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Book Review: Embroideries from an English Garden

Embroideries from a English GardenOne look at the pictures of the competed projects will tell you that this book is special. Embroideries from an English Garden by Carol Andrews present fifteen projects inspired by the seasonal flowers and fruits in her own garden and executed in a breath taking style that makes the flowers seem almost alive. As an artist who teaches botanical painting as well as embroidery, Andrews combines her artistic sensitivities and knowledge of botany to create 3D forms using a variety of techniques including shading and padding. [click to continue…]

lettuceLettuce is one of the most successful crops for the home gardener. There are four basic of types of lettuce. 1. Leaf lettuce such as ‘Black Seeded Simpson’ and ‘Oakleaf’ that produce large heads. The plants mature in 40 to 45 days but individual leaves can be harvest throughout the growing season. 2. Butterhead, also known as Boston or Bibb, s matures in 65 to 80 days. The heads are loose and open and have a creamy color inside. 3. Romaine/Cos famous for its use in Caesar salad, matures in 70 days if summer planted, 80 days if spring planted. The heads are cylindrical and the individual leaves are easily separated. 4. Head lettuce such as ‘Iceberg’, matures in 80-95 days, has compact heads, and is very heat sensitive. Lettuce thrives in full sun and nitrogen-rich, moist, well-drained soil that is well-limed. [click to continue…]

Heavenly bamboo is a semi-evergreen to evergreen shrub growing 3-8’ tall and a member of the barberry family, Berberidaceae, that also includes heavenly barberry, Oregon grape (Mahonia), and barronwort (Epimedium). It is not a bamboo but its canes and leaves are similar to those of bamboo leading to its common name. Native to Japan, China, and India, it was introduced into the US in 1804 as an ornamental for its attractive foliage and fruit but has escaped cultivation and become invasive in disturbed areas of the Southeastern states from Virginia to Texas because it reproduces easily from suckers and rhizomes, and produces large amounts of seed which are spread by birds. The leaves are bi to tri pinnately compound, 12-24” long, and turn reddish green in winter where the climate is mild. The white summer flowers appear in loose terminal panicles 8-15 inches long and are followed by bright red berries that persist into winter and attractive to birds. Cultivars are available that vary most significantly in size and fall coloration, and attempts are being made to produce ones that are sterile. The generic name, Nandina, comes from the Latinized Japanese name for the plant; the specific epithet comes from the Latin word domus meaning home plus the prefix –ic meaning characterized by, referring to the fact that the plant is cultivated. [click to continue…]

Gentiana_acaulisThis evergreen herbaceous perennial is native to the mountains of southern and central Europe where it can grow in full sun but have cool roots. This is a very demanding plant that wants conditions to be a certain way and if you can provide them it will be a treasure. The Pacific Northwest is probably the best local for success. Plants form rosettes of dark green narrowly elliptical leaves that form slowly spreading mats. The bright blue trumpet shaped flowers are a little over two inches long and have green spots in their throats. They are carried in spring on short erect stems giving rise to their specific name, acaulis. This is a great choice for an alpine garden if you can provide the exacting demands of the plant. If you are lucky enough to be successful with trumpet gentian you will be rewarded with a stunning flower that adds a welcome touch of bright blue to the garden as well as to arrangements. They are only appropriate for small arrangements because of their short stems but will put an eye-catching snap into any arrangement where they are included. A small bunch in a white vase is also an eye-catcher. [click to continue…]

Known as one of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring, American liverwort is a herbaceous perennial and member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes columbine, hellebore, and delphinium. It is not related to true liverworts, that are very simple plants more closely related to mosses. Plants grow six to eight inches tall and have stems covered with silky hairs and large basal liver-shaped leaves up to three inches long with three rounded lobes. White to light blue and lavender flowers have six to ten petal-like sepals subtended by 3 hairy bracts and ½ to 1” across. American liverwort is native to hardwood forests and forest edges in Eastern North America from Ontario to the Gulf. The genus name Hepatica from the Greek word hepar meaning liver, referring to the shape of the leaf. The genus name, Anemone, comes from the Greek word, anemos, meaning wind. The specific epithet, americana, refers to the geographic distribution of the plant. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow

Garbage Helps Our Garden GrowLinda Glaser’s book, Garbage Helps Our Garden Grow, follows the activities of a family as they create a compost pile for their vegetable garden. They put in everything from Dad’s coffee grinds to leftover lettuce and peanut shells, adding grass clippings, their moldy jack-o’-lantern from Halloween, and wilted flowers. The children spray the debris with water to keep it moist, watch Mom turns over the whole pile, and help Dad mix the compost into the soil to prepare their garden for planting. They enjoy the worms in the compost, the earthy smell, and the volunteer seedling from their Halloween jack-o’-lantern. When their own crops come in they appreciate the compost even more.

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Fool’s parsley is an annual or biennial herbaceous plant native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa but was introduced into North America where it has naturalized in sunny moist fields and waste places from Minnesota eastward to the coast, south to Illinois and Kentucky. It is a member of the celery family, Apiaceae, that also includes parsley, dill, and sea holly as well as the hemlock that the ancient Greeks used for executing criminals. [click to continue…]

Mousehole tree is a evergreen shrub or small tree endemic to coastal areas and lowland forests of New Zealand but was introduced into the US as an ornamental and is found in coastal regions, woodlands, and riparian area along coastal California and in the San Francisco Bay area where it is considered invasive. It is a member of the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, that also includes butterfly bush (Buddlea), twinspur, and Verbascum. The plant grows fifteen to thirty feet tall and has thick, corky, furrowed bark and dark green, glossy leaves that are two to four inches long, fleshy, lanceolate , and covered with translucent dots. The 5/8” bell-shaped flowers are white with small purple spots, slightly fragrant, and carried in clusters of two to six from mid-spring to mid-summer. Fruits are round, 1/3”, and reddish purple. Plants are tolerant of alkaline and saline soil, and strong winds but are currently being threatened by Myoporum thrips (Kambothrips myopori) although the cultivar ‘Clean and Green’ is resistant. The seeds of mousehole tree are poisonous to some livestock.  The generic name, Myoporum, comes from the Greek words myein meaning to close, and proum meaning pore.  The specific epithet, laetum, comes from the Latin word meaning pleasant. [click to continue…]

Dragonfly Libellula_quadrimaculata Aiwok wikimedia Commons

Photo by Aiwok, Wikimedia Commons

Dragonflies belong to a group of insects that have very small antennae, very large eyestwo pairs of transparent wings, and colorful elongated bodies. There are over 3000 species of dragonfly worldwide and over three hundred in North America where they live near streams, ponds, rivers, and lakes. Dragonflies range in size from .8 inches long to 4.3 inches long and many have metallic or iridescent colors. The mouth parts are adapted for biting.

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Also known as beach cabbage and sea lettuce, beach naupaka is a dense, spreading evergreen shrub growing 3-10’ tall and native to beaches and tropical coastal habitats such as salt marshes, mangroves, and sand dunes of the Indo-Pacific including Hawaii.. It is a member of the Goodeniaceae family that is found mostly in Australia. The medium green leaves are elliptical, waxy, fleshy, smooth and 1.5 to 8 inches long. The fragrant, white to cream colored flowers appear in clusters of three all year around and may be blushed with pink, purple, or violet. They have five petals all positioned on one side of the flower as though half of the petals had been torn off. The fruits are fleshy white to greenish white berries with corky exterior that allows them to float for up to a year and facilitates their dispersion by ocean currents. Plants are used to prevent coastal erosion , protect cultivated plants from the salt spray, to enhance the beach landscape , and in Hawaii the flowers are used to make leis. The genus name, Scaevola, comes from the Greek word scaevus meaning left handed or awkward and probably refers to the form of the flowers. [click to continue…]