The Best Resource for February Garden Tips

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the 1914 painting Brook in Winter by Edwin Webster
Brook in Winter (1914)
Edwin Webster

Even if you improvise while cooking, you probably followed a lot of recipes before you reached that point. More important is that before you tried it, you learned how your ingredients work.

Same thing’s true for the garden. Read more

The Gardening Mistakes Often Made By People Who Think They’re Doing It Right

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a color photograph of a garden journal with a pen beside it

The only thing we have learned from experience is that we learn nothing from experience.

Chinua Achebe

Problem #1: Most of us start doing things without a way of keeping it organized.

Thomas Jefferson kept a garden journal and so should you . . . or a folder or a 3-ring binder or something!

Ever had this experience? Where did I plant the . . . Read more

Camellias, Consequences, and Class

a single white camellia blossom

In To Kill a Mockingbird, it was the camellia bushes that took teenage Jeremy Finch’s rage when he couldn’t stand his neighbor any more. What did she say to him? “Your father’s no better than the niggers and trash he works for!” Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose was a crabby old lady in a wheelchair, and in Chapter 4 Jeremy’s sister tells us Read more

A Damn Good Guide to Growing Magnificent Rhododendrons Through the Year

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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