Charlie’s Mid January Newsletter

Plants Deer Avoid, My Houseplant Webinar, Seed Shopping, and Another Garden in Italy
sowing seedsI just finished our veggie and annual flower seed order for 2022. It’s always fun looking through catalogs, finding new varieties and fun unusual varieties, on-line or in the printed page, and dreaming of where and how to grow them. I do have some “go to” catalogs I use every year. These are regional seed companies that have trial grounds, so I know the varieties they are offering should grow well for me. But, I also stretch my imagination a bit and check out specialty catalogs from around the country and sometimes world. Check out my article on seed catalogs in this newsletter.

If you’re on my mailing list, you’ve probably already seen my upcoming All About Houseplants Webinar airing live on January 27th at 7pm Eastern time. I talk more about this class in this newsletter and highlight a popular houseplant, Monstera, to boot! Check it out.

I’ve been noticing lots of deer hoof prints in the snow around our gardens this winter. We’ve all seen the lists of plants that are “deer proof”. Of course, any gardener knows that deer will eat just about anything if they are hungry enough. That being said, there are certain flowers that they will avoid when given a choice. While not 100% effective, these “deer resistant plants” do offer some level of control. I highlight some of those plants here as well as other controls.

Holland and Belgium TourI continue highlighting some of my 2022 Garden Tours in this newsletter. Of course, we will be going to these countries only if it’s Covid safe. In this newsletter I highlight another garden in Puglia, Italy where we’ll be visiting in October, 2022. This garden started as a country estate. And then, as so often happens, the owners started collecting plants from around the world. Now it’s an 86 acre botanical garden that we can tour. Learn more here.

Gardens of Holland and Belgium Tour– I have gotten some interest in the Gardens of Holland and Belgium Tour that had a few cancellations. But, there is still space available! This will be a rare opportunity to not only visit well-know public, bulb display gardens, such as Keukenhof and Appeltern, but also smaller, private gardens created by famous garden designers. Plus, there’s cheese makers, breweries,  greenhouses, and porcelain workshops to explore. Check out this late April to early May, 2022 tour and come join us.

Until next time, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.


Charlie & Sharon


Where to Find Charlie:(podcasts, TV and in-person)


How to Grow: Controlling Deer

deer in gardenIt’s mid-winter and I know deer are out there scouring our gardens for food. I’m amazed at the amount of deer prints in the snow and realize all it takes is one evening of feeding to really damage a shrub and woody perennial. So what should you do about the deer in your yard? The first line of defense is a fence. A 7-foot tall wire or wooden fence will go a long way in keeping deer out of a yard in all seasons. It may be costly, but in the long run, it will save you lots of anguish and money as you replace damaged plants.

deer in yardThere are many scent-based repellent sprays on the market that work even in winter. Many of these are blood, rotten egg or essential oil based. It’s best to select a few different types and rotate spraying to confuse the deer. Some are even effective this time of year reducing browsing damage on your woody shrubs. Spray when temperatures are above 40F.

Then, there are deer resistant plant lists. I always look at these with a grain of salt, knowing deer will eat almost anything if they’re hungry enough. But that being said, there are certain types of plants deer will avoid. I know deer rarely bother our lavender, Nepeta or catmint and sage plants even in winter due to the fragrance and taste. While deer love my thorny rose shoots, they rarely bother barberries. Fuzzy leafed plants, such as artemesia, are also not popular with deer. And, certain groups of plant are avoided. Anything in the allium family has a strong taste which deer hate. Ornamental grasses don’t seem very attractive to deer, in general. And ferns aren’t high on their list. That makes sense because I rarely see deer damage on wild ferns. Speaking of lists, check out these lists from Universities around the country. Check with local experts about the best plants for deer heavy areas.
Rutgers University Landscape Plants Rated By Deer Resistance

Deer Resistant Plant Lists by State

Just remember to trial a new plant before you go hog wild planting lots of it. Give it a year to see if the deer notice and enjoy it.

Go here to watch my video about deer control


American Meadows

All About Houseplants Webinar: Monstera
Sweetheart hoyaIt’s taken me awhile, but now I’m really into houseplants. I even gave my wife, Wendy, one for her birthday. (Yes, she liked it!). I’m not alone in my love of houseplants. More homeowners and renters are filling their living spaces with houseplants to create a quiet, peaceful, smoothing atmosphere that helps them reconnect to Nature.  Plus, houseplants are cool. They make the air more humid in cold areas in winter, reduce stress and anxiety and even help hospital patients heal faster. That’s why I’ve created my, 

All About Houseplants Webinar for January 27th, 2022 at 7 pm Eastern time.

monsteraThis will be an opportunity to learn about selecting the right houseplant for your room’s lighting and conditions. That’s one of the keys to success with houseplants. I’ll talk about new varieties of houseplants with colorful leaves and flowers that even bloom in low light areas. There will be lists of houseplants for low light, hot sun and that tolerate rarely get watered.

Once we have our lists of houseplants to grow, I’ll highlight my favorites and talk about light needs, watering, fertilizing and temperature controls. One of the plants I’ll highlight is the Monstera or Swiss cheese plant. This tropical vine lives in rain forests where it will grow up the bark of trees. If you’ve ever visited tropical areas in Florida, Texas and California, you might see this vine. This is a fast growing vine climbs 1 to 2 feet per year. It creates a strong visual in your room with its large leaves. You feel like you’re in a jungle! It likes bright, indirect light, moist soil that’s not too wet and warm temperatures. Prune it in spring to keep in bounds or use a moss pole to trellis it vertically creating a Monster tree.

crotonProbably the best part of this webinar will be your questions. For all that sign up, I’m offering the opportunity to send me a photo of your houseplant with a specific problem. I’ll play houseplant doctor and hopefully get your plant growing strong again.

If you like all these webinar ideas but can’t make it on January 27th, 2022, no problem. All those who sign up will receive a recording of the webinar a few days afterward. You can watch it whenever you want as many times as you want.

So, if you’re curious about growing houseplants or just need a refresher course, join me on January 27th for me. 

All About Houseplants Webinar.


Learn more about All About Houseplants Webinar

How to Grow: Seed Shopping
seed catalogsGardeners get into habits. Using the same tools, planting favorite plants and watering at certain times of day are good examples. One habit I’ve been in for some time is in January I comb through the printed seed catalogs that have been piling up for months in my office. It’s a fun ritual on a cold January day to start dreaming of what to plant in spring. I mostly focus on the vegetable, annual flower and herb catalogs.

My first task is to survey the seed packets I have left from last year. Most vegetable and flower seeds can last a few years, if stored in a cool, dark, dry place. If I’m just starting a few of a specialty pepper each year, for example, I may be able to use the same packet for a number of years. Once I get beyond 4 or 5 years, though, I usually buy fresh seed. Some vegetables, such as leeks, don’t last that long and I have to replace seed every few years in order to get good seed germination.

seed catalogsOnce I know what I have, then I decide about replacing them with the same variety or trying a different one. I try to purchase the same variety or new varieties that have similar growth characteristics as the old one. For example, if it’s an early maturing melon and I’ve had success with it, don’t switch. I’ll try different varieties, but stick with early maturing.

For flowers, I try not to get seduced by the catalog photos. Remember the photos aren’t really true to the color of the flower. That blue petunia could very well be purple in your garden. The color also can change with light exposure, where you live and how it’s grown.

Lastly, I take some time to try out some new varieties. We had some ‘Shishito’ grilled peppers at a friend’s house this summer and I’m hooked. I want to grow them this year. I’m looking for a more disease resistant paste tomato and ran across ‘Blue Beech’. This heirloom is suppose to be more disease resistant than other paste tomato heirlooms. This is an Italian heirloom originally brought to Vermont during World War II. A cranberry colored cosmos variety sounded like a nice addition, too.  

Learn more about buying seeds from catalogs or online here


In Our Garden: Orto Botanico Guiggianello, Italy

Puglia Italy tourIn October, I’m leading a Cultural Tour of Puglia, Italy in conjunction with the Vermont Italian Cultural Association. While not my traditional garden tour, we certainly will be visiting some unique public and private gardens. One garden we’ll visit is an old country estate garden turned into a botanical garden.

Puglia TourOrto Botanico Guiggianello is a sprawling 86 acre estate that the owners have passionately transformed into garden rooms. These gardens flow one after another each fitting well in this dry, Mediterranean climate. The themes of these gardens include a Rose garden, Perfume garden, Rock garden, Natural ponds with lilies, formal Italian garden and a secret garden.

The crown jewel is the huge greenhouse with thousands of succulent plants from around the world. Arranged by the continents where they came from, the greenhouse gives you an appreciation for the diversity and similarities of these succulents from various parts of the planet.

Rock Garden Puglia ItalyThe gardens are a mix of colorful flowers, fragrant herbs, trees, shrubs and vines that have been painstakingly cared for by the owners. Come appreciate the beauty of the plants adapted to this hot, dry climate and rest in the shade provided by many of the large trees.

Check out my Tour of Puglia, Italy here



All About Houseplants Webinar

Learn about the best and easiest houseplants to grow in your home with different light, fertilizing and watering needs. These include hibiscus, begonia, monstera, figs and much more.