Ludwigia alternifolia Seedbox 2Seedbox, also known as rattlebox, is a herbaceous perennial native to eastern North America where it is found in wet areas such as swamps and marshes.   The common names come from the characteristics of the seed capsule which is shaped like a cubical box and contains numerous seeds that rattle when shaken. The bright yellow flowers are solitary, three quarter inch across, and consist of four petals that quickly fall off. Each flower is borne on a short stem (pedicle) in the axils of the upper leaves over a long bloom period during the summer. The slender dark green leaves are up to four inches long and are borne on reddish stems. Seed box is an excellent plant for use in the wet zone of a rain garden or other wet areas with full sun or light shade. [click to read full post]

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Mastic tree Pistacia-lentiscus-This evergreen shrub or small tree is native to the Mediterranean where it is cultivated as an ornamental and for its resin. The resin, called mastic, is harvested primarily from trees on the Greek island of Chios. It has been used as chewing gum for over two thousand years and is still used as a spice to flavor a variety of food and beverages. The dark green leaves are leathery and pinnate. Dense clusters of small male and female flowers are produced on different plants; pollinated female flowers produce a small inedible red fruit that ripens to black. If suitable humidity can be provided, mastic tree is an easy bonsai to grow and suitable for a beginner. It is suitable for formal upright, informal upright, slanting, cascade, semi-cascade, literate, broom, rock-over-root, twin-trunk, clump, and group planting but broom and upright informal styles are most popular.

Position: Although the plant will tolerate some shade it does best in bright light with plenty of humidity. In summer it can be moved outdoors, to a lightly shaded area. In winter it should be brought indoors and kept at temperatures around 64o F.

Water: Use hard tap water when surface is slightly moist; water less in the winter.

Fertilizer: Feed with an organic fertilizer once a week from spring to mid-autumn; once a month in winter.

Transplanting: Repot young plants every two to three years in spring; older plants every 4-5 years.

Soil: Use bonsai soil or a mixture of loam, peat moss, and sand at a ratio of 1:1:1

Pruning: Prune in spring and autumn when plants are growing most quickly. Cut back new shoots to two or three leaves when they have six to eight leaves.

Wiring: One to two year old branches can be wired easily.

Propagation: Cuttings in early summer

Comments: Scale insects and mealy bugs can be a problem.

How to care for Bonsai pointer

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Kalopanax_septemlobusThis relative of ivy is the only member of the family (Araliaceae) that is a large hardy tree. A native of China, Korea and Japan this deciduous tree has a tropical appearance with its large, lobed leaves that resemble those of the castor plant or maple tree. The leaves are glossy dark green in summer and turn dull yellow or reddish in the fall but are not considered showy. During the summer flowers are produced in showy, cream-colored, angelica-like heads that are followed in the fall by small black fruits that are attractive to birds. When the tree is young it is not particularly attractive due to its coarse, open appearance but with time it develops a round to oval shape with a pleasing crown. The branches are coarse and heavily armed with prickles that disappear on the older branches and trunk as the tree matures. The dark gray bark of the trunk develops ridges and furrows with age. This unusual tree is useful as a specimen or shade tree valued especially its lovely summer time bloom. Although easy to grow, castor tree does not tolerate the heat and humidity of the Deep South. [click to read full post]

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Book Review: Buy the Right Wine Every Time

by Karen on July 25, 2014

BuyTheRightWineEveryTime-CoverIf you are overwhelmed by the prospect of selecting a wine when confronted with a huge choice in the market place, Tom Stevenson’s book may offer you a viable solution. In Buy the Right Wine Every Time, Stevenson focuses on branded wines that are widely available and consistently good. A large variety of wines are included from champagne to chardonnay, malbec, and Gewürztraminer and from cheap to expensive. [click to read full post]

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GopherIf you have ever had gophers in your garden you know what a terrible menace they can be. They dig extensive tunnels, eating roots as they go, even pulling plants down into the tunnel to devour them. Eliminate the pesky rodent and another one is likely to move into the vacant territory so they are very difficult to eliminate. Sometimes moles or ground squirrels are mistaken for gophers but true pocket gophers have fur-lined cheek pockets that open to the outside and are used for carrying food and nesting materials. In the United States there are thirteen species in three genera that differ in the size of their forefeet, claws, and front surfaces of their incisors. Gophers are more common west of the Mississippi River where they can be found in low coastal areas or at altitudes up to 12,000 feet. Although they can tolerate a wide variety of soils they prefer a friable, light-textured soil with good drainage where garden plants can thrive and offer them tasty roots and shoots. [click to read full post]

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Sweetfern Comptonia peregrinaThis handsome low-growing suckering shrub is a native of Northeastern United States where it is found growing in poor gravelly or sandy soil along roadsides and similar waste areas. The plant forms a dense mound of multiple stems with spreading branches that are shiny or bear resin dots. The deciduous leaves are up to four inches long, light green at first changing to dark green as they mature, but are not attractive in autumn. They are deeply notched, fern-like and aromatic when crushed. Small yellow green male and female flowers are produced in catkins on the same plant in spring. The fruits are nutlets that are produced in clusters. The roots are able to fix nitrogen which helps the plant grow in poor soil and makes it useful for erosion control in difficult sites. Sweetfern is difficult to transplant and does not compete well with other plants in good soil. Not suitable for zones 7 and warmer. [click to read full post]

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-celosia-n-berberis-2Celosia thrives in the heat and humidity of a Southern summer and produce some beautiful combinations. One of my favorites is a crimson flowered celosia like ‘New Look’ with bronze purple tones in the leaves grown in front of ‘Crimson Pygmy’ barberry. By mid-summer the barberry leaves are many shades of crimson to purple and echo the color of both the flowers and leaves of the celosia. The barberry leaves are very small and contrast nicely with the coarse leaves of the celosia. The berry provides color from spring until late fall while the celosia adds its color echo during most of the summer. Both plants do well in full sun and average, moist, well-drained soil, although the celosia will appreciate regular applications of fertilizer to sustain flowering. [click to read full post]

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Lespedeza_bicolor bushBush clover is a loose deciduous medium sized shrub native to eastern Asia but introduced into the United States in the mid 1800′s as an ornamental. Later used for erosion control, revegetation of strip mined lands, and the improvement of wildlife habitats, it escaped cultivation and now has become invasive in parts of the Southeast. As an ornamental, bush clover offers dark green trifoliate leaves on gray to green stems and long arching sprays of five to fifteen small magenta-purple pea flowers. Bush clover is drought tolerant and grows well in infertile, medium dry well-drained soil and full sun to part shade, so is a good choice for difficult sites. Its roots fix nitrogen. In harsh climates it can be cut to the ground in late winter or early spring and will regrow to five feet tall in a single season. Two cultivars are available that are smaller and less invasive than the species. [click to read full post]

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Book Review: Seeing Trees

by Karen on July 18, 2014

Seeing TreesHave you ever considered being a tree watcher? People watch birds so why not trees? Nancy Ross Hugo’s book, Seeing Trees, will give you all the information needed to spark your interest in this fascinating activity. After reading it you will never see trees the same way again. Hugo introduces you to all sorts of intimate details about trees that you have probably never noticed but that will amaze and delight you. Hugo’s stated aim is to get people outdoors to look at the various parts of trees up close and observe the detailed features that make each kind of tree unique; her book does this in spades! [click to read full post]

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The aggressive behavior and painful sting of the red imported fire ant (RIFA) makes it an unwelcome guest in gardens, woods, and fields. In addition to the pain the RIFA can inflict on humans it causes considerable damage to crops as well as livestock and can bring about serious damage to electrical systems resulting in short circuits and fires. Once in an area the RIFA is almost impossible to eradicate but can be controlled. [click to read full post]

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