University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

gmg logo   December News Articleline


Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
University of Vermont

As you reflect on this past year and plan for next year’s gardens and landscaping, make notes (before they become distant memories) of this past year’s successes and failures.  A review of a few topics from our Green Mountain Gardener articles during 2017 may give you some new ideas for this coming season on new plants-- from perennials and annuals to food crops and indoor plants; garden trends; and more.

Garden trends for this past year included growing food indoors, including herbs; spending more time in nature and natural settings such as forests; using trees for the sun and wind screening benefits; adding plants to the workplace.  The trend of “tidying” doesn’t mean keeping shrubs and edges trimmed and gardens free of leaves.  Instead, some of the tips given for tidy gardens include getting rid of plants that are overgrown or past their prime; creating boundaries and defining spaces; using a limited palette of plants and non-plant (hardscape) items; thinning the garden; getting rid of garden clutter; eliminating synthetic chemicals, whether fertilizers or pesticides.

Indoor houseplants covered in the Green Mountain Gardener in 2017 included the schefflera or umbrella plant, and Benjamin fig tree. The umbrella plant may be seen as octopus tree—both names from the spreading leaves with large leaflets in an umbrella spoke pattern.  Plants like bright light but not direct sun, which can cause leaf burn.  At least 3 to 4 hours a day of sun filtered through a thin sheer curtain would be ideal.  Being tropical, they like warmth.  Use a houseplant fertilizer of your choice, according to label directions, if plants are actively growing.  Temperatures shouldn’t drop much below 60 degrees (F) or for long in winter.  Below 50 degrees and leaves may turn black and drop off.

The Benjamin fig tree is the most commonly seen, and sold, form of this ornamental plant (no edible figs).  They’re usually found as three to six-foot tall plants in pots, which, through pruning, can be kept to a reasonable size for indoors.  They’re grown for their shiny green and glossy leaves, and smooth, gray bark.  Grow them in indirect light, or sun filtered by sheer curtains.  Grow variegated cultivars in lower light.  Ideal temperatures are 65 to 70 degrees (F) at night, and 75 to 85 degrees during the day.  Watch for scale insects on these plants.

Each year, the All-America Selections (AAS) program recognizes the best of the new annual and vegetable varieties (  To be an AAS winner, plants must show improvements over any similar existing cultivars (cultivated varieties).  The 15 vegetable winners for 2017 included a pole bean, fennel, red okra, a short pea, four peppers, two squash, three tomatoes, and two watermelons.

This past year’s AAS annual flower winners, grown from seeds, include a celosia, dianthus, two vincas, and a zinnia. The two “vegetative” annual flower winners include a geranium and verbena.  All prefer full sun, average well-drained soil, and regular fertilizer.

Other articles this past year included ones on growing outdoor plants such as peas, peonies, and pansies.  Popular topics were covered in articles on controlling invasive plants, avoiding yellowjackets in the garden, and deer control strategies.  Other general interest topics included ones on homegrown teas, garden design to reduce stress, and recycling in the garden.
You’ll find these articles and many more online (

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