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Native to areas of northern Africa, Europe, and Asia, this winter annual  grows 4-8′ tall and has a dull gray branchless stem and 10″ long stalked leaves that are obovate and lobed below, and elliptic or lanceolate above.  The upper surface of the leaves has scattered stiff, short, white hairs while the lower side is smooth except along the midrib.  Two inch long racemes of yellow flowers appear in summer for a long bloom time.  The flowers are each 1/3″ long, have 4-5 petals, and give way to a narrow seedpod 2/3″ long containing 4 seeds.   Leaves, seeds, and stems are edible and the seeds are used to prepare hot mustard.   [click to continue…]

Shakespeares Garden: Harebell

Hyacinthoides non-scripta4The harebell of Shakespeare has been identified as the wild hyacinth, Hyacinthoides non-scripta (syn. Scilla nutans), called English bluebell in modern times.   It is a perennial spring blooming bulb native to woodlands along the Atlantic from southwestern Spain to Britain. The linear, dark green leaves are produced in a clump of 3-6 and are up to eighteen inches long.     Five to twelve nodding flowers are carried in one sided racemes on arching stems. Each violet-blue flower is bell-shaped, ½- ¾ inch long, and   has a sweet fragrance.   Plants prefer dappled shade, and humusy, moist, well-drained soil. They grow in USDA zones 5-7.

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Native to central and southern China to northern Myanmar this fast growing evergreen vine is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes columbine, monkshood, and hellebore. The vine can grow up to 30′ long and climbs by twining.  The glossy dark green leaves have three leaflets that are 3-6″ long, leathery and droopy. In early to mid spring clusters of 2-15 fragrant, creamy white flowers appear on the previous year’s growth and are attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Each flower  is 2-2.5″ across and has 4-8  petal-like parts and numerous long stamens. The fruit is an achene with a long silky plumose tail and provides interest long after the flowers fade.  Like other clematis’,  C. armandii grows best when the roots are in the shade where they can be cool and stay moist. The vines are vigorous and can quickly cover a structure like a fence so can be useful for providing a screen.  The genus name, Clematis, is from the Greek word klematis and was used for various climbing plants,  The specific epithet, armandii, honors Father Armand David 1826-1900) a Jesuit missionary and plant collector in China. [click to continue…]

Aspen is a deciduous tree and belongs to the willow family, Salicaceae, that also includes poplars and cottonwoods.  Populus tremula is native  Europe and Asia and should not be confused with Populus tremuloides that is native North America.  Both species are found in cool climates and have outstanding bright yellow fall coloration and leaves with flattened petioles  that allows them to tremble in the slightest breeze.  Only P. tremula is mentioned in Elizabeth Wirt’s floral dictionary. [click to continue…]

Native to China, Korea, and Japan, Euonymus fortunei is a woody evergreen or semi-evergreen  member of the bitterseet family, Celastraceae, that also includes crucifiction thorn.  The species  can be grown as a ground cover, mounding shrub, or vine but the cultivar ‘Coloratus’ tends to be a trailing ground cover 6-9″ tall until it comes in contact with a vertical surface and then it acts as a vine and begins to climb up to about 20′.  The ovate to elliptical leaves are up to 2″ long  and shiny dark green until fall they they turn reddish purple.  Somtimes plants produce small inconspicuous greenish-white flowers in early summer, most often when growing on a vertical surface.  Plants tend to spread by forming roots from trialing stems as they creep along the ground surface.  Plants can be used to control erosion and are vaued for covering a wall, fence or other structure.  The genus name, Euonymus, is the Latin word meaning, of good name, referring to the poisonous nature of the plant to animals (sic)The specific epithet, fortunei, honors Robert Fortune (1812-1880) Scottish horticulturist and plant collector in China. [click to continue…]

This  perennial bulb goes by many common names including bird’s milk, grass lily, nap-at-noon, summer snowflake, starflower,  and ten-o’clock lady.  It is native to damp habitats in Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East  and is a member of the asparagus family, Asparagaceae, that also includes lily of the valley, hosta, and yucca.  Plants  grow 6-12″ tall and have a basal clump of 6-10 grass-like leaves 6-12″ long.   The leaves begin to fade  when leafless flower stems appear bearing terminal umbels of 10-20 6 star like flowers from late spring to early summer.  Each flat, star-shaped flower is up to 3/4″ wide and has  6 lanceolate tepals that are white and striped green on the outside.  Flowers open from noon to about sunset and are closed on cloudy days.  Plants are vigorous and are considered noxious weeds in some areas but are cultivated as ornamental plants and are especially attractive in informal settings such as meadows and woodland meadow garden.  The genus name Ornithogalum, comes from the Greek words ornis meaning bird, and gala meaning milk and refers to the white flowers.  The specific epithet, umbrellatum, is from the classical Latin word umbrella, meaning umbrella, and refers to the umbrella-like shape of the inflorescence.   [click to continue…]

This  perennial bulb goes by many common names including star of Bethlehem,  bird’s milk, grass lily, nap-at-noon, summer snowflake, starflower,  and ten-o’clock lady.  It is native to damp habitats in Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East  and is a member of the asparagus family, Asparagaceae, that also includes lily of the valley, hosta, and yucca.  Plants  grow 6-12″ tall and have a basal clump of 6-10 grass-like leaves 6-12″ long.   The leaves begin to fade  when leafless flower stems appear bearing terminal umbels of 10-20 6 star like flowers from late spring to early summer.  Each flat, star-shaped flower is up to 3/4″ wide and has  6 lanceolate tepals that are white and striped green on the outside.  Flowers open from noon to about sunset and are closed on cloudy days.  [click to continue…]

How to Care for Bonsai: Gingko bibloba

GingkoAlso known as the maidenhair tree, this deciduous tree is native to China. It is considered a living fossil because it has been on earth for 270 million years as indicatged by fossil evidence. The relationship of gingko to other plants is uncertain and it is classified alone in the division Ginkophyta. Gingkos are tolerant of poor growing conditions and often used in urban settings because of their pollution tolerance. Male and female reproductive structures are found on different trees and only female trees produce a fruit-like structure. The fruit has a sickly smell but fortunately bonsai specimens will not produce them. The attractive fan-shaped leaves are green in spring and summer before turning bright yellow in the fall.

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This evergreen, clump-forming, perennial grass is native to higher elevations of eastern Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, and northern Mexico, and belongs to the grass family, Poaceae, that also includes bamboo, rice, and corn.  Plants form dense fine-textured mounds of narrow  leaves 1-3′ tall.   In late summer and fall  3-4′ long erect spikes carry cream colored flowers that turn tan as they mature.   Pine muhly grass resembles California deer grass (M. rigens) but is only about half the size so is suitable for smaller gardens.  Since pine muhly grass is heat and drought resistant it is a good choice for xeriscapes and can be used as a hedge, accent plant, or groundcover, and in containers. The genus name, Muhlenbegia, honors German-American Gotthilf Heinrich (Henry) Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815), a Lutheran minister and botany enthusiast.  The specific epithet, dubia, is the Latin word meaning doubtful or uncertain, and refers to the fact that this species does not conform to the norms of the genus.   [click to continue…]

hydrangea-broadleaf sedge combinationIn sun or part shade this duo will provide long season interest. Fresh new leaves appear in spring followed by hydrangea’s extravagant clusters of flowers. The white of these flowers is echoed by the white edges and stripes of the sedge leaves. Contrast is provided by the size of the plants and the shape and size of the leaves. As a bonus, the hydrangea has defoliating bark and  beautiful stems are revealed as the leaves drop in the late fall.  Both plants grow well in sun to partial shade and evenly moist soil.   Good drainage, however, is critical to the success of the hydrangea. [click to continue…]