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Book Review: Plantlab

plantlabAuthor Matthew Kenny presents a cookbook that shows how artistic and accessible a plant-based cuisine can be. The book, Plantlab, immediately catches the eye with its bold vibrant color photographs and follows through with a treasure trove of recipes that prove Kenny’s point that plant based cuisine can be delicious, as well as visually appealing. If you are vegan or just want a new cooking experience Plantlab is a good place to begin. [click to continue…]

alligator weedAlligator weed is a perennial native to South American but spread to many parts of the world including the US where it is invasive and considered a Federal Noxious Weed. It is especially common in the Southeast but can be found on coastal California and as far north as Illinois. Although it can grow on land areas such as ditches and marshes it is generally an emergent aquatic plant and forms large mats on the water that reduce water flow in waterways, cut light penetration and oxygenation of the water, and increase sedimentation. [click to continue…]

Asclepias Hallii5This herbaceous perennial,also known as purple silkweed, is a native of Rocky Mountain West from Wyoming to southern Arizona, west to Nevada where it grows in prairies and along roadsides. It is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that also includes bluestar (Amsonia), periwinkle (Vinca), and oleander (Nerium). The plants are usually unbranched and carry lanceolate to narrowly ovate gray-green leaves that may be softly hairy and up to five inches long and two inches wide. The flowers are produced in terminal or lateral umbels 1.5 to 2.5 inches across in summer and have dull purple to pink petals and yellowish white hoods. The seed capsules are 3 to 4.7 inches long. Although native to the US plants are more popular in English gardens. The generic name Ascllepias is the name of the Greek doctor of medicine.

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Edible Flowers: Squash (Cucurbita pepo)

Squash 2The flowers of zucchini are most commonly used but the blossoms of other summer or winter squash may be used interchangeably. Squash is a warm weather crop and can be very prolific so that harvesting the flowers before they set fruit can be a very good thing. Plus, squash flowers are either male of female and you can harvest the male flowers without hurting the production of fruit. Zucchini flowers are often available at Farmer’s Markets in summer although not in super markets because they are so perishable. [click to continue…]

Aster tataricusTatarian daisy is a herbaceous perennial native to southern Siberia, northern China, Mongolia, Koreas, and Japan where it grows in wetlands and meadows. It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflowers, yarrow, and lettuce. Thick rhizomes produce a basal rosette of paddle-shaped, rough, sessile leaves up to twenty four inches long and six inches wide. The flowering stems are covered with bristly hairs and carry leaves that decrease in size towards the top. The stems branch near the top and in the fall carry clusters of one inch wide flowerheads with blue to purple ray flowers surrounding a center of yellow disc flowers that attract butterflies. Although the plant is somewhat weedy it is very late flowering and looks attractive late in the fall when most other plants have significantly declined. A good choice for back of the border or in a butterfly or wildflower garden but plants can become invasive under the right conditions. The generic name Aster comes from the Latin word Aster meaning star and refers to the form of the flowers. The specific epithet tataricus comes from Tartay and refers to the geographic area inhabited by these people where the plant is also found. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The Heirloom Life Gardener

The Heirloom Life GardenerThe cofounders of Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, Jere and Emilee Gettle, offer readers The Heirloom Life Gardener , a book about their adventures in gardening with heirloom seeds. Subjects covered include their backgrounds and history, the case for using heirloom seeds, steps for getting started in growing vegetables, saving seed, and an A to Z growing guide. With the aims of providing a jumping off point and sharing the pleasure they get from a $2.00 packet of seeds, the authors cover the basics in a earthy way that may captivate the imagination of even a reticent gardener. [click to continue…]

dillDill is an annual in the celery family (Apiaceae) and native to the Mediterranean and southern Russia. It is a tall, 3-4 foot, beautiful plant and deserves a place in the flower garden as well as in the herb garden. Delicious with potato salad, cucumbers, and fish, it’s feathery blue-green leaves soften the look of a flower garden, and as a bonus it can be used as a charm against witches and the “evil eye.” Dill likes full sun and moderately rich, well-drained soil with a pH of about 6.0. Locate in a protected area so the wind does not break the canes. Since dill is an outbreeding plant it does not cross with any other plant but different varieties can cross. Dill self-seeds freely. [click to continue…]

Arbutus-menziesiiPacific madrone is an evergreen tree native to the west coast of North America from British Columbia to California. It is a member of the heather family, Ericaceae that also includes azaleas, blueberries, and mountain laurel. The tree is highly prized for its twisted form and cinnamon red bark tht exfoliates to reveal the silvery greenish new bark underneath. The narrow oval leaves are spirally arranged, glossy, waxy, and three to six inches long. In spring six inch long branched sprays of ¼ inch white bell-shaped flowers appear that give way in fall to red berries that are attractive to mammals and birds. Attractive as a specimen tree or in small groups where its unusual bark can be appreciated. [click to continue…]

Acer platanoides Norway maple flNorway maple is a large deciduous tree native to central and eastern Europe, and Asia but grown widely as a shade tree in parts of the US. The small yellow-green flowers that emerge in early spring make a beautiful combination with late daffodils and yellow tulips. The flowers consist of five sepals and five similar petals less than .16 inches long and are carried in clusters of fifteen to thirty. The palmately lobed leaves are also attractive in arrangements with their bright green color from spring until summer and yellow to orange-red color in autumn. The plants have some serious problems that make them less than ideal for the garden; they are fast growing so the wood is weak and branches easily break off in windstorms; the canopy produces dense shade; the root system breaks up pavement and has high water usage. ‘Globosum’ is a dwarf form (15-18’ tall) that is more suitable for residential use than the species. [click to continue…]

Ribes aureum2Also known as clove currant and buffalo currant, this deciduous shrub is a native of North America from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, south to New Mexico and California where it grows in open woods, streambanks, desert washes, and pine flats. It is a member of the Grossulariaceae family and related to gooseberry. Stiff erect branches bear one to two inch long glossy leaves that are three lobed and light green turning reddish purple in the fall. The yellow-orange star-shaped flowers are produced in spring in pendulant clusters of five to fifteen flowers and are tubular, fragrant with a clove or vanilla like scent, and give way to black edible fruits that ripen in late summer and are attractive to birds. The fruits can be made into jams, jellies, pastries, and juices. Golden current is useful as a specimen, hedge, or screen but is an alternate host to white pine blister rust and should not be grown in areas with white pines.
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