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Book Review: Modern Tropical Garden Design

Modern Tropical GArden DesignWhether you live in the tropics and are planning a garden or want to create a tropical garden in the temperate zone you will find plenty of ideas in Made Wijaya book, Modern Tropical Garden Design. Drawing from the work of early modern masters as well as contemporary works from various parts of the world, the book aims to provide design information that readers can use to create their own gardens. The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs of well known gardens from all over the tropical and subtropical world. [click to continue…]

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Edible Flowers: Roses

The rose has been cultivated for thousands of years and is still one of the most popular garden plants. Rose celsianaCultivation probably began in China but has spread to most of the world and ha been popular in Europe since ancient times. The Romans used roses for both their celebrations and perfume while the monasteries in the Middle Ages grew roses for their medicinal qualities. The Empress Josephine changed the course of rose history by encouraging the breeding and hybridization of roses which led to creation of several hundred new cultivars. During the period 1750-1824 several China and Tea roses were introduced to the West. These roses were not hardy but they they had the very desirable trait of continuous bloom and their introduction revolutionized rose breeding. Most of the roses grown in the US today are derived from the crosses of these roses with the older ones in Europe and these crosses have led to many beautiful cultivars that have the reblooming trait but often lack fragrance, an important characteristic for edible roses. [click to continue…]

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pulmonaria-saccharata-reginald-kayeAlso known as Bethelehem sage, this herbaceous perennial is native to France and Italy and is member of the borage family (Borageacea) along with forget-me-not (Myosotis spp.) and Siberian bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla). The leaves alone earn this plant a place in the garden with their silver motling and bristly hairs. They form a basal rosette and are four to twelve inches long depending on the cultivar. The blue bell-shaped flowers are slightly nodding and produced in clusters from April to May before the foliage has expanded. They are one inch long and open from pink buds so that both blue flowers and pink buds may be present in the same cluster at one time. Plants self-seed and spread slowly by rhizomes. Bethlehem sage is an excellent choice for moist shade and can be used as a ground cover. Unfortunately, it does not do well with the combination of heat and humidity. Several good cultivars are available that vary in flower color, leaf length and leaf markings. The generic name Pulmonaria comes from the Latin word pulmo meaning lung and refers to the fact that the leaves look like diseased lungs and was used to treat lung diseases in the past. The characteristic is also noted by the common name lungwort. The specific name saccharata comes from the Latin word saccharatus meaning sugary and refers to the white sugar like markings on the leaves. [click to continue…]

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Striped Floribunda Roses

Rosa mundi by compost heapYou either hate them or love them, but few people are indifferent to striped roses. Some people have an affinity for the novel or exotic and striped roses fill the bill. Although very popular in the 1980 and 90s,striped roses are not new; there are striped old garden roses like Rosa mundi (introduced before 1581) and the bourbon rose, ‘Honorine de Brabant’. Some of the striped roses might best be described as variegated, splashed or flecked with color, rather than striped but they all have a unique look that endears them to their admirers. [click to continue…]

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Aucuba japonica VariegataJapanese laurel is a broadleaf evergreen shrub native to Japan, China, and Korea, where it grows in shady moist sites. It is not related to other plants bearing the common name laurel and is in the Garryaceae family along with tassel bush (Garrya eliptca ) an evergreen shrub grown for its long catkins. The leathery leaves of Japanese laurel are broadly lanceolate, up to eight inches long, with coarsely serrated margins on their upper half. The small reddish purple male and female flowers are produced on different plants and appear in early spring. Male flowers are carried in upright terminal panicles while shorter clusters of female flowers form in the axis of the leaves and give way in the fall to 1/2″ red berry-like fruits with one seed. Many cultivars are available that differ primarily in leaf coloration some with marginal variegation and others with varying sized splashes of gold over the entire leaf surface. A shady protected location is important for Japanese laurel as the leaves develop their best color in shade and may burn in the sun. Since Japanese laurel is tolerant of shade, dry soil, and air pollution it is an excellent choice for many difficult sites. Plants also grow well in containers. [click to continue…]

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Making the Most of Your AllotmentJust because you live in a city doesn’t mean you can’t grow some of your own vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. Christine and Michael Lavelle’s book, Making the most of Your Allotment, shows novice gardeners how to sow, grow, and harvest produce from selecting the site to storing the abundance. Whether you are enticed by the prospect of having a productive hobby or getting in touch with nature, you will find valuable tips for making a success out of an allotment. In the US an allotment is most like a community garden but much of what can be said about allotments can be applied to the American idea of “mini-farm”.

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Cucumbers are offered for sale at EasterCucumbers are in the same family as squash and melons but do not cross with them. Different varieties of cucumbers, however, will cross pollinate with each other and if you plan to save seed should be separated at least 200 feet apart. Most cucumber seedlings or seed that you purchase are F1 hybrids and will not breed true. If you plan to save seed choose open pollinated varieties. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Colewort (Crambe cordifolia)

Crambe-cordifolia 3A native of the Caucasus, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the mustard family (Brassicaceae), along with radish, broccoli, and cabbage. It forms broad mounds of cabbage-like wrinkled, heart-shaped leaves that are fleshy and usually deeply lobed. In late spring or early summer, sturdy branched stems arise carrying large clouds of small, white, flowers with four petals and sweet fragrance. This large baby’s breath-like cloud of flowers stands high over the leaf mound and lasts about three weeks. Self seeds but may be short-lived; does not transplant well.

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Botanical Latin: Hebe

Hebe (HEE bee) Greek hebe meaning yhouth;  named for the Greek goddess of youth

DCF 1.0Hebe is the name of a genus in the plantain family (Plantaginaceae) and are closely related to Veronica. The genus consists of about 90 species and is native to New Zealand, Rapa in French Polynesia, the Falkland Islands and South America. Hebe are evergreen and range in size from dwarf shrubs two to three feet tall to small trees about twenty feet tall. They have small white, pink, crimson, blue, lavender or purple flowers clustered in a spike-like inflorescence that attracts butterflies. Plants thrive in full sun and loose well-drained soil, but tolerate some shade. Their tolerance to salt spray makes them a good choice for coastal gardens. [click to continue…]

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allamanda_catharticaGolden trumpet is a tropical evergreen vine native to Brazil where it grows over other plants in mangrove swamps and other wet areas. They can be grown outside in warm areas of the US but have to brought inside for the winter in cool cliamtes. It is in the dogbane family (Apocynaceae) together with periwinkle (Vinca), oleander (Nerium), and bluestar (Amsonia). The plants are vigorous and grow up to twenty feel long bearing shiny light green leathery leaves up to six inches long and with deep veins and wavy margins. The golden-yellow flowers sometimes have white markings in the throat, are three to four inches long, and and are trumpet shaped. They are produced in clusters during summer and fall when temperatures are above 70 C. The prickly seed pods produce winged seeds. Golden trumpet has no means of climbing and should be allowed to ramble over other plants or tied to supports. Plants can also be pruned to form shrubs. The milky stem sap may cause severe skin irritation. [click to continue…]

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