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Book Review: Little Green Thumbs

Little Green ThumbsMary An Van Hage offers fifteen ideas for growing plants in ways that appeals to children in her book Little Green Thumbs. Written for parents with children ages seven and up, the projects are organized by seasons and use readily available materials. They offer learning opportunities on many levels and provide an opportunity for adults and children to interact in a meaningful way. [click to continue…]

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elder-flowersElderberry wine is perhaps more famous but wine can be made from the flowers too. One advantage to using the flowers is that the wine can be made earlier in the season but then, of course you will not have berries for wine later if you use up all your flowers. Pick the flowers on a hot dry day and use them immediately to make wine. My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright includes a recipe for elder flower wine along with others for elderberry wine in her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines. a collection of homemade brews that she collected from friends and acquaintances around 1900.

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PConeflower purple Echinacea purpurea Magnusurple Cone Flower(Echinacea purpurea)Purple cone flower is an herbaceous perennial native to central and eastern US where it grows in open woods, prairies, and meadows. It is a member of the aster family (Asteraceae) a very large plant family that also includes sunflowers, black eyed Susans, and daisies. Stiff stems carry dark green leaves that are four to eight inches long, coarse, and covered with short hairs. The five inch wide flower heads are produced singly from early summer into fall and consist of dark brown disc tinted with bronze and surrounded by rose to purple ray flowers than are somewhat reflexed. Numerous cultivars are available that vary in characteristics such as flower color, plant size, and the degree to which the ray flowers are reflexed. The flowers are good in the vase and are often used without the ray flowers in both fresh and dried arrangements. Flowers are attractive to butterflies and the seeds to birds. The plant tolerates heat, humidity and drought, and is an excellent choice for borders, meadow gardens, and wildflower garden. The generic name Echinacea comes from the Greek word echinos meaning hedgehog and refers to the spiny nature of the central disc. The specific epithet, purpurea means purple. [click to continue…]

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Visit to the Gardens of Alcatraz

img_9064A garden is perhaps the last thing you think about when you hear the name “Alcatraz” but if you decide to make a visit there you will be pleasantly surprised. The island was first used as an army fortress in the mid 1800s but by 1861 was turned into a military prison. The site is wind swept, lacks a water supply, and has thin soil so gardening seems like an unlikely effort but some determined individuals living there persisted; soil was imported and Victorian-style gardens were planted in one area of the island by 1865. In the 1920s a beautification project was begin and prisoners planted trees, shrubs and seeds with the result that by 1933 when the federal Bureau of Prisons took over the island there was a rose garden, terraced gardens, and a greenhouse. Inmates became gardeners and together with workers living on the island more gardens were established. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Pink (Dianthus plumarius)

dianthus-plumariusThis herbaceous perennial is a member of the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) that also includes baby’s breath, campions (Lynchis), and soapworts. It is native to Eurasia, has been cultivated for many years, and bred with carnations (Dianthus caryophyllum) to produce a very large number of dwarf hybrids such as cottage pinks, border pinks, and old laced pinks. The plant forms a loose hummock of grass-like, gray-green leaves, one to four inches long, and conspicuously veined. The clove-scented, one inch wide flowers are produced two per stem in early summer, and may be pink-lilac, pink-purple, or white. They have five fringed petals that are deeply cut and a throat bearded with long hairs. Pinks do not do well in hot climates or in soil that is wet in the winter. The generic name, Dianthus, comes from the Greek words dios, meaning divine, and anthos meaning flower. The specific epithet, plumarius means feathered and refers to the fringed, deeply cut petals. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: Salad Samurai

Salad SamuriTerry Hope Romero’s book, Salad Samurai, is a vegan based cookbook with hearty recipes for salad meals with a few recipes for side salads. The book has a hundred recipes in all but they include recipes for dressings and toppings as well as the salads themselves. To a non-vegan like myself the recipes seem creative, unique, and appealing but I am not used to eating miso, tofu, or nutritional yeast on a regular basis and so these ingredients are a novelty to me.
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Best Climbing Roses with Strong Fragrance

rose-compassionClimbing roses can produce a huge visual display in the garden and some are also fragrant so can add to the sensory experience. The ratings of the American Roses Society have been used to determine “best” roses. Every year the American Rose Society enlists the help of people all over the country to evaluate the roses they grow. Each rose cultivar is evaluated on a number of characteristics including garden performance which considers such factors as vigor and growth habit, number of blooms, how quickly the plant repeats, the beauty and lasting quality of the blooms in the garden, fragrance, resistance to mildew, blackspot and rust, winter hardiness, and quality of the foliage. The results of this survey are published in an issue of American Rose and ratings are published in the ARS Handbook for Selecting Roses. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus)

dianthus-caryophyllusCarnations are short-lived herbaceous perennials native to the Mediterranean where they grow in pockets of soil in limestone formations. They have been cultivated for over 2000 years and have been selected so that most of the familiar ones are best grown in greenhouses for the florist trade. The grey-green foliage is linear and evergreen . The flowers are produced singly or in clusters of five in summer and usually have a strong sweet clove fragrance. The species was originally bright pinkish purple but white, yellow, red, purple, and green cultivars have been developed. Plants are short lived and must be divided every other year to maintain vigor. The flowers have a vase life of one to two weeks and are excellent for corsages. The generic name, Dianthus, comes from the Greek words dios, meaning divine, and anthos meaning flower. The specific epithet, caryophyllus, comes from the Greek words karya meaning walnut and phyllon meaning leaf, referring to the smell of walnuts which led to the used of the name for clove and then to carnations. The common name, carnation, is also used for other plants, and may be dervived from the Greek word corone meaning flower garland, in reference to the fact that carnations were used for ceremonial crowns in ancient times. [click to continue…]

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Botanical Latin: Cordatus

philadendron-cordatumCordatus (cor DA tus) from the Latin word cor, cordis meaning heart.

Cordatus is a specific epithet used with generic names of both plants and animals to suggest that some part of the organism is heart -shaped. It can also be in the form cordatum or cordata depending on the gender of the genus that it modifies. Hence we find Streptanthus cordatus (heat leaf twist flower), Philodendron cordatum (heart-leaf philodendron), and Houttuynia cordata (heart leaf houttuynia). Other specific epithets that include cors, cordis, are cordifolius (+ folia, foliae meaning leaf) and cordiformis (+ formis meaning shape). [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Rose ‘Sombreuil’

TRose Sombreuil 2he creamy white flowers of this Tea-Noisette are sometimes tinged with pink and are carried in small clusters (usually three), or singly. They are quartered, quilled, sometimes have a green eye, and open flat with a multitude of petals. The petals are thin and do not do well in cold damp weather but last well in the vase. The fragrance is strong and one of the outstanding features of the rose. The foliage is glossy, dark green, and disease resistant. [click to continue…]

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