What Are the Hardiest Gardenia Varieties?

Since January is the month Alexander Garden was born, let’s take a timely look at the popular shrub that commemorates him.

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a photograph of a gardenia plant growing in the snow in January

The Frost of Death was on the Pane—
“Secure your Flower,” said he.
Like Sailors fighting with a Leak
We fought Mortality—

In the past few years, many people who have grown gardenias outdoors have shared Emily Dickinson’s lament for the unspecified vegetable victim from poem F 1130. You may wonder just what the hardiest gardenia varieties are. The answer is developing, so let’s consider what we know about what’s available. Read more

The Best Resource for January Garden Tips

a snow-covered scene painted in Hungary with open countryside, low hills, and trees in the distance, all under a fresh blue sky; the artist is József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)
Winter, also known as Hills in Somogy, Undated
József Rippl-Rónai (1861–1927)

In the past I’ve mentioned the potential value of discarded holiday greens and–if you’re snow-free–to look out for discarded or unwanted mums. There’s always more and more . . . and more timely seasonal advice to say, so that’s why I wanted to let you know there’s a resource that covers it all. Read more

Sound of the Season: Johan Wagenaar’s Power of Spring

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“Spring arrived – a beautiful, kind-hearted spring, without spring’s usual promises and deceptions, and one of those rare springs which plants, animals, and people rejoice in together.”

Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina

berries of leatherleaf Mahonia, commonly known as grape hollySince spring is a season associated with planting more than harvest, I thought these berries of grape holly–that just developed–could remind us what a rich source of inspiration this season has been to artists over the centuries and that we can (nearly always) enjoy that harvest whenever we want.

On the other hand, however, we should realize that this plant is invasive and we reap what we sow, so Mahonia bealei is best removed rather than admired wherever it grows in North America. The perpetual cycle of growth and renewal can represent problems as well as positive things that bring us joy, can’t it? Read more

Get Affirmative and Transformational Results When You Consider the Social and Psychological Side of Gardening

a tray of seedlings showing sprouts just about an inch high

Here are two stories about fitting in, standing out, and being yourself, one from Scotland and one from Wales. Both stories align with this adage from Bernard Baruch that I hope you know already:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Then there’s this query from author and speaker Ian Wallace:

“Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Coming from Scotland, Tom Smart makes some really fine points about gardening and the pleasure of being outdoors. He describes a recent conversation with a person who complained about cutting his lawn Read more

Build Anticipation With an Allée

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A color photo showing a driveway lined with Callery pear trees loaded with white flowers.
Callery pear makes a statement out of a driveway.

Not everyone owns enough property to have an allée. Other people do but live in hilly places; uneven terrain is simply not suited to creating this kind of effect. But where it can be done, ooh la la, does it ever create a sense of anticipation and arrival!

As we’ll see, an allée does far more than define space by creating an axis aligned with the house. To begin with the obvious, it’s also practical and good for the Earth. Canopied pavement is the best sort because it heats up less in summer. If I could design all parking lots, believe me, they wouldn’t look the way they always do!

Centuries ago, a tree-lined drive became a traditional treatment for the entrance to an estate. In the United States, I think most examples were in the southeast. Most of these are gone, but a few are still around. Shall we have a little look? Read more

Do You Appreciate the Wabi-Sabi Effect and Early Flowering Time of Ornamental Quince?

a white quince in a 3 gallon container at the nursery showing blooms before the leaves come outIn temperate climates, one of the earliest shrubs to bloom is the Ornamental Quince. The display will usually peak at the same time as forsythia, and you can make spectacular combinations by putting them side-by-side. Since the red form of quince seems most common, I thought I’d point out that they come in other colors too: orange, pink, and white.

white crocus blooming in a lawnA few of these shrubs with Iris reticulata at the base would make a fine show that in most parts of the country would appear in March. Or consider planting with crocus, creeping phlox, Siberian squill, Puschkinia, or Chionodoxa. 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

Improve a Dismal, Off-Season Yard With the Easy, Shade-Loving Evergreen Bush Almost No One Grows and Appreciates

a view of leafy bushes even in late winter or March: the dwarf evergreen plant sweet box

The reason this is called Sweet Box is it’s related to boxwood, which is the evergreen shrub people customarily make into balls and hedges. I knew about boxwood since I was young but I only saw the connection made last year. I never would have made it myself because the leaves and growth habit differ so much. I never would have thought of this plant as a boxwood (relative) for shade or a boxwood (relative) with fragrance. By the way, actual boxwoods stink. Smell one in case you never noticed! Read more