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Making beer from peas goes back to 17th century England when brewers and distillers were using peas and other legumes to make alcoholic beverages.  Of course they were using other things too like barley, wheat, oats, and potato.  Peas were also used in the US for beer making and Colin MacKenzie  in his book Five Thousand Receipts In All The Useful and Domestic Arts  published in Philadelphia in 1825 remarked that “No production of this country abounds so much with vegetable saccharine matter as the shells of peas.”  Enthusiam for pea beer seems to have fizzled out in England but interest still remains in Kaunas, Lithuania where the brewery Ragutis produces a lager called Sirvenos in memory of an area in Lithuanian famous for its pea beer. [click to continue…]

Ankara crocus is a perennial plant and a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes gladiola, freesia, and crocosmia.  It is endemic to Turkey, Pakistan, and Afghanistan where it grows on dry hillsides.  Three to four grass like leaves grow from each corm in late winter to spring followed by 2-3 long slender  6-petaled flowers.  The flowers are cup-shaped, 1′ long, and have bright yellow petals sometimes touched with bronze.   The cultivar, ‘Golden Bunch”, produces  5-10 flowers per corm. Ankara crocus is an excellent choice for a rock garden or grassy area but should not be planted in area such as lawns that need mowing before the foliage matures in spring.  The genus name, Crocus, comes from the Greek word krokos, meaning saffron referring to the fact that one species, C. sativus, is the source of that spice.  The specific epithet, ancyrensis, refers to Ankara, the capital of Turkey and country where the plant is endemic. [click to continue…]

jupiters beard-cornflower combinationThe beauty of the combination lies in finding just the right color echo by matching the crimson red of the Jupiter’s beard to the red center of the perennial cornflower. Both flowers are somewhat variable in color so this is not a combination for the impatient gardener. Once found, however, the pair offers subtle beauty and great satisfaction. This combination works best in cool climates because neither the Jupiter’s beard and perennial cornflower grow well in heat and humidity. Given the right climate they bloom together well into the summer. Both plants like full sun to light shade, and average, medium-moist well drained soil. [click to continue…]

Yellow lady’s slipper is a herbaceous perennial and member of the orchid family, Orchidaceae.  It is native to North America where it grows in deciduous woodlands of most of the US.  Plants grow 1-2.5″  tall from a fibrous fleshy root system and has many unbranched stems bearing three or more alternate sessile  leaves that are dark to yellow green.   The  leaves are elliptic, up to 8″ long, hairy, and with wavy margins.  The central stem is hairy and carries 1 to 2 terminal  flowers from late spring to early summer.  Each flower as 3 petals.  The lower petal is yellow with purple veins,  up to 2″ long, and shaped like a pouch with an opening on top and sometimes reddish brown dots inside. The two other petals are spirally twisted, 1-3.5″ long,  softly hairy, and yellowish green or brownish. Yellow lady slipper is easier to grow than other native orchids.   It is sometimes listed as a variety of Cypripedium calceolus, a native of Europe and Asia,  but  is not grown in the US.  The genus name, Cypripedium, comes from the Greek words Kypris referring to the island where Venus was worshiped, and pedilon, meaning slipper referring to the shape of the flower. The specific epithet, pubescens, is the Latin word pubens meaning downy and refers to the soft hair on various plant parts. [click to continue…]

This herbaceous perennial is native to the Northern Hemisphere from Canada to the Carolinas and westward where it is found growing in swamps, marshes, stream edges, and other wet areas. A member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, marsh marigold is not a true marigold or even in the same family. It likes full sun to part shade and wet boggy soil so is useful as a plant for the wettest part of a rain garden and also does well on the edge of ponds or streams, and in bog and water gardens. [click to continue…]

Also called small yellow foxglove, this short-lived perennial is a member of the plantain family, Plantaginaceae that also includes snapdragon, turtlehead, and Veronica.  It is native to southern Europe and northwest Africa but was introduced in to the US and can now be found wild in such habitats as weedy meadows  and open woodlands.  The plants  have a taproot and  grow 2-3.5′ tall at maturity.  They form a rosette the first year and then in the second year produce a tall flowering stem with sessile leaves  that are oblong to lanceolate, have serrated margins, and are 4-6″ long.  The tubular  1″ long flowers are nodding, pale yellow,  and appear in terminal one sided  racemes 12 to 18″ long in late spring to summer.  These flowers are less showy than some of the other foxgloves but are attractive in cottage and informal gardens. The genus name, Digitalis, comes from the Latin word digitus meaning finger and refers to the appearance of the flowers.  The specific epithet, lutea, is the Latin word for yellow and refers to the color of the flowers. [click to continue…]

Salad burnet is a herbaceous perennial and member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes cherry, pyracantha, and lady’s mantle.  It is native to Europe,  northern Africa, western Asia and Siberia where it grows in grasslands and shrublands but was introduced to North America by the early colonist .Plants form a loose rounded rosette of leaves up to 12″ tall and 24″ wide.  The leaves are pinnately compound and consist of 4-12 pairs of rounded to elliptical, toothed leaflets, up to 1″ long.  The tiny greenish to pink flowers appear in rounded heads in mid summer on terminal stalks up to 24″ long.  The upper flowers have only female parts, the middle flowers have both male and female parts, and the lower flowers have only male parts. Plants like average, medium moist, well-drained soil and full sun but tolerate some shade.  Burnett can be propagated by seed or division in spring. It is  hardy in zones 3-8.  The genus name, Sanguisorba, comes from the Latin words sanguis meaning blood and sorbeo meaning to soak up and refers to the use of the plant to stop bleeding.  The specific epithet, minor, is the Latin word meaning smaller, and refers to the relative size of the plant. [click to continue…]

Ground clematis is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes delphinium, columbine, and anemone.  It is native to eastern, central, and southern Europe where it grows in river valleys, hillsides, scrub and the edges of woodlands.  Although it can be used as climber a if supported, it is usually allowed to crawl on the ground.  Plants have pinnately compound leaves that are divided into 5-9 entire leaflets 1-3″ long.The leaflets are ovate, pointed, and short stalked.  The starry white 3/4″  wide fragrant flowers are carried in large terminal and axillary panicles from late spring to early summer and are followed by silky silvery seedheads.  Ground clematis can be used as a ground cover or allowed to trail over low shrubs.  The genus name, Clematis, comes from the Greek word klemetis meaning climbing plant.  The specific epithet, recta, is the Latin word for upright.   [click to continue…]

Book Review: Infinite Succulents

Succulents are familiar plants to many gardeners but to author Rachael Cohen they have the potential of being living art. In her book, Infinite Succulents, Cohen shows readers that succulents are versatile, low maintenance, and offer great variety in color, form, and texture so that they are especially valuable for craft projects. Instructions for over a dozen crafts are complemented by tips for maintaining and caring for succulent art. [click to continue…]

Common yarrow, also known as milfoil, is a rhizomateous herbaceous perennial native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere Asia, Europe and North America where it grows in open areas such as  in meadows, abandon lots, lawns and along roadsides.  It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisies, goldenrod, and lettuce.  Common yarrow prefers full sun and well-drained soil and is frequently seen growing in thin,  poor soil.  It is an important plant for many beneficial insects and should be treated with respect.  Although the species is considered weedy and invasive in many places, many cultivars and hybrids are good garden plants valued for showy colorful flowerheads. [click to continue…]