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Japanese honeysuckle is a  deciduous to semi-evergreen perennial vine and a member of the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, that also includes snowberry, weigelia, and abelia.  It is native to eastern Asia but was introduced into the US in the 1800s  as an ornamental and now can be found from Maine to Florida and from Michigan and Wisconsin south to Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.  Plants prefer moist  fertile soil in partial sun but tolerate shade and grow in disturbed sites such as roadsides,  railroad tracks, field edges,  woodland openings,  orchards, and gardens. Although the cultivar ‘Hall’s Prolific’/’Halliana’ is a popular groundcover, the species can become very invasive and choke desirable shrubs and trees. [click to continue…]

Native to North America, this annual aquatic fern is also known as fairy moss and is a member of the Salviniaceae, a small family of about 20 ferns. The plants are about an inch tall and are usually found floating on the surface of still or slowly moving water where they form a mat. Prostate, branched stems carry feather like roots suspended in the water and green to gray-green fronds that are scale-like, bilobed, and carried in two rows. The upper frond floats on the surface of the water while the lower frond is submerged below it. In bright sunlight or cool temperatures the fronds become rusty red. Mosquito fern grows rapidly and is attractive in ponds and water gardens but can become a nuisance. With the aid of the symbiotic blue-green algae, Anabaena azollae, the fronds are able to fix nitrogen and so have been used in rice paddies as fertilizer. The genus name, Azolla, may be from the Greek words azo meaning to dry and allyo meaning to kill referring the the fact that the plant is killed by drought. Alternatively, the name may be derived from a word used by the local population where the plant was collected. The specific epithet, caroliniana, in the Latinized form of Carolina referring to the states where it is native.

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celosia

Cock’s comb will add vivid color and long bloom time to your garden with little effort on your part. Growing 6-30″ tall, plants produce feathery spikes that are 4-12″ long and a bright orange, scarlet or yellow.  The flowers start blooming as soon as temperatures are warm and continue all summer adding color, upright form, and a soft texture to the garden when many other plants are mounds of round, many-petaled flowers or not blooming at all. The plants love heat but struggle in rain and humidity. They are an excellent choice for beds, borders and the flowers are good in the vase either fresh or dried. Cultivars are available that vary most significantly in plant height, length of flowering spike, flower color, and leaf color.

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Indigenous to South Africa, calico kitten is an evergreen succulent shrub and member of the stonecrop family, Crassulaceae, that also includes sedum, jade plant, and hens and chicks. It grows 2-4″ tall and has trailing stems bearing heart-shaped leaves of green, creamy white, and rosy pink. Star-shaped, upward facing, white flowers appear in spring and occasionally later in the season. In warm climates USDA Hardiness Zones 9 and warmer, the plants may be grown outside and are attractive in xeriscapes, wall gardens and rock gardens. They also do well in containers and can be grown as houseplants. The genus name, Crassula, is from the Latin word crassus, meaning thick and refers to the succulent leaves. The specific epithet, pellucida, is the Latin word meaning very bright and perhaps refers to the colorful foliage.

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Also called grass rush, this aquatic perennial is native to in Eurasia and Africa  where it grows in the margins of still and slowly moving water. It is a member of the Butomaceae, a small family of only one or two species, and is not a true rush.  The plants have a rhizomatous root system and grow to about 5′ tall.  The linear leaves arise in two rows along the rhizome and are up to 3′ long, pointed, and twisted.  From mid to late summer terminal umbels of 20 to 50 light-pink to rose-colored scented flowers appear.  Each flower is about 1″ across and has 3 petals and 3 petaloid, slightly smaller sepals.  The fruit is a many-seeded capsule that ripens from late summer to early fall. [click to continue…]

Shrubs and trees are versatile and can be an important part of the garden.  They can provide structure,  define beds,  serve as a backdrop or focal point, add color,  create privacy, brighten fall coloration, lend winter interest,  and attract wildlife.   Shrubs and small trees can be used as hedges, windbreaks,  foundation plantings, and specimen plants.  No matter what you want for your garden there is probably a shrub or tree that can help you get it. [click to continue…]

Native to South Africa and Namibia, this aromatic subshrub is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflower, yarrow, and lettuce. The plants form dense bushy mounds with horizontal, fibrous stems that form roots at ground level and then grow erect. Growing 12-24″ tall, the plants have grayish, pinnately compound leaves that are egg or wedge-shaped, covered with matted hairs, and resemble pine needles. The terminal yellow flowerheads are ball-like, 1/2″ across, and consist of disc flowers enclosed in graduated phyllaries. They appear from spring into summer and give way to 5-angled achenes with cup-shaped, dry, crowns of scales. The shrubs are highly valued as fodder for sheep in arid and semi arid areas and are given credit for the unique taste of Karoo lamb. They were introduced into southwestern US during the Dust Bowl to stabilize the soil. The genus name, Pentzia, honors Swedish plant collector Hendrik Christian Pentz (1738–1803). The specific epithet, incana, is the Latin word meaning hoary or white and refers to the appearance of the foliage.
 

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Revive the garden in late summer to fall with the unusual orchid-like flowers of this herbaceous perennial. The 1 ‘ long flowers are carried singly or in clusters of 2-3 and have 6 whitish to purple tepals with purple spots. The plants grow 2-3’ tall and slowly forms clumps of arching, unbranched stems with light green leaves that are arranged in a ladder like pattern on the stem. Cultivars are available with white to pinkish flowers and with variegated foliage. Toad lily is a good choice for a shade or woodland garden placed so that the very unique flowers can be appreciated up close

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Also called Indian coral tree, this deciduous tree is native to warm coastal areas of tropical and subtropical India and Malaysia. It is a member of the bean family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupine, mimosa, and black locust. The trees grow up to 89′ tall and have many stout branches with gray, smooth bark and large prickles. The pinnately compound, variegated leaves have prickly leafstalks about 10″ long and 3 heart-shaped leaflets about 6″ long. In late winter or early spring before the leaves emerge, dense terminal clusters of crimson flowers 2-3″ long appear and attract hummingbirds. The fruit is a cylindrical, bean-like pods about 15″ long and contains 5-10 egg-shaped, reddish-brown to black seeds. The trees are grown as shade trees and in hedges and living fences and are also valued for culinary and medicinal uses as well as for livestock fodder, soil enrichment, and green manure. The genus name, Erythrina, comes from the Greek word erythrose, meaning red and refers to the color of the flowers. The specific epithet, variegata, is from the Latin word varius, meaning various, and refers to the markings on the leaves. Photo Credit JM Garg Wikipedia

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Native to rocky areas and undergrowth of Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, this perennial corm is a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes gladiolus,  crocosmia, and blue-eyed grass.  The plant grows 1-3″ tall and has a rosette of grass-like leaves with a central white line along the leaf axis.  The solitary cup-shaped flowers appear from November to February and have a white perianth of 6 parts that are fused and feature a yellow blotch in the center.  The 3 conspicuous stamens are black.   Photo Credit Wikipedia

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