University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

gmg logo Winter News Articleline

GARDENING REVIEW FOR 2016

Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
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 2016. These included ones on plants, from perennials and annuals to food crops and indoor plants; animal pests; pollinators; garden trends, and more. 
   
Garden trends for this past year included syncing gardening with technology, engaging hands-on with the local environment and nature, night lighting, garden whimsy, and layered landscapes incorporating various types of plants.  There are two excellent books relating to the latter.  The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage by David Culp and Adam Levine offers many design tips and inspiring photos.
   
Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West illustrates an alternative to traditional design—creating plant communities that function as in nature.  Claudia is the keynote speaker on this topic at the 2017 Vermont Flower Show (greenworksvermont.org).
  
Indoor houseplants, cut flowers and flowering plants covered in depth in articles this past year included the carnation, peace lily, Easter lily, anthurium, palms, grape ivy, African violet, and spider plants.  Outdoor flowers covered in depth included columbines, alliums (the bulb of the year for 2016—the first of this award), and pollinator perennials. 
      
Each year, the All-America Selections program recognizes the best of the new annual and vegetable varieties (all-americaselections.org/).  To be an AAS winner, plants must show improvements over any similar existing cultivars (cultivated varieties).  This year’s vegetable winners include a mustard, onion, two sweet peppers, a pumpkin, radish, two tomatoes, and even a strawberry.  This year’s flower winners included two annual geraniums, and a salvia. 
   
Pollinators, and how to help them, currently is one of the top gardening topics.  The size, shape, color, and bloom time of flowering plants all influence what types of pollinating insects will visit, so planting a diversity of flowers is the best way to attract a diversity of pollinators. To help support more beneficial pollinators in your gardens and landscape, ten native perennials were recommended including wild beebalm, coneflowers (the single purple species), asters, Joe-pye weed and others.

Monarch butterflies and honeybees get a lot of attention but, in fact, they are just two of the thousands of species of pollinators in the U.S. that benefit from pollinator-friendly landscapes.  Here, in North America, we have about 4,000 species of wild bees. They don’t make honey like the honeybee, but they are extremely important for the pollination of food crops and wild plants. Among the most recognizable of our wild bees and the most proficient pollinator is the bumblebee.
  
Edible crops remain popular, and ones covered this past year included carrots, basil, blueberries, and garlic.  Whether you grow, or just eat, garlic, it is more than just a flavoring for foods.  Studies have shown that garlic has antioxidant properties, promoting the health of the heart and immune systems.  “Allicin”-- the chemical produced when garlic is chopped, chewed, or bruised-- is a powerful antibiotic.  Garlic even has been shown to reduce cholesterol.  
   
Blueberries, too, are healthful and are one of the most popular and easy-to-grow fruits.  Grown as an ornamental shrub, many have colorful red fall leaves. The most important aspects for growing blueberries successfully are choosing hardy varieties and having the right soil.
   
Other articles this past year included ones on lawn care, bird feeding, making maple syrup, pruning evergreens, facts about color, hydrangeas, and more.  These articles, as well as ones on many other gardening topics, can be found online (perrysperennials.info 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