The Gardener's Apprentice

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‘Rose of May’ is a pristine white, fragrant daffodil.  Planting it brings the promise of May to the late fall.


If the ground has not frozen, there is still time to put bulbs in the ground.  If hard frosts have taken their toll, pot up any unplanted bulbs and place pots in an unheated garage or porch.

November 27, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Rose of May

I was uncommonly late planting my bulbs this year and, in fact, have one small bag of antique-variety tulip bulbs left in the garage.  If they were sentient, they would be wondering if they had been forgotten.  Of course, if they were sentient, they would also know that guilt moves me like nothing else.  I have no doubt that tomorrow morning, bright and early, guilt will propel me right out of the back door and into the garden with a trowel in my hand.             I always have a favorite plant, even if that plant is still only a dun-colored bulb.  My favorite this fall is ‘Rose of May’, a white double daffodil that won’t bloom until late next spring.  Planting it always makes me think of a lovely poem, “A Christmas ...

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November 21, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Lavish Lavender

Life has had its ups and downs this past growing season, but in my yard, lavender—Lavendula—has experienced one long “up”.  The fragrant herb grows throughout the mixed borders, but is planted en masse in the bed by the driveway that is home to my hybrid musk rose collection.  Today, in mid November, one of those plants has chosen to throw out a few purple blooms, which marks an unprecedented third time flowers have appeared since the first flush in late spring.  If there are any bees or other pollinators left in the neighborhood, I am sure they will stop by.  The plant’s nearby lavender siblings, while not blooming, are as big and expansive as I have ever seen them.  New Jersey has not turned into the Mediterranean overnight, ...

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November 15, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Book Review: My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner

Pity poor Charles Dudley Warner.  Born in 1829, he was a lawyer, newspaper editor/ publisher, prolific writer, confidant of numerous famous people and dedicated amateur gardener.  Despite that impressive resume, he is best remembered; when he is remembered at all, as a close friend of Mark Twain.  So close, in fact, that a phrase coined by Warner—“Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”—was appropriated by Twain and is almost universally attributed to him. Weather is among the topics discussed in Warner’s one and only gardening book, My Summer in a Garden, published in 1870 and reissued in 2002 by Random House as part of its Modern Library Gardening series, edited by Michael Pollan.  The new ...

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November 8, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Saffron Crocus

My front strip—that hard-to-cultivate patch between street and sidewalk—never supported much grass.  I gave up on it years ago and substituted plants tough enough to take the sometimes fatal combination of abysmal soil and perpetual exposure.  Hostas hold forth under the maple tree, with heuchera, hellebores and other shade lovers also succeeding within its shadow.  In the lighter parts of the strip I have installed columbines, asters, threadleaf coreopsis, catmint, stork’s bill and a host of other strong contenders.  Plants that don’t succeed are forgiven, graded “A” for effort and relocated or replaced in more favorable areas. Spring and fall, the strip is home to various flowering bulbs, including one species whose historic ...

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