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Also called Chinese bush clover, this semi-woody perennial is native to China, Korea, Japan, Formosa, and the Himalayas but was introduced into North Carolina from Japan in 1896 and was planted for erosion control, mine reclamation, and wildlife habitat.  Plants have formed dense stands in new and old forest openings, dry upland woodlands, moist savannas, and old fields and has become invasive in New England, Michigan, and Nebraska, south to Florida and Texas. Growing 3-6′ tall from a woody rootcrown with a taproot, the plant has one to many slender branching  gray-green stems bearing leaves composed of three narrowly oblong leaflets .4 to .8″ long.  Each leaflet is green above with light colored hairs below and is carried on a hairy petiole.  From July to September, 1-4 pea like white  flowers with a purple throat appear in the upper leaf axils. Each flower is .1 to .3 ” long and has a calyx with 5 long teeth that often turn purplish green.  The fruit is a single seeded green pod that turns tan when mature.  Chinese lespedeza prefers full sun, average, medium moist to dry, well-drained soil and tolerate lean soil.  USDA Hardiness Zones 6-8 [click to continue…]

Common water hyacinth is a floating perennial and a member of he pickerelweed family, Pontederiaceae, a small family of 34 species of tropical and subtropical aquatic plants. It is native to the Amazon River Basin where it grows it wet habitats but was introduced into the US in 1884 at the World’s Fair in New Orleans by a group of Japanese people who gave out the plants as gifts, and is now invasive from North Carolina and Missouri, south to Florida and Texas, west to Arizona and California. Plants grow in fresh water and vary in size from a few inches to over 3′ tall. They have dark purplish to black feathery roots and are often joined to mother plants by floating stolons. The glossy, leathery leaves form a rosette and are rounded to broadly elliptic, 6″ wide, and carried on spongy 12″ long petioles. In summer, eight to fifteen showy flowers are appear above the leaves in a 12″ long spike. Each flower has 6 lavender-blue petals, the uppermost one with a yellow blotch. The fruit is a 3 celled capsule with many seeds. Common water hyacinth reproduces rapidly by seed and vegetative means and can become a major problem in lakes and rivers by replacing native vegetation and clogging waterways. The genus name Eichornia, honor Johann Albrect Friedrich Eichorn (1779-1856) Prussian minister of education and public welfare. The specific epithet, crassipes, comes from the Latin words, crassus meaning thick, and pes meaning foot, and refers to the thick stem. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The Modern Cook’s Year

In her book The Modern Cook’s Year,  Anna Jones presents more than 250 vegetarian recipes that demonstrate her sensitivity to the relationship between food and the seasons and further to the time, place, and memories that are associated with it.  The result is a cookbook of unusual recipes divided into 6 groups that roughly join two months together and feature ingredients when they are at their prime.  With vegetables at the center of each recipe, Jones uses flavor profiles from around the world in new and exciting ways that are sure to tickle the imagination and please the palette. [click to continue…]

Fragrant Flowering Shrubs for Spring

The onset of spring is time of awakening and joy and with the many flowering shrubs that bloom then, why not indulge yourself in the beautiful scents that many provide?  There are many fragrant shrubs available and most have white to pink flowers.  The scents vary in kind from spicy to sweet and in strength.  There are bound to be some that you love and some that you can leave behind because scent is a matter of personal choice.  Before you buy, try to give a flower a sniff and see if it is a good match for you then plant it where you can enjoy it: on a patio, along a walk, near a bench in the garden where you rest, or by a window you can open and let the scent waif in by your favorite chair. If possible chose a site that is sheltered so the scent stays concentrated for your enjoyment rather than being blown away by gentle breezes.   [click to continue…]

This herbaceous perennial is also called western false dragon head is a member of the deadnettle family, Lamiaceae, that also includes basil, monarda and ajuga. It is native to Manitoba to British Columbia, south to Illinois, Utah, and Oregon where it grows in marshes, streams and lake margins in lowlands and montane zones.  Plants have a rhizomatous root system and simple or branched 4-angled stems  8-40″ tall.  The sessile  leaves are linear and up to 4′ long with pointed tips and finely toothed margins.  In summer, terminal and axillary spikes 3/4″-3″ long of  white, pink or lavender flowers appear.  Each  funnel-shaped flower is up to 3/4″ long, is subtended by an egg-shaped bract ,and has two lips, the upper hooded, and the lower 3-lobed.  The fruit consists of 4 egg-shaped nutlets. The genus name, Physotegia, comes from the Greek words physa meaning a bladder, and stege, meaning roof cover and refers to the inflated calyx that covers the fruits.  The specific epithet, parviflora, comes from the Latin words parvus meaning small and flos meaning flower. [click to continue…]

rocky mt beard tongue-yarrow combinationThis yellow and blue combination is a striking duo in a sunny, well-drained border in early summer. The spiky form of the beard-tongue contrasts with the flat heads of the yarrow while the colors of the flowers complement each other. The fine texture of the yarrow heads are a pleasant contrast to the coarser texture of the snapdragon-like flowers of the beard-tongue. The gray-green foliage of the yarrow and the seed heads of the both plants will add interest well into the fall. [click to continue…]

Scouler’s corydalis is a herbaceous perennial and a member of the fumatory family, Fumariaceae, that also includes bleeding heart and Dutchman’s breeches.  It is native to western North America where it forms colonies in moist woodlands, and along shaded streambanks and  shaded moist roadsides.  Plants grow 20-50″ tall and have hallow stems usually bearing three large bluish leaves that are finely divided into oblong leaflets.  In late spring, 15-35 pink, rose, or bicolored flowers appear in a long narrow spike. Each flower  is about 1′ long and has long somewhat curved spurs that point upward and outward.  A good choice for a woodland or shade garden.  The genus name, Corydalis, is the Greek word for lark and refers to the resemblance of the plant’s spurs to the spurs of the lark.  The specific epithet, scouleri, honors John Scouler, a 19th century Scotch professor at the Royal Dublin Society. [click to continue…]

Jim Ulager’s book, Beginning Seed Saving for the Home Gardener, presents the author’s experience with seed saving and provides gardeners with the basic information to do the same.  He presents a good case for the value of seed saving and then introduces the essential concepts such as sexual and vegetative reproduction of plants, outbreeding and inbreeding, and open pollination and hybrids, with just enough detail  to help the readers but not overwhelm them. The real heart of the book are the parts on individual groups of plants: the easy plants to use for seed saving like beans, lettuce and tomatoes; the more challenging ones like squash, spinach, and kale, and the most difficult like corn, carrots, and broccoli.  Ulager outlines the problems unique to each group and then describes ways to surmount them.  A final section of the book gives general instructions for processing the seeds such as curing, threshing, and storing the saved seed. [click to continue…]

The common dandelion that decorates lawns throughout the growing season can be made into a delicious beverage that tastes like sherry and is considered  more like a cordial than a wine. Possibly of Celtic origin, dandelion wine was popular in the 1800s and 1900s as a aid to good kidney and digestive system function but today it is appreciated as a delicious drink.  My paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, included a recipe for dandelion wine in her book, Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine.  Unlike modern recipes, her directions do not include a warning about pesticides and pet waste, and do not specify that only the petals of the dandelion flowers should be used. [click to continue…]

Also called streambank wild hollyhock mountain globemallow, this herbaceous perennial is in the mallow family, Malvaceae, that also includes okra, cotton, and hibiscus.  It is native to western North America east of the Cascade Range, from British Columbia and Alberta to Montana and south to Oregon, Colorado, and Nevada where it grows on sunny mountain streambanks, subalpine meadows, roadsides, and open forest slopes at altitudes of 4,500 to 11,000′ . Growing from a woody caudex, plants grow 3-6′ tall and have stout grooved stems carrying large, five to seven-lobed palmate leaves that are broadly heart-shaped and have toothed margins.  In summer loose to dense racemes of white to pink flowers 2′ across appear and each flower consists of five clawed  petals surrounding a central column of fused white stamen filaments, and style topped by head-shaped stigmas.    Plants can be used in beds and borders as well as informal sites such as meadows.  They flower profusely after a disturbance such as a wildfire but are quickly replaced by other vegetation.  Seeds can remain dormant for more than a century.   The genus name, Iliamna, is of unknown origin.  The specific epithet, rivularis,  comes from the Latin word rivus, meaning stream and refers to the common habitat of the plant.

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