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Book Review: Green Thumbs

Green ThumbsGreen Thumbs by Laurie Carlson is a collection of activities to teach children about gardening from planting seeds to enjoying the produce of flower and vegetable gardens. Written for parents with children ages five to eight in grades one to three, the book gives informative introductory information for each activity plus a list of materials and very simple step by step instructions illustrated with black and white line drawings. The activities are organized into nine chapters including planting basics, pest control, animals and other plants, recipes, and novelty plants. [click to continue…]

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Zizia aureaThe moisture conditions in a rain garden vary and four regions can be identified: areas with 1. shallow water most of the time, 2.wet soil with occasional standing water, 3. moist but not wet soil, and 4. dry, well-drained soils. Each area has plants that will thrive or tolerate the moisture regime but few plants do well in all of them. For color in spring, the following plants are good choices for wet area with occasional standing water. Although none tolerate permanent standing water, most will do well in moist soil as well as wet and this has been noted in the descriptions. [click to continue…]

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aquilegia hybrida Music SeriesHybrid columbines are herbaceous perennials and members of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes monkshood, delphinium, and anemone. There are a large number of hybrid columbines and many are of uncertain parentage because the various species hybridize easily when grown in proximity to each other. The hybrids differ in regard to the length of their spurs. The long spurred ones probably have A. canadensis, A. chrysantha, A. formosa, and A. longissima in their ancestry, while the short spurred hybrids probably have A. vulgaris parentage. Several noteworthy strains have been bred that vary in color, height, compactness, and length of flower spurs. [click to continue…]

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Botanical Latin: Pedata

viola-pedata-lv 2Ped A ta from Latin pes, pedis meaing foot

The term is used to describe plant structures, often leaves, that are divided so that they resemble a bird’s foot, with a few divisions radiating from a central point. The divisions differ in number, length and width depending on the species. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Rose Altissimo

The cup-shaped to flat flowers appear singly or in clusters on long stems, and give way to large orange hips. The petals are uniformly blood red and surround a center of golden stamens with the best color produced during cool weather. The vigorous plants produce new growth that is tinged with purple before turning dark green. ‘Altissimo’ can be grown as a shrub, pillar, or climber and is especially effective on a wall or fence. It is disease resistant and tolerates some shade. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: In Defense of Food

In Defense of FoodHow can we decide what to eat when we are bombarded by all the ever-changing information from nutritionists, the food industry, and scientific studies? We all want to eat healthy food but are often confused by conflicting claims and advice. Journalist Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, puts forth a common sense approach to selecting and enjoying food that can be summed up in seven words, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” [click to continue…]

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Plant Fiber in the Diet: Soluble and Insoluble

brussel-sproutsWe hear a lot about the virtues of eating foods such as fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and know that there are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Why are they good for us? What is the difference and are the effects of eating both the same? [click to continue…]

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Geranium_cinereumAlso called ashy cranebill, this semi-evergreen herbaceous perennial is native to the Pyrennes. It is a member of the Geraniaceae family that also includes the common bedding plant called geranium but that belongs to the genus Pelargonium. The low growing plants form mounds of grey-green foliage with leaves that are up to 1 ½ inches long and have five to seven wedge-shaped lobes divided almost to the base. The cup-shaped flowers are about one inch across, purplish pink with dark centers and veins, and appear from spring into summer. Several outstanding cultivars are available that vary in color from white to magenta. The low growing habit of the plant makes it useful at the front of the border, as a ground cover, and in rock gardens. Plants do better in the cooler part of their range. [click to continue…]

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Armeria (Thrift) for the Garden

Armeria_maritima_SplendensThrifts are members of the plumbago family, Plumbaginaceae, that also includes leadwort (Ceratostigma) and statice (Limonium) . There are about fifty species but only a few are considered good garden plants and are used for edgings, at the front of the border, or in the rock garden. Most of them are native to Mediterranean areas and tolerate seaside conditions with full sun and poor soil as a long it is well-drained. The grassy evergreen leaves produce tufts with wiry leafless stems carrying solitary, dense, globe-shaped heads of small pink or white flowers well above the foliage. Plants can be propagated by division and seed. The species differ mainly in stature and the size of leaves with some flower size and color variation . [click to continue…]

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Populus-nigra-Italica_Lombardy poplar is a deciduous, short-lived, male clone of Populus nigra. It is a native of Italy where it grows in moist areas and is a member of the willow family, Saliaceae, that also includes cottonwood and aspen. The tree is narrow with short upward reaching branches and a symmetrical crown. The bark of young trees is greenish gray but matures to black, furrowed bark on old trees. The leaves are triangular to diamond shaped, 2 to 4 inches long by 1.5 to 3 inches wide, and are bright green until fall when they turn bright golden yellow. The inconspicuous red male flowers appear in three inch long catkins in the spring and there are no fruits or seeds. The rapid growth, adaptability to various soil conditions, and columnar form of Lombardy popular recommend it for screens and wind breaks but its short life span, litter, invasive root system, sensitivity to pests and diseases, and tendency to topple and/or break in high winds limit its use. If Lombardy popular is used in the landscape locate it away from drains, sewers, sidewalks and lawns to avoid problems with invasive root growth. [click to continue…]

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