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Book Review:

Garden Day! by Candice Ransom is part of the Step into Reading Series that aims to help children have a successful reading experience beginning in preschool. Written for children 4-6 years old, this book is in the 1st step of the series and is designed for children who know the alphabet and are eager to begin reading. The vocabulary is easy, the text is in big type, and rhyme and rhythm are used along with picture clues to encourage young readers to build a reading vocabulary and read eventually read on their own. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The End of Ice

Journalist and author Dahr Jamail takes his readers on a tour of places all over the earth that bear witness to the effects of anthropogenic climate disruption from Denali and the Bering Sea to the rainforests of the Amazon jungle and the coral reefs of Guam and Australia. He examines the effects of climatic disruption on habitats, animal relationships, and people as he travels about and interviews local inhabitants, officials, and scientists. Believing that intimacy with these threatened environment will lead to a desire to care for them, Jamail chronicles his first hand observations and supports them with data from leading scientists in order to focus attention on the urgency of the planetary crisis. [click to continue…]

Also called common dog fennel and stinking chamomile, mayweed is an annual belonging the the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow and lettuce.  It is native to Eurasia but was introduced into North America where it is found in disturbed areas such as fields, meadows, and gardens all across the US.  Although plants prefer  a sunny site with well drained soil, they can grow in clay soil.  An attractive plant, it can be distinguished from true camomile by the unpleasant odor produced by the leaves when crushed.  [click to continue…]


Also known as lavender hyssop and anise hyssop, this clump-forming herbaceous perennial is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, that also includes basil, sage, and ajuga.  It is native to the northern Midwest and Great Plains where it grows in fields, dry upland forests, and prairies.  Plants grow 2-4′ tall and have square stems bearing 2″ wide lanceolate leaves  that are up to 4″ long and aromatic, and have coarsely toothed margins and grayish undersides covered with fine hairs.  From mid to ate summer light blue to violet flowers are produced in densely packed terminal spikes 3-6″ long.  The flowers do not bloom all at once and may have gaps between them.   Each tubular flower is  about 1/3″ long  and has two lips, the lower one longer than the upper, and 4 long stamens   Although the flowers are not fragrant they are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.  The genus name, Agastache, comes from the Greek words agan meaning very much and sachys meaning an ear of wheat and refers to the many flower spikes on the plant.  The specific epithet, foeniculum, is the Latin diminutive of fenum or faenum, meaning hay. [click to continue…]

Genus Cannas for the Garden

Canna is a genus of herbaceous perennials in the Cannaceae family that is most closely related to plants such as banana, ginger, and bird of paradise.  It is native to tropical and subtropical  America  and Asia and includes about 20 species, a few of which are garden worthy.  Plants grow from a rhizomatous rootstock and have a stout unbranched fleshy stem clasped by the bases of large paddle-like leaves that are usually green but may be bronze, maroon or variegated.  The flower parts  in threes with  each flower having three inconspicuous long green petals and three small green sepals but large, prominent, colorful, modified stamens called stamenods.  The inner most stamenod forms a lip, that is sometimes reflexed.  Flowers may be red, orange, yellow or a combination, and appear in terminal spikes from mid summer to frost. The genus name, Canna, comes from the Greek word, kanna, meaning red. [click to continue…]

Croatian bellflower is a clump forming  herbaceous perennial and a member of the Campanulaceae family that also includes balloon flower, ladybell (Adenophora), and Lobelia.  It is native to the mountains of Croatia and surrounding area where it grows in calcareous rock crevices and cracks.  Plants are often sprawling and have branched stems with thick lanceolate leaves that are lightly toothed and  1-2″ long.  The nodding light blue flowers are narrowly tubular,  3/4″ long, and  crowd the ends of the branches in early to mid summer. Croatian bellflower is a good choice for a scree bed or wall, as well as alpine and rock gardens.  The genus name, Campanula, comes from the late Latin word campana meaning bell and refers to the form of the flowers.  the specific epithet, tommasiniana, honors Muzio Giuseppe Spirito de Tommasini, the 19th century magistrate and botanist at Trieste, known for his work on Dalmatian flora.   [click to continue…]

Sticky geranium is a long-lived herbaceous clump-forming perennial and a member of the geranium family, Geraniaceae,  that includes both crainsbill (true geraniums) and garden geraniums (Pelargonium).  It is native to the mountains and foothills of northwestern North America from Saskatchewan and British Columbia, south to Nevada and  California, where it grows in pine forests, mountain meadows, hillside scrub, grassy plains, and wet land-riparian sites.  Plants grow 1-3′ tall from a long taproot and have stout branching stems and bright green leaves that are both densely covered with sticky hairs.  The palmate leaves are mostly basal, long stalked, and  deeply divided into 5-7 toothed lobes.  From early spring into summer pinkish-lavender to purple flowers with reddish veins appear in loose clusters well above the leaves.  Each saucer-shaped flower is up to 1.5″ wide and has 5 sepals and 5 long, rounded, slightly notched petal.  The fruits are hairy and have a long beak shaped like a crane’s neck, hence the common name crainsbill.  The seeds are tipped with an elongated tail that coils with maturity and facilitates  seed dissemination.  The genus name, Geranium comes from the Greek word geranos meaning crane and refers to appearance of the seed.  The specific epithet, viscossissimum, is the from the Latin word visco meaning to make sticky and refers to the the leaves and stems of the plant.  [click to continue…]

Also called chocolate vine, this twining, deciduous, woody vine is native to Japan, China, and Korea but was introduced into the US in 1845 as an ornamental and is now invasive from Massachusetts to Michigan, south to Georgia and Louisiana. It invades forests and forms dense mats that displace native vegetation or or climbs and smothers small trees and shrubs. The vine grows up to 40’ long and has compound leave up to three inches longs with five oval leaflets. Pendent axillary racemes of wine-red, chocolate scented flowers appear in the spring and give way to sausage-shaped pods up to four inches long. Plants like full sun to part shade and medium moist, well-drained soil but tolerant dense shade and some drought. USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8 [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Copper Iris (Iris fulva)

Copper iris is a  rhizomatous perennial and a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes crocus, gladiolus, and freesia.  It is native to southern and central US from Illinois and Missouri, south to Georgia and Texas where it grows in wet areas such as marshes, swamps, roadside ditches, and drainage canals. Plants typically stand in 6 inches of water but since the draining of wetlands has resulted in habit destruction the iris is considered endangered in some states.  Plants grow 2-3′ tall and have sword-shaped, bright green, 2-3′ long leaves that arch away from the base.  In late spring 2-3′ long stems with 1-2 branches carry 4-6 flowers each.  The lightly fragrant flowers range in color from coppery-red to deep red and bronze and have wide spread petals and sepals.  Although each flower only lasts a few days, the plants remain in bloom for about 2 weeks. Copper iris is an excellent choice for a rain garden or water garden.  The genus name, Iris, is the name of the Greek goddess of the rainbow and refers to the many colors of iris flowers.  the specific epithet, fulva, comes from the Latin word fulvus, meaning reddish, yellow or tawny and refers to the color of the flowers.

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Shakespeare’s Garden: Rye

Rye_Winter_Secale_cereale_DP316Rye, Secale cereale, is an annual grass related to barley and wheat, and grown for grain, and as a forage and cover crop. It can grow three to six feet tall, has flat leaf blades, and has dense flower spikes. Each spike consists of many spikelets bearing two flowers with long awns. Winter rye is sown in fall when it grows well in the cool temperatures . In spring it initiates growth quickly and produces its crop. Rye is hardier and more drought tolerant than wheat and can be grown on marginal land. [click to continue…]