University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Winter News Article
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GARDENING REVIEW FOR 2014

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont


While the end of the year and another gardening season is a good time (before you forget) to make notes and take stock on this year’s successes, as well as failures (always a great way to learn), it is also a good time to highlight some of our gardening tips from this past year.  Some of these topics from our 60 Green Mountain Gardener articles during 2014 included ones on plants such as perennials and annuals, food crops, botany, how-to topics, design, history, climate change, animal pests, and more.
   
One of the landscape shrubs featured this past year was the Common Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), which gets its name from the several layers of peeling (“exfoliating”) bark on mature branches that reveal reddish to light brown inner bark, particularly attractive in winter when they can be seen easily.  This shrub has an upright, spreading habit, and generally reaches 5 to 8 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide, although there are some smaller cultivars (cultivated varieties).  They have attractive leaves in dark red (such as Diabolo), yellowish (such as ‘Dart’s Gold’), or coppery (such as Coppertina).
  
There were two new winning flowers for 2014 in the national All-America Selections (AAS) program—the best in seed-grown plants.  Gaura ‘Sparkle White’ is sometimes known as “beeblossom” as it is attractive to bees so a pollinator-friendly plant.  Petunia ‘African Sunset’ is the second AAS winning flower for 2014, with a unique “designer” orange color-- a rare color among petunias. 
   
Winning AAS new vegetables included ‘Mascotte’ bean --a good example of recent breeding of vegetables for patio containers and smaller-space gardens, as well as improved disease resistance.  Mama Mia Giallo’ is a sweet Italian type pepper with gold to yellow fruit 7 to 9 inches long. ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ tomato has the wonderful flavor of an orange, heirloom parent yet is earlier and with some disease resistance.  ‘Fantastico’ is a second tomato national AAS winner for 2014, being a grape tomato with early maturing and many fruit in long clusters.  Fruit resist cracking better than many of this type. In addition to these national winners, regional winning flowers and vegetables are now being named.
   
Some of the choice perennials featured included ‘Sulphureum’ bishop’s cap (Epimedium x versicolor), ‘Biokovo’ perennial geranium (Geranium x cantabrigiense), ‘Obsidian’ coralbells (Heuchera), and ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ hosta.  As you might guess from the name of the hosta, it is miniature with thick, almost rubbery, round, bluish-green to grey-green leaves. The thick leaves tend to make this hosta cultivar more slug resistant.
   
‘Northwind’ switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) was voted the Perennial Plant of the Year for 2014 by growers and designers in the Perennial Plant Association.  It is one of the more upright cultivars, 4 to 5 feet tall with bluish leaves, staying vertical in winds without staking as many similar switchgrasses require.
   
One article from this past year dealt with Monarch butterflies—why their numbers are declining (in large part due to habitat loss), and what we can do to help them (plant more milkweeds!).  Another article mentioned winning native plants from the Garden Club of America, including their Plant of the Year for 2014-- the Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa).  This beautiful wildflower is attractive to butterflies, particularly the monarch.  It totally is not deserving of the “weed” in its name, as it is quite desirable and not weedy.  A less used but appropriate common name is Butterfly Milkweed, as it is related to other milkweeds.  Unlike its kin, this one does not have a milky, sticky sap.  I like the name “Butterfly Love”.  As Native Americans used it for pulmonary ailments, it may be called “Pleurisy Root”. 
    
All the facts and science and climate records point to a changing climate.  What this means to the gardener, and how to garden in a changing climate, were the focus of a couple articles.  A website of the National Phenology Network (www.usanpn.org/) shows how to relate “phenological” events to climate change.  These biological events, such as insect and bud emergence or bird migration, give clues to past as well as future trends.  Several phenology studies mentioned in this article show how our growing season is getting longer.
   
“Botany” articles explained different types of fall fruits you find on trees and shrubs, and why leaves change color in fall.  “How-to” articles covered topics such as growing roses successfully, watching for and handling tree hazards, renovating overgrown perennial beds, selecting the best trees, and how to read the information available on seed packets.
   
Effective control of animal pests such as rabbits and voles is possible, with some tips in an article this past year.    Your success will depend on your timing, method, and perseverance.  You may need to try a variety of methods and devices and, if first you don't succeed, try again.
   
More articles on these and many other gardening topics can be found online (perrysperennials.info under the Home Gardener section), and searched by season or by topic.  These, plus your own notes, should give you new plants to try and more gardening successes in this coming year.

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