Vermont Garden Journal

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The spirea is a spring blooming shrub that can look magnificent when cared for properly. Unfortunately, many gardeners plant them in the wrong location and they get too big blocking windows and walkways and end up pruning them into little geometric shapes.

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Some homeowners relish the challenge of creating a lush, green lawn devoid of creeping dandelions and other weeds. Most gardeners are somewhere in between about their lawn. Take a look around your neighborhood and you'll see a range of interest in lawn care.  

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One of the best gifts you can give a child is to garden with them. Most adult gardeners started in the garden with mom, dad or a favorite grandparent. Introducing kids to gardening at a young age leads to a lifetime of healthy eating and loving plants and the environment.

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A common question gardeners have is "what ground covers can be grown in shade?" First of all, all shade is not created equally. Shade under an evergreen tree is different than shade under a small crabapple. So it's best to match the type of shade you have with the ground cover.

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Broccoli has skyrocketed in popularity, becoming one of the top ten vegetables eaten in the United States. While we're all familiar with the classic, green-domed broccoli heads, there are other unusual types, too.

All these broccoli relatives like cool temperatures to grow and mature, so plant in early May for an early summer crop or in mid to late summer for a fall crop. Thwart cabbage worms by growing under floating row covers or spraying with the pesticide BT.

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Trillium is a native, woodland plant is one of the signature flowers of spring. It has three leaves, sepals and petals giving it the common name, the trinity flower.

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Although mangoes don't grow in Vermont, other exotic fruits such as persimmons do. Varieties fall into astringent and non-astringent, Asian and American categories.

Most persimmons you find in the grocery store are astringent Asian types. Non-astringent Asian types are eaten while still crunchy like apples. Both Asian types won't grow in our climate, but the astringent American types can.

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Columbine is a common perennial. Its Latin name means "eagle," for the spurs on the flowers. The common name also means "dove" because when you flip over the flower, it looks like doves sitting around a fountain.

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Green peppers taste fine, but there's nothing like the sweet, rich flavor of a red yellow or orange pepper. If you haven't had much luck trying to grow sweet peppers try the Italian frying peppers.

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Serviceberry grows in full sun or part shade, in a variety of soil types and can be 10 to 25 feet tall depending on the species. 

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Hugelkultur is permaculture technique originally used in Germany and Eastern Europe but has recently gained popularity worldwide. The German word, roughly translated, means “mound bed” and the technique can be as simple as burying a log in soil to create a mound.

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Begonias originally came from Central and South America and they gained popularity once they came to Europe in the 1700s. Today, Begonias are still popular among gardeners.

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There aren’t many perennial vegetables that thrive in Vermont’s climate, but if you’re looking for one try the Egyptian walking onion.

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The redbud is one of the first plants to bloom in spring. It has tiny, bright pink flowers that open before its leaves emerge, giving the tree a neon glow. The flowers, which are edible, were used as medicine by Native Americans.

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Houseplants are great for cleaning the air and brightening up a house during the dark winter months. They actually reduce depression and anxiety and help patients heal faster. Two methods for growing more house plants are cutting and air layering.

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Some wild greens are found outside, growing on their own and while others require some cultivation to reach their full potential. Either way, wild greens like arugula or mache make a great addition to any meal. 

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Witch hazel is a shrub that doesn't need much attention. It grows in full sun or part shade, does best in well-drained soil and has few pests (although deer seem to like eating it occasionally). Consider adding some witch hazel to your landscape with hollies, viburnums and dogwoods to add some color in winter.

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Even though you can't work in your garden during the winter, that shouldn't stop you from designing your garden for the spring! A great way to add some interest and flair to your garden is an herb spiral.

Herb spirals mimic the spirals seen in in snail shells, plant tendrils and leaves. They create a nice landscape feature to grow herbs in a small space and allow you to grow different plants that require different growing conditions together in the same space.

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Winter is a great time to reflect on last year's garden and plan what to do in the new growing season. Here are some tips to help with your perennial flower garden design:

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  A new year means it's time to peruse the seed catalogs and look for new vegetables to start this spring. Here are some veggies I'm excited to try growing this year: