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: Golden Lotus Banana About to Bloom

In temperate gardens, bananas are usually grown for their huge foliage, quick growth, and delight in the most oppressive heat and humidity. A few bananas are also easy to overwinter; one or two can even be grown in-ground as far north as Long Island. Below, the only one grown for flowers or, as the crazy structure that bears the flowers is known, an inflorescence.

Musella lasiocarpa Hedera canariensis Gloire de Marengo Cussonia paniculata Nelumbo TBD 070616 320

For a banana, the three-foot leaves may be modest, but the floral action is extraordinary: The common name "golden lotus" is right on target, and its show is about to begin.

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American Elderberry

Out at the streetfront of my property, large plants grow more-or-less on their own. Here, the native elderberry remains a monster year after year, a striking contrast to the weak and, eventually, failing performance of the many European ones I tried.

Sambucus canadensis Maxima overall 061816 320

The "Maxima' cultivar is even more vigorous than the straight species, but in this location, it can't get into trouble. More really is more.

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Empress Tree Rebounding

Empress tree is a large self-seeding weed tree in Zone 7 and warmer; in Zone 5, a nonflowering die-back shrub. Here in warm Zone 6, the quirks of each Winter move the tree's performance from spot to spot on that spectrum.


My penchant for pollarding adds still more suspense. At the minimum, it's three years from pollarding to flowering: pollarding the first Spring, forming buds the second Fall, flowering the third Spring and then pollarding again. Alas, the ultra-eager new wood that pollarding encourages seems to be less hardy than free-range growth and so, therefore, are the buds it forms.


See the bare branches poking up through new shoots from lower down? One deep cold snap killed those branches, resetting the cycle for flowers back to the start.

Paulownia tomentosa self pollard 062216 320 

In this location, in this climate, a pollarded empress tree teaches patience as well as humility—and a commitment to many years of healthy living. How often will the multi-year cycle of pollarding to flowering coincide with a stretch of mild-enough Winters? Once a decade?

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Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Mountain Cabbage Tree

A ten-foot cabbage tree can be too tall even for a plant geek, especially when growing in such a large container: too tall and too heavy. And way too awkward to wheel on its side into the truck to the greenhouse in the Fall, then back into the truck to the garden in the Spring.


Sawing through the trunk turned a ten-foot tree into a five-footer that rode upright in the truck on the way back to the garden.

Cussonia paniculata overall 061816 320

So much easier. Would the tree resprout or die? After weeks of warmth and sun in the garden, today I had the answer.

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