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Fennel is a herbaceous perennial native to the shores of the Mediterranean but has naturalized in the US where it grows along roadsides, in pastures and in other open sites and is considered invasive in Washington and California. The plants grow 4- 8’ tall and have hollow stems bearing 16” long dissected yellow-green leaves with thread like segments.   Twenty to fifty tiny yellow flowers appear in terminal compound umbels 2-6” wide in mid to late summer and give way to aromatic seeds heads.  Leaves and seeds have an anise like flavor and aroma and are used in cooking.  Fennel is also a food plant for the larvae of some swallowtail butterflies.  USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9

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Hairy angelica is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the parsley family, Apiaceae, that also includes celery, Queen Anne’s lace, and poison hemlock.  It is native to Eastern US from Massachusetts to Minnesota, south to Florida, Mississippi and Arkansas where it grows in open woods, clearings, meadows, glades, and roadsides.  Plants grow 1-4′ tall from a deep, branched taproot and have stems covered with fine white hairs at their extremities.  The dark green leaves are 2-3 times compound  and have elliptical to lanceolate toothed leaflets up to 2″ long.  In summer, terminal flat-topped compound umbels of small white flowers appear on long somewhat hairy stalks. Plants are attractive in wildflower gardens and the flowers are good in the vase.  The genus name, Angelica, is the feminine form of the late Latin word angelicus and alludes to the supposed magical properties associated with the plant.  The specific epithet, venenosa, comes from the Latin word venenum meaning poison, and refers to the toxic nature of the root. [click to continue…]

IMG_3947Chinese juniper is an evergreen coniferous tree or shrub native to Asia but is widely grown as an ornamental. It is a member of the cypress family, Cupressaceae, that also includes redwood, sequoia, cedar, and arborvitae. Plants may have two kinds of leaves, scale-like or needle-like. They usually produce male and female reproductive parts on different plants and have blue-black berry-like cones with a waxy bloom and two to four seeds. In the mountains of Japan they often have gnarled and twisted trunks and branches with large areas of exposed dead wood that is particularly suitable for jins and sharis. Chinese juniper can be shaped into almost any style. The cultivar ‘Shimpaku’, is one of the most popular cultivars for bonsai. It is a slow growing dwarf native to Japan and has beautiful bark and foliage.

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Also known as eagle fern, braken is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the Dennstaedtiaceae family that includes 10 genera and 240 species of ferns.  It is one of the most abundant ferns in the world and native to most of  North America where it grows in a variety of habitats including open woodlands, meadows,  savannas, thickets, marshes,burned areas and roadsides.  The plants grow 3-4′ tall and consist of a rhizomatous root system that sends up coarse triangular fronds that are 2-3 times pinnately compound.  The  fronds are yellowish green to green and those of plants  grown in the shade may be almost horizontal.  The margins of the leaflets are rolled under and those of fertile fronds bear the reproductive structures.  The fronds are sensitive to the cold and usually die back at the time of the first frost. Braken is a vigorous plant and can become invasive because of its creeping rootstock.   The fiddleheads that appear in the spring are sometimes eaten but contain carcinogens.  The genus name, Pteridium, comes from Greek work pteris meaning fern.  The specific epithet, aquilinum, comes from the Latin word aquila meaning eagle and refers either to the appearance of the transverse section of the root or the resemblance of the frond to an eagle’s wing.  The common name, braken, is an old English term for the plant. [click to continue…]

Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines: Balm Wine

Balm, perhaps better known as lemon balm, is a herbaceous perennial and member of the mint family, Labiatae, that also includes basil, rosemary, and ajuga.  It is native to the Mediterranean area, North Africa and central Asia but was introduced to North America by the early colonists who used it at a culinary and medicinal herb as well as for cleaning, and making cosmetics. It has a light lemon flavor with a touch of mint and has been used to make liquers as well as wine. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The Cannabis Encyclopedia

The Cannabis Encyclopedia by Jorge Cervantes (aka George Van Patten) is an exhaustive treatment of marijuana culture and uses. Cervantes is known for his expertise in growing marijuana and his book , Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible, is used as a text book at universities. It is not surprising, therefore, that this encyclopedia focuses on growing cannabis, touching other topics more lightly and in varying detail. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: American Vetch (Vicia americana)

Also known as purple vetch, American deer vetch, and stiff-leaf vetch, this perennial vine is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupine, mimosa and black locust.  It is native to North America from Alaska to Ontario and New York, south to Virginia, Kentucky and Arizona and can be found growing in a variety of habitats from swampy woods and mixed forests to chaparral and badlands.  Plants have a deeply branched taproot up to 40″ long, rhizomes, and a climbing stem that grows up to 4′ tall.  The pinnately compound leaves have 8 to 18 oblong leaflets up to 1.5″ long and have tendrils for climbing.  In summer up to 10 purple flowers appear in racemes.  Each pea-like flower is up to 1.5″ long and has a backwards curving banner petal and four smaller inner petals.  The fruit is a flat pod 1-1.5″ long and bears two to several seeds.  American vetch is valuable source of food for both domestic and wild animals.  In addition, it is especially valuable as a cover crop because it adds nitrogen to the soil, and can be useful in restoration projects. The genus name, Vicia, is the ancient Roman name of the plant.  The specific epithet, americana, refers to the geographic range of the plant. [click to continue…]

In spite of its name, Aztec lily is not a lily and belongs to the amaryllis  family, Amaryllidaceae, that also includes snowdrops, narcissus, and crinum lily.  It is native to Mexico and Guatemala where it grows on rocky hillsides, but is grown in zones 8-11 as a garden plant and elsewhere as a potted plant . In spring the plants grow from a bulb and consist of a rosette of strap shaped leaves up to twenty inches long and a single leafless flowering scape up to twelve inches tall.  The flower is about five inches across and bright red. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rosa ‘Irish Elegance’

Scarlet buds open to 5 petaled flowers of apricot and yellow fading to pink and cream. The flowers are up to 5″ across and have 4-8 petals, a flat bloom form and a strong sweet fragrance. The vigorous bush has medium green foliage, repeats well, and is very disease resistance. It tolerates poor soil but in the right site can grow over 8’ tall.

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Book Review: The 22 Day Revolution Cookbook

The 22 Day Revolution CookbookThis cookbook by Marco Borges is a follow up to his book on a plant-based diet that he believes will lead to a healthier lifestyle, weight loss, and/or reduced risk of serious health issues. It provides four flexible programs and the recipes to carry them out. Two of the plans are for losing weight, two for maintain or building muscle. Based on the premise that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit the four plans aim to change eating habits and are adaptable and have flexible menus. [click to continue…]