≡ Menu

azalea-hosta combinationMake spring time special with the combination featuring a white azalea and a hosta with a white edge. This hosta is one of the earliest to emerge so will be showing off its emerald green leaves with margins that echo the color of the azalea. After the azalea has finished blooming the hosta continues into fall producing pale purple flowers on arching scapes in mid-summer. The azalea leaves turn yellow in fall and persist through the winter while the hosta dies back for winter dormancy. Both plants enjoy part shade and moist, well-drained soil. [click to continue…]

Also known as alder-leaf mountain-mahogany, alder-leaf cercocarpus, and true mountain-mahogany, this mostly deciduous long lived shrub or small tree grows in chaparral scrub, and on mesas and the lower foothills from Montana, Idaho, and South Dakota south to northern Mexico.   It is a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes cherry, almond, and lady’s mantle.  The plants  have open branching with mahogany red to brown stems that can be fissured or scaley, and can grow up to 20′ tall, but are usually 5-12′  tall due to wild life browsing. The leathery, lanceolate to obovate leaves range in length from 0.4 to 2″ and are prominently veined and may be coarsely toothed.  They are green on the top, hairy white on the underside until fall when they turn russet.  In early summer, insignificant flowers appear singly or in cluster of up to 12.  The flowers lack petals but have yellowish white sepals forming a tube with 5 lobers and give way in the fall to fruit with a silky,  silvery white plume that is 2-5″ long.  A shrub covered with fruits and their plumes is especially attractive when backlit.   Plants are very drought tolerant and if  pruned hard to promote dense growth can be used as a hedge or screen.  The genus name, Cercocarpus, comes from the Greek word kerkos meaning a tail and karpos meaning a fruit and refers to conspicuous fruit.  The specific epithet, montanus, comes from the Latin word mons, meaning mountain, and refers to the native habitat of the plant. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile : Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)

Cumin is a herbaceous annual native to the eastern Mediterranean  east to India and has been known from ancient Egyptian times.  It is a member of the dill family, Apiaceae, that also includes parsley, carrot, and Queen Anne’s lace.  The plants are well branched and grow 12-20″” tall at a rapid rate. The leaves are 2-4″ long and pinnate or bipinnate with feathery leaflets.  In summer small white or pink flowers are carried in compound umbels of 5-7 umbelletes.  Cumin is usually grown for the culinary value of its seeds that ripen in late summer to early fall and is used extensively in Mexican and Indian cuisine.  The genus name, Cuminum, comes from the Greek name for the plant,  κύμινον.   [click to continue…]

The use of molasses to brew beer goes back to colonial times when a source of sugar to feed the yeast was hard to find.  Squash, bran, maize, parsnips, and persimmons were all  available and used but molasses was the most popular.  George Washington included a recipe for making beer with molasses  in the journal he wrote in 1757 while serving in the French and Indian War.  Other written evidence indicates that the colonists found the molasses beer an excellent, healthful and cheap drink.  My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright included a recipe for molaaes beer in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine which was published in 1909 by a Boston publisher. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Diascia integerrima

This clump-forming, stoloniferous, evergreen perennial is native to South Africa where it grows in mountainous areas along streamsides, on cliffs, and in rock crevices and gravely areas.    It is a member of the figwort family, Scrophylariaceae, that also includes mullein, butterfly bush, and nemesia.  Plants grow 12-18″ tall and have numerous soft blue-green wiry stems that sometimes become woody at the base and  tend to be low growing with ascending tips. The blue-green narrow leaves are ovate,  1-3″ long and mostly clustered at the bottom of the stems.  From spring to frost bright rose-pink flowers appear in terminal racemes that open from bottom to top.  Each flower is 3/4″ across and has four small curly petals above a larger drooping lip, and two spurs containing oil that attracts bees.  At the center of the flowers are dark yellow and maroon markings. D. integerrima is  considered the most widespread, toughest, and floriferous of all the Diascia species.   Although at least one form of D. integerrima, ‘Coral Canyon’, is hardy to USDA Zone 5,  plants produce the best flower display if grown as annuals.   It is a good choice for borders, rock and cottage gardens, and containers especially baskets where its trailing nature can best be appreciated.  The genus name, Diascia, comes from the Greek di meaning two and askos meaning pouch, referring to the two sacs of the type species. The specific epithet, integerrima, is the superlative form of the Latin adjective integer, and means very entire, referring to the leaf margins. [click to continue…]

Gardens in Art: Nebamun’s Garden

A wall painting from the Tomb-chapel of Nebamun in Thebes( present day Luxor), Egypt,  gives us a look at the kind of garden the ancient Egyptians enjoyed at the time.  Nebamun, lived about c 1350 BC during the 18th Dynasty in the New Kingdom.  He was a middle-ranking official scribe and grain counter at the temple complex in Thebes and this depiction of a garden for the after-life found in his timb proably represents the earthly pleasure gardens of wealthy Egyptians of the time.  Such pictures were intended to impress and entertain the family and friends of the desceased when they came to pay their respects and pray for his passage into the afterlife. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rose ‘Smooth Prince’

With small clusters if large-medium reddish pink flowers produced in flushes all season, ‘Smooth Prince’ is an outstanding thornless rose. The petals have a thick texture and are satiny inside and out.  The compact bushes have glossy, leathery leaves  that are dark green and have very good mildew and blackspot resistance.  Flowers last a long time on the bush and in the vase and the plants are suitable for containers or the garden. [click to continue…]

Costmary is a herbaceous perennial native to the Mediterranean and also known as alecost, balsam herb, bible leaf, and mint geranium.  It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce and may be the plant that the ancient Roman Columella described balsamita in 70 AD.  The plant grows up to 6.6′ tall and has oval gray-green leaves with serrated margins and two small lobes at the base of some leaves.  Lower leaves are up to 12″ long while upper ones are 1.5-5″ long.  They dry well and have a eucalyptus fragrance.  In late  summer, loose terminal clusters of yellow button-like  flowerheads appear that are 1.2″ across. Plants are no longer as popular as they once were but are suitable for an herb garden where they make a good hedge.  The leaves are used to flavor beverages, cold soups, and fruit salads.  The genus name, Tanacetum, comes from the Greek word athenasia, meaning immortality because of its use in funeral winding sheets to discourage worms.  The specific epithet, balsamita, is from the Latin word balsamum,  referring to the resinous gum of the balsam tree, and by extension  to fragrant leaves of this plant. [click to continue…]

Sparassis.crispa.-.lindseyThis large mushroom has fleshy cream to pale yellow-brown fruiting body consisting of a multitude of lobes and looks like a brain or sea sponges well as a head of cauliflower. It grows in the temperate regions of eastern North American and the West Coast where it is found from late summer to fall on the roots or stumps of coniferous trees, especially pine and spruce. The mushroom is four to sixteen inches wide and can weigh up to thirty pounds. The lobes of the fruiting body are densely packed, firm, flat and branched, and the tips of the branches are curled giving the mushroom its distinctive look. The spore bearing layer is on only one side of the lobes. The spores are white to pale yellow and the stem is thick and yellowish-white. [click to continue…]

Evergreen Perennials for Dry Shade

Dry shade is one of the most difficult sites for growing plants.  Whether it is on a hill side,  under the eves of a house, or under trees where roots compete for water,  dry shade presents challenges for plants because of the lack of water.  Although not an ideal site for any plant, some plants do survive in dry shade especially if the soil is first amended and they are watered faithfully until they become established which is usually about a year.  Even after that, occassional waterings may be needed, especially during times of drought.

[click to continue…]