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Chinese asterChinese asters are cool weather annuals or biennials native to China and Korea and members of the aster family, Asteraceae. They are not true asters, however, and belong to a different genus. The mid-green leaves are 3.5 inches long and deeply toothed. The flowerheads are usually carried singly on long branches stems from summer to fall and are surrounded by a whorl of leaf-like bracts. The ray petals are usually shades of pink to purple and surround a compact center of yellow disc flowers. Many varieties and cultivars have been developed differing in color, height, and fullness so that single, double and triple heads are available in a large range of colors including blue and white but not yellow. Aster yellows can be a severe problem that deforms the flowers, stunts the growth and yellows the leaves. It has no cure and plants have to be pulled out of the garden in order to check its spread. If you want to grow the plant every year, rotate the beds. In spite of aster yellow, Chinese asters are popular garden plants and especially prized for the vase. [click to continue…]

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Book Review: Plants Can’t Sit Still

plants-cant-sit-stillThe first sight of Rebecca E. Hirsch’s book, Plants Can’t Sit Still, tells you that it is unique; the title is thought provoking, the colors lively, and the words dance across the cover. Common, you think, plants can’t sit still? What is that all about? You are compelled to look inside and the contents don’t disappoint. Written for children five to eight in grades k to 3, the text engages the reader right from the beginning. [click to continue…]

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paspalum-dilatatum-pl-2Dallisrass, also called sticky heads, is a coarse textured, tufted, perennial grass native to Brazil and Argentina where it grows in moist disturbed sites such as pastures, lawns, and golf courses. It has been introduced into the US and now is found in the southern half of the US from coast to coast north into California and Oregon. Spreading by rhizomes it grows rapidly forming a wide ,dense, stiff mat over three feet wide. In addition, it self-seeds readily and can be invasive . It is considered a noxious weed in some places and listed as one of the ten worst weeds of crops. The generic name, Paspalum, is from the Greek word paspalos meaning millet. The specific epithet, dilatatum, is from the spine of the Latin verb differo meaning spread out. [click to continue…]

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dryopteris-wallichiana-plantAlpine wood fern is a semi-evergreen or deciduous perennial fern native to the Himalayas, Hawaii, Mexico and Jamaica where it grows in woodland settings at high elevations. It has a massive rhizome and a wide vase-shape of handsome fronds that are bipinnatifid and bright gold-green when young before turning dark green with age. The color of the fronds is set off by the hair-like dark chocolate scales along the central ribs. The spore-producing structures (sori) have a kidney-shaped covering (indusium) and are arranged in one medial row along each side of the midribs of the lobes. An excellent choice for a shade or woodland garden, especially a small garden because of the relatively narrow width. The genus name Dryopteris comes from the Greeks words dryas meaning oak and pteris meaning fern a reference to the fact that some species are associated with oak woodlands. The specific epithet, wallichiana, is from the name of the Danish botanist, Nathaniel Wallich (1786-1854).

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Flowering Shrubs for High Altitude Gardens

spiraea-x-vanhoutteiThe short growing season and cold temperatures of the mountains offer challenges to flowering shrubs as they must grow and produce flowers and seeds in a short time as well as survive a long cold winter. There are several beautiful flowering shrubs that can do well in these harsh conditions and provide color during the growing season. Two, lilac and mock orange, ae also known for the fragrance they add to the garden. [click to continue…]

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campanula_persicifoliaPeachleaf bellflower is an herbaceous perennial native to the mountains of Europe, North Africa, and Asia where it grows in meadows and woodland edges. It forms a evergreen basal rosette of leathery leaves that are narrow, four to eight inches long, and have rounded teeth. The stem leaves are similar but only two to four inches long. In early summer each stem carries a loose terminal raceme of one to several blue-violet flowers that are broadly bell-shaped, 1.5 inches long, and erect to nodding. Many cultivars are available providing flowers in white and different shades of blue, as well as semidoubles and doubles. Plants multiply by self seeding and by shoots arising from the base. Plants do well in areas where night time temperatures do not go above 70 F. In zone 8 the colors are faded and plants only last one to two years. A fine choice for the border and equally good in the vase.
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Book Review: Agaves

agavesAgaves are a varied genus that is quickly attracting admirers as xerscaping becomes more desirable . Gregg Starr’s book, Agaves: Living Sculptures for Landscapes and Containers, introduces readers to over seventy five different agaves and shows how attractive and versatile the genus is. Drawing on his broad experience with agaves the author focuses on those that are best suited to gardens and containers, giving a wealth of information on many aspects of agave cultivation. [click to continue…]

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gooseberries2Helen S. Wright, my paternal grandmother and author of Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, took quite a shine to gooseberry wine and includes eight in her book. She notes that one recipe comes from a French work. The one shown here is the first of her entries. Other entries include two more for plain gooseberry wine, and one each for gooseberry and currant, pearl gooseberry, red gooseberry, red and white gooseberry, and white gooseberry wine or champagne. Grandmother seems to have made quite a collection of these.
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dryopteris-filix-mas-male-fernMale fern is a semi-evergreen native to Europe, Asia and North America where it grows in damp woodlands as well as rocky areas. The plants have a rhizome with a single crown and medium green arching fronds. Each frond may be over three feet long and is divided into twenty to thirty five pairs of leaflet like structures that are lobed. The fruiting bodies (sori) have a kidney shaped covering (indusium) and are lined up singly on the upper part of the frond nearer the midrib than the margin. Although the plants like moist soil they become quite drought tolerant once established. Compared to other ferns they also tolerate more sun and alkaline soil. An excellent choice for a shade or woodland garden. The genus name Dryopteris comes from the Greeks words dryas meaning oak and pteris meaning fern a reference to the fact that some species are associated with oak woodlands. The specific epithet filix mas means male fern and refers to vigorous and robust nature of the plant. Genus name from Greek dryas meaning oak and pteris meaning fern in reference to the presence of some species of wood ferns in woodland areas populated with oaks. The specific epithet means male fern in reference to the somewhat vigorous growing habits of ferns in this species.

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combinationEnliven the mid-border of the late summer garden with this perennial combination of sneezewort ‘Coppelia’ and Menzies’ burnet. The show begins in mid summer when the burnet begins to bloom and reaches a climax when the flowers of ‘Cappelia’ join the scene and continues into mid fall. The rich autumn colors of the flowers complement each other while the shape and texture of the flowers provide contrast. Both plants grow well in moist, well-drained soil and full sun, although the burnet can take some shade. The flowers of both plants attract butterflies. [click to continue…]

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