Plant Profile; Monkey flower (Mimulus ringens)

by Karen on September 22, 2014

Mimulus ringens Monkey flower plantAlso called Allegheny monkey flower or square-stemmed monkey flower, this herbaceous perennial is native to North America where it grows in wet soils such as wet meadows, swamps, stream and pond borders, floodplains, and drainage ditches. Plants are erect with square, occasionally branching stems that bear opposite, clasping (sessile) leaves. The medium green leaves are lanceolate to oval, four to six inches long and one inch wide, with widely spaced teeth on the margins and pointed tips. The lilac-blue (occasionally pink or white) flowers are produced in the axils of the leaves on the upper half of the stem over a one and half month period from summer into fall. Each snapdragon-like flower is two lipped, an inch across, bears a yellow patch in its throat, and is thought to resemble to face of a monkey. Flowers are followed by a seed capsule with many seeds that are dispersed by wind or water. Monkey flower is an excellent choice for a bog garden, the wettest part of a rain garden, or any other consistently moist area. [click to read full post]


Book Review: The Complete Flower Arranging Book

by Karen on September 19, 2014

The Complete Flower Arranging Book Susan CondorWhether you are a novice or experienced flower arranger, The Complete Flower Arranging Book by Susan Conder, Sue Phillips, and Pamela Westland, will add to your skills and increase your artistic sense. The book provides the basic techniques and principles of design to produce all kinds of flower arrangements from large formal ones to small casual ones as well as inspire creativity. Working with many different kinds of flowers, containers, and styles, the book presents a plethora of ideas that can be copied or used as a starting point for personal artistic expression. [click to read full post]

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Bacillus thuringiensisOne of the tools available to the organic farmer is Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly known as Bt.  It is a naturally occurring bacterium that produces a protein that is toxic to certain insect pests. When ingested the protein paralyzes the digestive system of the insect so the insect stops eating and starves to death in a few days.  Although Bt was discovered in 1911 it has only been commercially available since the 1950s and is considered environmentally friendly.  In recent years scientists have been using Bt for genetic engineering to produce crops that are resistance to chronic insect problems. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Swamp Goldenrod (Solidago patula)

by Karen on September 17, 2014

solidago-patula-swamp goldenrodSwamp goldenrod, also known as rough leaf goldenrod, is a herbaceous perennial native to eastern United States where it grows in wet lands such as swamps, bogs, and shores of rivers and lakes. The erect stem is light green to purplish green, four angled, and unbranched beneath the inflorescence. Flowerheads are borne at the ends of the central stem in branched, loose, panicles from late summer to early fall. Each flowerhead consists of 5-12 golden yellow ray flowers surrounding 5-15 yellow disc flowers. The fruits that follow are small, dry achenes with tufts of hair for wind dispersal. Medium green leaves are up to twelve inches long at the base of the stem and decrease in size as they go upward. They are elliptical, alternate, rough textured and have toothed margins. Numerous insects including bees and moths feed on the nectar and pollen or foliage and flowers. The root system fibrous with rhizomes. Swamp goldenrod is an excellent choice for the wettest and middle zone of a rain garden. [click to read full post]

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Post Date Sept 16 2014

Sedum-Autumn-JoyThe bright purple flowers of aster “Purple Dome’ make an attractive companion for sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ in the fall as it changes from deep pink to coppery brown. ‘Autumm Joy’s’ solid heads of small fuzzy flowers complement the delicate daisy-like flowers of Aster ‘Purple Dome’. The smooth fleshy leaves of the sedum contrast with the fine texture of the aster foliage. Both plants have a rounded, dense, compact form and do well in sun or part shade, and average, well-drained soil. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile; European Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

by Karen on September 15, 2014

Alder European Alnus_glutinosa lvThis deciduous tree, native to Europe and western Asia, was introduced to North America in colonial times. It is usually a narrow, multi-stemmed tree with oval to round simple leaves that are dark green on the upper side and lighter green beneath. The leaves may be green or brown when they fall off the tree late in the season. Long male catkins and short female catkins are produced on the same tree; the female catkins become somewhat woody in fall and superficially resemble cones. European alder quickly grows to fifty feet or more and is short lived. The greatest virtue of the tree is its ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen in the soil making it a good tree for poor soils. Fallen live branches can root in wet soil and the tree can become invasive. Since European alder especially likes moist soil they may threatens wetland species. A few attractive cultivars are available but unless the tree is needed for a specific difficult site, better trees are available and should be used. [click to read full post]

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Book Review: Farming

by Karen on September 12, 2014

Farming Gail GibonsChildren in the city often have no idea of how milk, vegetables and meat are produced and link it more to a store that the countryside. They don’t know what a farm is or what goes on to produce the foods that they take for granted. Enter Gail Gibbons’ book, Farming. It gives young children a comprehensive view of life on a typical family farm in the United States. [click to read full post]

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Wild buckwheat is a summer annual vine native to Asia that spread to Europe and then North American. It is found throughout the United States and is especially troublesome in cropland where corn, wheat, and other grains are grown. It prefers sun to part shade, and well-drained soil but adapts to many different soil types depending on the moisture and light. In addition to cropland, wild buckwheat finds its way into gardens and other disturbed sites including waste areas such as roadsides. [click to read full post]

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Mulberry Paper Broussonetia papyfera mitten leafPaper mulberry is deciduous tree or shrub native to Japan, China and Polynesia where it has been used to make paper, cloth, and medicine. It was introduced into eastern United States for use as a shade tree and has become invasive in some areas due to its rapid growth, suckering nature, and self-seeding habit. It is tolerant of heat, humidity, urban pollution, drought, and a wide variety of soils, and is often found in recently disturbed areas, waste areas, forest edges, and along roadsides where it may produce dense stands. The leaves are three to ten inches long and variable in shape even on the same plant from oval to mitten and heart shaped, often with prominent lobes. Their fall color can be attractive. Clusters of light green male or female flowers are produced on different plants in spring. Male flowers are in three inch long catkins while the female flowers are in balls. Fertilized female flowers give rise to showy red-purple fruits half to one inch in diameter and are attractive to wildlife who contribute to seed dispersal. Bark is tan and smooth, developing some furrowing with age, and twigs contain a milky sap. By planting only male trees, the tendency to self-seed is reduced and paper mulberry can be a useful tree. [click to read full post]

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Ficus benjaminaThis native of India and Malaysia is a tall evergreen tree with drooping branches and light to deep green leaves with wavy edges. The short trunk has smooth, silvery-grey bark and is supported by numerous aerial roots when grown in warm humid conditions. Small fig-like green fruits turn red with maturity. A common household plant, weeping fig is easy to grow and tolerates indoor conditions so is a good plant for a new bonsai enthusiast. Many varieties exist and vary in the size of their leaves. The variety exotica and cultivar ‘Natascha’ are especially valued as bonsai and tolerate low light levels. Weeping fig is suitable for most Japanese styles; formal upright, informal upright, slanting, cascade, semi-cascade, broom, rock-over-root, clasped-to-rock, twin-trunk, saikei, clump, sinuous, straight line, and group planting. Because of the relatively large size of the leaves, plants should be allowed to grow about twenty inches tall in order to create pleasing proportions. [click to read full post]

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