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Aquilegia formosa 3Also called crimson columbine, this herbaceous perennial is a native of western North America from the cWest Coast to the Rocky Mountains where it grows especially well in moist rocky soil. It is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes delphinium, monkshood and anemone. The plant is openly branching and has blue-green biternate and lobed foliage and pendent, spurred flowers 1.5 to 2 inches long. The flowers have red to orange petal-like sepals surrounding yellow petals and appear from spring into early summer. They attract hummingbirds as well as sphinx moths that are their pollinators. The generic name, Aquilegia, may come from the Latin word aquila meaning eagle and refers to the talon like spurs of the flowers. The specific epithet, formosa comes from the Latin word forma meaning beautiful, having a fine form. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The Book of Greens

If you are tired of eating the same old greens in the same old ways and want to try something new, Jenn Louis’ work, The Book of Greens, is full of information and ideas. Believing that greens should be an essential part of every meal, the author shares her expertise and knowledge with the hope that she can inspire home cooks to get creative with flavors and cooking methods. There is more to leafy greens than salad and sides, says the author, and the book proves her point with forty greens described and 175 recipes included. [click to continue…]

The Spanish city of Malaga is known for the very fine raisins they produce from Muscatel grapes. These Muscatel grape is very sweet and has anintense flavor; It originated in Egypt and was probably brought to Malaga by the Phoenicians where it was later improved by the Greeks and Romans. Using both the Muscatel grape and another, Pedro Ximenez, the area also makes a sweet fortified dessert wine. Perhaps this sweet wine is what my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, had in mind when she included a recipe for Mountain Wine made from Muscatel raisins in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine. [click to continue…]

Japanese barberry is a thorny, deciduous shrub growing 3-6’ tall and a member of the barberry family, Berberidaceae, that also includes heavenly bamboo (Nandina), Oregon grape (Mahonia), and barronwort (Epimedium). The obvate green leaves are up to 1 ¼” long and turn yellow to red in the fall. Pendent clusters of pale yellow flowers appear in spring and give way to small red berries that persist into winter and are attractive to birds. Plants are very adaptable and tolerate shade, heat, drought, and urban conditions. They respond well to pruning and are especially useful for barrier hedges. Several cultivars are available that vary most significantly in height and color of foliage. Japanese barberry is native to Japan but was introduced into the US in 1875 as an ornamental and as a replacement for common barberry (B. vulgaris) which is a host for black stem rust of wheat. Plants form dense stands that compete with native vegetation in open woods woodland borders, pastures, fields, and disturbed areas such as waste lots, and have become invasive from Maine too Manitoba, south to Georgia and Kansas due to their high reproductive capacity and the fact that they are avoided by browsing wildlife. [click to continue…]

Edible Flowers: Sunflowers (Helianthus annus)

Helianthus annusSunflowers are annuals native to North American but introduced into Europe in the sixteenth century by the Spanish. They are now widely grown for their oil and seeds. Sunflowers belong to the aster family (Asteraceae) known for their compact inflorescences. The flowerhead of a sunflower consists of outer ray flowers/florets that are sterile and resemble petals. The inner part of the flowerhead is composed of disc flowers that form the seeds when fertilized. The disc flowers are arranged in the interconnecting spiral pattern of a Fibonacci series. The generic name, Helianthus, comes from the Green helios meaning sun, and anthos meaning flower, and may refer to the resemblance of the flowerhead to the sun or the mistaken idea that the flowerhead turns with the daily movement of the sun. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rose Bride’s Dream

Long, pointed pale pink buds are held singly on strong long stems and open slowly to large flowers up to 5” across with 25-30 light pink petals that mature to blush. The upright bushes are vigorous and healthy with large, matte, medium-green leaves and almost thornless stems. Flowers are good in the vase and are popular and successful exhibition roses. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Cannabis for Chronic Pain

Cannabis for Chronic PainDr. Ivker’s book, Cannabis for Chronic Pain, presents a holistic approach to pain management that includes the use of marijuana. Although the title might suggest that the book deals exclusively with medical marijuana this is not the case and the author shows how to use medical marijuana effectively as part of a pain management program. With over 50 years of experience as a holistic family doctor, Dr. Ivker shares his knowledge of medical marijuana and his experiences with using it for chronic pain. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Jetbead (Rhodotypos scandens)

Jetbead is a mounding deciduous shrub growing 3-6’ tall and is native to Japan and central China. It was introduced into the US in 1866 as an ornamental and has become invasive from New England to Wisconsin, south to South Carolina and Alabama, where it creates a dense shrub layer in forested areas, displacing native vegetation. Jetbead is a member of the rose family, Rosaceaea, that also includes cherry, lady’s mantle, and pyracantha. The medium green leaves are bright green , have prominent veins, and densely cover the plant but have unremarkable fall color. The 2” wide 4-petaled white flowers appear in late spring and give way to glossy black fruits that persist into winter. The shrub has limited ornamental value but is easy to grow, tolerates full sun to full shade and a wide range of soil conditions, and can be sheared or heavily pruned. The generic name Rhodotypos comes from the Greek words rhodon meaning rose and typos meaning type. The specific epithet scandens comes from the Latin word scando meaning climb. [click to continue…]

Dictamnus albus 2Also called dittany and burning bush, gas plant is a herbaceous perennial with a woody base and is native to southwestern Europe and Asia where it lives in forests edges, fields, and meadows. It produces volatile oils that can be ignited on hot day giving rise to two of its common names. The glossy, light green pinnate leaves have nine to eleven leaflets that are finely toothed, covered with translucent dots, and give off a lemony smell when crushed. The lemony scent is not surprising since the plant belongs to the same family as lemons (Rutaceae) but the taste is acrid rather than sour. The fragrant flowers are one inch long and white, pink, or purple with long stamens that extend beyond the petals. They are carried in terminal racemes and appear in early summer. Plants grow best where nights are cool and form large clumps with time. They are very long lived but are difficult to propagate and resent being moved. The variety purpureus has soft mauve petals with darker veins is especially attractive. The spikes of flowers are striking in arrangements and last well in water and the star-shaped seed pods are attractive in dried arrangements. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Aquilegia glandulosa

Aquilegia glandulosa 4Siberian columbine is a herbaceous perennial native to central Asia and Siberia. It is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes delphinium, anemone, and monkshood. The compact plants have biternate blue-green basal leaves, with arrow leaflets. The nodding to semi-erect flowers appear in the spring and have spreading sepals and very short reflexed spurs. The flowers are bright blue,1 ¾ inches long and give way to small dull black seeds. Plants self-seed but also hybridize easily so seed may not breed true. The variety jacunda is a bit smaller in size and has white petals surrounded by blue sepals. At twelve inches high Siberian columbine is a good choice for the rock garden as well as the front of the border. It is also useful in woodland gardens with dappled shade. [click to continue…]