This week we visit the National Gardening Association (NGA),
headquartered in Burlington, Vermont. NGA is a terrific resource for
gardeners of every level of expertise in every part of the country.
Their display gardens and demonstration areas will educate and
illuminate us all.
North central Vermont is home to some of New England's' most beautiful
formal and informal gardens. Even some of the most humble homes are
surrounded by lovely plants and flowers. There is a saying in this part
of the country "they have 11 months of winter and one month of poor
sledding." So when the growing season comes along whether it's
vegetables or flowers one strives to make the most of the season.
Vermonter's are famous for their environmental awareness, they have
always been close to their land and very protective of it, so
application of good gardening practices is a logical step.
Charlie Nardozzi is a horticulturist with the National Gardening
Association. NGA strives to educate people, help make them better
gardeners and to introduce the joys of gardening to more people. They
this through a variety of venues, one is the National Garden Month,
celebrated every April. They have a web site www.garden.org that has
tons of quality information; for example, there are items dealing with
pest control, design, vegetables and flowers. NGA is an organization of
gardeners. At their headquarters they have demonstration gardens
enabling people to view many of the things they address on their web
We first visit their American cottage garden. A cottage garden has a
variety of different kinds of plants, it has annuals, perennials,
and trees. All blend together providing color from spring to fall. This
is an American garden versus an English garden because it has a lot of
native American plants. It features unusual items like Pagoda Dogwood
and Cimicifuga, these are plants that naturally grow in North America.
The plants change in this garden from year to year, just like in others
gardens. Some things make it, some don't. Every year they're
moving things around and dividing plants that may have gotten too big.
Every year it has different colors, shapes and textures. A lot of
annuals self sow themselves, so although starting with a small patch of
annuals, these plants just keep moving around the garden, showing up in
different places. Some may be unwanted, often they won't look the same
as their parents. Nacotiana is a good example. Charlie started with one
color, it self sowed, was thinned but the next year because of crossing
the new plants are a blend of white, pink and red. This pattern works
wonderfully for NGA but if one were more controlling it could create
problems. If looking for surprises in the garden, use reseeding annuals
like Nacotiana, Flowering Tobacco, or Cleomi. Both are large, good
plants and reseed prolifically, in fact the second and third year you
may have to pull out more than you plant. This far north the flowering
Dogwoods don't grow, instead Pagoda Dogwood grows in the wild. It is
known for its' branch structure, similar to a Japanese tree. It has
beautiful white flowers in the spring and purple berries in mid summer.
It's a wonderful wildlife shrub, birds enjoy the berries, eventually
stripping them all. In the fall its' leaves turn a nice maroon. It has
even 4 seasons of interest if one counts the sculptural effect of the
bark and habit.
A lot of times in a perennial border the plants are small, they may be
only one or two feet tall. Bug Bane or Snake Root grows well this far
north and it grows to 6 to 7 feet tall with huge inflorescences. It
smells something like moth balls, very pleasant. There is a white
version and a purple version, the latter is called Black Negligee. It
adds a nice contrast, especially when used in the back of a border
garden. When combined with brighter colored annuals in the front of the
garden it really shows off all the plants. As well if there is
interesting architecture behind the garden, if this plant is used at
back of the border garden, it looks open and airy and allows one to see
all the neat stuff behind it and it provides some vertical interest.
Once the flowers have gone, the seed pods can be cut and used in dried
Day Lilies, Hemerocallis, some people even call them Tiger Lilies will
grow almost anywhere - shady soil, clay soil, wet soil and dry soil. In
all conditions they will send up a beautiful flower stalk. They are
called Day Lilies because they open for one day, but there are so many
buds in each scape that the flowers or color will last for a week or
two. A scape is what holds all the flowers up on top of the plant. The
buds are edible, in fact many Chinese stores have bags of dried Day
Lilly blossoms. They can used in stir fries and other dishes. One
variety has particularly big flowers, they are Tetriploid, meaning that
they are bred to have larger flowers than native Day Lilies. A
particularly hot or trendy variety has a puckering petal.
The Turks Cap is a true Lily, in the Lilium family. It is very unusual
because the Lily flowers point down and they form in a cluster. The
individual flowers look like a turks cap. The difference between a
Hemerocallis and the Lilium is that the Lilium is grown from a bulb. It
is something planted in the spring or fall. The Hemerocallis is a more
traditional perennial that is grown from the roots and crown. Both are
easy to move and typically bloom the next season after moving. Lilium
Lilies are a little more problematic - for them dig a good sized hole
and mix in some compost. If Voles or Chipmunks are a problem, protect
around the bulb, however once established they'll spread and naturalize
in the garden.
If interested in Lilies that face up, enabling the flowers to be
enjoyed, try Asiatic Lilies. They have the same kind of growth, they
have a bulb, they'll naturalize and then spread throughout the garden.
Asiatic Lilies grow in clusters, the first buds open, then others
continue to open for a week or two. Other varieties have interesting
colors, but some are almost harsh - reds, oranges, strong yellows.
provide a softer touch in the garden, more of a pastel.
Siberian Catmint is related to the mint family because it has square
stems. It tolerates just about any kind of soil and has beautiful blue
flowers that last for weeks. It attracts insects, has a nice fragrance
and is a no-maintance plant. It just keeps growing and growing. It will
spread, but not up and over a garden, just in nice clumps. Charlie will
cut this plant back later in the summer and divide it and possibly move
it around the garden.
Also, in this garden Charlie has a White Phlox; David Phlox is the name
of this variety. It is Powdery Mildew resistant. Since there is plenty
of moisture in the middle of summer Powdery Mildew can be a concern.
Getting color close to the house can often be a problem. Charlie has
utilized a saddle-type container that fits over either a 2x4 ledge or
another type will fit over a 2x6. It holds extra soil in the deep
bags allowing the roots of plants to grow deeper and the extra volume
allows a good number of plants to grow. It fits snugly on the railing,
never blows off and shouldn't tip over. It's a good way to get great
looking color around the porch.
The Burlington Garden Club has planted a butterfly garden. Its' purpose
is to attract butterflies and is in the shape of a butterfly. In the
planting bed are plants that will either attract adult butterflies or
a food source for the larva stage, the caterpillar stage. Parsley is in
one big row of the garden and is used to feed the baby caterpillars. It
is great for Black Swallow Tail Butterflies as well as a number of
species. They lay their eggs, then the caterpillars feed on the
eventually pupate and turn into adult butterflies. Alyssum is also
it is a nectar plant for the adult butterfly. They love to feed on it
well. A lot of butterflies migrate through this part of the country,
thus it is advantageous to have flowers from spring to fall, as long as
possible, to attract them. Thus they have the Alyssum, Poppies that are
blooming, different Mallows, Daylilies, Rudbeckias all are plants that
either bloom at different times or periodically through the summer.
There is always a nectar source.
The Double Poppy, a Bread Seed Poppy, is a beautiful plant. They self
sow, once in the garden they are going to be all over the place. Not
only does the flower look good but the seedpod, a nice dark brown, is
also attractive. It can be cut and brought indoors and used in flower
For over 70 years the horticultural industry has gotten together and
tried out new varieties of vegetables and annual flowers all across the
country. These trials are called all American Selections. Each year
awards are given to the best plants. When a plant wins it has performed
well in every part of the country - the west, the north, etc. It isn't
necessarily the best plant for every part of the country, it has
well to many areas. Each plant is unique, it has something different,
something that makes the plant a step above its' brothers and sisters.
There are All American Trial Gardens and All American Display Gardens.
This is an All American Display Garden, there are only a handful of
Trial Gardens where they evaluate plants, but many Display Gardens
across the country. NGA has one. If you wanted the latest, hottest,
plant, come and take a look.
We look at several of the plants in this garden. First is Purple
Millet. It is unique because it is actually a Millet but has purple
leaves which are striking. It sends out a flower head which is also
purple. Once the seeds start maturing flocks of birds will visit and
enjoy the Millet seed. It is a great wildlife plant, nice dark foliage,
can be used in a container with bright colored cascading plants or
in a bed in mass. Purple is in this year, thus very popular. Geranium,
this one is called Black Velvet, is planted in the front of this bed
is a nice compliment to the Purple Millet. It was a winner several
ago in the All American Selection Trials. It has purple leaves in the
center and green scalloping on the edges. One of Dr. Rick's favorite
plants for hot, dry locations is Portulocca, whose common name is Moss
Rose. This variety is Marginata, it has very bright, coral colored
flowers which stand out against the green foliage. It is interesting
that it does this well in Vermont since it likes sandy, hot conditions,
even more unusual because it has been a cool, rainy summer in Vermont.
Agastash in the south is treated as a tender perennial but is an annual
in this area. This is called Golden Jubilee and is unique because it
pale or lime green leaves which are a great contrast to its' blue
If you have poor soil or heavy soil one of the best strategies to
improve that soil is with a raised bed. It provides the needed height
for well drained soil. There is now a raised-bed kit available, the kit
consists of a spike that goes into the ground, then attached are
side boards. It can be filled with good garden soil or compost material
to provide a well-drained area. It's a good solution for dealing with
poor growing conditions.
Charlie shows us another garden at NGA. It is an heirloom garden and is
named Grandma and Grandpa Garden. Here they're attempting to recreate
what a garden might have looked like at the turn of the century. There
are vegetables and flowers in this garden that would have been grown in
Vermont around the 1900's. Many gardeners have expressed an interest in
heirlooms, those old-time plants that have unique characteristics.
Tomatoes are an example, most people know about red, yellow or cherry
tomatoes. Many don't know that heirloom varieties come in all different
shapes and colors. For example there are purple and striped varieties.
Who doesn't remember the taste of vegetables years ago. The same is
for flowers. Flowers of old had a big, airy look to them. Many of the
new varieties are wonderful but we're loosing some of the older
varieties. Breeders are actually getting into the act and starting to
breed some of the older with the newer varieties; all with the goal of
combining the good traits of the modern hybrid but preserving some
traits of the older heirlooms. People often think vegetables when they
think of heirlooms because back then it was important to grow plants
that would produce reliably. The settlers were dependent on their own
food production because they needed food to eat. One of the best
old tomatoes is Brandy Wine, it's a potato leafed tomato. When compared
with others the leaf looks more like a potato than a tomato. The fruit,
however, is great tasting. The Broccoli in this garden is an heirloom
from Italy but was grown in Vermont during the turn of the century.
Immigrants brought it over and is called 'De Cicco. The head is not as
big and full as one would find in a grocery today. Oakleaf Lettuce
different. The leaves look literally like an Oak leaf. It was a variety
that people grew for many generations. The Beets and Radishes in this
garden are huge. All the heirloom vegetables have unique, interesting
The National Gardening Association sits on 100 acres of land. The
gardens are cultivated close to the buildings but further out they're
trying more naturalized gardens. Many people have large pieces of land
and don't know what to do with it. Wildflowers are a good answer. NGA
has a wildflower garden started last year and sits on about one acre.
was fairly simple to get established, they had a farmer come in, plow
under, then harrow it to break up the sod, then a few days before it
rained sprinkled wildflower seeds all around. Since they're in the
Northeast they used a Northeast mix to ensure wild flowers that are
adapted to this climate and region. Always find wildflowers that are
native to your part of the country, that will help them get
There are some annuals in the mix that will provide color the first
year, but importantly there are also biannuals and perennials included
that will continue to provide color for years on end. After the fall,
after they're through flowering, come through and mow it down with a
brush hog or a lawn mower. That spreads some of the seeds around so
they'll come back the next year, plus it helps keep the weeds and
grasses at bay. It's a beautiful, open area that looks spectacular.
the Queen Anne's Lace and the Thistles that weren't sown provide a lot
of color in this field.
Thanks Charlie, we've learned a lot today. And, thanks for telling us
about the National Gardening Association. Charlie invites everyone to
join them next April for National Garden Month and encourages everyone
to visit their web site www.garden.org .
The Inn at Essex
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