NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Acanthus Foliage in Spring

In milder climates, bear's breeches is evergreen. Too bad: Those gardeners don't have the first-hand thrill of Spring's crop of emerging leaves.

Acanthus mollis Jeff Albus fingers 050116 320

The shiny, bright green foliage provides the ultimate in texture. Each leaf is a mass of crinkly pointy lobes tipped with spines that (at least to look at them) are channeling those of the fiercest English holly. But the tactile experience is another story.

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Umbrella Plant in Bloom

Spring is the peak season for astonishing plants that, literally, pop up. Here is a bloom spike of umbrella plant, about twenty inches tall and topped with a cluster of pink flowers six inches across. Each Spring it emerges from the colony's thick rhizomes weeks before the leaves and, at the height of a season where new excitements reveal themselves almost daily, can be missed entirely until—huzzah!—it's in full flower, seemingly, overnight.

Peltaphyllum peltatum 050216 320

The round leaves that follow this slender floral display are enormous. In happy colonies, they form an invincible groundcover. Who could imagine that this show should be followed by that one? Spring is an astonishing season, indeed.

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Cinderella Crabapple in Bud

This is my first full year in the company of three standards of Cinderella crab apple; by the time I received them last Spring they were already in flower. Cinderella is a dwarf and, in contrast to its belle-of-the-ball cultivar name, in Winter its leafless branches, thick and gnarly, reach skyward like claws of a barely closed fist: perfect for catching heavy Winter snows and displaying them securely.

Malus Cinderella 042716 320

In Spring, the foliage returns the canopy to full fluffiness. It is soon spangled with bright red buds that, when open, are snow white. How do they change from one color to the other?

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Corn-leaved Iris

Who doesn't have some iris in bloom in May or June? Far fewer are the irises of April, which makes them all far more eye-catching.

Iris bucharica overall 041116 320

This is a young clump of corn-leaved iris. In older clumps, the leaves are arrayed up the lengths of the then-taller flower stems, making each look like a miniature corn stalk. This young clump is so short-stemmed that the arching foliage seems more like that of torch lilies. For its first weeks above ground, the plant's identity taunted me. Was its genus Kniphofia or Zea? The unmistakable form and large size of the flowers confirmed that, nope, this is an Iris. An eccentric one, too—and, so, all the more desirable.

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