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Plant Profile: Rose Fourth of July

Rose FourthOfJuly2Known in England as ‘Crazy for You’ , Fourth of July ‘bears clusters of five to twenty red and white splashed flowers with attractive golden stamens. The flowers are crimson and pink at first but fade to oxblood red and white. The coloring varies considerable between flowers but presents such a bold effect that the flowers makes a big impact in spite of their small size and small number of petals. The plant is of the Floribunda type and has long lasting flowers. The vigorous bush grows quickly, is prickly, and has small, dark green leaves. [click to continue…]

Book Review: American Grown

In her book, American Grown, Michelle Obama details her experience establishing a kitchen garden on the White House’s South Lawn in an attempt to start a national conversation about the impact of the food our children eat on their health and well-being. She was concerned about the rising number of overweight and obsess children in the US and hoped that by sharing her story she could inspire families as well as schools and communities across the country to join together to build a healthier nation. This is a story of not just one garden it is the planting of a seed that will hopefully grow into a whole new way of looking at food. [click to continue…]

Cucumis-melo-var.-reticulatusMuskmelon, honeydew, Crenshaw, casaba, cantaloup, Persian melon Christmas melon, and Armenian cucumber (not really a cucumber) are all varieties or cultivars of Cucumis melo and can cross with each but NOT with cucumbers or squash. Watermelon is not related to any of the varieties or cultivars of Cucumis melo, is a different genus and species (Citrullus lanatus), and does not cross with them. If different varieties or cultivars of melon are grown together keep them separated by at least 200 feet to keep the stain pure if the seed will be collected for future planting. [click to continue…]

Gypsophila_muralisCushion baby’s breath, also called low baby’s breath, is an annual native to Europe, Asia and North Africa where it grows in disturbed sites such as meadows, fields, and roadsides. It is a member of the carnation family, Caryophyllaceae, that also includes pinks (Dianthus), Lychnis, and soapwort. The plants are strongly branched from the base and the stem linear dark bluish green leaves forming attractive mounds. The flowers are up to 2 1/5 inches across and are carried in open clusters from mid summer to fall. They have five pink to white petals with dark veins and are good cut flowers. Plants are less lime loving than most other Gypsophilas and are tolerant of heat and humidity. An excellent choice beds, borders, cutting gardens, and as a filler for containers. The generic name Gypsophila comes from the Greek words gypsos meaing gypsum and philos meaning lover, and refers to the need of alkaline soil bymost species. The specific epithet muralis is the Latin word meaning of the wall. [click to continue…]

amaranthus-caudatus-viridisAlso known as tassel flower, this annual is native to India, Africa, and Peru, and a member of the Amaranth family (Amaranthaceae), a diverse family that also includes beets, spinach, quinoa, and lamb’s quarters. The oval leaves are light green, up to six inches long, and are carried on branched yellow-green stems. The small petalless flowers are green or red and are carried in long pendulous clusters twelve inches and longer from mid summer until frost. Both the seeds and leaves are edible and the flowers are excellent dried or in fresh arrangements with a vase life of seven to ten days. I have used these flowers in center pieces, a bridal bouquet and a corsage with great results.  The genus name, Amaranthus, comes from the Greek word, amarantos, meaning everlasting referring to the flowers. The specific epithet, caudatus, is the Latin word meaning, “having as tail”, and refers to the appearance of the tassels of flowers of the common form of the plant. [click to continue…]

Tree Lupine is a evergreen shrub growing 5-7’ tall and endemic to coastal bluffs, and open woods in central California but has become an invasive species in Southern California and coastal Pacific Northwest. It is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes beans, Baptisia, and mimosa. The green to gray-green leaves are palmately compound and have five to twelve leaflets .75-2.5 inches long. The fragrant bright yellow flowers, occasionally blue or purple, are carried in racemes from spring into summer and are attractive to bumblebees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Seeds are attractive to birds and foliage serves as food for larvae of various butterflies. Like other members of the pea family, tree lupine is nitrogen-fixing and can change the composition of the soil which aids exotics at the expense of native species that are adapted to low nitrogen levels. Tolerates wind, salt, heat, drought, low fertility and fire but not shade or waterlogged soil. Flowers are good for the vase. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Because of an Acorn

Because of an AcornIntroducing children to ecology when they a young is a very good thing and Lola Schaefer’s book, Because of an Acorn, is a good way to do it. The author takes the readers on a visit to a oak forest and introduced some of the relationships between the plants and animals that live there. Written for children five and six years old, the book presents the concepts simply and uses the illustrations to further the concepts.
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Earth-Kind Roses: Old Garden Roses

Rose Reve d OrOld garden roses are those types that existed prior to 1867 when the first hybrid tea, ‘La France’ was introduced. These roses were generally extolled for their form and fragrance but many bloomed only once. Earth Kind is a modern designation given to any rose that could meet exacting cultivation standards, no matter when it first appeared, so includes old garden roses as well as modern ones. The criteria for the designation Earth Kind include tolerance of heat, drought and a variety of soil types, as well as the ability to be grown without pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers, once established. Although many Earth Kind roses are Polyanthas, four types of old garden roses are also included: Bourbon, China, Tea and Noisette. [click to continue…]

ParkinsoniafloridaThis small deciduous tree to large shrub is native to the Sonoran desert of southeastern California, Arizona, and Mexico where it grows in intermittent streams, arroyos, and riverbanks. It is a member of the legume family, Fabaceae, that also includes Acacia, lupines, and kudzu. The trunk, branches, and scale-like leaves are blue green and both carry out photosynthesis until the leaves drop in the summer leaving food making to the trunk and branches the rest of the year. The leaves are pinnately compound with two to six leaflets. In early spring two to four inch long clusters of showy yellow pea-like flowers appear and are followed in summer by thin, 2-3 inch long bean-like pods that provide food for birds and small rodents. Plants may be used as a screen, a specimen or patio tree and excellent in xeric landscapes because of their toughness and drought tolerance. [click to continue…]

Minute pirate bugMinute pirate bugs are predatory insects belonging to the Anthocoridae family. There are up to six hundred species worldwide of which about seventy species occur in North America. Most are generalist predators but a few are specialists. The most common species east of the Rockies is Orius insidious (also called the insidious flowerbug) while Orius tristicolor is the most common species west of the Rockies. The small bugs are 1/8” long or less, have oval shaped, flat bodies, and are black and silver with clear overlapping wings that lie under rigid wing covers and extend beyond the abdomen. They have piercing, sucking mouth parts used to suck the body juices from the prey. [click to continue…]