Vermont Garden Journal

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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."

Amanda Shepard / VPR

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.

Dean Lyeteffi / iStock

With the exploding production of hard ciders, there has been a renewed interest in antique or heirloom apple varieties. Apples were originally grown in our country not for fresh eating, but to drink. And hard cider was especially prized. You can see why everyone was so excited with Johnny Apple Seed running around the countryside sowing apples. Back a hundred years ago, there were many more varieties of apples than grown today. Specific varietal blends were used to make tasty ciders.

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These flowers were gathered in the wilds of Turkey by Ottoman sultans and were depicted on paintings, wall covering and in decorative arts throughout the 1500s. Later on hybrid versions of these blooms spurred a whole flower industry in Europe, including a market crash. But the species versions have gathered less attention.

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When is a tomato, not a tomato? When it’s a cherry? If that doesn’t make much sense, you’ll understand the confusion over ground cherries. These tomato family fruits grow close to the ground. The “cherry” refers to the yellow fruit inside the papery husk. The fruits have a sweet flavor with just a hint of tomato.

Andrew Teman / Flickr

These fruits have been grown for more than 3000 years in Japan and China. Although they share a name with a similar European fruit, they present themselves totally differently. They are round, crisp textured, and juicy. We call them Asian pears.

Mercedes Rancaño Otero / istock

I’m moving on in the hydrangea world. When the first ‘Endless Summer’ blue hydrangeas hit the market I thought it was the holy grail of hydrangeas for our climate. But unfortunately, many times ‘Endless Summer’ has turned into Endless Bummer for lack flower production.

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Late summer can be a frustrating time in the perennial flower garden. The rudbeckias and coneflowers are fading, but the asters and sedums haven’t come into their glory yet. There is often a color gap in the garden. The answer could be Japanese anemones.

Ekely / iStock

When I first saw monkshood, it was in September in coastal Maine and the garden was ablaze in purple color. This, I said to myself, is a plant I need for my fall garden. 

Andrew Huff / Flickr

Vicia faba is a legume that has been grown around the world for 6,000 years. It’s a food in countries from Ethiopia, Peru, Nepal, China, Italy, and England and can also be used as animal feed and a soil builder. It grows in a wide variety of soils, including clay and salty soil, and, unlike other beans, likes cool weather. Yes, it’s the broad, Windsor or fava bean.

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. 

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