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the-esstential-guide-to-cultivatingmushroomsGrowing mushrooms is tricky and very different from growing plants. Stephen Russell’s book, The Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms, aims to provide the basic methods of mushroom cultivation so small scale growers can successfully grow a supply of mushrooms for home use or to sell at weekly farmers’ markets. Step by step directions are given for growing the most popular species, oyster, shitake, lion’s mane, and maitake, starting with the easiest method and proceeding to more advanced techniques. The book does not consider methods for growing button or portabella mushrooms because these are commercially produced far more easily and inexpensively than a home grower can.

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Grasses for Rain Gardens

Phragmites australisRain gardens can be an important part of a water conservation program. Their efficacy is related to the plants they employ as the plants soak up water, filter it, cleanse it, and release it into the atmosphere. Grasses can play an important role in the rain garden with their dense fibrous root system. Conditions in a rain garden, however, are not always easy for plants in a rain garden because they may have to stand in water for long periods of time and then endure dryness until the next rain. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Dianthus ‘Mrs. Sinkins’

Dianthus Mrs SinkinsBred in Berkshire, England in 1883 by Mr. Sinkins, this old fashioned pink has evergreen
foliage that is grass-like and silvery-green. The double white flowers with green centers appear in summer and have shaggy-looking petals and a strong pleasant clove fragrance. They are good in the vase and can be used in cooking to add a clove-like flavor. Excellent choice for a cottage garden and use as a ground cover. [click to continue…]

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Aralia elataThis deciduous small tree or shrub is native to eastern Russia, Japan, China and Korea but is grown in the US where it has become invasive in some areas due to its large suckering root system. The spiny stems carry, binnately compound leaves 3-5.5 feet long that are dark to mid-green in summer and turn yellow to reddish purple in the fall. The small (1/8”) white to pink flowers are produced in August in billowy terminal panicles twelve to eighteen inches across. They are attractive to bees and are followed by black spherical fruits. Plants are drought and pollution tolerant but needs protection from wind that can damage their leaves. Flowers, leaves, and preserved berries are attractive in arrangements. A variegated form, A. elata ‘Aureovariegated, has larger and more eye-catching leaves and is best used with restraint.

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Plant Profile: Corncockle (Agrostemma githago)

Agrostemma githagoCorncockle is an upright annual belonging to the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) and is a native of Europe where it grows in disturbed sites such as fields and roadsides. It was considered a weed of wheat fields until the twentieth century when agricultural practices changed and is now cultivated as an ornamental. The grey-green leaves are narrowly lanceolate and are carried upright close to the stem. The five petalled flowers are trumpet shaped, magenta with black striping, and about one to two inches across. In summer they are borne singly on stiff stems that sway gently in the breeze and are subtended by narrow sepals that are longer than the petals. Plants readily self-sow. An excellent choice for a cottage garden and good cut flower. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: The Bee-Friendly Garden

Bee Friendly GardenWe often hear about the sad plight of honeybees and the need for doing something abut it. The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn is a great source of information on addressing the problem of the honeybees and a lot more. Frey is garden designer while LeBuhn is a bee expert and together they have produced a book that gives the reader a wealth of information on many different kinds of bees and the gardens that will best support them. [click to continue…]

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAGrowing herbs and roses together have a long tradition and this duo combines a lovely Noisette rose with the familiar herb, German chamomile known for the tranquilizing tea made with its flowers. Rose ‘Crepuscule’ begins flowering in spring with rich apricot blossoms that slowly fade to buff, and continues blooming throughout the summer and into fall. German chamomile comes into bloom in summer adding its fragrant flowers and delicate foliage to the scene until fall. Plant in full sun, and moist but well-drained soil. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Peanut (Arachis hypogaea)

Arachis hypogaea flPeanuts are annuals and are hybrids developed and domesticated in Argentina. They are a member of the bean/pea family (Leguminosae/Fabaceaea) and like other plants in the family contain symbiotic bacteria in their root nodules that are able to fix nitrogen from the air into the soil. The leaves are pinnately compound with four leaflets each being up to 2 ¾” long and up to 1” wide. The flowers are about ½” across, are yellow-orange with reddish veining and have the typical structure of bean flowers with a keel and banner. Although the bloom time is long, each flower lasts only one day and if fertilized develops a structure called a peg that pushes the ovary under the soil where it develops into a fruit that is technically a legume (commonly called a pod) rather than a nut. This unusual underground fruit development makes peanut a great choice for planting with children. The generic name, Arachis, comes from the Greek word for plant; the specific epithet, hypogaea, means underground.

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Rose New Dawn on arborRoses climbing on a wall, arches or trellises are a beautiful sight. Modern climbers resemble tall lax shrubs but offer repeat or continuous bloom which sets them apart from older climbers. Pink flowers complement a brick wall as well as a concrete sidewalk, blue shutters, or the white siding on a house and provide a backdrop for yellow, blue, and lavender flowers with their green or gray foliage.

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Plant Profile: Snowy Mermaid (Libertia formosa)

Libertia formosaAlso called Chilean iris, this evergreen herbaceous perennial is a member of the Iris family (Iridaceae) and native to Chile. It was introduced into California where it has naturalized and can be found in disturbed soil, as well as urban and coastal areas. Sword-shaped leathery mid to dark green leaves eighteen inches long and half inch wide form dense clumps that are attractive all year long but may become congested over several years. Stiff flowering stalks four feet tall arise from late spring through summer carrying small umbels of white cup-shaped flowers. Plants can be used in borders or as ground covers. The generic name, Libertia, is in memory of the Belgian botanist Marie A. Libert, Belgium, 1782–1863. The specfic epithet, formosa, comes from the Latin word meaning handsome. [click to continue…]

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