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Native to rocky areas and undergrowth of Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria, this perennial corm is a member of the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes gladiolus,  crocosmia, and blue-eyed grass.  The plant grows 1-3″ tall and has a rosette of grass-like leaves with a central white line along the leaf axis.  The solitary cup-shaped flowers appear from November to February and have a white perianth of 6 parts that are fused and feature a yellow blotch in the center.  The 3 conspicuous stamens are black.   Photo Credit Wikipedia

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Tree of heaven is a deciduous tree native to northern China, Taiwan, northern Korea, and Tibet. It was introduced to the US in 1784 as an ornamental and naturalized wherever it was planted due its tolerance of difficult growing conditions, high seed production, and ability to sucker and resprout when cut. A very rapidly growing tree, it grows almost anywhere from urban parking lots to wood margins, crowding out native vegetation. In addition to its vigorous growth, its roots damage pavement, and its male flowers have a foul smell like dirty socks, so it is no longer valued in the US as an ornamental. It is considered invasive from Maine to Michigan, Nebraska, and Oregon, south to Florida and California. USDA Hardiness zones 4-8 [click to continue…]

Also known as giant desert candle, this perennial bulb is native to central Asia and is a member of the Asphodelaceae family that also includes daylily (Hemerocallis), red hot poker (Kniphofia), and aloe (Aloe spp). With a starfish-like rootstock, the plants produce a basal clump of blue-green, strap-shaped leaves up to 4′ tall that dies down after flowering. From early to mid summer a leafless stem up to 10′ tall emerges carrying terminal racemes of up to 800 densely packed flowers that are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Each fragrant flower is 1.5″ long, and has six pale pink, petal-like tepals and bright yellow stamens. The racemes open from the bottom to top over 3 weeks time and resemble foxtails or candles, giving rise to alternative common names. Foxtail lily is striking at the back of the border where it can provide a strong vertical accent in the garden. Plant in groups of five against a dark background for the most dramatic effect. The genus name, Eremurus, comes from the Greek words eremia meaning desert and oura meaning a tail, referring to the appearance of the flower spike. The specific epithet, robustus, is the Latin word meaning strong in grown.

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ZebraGrass (1)

With long, arching leaves horozontally striped with wide bands of cream and green this warm weather perennial grass grows 4-6′ tall in tight rounded clumps. By mid September it reaches 7-8’ when its fluffy pink to copper tinted blooms rise above the still attractive foliage. As fall progresses the blooms turn silvery white and the foliage turns a golden yellow on its way to brown. Throughout the entire growing season the clump stays attractive as it increases in circumference. Even heat, humidity, drought, or salt spray do not mar the beauty of this grass once it is established. Zebra grass is an attractive addition to coastal, cottage, and praire gardens and can be used as a speciman or hedge.

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Native to temperate regions of Europe and Asia, this herbaceous biennial is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce. The plants produce a rosette of leaves the first year and then in the second year grow up to 10′ tall and have a fleshy, gray-brown taproot up to 3′ long, and a green, straight smooth stem bearing large heart-shaped leaves up to 6″ long with long petioles and woolly undersides. In mid-summer purple disc flowers appear in globular, flat flowerheads. Each flowerhead is 1 to 1.5″ wide and is surrounded by an involucre of bracts that are curved to form hooks. The hooks of mature flowerheads catch on the fur of mammals and are carried to nearby areas. The fruit is a one seeded achene with a pappus of short hairs that further aid in seed dispersal and are very irritating to the eyes and mucous membranes. Greater burdock is valued as a vegetable and for its use in medicine, but can become an invasive weed that is very difficult to eradicate because of its deep taproot and abundant production of seeds. Other common names include bardane, beggar’s buttons, snake’s rhubarb, gobo, and thorny burr. The genus name, Arctium, is from the ancient Greek word arction, the name of a plant, perhaps a mullein. The specific epithet, lappa, is the Latin word meaning burr and refers to the dried flowerhead. Photo Credit Wikipedia

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Also known as 4-stamen tamarix and salt cedar, this evergreen tree is native to coastal areas of the eastern Mediterrean, Iran and the Arabian Peninsula where it grows in sandy soils, swamps, and the edges of salt marshes.  It is a member of the  Tamaricaceae, a small family of less than 60 species.  Plants grow 3-10′ tall and have smooth reddish brown bark and very small scale-like gray-green leaves.  The white, 4-5 petaled flowers appear in racemes 1-3.5″ long from spring into summer and give way to tiny pyramidal seed capsules. Photo Credit: Ruben Mor Wikimedia [click to continue…]

This herbaceous perennial is a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, that also includes broccoli, alyssum, and stock. It’s origin is obscure but it is believed to be native to eastern Europe and western Asia.  The plant has  long, white, tapering root and grows 2-3′ tall.  Its coarse leaves are dark green, shiny, and toothed and its small, white fragrant flowers are carried in terminal racemes in mid-summer. Horseradish likes full sun and a rich, loose, deeply cultivated, moist, well-drained soil but tolerates some shade.  It is hardy in zones 5-9 but the root does not develop good flavor unless subjected to frost.  Propagation is by root division in early spring.  Because the plants are vigorous and fairly large they can crowd out most weeds and spread invasively especially if the roots are not harvested every year.  The common name, horseradish, comes from the words horse in the sense of coarse, and radish, which its root resembles.  The genus name, Amoracia, is the classical Latin name for a related plant.  The specific epithet, rusticana, is the Latin word meaning pertaining to the country. [click to continue…]

This evergreen succulent perennial is also known as tiger aloe and is  a member of Asphodelaceae family that also includes daylily (Hemerocallis), red hot poker (Kniphofia), and foxtail lily (Eremurus).   It is indigenous to arid and semi-arid regions of South Africa and Namibia where it grows in hard ground,  rocky crevices, and between rocks as well as in some sandy soils.   Plants grow up to 1′ tall and wide and form stemless rosettes of 18-24 triangular-lanceolate leaves that are 4-6″ long and 3-ranked.  The leaves have small white teeth on their white horney margins and are  dark green variegated by whitish spots that form irregular bands. They may take on a reddish color when water is lacking.    In winter short, stout, mostly branched stems give rise to pendent flowers that are up to 18″ long and are usually orange with green edges but may be red or rarely yellow.   Plants are especially drought resistant and a good choice for difficult areas where moisture is lacking.  Partridge-breast is popular as a houseplant  for its winter bloom but care must be taken not to over-water.  The genus name, Aloe, is the Arabic name for the plant.  The specific epithet, variegata, is the Latin word meaning variegated and refers to the appearance of the leaves. [click to continue…]

The fluffy blue-green  foliage of this emergent perennial aquatic plant resembles parrot feathers to some and miniature fir trees to others so whichever your fancy, this plant may delight.  To further its interest, it has both male and female flowers but in different locations on the same plant , so provides a tidy little lesson on plant reproduction.  But that is if you live in the Amazon area where it is native and produces flowers of both genders.  Here in the US, the plants only produce female fowers making sexual reproduction difficult if not impossible.  Resourceful plant that it is, it can reproduce by fragmentation and does so well enough to have become invasive in some areas especially the South.  Still, it is an attractive plant for fresh water ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, and canals as well as water gardens.  [click to continue…]

Also known as oswego tea, this clump-forming herbaceous perennial is a member of the deadnettle family, Lamiaceae, that also includes mint, basil, and adjuga.  It is native to eastern North America from Maine to northern Georgia and west to Ontario and Minnesota where it grows in moist areas such as bottomlands, thickets. and stream banks and may produce substantial colonies. Plants grow 2-4′ tall and have 4-sided stems bearing thin pointed ovate to lanceolate leaves that are 4-6″ long.  The leaves are dark green with reddish veins, have coarsely toothed margins and give off a minty fragrance when crushed.   Bright red tubular flowers  surrounded by reddish bracts are carried in globose terminal, whorled clusters 3-4″ across and composed of up to 30 flowers.  The flowers bloom  from mid- to late summer and are attractive hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.  Native Americans followed by early settlers have used the plant to make a tea valued for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Many cultivars are available that vary most significantly in color, vigor, and disease resistance.   An excellent choice for the border as well as for a bird, butterfly, native plant, or herb garden.  The genus name, Monarda, honors Nicolas Monardes (1493-1588), physician and botanist of Seville who described the first American flora in 1569. The specific epithet, didyma, is the Greek word meaning twin and refers to stamens that occur in pairs. [click to continue…]