What’s The One Thing (almost) Nobody’s Planting Right Now That Almost EVERYBODY Should Be?

There are many possible answers to this question, and we could gather an assortment, yet no one might mention it. But the best response is so obvious to a few people that it’s really hard to believe it can be an impossible secret to everyone else!

Don’t you hate those kind of secrets? Read more

When Buying Spring Bulbs, You’ll Kick Yourself If You Don’t Consider the Value of This Special Program

A supermarket display offering spring-planted bulbs and perennials for sale in little boxes.

There’s nothing wrong with shopping the store displays, although many of the most serious gardeners shun them in favor of better sources. There is a much better source to recommend, but first I want to point out that there’s not necessarily anything wrong with this selection. I’m happy to have people in any community planting gladiolas, ismenes, dahlias, zephyranthes, and I don’t want to dissuade shoppers from planting such easy and adaptable perennial flowers as columbine and globe thistle (which is a rare color: blue, xeric, and good for pollinators).

Quality is part of the reason, because the quality you get from these boxes is sufficient and adequate but not the highest. In the Green Industry it’s often true you get what you pay for, and I do willingly when I know the difference is worth it. There’s one source, however, that will deliver even far more than that (superior quality, that is) . . .

When you purchase bulbs this spring, I want you to go here. This link allows you to support non-profit organizations ranging from public gardens and historical societies to schools, scout troops, museums, and orchestras while you purchase some of the very best bulbs in the marketplace from a very extensive selection.

Note: There are some irregularities to the listings, so search with care. For instance, the Morton Arboretum is listed under “The”. So are “The Garden Conservancy” and several others worth finding and supporting.

Bloomin’ Bucks

is a fund-raising program designed to earn selected non-profit organizations a percentage of every order received through this portal! The 387 organizations currently participating thank you for your support! So go ahead and splurge here; it’s helping a good cause. And then when the order comes, the quality is another thing you’ll really appreciate!

Are there Furry Creatures that Give You Fury?

Modern painting Leap of Rabbit from 1911 by Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso shows a rabbit leaping in a garden.
Leap of Rabbit (1911)
Amadeu de Sousa Cardoso

“I Have Elephants in MY Garden so What’s YOUR Problem?” One of the best titles for a garden talk I’ve seen comes from Marie Butler, the now-retired coordinator of landscape for the Virginia Zoological Park in Norfolk.

You have to admit that however impossible to win your back yard battles may seem, Read more

Free Book on Raising Vegetables

painting Planting the Garden from 1909 by William Coffin
Planting the Garden (1909)
William Coffin

If you plant a vegetable garden, or haven’t before but want to grow some vegetables this year, you should know that there’s an excellent book that’s free. You can find it on the University of Missouri Agricultural Extension Service web site. This volume by Dr. James Knott (1897-1977) was first published in 1956; the download is the fifth edition (2006).

If you like to print things, you should know that this one is 600 pages. If you’d like an opinion besides mine, here’s a review.

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom by Lucy Walker

An early 20th Century copy of Japanese woodcut The Great Wave off Kanagawa (神奈川沖波裏), from 36 Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849).

Think back a few years and you probably remember the immense, destructive waves that hit Japan. On March 11, 2011, an earthquake off the coast of the largest island, Honshu, triggered tsunamis over 100 feet high that traveled more than a mile inland once they reached the coast. Thousands of people were injured or died, and in the days that followed, aftershocks woke survivors in the night and brought disturbing reminders of the whelming force of nature during the day.

British documentary filmmaker Lucy WalkerFor obvious reasons, foreigners who could were leaving, but British filmmaker Lucy Walker went to Japan just after one of the greatest natural disasters in its history. Read more

A Damn Good Guide to Growing Magnificent Rhododendrons Through the Year

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

A young plant of Rhododendron 'Maruschka', showing the black leaves it has all winter.
Some varieties, such as this young plant of Rhododendron ‘Maruschka’, have black leaves all winter.

“Things reveal themselves passing away.” Although this quote is often attributed to William Yeats, I couldn’t trace it to him. Whenever a plant dies on you, however, there has to be a reason, and this group of plants is notorious for not being durable and adaptable.

The primary reason rhododendrons die on people splits into two related factors: unsuitable soil and inadequate drainage. Keep in mind that in the wild, rhododendrons grow on the sides of mountains and the banks of streams. People who fail often plant them on flat ground. Try a slope, and remember they need loose, fluffy soil like you find under trees in the woods. Since the roots are shallow, mulch lightly if you do.

Second point: If a plant lives but doesn’t flourish, try moving it to a sunnier spot.

January: Appreciate varieties that have black winter leaves, such as ‘Black Satin’, ‘Ginny Gee’, PJM types, and ‘Maruschka’. Take advantage of warm beverages needed on cold mornings: Collect coffee grounds to distribute around plants once winter ends. Coffee grounds are good as a source of nitrogen that isn’t too strong, but note that they don’t make the soil more acidic. Pay your American Rhododendron Society membership dues or join a chapter. Browse nursery web sites and catalogs for inspiration. Read more

Some People Excel at Gardening and Some Don’t: Which Type Are You?

The gardening season officially begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st.

Marie Huston

a hilarious image of a woman working in her garden although the scene is covered by snowPerhaps you’re a “garden evangelist” as Carol Michel describes herself.

If that’s the case, you might agree with Josephine Nuese, who wrote “Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream.” Read more

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