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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 was introduced from Eurasia into North America by early European settlers in the 17th century as an ornamental, but 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. Grows in sun to partial shade and average, medium moist, well-drained soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 3-8 [click to continue…]

American senna is a herbaceous perennial native to eastern US from Michigan and Maine through the Appalachians and Atlantic plains south to Georgia where it grows in moist open woodlands, meadows, pastures, fields or roadsides.  It is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupine, mimosa, and black locust.  Plants grow up to 6′ tall from root system consisting of tap root and rhizomes and have a sparsely branched  stout stem that is light green and slightly hairy in its upper areas. The compound leaves have 5-10 pairs of  oblong gray-green to medium green leaflets up to 2.5″ long. In mid to late summer yellow flowers 3/4″ across appear in both terminal and axial heads or spikes up to 1′ long. Unlike many other legumes, the flowers of American senna are not pea-like and lack nectaries although nectaries are present at the base of leaf petioles.   The flat dry fruit is 3-4″ long, dark brown,  and has 10-18 segments each filled by a single seed.  The flowers are attractive to and are good for the vase.  Plants are an excellent addition to meadow, wildflower, wildlife, or native plant gardens. They grow best with plenty of moisture but tolerate drought well once established.  The genus name, Senna, is the Arabic word sena describing plants that have leaves and pods with cathartic and laxative properties.  The specific epithet, hebecarpa, may be the Greek word meaning youth, and the Greek suffix meaning fruited.

Type:Herbaceous perennial

Bloom: Heads or spikes of small yellow flowers from mid to late summer

Size: 3-6′ H x 2.5-3′ W

Light:Full sun to partial shade

Soil:Average, medium moist, well-drained but tolerates less

Hardiness: Zones 4-7

Care:Stake if floppy

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed

Companion Plants: Tall coneflower, tall larkspur, prairie aster, black eyed susan (R. hirta), joe pye weed


Book Review: On Fire

On Fire is a collection of 16 long-form essays from Green New Deal advocate, Naomi Klein, setting out her reason why the economy has to be transformed to address the problems of both climate change and the issues of social and economic inequality at the same time.  In addition, she makes a case for why the Green New Deal is not as impractical or unrealistic as critics claim.  The essays are presented chronologically beginning with 2010 and include the date and a brief paragraph that sets the essay in context.  Topics include social justice, turning capitalism upside down, the dangers of geoengineering,  Pope Francis’s ‘Laudato si, and  BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.  In her epilogue, Klein presents 9 reasons why the Green New Deal has a fighting chance.   [click to continue…]


Have you ever heard of ebulum?  The word is the ancient Latin name for dwarf elder, Sambucus ebulus and today seems to refer to a strong elderberry ale made from roasted oats, barley, and wheat boiled with herbs and then fermented with ripe elderberries.  The tradition goes back to 9th century Celtic times when Welsh druids made it and passed it to the people during the Autumn festival.  Dwarf elderberry is native to central and southern Europe and has been used in the folk medicine of the Balkan Peninsula for centuries.  The plant is herbaceous, 3 feet tall, and dies back in the winter.  It produces flat clusters of small cream colored flowers tinted with pink in late summer, and small glossy black berries in fall. Photo Credit: Wikipedia [click to continue…]

In spite of its common name, mountain heliotrope is not a true heliotrope and is not even in the same family. It is a member of the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, that also includes weigelia, abelia, and twinflower.  A native of northwestern North America from Alaska and northern Canada to Montana to northern California, this rhizomatous perennial grows in subalpine meadows and moist mountain forests and is also called Sitka valerian. Plants grow up to 3′ tall but may be dwarfed by extreme condition to under 10″ tall.  The opposite lanceolate leaves grow so closely they appear whorled and are deeply lobed or pinnately divided with five coarsely toothed leaflets. In late spring or early summer, rounded terminal clusters of white, sometimes pinkish, flowers appear.  The small flowers are tubular, aromatic and have 3 stamens that extend well beyond the 5 petals. The fruit is an achene bearing a plume. The genus name, Valeriana, is a medieval Latin name possibly derived from the Latin word valere, meaning to be healthy, referring to the plants’ use to cure nervousness and hysteria. The specific epithet, sitchensis, refers to the Russian settlement of Sitka on Baranof Island where the plant was first collected.  [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rosa ‘Fame!”

Cherry pink buds open to semi double flowers that are carried singly or in clusters of up to 5 and strong straight stems.  The notched petals are dark pink with yellow at their base and keep their color for a long time before slowly fading to mid pink. The yellow stamens also keep their color before turning brown when the bloom fades.  The plants are bushy and have dark green, healthy leaves.  An excellent rose for exhibition as well as in cutting.

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Book Review: Handpicked

Ingrid Carozzi, floral designer and owner of Tin Can Studios in Brooklyn, N.Y., shares her sustainable approach to flower arranging and provides instructions for making more than 35 arrangements in her book Handpicked.  With a deep commitment to  sustainability she discusses the reuse of materials, foraging for plant material, use of eco-friendly materials, and sourcing flowers locally and seasonally whenever possible. Believing that there is no right or wrong in flower arranging, the author fills her pages with tips and ideas to tweek the imagination of readers and set them on a new course. [click to continue…]

Also called prairie baby’s breath, flowering spurge is a herbaceous perennial and member of the euphorbia family, Euphorbiaceae, that also includes poinsettia, caster oil plant, and cassava. It is native to North America from Texas north to South Dakota and east to the Atlantic coast. Plants prefer full sun and mesic to dry, well-drained soil and are found in open woodlands, prairies, pastures, glades, abandon fields, mined lands, and in waste areas as well as along roadsides and railroad train tracks. [click to continue…]

Also known as broom twinberry, this subshrub is native to the northern Mexico and southwestern US from  Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California to Colorado where it grows in deserts and scrubland, and dry mesas, slopes, and meadows. It is a member of the olive family, Oleaceae, that also includes jasmine, forsythia, and lilac.  Plants grow up to 2″ tall and have several many branched stems that are angled in cross section and covered with rough hairs and short, woolly fibers when young.  The oblong or oval leaves are alternate, about 1/2″ long, and have smooth margins. Reddish orange buds open to  tubular yellow flowers  3/4″ wide with a 4-6 lobed corolla surrounding exerted 2 anthers and 1 stigma.  The flowers appear in small loose terminal clusters from late spring into summer and are followed by translucent roundish 1/4″ wide fruits that are green to reddish before maturing to tan.  Rough menedora is a popular desert garden plant.  The genus name, Menodora, comes from the Greeks word mene meaning moon and doron meaning gift.  the specific epithet, scabra, is the Latin word meaning rough and refers to the hairiness of the young plants. [click to continue…]

Native to North America, slimy-spike cap can be found singly or scattered from summer Gomphidius_glutinosus Tommi Nummelinthrough fall in conifers woods, especially under spruce, pine, and fir trees. It belongs to the group of mushrooms known as Boletes but unlike the most of the typical members of the group it has gills rather than tubes. The mushroom is 2/5 to 5 inches tall with a cap two to four inches across. The fleshy cap is hemispherical at first but flattens out with maturity, and may become flat. It has an inrolled margin and is gray or brown with a hint of violet when young but may blacken in old age. Young mushrooms are covered with a mucous veil which breaks leaving a ring on the stem. The thick grills are widely spaced and run down the stem. The firm stem is up to four inches high and is white tinged with gray at the top, often yellow at the base. The spore are blackish brown. [click to continue…]