The Gardener's Apprentice

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When spring is interrupted by a temporary return of winter storms, the garden dynamic changes.  Recovery starts as the snow melts.


Prune out winter damage on trees and shrubs.  Be careful with spring flowering species and only prune dead wood.  When in doubt, wait until after flowering.

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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February 13, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Cliff Maids

Lewisias are beautiful plants that I include, along with ornamental sweet peas, in my litany of horticultural failure.  A few years ago, I was smitten by a lovely little pink-flowered lewisia that I saw at a plant sale.  I thought I understood its needs, so I brought it home and planted it in a reasonably sunny raised bed, just behind a rock wall.  The drainage in the spot seemed perfect and since I never watered anything in that bed, I figured the plant would be immune from the most frequent cause of lewisia death—too much wetness. My little lewisia flourished in the first year and even bloomed in the second year. Then, with no warning, it died.  I planted a hardy geranium in its place and thought no more about it. But plant failures ...

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January 30, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Renard’s Cranesbill

Life is full of dichotomies.  I freely admit to falling madly in love with a different plant every few weeks during the growing season, but I am also remarkably faithful to plants that have served me well over many years.  Hardy geraniums fall into that latter category. Hardy geraniums, also known as cranesbills, are Geraniaceae family cousins of the big, fluffy-headed zonal geraniums that dominate our summer containers and window boxes.  The family resemblance is easy to spot.  Common geranium flowerheads are composed of individual florets with five petals apiece.  Hardy geraniums bear individual flowers that look like larger versions of those five-petaled florets.  Instead of big, rounded leaves, cranesbills feature more deeply dissected ...

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January 22, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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The Incense Rose

Rose lovers owe a lot to English breeder, David Austin, who over the past several decades has led a movement among breeders that has re-introduced fragrance into the world of garden roses.  For several decades after World War II, rose growers focused on other traits, especially the long stems and large, high-centered blooms that characterized the hybrid tea roses dominating the retail market.  Some varieties, like the red and white stalwart, ‘Double Delight’, had pronounced fragrance, but many commercially available hybrid teas had aromas so light as to be almost undetectable.  The quantities of pesticides that many rose gardeners used on those lovely plants also helped knock out the fragrances. But starting in roughly 1980, fragrance ...

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