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Rosa-Blanc-Double-de-CoubertThis rugosa rose is hardy, healthy and vigorous, and blooms almost continuously. Its pure white flowers have ten to twenty petals and are 3.5 inches across. They have a strong rich fragrance and are followed by fat orange hips. Unfortunately the flowers spoil in the rain. Prickly stems carry dark green pleated leaves that turn clear soft yellow in the fall. The flowers last well in the vase but it is the leaves that are of special interest for flower arranging. If branches are cut as soon as the leaves turn yellow they will last a long time in the vase and make a bright addition to fall arrangements. A delay in cutting results in leaf fall. Hips are valuable in fall arrangements and flowers dry well for winter arrangements. [click to continue…]

Geum borisiiThis clump forming herbaceous perennial is the result of a cross between Geum bulgaricum and Geum reptans and a member of the rose family (Rosaceae) that also includes apples, pyracantha, and lady’s mantle. Wiry stems are branched and form mounds of trifoliate leaves with rounded terminal lobes that are twice the size of the lateral lobes. The bright orange flowers are one to two inches wide, and are carried above the foliage on branched stems from late spring to early summer. Fluffy seed heads may follow. Plants do best in cool climates and do not thrive in areas with high heat and humidity or wet soil in winter. A good choice for front of the border, rock garden, or container. The genus name Geum is the Latin name for the plant. The species name borissi honors to King Boris of Bulgaria (1894-1941). [click to continue…]

Book Review: A Beetle Is Shy

A Beetle is ShyBeetles may not be your favorite critter but Dianna Hutts Aston’s book, A Beetle Is Shy, certainly will help you look at them differently. The book is full of fascinating facts about a myriad of beetles from the familiar lady bug to huge titan beetle all portrayed in vivid watercolor illustrations. Written for children ages five to eight, the book can be enjoyed when read to an individual or a group. [click to continue…]

Earth-Kind Roses: Climbers

Earthkind climber Pinkie clEarth-Kind is a designation given to roses by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service after extensive testing that evaluates pest tolerance as well as outstanding landscape performance. It tells the public that the roses are tough and thrive in very difficult conditions with minimal maintenance. Once they are established, Earth-Kind roses are able to grow without pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers and with greatly reduced irrigation. They tolerate a variety of soil types from well-drained acid sand to highly alkaline clays and once established are tolerant of heat and drought. The total number of roses on the list at this writing is twenty one, making this a very special group especially for environmentally conscious gardeners. [click to continue…]

Simarouba amaraThe paradise tree is an evergreen understory tree native to the rainforests and savannahs of the Caribbean, and South and Central America. It is a member of the Simaroubaceae family that also includes the Chinese tree of heaven, Alianthus altissima, a widespread weed in both urban and non-urban environments. The paradise tree has a smooth, pale gray trunk and large pinnately divided evergreen leaves up to twenty four inches long with nine to sixteen leathery, obovate leaflets. New leaves are produced every year before the flowers and are tinged with red before turning deep green with maturity. Small yellow male and female flowers are produced in pendent panicles below the foliage on the same tree in spring and female flowers are followed by brightly colored green to deep purple fruits in clusters of three to five. Trees are fast growing but short lived, and are suitable for use as specimens, lawn trees, screens or in naturalized settings.
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Rove beetle Paederus_littoralis  ©entomart Wikimedia commons

Photo: ©entomart, Wikimedia Commons

Rove beetles belong to the family Staphylinidae, one of the largest family of beetles, with over sixty thousand species worldwide and over three thousand species in North America. Since there are so many species there is great variation in characteristics but all have short wing covers so that half of their abdomen is visible. They have well developed hind wings, however, so can fly well. Their bodies are slender, flexible, brown or black in color, and range in length from .o4” to 1.4’ with most being between .o8” and .3”. When threatened many species raise their abdomen upward like a scorpion but unlike a scorpion they have no stinger. A few, however, release a substance that can irritate the skin. Their mouth parts are adapted for chewing. [click to continue…]

dianthus-deltoides3Maiden pink is an evergreen herbaceous perennial native to Europe and western Asia. It is a member of the carnation family, Caryophyllaceae.that also includes baby’s breath, Lynchnus, and soapwort (Saponaria). The plant forms loose mats with two kinds of stems, one prostate and four to six inches long, the other branched, eight to twelve inches long, and flower-bearing. The solitary flowers are ¾ ” wide, purple to rose colored, and are produced in profusion for eight to ten weeks during the summer. They are slightly fragrant and usually have a spotted band at the base of the sharply toothed petals. Shearing the plants after flowering may produce a second bloom. The narrow grass-like green leaves are ½ inch wide and four to six inches long and often have a rosy purple flush in cool weather. A good choice for a ground cover, front of the border, and rock garden. The generic name Dianthus comes from the Greek words Dios meaning of Zeus and anthos meaning flower. The specific epithet deltoids comes from the name of the Greek letter delta that resembles a triangle. Many good cultivars are available that vary primarily in height and color. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The Flavor Bible

The Flavor BibleCooking can be a very creative process if you have an understanding of the aesthetic of flavor. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dorneburg presents a guide to flavor affinities that makes recipes less important and frees a cook to create unique dishes. Based on the experiences of many of the top and innovative chefs in America, the authors provide tables that show how flavors of hundreds of ingredients relate to one another so that cooks can create new and delicious flavor combinations using the vast number of new ingredients that are quickly becoming available. [click to continue…]

Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine: Quince

quinceNot many people grow quinces or do much with the fruit. It is a deciduous tree related to pears and apples and has been grown for its fruit as well as its ornamental qualities for centuries. The fruits are harvest in late summer and early fall and can be used cooked in jams, jellies, pies, and condiments where they add a sour taste. Wine, too, can be made from quinces and my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, gives two recipes for quince wine in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine.

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Plant Profile: Sand Pine (Pinus clausa)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASand pine is a coniferous shrubby tree native to areas in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama where it grows in the infertile very well-drained soils of ridges, barrens, and dunes. It is a member of the pine family, Pinaceae, the largest extant conifer family in species diversity that also includes firs, hemlocks, cedars, larches and spruces. The plants have relatively smooth bark when young but develop a plate-like look with age. The needles are up to 4 inches long and occur in pairs. The cones are up to 3.5 inches long and are of two types; one has a wax coating that melts only when exposed to fire that kills the mother tree, the other lacks a waxy coat and disperses seeds without needing fire to open them. The cones often become embedded in the wood. The trees are suitable for screens or a windbreak in hot sunny areas with harsh conditions including salt spray and are used in parking lots and highway strips where most other trees can not survive. They are also valued as Christmas trees and are a valuable source of wood pulp. [click to continue…]