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Spring blooms at the Hort Farm

05/13/04 12:00AM By Ron Krupp
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(Host) Commentator Ron Krupp tells us about a beautiful horticultural spectacle and where to see it for ourselves.

(Krupp) Hal Bill of Enosburg is a lover of rhododendrons. He's also the curator of the rhododendron collection at the University of Vermont's Horticulture Farm in South Burlington. I consider the Hort Farm, as it's called by many, to be one of the best kept secrets in the Green Mountains. In late May and early June, a most remarkable event takes place at the farm. The crown jewels are revealed in all their glory. I'm referring to the blooms of hundreds of rhododendrons and azaleas in hues of white, orange, magenta, rose and red - with their green glossy leaves adding a glorious backdrop to the blossoms. This collection of plants is by far the largest of its kind in northern Vermont.

Some of the plants are short and others tower 16 feet into the sky. The site is protected by forest cover from the wind and receives limited winter sun. Hal Bill would tell you these are some of the necessary requirements for growing rhododendrons. Also, the soil must also be well drained, have a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, and contain lots of organic matter. Anyone who has the opportunity to visit this hidden paradise will wonder how can a place like this exist in such a cold climate. It comes from years of hard work, good site planning and the development of appropriate cultivars.

The Horticulture Research Center on Green Mountain Drive in South Burlington is a 97-acre field research laboratory for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Vermont. Over 50 years ago, Professor Charles Blasberg arranged for its purchase. The Hort Farm is now home to over 700 varieties of ornamental trees and shrubs, including an impressive mature collection of crabapples, lilacs, viburnums, junipers and mixed conifers, along of course with rhododendrons and azaleas. It also has interpretive trails explaining natural history and the ecology of the area.

The farm is used by the University of Vermont for the testing of new apple varieties, the study of ornamental plants for cold-hardiness, and experiments in the application of integrated pest management. Throughout the year, there are workshops on planning and maintaining your home orchard, flowering bulb walks, pruning workshops on crabapples and lilacs, garden design tours, a harvest festival and of course on June 3rd and 5th, a tour of the Rhododendrons and Eastern Native Azalea collections in full bloom.

The horticulture farm is open to the public Monday through Friday. Perhaps I'll see you there, to watch the lovely rhodies in full bloom.

This is Ron Krupp, the Northern Gardener.

Note:
The UVM Horticulture Farm offers workshops, lectures and tours. To inquire about availablity and directions, call the Hort Farm at 864-3073.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.
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