The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

Lilacs may look relatively nondescript for about fifty months a year, but for two weeks in mid-spring, they are in their fragrant, gorgeous glory.  Find room for one on your property.


Think about dividing plants before they are fully leafed-out.  Smaller plants are easier to handle and the spring climate causes less stress on new transplants than the torrid heat of summer.

May 2, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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When I was much younger and had very little life experience under my belt, I lapped up elegiac poetry.  I am pretty sure that many bookish teenage girls did the same thing before the advent of 24/7 texting.  Elegiac poetry also paired nicely with the hunger pains engendered by the tea and strawberry yogurt diet that I occasionally favored in college. I can say from experience that when it comes to wallowing in misery, there is absolutely nothing that compares with reading Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” at three am after breaking up with someone whom you thought was the love of your life.  The fact that the time you spent reading “In Memoriam” was longer than the total time you spent in  the company of the lost love only makes things ...

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April 25, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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COVER-UPS It is spring and everything looks healthy—especially chickweed, wild onion and dandelions.  As all gardeners know, Nature abhors bare ground and works hard to cover it as soon as possible.  Unfortunately the plants that cover the quickest are the aforementioned weeds.  Dandelions are nice if you want to make salad from the young greens or wine from the blossoms, but most of us spend our time cursing rather than consuming them.  Wild onion is also edible, but I don’t know anyone who uses the bulbs as a scallion substitute.  It is ironic that food foragers, high-end chefs and hipster-gourmets go crazy for ramps--Allium tricoccum—a spring onion, but not for wild onion or Allium canadense.  Perhaps the plant needs a better ...

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April 18, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Rosy Future

In 2000 the horticultural world turned upside down with the introduction of a new rose.  Its registration name was ‘RADrazz’, but it became known to the world as ‘Knock Out’.  Sixteen years later, it is probably the most popular rose in the United States, if not the world. On the face of it, ‘Knock Out’ appears pretty but not extraordinary.  The flower petals have often been described as “cherry red”, with five to fifteen per flower.  Categorized as a shrub or landscape rose, ‘Knock Out’ grows up to four feet tall and wide, but can be kept smaller.  Supposedly it has a light, spicy scent, though I have rarely detected any scent when the blooms have come near my nose.  On appearance alone it cannot compare to real ...

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April 11, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Wild Swan

In this part of the world, we have paid for the recent mild winter with a long, erratically cool spring.  Since March first, I think we have had more snow in the forecast—though not on the ground—than we did during the months of November, December and January combined. The daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are made of the kind of strong stuff that enabled them to ignore the forecasts and put on a fine show.  I am made of strong, hopeful stuff and faced down a gale-force windstorm to get to the garden center for some pansies.  This is an annual ritual during which I follow in the horticultural footsteps of my father.  He didn’t particularly love pansies, but in the neighborhood where I grew up, all decent people put containers of pansies ...

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