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Joe pie weed is a clump-forming herbaceous perennial native to eastern and central North America where it grows in moist sites. It is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow, and lettuce. Plants grow 5-7 ‘ tall and have green hallow stems with purple nodes and lance-shaped, coarsely-toothed dark green leaves that are 8-12″ long and carried in whorls of 3-5. From mid-summer to early fall tiny dull pink to purplish flowers appear in large, terminal domed clusters Each 12-18″ wide flowerhead consists of 5-7 vanilla scented flowers and give way to attractive seed heads that persist into winter. Both flowers and seed heads are attractive in dried arrangements.The dried flowers can be used to form a light airy collar around  large flowerheads like hydrangeas. The flowers attract butterflies and the plants are deer tolerant. Planted in groups, Joe Pye weed is an excellent choice for back of the border in a cottage garden, native plant garden, butterfly garden or rain garden. The genus name, Eupatorium, comes from the Greek words eu meaning well and troche meaning wheel-like and refer to the whorled leaf arrangement. The specific epithet, purpureum, is the Latin word for purple and refers to the color of the flowers. [click to continue…]

Helvella_crispaAlso known as white saddle, and elfin saddle, this sac fungus (Ascomycetes) may be found growing singly or in troops in deciduous or coniferous woods on calcareous soil in most northern temperate regions including North America from summer to autumn. It is mycorrhizal, often being associated with beech and oak, but can be found along paths, in grassy areas including lawns, and along hedges. The mushroom stands 1 ½ to 4 ½ inches tall and has a very curled, convoluted cream colored cap that resembles a brain. The cap is ¾ to 2 ½ inches across and can also be considered saddle-shaped. It has irregular, sinuous upturned margins that reveal the wrinkled, yellow ochre underside. The spore producing surface is lumpy and cream colored and the spores are white. The stem is white darkening to yellow with age and has ridges and grooves along its surface and hollow chamber insides. [click to continue…]

Also known as Spanish bayonet, spoon-leaf yucca, needle-palm, and silk-grass, Adam’s needle is a clump-forming evergreen perennial and a member of the asparagus family, Asperagaceae, that also includes agave, lily of the valley, and hosta.  It  is native to southeastern US from southeast Virginia south to Florida and west southwest Texas where it grows in a variety of habitats including rocky slopes, fields, and dunes.    The  spine-tipped, sword-like, gray green leaves are 1.5-2.5 long and are edged with curling fibers.  In early to mid summer, creamy white, 2″ long,  bell-shaped flowers appear in panicles that are 6-10′ tall but can be taller.  The flowers sometimes are flushed with reddish brown.  Adam’s needle is drought resistant and can add a dramatic architectural element to the garden, especially valuable in a xeriscape.   The genus name, Yucca, is from the Carib name for manihot or cassava, plants that are not related. The specific epithet, filamentosa, is the Latin word meaing furnished with a filament or thread and refers to the fibers on the margin of the leaves. [click to continue…]

Achillea filipulina Gold PlateThis clump-forming perennial is a native of central and southwestern Asia but has naturalized in parts of Europe and North America. As a member of the aster family (Asteraceae), it has small compact bright yellow flowerheads composed of ray and disc flowers are carried in flat compound corymbs up to five inches across. The gray-green leaves are slightly fuzzy, deeply cut and feathery. Outstanding cultivars include “Parkers Variety’ with golden yellow flowers on three to four foot stems, and ‘Gold Plate’ with deep yellow flowers on stems up to five feet tall. Flowers are good cut flowers both fresh and dried but pollen must be showing before they are cut. [click to continue…]

Native to southern Europe and North Africa, this annual or tender perennial is a member of the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae, that also includes sweet potato, water spinach, and dodder.  The  low growing bushy plants are branched and form slightly trailing mounds 1-2′ tall  rather than climb.  The  mid-green leaves are  lance-shaped,  sessile, and up to one inch long. The 1.5-2″  wide funnel-shaped flowers appear in the axils of the leaves and open for one whole day, unlike those of their twining cousins, Ipomoea tricolor, that close in the afternoon.  The petals are usually light to dark blue and have white at the base and yellow in center, but cultivars are available that vary in color.  Flowering occurs in the summer over a long bloom time and plants are  heat and drought tolerant once established.  A good choice for use in containers,  rock gardens and borders or as a groundcover or edger.  The genus name, Convolvulus, comes from the Latin word convolvere meaning to twine around  and refers to the twining nature of most of the plants in the genus (but not this plant).  The specific epithet, tricolor comes from the Latin words tres meaning three, and color meaning color and refers to the petals that feature three different colors. [click to continue…]

Genus: Geums for the Garden

Often called avens, Geum is a genus of over 50 species of herbaceous perennials in the rose family, Roseaceae, that also include cherries, almonds, and lady’s mantle.  Plants are valued for their attractive dark green hairy foliage and colorful  5-petaled flowers over a long bloom time but are best grown where summer temperatures are cool.  The pinnately compound leaves form basal clumps and have a terminal leaflet that is usually larger than the laterals.  The flowers are saucer-shaped and may be yellow, orange, red, or purple.  They are carried well above the foliage on long erect, usually branching stems. Some species have attractive fluffy seedheads.  All but one, a bog plant, require  fertile soil with excellent drainage and full to partial sun  with some afternoon shade in warm climates. Propagation is by fresh seed or division in spring or fall, but most require division every 3-4 years to keep plants vigorous. Pests and diseases are rarely a problem in cool climates. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

This deciudous flowering shrub is native to eastern North America from Maine to northern Florida and west to Ontaraio, Kansas, and Texas where it grows in moist areas of woods espically where there is exposed limestone.  It is a member of the laural family, Lauraceae, that also includes avocado, cinnamon, and sassafras.  Plants grow 6-12′ tall and wide, and have aromatic, brown to gray-brown stems sprinkled with circular lenticels, and thick light green leaves that are 3-6″ long, oblong-obvate and turn bright yellow in the fall.  The leaves provide food for the larvae of the spicebush swallowtail butterfly.  Clusters of tiny, greenish-yellow male and female flowers appear in separate plants in early spring before the leaves emerge.  The flowers are aromatic, lack petals and the male flowers are larger and showier than the female ones. Female flowers give way to bright red berries  in the fall that are 1/2″ long and attractive to birds.  The plants are easy to grow and are a good choice for woodland, native plant, wildlife, bird, and butterfly gardens.  The genus name, Lindera, honors Johann Linder (1676-1723) Swedish botanist and physician.  The specific epithet, benzoin, is from an Arabic vernacular word meaning aromatic gum.   [click to continue…]

Book Review: It’s Winter

With her book, It’s Winter, author Linda Glaser shares her enjoyment of winter through the eyes of a young girl as she catches a snowflake on her tongue, sinks her feet into deep snow, and makes snow angels and snowmen. The little girl listens to the woodpecker pecking at a tree, watches her breath come out in white puffs, and thinks about her grandparents lolling at the beach far away in sunny Florida for the winter. Bats, bees, earthworms, chipmunks, and frogs are hibernating, a deer eats tender twigs, and birds enjoying birdseed. Under a soft creamy moon the little girl sees Orion in the sky and a snowshoe hare below but notices soon after that the snow is melting, the sun is stronger, and the ground is warmer; spring is coming but there is still time to play in the snow. Three pages of suggestions for winter activities conclude the work. [click to continue…]

Shakespeare’s Garden: Apricot

apricotThe apricot, Prunus armeniaca, belongs to the rose family, Rosaceae, that includes almonds, peaches, plums, and cherries. It is a small deciduous tree, 26-29 feet tall, with a rounded crown, and resembles a peach tree. The leaves are oval to heart-shaped, two to three inches long,and often covered with soft hairs on the underside. The one inch wide flowers are borne before the leaves emerge and have five white to pink petals. Although they are hardy to USDA zones 5-8 they bloom early and so are prone to frost damage. They need fertile, well-drained soil and full sun and are susceptible to several pests and diseases like other members of the rose family. [click to continue…]

Also known as southwest and desert locust, this deciduous  multi branched shrub or small tree is native to areas in southwestern US where it can be an understory tree or grow in pure stands in forest openings.  It is a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also include mimosa, lupines, and beans.  Plants grow 10-25′ tall  and have  4-6″ long pinnate leaves that are blue-green and divided into 7-15 lance-shaped leaflets up to 1.5″ long.   A pair of sharp spines are located on each side of the leaf scars.   From spring to early summer fragrant white to pink pea-like flowers appear  in dense drooping racemes 2-4″ long and give way to  bean-like fruits that persist into winter. The  plants tend to root sprout and may form dense thickets and are very drought tolerant and therefore useful in water saving gardens  The genus name, Robinia, honors Jean Robin (1550-1629) the gardener of  Kings Henry IV and Louis XIII of France.  The specific epithet, neomexicana, is the Latinized form of New Mexico, one of the locations where the plant is found. [click to continue…]