About Trees, Shrubs, Roots and VinesAsparagus
American Cranberry (Vaccinium)
Highbush Cranberry and other Viburnum Species
Years to Bearing is an estimate; your results will vary depending on climate, site, soil, nutrients, light, spacing, pruning.
Asparagus officinalis. Years to Bearing: approximately 3-4.
A spring staple for millennia, asparagus is thought to have originated around the Mediterranean Sea, perhaps in Asia Minor. The pharaohs, Greeks and Romans were all aware of its highly nutritious qualities and delectable flavor. The earliest known American horticultural advertisement, from March 1719, is for “English Sparrow-grass Roots.” Uncut shoots become a light green feathery hedge, a beautiful backdrop to a flower garden. Honeybees love the dainty dangling flowers, which develop into bright red spherical seed pods on female plants. Occasionally non–spear-forming females will show up in a planting. Leave them be or rogue them out as you wish.
Growing Asparagus: Requires fertile soil and high levels of phosphorus. Plant 14–18" apart, 6–10" deep, in trenches 4' apart. Or dig your trenches somewhat deeper and fill the bottom with 4" of compost and rotted manure. Lay plants with crown up and cover with 2" of soil. Plants emerge very slowly. As young shoots grow, add soil gradually, just covering the shoots, until the trench is full. In late fall, remove dead stalks and mulch with 3" of manure.
- Second summer: Fertilize with Gungnir Asparagus Mix , a well-balanced blend of organic fertilizers formulated and mixed by Fedco. Control weeds but do not injure crowns.
- Later years: Same routine but increase fertilizer. Be sure to leave some spears each year to grow stalks that will support the roots and give you more spears next year. Keep the bed weed-free and mulched heavily.
- Harvest: We recommend caution in harvesting. Before the third or fourth season, harvest only the largest shoots from vigorous plants so the young plants can establish themselves. Uncut shoots become a light green feathery hedge, a beautiful backdrop to a flower garden. Honeybees love the dainty dangling flowers of asparagus.
Aronia spp. has gotten a lot of press in recent years as a superfruit: it has wonderful medicinal qualities, works well in a range of culinary applications and is an important wildlife plant in the native landscape.
Both red (Aronia arbutifolia) and black (Aronia melanocarpa) chokeberries are edible when cooked, but we emphasize the red as more of a wildlife and landscape plant, while the black may be a better choice for medicine and food. Black chokeberries are commercially cultivated for their high levels of antioxidants and myriad health benefits. Both species are small rounded shrubs with blueberry-sized fruit and show-stopping electric-red fall foliage.
Begins to bear fruit in its third year and increases to full yield around five years. Ripens in late July or early August. If not harvested, the berries will hang on the bushes until songbirds eat them in late winter. Will form colonies. Not particularly picky about where it grows: adaptable to wet or dry areas, sun or partial shade. Free of diseases and insects. Native to Eastern United States.
Years to Bearing: approximately 3-5.Back to top
Evergreen trees tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but prefer slight acidity. If you are planting in dry or well-drained areas, dip tree roots in Agri-gel® solution before planting to protect roots from drying out. Do not use Agri-gel in heavy clay soils or wet areas. Do not soak conifers in the Agri-gel solution; a good dipping is sufficient.
Before planting, shear back the roots by about a third of their length. Dig a small hole or make an incision with a spade or planting bar and slip the tree in to the level it grew in the nursery, never below. Fan the roots out; do not wind them around in the hole. It is better to prune the roots than to crowd them in the hole. Water well and pack the earth down with your feet to remove air pockets.
Periodic deep waterings are far more beneficial than frequent sprinklings. Fertilization is not necessary in the first year. In later years you may fertilize around the drip line.
To make evergreens dense and compact, remove the central leader and the center bud at the end of each side branch.Back to top
Malus spp. A crabapple is any apple with fruit smaller than 2" in diameter. Crabs bear edible fruit, some more favorable for culinary use than others. Some have persistent wildlife fruit that hangs on the tree for weeks or even months. Others have hardly any fruit at all. The flowers, tree form and even the shape of the leaves can vary subtly or profoundly. Most are magnificent in bloom and are often ornamental year round, especially in winter when the leaves drop and the trees show off their interesting forms. Although crabs prefer full sun and deep well-drained soils of 5.5–6.5 pH, they are quite forgiving and will thrive in many locations with a little TLC. Years to Bearing: approximately 5-7.
Crabapples have similar cultural requirements as culinary apples . All crabapple trees need a second variety for pollination, but any different crabapple or apple blooming around the same time within a quarter mile will do.
- See more information about choosing and growing apple trees
- See more information about soil preparation and planting
- See more information about apple pests
Vaccinium macrocarpon. Years to Bearing: approximately 3-5.
Dense low lustrous evergreen ground cover, reddish purple in fall and loaded with large red berries. Once established, makes a beautiful and edible “lawn.” Handpick or rake like blueberries before hard frost. Use fresh, freeze or store in a cool basement or root cellar for months. Bitter and alkalizing effects make it one of the most common remedies for bladder infections. An excellent source of vitamin C. Annually flooded for frost protection and harvesting convenience in commercial operations, but not necessary in home plots. Self-fertile. Native to northeastern U.S. and Canada.
Cranberries are shallow-rooted and require light acid soil (pH 4.0–5.5), preferably cool, moist and high in organic matter, similar to soil in which blueberries grow well. If you don”t have “blueberry” soil, test the pH of your soil and add sulfur as necessary to reduce pH. Will grow in dry locations. Plant them in spring once the ground can be worked in a bed or in a naturalized setting.
Instructions for a 5x5' cranberry bed (10 plants or divisions):
Prepare the soil:
- For acidic “blueberry” soils: If you’re fortunate to have a site where blueberries grow naturally, clear a spot of vegetation, cultivate the soil, add some peat and sand if you like, and you’re ready to plant.
- for sandy soils: Remove soil 10" deep and mix soil with 2 bales of damp peat moss. Replace mixture in bed and cover with 2" of sand.
- Clay or silty soils: Remove soil 10" deep and place it around the edge of the bed as a berm. Replace the soil with a 50-50 mix of soil and peat (about 2 bales of peat). Cover with an additional 2" of sand.
Plant cranberries 12" apart, so the roots are in the peat and the sand is covering the lower portion of the stems. Remove all weeds as needed. Water the plants weekly so that the peat is moist but not saturated. Add nitrogen at a rate of ⅓–1 lb (or 20–50 lbs of manure) per 100 sq feet each year. If you're following the directions for a 5'x5' (25 sq foot) bed, you'll need 1/4 lb nitrogen or 5–12.5 lbs of manure . No pesticides should be necessary. Handpick before first hard frost when berries are red.
In late fall, cover the bed to protect the plants from the drying effect of winter winds. Use a mulch of leaves or pine needles; or cover with polyester row cover and then clear plastic; or cover with row cover and then plenty of leaves. You may want to bait for mice under row cover or plastic. Remove mulch in early April. Protect flower buds from 28° frosts by covering with plastic during frosty nights. Every two years partially cover the plants with a ½–1" layer of sand in spring before growth begins. This will help produce more berries and keep weeds down.Back to top
The Viburnum genus encompasses more than 150 different species, which can range from dense shrubs lush with green foliage to more open and rangy small trees. Viburnums are prized for their multi-season interest, with blossom, berry and foliage varying by species. Flowers attract many butterflies and other early-season pollinators in spring. Ripening berries, some edible for humans, put on a show of color throughout the summer and are popular with birds and other wildlife. The Viburnums we offer are important wildlife plants and beautiful adaptable additions to the landscape. Plant multiples of a species for best results.
Growing Viburnums: Viburnums are generally easy to grow and adaptable. If grown in optimal conditions—moist rich well-drained soil and full sun to part shade—they will take on a fuller shape. That said, most Viburnums will also do well in the partial shade of wild borders and hedges. Although Viburnums are monoecious (both male and female flowers on the same plant), we recommend planting multiples of the same species for best fruit set.
Viburnum Pests: The viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) has become a problem in some areas. The larvae overwinter on twigs and can defoliate shrubs in spring and early summer. They seem to prefer Arrowwood, but we have seen them do a number on Wild Raisin and Nannyberry. Prune out and burn any egg-infested twigs in early spring before your shrubs are leafed out. Spraying with Spinosad in late April or early May when the larvae first emerge can also help. ( Monterey Garden Spray is a Spinosad available from Fedco’s Organic Growers Supply.) Timing is key since spraying the eggs or adult beetles is less effective.
Viburnum opulus var. americanum. Years to Bearing: approximately 3-4. Formerly known as V. trilobum. Also known as Crampbark.
Medicinal multi-stemmed native shrub. Clusters of 4" flat white flowers in May attract beneficial insects. Quite lovely in bloom. Pendulous bunches of red berries ripen mid-October, popular with dozens of bird species. Fruit is extremely rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and C. Although considered a wildlife plant, berries can be used for juice, jam, fruit leather and syrups—when boiling them down, don’t let the somewhat unpleasant odor deter you.
Bark is one of the most effective anti-spasmodic native medicinals. Harvest bark in April or early May before leaves emerge by running a sharp knife down the long younger stems. Make tea or tincture to relieve cramping and muscle tension of various sorts.
Tolerates dry soils that are high in organic matter, but prefers rich moist well-drained soils, sun or shade. Good for screens and hedges. Soil pH 6–7. Susceptible to viburnum leaf beetle; check with your local extension office or nursery to determine if this could be a problem. Not a bog cranberry. Native to northeast U.S. and Canada. Self-pollinating.Back to top
Sambucus spp. Years to Bearing: approximately 2-4.
Elderberry trees appear in myths from days of yore, thought to possess magical and protective powers. Dangling clusters of edible purple-black berries ripen in late summer on this broad vigorous multi-stemmed shrub. The fruit is highly nutritious and medicinal. A century ago, every grandmother knew how to make the perfect elderberry pie. Recipes for jam could be found in all the old farm cookbooks. Elderberries have made a big comeback as folks rediscover the scrumptiousness of elderberry jelly, cordial, elixir and wine. The large creamy-white flower clusters, or cymes, that cover the shrub in early summer make delicious fritters. Dry them for a fragrant wintertime cold-and-flu remedy tea. For centuries, humans have used this plant’s medicinal qualities to treat a wide range of ailments and to boost the immune system. Hippocrates is said to have called the elder tree his “medicine chest.” Birds love the fruit, and the blossoms attract beneficial insects and pollinators. No serious pest or disease issues. Note: Cooking elderberries is essential to breaking down toxic cyanide-inducing glycosides in the seeds. Not for fresh eating.
Growing Elderberries: Elderberries are low-maintenance and easy to grow. They prefer moist soil with lots of compost, and full sun. That said, they are adaptable and will tolerate drier soil, poor drainage, and even temporary flooding. On the St. Croix River here in Maine, we’ve harvested elderberries from a canoe! Considered self-fertile but multiple plants will improve fruit set. Canadensis and nigra species will pollinate each other.
At planting time, add plenty of compost to the hole; sidedress with compost every spring. Susceptible to borers if weeds crowd the base, but aggressive weeding can disturb elders’ shallow roots—control weeds by mulching with a thick layer of hay, leaves or wood chips. With a little attention, your elderberries will provide strong yields of fruit for several decades.
- American Elder, S. canadensis: In spring, while plant is still dormant, prune away any weak, broken or dead canes. New canes will emerge. Fruit is produced on both new and old wood but best sets are on one- and two-year canes. Periodically cut out the oldest wood. Alternately, some people prefer to cut elders back to the ground each year and treat them like herbaceous perennials. These plants will produce fewer but larger clusters.
- Western Elder, S. caerulea: Do nothing, or remove dead canes as needed. We offer this species occasionally.
- European, or Black, Elder S. nigra: Fruits on second-year wood. It’s ok to prune in spring, but be sure to leave first-year canes for the next season’s yield.
Before cooking, remove elderberries from their stems. This can be done while the berries are fresh or frozen. We pick and pack entire panicles of berries into plastic bags and put the bags in the freezer. Once frozen, remove and whack the bag with a stick. The berries will easily fall from the stems. Snip a hole in the corner of the bag and the berries will roll out. Freezing will not damage the fruit.Back to top
Calluna vulgaris Magical, mythical and medicinal evergreen groundcover features a spread of flowers and foliage that change color throughout the season. Colorful foliage in autumn. Revered in the British Isles, important medicinally in teas, honey, liniments and ointments. First fermented a few thousand years ago, used in gruit, ale, and might be the original ingredient for the first whiskey. Branches used in thatching, bedding, basketry, rope-making, broom-making and even insulation. Flowers attract bees, butterflies and moths, especially when planted in masses or as low-growing hedges. Heather honey is highly prized for medicinal benefit. Recommended as a groundcover, for rock gardens and edges of paths—or for opening the portals to the fairy world!
Native to the dry forests, heaths and bare grounds of Britain and Ireland. Each year we vary our selection but always offer the hardiest varieties proven to flourish in northern climates.
Requires acidic soil and full sun to partial shade. Plant about 18" apart each way and let it spread. Mix peat into the soil to lower the pH if necessary (see planting instructions for cranberries and blueberries), but heather does not tolerate wet spots as cranberries and blueberries do. Does not like high fertility. Shear every April for best bloom.Back to top
Humulus lupulus. Years to Bearing: approximately 2-3.
Beautiful twining vine covers a trellis, archway or the entire side of a barn. Our favorite live awning to shade out the summer sun. Green lobed leaves, bristly stems, and insignificant greenish flowers, followed by the hops: papery aromatic cone-like strobiles used medicinally and in brewing for over 1000 years. Herbalist John Christopher recommends the strobile tea as “a powerful, stimulating and relaxing nerve tonic.”
For brewing, there are basically two types of hops. Aroma hops have a lower percentage of alpha acids and are used for flavoring, finishing or conditioning brews. Bitter hops have more alpha acids and are used to impart bitterness.
Growing Hops: Hops prefer rich light well-drained soil and full sun, but they are adaptable and will tolerate shade. Plant it where you’re sure you want it because the extensive root system can be hard to dig up. Dies back to the ground in fall and rebounds more vigorously each year.
Dig holes about 1' deep and at least 3' apart in rows. Add manure, compost and other slow-release organic fertilizers. Plant 1 or 2 rhizomes per hole, horizontally with the buds pointed up and cover with 1–2" of loose soil. The first year the hop plant requires frequent light watering and mulching.
Hops grow vertically, with lateral sidearms extending from the main vine and producing cones. Vines may grow up to 25' in a single season, and do best if they are trained onto strong twine 12–30' high, supported by a trellis, wire, pole, tree branch or south-facing building. When the young vines are about 1' long, select the 2 or 3 most vigorous vines per hill and remove the rest. Gently wrap the vines clockwise onto a string. Once trained, the vine will guide itself.
Pick the hops when they are papery but still slightly sticky and filled with yellow powder. Harvest dates will vary with the variety and climate. Because most hops are produced out of reach from the ground, it is safest to lower the vines in order to pick the hops. Dry hops thoroughly before use. Spread on screens in a dry room, they will dry in a few weeks. Dried hops freeze well.
Cut the vines back to the ground after they have been killed by frost. Each spring apply a hearty topdressing of manure and compost. To help control vigor, prune roots by cutting a 2–3' circle with a shovel around the base of the plant in spring.Back to top
Amelanchier spp. Also called Juneberry, Parsonberry, Serviceberry, Saskatoon, Shadblow, Shadbush, Shad, and folks Downeast call it Wild Pear. Years to Bearing: approximately 3-5.
Amelanchier is a very hardy genus Spring-flowering shrubs and small trees with blueberry-like sweet edible berries. Very hardy genus, pronounced am-uh-LAN-sheer or -she-ur. Beautiful fragrant 5-petaled white flowers are early harbingers of spring in Maine. Purplish-black sweet berries good in pies, cobblers, jellies, jams, smoothies and cakes. Historically used by native peoples to make pemmican. Berries are about the size of a lowbush blueberry, or a bit larger, and seedier. Popular with wildlife. Nice red-orange fall color.
Thrives along stream beds as well as on rocky slopes. Tolerates partial shade, salt, pollution and wet spots but not standing water. Considered to be self-fruitful but we recommend planting with other Amelanchiers to ensure pollination. Taxonomy of Amelanchiers are a point of confusion in the nursery trade where common names and even botanical names are used interchangeably. Furthermore, these plants easily hybridize with each other in nature. We’ve highlighted salient features of each species in the product descriptions.Back to top
Actinidia spp. Productive twining vines climb 20' or more and produce delicious kumquat-sized kiwi fruits in late summer, so delicious that you might not be able to stop eating them! Unlike supermarket kiwis, the skin is smooth and edible. The longer they ripen on the vine, the sweeter they become. Easy to grow in rich well-drained soils. Will begin producing in 5–9 years. Mature plants may produce up to 100 lbs of fruit. Once vines are established, adequate pruning (see directions below) will significantly increase yields. No significant pest or disease problems.
Both male and female plants required for fruit. One male will usually pollinate at least three females of the same species. The females bear the fruit. We offer two species. Arguta ripens around mid-September, has large fruit and is more vigorous than kolomikta. (Argutas can just about pull down a tree.) Kolomikta ripens around mid-August, has small fruit and is less vigorous but more cold-hardy than arguta and should thrive even in the northernmost districts. Both species are native to eastern Asia.
Years to Bearing: approximately 5-9.
Kiwis are dioecious vines, meaning male and female flowers are on separate plants, so you must plant a male plant to pollinate the fruiting female plants. They are extremely vigorous and require a rugged trellis or arbor and heavy pruning. Plant vines 10' apart each way in moist but well-drained soil. Kiwis are adaptable and tolerate a wide range of soil types (pH 5.0–6.5). One male will pollinate several females as long as they are within approximately 30' of the male. Although the vines are quite hardy, the flowers and foliage are frost sensitive. Planting on a northern exposure will delay budding in spring and reduce risk of frost damage. Protection from winter winds and intense winter sun is also recommended. Mulch with hay or wood chips. On poor soil fertilize annually with compost (such as either Rainbow Valley compost or Coast of Maine Quoddy Blend compost).
On a trellis: Train a single trunk to the trellis wires and then train two permanent 7–10' cordons (arms) off the trunk. Each winter remove at least 70% of old growth, leaving a dozen or so one-year-old laterals. The coming summer’s fruit will develop on fruit spurs growing off these one-year-old laterals.
Summer pruning may be required to keep extremely rampant vines from choking out your farm.
On an arbor or gazebo: Once established, prune 70% of the old growth each year and leave some new canes for this year’s fruiting. The Pruning Book by Lee Reich is an excellent reference for pruning kiwis.Back to top
Syringa spp. Lilacs have been a fixture in the New England landscape for generations. More often than not, when we find old apples trees, the ancient lilacs are not far away. The large rambling suckering shrubs continue to flourish each spring long after the buildings have disappeared and all that remains of homesteads are the remnants of stone foundations. Why were the lilacs always planted just outside the kitchen door? On cold winter mornings, someone would clean out the wood stove and sprinkle ashes on the icy path to the backhouse. Or maybe the path to the wood shed or the clothesline. Over the years, the earth outside the kitchen door became more alkaline, which lilacs love.
In the landscape, lilacs are excellent alone or in hedges. Deep green glossy heart-shaped foliage looks good all season. Intensely fragrant blooms in May. Flowers range from singles to doubles, pure white to the deepest purples, pinks, reds and lavenders. Ornamental, edible (frittered flowers à la elderberry), medicinal and a great Mother’s Day gift.
Growing Lilacs: Lilacs are adaptable, easy to grow, nearly indestructible and practically maintenance-free. They prefer well-drained moderately rich soil. Sandy gravelly loam is perfect. Full sun is best, but they’ll tolerate part shade. Add a shovelful of wood ash or lime to the hole at planting time, then add another shovelful of either every three years. A yearly mulch of manure or compost will encourage spectacular annual blooming. Pink, lavender and blue lilacs color up best in soil with a neutral pH.
How to Prune Lilacs: If you choose to prune your lilacs, do it right after flowering. Late-season pruning removes next year’s buds. As the plant matures, prune off a quarter of the new suckers and the oldest growth (a few main stems each year). Some growers prefer to keep the plant low and bushy. Do so by “topping” it off every year: prune any upright branch back to a junction with a lower branch. Others prefer a tall tree-like form. Our friends Philippe and Danielle have let theirs soar to 8' or more, removing the lower branches and creating a magical walkway in the process. Lilacs are more than willing to cater to your own personal vision. Have fun! No need to cut off spent flowers except for appearance.
Why isn’t my lilac blooming?
- Too shady: lilacs need sun to form blossoms.
- Over-pruned: pruned too late, removed buds. Also, some plants respond to excessive pruning by putting their energy into vegetative growth instead of flowering.
- Too wet: lilacs like well-drained soil.
- Over-fertilized: lilacs will bloom well without assistance. Too much fertility can lead more vegetative growth and inhibit bud formation.
Vaccinium vitis-idaea Also called Foxberry, Cowberry, Mountain Cranberry. Years to Bearing: approximately 3-4.
Vigorous shallow-rooted spreading groundcover is related to blueberries and cranberries. Bright red glossy nutritious fruits are wicked tart until dead ripe, then have excellent flavor, richer and less astringent than cranberries. Can be eaten fresh but primarily used in sauces, jams, syrups, fruit leathers, juices and wines. Stores up to 2 months in the fridge. Small shiny dark green foliage is quite lovely. Adorable tiny bell-shaped white flowers in spring attract a plethora of pollinators. Extremely popular in Scandinavia and now catching on in the U.S. If you’ve got good soil for blueberries, try these. Berries ripen in late summer but are best after a frost. Harvest by hand or with a blueberry rake. Will produce 1–2 lbs per plant depending on the variety and can produce for up to 20 years.
Prefers full sun and poor sandy acid (pH 4.5–5) soils. Plant 12–18" apart in rows 3–4' apart. To ensure good fruit production, plant more than one variety. Native to circumpolar boreal forests. Incredibly tough and very hardy.Back to top
Morus spp. Sweet flavorful purple-black 1" blackberry-like fruit is delicious fresh, in sauces, pies, fruit leather or smoothies. What fruit you don’t pick, the birds will. Great tree for viewing a huge variety of birds up close. Plant it next to the chicken pen where it will rain chicken feed into the yard for several weeks, or put down a sheet to collect the fruit as it falls.
Dense round-topped tree is one of the last to leaf out in the spring and one of the first to set fruit. Ripens in mid-July and continues for several weeks into late summer. Fast growing, even in poor soils. Prefers moist well-drained soils but otherwise adaptable. Full sun to partial shade; withstands pollution, drought, wind and salt. Z4/5.Back to top
Quercus spp. Many oaks are native to New England. They are generally divided into two groups: the reds and the whites. The reds have pointier leaves and the whites have rounder ones. Most of them make absolutely breathtaking shade trees, creating a major presence in almost any landscape and providing bountiful forage for wildlife and for humans. The strongly astringent inner bark, foliage and acorn caps are all medicinal, and acorns were an extremely important human food source for thousands of years. Contrary to much of the literature, all acorns are edible, both reds and whites. (For detailed instructions on acorn processing, see Samuel Thayer’s book, Nature’s Garden.) The tannins from a handful of oak leaves added to homemade half-sours will keep pickles crisp for months. Oaks are monoecious so you need only one to get fruit.Back to top
Rheum rhabarbarum. Early Summer. Famous for pie and wine, but also good in sauce, bread, juice, soup or cooked with meat and fish. Rhubarb’s clumps of juicy acid leaf stalks were once a staple food. The root is a toning purgative herb traditionally used every spring for thousands of years. There are dozens if not hundreds of rhubarb varieties. May have originated in Siberia and been carried across Asia on the Silk Road to Turkey and then into Europe. Victorian cookbooks included rhubarb compotes, fools and charlottes. Eventually brought to North America through the efforts of Ben Franklin and John Bartram. Low-maintenance; will continue through summer if flower stalks are removed and new leaves allowed to grow. Leaves are not edible.
Plant the top of the root division level with the surface in well-prepared well-drained rich slightly acid soil (pH 5.5–6.5). Plant crowns 2–4' apart in rows 3–4' apart. Add a bushel of well-rotted manure or compost under each crown. When plant is established, fertilize liberally with manure and balanced garden fertilizer, such as our Vegemighty mix or compost every spring, as it’s a heavy feeder.
Harvest for 4 weeks 2 years after planting. Thereafter you can harvest for 8–10 weeks each year. Never remove more than two-thirds of the stalks from a plant. Water during dry spells for extended season.
Every 10 years or so, divide plants in early spring, leaving about a third of the crown in place. Cut up the remainder into fist-sized pieces and replant.Back to top
Rosa spp. For millennia, roses have beguiled humans. The first cultivation of these flowers dates back more than 5000 years in China. Fossil records suggest that roses may have been around for more than 30 million years. Regarded as the ultimate icon of love, grace, beauty and elegance, roses continue to be the subject of art and poetry across the world.
Roses have long been used in medicine, food, tea and essential oils. In the first century, Pliny the Elder recorded more than 30 uses of rose medicine. Rose leaves, petals, hips and roots all have medicinal properties to treat a range of disorders from wounds to stomach problems. Rose hips are rich in vitamin C and make a wonderful “rose apple” jam; rose-petal elixir calms the nerves and lifts the spirit.
Each year, we aim to offer a diverse selection of unusual and antique varieties. If your favorite is not on the list this year, we may offer it in the future. Unlike hybrid tea roses, these roses are all vigorous, cold hardy, and on their own roots rather than grafted. The antique varieties grow slowly compared to newer hybrids and tend to be more difficult to propagate. You may notice that some of these roses have small root systems and little top growth. Don’t be alarmed by this—it’s just the nature of these old varieties. We can attest that they perform just as well as the others. If roots are tangled, cut them back to 6" or so and spread them out in the planting hole.
Native to temperate regions throughout the world.
Roses grown in Europe before 1800 are referred to as “Old World” roses, including the cultivars of Rosa gallica and R. alba. Their pink color ranged from the deepest dark purple of ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ to just a faint blush of pink like that of ‘Chloris.’ There were no reds among these antique roses and, though rich in fragrance, they bloomed only once per season. In the late 1700s red roses with repeat blooming tendencies were introduced from China, shifting the focus of rose breeding toward those traits. Demand for the aromatic and medicinal qualities of the Old World roses declined, supplanted by flowers that lasted long through the season. The hybrids created since the 1820s are called “modern” roses and are much more commonly seen in gardens today.
Rosa gallica is considered the oldest rose, steeped in history, legend and myth, and still grows wild in some places in the Caucasus, the mountainous region between the Black and Caspian seas, where it originated. Its exact origin is unknown but it can be traced back fourteen centuries when it was considered a symbol of love by the Persians. The aromatic petals hold their scent better than any other rose and have long been considered medicinal. This species contains hundreds of different cultivars, some very similar and others unique. Most have similar compact shrub habits and are generally very hardy. Most modern-day roses are presumed to be descendants of the gallicas.
Rosa alba is almost as old as gallica and is also believed to have travelled west from the Caucasus with the Greeks and Romans. Many of the alba cultivars were bred in the 1800s in Europe. Though they flower only once, they should not be overlooked, as their beauty and fragrance are unparalleled by any modern rose. They are considered “tree roses” with tall canes that can be trained to fences, pillars and stonewalls, like climbers. Unlike many roses, albas bloom on old wood—if pruned too heavily, they can take years to flower again. Like heirloom apples, they are actually more disease resistant than many of the modern hybrids.
Roses prefer full sun, though some will tolerate partial shade. They will do well in most well-drained soils with a good amount of organic matter. In locations with poor drainage, add gravel at the bottom of the planting hole, or build in drainage. Pick a site with good air flow, but avoid sites with cold northwest winds. Avoid competition with tree roots. Space them 4–6' apart.
Plant roses as early as soil can be worked. Most roses’ roots don’t spread beyond the original hole, so dig a bushel-sized hole, as deep as 2' or more. Mix soil with liberal quantities of well-rotted manure and compost; Rainbow Valley or Coast of Maine Quoddy Blend are both good choices. Add a coffee-can full of rock phosphate or bone char .
Prior to planting, prune roses back to 3–5 of the best canes, 2–5" tall, and clip any dead tips. Plant them 1" below the level they were in the nursery. Add water as you fill in the hole to puddle it in.
Shrub roses and climbers will require little pruning in later years. Any pruning should wait until after the forsythia blooms. Remove dead or broken branches, and periodically cut out the oldest wood. Keep roses well mulched to retain moisture and reduce weeds. Apply our True Love Rose & Ornamental Mix once the soil has warmed, and/or add 2 shovelfuls of composted manure to each crown late in the fall.
Where did the Rosa rugosa seedlings go?Back to top
Salix spp. The genus Salix comprises hundreds of different species of plants most commonly called willows but sometimes called Osier or Sallow. Willows grow all over the world. Some, like the weeping willow, are towering specimens. Others are short scrubby bushes; willows growing in the arctic can be 100 years old only 2' tall! Uses include ornamental landscaping, shade, basket-making, erosion control, timber, fuel and medicine. All parts, especially the bark, contain salicin, used for relief of pain and fever for hundreds, or even thousands, of years. Aspirin is a synthetic analog of salicin. Willows feed local wildlife, insects and birds. We plant them near the orchard to provide early season forage for our native pollinators. All prefer sun and loamy wet soils, but are adaptable, easily transplanted and fast growing.Back to top
Ilex verticillata. Also called Black Alder, Fever Bush, Possumhaw, Swamp Holly and more. Deciduous suckering medicinal holly with clusters of upright stems. Best known for profusions of bright red ⅜" berries which stand out after the leaves fall—they keep their color all winter, spectacular against the snow. A staple of the Maine landscape, providing late-spring forage for birds. Lustrous deep green leaves retain their color long after they’re cut for decoration. Richly foliated, but open enough to display interesting branch structure. Tiny white flowers in mid-July attract pollinators. Excellent fall wildlife forage plant. Leaves used for tea and tonic, astringent bark used in herbal medicine.
Tolerates dry conditions but prefers moist or wet acidic soil, even standing water. Sun or partial shade. No serious pests or diseases. Male and female plants required for fruit, which is produced on female plants. Plant males within 30' of females. Native from midwestern to eastern U.S.Back to top