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Book Review: Blueberries Grow on a Bush

Blueberries Grow on BushesAs kids gobble up blueberries do they think about where they come from? Probably not yet learning a little about blueberry bushes brings a greater appreciation of food and it relationship to the soil. Mari Schuh’s book, Blueberries Grow on a Bush, provides a brief look at how blueberry bushes grow and produce their fruit and relates blueberries to other similar kinds of berries. Written for children ages four to eight, words and phrases are repeated to help young readers learn new words and the sentences are simple. The book is part of a set, How Fruits and Vegetables Grow, that supports national science standards related to life science. [click to continue…]

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Explorer Series: Red Roses

Explorer series-John-CabotThe Explorer roses were developed at the agriculture research station in Ottawa, Ontario and l’Assumption, Quebec to withstand the cold Canadian winters. Using Rosa rugosa, R. kordesii, Hybrid Teas, and Floribundas breeders produced roses that had the hardiness and disease resistance of old roses with the beauty and repeat blooming of modern roses. The resulting series consists of about twenty two cultivars named to honor Canadian explorers and includes red, pink, white, and a few yellow flowered plants as well as low growing groundcover, upright shrub, and climbing roses. [click to continue…]

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Asclepias curassavicaBlood flower, also known as cotton bush, Mexican butterfly weed, and scarlet milkweed, is a tropical perennial subshrub native to South America often grown as an annual in the US where it has become a weed in the Deep South. It is a member of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, that also includes bluestar (Amsonia), periwinkle (Vinca), and oleander (Nerium). Pale gray stems carry pointed lanceolate leaves up to six inches long sometimes with white midribs. Flowers appear from spring until fall in rounded axillary or terminal clusters two to four inches across. The purple or red petals are complemented by a five hooded corona tipped with yellow or orange. The flowers give way to three to four inch long spindle-shaped seed pods (follicles) that split to release flat brown seeds with silky hairs that facilitate wind dissemination. The flowers are attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, and Monarch larvae use it as a host plant. The stems and leaves have a milky sap that is poisonous and may irritate skin and eyes. Suitable for inclusion in meadow and butterfly garden as well as in containers and in the border where its long bloom time will enhance the site for most of the growing season. Good cut flower tropical and seed pods attractive in dried arrangements.  The generic name  Asclepias comes from the name of the Greek god of medicine. The specific epithet curassavica refers to the island of Curacao, Dutch Antilles, in the Caribbean Sea.

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Robber flyAsilidae_Stichopogon Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

Also called assassin flies, these true flies belong to the Asilidae family. There are over seven thousand different species in the family, with over one thousand in North American where they are especially diverse in sunny arid environments. Robber flies are between one and two inches long usually with an elongated body and tapered abdomen although some species bumblebee or wasps. The body may be grey, black or brown, hairy or bare. There is a depression in the top of the head between the large compound eyes and bundles of stiff bristles on the face. The legs are long, thin and bristled, and the wings are often narrow and adapted for rapid flight. The mouth parts are modified for piercing-sucking . [click to continue…]

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artemisia_schmidtiana_nanaSilver mound is a semi-evergreen perennial native to Japan and a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisies, sunflowers, and lettuce. The species is rarely seen but the cultivar ‘Nana’ is a popular garden plant. It is slightly smaller than the species and forms a dense mound of finely divided silver-gray leaves that are so tightly packed on the stem that they appear to be in rosettes. The nodding yellow flower heads of both the species and ‘Nana’ are produced in panicles in late summer but are not ornamentally attractive. Plants tend to melt out in the heat of summers and benefit from a light clipping to remove flowers as they appear. ‘Silver mound ‘Nana’ is a good edger and especially attractive in a rock garden. The genus name, Artemesia, refers to the Greek goddess of chastity, the hunt and moon. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: Everything I Want to Eat

Everyting i want to EatComfort food is great but sometimes I just want something new and unique. Jessica Koslow’s cookbook, Everything I Want to Eat, provides a plethora of such items. They are unique in both ingredients and flavor and using combinations that are sure to excite the imagination and palette. Koslow is the owner of the Sqirl restaurant in Los Angeles where she regularly meets the demands of customers who want adjustments made to the menu to accommodate their gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan diets. No problem, for Koslow, as her recipes are flexible as well as unique. [click to continue…]

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Champagne FluteSparkling wine makes an everyday event special so champagne is a wonderful drink to lift the spirts and make an occasion memorable. My dear paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, in her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, includes may recipes for making champagne from a variety of raw material from raw cider to rhubarb, and currants, but also includes a recipe for a champagne cup using commercially produced champagne. If you Google champagne cup recipes you will see an assortment of ways you can use champagne for a festive drink so maybe dear Grandmother was on to something almost 100 years ago. [click to continue…]

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Plant Profile: Wandflower (Galax urceolata)

Galax urceplata 2Also called beetleweed, this evergreen herbaceous perennial is native to southeastern US from where it grows in the forests of the southern Appalachian Mountains, Piedmont, and Coastal Plain. It is a member of the Diapensiaceae family, a small family of only twelve species. The plants have red rhizomes that spread to form colonies with basal rosettes of foliage consisting of shiny, leathery green leaves that become tinged with bronze in the winter. The heart shaped leaves are five inches across, have round toothed margins, and are carried on long petioles. The tiny five lobed white flowers are produced from late spring to early summer in two to five inch long spike-shaped racemes on top of slender stems eight to sixteen inches long. The leaves are very attractive in flower arrangements and have been over harvested in some areas for the floral industry. A good choice for a ground cover in a shady location, The generic name, Galax, comes from the word gala meaning milk and may refer to the white flowers. The specific epithet urceolata means urn-shape in Latin. [click to continue…]

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Bear's Breeches and Coral Bells plant combinationThese two herbaceous perennials have outstanding foliage that will add texture and color all season long. The combination will peak, however, when  bear’s breeches produces its stalks of pink or white flowers each with a purplish hood that echoes the purple of heuchera’s leaves. Both plants form attractive clumps and grow well in lightly shaded areas with moist but well-drained soil. [click to continue…]

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Filipendula_palmata-e1442419370239Siberian meadowsweet is a herbaceous perennial native to Siberia and a member of the rose family, Rosaceae, that also includes lady’s mantle, apples, and almonds. It is a compact plant with compound leaves. Each leaf is four to eight inches wide and consists of a seven to nine palmately lobed terminal leaflet three to eight inches in size with three to five lobed lateral leaflets one to three inches. The leaflets are deep green on the upper side and white and hairy on the lower side. The flowers are carried in flattened heads six inches wide and are pale pink fading to white. They bloom in late spring to early summer and persist for two to three weeks. The genus name Filipendula comes from the Latin words filum meaning thread and pendulus meaing hanging down, referring to the threads that hang from the roots of the type species, Filipendula hexapetala. The specific epithet palmata is the Latin word meaning lobed like a hand, referring to the leaves. [click to continue…]

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