≡ Menu

Book Review: Mostly Plants

Based on the concept of the flexitarian diet, Mostly Plants presents an approach to eating that shifts the ratio of food from animals to plants.  This approach is very useful for a family with different dietary needs and wants as all the recipes are adaptable to various diets including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. No need to give up delicious food or spend oodles of money on exotic ingredients as the recipes are tasty and use easy to source foods as well as being healthy and environmentally sensitive. [click to continue…]

Also known as green bristlegrass and foxtail millet, green foxtail is an annual grass and a member of the grass family, Poaceae, that also includes corn, rice, and bamboo.  It is native to Eurasia but was introduced to the US and now occurs throughout the US in areas with sun to part shade and moist to dry-mesic conditions.  Plants can be found in a variety of habitats including vacant lots, sidewalks, railroads, lawns, croplands, pastures, prairies, and grasslands. [click to continue…]

Brought to North America from Europe in the early 1700’s to raise the nap of wool cloth, this fuller’s teasel naturalized and is now considered a weed in many parts of the United States where it grows in sunny disturbed sites such as roadsides, riverbanks, and forest openings, and in savannas, grasslands and meadows   It is a biennial and a member of the  honey suckle family, Caprifoliaceae, that also includes weigela, scabiosa, and abelia.  In the first year the plant grows a tap root and forms a rosette of large coarse lanceolate leaves up to 12″ long.  In the second year  several spiny stems up to 6’ tall arise bearing sessile spiny leaves and clusters of spiny flowerheads from summer into fall. Each egg-shaped  flowerhead are up to 4″ long and consists of numerous small pink, purple or lavender flowers, subtended by long pointed bracts. The flowerheads produce an abundance of 1 seeded fruits, called achenes, that have a high germination rate so plants readily reproduce themselves.  Butterflies and bees love the flowers, birds especially goldfinches love the seed, and the dried seed heads look fabulous in dried arrangements. Suitable for a wildflower garden if seed dispersal is controlled.   The genus name, Dipsacus, comes from the Greek word dipsa meaning thirst of water and refers to the cup-like formation made where sessile leaves merge at the stem.  The specific epithet, fullonum, comes from the Latin word fullo meaning fuller and refers to the use of the seed heads in the manufacture of wool by fullers. [click to continue…]

Butterfly bush Karens  271x300Butterfly bush is a flowering shrub with arching branches and native to central China. It belongs to the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, that also includes mullein(Verbascum), twinspur (Diascia), and Nemesia. The fragrant flowers are borne in dense clusters (panicles) up to sixteen inches long above gray-green to blue-green foliage from summer to fall. The flowers come in a variety of colors including blue, purple, lavender, pink, red, white and yellow, and are attractive to bees and butterflies, as well as to hummingbirds. Butterflies that may visit the flowers include red admiral, painted lady, comma, large white, small white, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, peacock, and brimstone. Plants can be cut back hard to the last three or four buds in to renew growth. This is best done in the early spring rather than after flowering so that the faded flower spikes can provide shelter for overwintering insects (as well a food for small birds). [click to continue…]

Leucopaxillus_giganteusGiant funnel cup is a saprophytic fungus found growing in arcs or fairy rings in woodland clearings, open grasslands, and roadsides of Europe and North America . It is most common in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest, appearing in late summer to fall. The mushroom is four to six inches tall and has a cap six to sixteen inches across. The cap, gills and stem are dingy white to cream but the cap and gills may darken with age. The smooth cap is flat at first but becomes funnel shaped as it matures and has inrolled margins that become furrowed or split with age. The thin gills are crowded and run down the short stem. The stem can be up to 1.5 inches across and is firm when young before turning spongy. The spores are cream colored and turn blue in the presence of iodine. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima)

Also known as  gladdon, Gladwin iris, and roast-beef plant, this rhizomatous, beardless iris is a herbaceous perennial native to northern Africa and Europe where it grows in open woods, sea cliffs, and shady places.  It is a member of the iris family, Iridaceaea, that also includes gladiolus, crocus, and freesia.   Plants grow 1.5 to 2′ tall and have dark green sword-like leaves up to 24″ long.  In late spring pale lavender flowers appear on 10-24″ scapes and give way  to seedpods that break open in the fall to reveal clusters of bright coral seeds that persist into winter.  The seeds are not attractive to birds but the seeds in their pods are very desirable for dried arrangements.  Plants are grown primarily for their attractive seed pods and foliage, but the seed pods may not appear until the 2nd or 3rd year.  This iris is especially shade tolerant and is a good choice for a shade garden especially among shrubs.  The common name, stinking iris and roast-beef plant come from the unpleasant beefy odor of the leaves when bruised.  The genus name, Iris, honors the Greek goddess of the rainbow.  The specific epithet, foetidissima, is the Latin word meaning very foul smelling and refers to the unpleasant odor of the bruised leaves. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Farming

Farming Gail GibonsIn her delightful book, Farming, Gail Gibbons explores the activities that take place throughout the year on an old fashioned, idealized, family-owned, small farm probably in the Northeast. The farmer grows everything from vegetables to fruit and grain, and raises cows, sheep, pigs, horses, and poultry. He also keeps bees and taps the maple trees for syrup. Readers see how both indoor and outdoor activities on the farm change from spring to summer to fall and then winter. [click to continue…]

Daucus carotaA native of Europe and southwest Asia, this tough biennial has naturalized in Canada and US where it grows in disturbed sites and has become invasive in many areas and is considered a noxious weed.  Queen Anne’s lace is a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae) and related to celery, dill, angelica, cilantro, and parsley as well as to poison hemlock. It is also the plant from which all cultivated carrots were cultivated. The leaves are roughly triangular in shape, tripinnate, and finely divided. The small cream-colored flowers are carried in dense flat umbels up to three inches across from May to October. Some flowerheads have a single red to purple flower in the center which is believed to attract insects. As the flower heads mature they curl up to form a bird’s nest like structure. Care should be taken when handling the plant because the leaves can cause skin irritation in susceptible individuals. [click to continue…]

Fern leaf yarrow is a herbaceous perennial native to the Causcasus, Afghanistan, and central Asia. It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisies, sunflower, and lettuce. Growing 3-4′ tall plants form attractive mounds of basal foliage with deeply divided  pinnate leaves that are fern-like, hairy, aromatic and up to 10″ long. The  flowerheads consist of tiny yellow ray surrounding a center of tiny yellow disc flowers. and appear in dense flattened compound corymbs up to 5″ across on stiff, erect stems in summer. Flowerheads are good in both fresh and dried arrangements. The genus name, Achilles, honors the hero of the Trojan Wars in Greek mythology who is said to have used the plant medicinally to stop bleeding and heal the woulds of his soldiers. The epithet, filipendula, is the diminutive of the Latin words filum meaning thread, and pendulus, meaning hanging, and refers to the leaves.
[click to continue…]

Genus: Heucheras for the Garden

‘Palace Purple’

The genus Heuchera is in the saxifrage family, Saxifragaceae, that also includes foamflower (tiarella), pigsqueak, and false spirea (Astilbe).  It consists of over fifty species of herbaceous perennials that are native to North America but only a few are cultivated in gardens.  Heucheras are long lived and some are grown for their ornamental foliage  while other are grown for their attractive flowers.  All are evergreen except in very cold climates.  Growing from stout woody crowns with fibrous roots, plants have rounded to kidney shaped basal leaves are carried on long petioles to form a mound.  They may be lobed and toothed, zoned or mottled, and usually hairy.  The bell-shaped flowers are carried on wiry stems in racemes or panicles well above the foliage and range in color from white to pink and red. Petals may be small or absent but the sepals provide blooms. Heucheras like full sun or partial shade and need shade where summers are hot.  Soil should be organically rich and very well-drained.  Propagation is by seed or division.  Deadheading prolongs bloom time, winter mulching in cold climates reduces heaving, and division every 3-5 years rejuvenates plants.  The genus name Heuchera honors Johann Heinrich von Heucher (1677-1747) who was a botanist, physician, and medicinal plant expert at Wittenberg University, Germany. [click to continue…]