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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
We’ve had our first snowfall here in Vermont and if you haven’t already started your fall clean-up it’s time! Energy for garden work is low this time of year but just a few chores will give your garden a head start come spring and make planting a breeze. Below are some guidelines and tips for bedding down the garden for winter.
Wait! Before you clean up….. It is best to leave some stalks, brush, logs and groundcover. Cutting back all the dead stalks in your garden eliminates food for birds and hiding spots for overwintering beneficial insects. Plants with seeds or berries, especially native ones, are essential for the overwintering bird population, so Sunflowers, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, etc. should be left standing. You know that dead ground cover you were going to cut back or that brush pile you were going to move? Leave it and make less work for you and more cover for those beneficial insects, including spiders, some beetles and solitary bees that you want in your garden come spring!
Clean up! This may seem a straight forward task, and for the most part it is. You want to clear any foliage from diseased plants. You can bag it and put it in the trash, or preferably, toss it somewhere well away from your garden. It is also good to do one final weeding so that any seeds on stalks won’t plant themselves in your garden when the weather warms up. Take up any inorganic material, such as black plastic and stakes, so they don’t break up in your garden. Cleaning your garden tools is also a good idea before storing them for the winter.
Divide spring plants and dig up bulbs. Iris, Dianthus, Primrose, and late bloomers such as Rudbeckia, Geraniums, Hemerocallis, Hostas, Echinacea and Achillea can be divided. Summer bulbs, including Dahlias, tuberous Begonias, Cannas, Caladium, Elephants Ears and Gladiolas, should be dug up, packed in newspaper or for some, in moist soil (as with Dahlias) and stored in a dry place. Check on them occasionally over the winter months and anything that is soft or starts to rot, remove it immediately. Each bulb has its own needs, so check out this article from the University of New Hampshire extension for overwintering details.
Get soil tests and amend. Before the ground begins to freeze, get a soil test and amend this fall, and if you need to, adding lime to organic compost and mulches. The mulch will break down into organic matter and make for a richer environment for your plants in spring and summer. It’s also helpful to stockpile manure in the fall and cover it with a tarp so that nutrients to do not leach out. You can also cover crop 4-6 weeks before the first frost with Rye, Oats, or Legumes that will condition your soil and fix nitrogen into your garden. Cornell University has an amazing tool for figuring out which cover crop is best for your situation. Check it out here!
Save your leaves. If possible, save the leaves you rake up from fall and leave them in a pile to decompose. Over time, this will become an excellent garden amendment called leaf mold. If you want to speed up the decomposition just use a leaf blower on reverse or chop the leaves with a lawnmower.
Protect your garden. Harsh winter temperatures and winds can do a lot of damage in New England. Make sure to mulch with 3-5″ of straw preferably but sawdust, pine needles or wood chips. Wrap fruit tress to protect from winter sunburn and rodent damage. Protect blueberry bushes from harsh winter winds with burlap to minimize drying out of foliage.
Plant garlic! Get your garlic in the ground before the end of October or before the ground freezes, which ever comes first. Garlic likes a pH of 6.2-7.0 and needs a cold treatment of 40 degrees for a minimum of two months to sprout. Cover with a thick layer of straw to prevent any damage from the cold.
September may not be the New England gardener’s most exciting month for getting out in the yard, but it is actually a fantastic time to add pollinator plants to the garden. Most folks this time of year are splitting wood, putting up food from the harvest and getting gardens ready for those cold winter months that are just around the corner. However, here at Arcana, we also want to remind you of the fun and beauty that September can bring to our outdoor spaces and pollinator friends!
This is the time of year when bees and butterflies are trying to stock up for the winter as well, collecting the last bits of nectar they can find for honey stores or perhaps a long migration trip down South! We’ve collected a list of our top five favorite fall pollinator plants that not only help these insects but also bring lovely flowers to your garden after many perennials have finished their blooming season.
Actaea simplex (shown left), also known as Bugbane, is a lovely 3′-4′ shade perennial. It adds great architectural height to the garden and is best planted in groups. It attracts hordes of butterflies and beneficial insects. It needs consistently moist, fertile soil and is best planted where it will be sheltered from strong winds. it looks lovely planted along with our next favorite late blooming perennial pollinator! Zone 4.
Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, also called the Japanese Anemone or windflower, is a stunning 3-4′ tall part shade plant that bears pure white, semi-double, slightly ruffled flowers with a yellow, fluffy center. It lends height, brightness and elegance to overall garden design it is no wonder that it is The Perennial Plant Association’s “Perennial of the Year” for 2016. It may be slow to establish but once it does it is a low maintenance plant. They are helped by winter mulch in colder climates. They look especially lovely when planted with hostas and astilbes and they thrive in rich, loamy, consistently moist soil in Zone 5 or lower.
Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’, or Grapeleaf Anemone, A native of north and central China, it is one of the hardiest anemones, bearing hundreds of mauve flowers with yellow centers on 18-36″ branching stems. A wonderful plant in the perennial boarder, cottage or woodland garden and a great flower for arrangements as well. The plant will spread to eventually create a 4-5′ wide colony; one of the best solutions for adding color and elegance to the shade garden. Prefers part shade and moist, humus-rich soil. Zone 3.
Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’, common name Turtlehead, is a 3′ tall plants with snapdragon-like, brilliant rose pink flowers that resemble the heads of turtles. Forms a graceful clump and looks lovely planted with asters which provide an excellent contrast of color. Grows best in part shade and may need staking in full shade sites. It is a native of wet woodland areas in the Southern United States but has naturalized to areas of New York and New England. Prefers rich, moist soil and is excellent planted in shade and woodland gardens as well as along ponds or water garden peripheries. Attracts butterflies, is an interesting cut flower and is also a rain garden plant. Zone 4.
Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’ is a gorgeous pollinator with fragrant dark purple blooms that truly is a Butterfly Bush, as it’s common name claims. Grows easily in average to medium moisture but needs good drainage in full sun. A deciduous shrub that is native to China, it grows between 6-8′ and has a bushy habit. Looks lovely in borders, rose gardens, cottage gardens and, of course, pollinator gardens! Also a lovely cut flower that brings it’s beauty and honey fragrance to a bouquet. Mulch well in the fall and cut down to 6-8″ from the ground in late winter as flowers grow on new wood. Zone 5.
There are many more pollinator plants that we love this time of year, such as New England Asters (noteworthy is its new latin name Symphyotrichum), Scabiosa Caucasia, and Hibiscus Moscheutos all of which can be found ON SALE at our nursery in Jericho, VT! Come on out and see these splendid late flowering pollinators in person! Leave a comment telling us what your favorite fall perennial is, pollinator or otherwise!
Happy summer and boy has it been a hot one here in Vermont! We got some much needed rain this past week which means lots of mowing and weeding out in our crop fields and nursery but it also means we have gorgeous flowers in bloom and delicious crops to harvest! We have so many wonderful, organic crops growing and one of the stars of July is garlic! Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants and we’ve been growing it for our market stands and CSA shares for well over a decade. This year we are growing ten varieties-some for sale and some for seed. Garlic is a fun and relatively easy crop to grow. A great choice for farmers or gardeners who want to grow a crop that requires minimal effort with delicious and lucrative rewards!
A few of our other crops currently being picked and enjoyed are snap peas, onions, gooseberries, currants, beets, radishes, mesclun, tomatoes, and cucumbers as well as herbs! July is an abundant time of year here in Vermont and we are taking full advantage of it! We harvest twice a week at Arcana-Tuesdays for our CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and Fridays for the Burlington and Stowe Farmer’s Markets! We’ve been attending Burlington’s Saturday market for more than 20 years and Sundays at Stowe for over 10 years! We really enjoy the community, customers and connection to other local vendors through these markets and hope to see you there!
We also take many plant starts to markets and offer beautiful veggie and annual starts to our CSA members! This year we grew over 150 varieties of tomato starts, over 25 types of basil starts and 120+ varieties of peppers both hot and sweet! In our herb department we have lovely feverfew in bloom as well as arnica and thyme. We also have many beautiful flowering perennial plants such as liatris, echinacea and asters just to name a few.
If you’re local, be sure to stop by the farm in July for awesome deals on plant starts. Veggies, annual flowers and herbs always go on sale this month so it’s a great time to come by and see what beautiful,organic plants you can find for half the price! Also, be sure to come back to our blog for future profile posts on our staffs favorite herbs, perennials and crops of the month.
We couldn’t end a blog post in July without recommending a recipe, could we? Check out this tasty gazpacho-a favorite cold summer soup of ours that is perfect with July crops! Don’t hesitate to leave a comment letting us know your favorite summer recipes, which crops are growing in your garden or your favorite perennials of July!
We are now offering Sugarhill Sugarworks Certified Organic Vermont Maple Syrup in our farm store, in sizes from 12 ounces to 1 gallon! Sugarhill’s syrup is wonderful with everything from pancakes to coffee to sweet potatoes, and is made by Arcana alumnus Entropy Mauck. Learn more at sugarhillmaple.com.