It's time to read and vote for your favorite article in the 2013 Write-Off Contest! The four finalist's articles are featured in the May 13 newsletter and can be found through this link. Hurry! Voting ends May 18.
Want to inject some drama and color into a ho-hum shade garden? Look no further than the Japanese painted fern. They brighten any dark area with flashes of silver, harmonizing beautifully with other shade lovers such as hosta, bleeding heart, heuchera and brunnera. This low-maintenance perennial works equally well as a specimen or as a ground cover.
May is the month we’ve been dreaming about all winter. Once it’s finally here, our gardens spring to life, seemingly overnight. And although there are a hundred and one tasks awaiting us, we should take time in the coming weeks to simply revel in the beauty of “this sweet and merry month of May.”
Sweet woodruff, or Galium odoratum (formerly classified as Asperula odorata), is a low-maintenance perennial long cultivated in shady gardens. The “sweet” part of this delicate-looking beauty’s name refers to the refreshing hay-like scent of its leaves and flowers.
Waxwings range across most of the U.S., but because they are nomadic, you must remain observant in order to catch their visit. Unlike other birds that dependably migrate from one region to another, the waxwing instead travels spontaneously in search of its favorite food, berries.
An April breeze can carry the scent of newly-opened flowers one day, and fill the sky with stormy clouds the next. No matter -- we all know that “April showers bring May flowers,” and that warm and sunny days lie just ahead.
With its lush cascade of delicate, feathery foliage, the asparagus fern makes an appealing houseplant. Despite the plant's many positive attributes, gardeners should observe some precautions in its use.
If you have a backyard feeding station, you undoubtedly receive visits from the mourning dove, the most abundant of our native doves. Unlike its extinct cousin, the passenger pigeon, the mourning dove is a highly successful species. It's also the most frequently hunted bird in North America.
Few flowers are more imbued with meaning than the rose. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” according to Shakespeare. "My love is like a red, red rose," sang the poet Robert Burns. “Every rose has its thorns,” “seeing the world through rose-colored glasses” and “everything is coming up roses” are sayings familiar to everyone.
Ficus benjamina, or weeping fig, is a houseplant favored for its graceful shape and glossy leaves. It also has a reputation for being a bit finicky. If you have just brought your ficus indoors after a summer vacation outside, it is no doubt going through a period of adjustment and some--maybe lots--of its leaves are yellowing and dropping.
The butterfly amaryllis, or Hippeastrum papilio, is a relatively new addition to the world of the cultivated amaryllis. At one point thought the be extinct in its natural rainforest habitat, it is now widely propagated throughout Holland and the U.S.
Friendly and fearless despite its small size, the chickadee seems to be in perpetual motion. This bird’s cheerful call, inquisitive behavior and nimble acrobatics as it searches for food make it a favorite visitor to backyards.
January is a time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the new year. It’s the customary month to pledge yourself to a new task, or make needed changes. Many of our January traditions date to ancient times when the month was associated with the Roman god of beginnings and endings.
Romantic and elegant, ivy is one of America’s most popular houseplants. Growers can choose from hundreds of cultivars offering a wide variety of leaf shapes, sizes and colors. Depending on its container, ivy can lend either a casual or formal appearance.
The Northern cardinal makes a fine holiday ornament due to the contrast of the male cardinal’s brilliant red plumage against green pine boughs or a snowy winter landscape. This popular species serves as state bird for no fewer than seven states, including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
Around the turn of the 20th century, the majority of Chicago’s Christmas trees arrived not overland but by water. Beginning in late November, ships sailed into Chicago’s harbor, delivering cargoes of thousands of Christmas trees from the upper peninsula of Michigan. Improved road and rail transport brought an end to this practice. But tales of Chicago’s Christmas tree ship tradition and of one popular sea captain in particular have become part of Chicago Christmas legend.
The cornucopia, a horn brimming over with fruits of the harvest, is a symbol of abundance indelibly linked, at least in American minds, with Thanksgiving. It is far more ancient than the Pilgrims, however, and dates back to the 5th century B.C.
The story of the 1621 feast shared by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians is conventionally tied to Thanksgiving and has taken on the sheen of legend. When it comes to our late November holiday traditions and foods, however, Americans owe more to a New Hampshire writer named Sarah Josepha Hale than to the Plymouth Puritans.
If you live near a forest or woodlot, chances are excellent that your property is graced by one or more species of woodpecker. One of the more common visitors to North American back yards and urban areas is the lively little downy woodpecker.
“No warmth, no cheerfulness, no helpful ease, no comfortable feel in any member -- no shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds -- November!” Poet Thomas Hood’s clever summary of the month notwithstanding, the eleventh month offers many delights, not least of which are the sights and scents of autumn turning to winter.
A few artfully placed chrysanthemums and pumpkins help revive the fading summer landscape. But making a true fall garden requires more advance planning. Plant one or more of these unusual fall-blooming perennials, either now or in the spring, for an amazing show in the autumn seasons to come.
Most gardeners like to cultivate or purchase at least a few chrysanthemums for autumn color. But don’t overlook the many other fall-flowering perennials that can keep your garden alive with scent and color as cooler weather arrives. Try planting some of these late bloomers, either now or in the spring, and you’ll find yourself eagerly anticipating fall 2013.
The acorn, that small nut of the mighty oak tree, is an enduring symbol of autumn weather and the need to store food for the winter ahead. Acorns serve as an essential food for animals and in some cultures, for humans. But beyond that, the story of the acorn serves as a moral lesson, one of growth, regeneration, potential, patience, and faith.
Many gardeners expend all their energy on their spring- and summer-blooming garden, then feel as exhausted as their plants by September. You can overcome these autumn blahs by adding one of the many fall-blooming asters. Not only will you energize this season's flower garden, you'll enjoy the aster’s sparkling blossoms for years to come with a small amount of care.
Cheerful yellow and orange daisy-like flowers of rudbeckia brighten the late summer landscape. Commonly known as black-eyed susan, this family of American native plants includes perennials, biennials and annuals, all easy to cultivate and tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions.
"Thirty days hath September," and lovely days they are, too. September may mean the end of summer, but it's only the beginning of the season for such glorious fall bloomers as the aster, chrysanthemum, aconitum, boltonia, goldenrod and sweet autumn clematis.
British horticulturist Ellen Willmott knew she was a gardener from an early age. “I had a passion for sowing seeds and was very proud when I found out the difference between beads and seeds and gave up sowing the former.” She would eventually create one of the most celebrated gardens in England.
If you see a statue of a saint in a garden, more than likely it’s St. Francis with bird on his shoulder. St. Francis may have protected the birds and animals of the garden, but the actual patron saint of gardening is an Irish monk named St. Fiacre, whose feast is celebrated in Ireland and France on September 1.
Liatris is a tough and undemanding prairie plant, tolerant of poor soil and less-than-ideal moisture situations. It’s also a perennial border standout and florist’s staple. The long-lasting blooms of this summer- and fall-blooming American native attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. This is one wildflower that stands out wherever it's planted, be it roadside, naturalized area or formal garden.
The drone of cicadas heralds the closing days of the season. Both days and nights remain warm, but daylight hours seem more precious as the days grow shorter. August is a time to step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor as well as assess your handiwork. What changes will you make to your garden next year?
Most of us design our ornamental gardens for maximum visual appeal. But a garden can offer so much more when it also entices the sense of smell, hearing, touch and taste. Learn how to make your garden sense-sational!
I’m a deadheader. Are you? No, not a hardcore fan of a certain rock band, but rather a person who simply can’t resist tidying plants. Deadheading, or removing a plant’s spent blooms, is more than just a habit of the compulsively neat, however. By removing faded flowers promptly, you can improve your plants’ looks, prolong their flowering period and maximize the number and size of their blooms.
When you're a gardener, July means dealing with heat, humidity, weeds and bugs. Depending on the weather, you may spend a lot of time with a water hose in your hand. What pleasure, though, to perform your gardening tasks surrounded by lush flowers and ripening vegetables.
For gardeners and non-gardeners alike, the month of June -- the beginning of summer -- is full of promise. June is the perfect month to sit back in a lawn chair or hammock and watch nature's show unfold, beginning with peonies, iris, roses and the first of the lilies and clematis in starring roles.
Is your shade garden begging for some light? If so, consider brightening it with Hakonechloa macra, or Japanese forest grass. Unlike most other ornamental grasses, this variety not only tolerates, but actually thrives in shade.
Every clematis vine benefits from judicious pruning. But many people are so unsure about the proper time to prune their clematis that they avoid it altogether, and the vine becomes an unattractive, tangled mass of brittle, easily-damaged growth.
As its regal name suggests, the giant Solomon’s seal is one of the most handsome and imposing of all shade perennials. Any woodland border gains instant status with the addition of this resplendent American native wildflower.
The trumpet-shaped blooms of white, fragrant lilies grace many homes and churches during the Easter season. But Lilium longiflorum, otherwise known as the Easter lily, is a relatively new arrival to American shores. We can thank a World War I soldier for introducing this lovely plant.
Washington D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival attracts over one million visitors annually. Although festival goers can find plenty of activities, the real attraction is a natural party of sorts -- thousands of cherry trees putting forth their magnificent pink and white springtime display. The year 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of a floral show celebrating an enduring international friendship.
Just as every state in the U.S.A. claims a state flower, each of Canada’s ten provinces and three territories have adopted an official “floral emblem.” The history of the white trillium as a Canadian floral symbol dates to World War I, when members of the Ottawa Horticultural Society proposed this wildflower as a national floral emblem, appropriate for planting on graves of Canadian servicemen overseas. Although Canada's government ultimately never assigned a national flower, Ontario officially declared Trillium grandiflorum its provincial floral symbol on March 25, 1937.