Vermont Garden Journal

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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.

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American Chestnut trees used to fill forests on the East coast from Georgia to Maine, providing food and rot-resistance lumber. Unfortunately, an Asian blight in the early 1900's killed most American Chestnut.

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Edible mushrooms are available in more places than just your local grocery store's produce section. Mushrooms can be locally found by foraging in your area or cultivated in your garden. 

An easy mushroom to cultivate is the native wine cap or Stropharia mushroom. They have a mild flavor, are easy to recognize and hard to confuse with harmful species. Stropharia are visually similar to Portabello mushrooms and the caps can grow to be rather large.

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The larch, also known as the tamarack, is a large deciduous tree native to Europe and North America.

The rot-resistance wood of the larch was used to built most of Venice, Italy. It is also used to make bonsai trees and is one of the last trees to change color in the fall. 

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I always feel a bit sad this time of year for my annual flowers. Some have just come into their own, only to be nipped by frost. While it’s easy to buy new plants in spring, some varieties just beg to be overwintered. But before you go digging up your prized flowers to bring indoors there are a few tips to keep in mind.

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This common flower symbolizes fall as much as pumpkins and corn stalks. It’s been grown for thousands of years in China and Japan not only for its beauty, but for medicinal and culinary uses. A Chinese proverb says, “If you want to be happy for a lifetime, grow chrysanthemums."

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Like many gardeners, for years I would diligently clean up the veggie and annual flower gardens this time of year, pulling out dead plants and adding them to my compost pile. But in the last few years I’ve decided to compost in place. Instead of feeding the compost pile, I feed the garden soil in the beds directly.