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Artemesia for the Garden

Artemesia is a genus of woody and herbaceous perennials and includes several well known plants such as tarragon, sagebrush, mugwort, and wormwood.  It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, sunflower, and lettuce, and is native to Asia, Europe, and North America.   Plants  may be tall and erect or small and mounding and range in size from 6″ to 6′.  Most have small  gray-green to silver  leaves that are lobed or dissected and are aromatic when crushed.  Inconspicuous  yellowish gray male and female discoid flower heads grow on different plants in loose terminal clusters late in summer and add nothing to the plants’ ornamental appearance.  The genus name, Artemesia, honors the Greek goddess who of wild animals, the hunt, chastity, and childbirth. [click to continue…]

Milky bellflower is a bushy herbaceous perennial and a member of the Campanulaceae family that also includes balloon flower, lady bells (Adenaphora), and Lobelia.  It is native to Caucasus, NE Turkey, and NW Iran where it grows in forests, scrub, and subalpine meadows.  Plants are 3-5′ tall and have branching stems carrying sharply toothed sessile, narrowly lanceolate leaves 2-3″ long.  Terminal panicles 3-4″ long appear on each axillary shoot  in summer and bear  1″ long, bell-shaped flowers. The flowers are milky white to pale blue and last for 4-5 weeks.  Plants may need staking and should be cut back after flowering to control self-seeding and encourage a rebloom in the fall.  Milky bellflower does not do well in hot humid climates but is a good choice for a cottage garden in cool climates. The genus name, Campanula, comes from the Late Latin word campana meaning bell and refers to the form of the flowers.  The specific epithet, lactiflora, comes from Latin words lac meaning milk, and flora, meaning flower and refers to the color of the flowers. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Growing Perfect Vegetables

From the Mel Bartholomew Foundation of Square Foot Gardening fame comes this book about recognizing when fruits and vegetables are ripe, picking, and storing them.  It is not about growing the vegetables and fruits, nor is about using the square foot gardening method or any way of gardening;  the value of the book lies in the information it provides on determining  when a vegetable or fruit is ripe whether it is in the garden or the store, and then storing it to maintain maximum freshness.  Yes, there are helpful growing tips, but raising the vegetables and fruits is NOT the focus of the book in spite of its title. [click to continue…]

Tuber melanopsorum Black TruffleAlso called the Perigord truffle, this justly famous fungus is native to southern Europe where it grows singly, two to twenty inches below soil level among tree roots in red Mediterranean soil that is alkaline, moderately dry, and well-drained. It has a mycorrhizal relationship with deciduous trees such as holm oak, French oak, hazel, and cherry, and suppress the growth of other plants around them creating the appearance of a burned area. The truffles fruit in late fall to early with the choicest specimens available at Christmas time. Southern France leads the production of black truffles with Spain a close second, and Italy a more distant third but other areas around the world, including North America, are beginning to cultivate them using tree rootstock inoculated with truffle mycelium. [click to continue…]

Also called American basswood, this medium to large deciduous tree is native to eastern US and southern Canada, and is a member of the mallow family, Malvaceae, that also includes hollyhock, cotton, and coffee. Trees are compact with a rounded crown and an upward branching habit.  They have a deep spreading root system , gray to light brown, well fissured bark, and simple, coarsely toothed leaves that are  oval to heart-shaped, dark green,  4-6″ long, and carried on long thin petioles.  The star-like creamy-white flowers are less than 1/2″ across and appear in pendant branched clusters of 6-20 from the center of a long narrow leaf-like structure 4-5 ” in early to mid summer.  The flowers are fragrant, attract bees, and are a good source of honey.  The fruit is  a  round, gray-green nutlike fruit, up to 1/2″ long. American linden is long lived, valued for its shade, and makes a good street or lawn tree.  It tolerates some drought but not air pollution or urban conditions.  The genus name, Tilia, is the Latin name for the tree.  The specific epithet, americana, refers to the geographic origin of the tree.

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Also called red Morocco, blooddrops, red chamomile, rose-a-ruby and soldiers-in-the-green, this colorful annual is a member of the buttercup family, Ranuncluaceae, that also includes anemone, hellebore, and nigella.  It is native to Western Asia, Europe, and North Africa where it grows in a variety of soils in full sun to part shade.  Growing from a taproot, it reaches ten to twelve inches high and  has  finely cut leaves and terminate scarlet flowers with darker spots at the base. In spite of its specific name, autumnalis, it blooms throughout the summer.   The common name, Adonis, is derived from the ancient Greek youth whose blood colored the flower that bears his name. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rose Escapade

Bright crimson buds open to lilac pink flowers with white centers and conspicuous yellow stamens.   The flowers fade to pale pink in hot climates creating a lovely effect with many shades of pink on the plants at the same time.  The bushy plants have pale glossy leaves that are especially healthy and resistant to mildew, blackspot and rust.  [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rosa Mille Cecile Brunner

elegant buds open to large airy clusters of 10-25 flowers with Hybrid Tea form. Each flower has pink petals with yellow undertones and lighter pink edges but fade in the sun. The flowers are usually reflexed and sometimes have a button eye. The vigorous bushes are well branched, almost thornless, and carry light green leaves. They tolerate some shade and are very disease resistant.  Three sports are available: White Cecile Brunner, Climbing Cecile Brunner, and ‘Spray Cecile Brunner’.   [click to continue…]

Book Review: Bug lab for Kids

John E. Guyon’s book, Bug Lab for Kids, is a dynamite introduction to entomology for children! It introduces readers to the methods and type of thinking that characterizes real scientists from collecting and identifying specimens to constructing experiments and recording data. Written for children ages 7-10, the book is filled with suggestions to stimulate curiosity and heighten the learning experience. [click to continue…]

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…]