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Book Review: The Imperfect Garden

In her book The Imperfect Garden, author Melissa Assaly presents a simple story with a big message.  The story is about a mother and her young son who plant a garden together and enjoy the fruits and vegetables they grow.  Not all the vegetables look like the ones they see in the grocery stores; there is a two legged carrot, a bumpy apple, and curly cucumber and they all taste delicious even though they look odd.  The message is clear;  don’t judge anything by its appearance because appearances are not important in the big picture.  Another suggested message is that it is foolish to throw away food because it looks different.  Any way you look at it, accepting diversity is a good thing and judging things by their appearance alone is not.

The book is aimed at young readers 3-8 years old and has large somewhat realistic illustrations of mom and son in light primary colors as they go about their gardening tasks. The font is clear although not large, and the test is easy to read.  The mom and son are clearly not white,  are of average attractiveness, and have a very wholesome appeal all of which adds to the depth of the story.  The story itself is so simple it is hardly a story but the messages  that are conveyed are important.

To buy The Imperfect Garden from Amazon.com click here.




Vaccinium_myrtillus_2Bilberry , also called common bilberry or blue whortleberry, is a deciduous shrub with many branches. It is native to Europe including England, northern Asia, Greenland, Western Canada, and the Western United States where it grows in woodlands and shrubby habitats with infertile, acidic soil. Bilberry is a close relative of the American blueberry (Vaccinium cyanococcus) but can be distinguished by the dark red flesh of its solitary berries and smaller bush size. The bush grows eight inches tall by twelve inches wide and produces medium sized, ovate to lanceolate light green leaves with toothed edges. The small pink flowers appear in spring and are followed by blue edible berries in summer. Plants are hardy in USDA zones 3-7 and like part sun to shade and light, moist, well-drained acid soil. [click to continue…]

Also known as fragrant water lily and beaver root, this aquatic deciduous perennial is a member of the Nymphaeaceae, a family of 75 species of aquatic plants including pond lilies.  It is native to most of North American growing in up to 8′ of water in ponds, lakes, and slow moving water. Growing from a root system of long forking rhizomes and fibrous roots embedded in sediment,  plants put up 2 different kinds of stems.  One type bears almost almost circular, leathery, floating leaves that are up to 4-12″  across, medium green on top, reddish to purplish beneath, and deeply cut almost to the center where the stem is attached.  The other type of stem bears terminal, solitary, bowl-shaped flowers that are 2-6″ across, fragrant, and float on the water.  Each flower  has up to 20-30 white petals that are 3/4-4′ long,  pointed,  and surround a boss of up to 70  golden stamens. From summer to early fall, each flower opens during the day and close at night and on very cloudy days for 3-4 days before giving way to a multicelled fruit that matures underwater .  When released, the seeds float on the surface of the water as they are carried by currents, winds, or waves, then sink to the bottom and germinate unless eaten by the wildlife that find them.   An excellent choice for a pond or water garden. The genus name, Nymphacea, comes from the Greek word numphaios and means sacred to the nymphs.  The specific epithet, odorata, is the Latin word meaning smelling and refers to the fragrance of the flowers. [click to continue…]

Diatomaceous Earth in the Garden

Diatomaceous earth is a a naturally occurring substance formed from fossilized diatoms, a single celled organism with an outer coating containing silica, the primary ingredient in glass. It has numerous uses from filtering to polishing and preventing the caking of animal feed, but the most important to the home gardener may be as an pesticide.  Diatomateous earth is found as a sedimentary rock in many places of the world including the US, Canada, and Europe. Most of the deposits of diatomaceous  earth date to the Miocene period, about 15 million years ago and are associated with fresh water although some are from saltwater sources.  [click to continue…]

Book Review: We are the Weather

Have you wondered why there is so much talk about climate change and its affects on people yet so little seems to be done about it?  Author Jonathan Safran Foer tackles this dilemma in his book We are the Weather  and and offers a solution to the problem that is both simple and difficult. Foer suggests that climate change is a “crisis of belief”;  people acknowledge that climate change is caused by human activity but have a difficult time actually believing it and actively playing a role is combating it.   Drawing on a wide variety of examples from the Holocaust to polio vaccinations and smoking, the author explains how this dichotomy is possible. [click to continue…]

Damsons are a type of plum that are especially good for wine making because of their distinctive rich flavor and high sugar and tannin content.  The egg-shaped fruits are about the size of an olive and have dark blue to almost black skin and yellow-green flesh that usually clings to the stone.  Damsons are native to Europe and Asia but were brought to the American colonies from England before the  American Revolution and now grow wild in some areas of the US.   My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, includes one recipe for damson wine in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines. [click to continue…]

Dames rocket is a biennial or short-lived perennial known by a variety of names including dame’s violet, mother of the evening, and sweet rocket.  It is a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, that also includes broccoli, stock, and candytuft.  Introduced from Eurasia into North America by early European settlers in the 17th century as an ornamental, dame’s rocket escaped cultivation and has become invasive in open woodlands, prairies, roadsides, ditches and other disturbed areas in most of North America to North Carolina, Arkansas, and California.  The plants grow from a taproot with coarse secondary roots and produce a rosette of leaves the first year. In the second year plants grow 1-3′ tall and have sparingly branched hairy stems carrying 6′ long lanceolate leaves with dentate margins.  From spring to mid summer, white to pink and lavender flowers appear in loose terminal racemes 6-18″ long.  Each 4 petaled  flower is 3/4-1″ across and  very fragrant especially in the evening. In fall, long dry seed pods appear bearing several seeds and a single plant can produce up to 20,000 seeds in a season.  Although the flowers are very attractive and often included in wildflower seed mixes the invasive nature of the plant  should deter its use in the garden.  The genus name, Hesperis, comes from the Greek word hespera meaning evening and refers to the fragrance that is prominent in the evening.  The specific epithet, matronalis, is the Latin word meaning relating to a married woman and was the name of the holiday of Roman matrons on March 1  honoring Juno, the patron goddess of childbirth.

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Plant Profile: Rosa Silver Jubilee

Broad peaked buds open to large flowers 4.7″ across with pale pink outer petals, dark pink inner ones, and apricot ones in between.  All of the petals have darker backs and thereby create shadows and depth.  The high centered  flowers are carried singly or in clusters of up to 5 and have good rain resistance. They are also good in the vase.   The compact plants are prickly have dense,  dark bronze-green leaves that are generally disease resistance but are susceptible to black spot. ‘Silver Jubilee’ commemorates the 25th anniversary of the accession to the throne by Queen Alizabeth II of England.  The rose has been far more popular in England than in the US. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Love & Lemons Every Day

If you are considering adding more vegetables to your diet, Jeanine Donofrio’s book, Love & Lemons Every Day, provides a wide array of plant based recipes for snacks, breakfasts, soups, salads, main courses, sides, desserts, drinks,  pickles, sauces and spreads. Drawing from the traditions of many cuisines, Donofrio offers over 100 recipes for such tasty treats as beet muhammara dip, lemon risotto with trumpet mushroom “scallops”, and soba noodle picnic salad with tahini miso.  Although most of the recipes are vegan, vegan options are given for vegetarian recipes that include dairy or eggs.  Old favorites are updated and new combinations of flavors are created a cookbook that should appeal to omnivores as well as herbivores. [click to continue…]

Also called Christmasberry tree and Florida holly, this evergreen shrub or small tree is a member of the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that also includes poison ivy, sumac, and smoke tree. It is native to Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil but was introduced to the US by the mid 1800s as an ornamental and has become invasive in Florida, Texas, California, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Plants can become established in both disturbed and undisturbed sites but do so more readily in the former. They invade both aquatic and terrestrial habitats including old fields, forests, hammocks, ditches, and wetlands, where they produce a dense canopy that shades out native vegetation. Rapid growth and a high germination rate have led to the rapid spread of the plant. Control measures are thwarted by the production of sprouts by the roots of cut trees and the desire of people to grow the plant for its beautiful berries and appearance of the tree. The trees tolerate full sun to light shade, a wide variety of soils, drought, dessert atmosphere, seaside conditions, dust, and smoke but not prolonged freezing or strong winds. [click to continue…]