Vermont Garden Journal

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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:

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'Tis the season for mistletoe! It's a plant with a rich history and was once said to have sacred powers to enhance fertility, peace and extend your life. Today scientists are testing mistletoe as a treatment for diseases such as cancer.

Even though winter solstice is drawing near, the usually cold nights, snow flurries and wind chills are absent. November was one of the warmest on record in Vermont and so far that streak is expected to continue through December.

Our warm weather is a product of a particularly strong El Nino year, and colder weather is not expected till later in the season. 

For gardeners, the warm weather is a blessing and a curse.

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Colorful plants and seasonal greens are a staple in many homes during the holiday season, but it’s important to makes sure you protect your children and pets from toxic varieties. Exposure to such plans can cause a range or reactions: from a mild skin irritation, to stomach upset, to a serious issues needing medical attention.

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For a gardener, you can always give gift certificates for bags of compost or potting soil, but let's go out on a limb to find a few gifts more creative gifts for the gardeners on your shopping list.

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Holly shrubs used to be placed around houses to ward off evil spirits, bad luck, animals and even fairies. The leaves and berries were used medicinally and in Celtic folklore the Holly King ruled the land during the winter.

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A tenacious vine, the Virginia creeper is best known as the plant gracing the walls of Ivy League Schools. It has five leaflet leaves and small tendrils that adhere to just about any surface that allow it to climb to great heights without falling over.

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Kale continues to amaze me, especially this time of year. Not only does it survive cold temperatures, it shines. The flavor gets sweeter and the texture more tender with the shorter, cooler days. It's a vegetable that's hard not to love.

Kale is actually a primitive cabbage, related to the rutabaga. Kale will last into winter, and even into the spring if protected in the garden with a winter row cover.