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: 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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Good Together: Lion's Ears & Savitzii Parlor Maple

I have many score of "conservatory" specimens—tender plants that I grow individually in containers, and which I overwinter year by year—so that I can enjoy long-term explorations with horticulture that isn't otherwise hardy here. Just-for-the-season container plantings are the opportunity for speculatory and even manic combinations that might last barely one season, let alone thrive year after year. No matter: whether a success or failure, the gig is up by hard frost.

Abutilon Savitzii Leonotis leonuris lower 101516 320

Here's one: a huge container of delicate variegated abutilons and kick-ass South African shrubs known as lion's ears. Just for the Summer, the lion was able to lay down with the lamb.

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