The Gardener's Apprentice

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Jacob’s ladder is beautiful, perennial, shade tolerant and less appealing to deer than many other ornamentals.  What more could a gardener ask for?


Spring can be overwhelming, with more urgent garden chores than any other season.  Relax, do what is most urgent and remember that the garden will slow down as you head into early summer.

April 25, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Ginter’s Garden

In his play Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare gives the following lines to Marc Antony: “The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones…” This may sometimes be the case, but it was not so with Lewis Ginter—1824-1897—a New York native who migrated to Richmond, Virginia and made successive fortunes in linen sales, finance and finally, the manufacture and sale of cigarettes.  Whatever evil Ginter did is lost to history, but his name and good works live on all over Richmond, especially at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  At this time of the year, it glows with enough color to add considerable luster to the Ginter reputation. Unlike Henry Francis Dupont, creator of the famous Longwood Gardens, ...

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April 17, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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For the Love of Violas

Many of my neighbors have pansies and violas on their porches right now.  So do I.  The only difference is that some of mine overwintered there.  Now they will go out into the garden, joining some of their newly acquired kinfolk in the job of brightening up the beds, while the parade of daffodils, hyacinths and squills march by in seasonal array. Once in the beds, those pansies and violas will gaze thoughtfully at their much-smaller, common purple or purple and white violet cousins, currently dotting the lawn and camping out in less-tended garden areas.  Men in my neighborhood tend to curse these ordinary wood violets as lawn invaders, but I find them charming.  Of course, I don’t care if the lawn looks like a putting green, either, ...

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April 10, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Return Engagement

There is nothing like a tulip, hyacinth or daffodil in its first spring.  All the energy that growers in the Netherlands or elsewhere have pumped into the bulbs is distilled into glorious floral display.  Tulips stand strong and proud, with magnificent multi-colored petals.  If the daffodils’ trumpets could sound, they would be loud enough to hear for miles.  And hyacinths…First year hyacinths are so lush and bodacious that they sometimes keel over under the weight of their own florets. These first year beauties are the ones you see in really well-tended home landscapes, not to mention display gardens, botanical institutions and other horticultural showplaces.  To ensure a reliable annual magnificence quotient, gardeners in those ...

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April 3, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Every five or ten years the horticultural world goes through a vogue for patterned leaves.  Everything old is new again as gardeners snap up some of the flashier hostas, variegated weigelas, Japanese painted ferns and all manner of plants with splotched, splashed and marbled leaves.  Breeders pump out even more of them to meet the new demand.  Our gardens are often the better for these excursions into foliar excitement—as long as gardeners remember that a little bit of pattern goes a long way in the landscape. Early spring flowering pulmonaria or lungwort had a moment in the fashion spotlight a few years ago and seems to be on the verge of a comeback.  That encore will be the latest in a long series of such repeat performances, because ...

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