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

Good Together: 'Sticks on Fire' Euphorbia & 'Vancouver Centennial' Geranium

Last month I introduced a seasonal combination of tender plants—lion's ears and savitzii parlor maples—that remained colorful, durable, textural, and well-behaved over the long hot summer. But the fuzzy orange flowers of the lion's ears didn't really have much to chat about with the white-variegated foliage of the parlor maples. Yes, the two contrasted spectacularly, but they didn't converse. I extracted the parlor maples to grow on as a pure colony.


Here's a warm-weather combo that deals from the other side of the deck: Vancouver Centennial geraniums and Sticks on Fire euphorbias. Both trumpet lime green and terracotta. Both are low and bushy. Both bask in blazing sun and tending-to-dry soil. About the only place they do contrast—and how—is in texture.


Euphorbia tirucali Sticks on Fire Pelargonium x hortorum Vancouver Centennial 101916 overall 320

If this geranium-euphorbia pairing tolerates overwintering in my greenhouse, I'll welcome this container's return as-is to the garden come summer.

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Hardy Oranges in Fruit

Hardy orange is almost too interesting a tree, mounting a different, striking, and often unique display each season: spring flowers, summer foliage, fall fruit and foliage—and then, in winter, the green bark of bare young twigs and horrifyingly fierce thorns. No other plant hardy to Zone 6 has a stronger claim to the most interesting month after month, decade after decade.

Poncirus trifoliata fruits stems green foliage 102816 320

As above, the fruit of free-range trees is profuse. Hardy orange can also be pruned into a hedge or topiary, adding sharp geometry to the show. The trade-off is a reduced display of flowers and fruit. Hardy orange demands to be grown at least twice. Just one is not enough.

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Porto Spineless Cardoon

The extraordinary size and silvery-blue color of the leaves of cardoons—let alone their fountain-like array that's sometimes as large as the canopy of a palm—make them irresistible. Plus, plants can succeed spectacularly both as annuals and perennials.

Cynara cardunculus Porto Spineless closer 102916 320

I've always grown this architectural beauty directly in the garden. The straight species of cardoon is a monster—OK, a space hog—so when I had opportunity to grow the more compact Porto Spineless form, I jumped at it. And why not in a container?


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Good Together: Golden Weeping Ash, Japanese Holly, Orange-Twigged Linden

Plant a plant, begin an experiment. Does the plant establish? Does it look good as it matures? Do you keep up with the maintenance it needs, and are you and the plant both screwed if you don't? Ultimately, does the plant do what you thought it would? Either way, do you like it or do you say "What was I thinking?" Is the experiment ever over, or does it morph into new ones?

Fraxinus excelsior Aurea Pendula Ilex crenata Steeds Tilia cordata Winter Orange overall 102116 320

When I planted the orange-twigged lindens that I've since trained into a long espalier, I flanked the main passage through it with upright Japanese hollies. I also planted a weeping gold-barked ash, thinking that someday its lax branches would cascade down like a Victorian curtain at the side of the opening.

Fifteen years into the experiment, there's still no cascade, but there is plenty of splay. Fall foliage shows how this unexpected outcome isn't just fine, it's fabulous.

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