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Asclepias incarnata 2Swamp milkweed is a herbaceous perennial native to North America where it grows in moist to wet soils including swamps, ditches, and the edges of ponds, lakes, and streams. It is a member of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) that also includes bluestar (Amsonia), periwinkle (Vinca), and oleander (Nerium). The plants emerge in late spring from a fleshy white taproot and form clumps of branched stems with pointed narrow lanceolate leaves three to six inches long . The small fragrant flowers are pink to mauve (sometimes white), and ¼ inch across. They are carried in tight flat terminal umbels two to four inches across in summer and give way to four to five inch long seed pods. The brown seeds flat and have long silvery white silky hairs to facilitate wind dissemination. The flowers are an important source of nectar for butterflies and the leaves are a food source for larval Monarch butterflies. The sap contains toxic chemicals that is taken up by the larvae, giving them an unpleasant taste that discourages predation by other insects and animals. Flowers are attractive n the vase and pods are valuable for dried arrangements. Transplants is difficult because of the long taproot. The generic name, Asclepias, is the name of the Greek god of medicine. The specific epithet, incarnata, is from the Latin word, incarnatus, meaning fleshcolored. [click to continue…]

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Garden Design: Leaf Texture

Fern and hosta 2The texture of leaves can have a big impact on the beauty of a garden yet it is often ignored. Just think about the contrast between the foliage of ferns as compared to that of southern magnolia. Or consider the difference between the shiny leaves of begonias and the dull leaves of oak leaf hydrangea . Since leaves are usually present in the garden much longer than flowers they can be used to create mood and bring interest in the garden when flowers on coming or going. [click to continue…]

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Artemisia-Abrotanum-2Also known as Old Man, Lad’s Love and Maiden’s Ruin, this bushy sub-shrub is native to southern Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa. It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflowers, daisies, and lettuce. The plant has erect branching stems and finely divided gray-green leaves that are 1.5 to 2.5 inches long and have a pungent camphor fragrance. The small dull yellow nodding flowers are carried in loose panicles and appear in the late summer but are not ornamentally interesting. The plant is grown for the appearance and fragrance of its foliage and is suitable for both the herb garden and perennial border. It is especially nice when planted near a bench or path where the foliage can be touched to give off its fragrance.  The generic name, Artemesia, is the name of the Greek goddess of chastity, the hunt, and the moon. The specific epithet, abrotanum, is the ancient Latin name for the plant. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: Green Thumbs

Green ThumbsGreen Thumbs by Laurie Carlson is a collection of activities to teach children about gardening from planting seeds to enjoying the produce of flower and vegetable gardens. Written for parents with children ages five to eight in grades one to three, the book gives informative introductory information for each activity plus a list of materials and very simple step by step instructions illustrated with black and white line drawings. The activities are organized into nine chapters including planting basics, pest control, animals and other plants, recipes, and novelty plants. [click to continue…]

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Zizia aureaThe moisture conditions in a rain garden vary and four regions can be identified: areas with 1. shallow water most of the time, 2.wet soil with occasional standing water, 3. moist but not wet soil, and 4. dry, well-drained soils. Each area has plants that will thrive or tolerate the moisture regime but few plants do well in all of them. For color in spring, the following plants are good choices for wet area with occasional standing water. Although none tolerate permanent standing water, most will do well in moist soil as well as wet and this has been noted in the descriptions. [click to continue…]

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aquilegia hybrida Music SeriesHybrid columbines are herbaceous perennials and members of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes monkshood, delphinium, and anemone. There are a large number of hybrid columbines and many are of uncertain parentage because the various species hybridize easily when grown in proximity to each other. The hybrids differ in regard to the length of their spurs. The long spurred ones probably have A. canadensis, A. chrysantha, A. formosa, and A. longissima in their ancestry, while the short spurred hybrids probably have A. vulgaris parentage. Several noteworthy strains have been bred that vary in color, height, compactness, and length of flower spurs. [click to continue…]

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Botanical Latin: Pedata

viola-pedata-lv 2Ped A ta from Latin pes, pedis meaing foot

The term is used to describe plant structures, often leaves, that are divided so that they resemble a bird’s foot, with a few divisions radiating from a central point. The divisions differ in number, length and width depending on the species. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Rose Altissimo

Rose Altissimo4The cup-shaped to flat flowers appear singly or in clusters on long stems, and give way to large orange hips. The petals are uniformly blood red and surround a center of golden stamens with the best color produced during cool weather. The vigorous plants produce new growth that is tinged with purple before turning dark green. ‘Altissimo’ can be grown as a shrub, pillar, or climber and is especially effective on a wall or fence. It is disease resistant and tolerates some shade. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: In Defense of Food

In Defense of FoodHow can we decide what to eat when we are bombarded by all the ever-changing information from nutritionists, the food industry, and scientific studies? We all want to eat healthy food but are often confused by conflicting claims and advice. Journalist Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, puts forth a common sense approach to selecting and enjoying food that can be summed up in seven words, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” [click to continue…]

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Plant Fiber in the Diet: Soluble and Insoluble

brussel-sproutsWe hear a lot about the virtues of eating foods such as fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and know that there are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Why are they good for us? What is the difference and are the effects of eating both the same? [click to continue…]

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