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cotoneaster cotton easter

Admit It! You Called It “Cotton Easter” Once, Too

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Maybe Metasequoia glyptostroboides rolls off your tongue now, but there was a time when you felt intimidated by botanical Latin. When I opened up the Dirr book for my first woody plants class, I laughed out loud.  Yeah, right!  Now I try to work phrases like Ceratostigma plumbaginoides and Hakonechloa macra into the conversation.  Here are some plant names that trip… Read more →


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aesculus glabra ohio buckeye leafing out

A Call to Inaction: In Defense of Doing Nothing

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This is an actual conversation that took place one late winter day at the nursery where I worked: Caller:  Yes, I was wondering if you could answer a question for me.  I’m going to spray my plants, and the container says not to use it on arborvitaes, and I was wondering, “Why not arborvitaes?”  What will it do to them? Me:  What… Read more →


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narcissus split cup daffodil

The War on Flowers

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Flowers are under attack. Have you noticed how many books and articles on garden design emphasize the importance of foliage to the point where flowers are entirely secondary? Many garden experts tell us that a sophisticated gardener overlooks the fleeting thrill of flowers and instead focuses, sensibly, on the form, texture, and color that foliage provides over the long haul.  Once one… Read more →


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Lagerstroemia Crape myrtle has brilliant fall color

Five Plants That Deserve More Credit for Great Fall Color

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Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) sells by virtue of its frilly summer blooms alone, and where it’s hardy enough to grow sizable trunks, the exfoliating bark is a bonus, but how little ink is devoted to praising its fall color! Some plants take on deep purpley tones that redden over time.  Many selections, like ‘Hopi’ and ‘Catawba,’ are set ablaze with an… Read more →


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Bloom times are more regular than we thought

Bloom Times Are More Regular Than We Thought

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When it comes to the weather, we gardeners are prone to hyperbole.  Every season, one would think from listening to us, is drastically colder or warmer, wetter or drier than ever before.  Has one of us ever said, “Can you believe what normal weather we’re having?” or, “Average enough for ya?”  Instead, we seize upon every irregularity in the weather… Read more →


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Reading between the lines of plant catalogs

What Plant Catalogs Are Really Trying to Tell You

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All plants have their pros and cons. Writers of plant and seed catalogs try to paint each plant in the best light.  Just as when a house listed as “cozy” usually translates to “small,” certain terms in plant catalogs raise flags in the minds of savvy consumers.  Here are some phrases to be aware of when flipping through those decadent,… Read more →


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All Hail the Toad Lily:  Prince of Fall Perennials

All Hail the Toad Lily: Prince of Fall Perennials

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It’s nice to know that not all late summer- and fall-blooming perennials are DYC’s (Damn Yellow Composites). Their brassy gold faces are cheering at first, but become monotonous.  In shady gardens at that time of year, the lily family is offering up some splendidly eccentric blooms in the form of toad lilies. ‘Miyazaki’ toad lily (Tricyrtis hirta ‘Miyazaki’) opens its fantastically speckled… Read more →


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ginkgo biloba yellow in fall

Ginkgo biloba, You Don’t Look a Day Over 56 Million

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Is there anything more satisfying than golden ginkgo leaves backed by blue autumn skies? Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) delivers taxi-cab-yellow foliage to the Lower Midwest from the week of October 11 until mid-November, with most trees reaching peak color during the latter half of that period.  The margins of the fan-shaped leaves turn first, so that early in the show the green leaves are… Read more →


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dragonfly

The Bizarre, Sordid Secrets of Dragonflies You Will Wish You Had Never Learned

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I’ve always enjoyed it when dragonflies visited the garden, but I realized I didn’t know much about them. I knew that dragonflies had finely tuned, 360-degree vision, because I knew how hard it was to get close enough to them for a photo.  I knew they were territorial, because one of them took ownership of the tip of our car antenna for about… Read more →


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Hamamelis virginiana common witchhazel

Neither Snow Nor Rain Nor Gloom of Night Keeps This Witchhazel Down

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I must say a few words of kindness for our native common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana), the last woody plant of the year to venture forth with new flowers. Like katsura,  common witchhazel might be first detected with a whiff—in this case a sweet tea fragrance—and then tracked down.  Sure enough, there are the flowers, like wee basil chiffonades in yellow.  The blooms… Read more →


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