University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor
University of Vermont

At the end of the year and another gardening season, make notes (before they become distant memories) of this past year’s successes and failures.  As you reflect on this past year and plan for next year’s gardens and landscaping, review some of these topics from our 60 Green Mountain Gardener articles during 2015. These included ones on plants, from perennials and annuals to food crops and indoor plants; animal pests; food preservation; pollinators; and more. 
Deer are a problem for many gardeners, with tips on choosing deer resistant plants the focus of one article.  Facts were given on plant traits that attract, and discourage deer, and reasons why deer eat some plants and not others—why there is really no deer-proof plant, just resistant ones.  If you have a deer population nearby, you might choose to not plant yews, euonymus (burning bush), hybrid tea roses, and saucer magnolia for woody plants.  For perennials, avoid planting (or protect) crocus, dahlias, daylilies, hostas, impatiens, phlox, and particularly lilies and tulips.
An article on hellebores, or Lenten rose, focused on this popular, early spring flower that only reaches a foot or so high.  Leaves are divided into leathery leaflets with coarsely cut, or spiny, margins.  The nodding flowers, up to two inches across, are generally in shades of white, rose, green or purple.  Some new hybrids have spotted flowers, others are quite double or bicolors or streaked.
Spiderworts are a more attractive perennial than their name suggests.  They flower in early summer, in a range of colors depending on cultivar (cultivated variety).  With proper choices, and a little care—the subject of that article—you can have plants free of disease and that don’t self seed.
An article was posted in late summer on a perennial flowering then—Joe Pye.  This name doesn’t do justice to this hardy perennial, which has gorgeous blooms over a six-week period or longer, and is low maintenance.  Most species are native wildflowers of the eastern United States, good for pollinators.  There are Joe Pye selections from under two feet tall for small spaces —such as ‘Little Joe’ or ‘Phantom’, to over 6 feet tall for backs of borders—such as ‘Carin’ or ‘Early Riser’.
One lawn care article covered how to grow them successfully using less nitrogen—beneficial for the environment and costing less money.  Another covered some common lawn pests and their controls.  Realize that lawns are teeming with insects, most either beneficial (eating the bad insects), or causing no harm.  The few bad insects get all the attention and, by trying to control all insects, you may be killing helpful ones and many innocent bystanders.  The bottom line:  you don’t want an insect-free lawn.
If you have a lawn, have you ever considered shrinking it?  You can still have a lawn for recreation and beauty, perhaps just less of it.  In an article on this topic, design tips and groundcover choices were given. 
Other plant articles from 2015 included ones on birch trees, begonias, Solomon’s seal, gaillardia, coleus, and fall asters.  Houseplant topics focused on succulents, terrariums, forcing bulbs, dracaena, and proper watering.  Environmental gardening topics included pollinator plants and wildlife trees (“snags”).  Articles on growing edible plants covered pruning apple trees, asparagus, preventing bird damage to fruits, and preserving tomatoes. 

There were several health articles in 2015, including ones on spring training, proper lifting, horticultural health—staying healthy during the gardening season, accessible gardening, and tips to reduce garden allergies.  Particularly this winter, check out and regularly practice the easy training tips so that your body is in shape when the next garden season arrives.
These articles, and more on many other gardening topics, can be found online ( under the Home Gardener section) and searched by season or by topic.  Combine these with your own notes, and you should have new plants to try, a healthier body, a more sustainable landscape, and more gardening successes in this coming year.

Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles