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Also called streambank wild hollyhock mountain globemallow, this herbaceous perennial is in the mallow family, Malvaceae, that also includes okra, cotton, and hibiscus.  It is native to western North America east of the Cascade Range, from British Columbia and Alberta to Montana and south to Oregon, Colorado, and Nevada where it grows on sunny mountain streambanks, subalpine meadows, roadsides, and open forest slopes at altitudes of 4,500 to 11,000′ . Growing from a woody caudex, plants grow 3-6′ tall and have stout grooved stems carrying large, five to seven-lobed palmate leaves that are broadly heart-shaped and have toothed margins.  In summer loose to dense racemes of white to pink flowers 2′ across appear and each flower consists of five clawed  petals surrounding a central column of fused white stamen filaments, and style topped by head-shaped stigmas.    Plants can be used in beds and borders as well as informal sites such as meadows.  They flower profusely after a disturbance such as a wildfire but are quickly replaced by other vegetation.  Seeds can remain dormant for more than a century.   The genus name, Iliamna, is of unknown origin.  The specific epithet, rivularis,  comes from the Latin word rivus, meaning stream and refers to the common habitat of the plant.

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Calvatia giganteaGiant puffballs are saprophytes and found in temperate zones thoughout the world in disturbed sites with nutrient-rich soil such as woodland edges, meadows , fields, grasslands, and parks. They usually appear in summer and fall in fairy rings. The ball-shaped fruiting body is very large and impressive, measuring up to thirty inches across and weighing up to forty-four pounds, although eight or nine is more usual. The exterior of the fruiting body is covered by a smooth, leathery outer skin that is white or creamy before turning yellow, then brown, and finally rooting away to facilitate the release of the olive-brown spores. The interior consists of a huge number of spores and is compact, firm and white before disintegrating and turning brown as the spores mature. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rosa ‘Elina’

Carried singly on long stems, the flowers of ‘Elina’ are almost 6″ across and have reflexed, petals. In cool climates the flowers are lemon yellow fading to cream at the edges but in hot climates they are ivory or off-white. The leaves are large, glossy, and dark green. Although considered disease resistance, ‘Elina’ can show a bit of mildew and thrips can be a problem.  The flowers are especially valued for the vase because of their large flowers and very long stems.  ‘Elina’ is considered a top exhibition rose. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Just Cool It!

Book Review Just Cool ItClimate change is a hot topic and whether you believe in it or not, knowing something about both sides of the debate is an important way to intelligent, knowledgeable voting and living. Just Cool It by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington , take a hard look at the nature of the problem and many of the possible solutions to it. With an optimistic outlook, the authors present a strong argument for the ability of people to take the necessary steps to ensure a cleaner and safer world.
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Also known as California wild hollyhock, this rare herbaceous perennial is a member of the mallow family,  Malvaceae, that also includes okra, cotton, and hibiscus.   It is endemic to the coniferous forests of the Klamath Mountains in northwestern California and southwestern Oregon where it grows along streamsides and roadsides, and in woodland borders and meadows..  Plants grow 3.3-6.6′ tall from a woody caudex and have hairy stems that carry palmate leaves on slender petioles.  Each leaf is up to 8″ long and has  5 or 7 pointed lobes. In June and July cup-shaped flowers appear in the leaf  axils singly or in small clusters. The flowers are pink or lavender and have 5 petals about 1″ long.  The genus name, Iliamna, is of unknown origin.  the specific epithet, latibracteata, comes from the Latin words latus meaning broad, and bracteata, meaning bract (a leaf-like structure usually at the base of the flowers). [click to continue…]

Also called lady’s glove, fairy gloves, and fairy bells, this herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial is native to disturbed sites of  Europe and Asia but naturalized in parts of North America and is considered invasive in the Pacific Northwest and parts of central and northern California.In the first year the plant produces an evergreen basal rosette of light green oblong leaves that are wrinkled and downy. In the second year it produces a one-sided raceme 3-6.6′ tall with 2-3″ inch long pendulous purple finger-like flowers with white spots inside. The flowering begins in late spring, continues for about a month and are attractive to humming birds and bees.  The fruit is a capsule containing numerous tiny seeds that are attractive to birds. Plants freely reseed. Common foxglove likes part shade and average, medium moist, well-drained acidic soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8.

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Also called short toothed mountain mint,  this herbaceous perennial is in the dead nettle family, Lamiaceae, that also includes rosemary, ajuga, and monarda.  It is native to  Eastern North American from Maine to Michigan and Illinois, south to Florida and Texas, where it grows in woodlands, fields, meadows and grassy open spaces.  Growing 1-3′ tall from a rhizomatous root system, the plant has branched stems with dark green leaves 1-3″ long.  The oval leaves have pointed tips, heart shaped bases, toothed margins and a strong spearmint aroma when crushed.   From mid to late summer 1/2-2″ wide terminal flat-topped clusters of  two-lipped tubular pink appear appear.  The flowers are up to 1/2″ wide and are attractive to bees, beneficial wasps, moths, and butterflies.   Showy silvery leaf-like bracts subtend the flower clusters and add to the ornamental attractiveness of the plant. A good choice for butterfly, cottage, and wildflower gardens.    The genus name, Pycnanthemum, comes from the Greek words pyknos meaning dense and anthos meaning flower and refers to the clusters of densely packed flowers.  The specific epithet, muticum, is the Latin word meaning blunt and refers to the shape of the bracts at the top of each stem.

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Book Review: The Complete Vegan Cookbook

From the National Gourmet Center comes this compendium of basic techniques of plant based eating and recipes that reflect the philosophy of the Institute that the food we eat effects our overall well-being.  Based on this premise, mindful eating involves food choices that are whole, seasonal, local, traditional, balanced, fresh and delicious.  Drawing from both Eastern and Western traditions, the book explores many different techniques and food to produce a large array of plant based foods that will appeal to anyone interested in healthy eating. [click to continue…]

Ajuga-reptans-Caitlans-GiantAjuga reptans is a low growing evergreen herbaceous perennial native to Europe where it grows in woods and poor pasture land. It is a member of the mint family, Labiatae, that also includes rosemary, bee balm, and deadnettle. The square stems with hair on two sides carry spoon-shaped leaves that are shiny and dark green tinged with purple. Whorls of dark blue flowers are carried in leafy racemes up to ten inches tall, well above the foliage from late spring to early summer. The flowers are two lipped with a lower lip that is three-lobed and veined. Bees, especially bumblebees, visit the flowers for nectar, but flower flies, ladybugs, and butterflies visit too. The nectar is particularly important to several fritillaries, skippers, and painted lady. Although the species can be invasive the cultivars are less so and offer a pleasing variety of flower color and leaf variegation. [click to continue…]

Also called prairie mimosa and prickleweed, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupines, mimosa, and black locust.  It is native to the midwestern US where it grows in fields, prairies, riverbanks, and waste areas such as roadsides and train right of ways.  Plants grow 1-5′ tall and have a grooved light green stem that is unbranched or sparingly branched.  The bipinnately compound leaves are up to 8″ long and have a fern like appearance.  The subleaflets are medium to light green,  1/8″ long, and fold up at night.  From June to August, clusters of 30-50 white flowers appear on short stems in the axils of the upper leaves.   Each flower has long protruding yellow stamens that give a brush like appearance.  Clusters of 5-15 dark brown seed pods 1/2″ long follow the flowers.  The flowers attract small bees and flies seeking nectar and pollen, the seeds are consumed by gamebirds including pheasant and quail, and the foliage is eaten by various mammals such as rabbits and deer.   Because of a high protein content, Illinois bundleflower is considered a valuable range plant. The genus name, Desmanthus, comes from the Greek words desme meaning a bundle and anthos meaning flower and refers to the appearance of the flowerheads.  The specific epithet, illiniensis, refers to the geographic location of the plant. [click to continue…]