The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

When spring is interrupted by a temporary return of winter storms, the garden dynamic changes.  Recovery starts as the snow melts.

Tips

Prune out winter damage on trees and shrubs.  Be careful with spring flowering species and only prune dead wood.  When in doubt, wait until after flowering.



March 27, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Spring Interrupted

The snow is finally melting in my part of the world, after an intensely hyped “blizzard” ten days ago.  Gardeners are emerging from their lairs and approaching their beds, borders and overwintered containers with low expectations.  After an “open” winter, with fairly reasonable temperatures and almost no snow, we were hit with a series of March surprises that included freezing winds, snow, sleet and all manner of “wintery mix”.  That fusillade of stormy weather roared in and subdued shrubs that had broken dormancy at the end of February, daffodils that were up and waiting to open and hellebores in full bloom. There is only one word for the appearance of gardens in my neighborhood right now—“sad”.  Horticulturally-minded ...

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March 20, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Fernleaf Lavender

Surfacing at the end of winter like a horticultural life raft, the week-long Philadelphia Flower Show is salvation for gardeners grown weary of cold weather.  The Philadelphia Convention Center, a cavernous place, is filled with flowers and plants, from tulips to exotic orchids to beautifully grown succulents.  Flowers strut their stuff in display gardens and artfully crafted arrangements.  They smile out of frames in the botanical art exhibition and confound you with their perfection in the competitive class area.  You can even purchase plants and cut flowers in the sale aisles.  The abundance is overwhelming. I never come home empty handed, though I have occasionally come home empty walleted.  Making my way around the sale aisles, ...

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March 20, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Umbrellas and Bees

Plant taxonomists are the scientists who make it their business to classify the world’s flora according to common characteristics.  In the last thirty years or so, DNA has become a major player in this effort.  Now plants that dirt gardeners, horticulturists and plant scientists only suspected of family relationships have been grouped or regrouped based on DNA evidence.  It is exciting stuff for scientists, but sometimes rather frustrating for gardeners, who have used the same Latin names for plants or plant groups since just after the Great Flood, only to find that they have changed.  The changes lead to complaining, a distinct kind of manure that has long fertilized many gardens.  Eventually that manure breaks down and feeds gardens—one ...

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March 6, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Hellebore Haze

I hate to brag, but my hellebores are glorious.  Little plants that I bought several years ago and installed in my front strip on a wing and a prayer have arrived at maturity.  The gentle, open winter, with few really cold days and little snow has been a tonic for them, coaxing them into bud early and encouraging those buds to burst wide open.  They persist in this scandalous flaunting of their lovely pinky-cream petals, even though March is coming in like a very breathy lion and pelting them with gusts. I never put hellebores in bouquets, because they do not seem to do well in the house.  Occasionally I float one in a bowl of water and it lasts long enough to give me a few days of inspiration.  The blooms work their magic better if ...

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