The Gardener's Apprentice

August 24, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Blanc Double de Coubert

The other day I needed a rose—a special rose with certain very specific characteristics. It had to have beautiful blossoms, decent-looking leaves and a repeat blooming habit. Fragrance was a given. This much-needed plant also had to be pest and disease resistant and require very little care. Hearing all of that, some people might point me at the nearest big-box store while intoning the words, “Buy a Knock-Out rose.” Even if those people were family members or best friends, I would not oblige them. Knock Out roses are perfect at some times and in some places, but they lack fragrance and character. In short, Knock Outs may be hot, but they leave me cold. I wanted the rose for the garden at my summer cottage, where a sunny spot awaited ...

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August 24, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Turk’s Cap Lilies

High summer has just passed. In the roadside ditches and hedgerows near my Central New York State summer cottage, the green milkweed pods are fattening up. In another month they will be brown and ready to split, dispersing their silk-clad seeds. Sulfur butterflies dance over Queen Anne’s lace, chicory, butter-and-eggs and early goldenrod. The air smells of ripeness. Amid all this blowsy summer abundance, the orange turk’s cap lily—Lilium superbum—bursts onto the scene. This is not the tawny orange daylily—Hemerocallis fulva—that blooms just about everywhere around the Fourth of July. Despite similarities in coloration, the orange turk’s cap is a completely different animal and the species name “superbum” is particularly apt. Native ...

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August 3, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Dr. Stokes’ Aster

Pity the poor common chicory or Cichorium intybus, a Mediterranean native that has made itself at home all over the United States, gracing roadsides, field edges and other untended spaces.  The semi-double daisy flowers are the most beautiful shade of sky-blue, but the stems are gangly and scraggly, with rough-looking toothed leaves.  On top of all that, chicory blooms fold up and die the minute that you pick them, so unless you can arrange flowers at the speed of light and photograph the arrangement immediately, there is no use even snipping the stems.  You can dig the roots to dry, grind up and use as a coffee additive, but doing so will deprive you of the fabulous, short-lived flowers.  The ephemeral quality of chicory’s beauty ...

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July 27, 2015
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Messy, Messy

I love my cottage-style garden, with its masses of flowers and greenery.  At my place, the garden has plenty of classical elements including brick paths, hedges and stone walls, but the plants rule the roost. The flip side of all that cottage garden charm is that masses of flowers and greenery can easily become messes of flowers and greenery.  All it takes is a spell of rainy weather or the temporary absence of the gardener and all bets are off.  The thuggish plants—both loved and unloved—see their chance and take it.  Crabgrass competes with Russian sage for hegemony in the upper back garden and perilla mint romps freely through every bed.  Catmint goes on the prowl, pouncing all over better-mannered plants like coreopsis. I have ...

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