University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter (Holiday) News Article
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
While thinking back on news and events from this past year, recall some of our top gardening tips and ideas towards making your fruit or vegetable garden more bountiful and landscape more beautiful this coming year.  Some of these topics from our 60 Green Mountain Gardener articles during 2013 included ones on plants-- fruits, vegetables, native plants, flowers, and trees.
New annual flowers featured were recent winners in the All-America Selections program—ones you may want to try this coming year.  Canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet’ can reach 4 to 5 feet high, but in our cooler summers generally is 3 feet high.  Unlike many other cannas, this one keeps blooming through the summer for me, and being grown yourself from seed doesn’t have the canna virus as do many purchased plants.
Coneflowers (Echinacea) are one of the hottest perennials currently, with ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ being a mix of reds and oranges, and an All-America Selections winner too.  You can find more on current Vermont coneflower trials online ( 
The third All-America winning flower this past year was geranium ‘Pinto Premium White to Rose’.  More flowers and their ratings and some photos from our Burlington Waterfront Park display garden can be found online ( 
There were three All-America winners in vegetables this past year.  ‘Melemon’ melon was chosen as an AAS winner for its superior taste to comparable melons, early fruiting, and high yields.  ‘Harvest Moon’ hybrid watermelon is similar to the heirloom ‘Moon and Stars’ (available in both red and yellow), only it produces healthier and shorter vines, is seedless, ripens earlier, has higher yields, and has a better taste.  ‘Jasper’ tomato is a new cherry type bred by Johnny’s Seeds in Maine.  In addition to vigor, a great taste, fruit ripening over a long period, and uniform fruits, it has resistance to several diseases.
Each year the National Garden Bureau ( chooses a flower and vegetable to feature, with 2013 being the Year of the Gerbera and Year of the Watermelon.   Gerberas are most often seen as cut flowers, being the fifth most popular, coming in bright versions of all the rainbow colors.  Look for shorter vining selections of watermelons if you’re short on space, such as ‘Sugar Baby’ with vines only 3 to 4 feet long, and ‘Sweet Beauty’ or ‘Faerie’ with vines 9 to 10 feet long.
There are several less common berry species related to the popular raspberries and blackberries, and in the same genus (Rubus).   The Salmonberry (R. spectabilis), hardy to zone 5 (-15 to -20F minimum winter temperature) is similar to the raspberry, only the canes are perennial not biennial, and the larger fruits vary from yellow to orange-red.  The hardy Thimbleberry (R. parviflorus) has red fruit in late summer on shrubs to 6 feet high.  Unlike the raspberry, fruit are tart so best in jams.  It prefers part shade and moist soils.  Other relatives include the dewberry, Youngberry, Loganberry, and Tayberry.
A series of articles this past year covered native plants for wildlife-- shrubs, perennials, and trees.  Some native perennials for shade include baneberry, columbine, Canada ginger, marsh marigold, white wood aster, foamflower, Solomon’s seal, and turtlehead.  Northern New England's native ferns vary in size, form, texture and habitats where they’ll grow.  A few choices covered in an article on these are the northern maidenhair, lady fern, hay-scented fern, male fern, ostrich fern, cinnamon fern, New York fern, and Christmas fern.
Besides being a beautiful ornamental, ginkgo (pronounced GINK-o) or maidenhair trees are interesting botanically, and useful for many reasons. They’re one of our most ancient plants, having been around for over 200 millions years.    In landscapes they have a lovely pyramidal habit 50 to 80 feet high, interesting leaves, and lovely yellow fall color.  Ginkgo  tolerates soil extremes, is hardy, is free of pests and diseases, and tolerates air pollution. 
If you see a tall, very pyramidal tree to 50 or more feet high along roads and wet areas with lovely yellow fall color, it may be our native eastern larch (Larix laricina).  The eastern larch, the related European larch, and their much shorter cultivars (cultivated varieties) make lovely landscape plants, but allow space for them. They tolerate salt in soils as along northern roads, acidic soils, and are quite hardy. 
Mountain ashes are hardy small trees for cool northern landscapes, particularly attractive in fall with their orange or red berries.  Some have been crossed with other trees to produce offspring with edible fruit, such as the ‘Shipova’—a Russian cross between the mountain ash and pear. Some may be short-lived, due to disease or pests.  The good news is that mountain ashes aren’t attacked by the emerald ash borer that loves other ash trees.
Some of gardening topics covered this past year included stormwater management, successful staking of plants, preserving summer flowers, plants to attract butterflies, and reasons why your plants may have failed to flower or fruit.  More articles on these and many other gardening topics can be found online, and searched by season or by topic (

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles uvmext logo