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A Lemon Tree In Vermont, Plus The 'Perennial Plant Of The Year'

lemons against greenery
This week, Charlie Nardozzi talks about the "Perennial Plant of the Year," and he also advises what to do for celery seedlings and keeping a lemon tree alive in Vermont.

Each year, the Perennial Plant Association names a plant of the year. This year's top prize winner is the Aralia cordata "Sun King," also known by its common name, the Golden Japanese Spikenard.

This big, herbaceous perennial plant does well in our climate and creates quite the stunning display in your yard. It grows big and fast, adding 3-4 feet in height and width in just its first year! It does well in full sun and partial shade, and it grows 3-foot long golden leaves before dying back  to the ground in winter.

Even better, the Sun King is deer-resistant, with white flowers that the pollinators like and black berries that the birds like. You can mix it in with some other established shrubs or flowers like goatsbeard and the small sprouts that come out in spring can even be eaten like asparagus.

This variety of aralia may self-sow, sending out small seedlings, but this variety is not invasive.

Find it at your favorite garden center. Just march in and say: "I want the Perennial Plant of the Year!"

Q: I followed up on Charlie's suggestion to plant celery. I've never done that before and the seedlings are doing fine. I'm having trouble (or have always had trouble) with the transition from seedling in the home to plant in the garden. Can Charlie walk us through the hardening process for celery and other seedlings? — Alan, in Bennington

Hardening off plants to put into your garden is a great project for folks who are working from home, as it takes a bit of time but isn't difficult. And you can even begin today!

To harden off celery or any plants you've started from seed, simply begin by putting the seedlings outdoors in a place with bright light but not direct sun. Keep increasing the time your seedlings have spent outdoors each day, then after a week, your celery plants will be hardened off and ready for planting in the garden plot.

Q: I rescued a lemon tree from the side of the road last summer. It was in pretty rough shape, was missing a lot of leaves, had a pretty bad case of scale. Since then I top-dressed it with earthworm castings, gave it some love, put it in a sunny spot, and it has been thriving. I took care of the scale. I’ve been spraying the leaves with water periodically as well and watering it when the soil is dry. But it keeps dropping leaves. — Cassandra, in Montpelier

The key is the watering of the citrus plant. Dabbing the alcohol may not be great for the leaves, but citrus grows best in clay pot. It is a finicky plant. Let it dry out after watering, but not too much. That will be the best way to approach this issue and the leaves.

If you put it outside in the summer and keep it to this watering schedule, you'll have a happier lemon tree.

a grey line

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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