University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Just as the news media reviews their top stories at the end of the year, so it is appropriate to recall some of our top gardening tips for 2006. New flowers, landscaping to save energy and reduce pollution, and a hosta virus may have had an impact on your landscaping this past year, or may for the coming year.

We began the year describing several of the newest flower introductions from seeds, winners in the All-America Selections program. These once again performed well in our trials this past season in northern Vermont. They included the black-leaved and shiny black-fruited ornamental pepper ‘Black Pearl’; the flowering tobacco with lovely mild evening fragrance and deep purple flowers ‘Perfume Deep Purple’; and ‘Diamonte Coral Rose’-- a member of a relatively unknown genus (Diascia).

Then in spring we covered some of the perennials picked as top choices nationally by professionals in the Perennial Plant Association. Blue false indigo (Baptisia australis) is one of my favorites, is low maintenance, makes an “instant shrub” each year, and has attractive early summer blue flowers. Watch this plant for more selections in coming years, in many different colors. Some nice yellow selections already are available such as ‘Carolina Moonlight.’

We also mentioned in spring the Blue Fortune anise hyssop (Agastache), as well as another of my favorites, the Blue Stars (Amsonia). ‘Walker’s Low’ catmint (Nepeta) really isn’t all that low, but is named for a place in England where it was found. In fact, this recently was named as Perennial Plant of the Year for 2007. You can see more on this plant online (

In summer we covered some tips for fuel efficient landscapes. These tips help you save fuel, so money, and by using less fuel you are helping the environment. Among the best practices are using hand rakes and brooms instead of power ones, saving rain water in rain gardens and rain barrels, and reducing the areas mowed. The latter can be achieved through use of groundcovers, and reducing sharp corners and cul-de-sacs to speed up mowing and run mowers less. When landscaping, consider using deciduous trees for shade in summer, evergreens for wind protection in winter, in order to save on home energy bills.

Most recently in fall we covered some common questions we receive on perennials, and answers. For instance, the popular sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ often gets leggy and topples over with the heavy weight of blooms. Mark your calendar now to prune it back halfway next June. It will still bloom, yet will be shorter and more stocky.

Among other questions in fall, we discussed the new virus affecting perhaps the most popular perennial—hostas. The hosta virus X causes puckering and twisting of leaves, and infected plants should be discarded. It is highly contagious so wash hands after handling such plants to prevent spreading the disease further. Cultivars (cultivated varieties ) that are most infected, or show resistance such as Blue Angel and Frances Williams, were mentioned as well.

Many more tips and full articles for not only the past year, but also for previous years, can be found online and even searched ( As in each month, we also recommend you visit the National Gardening Association’s web site ( for more information on gardening and regional reports.

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