University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

 Winter News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Just as many think back this month on news and events from this past year, recall some of our top gardening tips and ideas towards making your garden and landscape even better this coming year.  Some of these topics from our 2009 Green Mountain Gardener articles included new annuals, perennials, woody ornamentals, vegetables, and fruits.
Early last year we described several of the newest introductions from seeds, winners in the All-America Selections program.  These included one flower and three vegetables. Viola 'Rain Blue and Purple', a new selection of the common Johnny Jump-Up has many small purple and white flowers that change to purple and blue with age.  'Lambkin' is an early-maturing gourmet melon with white flesh.  'Gretel' is a white eggplant producing small fruits on small plants-- good for containers.  (Try this with the eggplant winner last year, 'Hansel').   'Honey Bear' is an acorn squash good for the north, bred at the University of New Hampshire.
Each year the National Garden Bureau selects a flower and vegetable of the year.  For 2009 the flower of the year was the ornamental flowering tobacco (Nicotiana).  They range from a foot to 4 feet or so tall, some have a light scent, and the lower forms come in a range of colors.  The vegetable of the year for 2009 is the leafy greens.  These are mainly lettuces, but include members of other families such as corn salad or Mache, argula, cress, Asian greens, and both collards and mustard greens.
There were several new perennial flowers highlighted in our articles this past year, beginning with the Perennial Plant of the Year, golden Hakone grass 'Aureola' (Hakonechloa macra).  Hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9, this golden grass with green stripes on leaves spreads slowly and makes a nice groundcover.  Only growing one foot high or so, it resembles a cascading miniature bamboo.  It is one of the few grasses to tolerate shade, just being less green.
Other perennials covered this past year in the Green Mountain Gardener included bellflowers, fall foliage perennials, and tulips.  Although tulips are grown as annuals in many areas, not being adapted as perennials to most of our growing climates, some tulips are reliable perennials and are listed as such in catalogs and on packages. 
Tips were given on harvesting early spring vegetables, many of which also double as good fall crops.  These include crops such as carrots, lettuce, green onions, peas, radishes, and broccoli.  There are many types of garlic discussed in an article, more than most realize.  These are planted in fall for harvest the following summer.
Tips for a greener lawn were provided by Dr. Wendy Sue Harper (  These included adding fertilizer only as needed according to soil tests, leaving clippings on lawns (with regular mowing these shouldn't build up), mowing at the proper height, watering properly, and cultivating a lawn of diverse species (not just of grasses).  A diverse lawn will remain green through times of stress, such as drought, and will require less care.
Some interesting facts were presented on studies that quantify how flowers reduce stress.  It is generally assumed that giving flowers will make someone happy, but this was proven in a Rutgers University study.  Female participants reported positive feelings lasting several days.  In another study from Harvard University, flowers in the home made people feel more compassionate to others, with less worry, less stress, and less depression.
Another article provided ideas for memorial or remembrance gardens.  These might include a plant someone you are remembering liked, or landscape feature such as native plants or plants for a certain season, a memorial plaque, or a plant with the same name as the person.  If a person really had no interest in nature or plants, perhaps a garden for reflection or grieving might be more appropriate.
Some of the many other articles from this past year included topics such as pruning dormant plants, new woody ornamentals in the Cary Awards program (, methods to control crabgrass in lawns, and early spring transplanting of trees and shrubs.  For fruits, articles included growing raspberries, drying apples, and why fruit trees fail to bear.  More on these and other topics can be found online, and searched, either by season or by topic (

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