Book Review: Bats

by Karen on October 24, 2014

Bats Gail GibbonsBats are scary to most people yet few have actually seen one. In her book, Bats, Gail Gibbons presents bats in a positive way and creates an appealing image for them. Written for children ages eight and up, this non-fiction book introduces young readers to many different kinds of bats in a way that fosters an appreciation of their unique characteristics and value in nature. [click to read full post]

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Beneficial Spiders: Wolf Spiders

by Karen on October 23, 2014

_Spider Wolf_Carrying_Egg_Sac_(Masked)If you have seen a large, hairy spider with long legs  in your garden it might be a wolf spider.  Actually wolf spider refers to a family of spiders and includes over 3,000 species world wide and 200 species in North America.  The name comes from the fact that these spiders chase their prey and pounce on them (like a wolf).  Wolf spiders can be distinguished from other spiders by the arrangement of their eight eyes in three rows; the lowest row has four small eyes, the middle row two large eyes, and the top row two small lateral eyes. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Royal fern (Osmunda regalis)

by Karen on October 22, 2014

1aRoyal fern is a deciduous perennial found on all continents except Australia. The family, Osmundaceae date back 230,000,000 years to the Permian days before man and other mammals but when reptiles, including dinosaurs, first inhabited the earth. Today, royal ferns grow in clumbs in wet areas such as bogs, swamps, and stream edges. Their common name probably derives from the fact that they are the largest of the European ferns with fronds that can measure up to six feet long. The green fronds are bipinnate and resemble the leaves of members of the pea-family such as locust. Fertile fronds have brown spore-bearing leaflets (pinnae) at their tips, giving rise to another common name, flowering fern. The plants have large rhizomes bearing masses of fibrous roots that is used as a potting medium for orchids. Royal ferns give a tropical look to any site, naturalize well, and are an excellent choice for water gardens and the wettest part of a rain garden. [click to read full post]

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Holly miniature Malpighia_coccigera 2A native of the West Indies, this is an evergreen shrub that is also called Singapore holly. It has small shiny-green leaves that have spiny-toothed edges and resemble those of holly, giving the plant it’s common names, but in fact, it is not a holly or even related. Throughout the year light pink, dime-sized flowers are produced sporadically and may be followed by pea sized red berries. The wiry branches are open and have gray-white bark. This is not an easy plant for bonsai because of its demanding requirements and its tendency to drop its leaves when the requirements are not met. All the classic styles are possible but the broom style is challenging and requires careful selective pruning. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Osage Orange Maclura pomifera)

by Karen on October 20, 2014

osage orange fr n lvsThis deciduous small to medium sized tree is a native in parts of Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma but has spread widely through the Great Plains where was planted in the mid-1930′s as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Great Plains Shelter-belt” WPA project. It’s use as a windbreak gave rise to a second common name, “hedge apple”. Mature trees are arching and spreading, and branches have half inch long spines and exude a milky sap when cut. The shiny dark green leaves are long ovals ending with a pointed tip and may turn bright yellow in fall before falling later in the season than most other trees. Inconspicuous green male and female flowers are produced on different trees in early summer and female flowers give rise to conspicuous pale green fruits that are four to five inches in diameter. Each fruit has a rough chartreuse green exterior and actually consist of numerous small fruits that grow together. Female flowers may produce fruit even when not fertilized but the fruit lacks seeds. Fruit litter under female trees can be a problem. The fruits are produced in the fall and are attractive in arrangements. The fleshy roots have orange bark. The wood of osage orange is very strong and Native Americans used it for bows while ranchers and farmers used it for such items as fence posts and tool handles. [click to read full post]

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Home Outside 2A home is more than just a house; it is the landscape around the house too. With this premise author, Julie Moir Messervy, takes the reader of Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love through the process of turning the property around the house into a landscape that provides pleasure for both living and playing. She explores this idea of a landscape as a pleasure ground and explains how to organize and personalize the spaces around the house to turn them into a home outside. [click to read full post]

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celosia-n-portulaca orangeThis combination depends on identical colors with contrasting texture for its effectiveness. Here I chose identical shades of orange but shades of red, yellow or pink would work as well. The smooth, satiny petals and the small succulent leaves of the moss rose contrast nicely with the fuzzy flower heads and large coarse leaves of the celosia. These common annuals are usually in bloom when you buy them so you can easy match the colors. The combination will last all summer into fall. Both plants do well in full sun and well-drained soil. The celosia resents drying out and profits from fertilizer during the growing season; the moss rose is more forgiving towards dryness and needs no fertilizer. [click to read full post]

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Dark Green Bulrush  814288This herbaceous perennial is native to North America where it is found in wet lands such as marshes, low meadows, pond and stream edges, and drainage ditches. In spite of the common name bullrush, it is not a rush but a sedge. Sedges can be distinguished from similar looking rushes and grasses by their stems that are triangular in cross section and their leaves that are spirally arranged in three ranks. Green bulrush has unbranched culms (stems) bearing up to eight linear, alternate leaves about one and a half inch long. The leaves are dark to yellowish green and tend to be floppy. Terminal inflorescences are produced on fertile culms in early to mid- summer and consist of spikelets that form irregular masses of small flowers that are greenish at first but turn chocolate brown with maturity. Tiny one seeded fruits with 5-6 bristles follow the flowers. Green bulrush is a cool weather plant and grows best in spring and fall, forming colonies by means of the rhizomatious fibrous root system. It is an excellent choice for the wettest part of a rain garden and provides important food and cover for waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds and muskrats. [click to read full post]

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bishops-weed Aegopodium podagraria Variegatum pansiesFor a spring combination that will brighten the wakening garden try growing yellow and white Johnny Jump Ups. Plant the Johnnies in the fall after the bishop’s weed has succumbed to frost, enjoy them all winter, and then enjoy the bishop’s weed as it emerges in the spring with its creamy white edges. In warm climates the Johnnies will fade by the beginning of summer but the colorful leaves of the bishop’s weed will last well into fall. It will even bloom with white Queen Anne ’s lace type of flower heads but the real value of the plant is the foliage. Beware, however, the bishop’s weed can become invasive if it likes its location; part sun to part shade and plenty of moisture. [click to read full post]

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Ruscus aculeatusButcher’s broom, also known by many other common names including knee holly, is a low growing broadleaf evergreen shrub native to the Mediterranean and western Europe. The thick, glossy, dark green structures that appear to be leaves are actually modified stems called cladophylls. They have spines on their tips and bear the flowers and fruits. The true leaves are microscopic. Tiny, greenish-white male and female flowers are usually produced singly or in pairs on separate plants in spring and female flowers produce attractive waxy red berries in late summer and fall. Flowers containing both male and female parts are sometimes produced but if berries are wanted both male and female plants should be planted. Butcher’s broom is tolerant of a variety of soils, is drought tolerant, and does well in part to full shade. It is an excellent choice for a wooded area and makes an attractive hedge. In the florist trade the greens are known as Italian Ruscus and are extensively used in wedding work. [click to read full post]

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