If you are a gardener, winter 2018 was probably not anything you want to remember. It was cold, windy, very snowy, it refused to end, and when it did, mud season, Vermont’s fifth season, challenged your driving abilities as much as abundant potholes in the main roads.

When the snow melted, you might have noticed mounds of mole trails in your lawns, shrubs, and trees with missing bark, and indentations in gardens where plants had been totally devoured by voles, the animal that never hibernates but loves to eat roots. These observations and experiences represented part of living in Vermont and living in a changing climate where new insects and animal populations make us rethink how we garden. Regardless of these challenges, gardeners know how to accept the imperfect, and like Spring ephemerals, they burst forth with color and enthusiasm and reenergize to prepare for the next season.

During the past year, we have been improving upon our offering of plants which will serve pollinators while adding color, height, and length of bloom. We have earmarked 30 plants with dozens of varieties which will serve pollinators, provide nectar for butterflies, will serve as hosts for specific butterflies or will serve hummingbirds. These are perennials so if you get some started now, by year 3 you will have good clumps that already are drawing a great deal of attention. If you are interested in the chart we have put together, send me a note at vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com and I‘ll send you a copy. During the summer beginning in July, we will conduct garden tours to showcase these plants and explain how and where to grow them well. Having butterflies and hummingbirds in your gardens creates the unexpected for everyone’s pleasure and in the process adds a calming, relaxing place for all visitors.

The month of May in Vermont is a special time because hummingbirds usually return sometime around the first week of May and different flowers including domestic and native flowers begin to bloom. There are lots of pulmonarias on the market and these are the first flower that hummingbirds find in our gardens. Gail usually has 4-5-6 varieties for sale every year. They are certainly Vermont hardy, grow well and have interesting flowers and foliage. They serve as my garden wrist watch because when I hear the hummingbirds or see them on the pulmonarias, I know it’s early May.

Wildflowers are gaining in popularity as great garden additions. Some are very easy to grow while others such as wild orchids are often soil specific and just will not be successful if not planted in the correct place with the correct soil composition, moisture level, and sunshine. Using orchids as an example I always suggest that if you are interested in incorporating wildflowers in your garden plans, learn about them first. Close by to Vermont Flower Farm is the Groton State Forest, a beautiful place to hike that includes an opportunity to walk around or paddle on several kettle ponds. These are shallow ponds, never much more than 50 feet deep, left by the glaciers and typically spring and steam fed so they have warm and cold water. Their perimeters are famous for wildflowers and Osmore Pond adjacent to the New Discovery campground and Kettle Pond, also right off Route 232, are great places to hike and look for wildflowers. A variety of birds will entertain you, and the swamp between the parking area and the actual water at Kettle Pond is home to an interesting assortment of damselflies and dragonflies. Along your walk expect to see orchids, trillium, Dutchmen’s Breeches, violets, bloodroot, tiarella, baneberry, partridgeberry, rhododendron, jack-in-the-pulpit, goldenrod, bellwort, ginseng, gentian—the list goes on and on. Look with your eyes, expect the unexpected and leave the plants where you see them.

Enjoy the sunshine, and if specific questions arise in your gardening pursuits, drop us a note at vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com or stop and see us at Vermont Flower Farm. We’re always here to help you grow your green thumb!