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strawberryStrawberry wine conjures up thoughts of spring and a cool refreshing drink with a great aroma and taste. Although modern recipes call for such things as pectin enzyme, wine tannins, and acid blend, the recipe of my maternal grandmother sticks to the basics. In her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, she gives two recipes for strawberry wine and I give them both below. The first is so skimpy it is difficult to interpret; the other is more detailed and bound to be good because whiskey is one of the ingredients. [click to continue…]

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Leonurus_cardiaca pl 2Also called lion’s tail, lion’s ea and cowthwort, this perennial weed is a member of the mint family and is native to Eurasia. It has spread to North American and is now common in much of the US and southern Canada where it can be found in disturbed areas such as roadsides and abandon fields as well as woodlands and garden beds. Motherwort likes partial shade and fertile, moist, well-drained soil but rarely invades lawns because it cannot tolerate mowing. It has a long history of use as both a medicinal and culinary herb in North America and abroad.

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cotinus-obovatus dll colorationAmerican smoke tree is a deciduous large shrub or small tree native to Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, and Tennessee where it grows in woodland edges, clearings, glades, and rock outcroppings. It is very rare in the wild and may be facing extinction there but is grown in botanical gardens throughout the world. A member of the cashew family, Anacardiaceae, that also includes sumac, mango, and poison ivy, it features beautifully twisted branches and bluish-green, five inch long, paddle-like leaves that turn orange to red in autumn. In summer long hairs surrounding the  large panicles of inconspicuous flowers form pink to purplish pink plumes that create a smoky haze giving rise to the common name.  American smoke tree can be used as a unique specimen, or can be cut down to the ground each year and used in a mixed border or as a hedge. An excellent choice for urban conditions. The generic name, Cotinus comes from the Greek word kotinos meaning wild olive, The specific epithet obovatus comes from the Latin word meaning in the shape of an inverted egg.and refers to the leaves. [click to continue…]

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Shakespeare’s Garden: Aconitum

Aconitum_napellus_Also known as wolfsbane and monkshood, Shakespeare’s Aconitum is probably the perennial A. napellus, one of 100 species of Aconitum, a genus in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. A. nepallus is native to the mountains of France, Switzerland, and Germany and is a popular garden plant both in Europe and the US. It bears erect dense spikes 3-4’ tall of showy hooded flowers in late summer. Each flower is made up of five dark blue-violet petals-like sepals, the top-most of which forms a hood-like structure. The leaves are dark green on the upper surface, lighter green on the lower surface, and are deeply divided to the base and then divided a second time into fine linear segments. Plants like dappled shade and rich, evenly moist, well-drained soil, and are best suited to areas where night temperatures drop below 70 F degrees in summer. All parts of the plant are poisonous. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Rose ‘Parade’

Rose ParadeThe cup-shaped flowers are mildly fragrant and produced singly or in cluster of up to five. They are deep pink to cherry carmine with paler edges and have a slightly purple tint at the center. The abundant foliage is dark green , glossy, and especially resistant to black spot. The plants are vigorous, floriferous, and repeats well. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: Nature Crafts with a Microwave

Nature Crafts with a MicrowaveThe microwave offers crafter a quick easy way to dry plant material for a variety of craft uses. Dawn Cusick’s book, Nature Crafts with a Microwave, gives the novice crafter the basic techniques of microwave drying plus suggestions for using the dried material. She includes lots of full color pictures to show the potential for using dry materials and inspire the crafter to get the most out of their dried material.

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Rudbeckia_fulgidaOrange coneflower is a perennial in the Asteraceae family and is native to North America. It grows one to three feet tall and has flowerheads two to three inches across consisting of bright yellow-orange ray flowers surrounding black disc flowers. The flowers resembles those of black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) which is an annual. There are several good varities of orange coneflower the most of which is R. fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ .Unfortunately, it can not be grown from seed and must be propagated by division. Other varieties, however can be grown from seed although care must be taken to keep them separate for seed collection because they are cross pollinated by insects and may not breed true. Orange coneflowers like full to part sun and average garden soil with medium moisture.

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Stewartia malacodendronSilky stewartia is a multi-stemmed shrub or small tree native to the southeastern coast from Virginia to Florida and west to Louisiana where it grows in woodlands, woodland edges, and stream banks. It belongs to the tea family, Theaceae, that also includes camellias and franklinias. Horizontal branches carry light to dark green leaves that turn buttery yellow to orange and red in the fall. The oval to elliptical leaves have sharp pointed tips and finely toothed margins, and their undersides are covered with fine hair. In summer buds covered by two floral bracts with silvery hairs open to solitary, white, five-petaled flowers about three inches across with a center of forty to fifty purple stamens. The light gray bark is lightly flecked and especially attractive in winter. The genus name Stewartia honors John Stuart (1713-1792) a English patron of botany and horticulture. The specific epithet, malacodendron, comes from the Greek words malakos meaning soft, and dendron meaning tree. The common name, silky stewartia, refers to the texture of the petals. [click to continue…]

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Anemone SeptemberCharmJapanese anemones are herbaceous perennials native to China but widely cultivated in Japan. Most of the ones that are sold are actually hybrids that make excellent garden plants. The handsome dark green leaves have long stems (petioles) and form a substantial mound. Each leaf is palmately compound three toothed leaflets. The flowers are two to five inches across and lack petals but have white or pink petal-like bracts that that surround a yellow center. They may be single, semi-double or double and appear on wiry well branched stems in late summer into fall over a long bloom time. Plants may be slow to flower and once established can be very vigorous. Both the leaves and flowers are good in the vase together or separately. A whole stem of flowers can be used in large arrangements or short stems can be used in small ones. Individual flowers can be dried. There are many cultivars available including ‘September Charm’ (single,silvery pink), ‘Whirlwind’ (semi-double pure white), ‘Honorine Jobert’ (single, white), and ‘Prince Henry’ (semi-double deep rose). [click to continue…]

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Astilbe taquetii 2Fall astilbe is a clump forming herbaceous perennial native to China and a member of the saxifrage family, Saxifragaceae, that also includes Bergenia, foamflower (Tiarella), and coral bells (Heuchera). Hairy stems carry 2-3 ternately compound leaves with double toothed hairy leaflets . Narrow plume-like panicles of small tightly packed lilac flowers appear late in the season, two to four weeks after those of the popular Astilbe x arendsii. The seed heads that follow are attractive and persist into the winter. Fall astilbe is more tolerant of heat and drought that mamy astilbes and grow well in full sun in cool climates as long as the soil does not dry out. An excellent choice for shade and woodland gardens. The flowers are good cut flowers lasting over a week in the vase, and the seed heads are attractive in dried arrangements. The genus name Astilbe comes from the Greek words a meaning without and stilbe meaning brightness referring to the dull leaves of some species.

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