The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

Many gardens have to share their properties with deer and other four-legged plant predators.  No single solution covers all eventualities, but there are some practical ways to outwit Mr. Antlers and his crew.

Tips

Deadhead spent daffodils as they fade, but let the leaves remain until they begin to turn brown. Photosynthesis (via the still-green leaves) builds the bulb for next year.



April 27, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Mr. Antlers

Lately the morning news is full of breathless anchor people announcing that someone in some suburb has sighted a coyote.  Easterners thought coyotes were romantic back when they howled at us long-distance from the West; it’s different now the feral canines are here among us. The coyotes are keeping company in our backyards, parks, train right-of-ways and uninhabited buildings with other denizens of the wild, including skunks, rabbits, possums, foxes, wild turkeys, bears and—most of all—deer.  I worry about the coyotes sometimes; I worry about the deer full time.  They are omnipresent in my yard and my neighbors’ properties, nibbling on the vegetation, defecating at will, nurturing their young and—judging by the number of ...

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April 20, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Little Iris

A neighbor stopped by not long ago and said, “What are those beautiful aqua iris by your front walk?”  The iris in question were small but glorious, resembling a cluster of orchids or a small flock of butterflies hovering just above ground level.  The three outer petals or falls of each one were pale aqua-blue with darker blue stripes and yellow throats freckled in black.  The standards or upright petals were blue and white-striped.  The petals had a slight grayish cast, which only added to their overall beauty.  Each plant was only about four inches tall and bore a single bloom that lasted several days. The small spring miracle adorning my front walk was Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’.  Next fall I think I will install about 100 ...

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April 13, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Waiting for Mrs. Backhouse

The first clumps of daffodils are blooming at long last and I have to resist the urge to go out and pick all of them for the house.  Little nosegays of snowdrops and early crocus have been a welcome relief from grocery store flowers, but daffodils in a vase—especially a blue vase-- radiate spring sunshine.  Any daffodil restores the soul after a long winter, but I am especially looking forward to ‘Mrs. R.O. Backhouse’, a medium size daffodil named for a major figure in narcissus history. Introduced in 1921, ‘Mrs. Backhouse’ has long been heralded as the first pink-cupped daffodil.  That description conjures up images of the harsh, blue-pink shade most often depicted in catalogs, but those images are light years away from ...

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April 6, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Skunk Cabbage

If Eastern skunk cabbage—Symplocarpus foetidus—were a person, you would avoid him.  Inactive for part of the year, skunk cabbage comes alive in late winter.  It never looks terribly attractive and most of the time it smells awful enough to justify one of its nicknames, “polecat weed.”  People and even animals tend to avoid the plant all together.  The only creatures that seem to love this member of the Arum or Araceae family are the flies and other early-rising insects that pollinate it.  They, of course, are drawn by its absolutely fetid odor.  There is no accounting for taste. You might know or grow some of skunk cabbage’s more respectable relatives, which include the currently fashionable Jack-in-the-pulpit or Arisaema ...

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