I’m sitting here in my office this morning watching the birds at the feeders, the wild turkeys marching single file out of the woods line and the thermometer which is a surprising 45.7°. A week ago it was -6° here for two days and the 20 mph wind pierced my inner warmth.

The contrast should not be so surprising as I have “been there” before. Age has a way of chilling my body and my thoughts. It’s not quite winter yet but in Vermont the weather never checks the calendar from day to day.

I gave a gardening friend several past issues of The North Star Monthly last week and she called and reminded me that I keep mentioning “the back of the field” and “planting the woods line” and yet I never really talk about it. She’s correct so here goes.

Rural Vermont homes, new or old, are often situated facing the sun and mountain views and are surrounded on three sides by fields or some amount of open “freedom." Then the woods, outbuildings or neighboring properties meet. And it’s those border edges that benefit from mixed colors of flowering beauty that offer views of color from spring bulbs and flowers to late fall heights, textures and color mixes. If you have a situation like this that you’d like to have become a new focal point to your property, be sure to credit the work it will require to get there as well as the final beauty you really can create. The final outcome will make you a real gardening champion!

As with any new garden, soil preparation is a must and that’s why people often delay new gardens. There’s no sense in starting a garden until you have the time and physical strength as well as the resources to complete the job. Fortunately there are a number of very good gardeners out there now who are available to help. One way or another, my recommendation is never to plant until the soil is prepared to the point of being free of roots, rocks and weeds and it has been tested to insure that it’s ready to accept the plants you want to enjoy for years to come.

I’m big on swaths of color created by planting 5-6-7 of each plant together. I am averse to anything planted in rows and with age I have grown impatient and can no longer wait three years for a gallon container to reach “it’s a garden standout” size and show for me. Just the same, if you have a property perimeter where you would like some color that changes through the season, you don’t have to begin with a 50 foot garden that’s 10 feet deep. Start with a smaller garden and expand it in either direction in subsequent years as energy and resources permit.

Last summer I had a customer ask me about the bottom shingle on our sign by the side of Route 2. It reads “Garden Design." She asked me if I could help with a design and asked what software I use in my computer design. When I said I don’t use a computer for designs, I got the impression she was going to leave. She stuck with me and watched how I work a pencil and then pull carts of plants out to the edge of the field and lay them out as they will be planted. Yes, this is how Gail and I do it and the presentation gives color, texture and a good feel for height variations and in the end we can add or subtract pots based on preference and budget. It really works.

If you are interested in some help, bring us pictures of flowers or shrubs you like, a hand sketch of your buildings, N-S-E-W, major shade producing elements such as big trees or tall buildings, where the wind blows—that kind of information—and we’ll go from there. If you have a friend for whom you wish to offer a holiday gift because you know she would like some help with a border garden, we can do that too with a gift certificate.

Best wishes for a wonderful holiday season. Thanks for following us in the North Star during 2019, and for visiting us at Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens. Becoming a gardening champion provides enjoyment for you and helps maintain Vermont’s environment for our neighbors, birds, pollinators, critters of the fields and forests. It’s all part of why we live here!