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ACeltis_australis_2lso known as nettle tree, European hackberry is a medium to large deciduous tree native to southern Europe, North African and Asia Minor. It has a straight trunk, many small lateral branches, a rounded crown, and a dense canopy that casts heavy shade. The bark is smooth and grayish brown; the sharply toothed, ovate to lanceolate leaves are two to six inches long by one to two inches wide and are dark gray-green above, paler and slightly hairy below. The flowers appear in the spring and are small, lack petals and are not ornamental. The small purple one-seeded fruits that follow in the summer and fall are 1/2” in diameter and are attractive to birds. Although the tree is not very hardy it is easy to grow and tolerates drought, wind, dust, and various urban pollutants so is a good choice for use as a shade tree, street tree, or screen in difficult sites. It is related to the elm, and has been used as a substitute for it. [click to continue…]

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Botanical Latin: Edulis

ED u lis: Latin meaning edible

Passiflora edulis 2Edulis is used as a specific or varietal name for animals such a the edible blue mussel, Mytilus edulis, fungi such as Boletus edulis, and a diverse variety of plants including passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) the source of pine nuts, succulents, and bamboo. The edible part of the plant is variable and can be the fruit, seed, tuber, or leaves. Entrepreneurs have capitalized on the epithet and used it as the name of their restaurants. [click to continue…]

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AlocasiamacrorrhizosAlso called giant taro, this herbaceous perennial is native to tropical areas from India to Queensland, Australia where it grows in the understory and along streams. It grows very quickly and can be cultivated as an annual in USDA zones 4-8 to give a lush tropical appearance to the garden. It is a member of the arum family (Arceae) that also includes jack in the pulpit, skunk cabbage, caladium, and peace lily. Like other members of the family, elephant ear has a spadix bearing many small flowers and is partially enclosed by a leafy bract, the spathe. The spathe and spadix of elephant ear is eight to ten inches long, greenish, and not showy. The plant is grown primarily for its huge attractive leaves carried on long petioles that emerge from a stout trunk six to twelve feet tall. The glossy medium green leaves measure three to six feet in length and two to four feet wide. They have arrow- shaped bases, and point upward. Where grown as an annual, the rhizomes can be dug in the fall and stored in a cool, dry location until spring. Several attractive cultivars are available including ‘Blackie’ with almost black foliage and ‘Violacea’ with violet-tinged foliage. Although the plant is cultivated for its edible rhizome and shoots, all parts of the plant may cause stomach problems if eaten without cooking and proper preparation. The sap can cause skin irritation. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: Small Spaces Big Ideas

Small Spaces Big IdeasYou might think your backyard, patio, or balcony is too small for a garden but author Philippa Pearson will prove you wrong with her book, Small Space Big Ideas. In fact, even if you have no garden space at all, Pearson will show you how to grow plants that will enliven and brighten your life. Using simple materials and equipment, Pearson presents a wide variety of projects that are easy, fun, and rewarding. [click to continue…]

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calendula 2Pot marigold is a short lived herbaceous perennial in the aster family (Asteraceae) native to southern Europe but cultivated now all over the world. It grows up to two feet tall and has pale green hairy lanceolate leaves two to seven inches long. The flower heads consist of yellow or orange florets and are 1.5 to 2.5 inches across. Pot marigold tolerates many kinds of soil but grows best in fertile soil that is moist but well drained. In warm climates it may grow year round a trait the ancient Romans noticed and gave it the name Calendula because it was in bloom the first of every month (kalendae= first day of the month). The common name pot marigold comes from use of the flower in cooking an its association with the Virgin Mary. Calendula should not be confused with African or French marigolds which are in the genus Tagetes; Calendula has curved seeds whereas Tagestes have long, dark seeds. [click to continue…]

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Castanea dentataNative to Eastern US, the American chestnut is almost extinct in the wild because of the chestnut blight that was introduced on Japanese nursery stock in the late 1800s. Most of the trees found now are root or stump sprouts that grow for a few years before succumbing to the blight. At present there is no cure but scientists are working to breed resistant forms. Before 1900 the American chestnut was an important deciduous tree in Eastern hardwood forests and was valued for its nuts, lumber, and beauty. The trees are wide-spreading, graceful, and have arching branches and a smooth, round crown. They have grayish brown, lightly ridged bark and abundant light-green drooping leaves five to eleven inches long with sharply toothed margins. In June, the fragrant white male flowers are produced in erect catkins four to eight inches long while the similar female flowers are in smaller catkins. The fruit is a prickly brown bur, 2 to 2.5 inches across, that usually contains two shiny brown edible nuts. Trees produce fruit on new growth and need a winter chill to set good fruit. Suckering can be excessive. [click to continue…]

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Noisette Roses for Climbing in Trees

rose on treeNoisttes are are tall vigorous old garden roses that need room. They can grow over twenty feet tall or long, and can easily overwhelm a small garden. A good solution to the problem is to grow these beauties into a tree where their great height is an advantage. They will also enhance the tree over a long bloom time with clusters of fragrant pastel flowers including yellow. Noisettes have a beauty a grace all of their own and do well in hot climates. [click to continue…]

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Ageratum houstonianumFlossflower is an annual belonging to the aster family (Asteraceae)and native to Mexico. It has become an invasive weed in some areas of the world while bred into a common bedding plant in US gardens where it is prized for its easy care and very long bloom time. Most of the cultivated plants are short, compact, and mound forming and are suitable for containers or the front of the border. They have soft green rounded leaves that are hairy and have a chordate base. The dense flower heads are composed of small tubular flowers in terminal corymbs surrounded by greenish bracts covered with sticky hairs. The flowers are blue in the species but may be white, pink, or red in cultivars. Each floret has two elongated style branches that give the flower heads a fuzzy appearance. The fruits are achenes and need light to germinate. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: Small Holding Manual

Small Holding ManualWe all have dreams for the “Good Life”; for some of us it is a house in a rural area with an acre of land, for others it is a mini-farm complete with outbuildings and livestock. If a small amount of land is part of your dream, Liz Shankland’s book, Smallholding Manual, offers food for thought and practical suggestions for securing your dream. [click to continue…]

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Melk_Abbey_aerial_WikipediaMost people come to see the church, the library, and the Benedictine abbey itself but few take the time to explore the grounds. As spectacular as the buildings are, the gardens deserve a visit. The grounds include a magnificent entrance, a rose garden, and a baroque park designed in 1750, updated in 1822 as an English landscape garden, and revitalized in 2000. [click to continue…]

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