November 2018 was an unusual month as rain and winds turned white and cold early, and record-setting snow piled higher than we remembered.

Gail and I received many phone calls and emails from gardeners who had ordered bulbs and perennial plants including peonies which never arrived until we were well into November. Some called with questions such as, “There’s snow on the ground, can I plant bulbs? Can I still plant peonies that just arrived? Can I still dig my dahlias and glads (or are they dead)? Is it still OK to prune my hydrangeas? When can I prune my apple trees? We said “yes” many times along with words of encouragement to get going.

As I reflect on questions gardeners asked during the past summer, I keep returning to thoughts of the people with the gardening questions…the actual people themselves. At the flower farm, I try to track where people come from, their age and their gardening experience. When we first moved our flower farm down from Peacham Pond Road to Route 2, I was taken by visitors arriving in cars and trucks with Maine license plates. Over time I determined that more than 15 percent of our customers were from Maine and many had used Route 2 to travel to Burlington to visit the airport, the hospital, one of the educational institutions (kids in college) or to work at remote offices. The numbers were significant because they represented more people from far away Maine than from nearby Montpelier or Barre. In addition to my findings on the source of customers, I confirmed what many in the horticultural field had already determined—the average customer to a modern day nursery is a 55-year-old woman. Finally, I tracked new homes, either newly built or newly purchased homes. Significant was that it was usually in year two or three after arrival that homeowners visited the nursery to seek landscape design advice and begin making purchases. To us, this was important because of the number of new property owners we regularly met from the towns of Newbury, Barnet, Peacham and Danville, Vermont as well as Hanover, Orford, Haverhill, Monroe, Woodsville, Bath, Lisbon, Littleton and Lancaster, New Hampshire.

The customer profile might not seem important but the inherent message to you the gardener might be. It’s a mes-sage I try to tactfully work into garden design requests. In a world where age discrimination is well known to us, I ask realistic questions about the gardener, who will build or renovate the gardens if we design them, and who will handle the maintenance to keep things looking nice after the initial planting. I also try to get a handle on how long people in-tend to stay at their property, is the home a permanent or seasonal home, and is the landscaping plan really intended to encourage resale at an increased profit in the short term.

Attractive gardens which bring us nice compliments require an investment of time and other resources. As such it’s best to do things correctly from the start. If you are thinking about doing some landscape work at your home next year, do you want to do most or all of the work or do you prefer to hire the work done for you? Consider whether you will provide ongoing maintenance or whether this is something you also wish to hire out. Define what you would like to see in general terms and ask a designer to give you a ballpark cost estimate. This will narrow the opportunity for surprises.

Winter is a good time to work on design ideas you have in mind. If the snow isn’t too deep yet, take some pictures of the areas you want to change. Always include any adjacent buildings and trees in pictures so shadows and summer light conditions can be calculated. Make notes of any underground services such as water lines, electric, gas, sewer, telephone/television cable, electric generator, and solar array lines. If you have any experience with underground ledges or large boulders that you are aware of, make note of them before beginning to design. Be confident that you can collect much of this information yourself and that it’s all important to whoever you might work with to finalize a plan. If you have questions, give us a call at (802) 426-3505 and we’ll help. We love to see great gardens—and smiling gardeners!