The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

For generations, houseplant lovers have given each other cuttings of purple-leafed Tradescantia pallida, otherwise known as wandering Jew or purple heart.  But at least one great landscape designer has used the plant outside.  See how purple heart fits into the big garden picture.

Tips

Make sure to feed, water and prune container plants, especially houseplants that are enjoying an outdoor summer vacation.  Let your plants know that while they are out of indoor sight, they are not out of the gardener’s mind.



August 22, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Purple Heart

Now that the Olympic Games have focused the international spotlight on Rio de Janeiro, all manner of things Brazilian have reached the collective consciousness.  As I—and the rest of the world—glued myself to the competitive cavalcade of sprinters, gymnasts and fencers, I thought of two things—getting myself into better shape and Roberto Burle Marx—1909-1994—the great Brazilian landscape designer and artist. Burle Marx brought an artist’s sensibility and a love of tropical plants to all his designs, which tended to be large, lush, colorful and awash in contrasting shapes and movement.  Some of the televised background shots during the Olympics showed the Copacabana Beach Promenade, a swirling “pavement landscape” that was ...

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August 15, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Gardens of Adversity; Gardens of Hope

            Some things are universal—or nearly so--and show up in every culture.  Chicken soup is one of them, even if the “chicken” in the soup is some other variety of fowl.  Gardens are another.  The urge to garden has remained strong through civilization’s  many travails, including wars, natural disasters, dislocation and urbanization.  The deliberate cultivation of previously wild plants probably began when someone who wanted a reliable food supply decided to try growing, rather than foraging for food.  Eventually humans warmed to the idea of growing plants specifically for natural beauty. Along the way, a small subgroup of gardeners with more hubris than wisdom, used horticulture to demonstrate their abilities ...

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August 8, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Rosa Multi-Prickle

I have just done battle with a formidable opponent—one that is tenacious, heavily armed and fully equipped to go on fighting for decades.  This enemy of civilized horticulture has no scruples, guiding ethos or any closet-bound skeletons that would make it susceptible to blackmail.  It is, in short, Rosa multiflora, occasionally known as “the Japanese rose” or the “seven sisters rose”. Rosa multiflora looks innocent enough, especially when it is young.  The canes are covered with groups of five to eleven toothed leaflets borne on arching stems. In the spring, flowers burst forth, opening in profuse clusters that amply justify the plant’s Latin name.  Individual blooms are only about half an inch wide, with five white petals ...

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August 8, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Golden Buttons

It is clear that plants are generally much wiser than I am. Tansy proves this point. Somehow, early on in the life of my current landscape, tansy or Tanacetum vulgare, made its first appearance by the hedge in the front garden.  I overlooked the plant when it sprouted, but by mid-summer of the first year, it couldn’t hide itself, growing about four feet tall, with lush, ferny foliage.  The flowers, clustered at the tops of the stalks, resembled tiny gold button mums, hence one of tansy’s common names, “golden buttons”. The yellow flowers looked as if they would work in an indoor arrangement, so I clipped one of the stalks. My nose wrinkled. The odor or fragrance—depending on individual perception—is sharp.  Some people describe ...

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