with color, texture and exuberance. This informal design is not simply “letting things go,” but more aptly called organized chaos. There's a method to the madness and and some elements to consider.

Pentas, also known as Egyptian star flowers, are great for adding a splash of color in window boxes and planters.
aimintang / iStock

I'm always looking out for new flowers. Not necessarily the next color of petunia, but flowers that aren't widely known. This year, pentas have struck my fancy.

Oxalis, or the shamrock plant, can be brought indoors in winter as long as certain steps are carefully followed.
Scacciamosche / iStock

Some may say that oxalis, or the shamrock plant, is an invasive weed, a sour-tasting groundcover or a cute houseplant. All three are correct. In warm climates, oxalis can be an attractive groundcover or a weed. In colder climates, yellow sorrel is an oxalis that grows as an understory plant in the forest. Then there's the tender houseplant versions. This is where oxalis becomes more interesting.

Jicama is a crunchy, sweet Central American root vegetable that can also be grown in warmer areas of Vermont.
bhofack2 / iStock

In our culture, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes and sweet potatoes are favorite roots in gardens and on tables. But there are other unusual roots worth growing.

A new variety of habanero pepper is called 'Roulette' which offers a citrus flavor rather than heat.
Debbi Smirnoff / iStock

One of my year-end rituals is to start perusing seed catalogs. I love sitting by a roaring fire with tea and cookies while looking for new vegetable varieties. Read on or listen to the podcast to hear what I've found so far.

Aglaonema, also known as a Chinese evergreen, requires less care than most houseplants and is a good choice for someone who doesn't have a green thumb.
Pichaitun / iStock

This time of year, our houses are filled with poinsettias, Christmas cactus and amaryllis flowers. All of their colorful flowers are quite festive during the holidays. But if you're still looking for a holiday gift for the black thumb in the family, allow me to share three suggestions for shade-tolerant, low maintenance houseplants that even they will find hard to kill.   

With so much extreme weather these days, protecting your garden is more important than ever.
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Wildfires in California, floods in Texas and Florida, drought, sudden bursts of high and low temperatures, you get the idea. We're officially in the world of weather extremes. Even in Vermont, an intense, unusual wind storm this fall destroyed my greenhouse and uprooted 50-year-old trees.  How does a gardener prepare for all this extreme weather? 

Oranges and other citrus fruit can be grown indoors in colder climates by using certain dwarf varieties and creating proper conditions.
Davizro / iStock

On my garden tour to France last fall, we went to Versailles. The city is famous for gardens, palaces and its orangerie. An orangerie is a building built to grow lemons, oranges and limes year-round in a cold climate. But you don't have to build an orangerie to enjoy citrus even in our northern climate.

Milkweed floss, once used to stuff pillows and mattresses, is coming into favor again as an insulation for winter jackets.
M Raust / iStock

I love it when old ideas come full-circle and become relevant again. For example, take milkweed. This common plant is considered a weed by farmers trying to grow forage crops; however, it's prized by butterfly lovers since the plant provides essential food for the monarch butterfly. Now, milkweed has another use that harkens back to Colonial times.   

Unlike true cactus that grow in desert climates, the Christmas cactus is native to the wet, coastal mountains of Brazil.
Nadezhda Nesterova / iStock

Common plant names can be misleading. Joe Pye weed isn't a weed at all. Eggplant does not bear eggs and I have yet to find crabs on my crabapples. The name Christmas cactus is the same. You'd think it would bloom at Christmas time, but mine start in November and continue through late winter.

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