The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

The equinox has arrived.  Time to think of plants, like fernleaf lavender and members of the carrot family, that attract bees and other pollinators.

Tips

It’s time to “turn out the corners” of the garden, straightening, tidying and making ready for the new season.



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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February 20, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Hummingbird Attraction

On the garden magic scale, butterflies rank pretty high, but I think hummingbirds stand even higher.  On a normal spring or summer day—provided that your chosen habitat is not a glass office tower—you will probably catch a glimpse of a butterfly, even if it is only a common cabbage white.  The arrival of a hummingbird, on the other hand, is not an everyday thing, unless you are very lucky. When the small birds do arrive, you have to look sharp as they speed through the landscape and pause to hover over individual flowers.  Hummers are tiny, only 3.5 inches long, with a wingspan of about 4.3 inches, and they move so fast that you may never even see their slender wings at rest.  The ruby-throated species--Archilochus colubris—is the ...

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