The Gardener's Apprentice

New This Month

For a lot of color in early spring, hellebores are the ticket.


Start looking for the early risers in your garden.  January thaws mean that in some places, snowdrops and Christmas roses put in appearances.

December 26, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Amaryllis Redux

Nine chances out of ten, if you are reading this, you have an amaryllis in the house.  Maybe it arrived ready to bloom just before the December holidays.  If so, you may still be enjoying the last of the bright flowers.  Or it might have come to you as a kit.  If you followed the package directions and planted the bulb, the flowers will burst forth a few weeks from now.  Amaryllis is so easy to grow that even confirmed “black thumbs” can feel the full flush of horticultural success as the stalks soar towards the ceiling. When I give amaryllis as gifts every holiday season, I order bulbs in bulk, pot them up and send them on their way with ribbons around the pots.  Each large bulb is primed to sprout, with at least an inch ...

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December 19, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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General Kohler

Somewhere out in my yard, General Köhler lies sleeping peacefully under a light blanket of snow.  I expect he is snoring, or would be, if he were not a hyacinth bulb waiting for the earth to warm up next spring. These days merchandisers frequently name plants according to purported ease of cultivation—“Oso Easy” and “Hasslefree” roses, are two good examples.  Back before the Internet was around to warn us that most of our heroes’ had feet of clay, breeders and merchandisers named plants after worthy men and women.  This tradition gave us ‘President Roosevelt’, a red peony, and ‘Sir Winston Churchill’, a daffodil.  Douglas MacArthur, war hero, Medal of Honor winner and thorn in the side of President Harry Truman, ...

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December 10, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Oregon Grape Holly

When you think about the intelligent, courageous and, inevitably, flawed people who founded our country, a host of names come to mind.  Bernard McMahon’s is not among them.  However, McMahon—1775-1816—knew or corresponded with many of the political and horticultural notables of his era.  He was a garden mentor to Thomas Jefferson, who may be considered America’s “founding gardener.”  That association also led the third president to choose McMahon as curator of the plants collected by Lewis and Clark on their lengthy and daring western expedition. McMahon, an Irish immigrant, was a nurseryman, plant collector and writer.  His American Gardener’s Calendar was the first book of guidance aimed at gardeners in our newborn country.   ...

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December 3, 2017
by The Gardeners' Apprentice
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Proudly Polka-Dotted

Madagascar is an island nation off the south coast of Africa with unique climates and topography.  It is probably best known for vanilla beans and lemurs, with the lemurs taking the prize for visibility ever since their cinematic star turns in The Lion King and the Madagascar movies. Polka dot plants or Hypoestes phyllostachya also hail from Madagascar, but they are nowhere near as celebrated as either vanilla or lemurs.  That said, you are unlikely to find a lemur at your local garden center or big box store.  Polka dot plants are another story.  Any retailer that stocks foliage plants, sells these colorful specimens, which feature green, teardrop-shaped leaves splashed with bright pink, red or white spots or blotches.  The red ones ...

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