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Plant Profile: Shiso (Perilla frutescens)

Shiso, also called beefsteak plant, is a herbaceous perennial herb grown as an annual and is native to Southeast Asia and Indian highlands. It is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, that also includes rosemary, basil, and monarda. Growing 24-35 inches tall, the plant has hairy dark burgundy-colored square stems and oval leaves three to five inches long, with pointed tips and serrated margins. The leaves are carried on long petioles, have a wrinkled appearance, and may be green, purple or a combination. In late summer 1/8 inch long pale purple flowers appear in terminal racemes up to six inches long and give way to a multitude of small nutlets. Self-seeding is so vigorous that new plants can be a problem. The leaves and seeds of the plant are edible and popular in Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese cooking. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Compost Stew

Compost StewAs composting becomes more popular children are getting involved both at home and at school and Mary Siddals book, Compost Stew, is a fun way to capture interest of the very young for environmental stewardship. Using the format of an alphabet book, the author introduces young readers to many of the things that can be composted and shows them how to create and care for a compost pile. The rhyming text and colorful illustrations are aimed to capture the imagination of reader from age three to seven. [click to continue…]

Earth-Kind Roses: Polyanthas

La Marne3Polyantha roses are a type of modern rose that is known for its large clusters of small flowers on relatively small, sturdy bushes. The ones described below are all Earth-Kind roses, a designation that indicates that they are low maintenance; once established they tolerate heat, drought and a variety of soil types, and can be grown without pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers. [click to continue…]

Sorbus_americana_flAmerican mountain ash is a small deciduous tree or large shrub native to northeastern North America from Newfoundland to Manitoba, south to Maryland, Illinois, and Minnesota and in the mountains to Georgia where it grows in open woods, rocky slopes, and outcroppings. It is a member of the rose family Rosaceae, that also includes cherries, hawthorns, and blackberries, and is not related to the true ash , Fraxinus. The trunks have smooth gray bark when young before developing splits cracks and scales that eventually peel off. The pinnately compound leaves are six to ten inches long with eleven to seventeen narrow leaflets two to three inches long. They are dark yellow green above, lighter below, and turn yellow, orange, red or purple in the fall. In late spring to early summer small creamy- white flowers 1/8 inch across appear in flat clusters three to five inches in diameter at the tips of one year old branches. The clusters of bright red berry-like fruit that are eaten by birds and small mammals, and can be made in to jelly. Moose and deer eat the twigs, foliage and bark. In northern climates, American mountain ash is a good choice for a specimen or shade tree and can be used as a street tree. A cultivar ‘Dwarfcrown’ is available. The generic name, Sorbus , is the Latin name for service tree. The specific epithet americana refers to the geographic origin of the tree. [click to continue…]

Siberian elm is semi-evergreen to deciduous tree growing up to 70’ tall native to northern India and China, Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet, Russian Far East and Korea. It was introduced into the US in 1905 and later selected by the USDA for use in shelter belts after the Dustbowl because of its rapid growth and tolerance for drought and cold. In the 1950s it was embraced as a fast-growing hedge for use instead of privet and it naturalized in many area becoming invasive in most of North America south of the boreal forest. The tree is considered a poor as ornamental because of its tendency to be short-lived, poor crown shape, high susceptibility to pests and disease, and brittle wood that breaks easily in wind or snowfall. USDA Hardiness zones 4-9 [click to continue…]

aster_tongolensis_berggartenEast Indies aster is a mat-forming herbaceous perennial native from India to western China. It is a member of the Asteraceae family that also includes sunflowers, yarrow, and lettuce. The plants form rosettes of dark green leaves that are three to four inches long, elliptical, and softly hairy. In summer strong leafless stems that never need staking produce solitary two inch wide flowerheads two inches across that consist of drooping violet rayflowers surrounding a center of orange disc flowers and are attractive to bees and butterflies. The plants are stoloniferous and can form substantial clumps but are not long lived in warm climates. A good choice for borders, containers, butterfly, rock and cutting gardens. The generic name Aster is the Ltin word meaning star and refers to the form of the flowers. The specific epithet tongolensis means referring to Tonga , a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands. [click to continue…]

Legalizing MarijuanaSince nine states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use, and twenty-one more for restricted medical use, the debate about marijuana is one that can not be ignored. Margaret Goldstein’s book, Legalizing Marijuana: Promises and Pitfalls, provides a short introduction to the topic that can be read in one sitting. In addition to informative anecdotal material, the author includes just enough case studies and statistics to give an idea of the overall complexity of the problem without burying the reader in details that would be difficult to follow. A possible drawback of this approach, however, is that the author’s point of view may gain undue weight or that subtle aspects of the issue are left out. [click to continue…]

Cherry wine is one of the many different kinds of fruit wines that are especially good for cooking or as art of dessert. You can purchase them on line but can also make your own and the Internet has several recipes using sour cherries, sweet cherries, and a combination of the two. My paternal grandmother included two recipes for cherry wine in her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, but does not specify the kind of cherries but adds currants to one of them. [click to continue…]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlack olive is an evergreen tree native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America but found growing in the brackish marshes of southern Florida. It is no relation to the familiar edible olive but is a member of the Combretaceae family that is usually found in the subtropics and tropics. The gray-brown trunk may have spines and is smooth at first but may become rough or scaly with age. The twigs and branches may also have short spines and the branches may droop but are very break-resistance. The obvate leaves are leathery and two to four inches long. They have blue-green upper sides and chartreuse undersides, and are clustered in whorls at the tips of the branches . Inconspicuous creamy yellow-white flowers are 1/4 “ across, urn-shaped, fragrant, and attractive to bees. They are carried in spikes three to four inches long in spring and give way to reddish-brown to dark brown fruits that are leathery and ½-1/2” long. The trees are tolerant of both seaside and urban conditions and can be used for highway medians or parking lots. They also have an extensive fibrous root system that makes the them valuable for erosion control but the roots are strong and can lift up pavement and damage foundations. The wood is very strong and valued for fencepost as well as other durable construction but is difficult to cut because of its high density. The fruits and leaves may create a litter problem and an exude from the tree may stain pavements. [click to continue…]

meadow sage-cranesbill combinationRosy purple color is the theme for this long-blooming combination. The violet red of ‘Amethyst’ is echoed by the soft pink of ‘Bressingham Delight’ while contrast is provided by the differences in texture and shape. The spikes of ‘Amethyst’ provides a vertical element that is very different from the round form and flowers of ‘Bressingham Delight’. Further contrast is provided by the fuzzy leaves and fine textured flowers of ‘Amethyst’ and the smooth, silky flowers of cranesbill. Both plants do well with full sun and moist, well-drained soil. [click to continue…]