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Strawberry foxglove is a short-lived herbaceous perennial and member of the plantian family,  Plantaginaceae, that also includes snapdragon, turtlehead, and Veronica.  It is a tetraploid hybrid resulting from a cross between Digitalis purpurea and D. grandiflora.  A rosette of Ovate, velvety leaves 6-8″ long give rise in early summer to leafy stems 3-4′ tall with terminal racemes of closely packed nodding flowers.  Each  funnel-shaped flower is  coppery-pink, and 2-3″ long and attractive to hummingbirds.  Plants reseed themselves. e plants are striking when in bloom and add an architectural element to borders as well as a touch of nostalgia to cottage and woodland gardens; excellent cut flower. The genus name, Digitalis, comes from the Latin word digitus meaning finger and refers to the appearance of the flowers.  The specific epithet, mertonensis, honors Merton, England, the place where the hybrid was produced in 1925. [click to continue…]

Book Review: A Bright Future

International Relations professor, Joshua S. Goldstein and Swedish nuclear engineer, Staffan A. Qvist collaborated to produce book, A Bright Future, that presents their solution to the problem of climate change.  It is not about a theoretical solution but rather an analysis of the successful strategies used by various industrial countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Anyone interested in solving climate change would find something of interest in the ideas presented in this book. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Simple  Green Meals

In her book, Simple Green Meals, author Jen Hansard,  has a strightforward message:  eat more plants.  Hansard is an enthusiastic vegetarian who shares her experience going from an exhausted, stressed out house wife and mom to a dynamite author and cofounder of a popular food website.  She credits her transformation to a change in diet that focused on plant-powered foods that replenish energy levels and nourish the body and provides recipes as well as strategies to make a plant-based lifestyle work. [click to continue…]

Native to Eurasia and North Africa, moth mullein was introduced into the US before 1818 and has naturalized in disturbed areas  such as roadsides and fencerows in most of the country especially the East coast. It is a biennial and a member of the figwort family, Scrophyulariaceae, that also includes twinwspur and Nemesia.  Although plants prefer full sun and rich soil they tolerate less.   [click to continue…]

Large flowered tickseed is a clump forming herbaceous perennial and a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflower, daisy, and lettuce.   It is native to southeastern US where it grows in open woods, prairies, and roadsides.  Plants are somewhat hairy and grow 1-2′ tall.   The basal and lower leaves are lanceolate to spatulate while the upper leaves are often deeply 3-5 lobed.  The 1-3″ wide  flower heads are carried singly on long stalks and consist of about 8 toothed yellow ray flowers around a center of disc flowers.  If the flowers are faithfully deadheaded the plants will bloom from late spring to late summer.  Plants are short lived but spread by self-seeding and rhizomes and can become weedy.  They may sprawl if not in sun and lean soil but can be cut back hard.  Tolerant of drought and lean soil, this tickseed is a good choice for  a cottage garden, meadow, or prairie. Several very good cultivars are available.   Flowers are good for the vase.  The genus name, Coreopsis, comes from the Greek words koris meaning bug and opsis meaning like/similar to and refers to the appearance of the seed.  The specific epithet comes from the Latin words grandis meaning large, and flos meaning flower.  [click to continue…]

Shakespeare’s Garden: Peach

peach-treeA native of China, the peach (Prunus persica) is a small deciduous short lived tree in the Rosaceae family and in the same genus as plums, cherries, almonds, and apricots. Nectarines are the same genus and species but a different variety. Peach trees grow up to thirty three feet tall and have lanceolate leaves up to six inches long and five petaled pink flowers that are produced in early spring before the leaves appear. The fruit has white or yellow flesh and a single large seed with a woody husk. Peaches like full sun and sandy, well-drained soil. They can be grown in USDA ones 5-8 but must be protected from late frosts in spring, and must have an adequate chill period for good fruit production. [click to continue…]

Also called pink and white lady’s slipper and queen’s lady’s slipper, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the orchid family, Orchidaceae.  It is native to the northeastern quarter of the US where is grows in  well drained soil in wet woods, swamps, and bogs.  A rare plant, it is threatened or endagered throughout its range.  Plants grow up to 35″ tall  from a rhizomatous rootstock and have multiple hairy stems  that carry  3-7 elliptical to ovate sessile leaves that are deeply ribbed, hairy and up to 8″ long.  One to three flowers appear at the top of the stems in early summer and are 2-3″ wide.  They have white sepals and petals with an inflated pouch that open on the top and is pink to rose depending on the climate.  Under favorable conditions the plants may form large colonies of up to 50 stems. A pure white flowered variant exisits.   The genus name, Cypripedium, comes from the Greek words Kypris referring to the island where Venus was worshiped, and pedilon, meaning slipper referring to the shape of the flower. The genus name, Cypripedium, comes from the Greek words Kypris refering to the island where Venus was worshiped, and pedilon, meaning slipper referring to the shape of the flower.  The specific epithet, reginae,  comes from the Latin word regina and means of the queen. [click to continue…]

Book Review: What’s in the Garden

From the very first page, What’s in the Garden is a hit.  Author Marianne Berkes presents factual information about 12 fruits and vegetables in a way that captivates and engages the mind and encourages young readers to  prepare and eat healthy meals.  Written for children 5-8 years old, the book stimulates the imagination and provides learning possibilities on many levels. [click to continue…]

Common hawthorn is a thorny deciduous shrub or small tree native to Europe, northwest Africa and western Asia It was introduced into the US and has become invasive in some areas due to its prolific seed production and wide dissemination by wildlife.   Also known as mayblossom and English hawthorn, plants grow 10-30’ tall, are densely branched, and have gray- brown bark with vertical orange fissures.  The glossy green leaves are 1-1.5” long and have 3-7 deeply incised lobes. Clusters  of 5-25 small  white, five-petaled flowers have numerous red stamens and an unpleasant odor.  They appear in late spring and give way to a one seeded red berry like fruit that is attractive to birds and other wildlife that aid in seed dissemination.  Common hawthorn grows well in full sun to partial shade and is tolerant of a wide variety of soils include acid and alkaline ones. It also tolerates drought and pollution.  USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8 [click to continue…]

 Indian shot is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the Cannaeceae family that is most closely related to ginger, banana, and bird of paradise.  It is native to the West Indies and tropical American,  maybe including areas in the South, where it grows in moist areas such as wetland edges and along stream banks.  Plants grow 3-6′ tall from a rhizomatous rootstock and have fleshy, stout unbranched stems sheathed by leaves that are bronze to green and up to 20″ long and 8″ wide.  The  2-3″ wide flowers appear in late summer in stiffly erect terminal racemes and are are red, or sometimes red and yellow, and sometimes with spots. The  flowers give way to papery seed capsules filled with black round or egg shaped seeds that resemble shot gun pellets,  hence the common name. The generic name Canna comes from the Greek word kanna meaning reed.  The specific epithet, indica, refers to the India or the West Indies, the latter being an original home of the plant.  The roots of indian shot have been a source of food in the Americas for thousands of year.  The plants are a good choice for containers and tropical gardens. [click to continue…]