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Book Review: Singing Crickets

In her book Singing Crickets, author Linda Glaser introduces readers to the life cycle of field crickets. She begins when Papa cricket rubs his musical wings to attract Mama cricket and ends with his male offspring starting the cycle over again. We learn how crickets lay eggs, hear, molt, and flee from predators, and see eggs turn into larvae, and then adults. The emphasis is on the singing of the crickets with the author making the point that male crickets can sing only after they have molted for the last time and grow wings that they rub together to produce the singing sound. [click to continue…]

Shakespeare’s Garden: Rhubarb

Rhubarb Rheum palmatum Atrosanguineum MeRubarb (Rheum spp) is a genus of about 60 species and in the buckwheat family, Polygonaceae, that includes sorrel, sea grape, and the pesky Japanese knotweed. Rheum species have large deciduous triangular leaves with long fleshy stems (petioles) and although the leaves are toxic, the petioles are not. The flowers are small and carried in leafy panicles . Some species have been cultivated for their herbal qualities, others for food, and still other for their ornamental value in the garden. Rubarbs like fertile, moist soil and plenty of direct light. Rhubarbs are generally cool weather plants but hardiness varies with the species. [click to continue…]

Red calico plant is an evergreen tender perennial and  a member of the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae, that also includes beets, spinach, celosia, and gomphrena.  It is native to Brazil but is grown for its foliage in tropical and subtropical gardens and as a container and house plant.  The plants grow 8-20″ tall and have erect branched stems carrying  variegated foliage. The oval to spatulate leaves are green sometimes tinged with red or yellow and are carried on short petioles.  In fall 2-5 white to cream colored flowers appear in terminal or axillary globose clusters less than 1/4″ in diameter. The flowers lack petals and are not interesting ornamentally.  This species is very similar to A. ficoides and is sometimes considered a variety of that species.   The genus name, Alternanthera, comes from the Latin word alternus meaning alternating and the Greek word anthos meaning flower but later used to refer to the pollen bearing part of the flower.  The term refers to the arrangement of the anthers in the flowers.  The specific epithet, bettzickiana, honors the 19th century gardener August Bettzick. [click to continue…]

Carrotwood, also known as tuckeroo and beach tamarind, is a slender evergreen tree native to coastal areas and wetlands of Australia, Indonesia, and New Guinea. It is commonly used as a street tree especially in coastal areas of California but has become a problem in southern Florida where it has invaded spoil islands, beach dunes, marshes, tropical hammocks, pinelands, mangrove and cypress swamps, scrub habitats, and coastal strands. Plants have a single trunk with rough grey outer bark and orange inner bar. The compound leaves are yellow-green and glossy, and have four to twelve leaflets two to eight inches long. Separate small white to yellow male and female flowers appear on the same tree in winter and female flowers give way to capsules ¼-1” in diameter. The capsules are orange to yellow when ripe in the summer and contain three black seeds. Fruit is attractive to birds but can cause litter problems. Plant prefer full sun and wet to moist soil, but tolerate drought and salt. USDA Hardiness Zones 10-11 [click to continue…]

Beefsteak plant is a clump-forming broadleaf evergreen shrub native to Polynesia and is a member of the spurge family, Euphorbaceae, that also includes poinsettia, croton, and caster oil plant.  It grows  60-79 ” tall and has densely branched stems carrying ovate  leaves  with pointed tips and toothed margins.  The leaves are up to 6″ long and dark green variegated with pink.  Axillary catkins of male and female flowers are produced on different plants in summer.  Male catkins are  4.7″ long while female catkins are 3″ long.  The inconspicuous flowers are small, petaless, and greenish.  The fruits are tiny red capsules.  The plant is grown for its striking foliage that can add a tropical look to a garden as a hedge, specimen, or container plant.  If grown in a container, the plant will be smaller and can be taken in doors in the fall in hardiness zones colder than 9.   The genus name, Acalypha, comes from akalephe, the ancient Greek name for nettle, and refers to the nettle-like appearance of the leaves.  The specific epithet, godseffiana, honors Joseph Godseff (ca. 1846 – 1921), a professional English plant collector. [click to continue…]

Native to the Spain and Portugal, this procumbent perennial, often grown as an annual, is a member of the plantain family, Plantaginaceae, that also includes turtlehead, foxglove, and Veronica.  It grows 2-3″ tall and has trailing stems with coarsely toothed, gray-green leaves that are kidney shaped, up to 2″ long, and softly hairy.  From summer into fall, 2-lipped, snapdragon-like flowers appear singly in the leaf axils.  They are pale yellow with deep yellow throats and light purple veins.  Plants grow best where summer temperatures are cool and winters are relatively dry.  They are a good choice for containers, ground cover,  and rock and wall gardens.  The genus name, Asarina, is the Spanish vernacular name for Antirrhinum (snapdragon) .  The specific epithet, procumbens, is the Latin word meaning leaning forward and refers to the trailing growth habit of the species. [click to continue…]

My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright included in her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, a recipe for something she called “malt wine, or English sherry”.  The name “malt wine” suggests an alcoholic beverage made from germinated cereal grain that has been dried with hot air, while sherry suggests suggests a fortified wine from the Spanish province of Andalucia.   Grandmother’s recipe conjures up visions of neither. [click to continue…]

Native to Mexico, Central and northern South America, this half-hardy annual has naturalized in North America and is considered invasive in some areas.  It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce.  Plants grow up to 7′ tall and have branched  four-sided stems that are  hairy and carry 12″ long leaves with lance-like divisions.  The flowerheads are up to 2.5″ across and consist of yellow ray flowers surrounding yellow disc flowers.  Plants often self-seed and seed can be collected in the fall for spring planting.   The flowers are attractive to birds and butterflies, especially monarchs.  Many cultivars are available that vary most significantly in plant size and  flowerhead fullness and color.  Suphur cosmos is an excellent choice for a cottage garden and seed can be planted in both spring and mid summer for a continuous bloom into fall.  The genus name, Cosmos, comes from the Greek word kosmos, meaning beautiful.  The specific epithet, sulphreus, is the Latin word for the sulfur and refers to the flower color of the species.

Type: Half hardy annual

Bloom: Flowerheads up to 2.5″ across with yellow ray and yellow disc flowers in summer

Size: 1-7′ H 2′ W

Light: Full sun; tolerates some shade.

Soil: Average to lean, dry to medium moist, well-drained; over rich soil produces floppy plants.

Hardiness: Half hardy

Care: Deadhead to prolong bloom time; cut back tall lanking plants; srseed in mid summmer to extend color in the garden into fall.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Sow seed directly in the garden just before the last frost in spring.  Alternatively, sow seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost and plant out spacing 2′ apart after the last frost.  Reseed in mid summer.  Seeds take 7-21 days to germinate at 75 F and 50-60 days to flower after germination.

Companion Plants: Marigold, canna, crocosmia, cleome

Outstanding Selections:

‘Bright Eyes’ (yellow and gold flowerheads; 4′ tall plants)

‘Diablo’ ( intense orange red flowerheads; 30″ tall)

‘Klondyke Mix’ (  yellow to orange and scarlet flowerheads)

‘Ladybird Dwarf Red’, ‘Ladybird Dwarf Gold’, ‘Ladybird Dwarf Orange’, and ‘Ladybird Dwarf Lemon’ (12-16″tall ; early flowering; heat tolerant)

‘Lemon Twist’ (sulfur yellow flowerheads; 30″ tall)

‘Polidor’ (semi-double golden yellow, orange and red flowerheads; 30″ tall)

‘Sunny Gold’ (golden yellow flowerheads; 30″ tall)

‘Sunset’ (double or semi-double red or scarlet orange flowerheads; 35″ tall)

Photo Credit: Shagil Kannur Wikipedia


Plant Profile: Rose ‘Mrs. Oakley Fisher’

Pointed buds open to single, lightly cupped flowers  up to 3″ across with petals that are a mixture of copper, orange, and apricot.  The petals tend to be lighter and more yellow towards the base and pinker and darker on the edges.    In the center is a mass of unevened length gold to amber stamens.  The flowers are fragrant and appear in flushes throughout the season.  The erect compact bushes are vigorous, healthy, and have crimson new growth, glossy dark green leaves, and large prickles.  ‘Mrs Oakly Fisher’ can be grown in a container or used in a border where its compact growth habit and flower color fit in easily with other plants. [click to continue…]

An Himalyan native, this semi-evergreen perennial is also called whortleberry-leaved knotweed and creeping fleeceflower and is a member of the knotweed family, Polygonaceae, that also includes dock, rhubarb, and buckwheat.  Growing 6-12″ tall, it forms a dense mound of reddish stems carrying small glossy, ovate leaves that have red and gold tints in the fall.  In late summer to early fall slender stems carry dense spikes or red to pink flowers.  Rock knotweed is an excellent choice for a ground cover, edger, border, rock or wall garden.  It flowers best in areas with cool evening temperatures.  The genus name, Persicaria, comes from the Latin words persica meaning peach-like, and sagitta meaning arrow, and refers to appearance of the leaf of some species.  The specific epithet, vaccinifolia, comes from the Latin Vaccinium, the genus of plants like blueberries, and folia, meaning leaf, and refers the similarity in appearance of the leaves of the two genera.   [click to continue…]