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This rapidly growing, climbing or trailing woody vine is evergreen and a member of the logan family, Loganiaceae, a group made up of about thirteen genera many of which are poisonous. It is native from the southeastern seaboard, north to eastern Virginia and west to Texas where it grows in woodlands, fields, fencerows, and thickets but is often grown as an ornamental in both its home range and in southern California. It is the state flower of South Carolina. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Compost Critters

Compost CrittersIs a compost pile just a mound of plant debris and kitchen scraps? No, and Bianca Lavies’ book, Compost Critters, reveals the amazing critters that inhabit the compost pile and turn garbage into rich humus that makes our gardens thrive. Written for children in grades three through six, this photo essay opens a whole new world to readers in a fascinating and captivating way. [click to continue…]

Earth Kind Roses: Nearly Thornless

La Marne3The thorns, or prickles, on roses can make them very unpleasant garden companions especially when you have to weed, spread mulch, fertilize, deadhead, or cut flowers. Roses that lack prickles are also a big plus for patios and other areas where people may come in contact with the bushes. Few roses are totally thornless, but there are some that have such a scanty amount of thorns that they may be considered in the thornless group. The roses described below combine thornlessness (or almost so), with low maintenance as indicated by the designation, Earth-Kind. This designation is given to roses that meet exacting cultivation standards including tolerance to heat, drought and a variety of soil types, as well as the ability to grow without pesticides, fungicides, or fertilizers, once established. [click to continue…]

Populus_tremuloidesQuaking aspen is a deciduous tree native to the cool climates of North America from Newfoundland across the subarctic to Alaska and British Columbia, south to Pennsylvania and Iowa, and to the mountains of California, and New Mexico into central Mexico where it grows on woodland edges, and in old fields and clearing in a variety of soils. It is a member of the willow family, Salicaceae, that also includes poplars and cottonwoods. Usually growing in clones, it is single stemmed and has smooth creamy white bark with black horizontal markings and knots. The deep green leaves are rhombic to ovate in shape , up to three inches long, and turn clear yellow in autumn. The petioles are long and flattened and facilitate the fluttering of the leaves in the wind, giving rise to the common name, quaking aspen. Small gray-green male and female flowers appear in separat pendulous catkins one to three inches long on different trees before the leaves appear in spring. Female catkins give way to strings of capsules with about ten tiny seeds with cottony material that facilitates wind dissemination. Quaking aspen is moderately drought tolerant, very wind tolerant, but intolerant of pollution. Large clones of are a magnificent sight in both summer and fall and single trees are an excellent choice as a specimen, shade or patio tree, or as a screen or windbreak where climates are cool; quaking aspen does not do well in hot climates. The genus name Populus is the Latin name for the tree. The specific epithet tremuloides comes from the Latin word tremulus meaning trembling and the Greek word eidos meaning likeness referring to the similarity of the plant to the European species P. tremula. [click to continue…]

Panagaeus_cruxmajor Siga Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Siga, Wikimedia Commons

Ground beetles are members of the Carabidae family of insect with about forty thousand species worldwide, two thousand of which live in North America. They are variable in size and color depending on the species but most adults are glossy and black, although some are green, yellow, orange or iridescent. They are between 1/8-1.25 inches long, have flattened bodies, long powerful legs, rigid, grooved wing covers, and large heads with large eyes. [click to continue…]

Oriental bittersweet is a deciduous woody vine native to northern China, Japan and Korea growing up to 60’ tall often girlding and killing nearby shrubs and trees. It is a member of the bittersweet family, Celastraceae, that also includes crucifixion thorn and euonymus. Spindly, reddish brown striated stems carry light green elliptical to circular leaves that are two to five inches long. The small, inconspicuous greenish-white male and female flowers are axillary and appear on different plants from late spring to early summer. They give way to small round fruits that are green at first but ripen to yellow and split open to reveal scarlet berries that persist into winter and are valued by flower arrangers. Oriental bittersweet was introduced to North America in 1879 as an ornamental, has naturalized, and is now considered invasive in Eastern US. [click to continue…]

Book Review: The Urban Homesteading Cookbook

The urban Homesteading CookbookDo you live in the city but want to homestead? Michelle Catherine Nelson’s book, The Urban Homesteading Cookbook, will give you all the information you need to start collecting, growing, and preserving sustainable food while living in a small urban abode. With a background in farming, conservation biology, sustainable agriculture, and a love of fine food Nelson explores the possibilities of foraging for wild edibles, keeping small livestock, growing vegetables, and cooking and preserving her harvest. [click to continue…]

Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wine: Clover Wine


Clover wine today is made with the flowers or red rather than white clover. Over a hundred years ago when my paternal grandmother, Helen S. Wright, wrote her book Old Time Recipes for Home Made Wines, either the kind of clover was not important or dear Grandmother did not realize the difference. In addition, today’s recipes call for a significant amount of fruit such as orange juice, white grape juice, or banana, but Grandmother’s recipe call for the peel of just one lemon.
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Desert olive, also known as stretchberry, elbowbush, spring goldengrow, Texas forsythia, and downy forestier, is a thicket-forming deciduous shrub or small tree native to desert slopes, canyons, woodland edges and openings, pastures, meadows, prairies, and flats from Colorado and Utah south to Texas and California. It is a member of the olive family, Oleaceae, that also includes jasmine, lilac, privet, and forsythia. Arched branches with smooth chalky gray bark have spiny branchlets and light-green oval leathery leaves that turn yellow in fall. Small inconspicuous male and female flowers appear in clusters on different plants from late winter to spring before the leaves appear. They are greenish yellow, lack petals, and are fragrant. Female flowers give way to clusters of tiny blue-black fruits that are attractive to birds and mammals. Plants are host to hairstreak larva, while the flowers attract butterflies, bees, and other insects. Desert olive is adaptable and tolerates dry or moist soil as well as sun or shade. It is a good choice for a specimen, patio tree, natural or wildlife garden. It can also be trimmed into a hedge or used as a groundcover. [click to continue…]

Rose ‘Graham Thomas’ and Clematis’ Francizka Maria’ combination‘Graham Thomas’ is an exceptional rose with intense gold colored flowers that fade to lemon yellow. The plant blooms in flushes all summer and makes a striking combination with the purple-blue flowers of Clematis ‘Francizka Maria’ a new cultivar that is known for its long bloom time. Plant in moist but well-drained soil in full sun with the roots of the clematis in the shade of the rose. [click to continue…]