The Gardener's Apprentice

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A very special rose and a very special neighbor change a gardener’s perspective


Grab end-of-season bargains from bulb vendors to enrich next spring’s garden.

September 26, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Blush Noisette

Being in my garden is my greatest joy.  But life events this year have sliced into garden time, shredding it into small, irregular increments.  The situation will improve eventually, but as the growing season has progressed, I have learned that even absence from my garden has its compensations. The lesson came from my neighbor, a former knitwear designer and avid gardener who joined the local garden club and discovered all the artistic possibilities of flower arranging.  Before this awakening, she viewed everyday items, like detergent bottles, as simple things, ultimately bound for the recycling bin.  Now, those same containers have morphed into design elements as she imagines them in the company of flowers, leaves, grasses and branches.    ...

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September 20, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Opportunist plants lurk in every garden, even those well maintained oases of perfection that routinely knock visitors’ socks off.  Some of those opportunists we tag as “weeds”, but others are perfectly respectable plants whose only sin is seeing the main chance and taking it.  In fall, some of the most prominent of these plants make their presence known: leaves color up, blossoms open and vining stalks reach so high that they are impossible to ignore.  The situation in my garden has gotten to the point where the opportunists have long since won the battle with the more genteel plants and are now going mano a mano with each other. Let’s start with morning glory or Ipomoea purpurea, specifically an antique variety called ‘Grandpa ...

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September 14, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Goldfinch Gardening

My father used to call them “salad birds”.  Reference guides refer to them as Spinus tristus.  Most of us know the bright, acrobatic birds as goldfinches.  Though they look as colorful as parakeets, guidebook authors sometimes damn these songbirds with faint praise because of their ubiquitous presence among us. All I know is that American goldfinches are the icing on the cake of late summer gardening.  At this time of the year, the males flit around dressed in their finest—bright yellow bodies, with black foreheads and white-banded black wings Their tails have jaunty notches and their bills are orangy-pink.  As is so often the case in the bird world, the females are more subdued, sporting olive-colored backs and dull yellow underbodies.  ...

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September 6, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Saint Heirloom

  Every year at this time I take great joy in paging through the paper bulb catalogs and perusing the websites so that I can overspend on spring bulbs in the most discerning and intelligent way.  One of my longtime favorite catalogs is Old House Gardens, which describes itself as “Heirloom Bulbs—So Much More Than New”.   The founder and proprietor of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company is my friend, Scott Kunst.  To say that he sells bulbs, would be to damn him with faint praise.  In fact, he is a historian, plantsman, raconteur, writer and—perhaps best of all—a savior of countless old varieties that would be lost to commerce without his efforts. Scott doesn’t just ferret out old cultivars; he seeks those that are ...

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