Archive for June, 2010


Viette Garden 1991

Andre and Mark planted this display garden in the fall of 1990. This photo was taken the following summer.

Why aren’t my peonies (or iris, or lilacs, or azaleas, or …) blooming as well as they used to?
We get asked this question a lot. Plants that used to bloom reliably year after year gradually begin to bloom less and less. Why?


Viette garden 2010

Here is the same garden 20 years later. The trees have grown up over the years and created a beautiful open shade garden. Andre keeps the trees limbed up and thinned.

The answer isn’t always simple, but one of the leading reasons that plants don’t flower is a lack of adequate light. We often forget that even as our beautiful perennials and shrubs are maturing, so is the landscape around them. Trees that once cast small insignificant shadows grow up and over time, create more extensive shade to the point where a once full sun garden can become a part shade or even full shade garden!

Too much shade will affect the bloom on many plants including lilacs, azalea, rhododendron, forsythia, peonies, and iris. I’ve seen it happen to a couple of the perennial gardens around my house and to my horror, I realized this spring that it is happening to my vegetable garden!! The three “small” pines on one side of the garden have grown tall enough that they are now casting major shade on my corn!

Peony grown in shade

This peony which is growing in a shady area of the garden has become leggy and no longer blooms well.

Sun perennials and shrubs grown in too much shade not only bloom poorly but they can also become leggy with weak stems that are prone to flopping over. Some of my peonies that were planted in full sun 12 years ago are now growing in shade for much of the day because the small trees in the bed are not so small anymore! They stretch to reach the light causing the clumps to splay out from the center and flop on the ground. Not ideal! Someday this fall I really need to move them to a sunnier spot – if I can find one!

So – what is considered full sun in gardening terms?
Full sun means at least six hours of direct, intense sunlight any time between 10am and 6pm. Six hours of morning sun doesn’t cut it – morning sun is not direct or intense! A garden that receives only morning sun should be planted with shade loving plants.

What can you do to increase the sunlight in your garden?
One way is to limb up your trees. This basically means removing some of the lower branches and thinning out some of the interior branches. You may even need to remove a few less desirable trees. Depending upon the size of your trees, you may need to hire a professional tree service, such as Bartlett Tree Experts, to do the job.

Your aim should be to allow enough light into your shadier areas so that you can see your shadow. This is called bright or filtered shade. Andre has limbed up and thinned out most of the trees in his gardens. This makes the gardens very open and attractive – lots of room for planting underneath and a joy to wander through!

There are times, however, when it just isn’t feasible to get more sun into your garden. In this case, you’ll just have to switch over to some of the beautiful shade loving perennials and shrubs – and there are lots!

But that is a whole other story …

Until next time – Happy Gardening

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Daylilies come in many vivid colors!

The daylilies are blooming in the Viette gardens and they are gorgeous as always. Unlike the daylilies of old, today’s daylily cultivars are available in an exciting range of colors from the softest yellows to the deepest grapes and most vivid reds. They provide fragrance and extended color and variety to your summer gardens.

I didn’t know a lot about daylilies when I first started working at Viette’s almost 24 years ago (wow that seems like a really long time when I put it in writing!). That first spring, I remember going crazy over tall bearded iris when I was given the task of putting together the iris photo labels for the garden center. I told Andre, “These are the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen!” He just smiled at me and said, “Wait until you see the daylilies.” “Oh, no”, I said, “Nothing could be more beautiful than these iris!” Again, he just smiled.

Well, I must say when the daylilies began to bloom a month later, he was right – I changed my mind!

Why does Andre call them the “perfect perennial”?

Daylily berm in JulyFor starters, daylilies are among the most adaptable of all perennials and are perfect for the low maintenance garden. They can be grown in the sun or bright shade, in clay, loam, or sandy soil, and they can tolerate wind, heat, cold, drought, and seaside conditions. All they ask for is a good amount of sun, some water, and a little organic fertilizer like Plant-tone in the spring and again in the fall.

But each bloom only lasts a day! Why would I want to plant a perennial with flowers that are only open for a day? Well, the answer lies in good breeding and the development of extended bloomers, repeat bloomers, and everbloomers! A good quality daylily cultivar will produce multiple well-branched flower stems, and each branch will in turn produce several flower buds. Voila! One quality hybrid daylily can produce many, many blooms which will open over a 3-4 week period. Every day a new, clean, crisp, glistening flower appears with no dust, no insect damage, and no storm damage – just fresh!

Over the years, the Viette family has carefully chosen the best producers (those with increased stem production and with excellent branching and bud production) as parents for their new hybrids and then thoroughly evaluated the seedlings before choosing the best performers to propagate – superior hybrids without a doubt!

Daylily 'Brilliant Cherry'

‘Brilliant Cherry’ was hybridized by Andre’s father, Martin Viette. This stunning tetraploid daylily has beautiful 6″ blooms.

Because of their versatility, you can use daylilies in many ways. As a mass planting, daylilies create a beautiful garden all by themselves.  They can also be used in gardens with other perennials, bulbs, and annuals, and as companion plants with trees and shrubs.

If you get a chance to take a walk through just one of André’s many beautiful daylily gardens, you will be struck by the beauty of their rich colors and regal blooms. Thousands of blooms!! At Viette’s, our daylilies come in all shapes, sizes, and colors with literally thousands of different cultivars. You can check out many of them on our daylily photo gallery pages but it’s much more enjoyable to see them in person! Stop in for a visit! We’re off the beaten path but well worth the visit – especially at daylily time!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Cucumber trellis

Cucumbers will grow all the way to the top of the trellis making harvesting easy!

I finally finished planting my vegetable garden Sunday! Well – mostly. This has been an ongoing project for the last three weekends. I still plan on putting in a second crop of bush beans in a few weeks so I will have lots and lots of beans to freeze for the winter. Mmmmmmmm.

My garden space is fairly large (about 50’x80′) and at the end of every season I promise myself that next year, I won’t plant the whole thing. Of course once spring rolls around, I get ambitious and start lots of tomatoes and peppers indoors and I always have to plant lots of cucumbers because everybody just loves my pickles! Then I find all kinds of cool squash and bean varieties to grow – so it starts to fill up. Last year, I discovered Rattlesnake pole beans. Man, they have to be the most delicious beans I’ve ever had! A must grow in my book – and they’re heat tolerant, too. I wasn’t planning to plant corn this year either but I love corn and, well, I thought I’d just put in a few rows – so now I have 8 rows of corn. That’s just how it goes with me! Might as well – right?

Eggplant is planted in the tires.

Just an experiment! Eggplant planted in tires. Rows of bush beans in the background.

Last year, I was given a “new” tiller that has totally revolutionized my vegetable gardening (and is really the reason I decided to plant corn this year after all). It’s an old Troy-Bilt rear-tine tiller that I think originally belonged to my Great Uncle Bill. Uncle Bill gave it to my grampa and then it went to my mom and dad who passed it on to me. It must be at least 35 years old at this point but it runs like a charm! I’ve always fought with front-tine tillers but this rear-tine tiller is amazing! I just go over a row two or three times and viola – it’s ready to plant with nice fluffy soil down to a depth of about 8″-10″! I don’t even have to rake it smooth – easy and quick!

Now that the garden is planted, I’m starting to get everything mulched. I have discovered that mulching is the secret to vegetable gardening success, at least for me. It keeps the weeds down and maintains a more constant soil moisture level. As I mentioned in a previous post, this also really helps with disease problems. Fungal diseases, such as early blight, late blight, and septoria leaf spot, are the main destroyer of tomato plants in many gardens. Fungal spores in the soil are just waiting to jump onto your vegetable crops. Mulch helps by preventing these spores from splashing up from the soil onto the leaves of your plants. A pine based mulch is best but I’m just using some not-quite-finished compost to mulch mine. In the past, I’ve put down a layer of newspaper and covered it with straw. This worked really well and the newspaper kept any straw seeds from germinating.

Tomato trellis

Tomatoes grown off the ground are less likely to suffer from disease.

Here’s another tip! Get your plants up off the ground. I plant my tomatoes and cucumbers on trellises. This is not only a space saver, but it also helps in disease control because it keeps my plants off the ground and increases the air circulation (and lowers the humidity) around them which allows the foliage to dry out better after watering. It also makes picking easier. Cucumbers like to climb (we tie them a little) and I rarely find a giant cucumber that I missed because it was hidden under foliage!

Here’s hoping that all of our gardens prosper this season and that we are blessed with good growing weather and bountiful crops! Now, if only the weeds wouldn’t grow so well!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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Sweet, juicy strawberries - yummm!

… but I’ve not a berry to eat!

I love strawberries! My mom used to make the BEST strawberry shortcake in the summer when I was growing up.  Mmmmmmm! When we moved from town into the “country”, we planted a bed of about 100 strawberry plants. These plants gave us beautiful strawberries for about 3 years. I made jam, strawberry syrup, froze a bunch, and we ate a lot right there in the strawberry patch.

Well, as it always seems to go with me, time escaped me and my beautiful strawberry patch was slowly taken over by locust suckers (the bane of my existence!) and weeds. Funny thing … the exact same thing happened to my asparagus bed which I lovingly created and planted with 3 different varieties of asparagus! This bed lasted a little longer! I got some great asparagus out of it. I especially loved ‘Purple Passion’! It was my favorite of all. What a delicious flavor. I highly recommend it!

But, I digress! Back to strawberries!

Wild Strawberry

Wild strawberry produces tiny berries that aren't worth eating!

Right now the only strawberries that grow at our house are the very ubiquitous wild strawberries which are slowly invading our lawn. You can’t even eat the little berries that form on this low growing invasive lawn pest! They’re awful! I know what I need to do to get rid of this annoying weed but I just have to find that elusive thing called – time!

Well, now that I think of it, I stand corrected. Saturday, we spent most of the day pulling some nicer looking strawberry plants out of our blueberry patch. When we started, the fenced-in blueberry patch looked like a sea of strawberries and brambles. I felt kind of bad pulling them all up (the strawberries that is, not the brambles – another bane of my existence!). We thought about leaving some to see if we would get some edible fruit but, in the end, I just pulled everything out. Now the blueberry patch looks great and there are lots of berries this year so hopefully I’ll be making some pies and muffins and …

Wild strawberry in the lawn

If you look REALLY hard, you can see a few blades of grass amongst the wild strawberry!

Again, I digress – back to the invading strawberries!

The best way to combat lawn weeds like wild strawberry is to increase the vigor of your turfgrass through proper feeding and correct mowing practices. “Mow your grass high, no lower than 3″ to allow the grass to shade out lawn weeds” is Andre’s best advice for a weed-free lawn. He also recommends fertilizing in the spring and again in the fall with an organic fertilizer. Andre swears by Espoma Organic Lawn Food and Milorganite for slow continuous feeding over the season.

To zap the wild strawberry and many other hard to kill lawn weeds, the best products I know of are Bonide Weed Beater Lawn Weed Killer or Bayer Advanced Lawn Weed & Crabgrass Killer –  I just need to get out there and take care of it!

So … I have promised myself that one day I will start a new strawberry bed and maybe asparagus, too. When that happens, I hope I will be more diligent about the maintenance of these beds but time (if I ever find it) will tell!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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