The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

Lewisia or “cliff maids” are beautiful, but sometimes difficult flowering plants.  Now a trailblazing nursery promises to make them easier to grow.


Look for signs of life in your garden–budded hellebores, overwintered pansies showing signs of life and buds on spring flowering shrubs.  Attend to necessary chores on good weather days.  Prime your garden for spring.

January 9, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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One of the great joys of gardening and writing about plants is amassing a collection of books.  These days, you might argue that everything is available online, via e–books or other electronic means.  That may be so, but it would be hard to find a substitute for Botanicum by illustrator, Katie Scott, and scientist, Kathy Willis, a book that was published last year under the auspices of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.  It is monumental in just about every way. To begin with, the bountifully illustrated book is an impressive size—about 14.25 inches by 10.5 inches.  It is printed in full color on the kind of heavy paper that is a rarity in the world of modern book publishing.  But the content is the real revelation.  The authors ...

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January 3, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Cosmic Blooms

In light of 2016’s many significant events, you may not have noticed that it was the “Year of the Cosmos”.  But noticed or unnoticed, Fleuroselect, the Netherlands-based horticulture trade group, decreed that last year, cosmos were the brightest stars in the horticultural heavens.  It may be a coincidence, or not, but at the same time, Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society undertook a massive trial of cosmos varieties at its botanical garden at Wisley.  Photos of the trial beds show scores of tidy mounds of brightly colored flowers in a range of heights.  The rising tide of cosmos popularity was so significant that noted English garden writer, Graham Rice, wrote it all up in an article for the Telegraph newspaper.  Celebrities ...

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December 26, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Hopeful Signs

I was born an optimist.   I was probably born a gardener, too, though that didn’t manifest itself until after I could walk and talk.  It is in my nature to look for signs of hope, especially in the natural world.  Thankfully, those signs are almost always present, if you look carefully.  As the New Year starts, I can’t think of a better time to catalog those harbingers of better times. First, of course, is the gradual increase in light, now that we are on the other side of the Winter Solstice.  We gain precious minutes of light each day, even if it isn’t apparent on the cloudy ones.  Everyone gets at least a bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the winter.  Now it will wane along with the darkness.  That assurance should help ...

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December 19, 2016
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Heavenly Bamboo

My friend, the ace flower arranger, made a flamboyant holiday arrangement the other day featuring a fountain-like array of crystal vessels festooned with an extravagant amount of red-berried nandina.  The whole thing turned out to be a bit over-the-top for her home décor, so she offered me the nandina.  I jumped at the chance, since nandina, known as Nandina domestica to its horticulturist friends and “heavenly bamboo” or “sacred bamboo” to other admirers, is one of those plants you see in all the holiday decorating magazines.  It is especially well-loved in the South, where it succeeds in landscapes to the point of invasiveness.  Along with the large, glossy leaves of southern magnolia—Magnolia grandiflora— a spray of nandina ...

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