Three Steps to Prep Your Houseplants for Winter

Winter can be a tough season for many of us, and your houseplants are no exception. Limited light, cold temperatures, and close quarters can be tricky for plants to handle. Luckily, there are a

The farm in winter

few things you can do to help your plants thrive as things get chilly.

Here are three fall tasks to keep your houseplants flourishing and happy through the winter:

  1. Give them a good bath. It’s easy for houseplants to collect dust, especially if their leaves are broad or waxy.  This dust can stop  precious sunlight from getting through to the plant’s leaves. In the winter, sun exposure can be reduced by as much as 50 percent, so it’s essential that we help our plants make the most of the sunlight they’re getting. Gently wiping down their leaves with a damp, soft cloth will remove all the dust, and give you a chance to get started on step 2.
  2. Check for sick plants. Especially if some of your plants migrate outside for the summer, they can carry pests like mealy bugs, aphids, or scale. Check over your plants’ leaves (including the undersides), stems, and soil for abnormalities. Things to keep an eye out for would include rough patches or scars on leaves or stems, small flying or crawling insects, and extensive holes in leaves, among other issues. If you’re unsure whether your plant might have a pest, try checking its symptoms against these charts from Pennsylvania State University. Any plants that do have a pest or disease should be kept separately so the problem can’t spread. Always wash your hands after touching sick plants!
  3. Our farm stand and greenhouse, where many of our plants spend the winter

    Location, location, location. Once you know your plants are clean and healthy, it’s time to think about the best place to keep them during the winter. Because there is so much less light during the winter, many plants will need to move to a new spot to ensure that they’re getting all the sunlight they need. You may find that plants that need to be kept in low light during the summer are much more comfortable in sunnier areas of your home during winter. If you’re concerned your more sun-loving plants won’t be getting enough light, you can supplement with UV lightbulbs during the day. It’s also important to keep your plants away from strong drafts. Trouble spots can include doors and poorly insulated windows.

How do you prepare your houseplants for winter? Leave your tips and tricks in the comments!

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Posted by Caiti Hensley in Farm Events, 0 comments

Saxon Hill Co-operative Preschool Visits Arcana!

This week we had the Saxon Hill Co-operative Preschool come to Arcana for a farm adventure! They were such a fun group to have and we did lots of learning and exploring.

We went on a tour of the greenhouses and talked to the kids about different stages of  growing plants. It was a blast to walk through the greenhouses with them and hear their surprise at how hot it was inside! After exploring the veggie plots around the farm, we hung out on the porch of the farmstand and read books about growing gardens.

Can you spot the snake in the above picture? A couple of children found this reptile slithering down our mulch mountains while pretending they were visiting Smuggler’s Notch!

Spinach was big hit! The children also taste tested edible pansy flowers and shiso! Their reactions were varied and very entertaining. Many of them liked the pansies and while a few tried the shiso, an edible plant used mainly in Japanese cooking, it wasn’t as big of a hit.

At the end of the morning, we planted sunflowers and shared our favorite things about the visit. It was a wonderful time and we can’t wait for another field trip!

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Posted by Drea Tremols in Education, Events, Farm Events, 0 comments

Five Fantastic Springtime Pollinator Plants

Spring feels like it’s finally arrived! Our neighborhood robin contingent has returned to build their nests in nooks and crannies throughout the greenhouses. The bees have finally come buzzing around our gardens and we have several lovely plants that help feed our pollinator friends. We’ve come up with a list of our top 5 favorite springtime plants that provide ample food for pollinators after the long, cold Vermont winter.

Caltha palustris (Marsh Marigold)

Marsh marigold has cheerful, bright yellow blooms that sit on glossy green heart shaped leaves. While every part of the marsh marigold is poisonous to humans, it has large amounts of nectar early in the season that makes it an important food source for bees and flies. Our eyes see a bright yellow flower but the bees see a delicious purple bloom with a black center which helps guide them to the nectar.

Marsh marigolds bloom from April through June and, as its name suggests, enjoys wet soil. It can be seen happily growing by ponds, rivers and marshes making it a lovely rain garden addition.They enjoy full sun to part shade and are low maintenance plants with no known serious insect or disease problems.  Zone 3-7.

Convallaria majalis (Lily of the Valley)

This cool weather perennial is a lovely sight in spring with its delicate, sweet smelling string of white bell shaped flowers and elliptic green leaves. It is easily gown in moist, fertile, organically rich and well-drained soil. It is a native to Europe but has naturalized throughout the Northeast.

It is an excellent ground cover for areas in your garden with shade, although they do well in dappled sun. They can spread aggressively so best to plant them where they have room to grow without disrupting your tidiest garden beds. It is also a lovely cut flower. It does not have any serious insect or disease problems but be on the lookout for aphids and spider mites. Zone 3-8.

Tiarella cordifolia (Foam Flower)

Foam flowers are another easy to grow perennial that loves to be grown in the shade and will spread widely over time. With its lovely mounding habit with its semi-glossy, heart shaped leaves with tiny white flowers on a tall stem. The flowers have a airy, feathery quality that is charming in the garden. Bees love it and can be seen buzzing busily around the flowers in our pergola.

It needs wet, organically rich soil to thrive and has no serious insect or disease problems. Great for shaded rock gardens, woodland gardens, border fronts, wild gardens or moist areas along stream or ponds. If planted en masse, they create a lovely ground cover. Zone 4-9.

Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine)

This classic spring beauty is a wonderful early bloomer. They have an ethereal quality to their flowers and are some of the earliest nectar producers for hummingbirds in the spring. Aquilegia is the Latin word for eagle, because the flower petals can be imagined as a bird’s claw. Its common name, Columbine, comes from the Latin word Columba which means ‘dove’. The variety ‘Little Lanterns’ is a wonderful dwarf form of the native columbine with red and yellow flowers. We have many other species of columbine including Aquilegia caerulea with three varieties, ‘Red Hobbit’, ‘Rocky Mountain Blue’, ‘Songbird Dove’ as well as 7 varieties of the Aquilegia vulgaris.

While Aquilegias tend to like rich soil and part shade, we’ve seen them growing at the farm in gravel! They are a wonderful pairing with ferns and they reseed themselves readily so once you have them, you can trust they’ll be nodding their beautiful blossoms at you each spring. There can be issues with leaf miners, so if damaged foliage presents itself just cut it off after plants have flowered and new healthy foliage will regrow. Zone 3-7.

Thalictrum dioicum (Early Meadow Rue)

A beautiful Vermont native pollinator that thrives in woodlands, this perennial blooms early to mid-spring. The male and female plants have distinctly different color, the male having showy, tassel-like yellow flowers and the females have pink to purple pompom-like flowers. Growing 1-2’  tall, its feathery, gray-green foliage is a lovely contrast to later blooming perennials as well.

While it prefers moist, rich soil and dappled light, it will also easily grow in average, medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. These plants do not tolerate hot and humid conditions. They are lovely paired with ferns, anemones and columbine for an array of early blooming pollinators that offer color after a long New England winter. Zone 3-8.

Come check out all the other lovely perennial pollinator plants at our nursery! This list is just a drop in the bucket of our collection of plants that make beautiful garden plants and feed our pollinator friends.

What are your favorite early perennial pollinators?

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Posted by Drea Tremols in Farm Events, 0 comments

Arcana visits the Boston Flower Show!

Daffodils bring their brightness to a wintery weekend!

Last week we traveled to the Boston Flower Show. Here at Arcana, we are getting ready to launch our mail order business so we can ship our beautiful, organic plants across the US! It’s a big task but one that we are incredibly excited about! As with any new venture, lots of research goes in to expanding business so we headed down to Boston to find out if we should start bringing our plants and mail order plans there. What a great event!

Hattie, our marketing guru, enjoying the lovely rhododendrons and tulips at the flower show!

The Boston Flower Show sees thousands of visitors each year. We saw several other friends and farmers from Vermont and went to some awesome classes on climate change, best perennials for drought and herbal infusions among others! The climate change workshop was given by NPR meteorologist David Epstein and illustrated with extensive graphs how New England has warmed over the last 100 years! We also attended a great workshop by Kerry Ann Mendez, an award winning garden designer, who spoke on the subject of flashy foliage perennials. Some that she recommended Achillea ‘Moonshine’, Tiarella ‘Fingerpaint’ and Penstemon ‘Dark Towers’ just to name a few! We also had a chance to meet and connect with vendors and plant lovers alike. Overall, it was an excellent time!

Amazing building constructed over 3 days with 2 tractor trailers worth of stone!

One thing we found was that the show had few people selling live plants for the garden. There were several great houseplant vendors as well as seed companies, bulb producers and a few perennials here and there. Luckily, we were able to connect with one of the organizers of the show and she was thrilled to hear we specialize in perennials and herbs! Looks like we may just be at the Boston Flower Show next year!

Grape hyacinths blooming.

Plants encased in copper and made into incredible jewelry!

Statue made from flowers, bird seed, garden tools and foliage.

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Posted by Drea Tremols in Farm Events, 0 comments

Vermont Flower Show 2017

Rooftop gardens and tulips bring a feeling of spring.

Winter blew back in to Vermont with a vengeance but that didn’t stop us from attending this year’s Vermont Flower Show! It is no easy task setting up for such a big event but it’s worth all the planning, schlepping and hard work. Hundreds of volunteers built an amazing indoor landscape and over 100 vendors brought their businesses to the show. This year’s theme for the installation gardens was Neverland and it was absolutely magical. Tulips, flowering magnolias, hyacinths, 15-foot birch trees, daffodils and azaleas were just a few of the wonderful plants enjoyed in the gorgeous gardens. It truly brought the world of Peter Pan to life as well as an excitement for spring and planting our gardens. Along with lectures, kids crafts, documentary showings and hands-on workshops it was a fun filled weekend!

Pink tulips and azaleas.

We started getting ready for the show months ago. We brought several perennials, including a new variety of Hellebore called ‘Midnight Ruffles’ which was the all-star eye catcher of the weekend. With its lovely purple coloring  they couldn’t help but get the attention they deserved! Second runner up in the perennial eye-catching division were the primulas. We had several varieties and many exclamations of oohs and aahs as folks walked past. Herbs and houseplants also made an appearance at our booth. The herbs included dill, lavender, rosemary and thyme. The rosemary were blooming in abundance and drawing people in to pet and enjoy their aromatic presence. Here’s a question: did you know you can eat rosemary flowers right off the plant? A fun fact that many at the flower show didn’t know! Rosemary flowers are sweet, delicious and in some cases quite pungent!

Teepees and tulips.

Our most popular houseplant was definitely our little hens & chicks, which delighted children and adults alike. Another exciting part of the weekend for us was the debut of our 2017-2018 catalog! Check it out here.  It’s chock full of wonderful information on perennials and herbs including recipes and medicine making ideas. It’s an awesome resource!

The Vermont Flower Show is a wonderful retreat from winter where we can all begin dreaming about spring. It was a lot of fun to talk to folks about plants and start getting excited about planning the garden! It’s worth the months of prep and long weekend to get to connect with our community through the plants we love and care for.

Life size crocodile sculpture!

With the flower show come and gone, we here at Arcana are continuing to get seeds sown in our heated greenhouses. This month we are buckling down  for our HUGE tomato seed run. With over 100 varieties to plant plus all the annuals and herbs we are planning to have, there is a lot of seeding to keep doing!  This month we will also be visiting the Boston Flower show to start promoting our wholesale flower opportunities as well as the opening of our on-line retail store which will be coming soon! We are so excited to be able to offer folks far and wide our amazing selection of perennials and herbs. It’s a pleasure to grow and provide our community with organic, healthy and often rare plants so we can continue to grow and spread biodiversity, health and wellness to the Earth and her inhabitants.

 

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Posted by Drea Tremols in Events, Farm Events, Perennial, Perennial Catalogue, Whole Sale Flower, 0 comments

The Season of Potential

Late February  and early March in Vermont, the time of year when cabin fever begins in earnest and (depending on how cold it it’s been), a deep craving for growing green things takes hold over the plant obsessed population.  It’s no different for us here at Arcana, except that we have the antidote right at our dirty fingertips.  By now, many of the seedlings planted in January and earlier this month have sprouted, the flats of onion and leek starts are several inches high, and the first round of basil and dill looks like pure luxury to our green starved senses.

 

Left to Right:  Dill, artichoke, and basil seedlings in different stages of spring growth

 

In the perennial overwintering greenhouse many of the plants are already beginning to break dormancy (thanks record breaking warm February), and some of the hardier plants are even in flower right now.  The warmer section of the greenhouse contains benches full of our prized but tender rosemary, most of which are blooming right now.  It gets hard to get stir crazy when you can walk in, brush your hand across a plant and release the smell of the Mediterranean around you.

 

Left to Right:  Blooming ‘Gorizia’ rosemary, Hellebore ‘Midnight Ruffles’, and a hardy mix of Hens and Chicks

 

This time of year at Arcana is the season of potential, when we can see daily progress of our work in the greenhouse, when the hardier perennials we overwinter in the greenhouse start sending out new shoots and flowers, and the excitement of our winter dreams starts to take hold.  We start to see the future in floral-tinted glasses and imagine all our dream projects coming to fruition this season in glorious technicolor.  There is freedom in this season of potential to dream and create something better and different than what we have known, to visualize a better way to get things done at the greenhouse.  It is that familiar bubbling feeling of spring fever that gets us ready for the busy spring and summer ahead.  We all know that not all of these dreams and ideas will come to fruition or end up the way we first imagined, but that never keeps us from dreaming and creating in the hope that this is the year that it all happens.

 

Primula x polyantha ‘Supernova Fire’

 

It might be coincidence that this feeling rises to a fevered pitch following the NOFA VT winter conference, but after a whole weekend of networking, being introduced to new ideas, and the wealth of inspirational speakers and presenters (shout out to my personal hero Vandana Shiva) everyone has green in their eyes and a renewed commitment to our work.  This year we are looking into more ways to connect our work in ecological gardening with the wider community.  All I can say is that there are a million ideas swirling around right now, but hopefully this year we can start putting some of them into play through workshops and other fun events.

 

Until next time!

 

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Posted by Hattie White in Monthly News, 1 comment

Vermont Stage Comes To Arcana!

Cast of Native Gardens.

Last week we hosted our first official event in collaboration with Vermont Stage. They did a first reading of their latest production called Native Gardens, a play based on two couples who share a fence and have some very different views about how to grow a garden.

The audience gets a behind the scenes talk about production.

On the one hand you have a young couple, just moved in to the neighborhood, who want to plant a native pollinator garden while their neighbors, an older couple that has lived on the street for decades, are more traditional gardeners.  The younger couple dreams of a garden that helps the bees and brings beneficial insects to the area but the older couple can’t  understand why they want to grow what they consider to be weeds! Enter the 5th character, an old oak tree in the younger couple’s yard. They love their tree but their neighbors have a very different opinion.  The conflict only grows from there!

A few cast and crew from Vermont Stage.

Prior to the reading, we had a wonderful social hour with drinks, appetizers and live music by a local jazz trio. The Vermont Stage cast and production team were a joy to work with and we hope they come back to do another reading in the near future!  Overall it was a very fun night and we look forward to hosting more events  in our lovely farm stand.  If your organization is interested in renting space please contact us through our website for further details.

Social hour before the reading was well attended! Around 50 people came out on a cold, icy night!

If you’re interested in being a part of a gardening discussion after the play then book your show during the Talkback Thursdays (January 26 & February 2 and 9). After the show, gardening experts from Arcana will be present to have deeper discussion about native, non-native and invasive species of plants as well as to answer any and all of your gardening questions. We look forward to seeing you there!

The actors reading the first scene.

Wonderful musicians bringing lovely music to the event.

A fun night with friends and colleagues.

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Posted by Drea Tremols in Farm Events, Garden Care, Monthly News, Perennial, Pollinators, 2 comments

How To Dig Your Dahlias for Winter

Here at Arcana, we love our plants, even the ones that aren’t so well adapted to our freezing cold winters! Although dahlias are one of our favorite flowers, they don’t do so well in the cold. This year, we waited for the green parts of the plant to die back for the season, did some trimming, and carefully dug out their tuberous roots for indoor storage. Next Spring, we’ll bring them back out to the hoop house and let them grow again! If you’re hoping to do the same thing, look no further. In this video, Eva shows you the technique to safely dig your own favorite dahlias.

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Posted by Caiti Hensley in Farm Events, 1 comment

Pollinators, Saffron, and Cool New Perennials; The Northeast Greenhouse Conference

We kicked off the Trade Show Season at the Northeast Greenhouse Conference in Boxborough, Massachusetts this past week. Shows like this pull together experts in many fields of the greenhouse and garden center industry, from university researchers to the owners and innovators changing the way the industry approaches both the customer and the ecosystem.  It seems as though every conference and tradeshow I attend contains more and more seminars on pollinator friendly plants, cutting edge IPM research, and other alternatives to neonicotinoids. There is still a fair share of conventional biological control seminars and turf management round tables there, but as an organic perennial nursery it is refreshing to see so many options relevant to our needs, and the interest among our colleagues in less environmentally harmful growing practices.  This swell of interest has created a new wave of research and innovation that offers hope in the face of an uncertain future. Our most important insect allies are in increasing danger from the changing environment and the poisons humans create, and this idea has finally gained traction among the wider gardening public.  

While most people understand that our honey bees are being threatened, many other pollinating insects get overlooked. In Vermont alone, there are over 250 different species of bee! Some are large, such as bumblebees and mason bees, while others are small like squash and sweat bees. Some of these bees live in the hollow stalks of dead perennials left out in the garden, others burrow into exposed sandy ground and live solitary lives.  Each are active in different ways, at different times of the year and need a diverse and intact ecosystem in order to thrive, which is increasingly rare in our country.  The bottom line is that all of these species are important to humanity-  at least half of our crops rely on insect pollination to be successful and save tens of billions of dollars in labor every year globally. We are in serious trouble if they continue to decline- imagine how many people it would take to hand pollinate all of the crops that rely on insects! The Xerces Society is an amazing organization with lots of useful information on this topic and more.

Saffron- both beautiful and tasty!

Saffron- both beautiful and tasty!

NEGC also contained some fun and interesting ideas presented by both academic institutions (shout out to UVM!) and growers who trial new introductions to the perennial world. One of my favorite nuggets was the seminar led by Margaret Skinner of UVM and focused on recent trials of saffron production in high tunnels in Vermont. This is an almost mystical spice renowned for its flavor, color, and cost.  If one looks at the global retail price of saffron (20$ a gram) by weight compared to gold(40$ per gram), it is roughly half.  We learned that it is a fall blooming crocus, can be grown in hoop houses in a few different methods, and can produce more value per square foot than tomatoes, the current reigning champion of hoop productions. Who would have thought such an interesting and warm climate-linked crop could be compatible with Vermont’s less-than-balmy weather?

As always, there were several different seminars focused on new plant varieties.  Every year, breeding programs create all kinds of new varieties of almost every species. It’s hard as a nursery to know how they will perform in a real garden setting, so these trial reports are always valuable.  When there are literally hundreds of varieties of Echinacea, for example, how do we figure out which ones will be the best and most hardy? Over the years we have ordered in some amazing varieties, as well as some memorably terrible varieties that do not grow as advertised. Some of our favorites from this year are the new ‘Moody Blues’ series of Veronica and the fantastic Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’. It may not be the showiest Phlox we’ve ever seen, but it offers two amazing benefits: it never (never!) gets mildew, and it’s a nectar superstar in the pollinator world! Consistently swarmed with bees, it contains a higher volume and concentration of nectar than almost every other tested plant.

It is impossible to fit everything from this conference into this post, so I won’t, but it was amazing to me how practices and causes near and dear to the entire Arcana staff are finally making their way into mainstream horticulture. Not only are growers becoming more active in sustainability and pollinator friendly practices, but consumers across the spectrum are starting to look for and ask about these practices and products.  Knowledge is key- the more informed the gardening public is about pollinator and ecological health, the more plants and resources we can offer.  Coming up later this month is the New England Grows conference, a larger but similar event in Boston. Already the programs being offered reflect this growing interest.  I look forward to sharing what we learn there in December. Until then, happy gardening!

–Hattie

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Posted by Caiti Hensley in Farm Events, 0 comments