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Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines: Daisy Wine

The name daisy probably originally referred to the English daisy Bellis perennis, a low growing herbaceous perennial native to Europe and Asia that was a favorite of English poets from Chaucer to to Keats and Wordsworth. In more modern times many plants have been dubbed daisies but the two that are most probably used for wine making are oxeye and Shasta daisies. They are both taller plants than the English daisy and have flower heads composed of relatively long white ray flowers surrounding a center of yellow disc flowers. In her book, Old Time Recipes for Home made Wines, my paternal grandmother Helen S. Wright, includes a recipe for daisy wine but does not specify the kind of daisy. Either the oxeye or Shasta daisy would make a good wine but my Grandmother Wright probably meant the oxeye daisy because  Luther Burbank introduced the quadruple hybrid Shasta daisy only a little before she was gathering the recipes for her book. [click to continue…]

Rocky Mountain bee plant is an annual and a member of the Cleomaceae, a family closely related to mustards.  It is native to western North America where it grows in prairies, open woods and disturbed sites from southern British Columbia, east to Minnesota, and south to Arizona and New Mexico.  Plants grow 4-5′ tall and have a leafy branched stem bearing palmately compound leaves with 3 leaflets. From May to September the flowers appear in terminal racemes.  Each nectar filled flower has 4 white to pink or purple petals and six 3″ long stamens that protrude beyond the petals.  The cluster of flowers continue to elongate during the season so flowers and 4″ long drooping seed pods appear together and have a light airy spidery look.  The flowers are very attractive to bees hence he common name but have a foul smell and are avoided by livestock. The genus name, Cleome, is of unknown origin.  The specific epithet, serrulata, comes from the Latin word serratus, meaning saw-toothed and refers to the leaf margins. [click to continue…]

Clitopilus_prunulus_Also called bread dough clitopilus, the miller is wide spread in North America and Europe growing alone, in small groups, or in troops in deciduous or coniferous woodlands in autumn. It also can be found in grassy areas but always near trees. The mushroom is 1 ½ to 3 ¾ inches tall and has a cap 1 ½ to 4 ½ inches across. The cap is white and downy with a matt finish and margins that are often inrolled. It is convex at first becoming flattened, sometimes funnel-shaped, with age, and may become lumpy and irregular. The gills are off white turning to pink and conspicuously run down the stem. The short fleshy stem is downy, off-white, curved at the base, and may be slightly striated. The spores are pinkish. [click to continue…]

Pickerel weed is a deciduous emergent aquatic plant and a member of the Pontederiaceae a small family of tropical and subtropical aquatic plants including water hyacinth.  It is native to wetlands of North America from Canada south to Argentina where it grows in pond and lake margins, marshes, swamps, and slow-moving streams.  The rhizomatous root system produces glossy arrowhead-shaped green leaves with heart shaped bases that are up to 10″ long and rise well above the water surface.  In summer, flowering stalks carry 3-6″ long densely packed spikes of tiny, tubular blue to purple flowers 1-2′ above the water surface.  A good choice for water  and bog gardens, pond and stream edges.  The genus name, Pontederia, honors Guilio Pontedera (1688-1757) professor of Botany at Padua.  the specific epithet, cordata, comes from the Latin word cor, cordis, meaning heart and refers to the shape of the leaf base. [click to continue…]

snapdragonsSnapdragons are tender perennials usually grown as annual and are native to Europe, North Africa and the US. They are members of the plantago family, Plantaginaceae, that also includes foxgloves, turtleheads, and Veronicas. The leaves are lance-shaped and green or bronze purple. The flowers are tubular, two-lipped, and are carried on upright spikes. They are fragrant and may be white, pink, mauve, yellow or bicolored. Snapdragons are cool weather plants and grow well in northern areas where summers are cool but will not grow in the heat of Southern summers. They do well there, however, in fall and spring, and may over-winter. Dwarf, medium, and tall varieties are available. Bumblebees enjoy the nectar and as a bonus, many songbirds enjoy the copious amount of seed the plants produce. [click to continue…]

Genus: Alternanthera For the Garden

Alternanthera is a genus of annual or perennial herbs or subshrubs in the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae, that also includes beets, spinach, celosia, and gomphrena. The genus consists of up to 200 species and includes garden plants as well as aquatic weeds such as alligator weed, A. philoxeroides.  Most of the species are native to the tropics and subtropics in the Americas with some in Asia, Africa, and Australia. The plants may be erect, prostrate, decumbent, or floating and have opposite leaves with entire margins.  The flowers are inconspicuous and are borne in axillary or terminal spikes or globose heads and have lack petals.  The garden Alternanthera are grown for their foliage and were especially popular in Victorian times when the formal style of planting demanded plants that could be cut to within 6″ of the ground and shaped.  Plants can be used in containers, as houseplants, and in the border.  They develop best color in full sun, need consistent moisture, and are perennial in USDA  Hardiness Zones 10-11. [click to continue…]

Also called lady’s glove, fairy gloves, and fairy bells, this herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial is a member of the plantain family, Plantaginaceae, that also includes penstemon, turtlehead, and speedwell.  It is native to disturbed sites of  Europe and Asia but naturalized in parts of North America and is considered invasive in the Pacific Northwest and parts of central and northern California.In the first year the plant produces an evergreen basal rosette of light green oblong leaves that are wrinkled and downy. In the second year it produces a one-sided raceme 3-6.6′ tall with 2-3″ inch long pendulous purple finger-like flowers with white spots inside. The flowering begins in late spring, continues for about a month and are attractive to humming birds and bees.  The fruit is a capsule containing numerous tiny seeds that are attractive to birds. Plants freely reseed.  The leaves, flowers and seeds are poisonous to humans and some animals. An excellent choice for a wooland or wildflower garden.  Many cultivars have been developed that expand the colors available to pink,yellow, rose and white. The genus name Digitalis comes from the Latin word digitus meaning finger and refers to the shape of the flower.  The specific epithet, purpurea, comes from the Latin word purpura meaning purple, and refers to the color of the species’ flower. [click to continue…]

Book Review: What is Climate Change?

Gail Herman’s book, What is Climate Change?, provides a basic introduction to the subject for young readers 8-12 years old.  Beginning with a brief introduction to climate change and the geological history of the earth, Herman turns to the changes in the way people live brought about by the Industrial Revolution and how these changes affect the atmosphere.  Throughout the discussion the author emphasizes the interrelationship of all the factors that cause climate change and shows how scientists have studied them.  Herman makes the point that because climate scientists don’t agree on all the details of global warming, some people question everything climate scientist say and then goes on to describe the political aspects of the issue. Final chapters deal with the results of climate change on the physical environment as well as with the impact on human activities. [click to continue…]

Shakespeare’s Garden: Carnation

Dianthus caryophyllusShakespeare’s carnation, also called gillyflower and clove pink, was probably the herbaceous perennial Dianthus caryophyllus. The genus Dianthus is in the family Caryophyllaceae and has over 300 species including pinks and sweet William. The sweetly scented flowers of D. caryophyllus are borne singly or in groups of up to five in summer. Each flower has five petals with “pinked” or fringed edges and is one to two inches across. The original species was purplish pink but modern day hybrids are all shade of pink, red, white, and even yellow and green. The leaves are gray-green to blue-green, linear, and up to six inches long. Plants grow up to thirty inches tall and need full sun, and very well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil. They are hardy in USDA zones 4-9 [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea)

Golden Alexander is a short lived herbaceous perennial and a member of the carrot family, Apiaceae, that also includes parsley, celery, and poison hemlock.  It is a native  native to open woods, floodplains, meadows, thickets, and prairies from Quebec and Saskatchewan, south to Florida and Texas.  Plants grows 1.5’ to 3’ tall from a coarsely fibrous root system and have bight green hairless stems and compound biternate leaves with 3-5 toothed leaflets.  In late spring tiny yellow flowers appear in terminal flat-topped umbels 2-3″ across. but unlike the flowers of other plants in the carrot family, the central flower of the umbel is stalkless.  Although plants are short lived they reseed heavily.   A good choice for a wildflower garden, meadow garden, or native plant garden.  The genus name, Zizia, honors the German botanist Johann Baptist Ziz (1779-1829). The specific epithet, aurea, is the Latin word meaning golden and refers to the color of the flowers. [click to continue…]