PERENNIALS NOT CUT back for winter provide an appealing ornamental contrast to the bleak winter landscape and serve as a source of food for winter birds. Photo by Bonnie Kirn Donahue
It's happened again. Leaves are getting crispy, flowers are going to seed and the air is beginning to cool. As hard frosts become a reality, it is almost time to start thinking about cutting back our perennials and putting our gardens to bed. I’d like to propose that we think about this time of year a little differently. In fact, leaving some perennials and grasses up throughout the winter can be beneficial for many reasons. One reason not to cut back your plants for the winter is aesthetics. Although it might be hard to watch your plants dry out, turn brown and go to seed (it is for me),...

A TIGER SWALLOWTAIL feasts on lilac flowers. Photo by Dick Conrad
We all love the flowers we grow in our gardens — an ever-changing palette from spring to fall — and by contrast, the stark beauty of winter.  But birds and butterflies add their own ephemeral magic to our gardens — they are like the icing on the cake.  For me, the opportunity to observe these winged visitors as the seasons pass is an endless source of pleasure and wonder. A few highlights This year the waning weeks of summer were pure delight, as butterflies and hummingbirds savored those last mellow days of the season.  Not long ago I watched a lone Monarch butterfly with a consort of...

THE UMBRELLA PLANT, with its broad green leaves, grows behind the gazebo and is aptly named. Photo by Dick Conrad
It is a delightful mid-August afternoon as I sit in our gazebo encircled by my garden. Unsurprisingly, as I glance around, my eye is initially drawn to the exuberant sun-filled borders full of colorful summer flowers — clusters of lacy pink yarrow backed by a stand of pure-white shasta daisies; deep-blue monkshood among purple coneflowers; groups of pink and white phlox; clumps of yellow and peach-colored daylilies; and a pair of prodigious panicle hydrangeas covered with creamy cone-shaped flowers. There are also the blueberry bushes laden with fruit, calling me to get picking. While all...

LOW GARDEN TUNNELS such as this one can not only get your gardens started early, but can also help you extend your season well into the fall and early winter. Photo courtesy UVM Extension
Low tunnels are the contemporary version of the “cold boxes,” made out of windows and wood frames, which older generation gardeners used to start plants early in the season. They are also every bit as good for extending your season well into the fall and early winter — even in Vermont. These tunnels provide other forms of protection for your garden throughout the year. Think of them as the home and community gardener equivalent of the high tunnels we see on many farms. The simplest low tunnel can be created with wire hoops that can be purchased at any garden supply store. Place the wire hoops...

PHLOX 'MISS LINGARD' and “Rosalind” make a nice picture among the daylilies and bee balm in Judith’s garden in Goshen. Photo by Dick Conrad
This Sunday, Aug. 4, from 1-4 p.m., Judith and Dick will open their garden at 423 Goshen Ripton Road in Goshen to interested readers (weather permitting). If you have questions email Judith at The “dog days” of summer are here. And often, by this point in the season, people tell me that their flowers are fading and their gardens have a bit of a tired look. Yes, it is true that our lilacs, peonies and iris are but a distant memory, and the early salvia and catmint have gone to seed.  But there are many lovely flowers to take their place in July and August, a time when...

SQUASH AND OTHER cucurbits are among the many plant species that can be affected by powdery mildew, a persistent disease that thrives in humid conditions. Photo / Scot Nelson
If you've ever lost a nice zucchini plant or a crop of cucumbers or melons to this white fungus, then you know the heartbreak of powdery mildew. It is a plant disease that looks like its name. It starts as small white circles that look like talcum powder, circles that will spread and eventually cover your plant, reducing the amount of photosynthesis and fruit production if left untreated. Powdery mildew is actually not one single fungus, but a family of closely related fungal species that affect a range of trees, flowers and vegetables, including apple, rose, ash, birch, grapes, zinnia, lilac...

JUDITH HAD A wonderful crop of winterberries this year — until they were discovered by a voracious crowd of cedar waxwings. Photo by Dick Conrad
GOSHEN — Winter is the season of short days and dark nights when, even at midday, the sun gives little warmth as it rides low in the sky. By now my fall garden chores are done, my tools hang neatly in the toolshed and I have mostly retreated indoors. I am lucky enough to have a small cool greenhouse which becomes my indoor winter garden and, from October until May, is home for my potted camellias. Camellias flower from December to April — when our outdoor gardens are covered with snow — making their beautiful blooms all the more special. And yes, even though the summer flowers are but a...

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100