Vermont Garden Journal

Rachid H / Flickr

They’re a little late this year, probably because of our cool, wet June, but they’re here. Japanese beetle adults have arrived after over-wintering as grubs in the soil and they’re feasting on grapes, cherries, plums, raspberries, basil, roses and lots of other plants. This imported Japanese native arrived in 1916 and has wreaking havoc East of the Mississippi ever since.

Richard Roche / Flickr

You’d think a flower whose common name refers to a tiny bug wouldn’t be a highly desirable plant, but coreopsis or tickseed is a beautiful flower for your garden.

NoDerog / iStock

For as long as I can remember, each summer I get some amount of poison ivy rash.

Poison ivy is best identified by the “leaves of three, let them be," rhyme. It grows as an aggressive ground cover and up trees. I once saw a whole tree enveloped in poison ivy vines. I stayed away! It’s best to avoid contact with leaves, stems and roots since the chemical urushiol can stay active for months on clothes, tools and machinery.

Piers Nye / Flickr

This fruit tree is native to China and the leaves are used in the silkworm industry. It’s also the topic of a children’s nursery rhyme, which actually was started as a song sung by female inmates as they exercised around this bush in the prison yard. Yes, it’s the mulberry.

Duene Ellison / iStock

Ben Franklin once said, “A man of words and not of deeds, is like a garden full of weeds.” Yes, with all the rain lately, weeds are having a hay day! Controlling them can be the bane of a gardener's existence and often the reason novice gardeners throw in the hoe and head for the beach come summer.

Martin Labar / Flickr

Happy National Pollinator Week! These days, there seems to be a dedicated week for all kinds of topics, some frivolous and others not. But pollinators are important.

cjp / istock

This common edible was first used as a medicinal plant by the Chinese. It hales from Mongolia and likes cool, damp conditions. It made its way to Europe, but wasn't until the 1700's that rhubarb was used as an edible. Rhubarb eventually found its way to America and is a staple in many New England gardens.

Bryant Olson / Flickr

It is as quintessential as the fourth of July and apple pie. Sweet corn is an All-American crop and there's nothing like munching on an ear of freshly picked corn on a hot summer day. It's so sweet, I don't even bother cooking it.

Pacific NW Gardener / Flickr

Gardening is known for its folklore. Some of these old wives tales have some truth to them and others, not so much. I often get asked about companion planting for insect control. Although many say plants such as onions, marigolds and rue can deter pests, scientifically, few of these folklore remedies have been proven. 

A Shino / Flickr

These two common Herbs de Provence are both perennials in the mint family and have a multitude of uses as food and medicine. And rosemary and lavender are both hard to grow in Vermont.

Chiot's Run / Flickr

This common annual flower is related to a plant that has been grown and used for 6,000 years. It helped the early colonists survive in the New World, but unfortunately, was a crop associated with slavery and is now known to cause lung cancer. While tobacco has a checkered past, its cousin, the flowering tobacco or nicotiana, is a great flower in the garden.

Kenneth Spencer / Flickr

When I think of magnolias, memories of Grateful Dead concerts and Gone with the Wind come to mind. While this prehistoric tree is indigenous to the Southern United States, we can also grow some varieties here. And why not, newer, hardy dwarf varieties make the trees more manageable in small spaces. Plus, the large flowers are loaded with fragrance. “Ahh Sugar magnolia, ringing that bluebell, caught up in the sunlight, come on out singing.”

Voldy Morton / Flickr

Sometimes the best plants are right under our noses. Native shrubs have long been ignored as a landscape plant but that seems to be changing. Native shrubs, by nature, are hardy, better adapted to our climate and provide critical habitat for wildlife. Some have attractive flowers, colorful berries and fall foliage. Here are three of my favorites.

wysiwtf / flickr

Spring is time to get your soil ready for planting. Organic matter is key to soil health and building it with annual additions of compost is a good idea. But sometimes, especially in a vegetable or annual flower garden, there is a need to add more than compost. Annual flower and vegetable plants pull many nutrients from the soil. Based on a soil test you may find deficiencies and may need an organic fertilizer to help restore some balance.

Flict / Flickr

In a Mary Oliver poem, she says of this plant, “Most things that are important, have you noticed, lack a certain neatness.” Well, this is certainly true of bleeding hearts. This Dicentra family plant makes an early spring appearance as soon as the ground thaws. The grassy foliage quickly grows into a floppy 3 to 4 feet tall and wide plant that's loaded with heart-shaped flowers. The colorful flowers appear to have a trickle of blood dripping out the bottom, hence the common name, bleeding heart.

Skanska Matupplevelser / Flickr

Growing up, I was always told to never judge a book by its cover. Well, that applies to vegetables as well. Celeriac is not the prettiest of veggies. The dark green celery stalk and leaves are attractive enough, but its the root that's the problem. This gnarly, tan colored orb partially sticks out of the ground when mature and when you rip it out of the bed (it can be tenacious to pull out of the soil), I feel like it should be screaming like mandrakes from a Harry Potter movie. It's really not a pretty picture.

MonaMakela / iStock

On a cold, snowy night in February, I was invited to the Jericho Town Library to talk about seed saving. But this wasn't your regular home gardener audience. These gardeners have created a seed library. 

YinYang / iStock

Apples are as common to our landscape as maple trees. But one type, in particular, has multiple uses. This apple goes by odd names such as scroggy, bittersgall and sour grabs. The fruit were roasted and added to wassail. The Norse word for this apple means “scrubby” because the original varieties had thorns and multiple stems. We know this tree as the crabapple.

Adam Peterson / Wikipedia Commons

When is a potato also a bean and a nut? When it's a groundnut or the potato bean. Apios americana is a Native american vine that grows from the Gulf of Mexico through New England.

smphoto / iStock

This climbing, pea family vine hails from Asia, but there are species native to the US as well. It grows rampantly engulfing pergolas, arbors, fences, walls and cars. It's the wisteria vine.

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