University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
GARDENING REVIEW FOR 2014
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
While the end of the year and another gardening season is a good time
(before you forget) to make notes and take stock on this year’s successes,
as well as failures (always a great way to learn), it is also a good time to
highlight some of our gardening tips from this past year. Some of
these topics from our 60 Green Mountain Gardener articles during 2014
included ones on plants such as perennials and annuals, food crops, botany,
how-to topics, design, history, climate change, animal pests, and more.
One of the landscape shrubs featured this past year was the Common Ninebark
(Physocarpus opulifolius), which gets its name from the several
layers of peeling (“exfoliating”) bark on mature branches that reveal
reddish to light brown inner bark, particularly attractive in winter when
they can be seen easily. This shrub has an upright, spreading habit,
and generally reaches 5 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide, although there
are some smaller cultivars (cultivated varieties). They have
attractive leaves in dark red (such as Diabolo), yellowish (such as ‘Dart’s
Gold’), or coppery (such as Coppertina).
There were two new winning flowers for 2014 in the national All-America
Selections (AAS) program—the best in seed-grown plants. Gaura ‘Sparkle
White’ is sometimes known as “beeblossom” as it is attractive to bees so a
pollinator-friendly plant. Petunia ‘African Sunset’ is the second AAS
winning flower for 2014, with a unique “designer” orange color-- a rare
color among petunias.
Winning AAS new vegetables included ‘Mascotte’ bean --a good example of
recent breeding of vegetables for patio containers and smaller-space
gardens, as well as improved disease resistance. Mama Mia Giallo’ is a
sweet Italian type pepper with gold to yellow fruit 7 to 9 inches long.
‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ tomato has the wonderful flavor of an orange,
heirloom parent yet is earlier and with some disease resistance.
‘Fantastico’ is a second tomato national AAS winner for 2014, being a grape
tomato with early maturing and many fruit in long clusters. Fruit
resist cracking better than many of this type. In addition to these national
winners, regional winning flowers and vegetables are now being named.
Some of the choice perennials featured included ‘Sulphureum’ bishop’s cap (Epimedium
x versicolor), ‘Biokovo’ perennial geranium (Geranium x
cantabrigiense), ‘Obsidian’ coralbells (Heuchera), and ‘Blue
Mouse Ears’ hosta. As you might guess from the name of the hosta, it
is miniature with thick, almost rubbery, round, bluish-green to grey-green
leaves. The thick leaves tend to make this hosta cultivar more slug
‘Northwind’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) was voted the Perennial
Plant of the Year for 2014 by growers and designers in the Perennial Plant
Association. It is one of the more upright cultivars, 4 to 5 feet tall
with bluish leaves, staying vertical in winds without staking as many
similar switchgrasses require.
One article from this past year dealt with Monarch butterflies—why their
numbers are declining (in large part due to habitat loss), and what we can
do to help them (plant more milkweeds!). Another article mentioned
winning native plants from the Garden Club of America, including their Plant
of the Year for 2014-- the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).
This beautiful wildflower is attractive to butterflies, particularly the
monarch. It totally is not deserving of the “weed” in its name, as it
is quite desirable and not weedy. A less used but appropriate common
name is Butterfly Milkweed, as it is related to other milkweeds.
Unlike its kin, this one does not have a milky, sticky sap. I like the
name “Butterfly Love”. As Native Americans used it for pulmonary
ailments, it may be called “Pleurisy Root”.
All the facts and science and climate records point to a changing
climate. What this means to the gardener, and how to garden in a
changing climate, were the focus of a couple articles. A website of
the National Phenology Network (www.usanpn.org/) shows how to relate
“phenological” events to climate change. These biological events, such
as insect and bud emergence or bird migration, give clues to past as well as
future trends. Several phenology studies mentioned in this article
show how our growing season is getting longer.
“Botany” articles explained different types of fall fruits you find on trees
and shrubs, and why leaves change color in fall. “How-to” articles
covered topics such as growing roses successfully, watching for and handling
tree hazards, renovating overgrown perennial beds, selecting the best trees,
and how to read the information available on seed packets.
Effective control of animal pests such as rabbits and voles is possible,
with some tips in an article this past year. Your success
will depend on your timing, method, and perseverance. You may need to
try a variety of methods and devices and, if first you don't succeed, try
More articles on these and many other gardening topics can be found online
(perrysperennials.info under the Home Gardener section), and searched by
season or by topic. These, plus your own notes, should give you new
plants to try and more gardening successes in this coming year.
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