The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

Ligularia is a shade-loving member of the daisy family that shines at summer’s end.

Tips

In much of the U.S., gardeners still have time for fall planting.  Snap up some bargain perennials and get them in the ground promptly for a jump-start on next season.



August 21, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Bigger Than Your Head

I saw a woman at the Farmer’s Market last week with a bouquet of huge dahlias.  They weren’t quite dinner plate-size, but they would put the average butter plate to shame.  It occurred to me then that mid-summer is no time for subtlety.  The big, bright colors and shapes of zinnias, cannas, Mexican sunflowers and, of course, hardy hibiscus, seem much more appropriate.  These are plants that have spent the early summer swallowing up the sun.  In August they release all that sunshine through their large, radiant petals. My upper back garden is home to two hardy hybrid hibiscus, one with enormous red blossoms and the other with gigantic pale pink flowers accented with red “eyes”.  The blooms, which open from impressive pointed ...

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August 14, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Wild Bee Balm

Bumblebees, those ace pollinators in the fuzzy yellow and black suits, are very fashionable at the moment.  And since they are fashionable, the plants that attract them are also extremely popular.  I thought of that as I returned from vacation last week and drove by the many swathes of purple-flowered wild bee balm or Monarda fistulosa that popped up in vacant rural spaces along my route. Many gardeners grow wild bee balm’s red-flowered relative, Monarda didyma, in their beds and borders.  For some reason, that particular member of the Monarda clan took more readily to domestication and selective breeding than its “wild” relative.  As the result, there are relatively few fistulosa varieties on the retail market, but lots of didymas. The ...

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August 7, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Of Monarchs and Milkweed

  Monarch butterflies, known to their scientific friends as Danaus plexippus, abound this year—at least in the areas I frequent.  Even though they are considered relatively common, I see them as miraculous.  Backlit by bright midsummer sun, monarchs’ orange, black and white wings glow as they float from flower to flower.  Unlike many other butterfly species, they are leisurely flyers and don’t indulge in a lot of superfluous fluttering.  I am most appreciative of that trait when I am on vacation and stop rushing long enough to notice creatures that are hardwired to take their time. Monarchs gravitate to milkweed, or Asclepias species, their one and only larval food source. If you want to tempt them to breed in your garden, ...

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August 7, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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We Still Call It Coleus

If you happen to be a flashy individual who changes your name every few years and carries on colorfully in public places, you might be called a “performance artist”, or possibly something even more descriptive.  If you were to morph into plant form and do the same thing, gardeners would simply ignore all the name changes and call you “coleus”. With leaves in a multitude of colors and eye-catching patterns, coleus is dear to the hearts of everyone who yearns for excitement in shaded spaces.  Long ago, its ancestors thrived in tropical Africa, parts of Southeast Asia and southern Australia.  Now, coleus is known worldwide as a staple foliage plant, showing up in borders, containers, window boxes and public plantings all over ...

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