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Amanita_phalloides_The Death Cap is found singly or in troops growing in rich soil throughout the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere from late summer to fall. It is mycorrhizal with a variety of hardwoods such as oak, beech, and hazel., and conifers including pine and Norway spruce. The mushroom stands two to six inches tall and has a cap four to seven inches across. The greenish fleshy cap is egg-shaped and completely enclosed in a veil when it emerges from the soil but becomes convex to flattened as it matures. The smooth surface of the cap is fringed with radiating fibrils and may be greenish to yellow or white. It is shiny in dry weather and somewhat sticky in damp. The margin is inrolled at first but becomes sinuous with maturity. The white gills are free, uneven, soft, and relatively crowded. The slender stem arises from a large base (volva) and is white with fine scales the color of the cap. A white striated ring, the remains of the annulus, hangs from its upper region. The spores are white. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rosa ‘Lovely Fairy’

This popular Polyantha rose produces clusters of 10-40 deep pink flowers in flushes throughout the season beginning a bit later but continuing well into fall. Each flower is up to 1.25″ across and has up to 25 petals, a button-eye form, and a frilly appearance.   The bush has pale, glossy leaves and a loose habit so that it tends to spread laterally, making it an excellent choice for a ground cover. ‘Lovely Fairy’ is a sport of ‘The Fairy’ but can be differentiated by its darker pink color. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Beginner Gardening

DK’s book Beginner Gardening presents the basic principles involved in making and maintaining a garden from conception to birth. It breaks down the process into small segments and presents each segment with step by step instructions accompanied by labeled photographs all the way through. While the facts are well known, the approach and delivery are novel and make garden creation available to anyone wishing to pursue it. [click to continue…]

Barley wine goes back to ancient times when the Greek military commander and historian Xenophon mentioned it in his History of the Persian wars.  Xenophon’s  beverage, however, predates the use of hops so would not be the same as barley wines made today.  Modern barley wine was first marketed about 1870 and had an alcohol content of 8-12%.  In spite of its moniker, the beverage is a beer rather than a wine because it is made from fermented grain rather than fermented fruit. The recipe for barley wine given by  my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, in her book Old Time Recipes for Home made Wines, does not use hops and bears little resemblance to modern barley wines.  Could it be more like Xenophon’s ???? [click to continue…]

Also called false sarsaparilla, shot bush, small spikenard, wild liqorice, and rabbit root, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the ginseng family, Araliaceae, that also includes ivy, umbrella tree, and Fatsia.  It is native to North America from Newfoundland to British Columbia, south to Virginia, Georgia, and Colorado where it is a widespread, dominant understory species in boreal coniferous and mixed-wood forests, growing in moist, shady woodlands, swamps, and bogs.  Plants grow 12-24″ tall and have pinnate doubly compound leaves up to 5″ long with finely toothed leaflets.  In late spring to mid-summer a 8″ tall branching stalk typically produces three globid umbels 1.6-2″ wide bearing up to 40 tiny greenish white flowers 1/8″ long. The flowers are held below the foliage and are notable because of their long white stamens.  Bloom time lasts 2-3 weeks and flowers are replaced by blue-black berries 1/4″ across. The genus name, Aralia, comes from the old French-Canadian name for the plant.  The specific epithet, nudicaulis, comes from the Latin words nudus meaning naked, and caulis meaning stalk of a plant and refers to the leafless flowerstalk. [click to continue…]

Globe Amaranth is a compact annual growing up to twenty four inches tall and belongs to the Amaranthaceae family that also includes spinach, celosia, and quinoa. It is native to Central America and parts of Brazil but is a popular ornamental in the US. Plants like full sun with moderately moist, well-drained soil and bloom from early summer to fall. The flowerheads are made up of colorful  bracts with a few tiny white to yellow flowers dispersed among them. The bracts are papery and may be white, pink, red, lavender or purple.  The flowerheads dry well on their own stems and are a big asset in dried arrangements.   [click to continue…]

Also called roundleaf alum, this  evergreen herbaceous perennial is a member of the saxifraxge family, Saxifragaceae,  that also includes astilbe, bergenia, and tiarella.  It is native to northwestern North America from British Columbia and Alberta to northern California and northern Nevada,  east to Wyoming and Montana where it grows in rocky areas on cliff-sides and slopes, and  in woods and sub-alpine meadows.  Plants produce a 6″ tall  basal mound of  ovate to heart-shaped leaves that are leathery, hairy and dark green.  Each  leaf is 6-8″ long and has 5-7 blunt, toothed lobes.   Small cream to greenish  bell-shaped flowers appear in dense panicles on leafless stems well above the foliage and up to 35″ tall from late spring to summer. Plants like full sun to partial shade but must have moist soil when grown in full sun and some shade where summers are hot. Both flowers and leaves are good in the vase. A good choice for ground cover, rock garden or border.  The genus name, Heuchera, honors Johann Heinrich von Heucher (1677-1747) a botanist, physician, and medicinal plant expert at Wittenberg University, Germany.  The specific epithet, cylindrica, comes from the Latin word cylindrus meaning roller or cylinder and refers to the round leaves.  The common name poker alumroot comes from the resemblance of the flower spikes to a poker.  The common name roundleaf alumroot refers to the shape of the leaves. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Tell Your Children

With more and more people looking favorably on the legalization of marijuana there is a growing increase in the number of people concerned about legalization, and Alex Berenson is one of them.  In his book, Tell Your Children, Berenson explores the connection between marijuana, mental illness and violence.  Formerly a reporter for the New York Times, the author interviewed world experts from scientists, to psychiatrists, and researches to develop a compelling case for a closer look at the problem.

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Also called wolfsbane and helmet flower, this herbaceous perennial is a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes columbine, hellebore, and delphinium. It is native and endemic to western and central Europe where it grows in moist areas in pastures and mountains. The common name, wolfsbane, comes from the use of the plant to produce a poison to kill wolves. The derivation of the generic name, Aconitum, is disputed but may come from a Greek word that refers to the invincibility of its poison. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Vanilla Leaf (Achlys triphylla)

Also called sweet after death and deer foot, vanilla leaf is a herbaceous perennial native to western North America from British Columbia south to California where it forms a dense ground cover in moist shady forests.  It is a member of the barberry family, Berberaceae, that also includes Oregon grape (Mahonia) and barrenworts (Epimedium and Vancouveria).  Plants grow up  to 14″ tall from a rhizomatous root system and have mid- to light green leaves 2-3″ wide.  The leaves are palmately compound with 3 leaflets that may be toothed or lobbed.  In spring small white flowers are produced in a narrow fluffy spike up to 2.75″ long.  The flowers lack petals and sepals but have 8-20 long white stamens.   The genus name, Achlys, is the name of the Greek goddess, daugher of Nyx (night), who personified misery and sadness.  The specific epithet, triphylla, comes from the Latin/Greek prefix tri-, meaning 3, and Greek suffix -phyllus, meaning leafed and refers to the 3 leaflets of each compound leaf.  The common name deer foot refers to the configuration of the leaves while the common names, vanilla leaf, and sweet after death, refer to the sweet vanilla scent of the dried crushed leaves. [click to continue…]