About Arachnids

by Karen on January 30, 2015

About Arachnids Cathryn SillSpiders and their relatives may seem scary but they are fascinating animals and play an important role in our environment. Cathryn Sill’s non-fiction book, About Arachnids, introduces young children to spiders and their relatives: scorpions, mites, ticks, and harvestmen. Written for preschoolers up to grade 2 it describes the physical characteristics of all arachnids and then shows how various members of the group feed, move about, and take care of their young. [click to read full post]

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european wild ginger & bleeding heart combinationEuropean wild ginger makes a beautiful woodland ground cover that is evergreen in most areas. Add fringed bleeding heart to it and you have an enchanting combination that provides color and contrasting foliage over a long time. The leathery, glossy, dark green leaves of European wild ginger are heart shaped and are handsome throughout the growing season. The fern-like gray-green leaves of fringed bleeding heart appear in the spring and are followed quickly by the appearance of rosy-pink flowers on long branched racemes. Unlike common bleeding heart, fringed bleeding heart does not go dormant in summer and blooms sporadically all season. Grow this combo in shade with plenty of moisture in well-drained soil. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Rose Louis Philippe

by Karen on January 28, 2015

rose Louis PhilippeeNamed for the French king that ruled from 1830 to 1848 this rose is held in more regard than the king it’s named for. It has bright crimson flowers with yellow stamens surrounded by a white ring formed by the base of the petals. Petals also have white streaks running up from the centers, like other China roses. The leaves are dark green and small. Plants can be kept small or allowed to form large bushes that are good for hedges because of an abundance of prickles. [click to read full post]

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American RobinThe thrush family includes the familiar robin and bluebirds as well as many birds called thrushes. They are small to medium birds with plump bodies, round heads, relatively long tails, strong bills,and legs and feet adapted for perching. The most colorful of the thrush is probably the bluebird, with the robin in second place, as most of the other thrushes are shades of brown, black and gray, sometimes spotted or barred. Some thrushes such as the wood thrush, hermit thrush, and veery, are known for their beautiful songs. Thrushes have a world-wide distribution and are common in the United States. Some like the American robin, hermit thrush, and Swainson’s thrush may be found across the country, while others like Townsend’s solitaire and varied thrush are found only in the West. Thrushes tend to be non-migratory but move around in their territory as the seasons change. They are insectivorous and enjoy beetles, ants, sowbugs, crickets and grasshoppers as well as spiders but also may eat worms, snails, slugs, salamanders, and berries. Although American robins and bluebirds often come out into the open most thrushes prefer the low dense cover that shrubs can provide. [click to read full post]

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Hibiscus rosa-sinensisAlso called tropical hibiscus, this evergreen perennial is a popular landscape plant in warm climates but also makes a good container plant in cool areas. The large shiny dark green leaves create a fitting background to show off the large colorful flowers in shades of white, pink, red, yellow, and orange. In cool climates the plants bloom in summer but in warm climates they bloom for most of the year. Each bell-shaped flower is four to eight inches wide and may have a single or double row of petals. Although a flower only lasts for a couple of days the plant blooms continuousy in warm weather if adequately fertilized and watered during the growing season. Where hibiscus are hardy they can be used as hedges, foundation plantings, or specimens, attractting butterflies and hummingbirds as well as adding a tropical note to any place they are planted. There are hundreds of cultivars varying in size, color, and number of petals. [click to read full post]

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In the Green KitchenAlice Waters’ philosophy of using sustainable, seasonal, local ingredients and cooking them simply to produce delicious, healthful meals is very appealing. This concept underlies her book, In the Green Kitchen, that sets out the basic techniques of cooking with recipes employing these techniques. Waters’ idea is that once you learn the basic techniques of cooking by heart , you are freed from an over-dependence on recipes and the fear of improvisation.  Although the target audience may be young people who grew up on pre-packaged and processed foods, there is something in the book for cooks of every skill level. [click to read full post]

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Cypress Spurge & Dwarf Camomille CombinationThe appeal of simple white and yellow daisies is used here to create a charming combination with cypress spurge for the late spring garden. The acid yellow green bracts of cypress spurge’s flowerheads punctuate the yellow centers of dwarf camomille flowers while the foliage of the two plants contrasts in color. Summer interest is provided by the flower heads of cypress spurge that turn red and the lacy foliage of dwarf camomille. Cypress spurge grows aggressively and may wind its way in and around dwarf camomille. Grow this combination in full sun, dry to medium moist, well-drained soil. [click to read full post]

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skunk cabbage western Lysichiton americanusThe name only tells half the story. Yes, the plant does have a distinct skunk smell but its very large green leaves and bright yellow sheaths make it a knockout in the wet woods or swampy areas it calls home. Western skunk cabbage belongs to the Arum family and has the unique inflorescence typical of that family. The yellow sheath, called a spathe, surrounds and protects the spadix, the fleshy spike that produces the tiny greenish flowers. Skunk cabbage is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, often coming through the snow because of the heat the spadix produces. The plant is also called swamp lantern because of the yellow spathe and Indian waxpaper because the large leaves were used by indigenous people for food preparation. [click to read full post]

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Ornamental Grasses: Forms

by Karen on January 20, 2015

Pennisetum alopecuroides  MoudryOrnamental grasses that grow in clumps vary in form from stiff and upright to relaxed and floppy. When classifying grasses by form only the foliage is considered, not the flowering stems. Likewise, height is not a factor but the shortest grasses tend to be clumping while the tallest tend to be upright and arching. Most grasses can be classified in one of six groups but, of course, some grasses may fall somewhere in between. Varying the forms of the grasses planted together in the garden is one way of introducing variety into a planting and can add excitement and interest to the garden. [click to read full post]

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Plant Profile: Frangipani (Plumeria rubra)

by Karen on January 19, 2015

Plumeria rubra (for Naomi)A native of central America, this small semi-evergreen tree is widely grown around the world where it is found in parks, cemeteries, and temples. Its distribution in the United States, however, is confined to coastal Southern California, Hawaii, and southern Florida. Frangipani has a single trunk with fleshy branches of similar length that grow in a candelabrum-like shape.   The thick tapered leaves are twelve to twenty-two inches long, seven inches wide, are pointed at the tip, and are produced in clusters at branch tips. The five-petaled waxy flowers are exceptionally fragrant and are produced in terminal clusters in spring before the leaves appear. They may be white, red, yellow, or pink but the form with white petals and a yellow center is the most widely planted.   The fruits grow in pairs and are long leathery pods six inches in length. Frangipani is a good choice for use as a patio tree and in containers as well as in gardens, street plantings, and parks. High salt and drought tolerance makes it suitable for seaside planting.   In Hawaii the flowers are used to make leis because of their high color and fragrance retention. The branches contain a poisonous sap. [click to read full post]

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