The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

In spite of its many virtues, Japanese katsura is an underutilized tree.  Find out more about this beautiful species that smells like caramel or cotton candy in the fall.

Tips

As you decorate for the holidays, make sure to scout your garden for useful materials.  Evergreen boughs, including those of variegated euonymus or aucuba are excellent additions to wreathes, swags and arrangements.



November 24, 2014
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Fragrant Katsura

I have a friend who lost a cherished front-yard tree.  After the tree surgeons removed the remains, he began the hunt for a new one.  The choices were endless.  His lot is large and could accommodate a sizeable specimen.  The old tree was deciduous, rather than evergreen; as a fan of autumn color, he wanted the replacement to be deciduous as well.  After paging through books and catalogs and walking around his neighborhood in search of arboreal magnificence, he fixated on the katsura, or Cercidiphyllum japonicum, a tree that was uncommon in his area.  That was fifteen years ago.  He still hasn’t picked a tree, but his efforts piqued my interest in the noble and ancient species. You may have seen a katsura and mistaken it for a North ...

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Holiday Cactus

November 17, 2014
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Christmas Cactus Confusion

Every year about this time, stores of all sorts sell something called “Christmas Cactus,” a showy plant with segmented foliage that arches out over the sides of the pot.  Since most people find the foliage relatively unimpressive, the seasonal specials are always sold in bud or with newly-opened blooms.  The long, tubular flowers, which appear at the ends of the stems, are made up of many slender, pointed petals fused at the bases.  Flower colors range from white through shades of peach, orange, purple, rose and red, with bi-colored varieties widely available. Sometimes merchants trying for early sales offer the similar-looking “Thanksgiving Cactus” starting just after Halloween.  To the casual buyer, these are dead ringers for ...

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November 10, 2014
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Violet Success

I hate to brag, but my African violets look glorious right now.  They are blooming abundantly, the leaves look healthy and I am proud to say that they have even been watered recently.  As the motivational speakers say, “It’s all good.” Except for the watering, I had nothing to do with it.  All of the houseplants spent the summer and early fall outside, which is the equivalent of a group spa visit.  The violets luxuriated in partial shade, with their pots positioned in large trays.  When I watered them, the water collected in the trays, rather than in the pots.  This kind of indirect irrigation gives the violets the water they need without risk of spotting their fuzzy leaves.  The only caveat is not to let the pots stand in water ...

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November 3, 2014
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Roses of Shearing

If I wanted to, I could fill the entire yard with roses of Sharon.  So could most people, because roses of Sharon, or Hibiscus syriacus, are among the most prolific garden shrubs.  All you need to launch a rose of Sharon world domination campaign is one small specimen anywhere on or near your property.  If it flowers, its alluring blossoms will be pollinated by obliging insects.  After pollination, it will produce fat green pods full of viable seeds.  When I say “viable,” I mean that one hundred and ten percent of the seeds will germinate.  The resulting seedlings will grow at lightning speed and make a priority of producing flowers of their own.  Nature will take its course and without human intervention, the one small specimen will ...

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