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Native to the Borneo and Malaya, this tender herbaceous perennial is a member of the arum family (Arceae) that also includes jack in the pulpit, skunk cabbage, caladium, and peace lily. Like other members of the family, the plant has an inflorescence that includes a spadix bearing many small flowers and is partially enclosed by a  leafy bract, called the spathe. Although the flowers are interesting,  the striking foliage of the plant is its big appeal.  The thick oval shiny leaves are carried on 2′ long petioles and are up to 18″ long and 12″ wide.  They are dark metallic green on the upper surface,  deep purple beneath, and  are puckered along the silvery prominent veins highlighted by an almost black midrib.  Plants add a tropical note to any garden but are usually grown as houseplants in USDA zone 9 and colder.   The genus name, Alocasia, is from the Greek prefix a meaning without/not, and Colocasia, the name of a closely related genus from which it was separated. The specific epithet, cuprea, is the Latin word meaning coppery and refers to the color of the leaves especially when young. [click to continue…]

Although not common, lemon wine does have its enthusiasts and the Internet has at least several recipes for making it.  My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, in her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines,  included two recipes for lemon wine both of which include spirits of some sort, unlike most modern recipes. If you are going to try to make lemon wine either use home grown lemons or buy organically grown one because both juice and rind are included in the final product. [click to continue…]

Also called many-leaved lupine, blue-pod lupine,  marsh lupine, and Washington lupine, this herbaceous perennial is native to western North America from southern Alaska and British Columbia east to Quebec and western Wyoming and south to Utah and California where it grows in moist habitats such as in meadows and along streams and creeks.  Plants grow up to 4 3/4′  tall from a rhizomatous base and have stout hollow stems bearing palmately compound leaves with 9-17  narrow leaflets up to almost 6″ long, glabrous above, sparsely stiff-hairy below.  From late spring to early summer, racemes of pea-like flowers appear.  Each blue to purple flower is .39-.59″ long  and consist of an erect standard, 2 wing petals, and an incurved keel.  The fruit is a flat, curved pod 1-2″ long,  covered with soft hairs and containing 6-10 grayish seeds with dark mottling.  L. polyphyllus has been used to produce some garden worthy plants including the Russel Hybrids but is considered more suitable for  wildflower and native plant gardens.  The seed pods are attractive in dried arrangements.  The genus name, Lupinus, is the classical name for the plant derived from the Latin word lupus meaning wolf, and refers to the false belief the plants destroyed the soil.  The specific epithet, polyphyllus, comes from the Greek prefix poly- meaning many and the Greek word phyllon meaning leaf and refers to the foliage. [click to continue…]

Hirneola_auricula-judae_Svdmolen Wikimedia CommonsJew’s ear, also called wood ear and jelly ear, grows in deciduous and coniferous woodlands in the warmer parts of the northern temperate zones. It lives on dead or living wood, especially elder, and can appear any time of year but is most likely to be seen in winter and spring. The fruiting body is one to three inches across and may be cup- to ear- shaped. It is smooth and gelatinous at first but becomes hard and folded as it matures. The color varies with age from dark red, to reddish brown or gray-brown, sometimes with a tinge of green. The spore bearing layer, is veined, wrinkled, and faces downward. The stem, if present, is lateral. The spores are white. [click to continue…]

Also called orange-peel clematis, Russian virgin’s bower, and tube-flowered clematis, this herbaceous climbing vine is native to  forests, open areas, and riparian area in central to northwestern China.  It is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes delphinium, columbine and hellebore.  Plants grow up to 15′ long and climbs if suitable structures are nearby or sprawls on the ground with the appearance of a shrub.  The  slightly pubescent stems carry pinnate to bipinnate lanceolate leaves with oblong leaflets  that are up to 2.33″ long and have acute tips and finely serrated margins.   From mid- summer into fall  bright yellow bell-shaped flowers appear and open to 3-4″ across before giving way to feathery, whispy seedheads that are ornamental and easily dried for use in arrangements. Plants are attractive growing on shrubs as well as walls, trellis, and arbors.    The genus name, Clematis, is the ancient Greek word klematis meaning a climbing plant.  The specific epithet, tangutica, honors the Tangut people who live in one of the areas where the plant is native. [click to continue…]

This semi-woody sub-shrub up to 2′ tall is native to the western and central Mediterranean area and is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce. It has evergreen aromatic gray-green foliage with leaves that are up to 1.5 inches long and pinately divided. In summer rounded yellow flowerheads appear that are 3/4″ wide and composed entirely of disc flowers. Plants need hard pruning after flowering to maintain shape and are useful in knot gardens and as an edging. An excellent choice for herb gardens, borders and rock gardens. The genus name, Santolina, may be the late Latin name referring to a related genus. The specific epithet, chamaecyparissus, comes from the Greek words chamae meaning on the ground, humble, and kypárissos the Greek term for cypress, and refers to the short height and resemblance of the leaves to those of cypresses. [click to continue…]

Common groundsel is a summer annual and a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, dandelion, and lettuce.  it is native to Europe, northern Asia, and parts of North Africa, and may be native to the US.  If not native to the US, it was brought there by early settlers and now occurs in all fifty states.  Although it prefers full sun and moist fertile soils, it will grow in a variety of soils and is found in waste areas, pavement cracks, gardens, lawns, orchards, vineyards,  roadsides and other disturbed site [click to continue…]

Also called sea pink, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the plumbago family, Plumbaginaceae, that also includes leadwort (Ceratostigma) and statice (Limonium). It is native to the Mediterranean area where it grows in full sun and lean, well-drained soil, and tolerates seaside conditions. Growing 6-12″ tall, plants produce tufts of narrow, stiff, grass-like dark green leaves four to eight inches long. In late spring, wiry leafless stems carry solitary, globose flowerheads of small pink or white flowers that are subtended by purplish papery bracts and extend well above the foliage. The flowerheads are 1-1/2” across and persist for two to three weeks. Many cultivars are available differing most significantly in plant height, and flower size and color. A good choice for edgings, front of the borders, as well as wall  and rock gardens.  The genus name, Armeria, is Latanized from the old French name aarmoires for a cluster-headed dianthus.  The specific epithet, maritima, is the Latin word meaning relating to the sea, and refers to one of the possible habitats of the plant.

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Genus Rock Cress (Arabis) for the Garden

Arabis is a genus of herbaceous annuals and perennials and a member of the mustard family, Cruciferaceae, that also includes broccoli, radish, and stock.  Although there are over 100 species in the northern hemisphere most are alpine species and only a few are suitable for the garden. Plants grow less than 12′ tall and form mats or tufts of often hairy downy gray evergreen leaves.  The cruciform flowers are white to purple, fragrant and appear in loose racemes in spring. The genus name, Arabis, may come from Arabia where some members of the genus are native. [click to continue…]

Abutilon hybrids are tender evergreen shrubs and members of the mallow family, Malvaceae, that also includes hibiscus, cotton, and okra.  They have been popular since the Victorian era when they were used to adorn important rooms of the home as houseplants and although their popularity waned they are now coming back as plants in the gardens and plants in containers. The hybrids usually are 1-4′ tall and have leaves that are unlobed or 3-5 lobed.  The leaf edges are toothed and the surfaces smooth or softly hairy underneath. Some cultivars have handsome variegated foliage. The drooping bell-shaped flowers are up to 3″ wide and produced in the leaf axils over a long bloom period from spring until fall.  They may be yellow, orange, red, rose, pink, or white, often with conspicuous veining.  Plants are best used in containers and can be grown as standards.  The genus name, Abutilon, is the Arabic name for a mallow-like plant.  Hybridum refers to the mixed ancestry of the group.   [click to continue…]