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Plant Profile: Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)

Also called summer lilac and orange eye, this deciduous flowering shrub is native to the mountains of central China and Japan where it grows in thickets and forest openings, and along stream banks. It is a member of the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, that also includes mullein, twinspur, and Nemesia. Plants grow 6-8′ tall with an arching habit and have pale brown bark that becomes fissured with age. The gray-green lanceolate leaves are up to 12″ long and have hairy white undersides. The small mildly honey-scented flowers are densely packed in cone-shaped terminal and axillary panicles of new growth up to eighteen inches long from early summer to fall. They are purple with an orange eye and are very attractive to butterflies, moths, bees and humming birds. Deadheading encourages continuous bloom. There are many cultivars and hybrids that vary most significantly in plant size, including dwarf forms, and flower color so that flowers may be white, pink, red, magenta, yellow, or lavender-blue. Butterfly bush is a vigorous grower and may be cut down each spring to 12-20″. The vigorous growth, however, has led to its uncontrolled spread and it is considered a noxious weed in parts of the US. A good choice for a border if spread is controlled. The flowers are beautiful in summer arrangements but do not last long. Count on a day and hope for two days; the grace and texture of the spires more than compensate for their lack of longevity in the vase. The large dense seedheads are good for dried arrangements. The genus name, Buddleia, honors Reverend Adam Buddle (1660-1715), English botanist and vicar of Farmbridge in Essex. The specific epithet, davidii, honors Pere Armand David (1826-1900), French missionary and naturalist, who found the species growing in China along the border of China and Tibet. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Rose ‘Folklore’

Long, pointed buds  are borne singly or in clusters of up to nine and gradually open to high centered flowers with dark orange pink petals that fade to salmon pink with creamy yellow reverse.  Depending on the climate and time of year the colors may differ and  be various shades of coral, orange, or salmon. The petals are resistant to rain damage and the sepals are long and attractive.    The tall bushy plants are vase-shaped, vigorous, and have large glossy leaves that are crimson they first appear.  Forklore is prized for its fragrance and is a long lasting cut rose, popular exhibition rose,  attractive in the back of a border, and may be used as a small climber in warm climates where it is likely to reach its maximum height.  Considered very disease resistant. [click to continue…]

Also called lady in the bathtub, shell flower, and molucca balm, this annual is native to Turkey, Syria, and the Caucasus. It is a member of the mint family, Laminaceae, that also includes basil, ajuga, and bee balm. Plants grow 2-3′ tall and have square hallow stems with tiny thorns that can cause an allergic reaction. The light green leaves are ovate and up to 2.5″ long. Tiny white to pink fragrant flowers appear from mid summer to fall and are surrounded by a showy large green bell shaped structure that is actually the calyx. The calyces are packed closely on spikes from top to bottom and turn papery and tan as they mature and seeds form. A striking plant in the border, bells of Ireland are good in the vase both fresh and dried. The genus name, Molucella, refers to the Molucca Islands off Indonesia where Linnaeus mistakenly thought the plants were native. The specific epithet, laevis, is the Latin word for smooth and refers to the leaves. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Mostly Plants

Based on the concept of the flexitarian diet, Mostly Plants presents an approach to eating that shifts the ratio of food from animals to plants.  This approach is very useful for a family with different dietary needs and wants as all the recipes are adaptable to various diets including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free. No need to give up delicious food or spend oodles of money on exotic ingredients as the recipes are tasty and use easy to source foods as well as being healthy and environmentally sensitive. [click to continue…]

Also known as green bristlegrass and foxtail millet, green foxtail is an annual grass and a member of the grass family, Poaceae, that also includes corn, rice, and bamboo.  It is native to Eurasia but was introduced to the US and now occurs throughout the US in areas with sun to part shade and moist to dry-mesic conditions.  Plants can be found in a variety of habitats including vacant lots, sidewalks, railroads, lawns, croplands, pastures, prairies, and grasslands. [click to continue…]

Brought to North America from Europe in the early 1700’s to raise the nap of wool cloth, this fuller’s teasel naturalized and is now considered a weed in many parts of the United States where it grows in sunny disturbed sites such as roadsides, riverbanks, and forest openings, and in savannas, grasslands and meadows   It is a biennial and a member of the  honey suckle family, Caprifoliaceae, that also includes weigela, scabiosa, and abelia.  In the first year the plant grows a tap root and forms a rosette of large coarse lanceolate leaves up to 12″ long.  In the second year  several spiny stems up to 6’ tall arise bearing sessile spiny leaves and clusters of spiny flowerheads from summer into fall. Each egg-shaped  flowerhead are up to 4″ long and consists of numerous small pink, purple or lavender flowers, subtended by long pointed bracts. The flowerheads produce an abundance of 1 seeded fruits, called achenes, that have a high germination rate so plants readily reproduce themselves.  Butterflies and bees love the flowers, birds especially goldfinches love the seed, and the dried seed heads look fabulous in dried arrangements. Suitable for a wildflower garden if seed dispersal is controlled.   The genus name, Dipsacus, comes from the Greek word dipsa meaning thirst of water and refers to the cup-like formation made where sessile leaves merge at the stem.  The specific epithet, fullonum, comes from the Latin word fullo meaning fuller and refers to the use of the seed heads in the manufacture of wool by fullers. [click to continue…]

Butterfly bush Karens  271x300Butterfly bush is a flowering shrub with arching branches and native to central China. It belongs to the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, that also includes mullein(Verbascum), twinspur (Diascia), and Nemesia. The fragrant flowers are borne in dense clusters (panicles) up to sixteen inches long above gray-green to blue-green foliage from summer to fall. The flowers come in a variety of colors including blue, purple, lavender, pink, red, white and yellow, and are attractive to bees and butterflies, as well as to hummingbirds. Butterflies that may visit the flowers include red admiral, painted lady, comma, large white, small white, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, peacock, and brimstone. Plants can be cut back hard to the last three or four buds in to renew growth. This is best done in the early spring rather than after flowering so that the faded flower spikes can provide shelter for overwintering insects (as well a food for small birds). [click to continue…]

Leucopaxillus_giganteusGiant funnel cup is a saprophytic fungus found growing in arcs or fairy rings in woodland clearings, open grasslands, and roadsides of Europe and North America . It is most common in the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest, appearing in late summer to fall. The mushroom is four to six inches tall and has a cap six to sixteen inches across. The cap, gills and stem are dingy white to cream but the cap and gills may darken with age. The smooth cap is flat at first but becomes funnel shaped as it matures and has inrolled margins that become furrowed or split with age. The thin gills are crowded and run down the short stem. The stem can be up to 1.5 inches across and is firm when young before turning spongy. The spores are cream colored and turn blue in the presence of iodine. [click to continue…]

Plant Profile: Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima)

Also known as  gladdon, Gladwin iris, and roast-beef plant, this rhizomatous, beardless iris is a herbaceous perennial native to northern Africa and Europe where it grows in open woods, sea cliffs, and shady places.  It is a member of the iris family, Iridaceaea, that also includes gladiolus, crocus, and freesia.   Plants grow 1.5 to 2′ tall and have dark green sword-like leaves up to 24″ long.  In late spring pale lavender flowers appear on 10-24″ scapes and give way  to seedpods that break open in the fall to reveal clusters of bright coral seeds that persist into winter.  The seeds are not attractive to birds but the seeds in their pods are very desirable for dried arrangements.  Plants are grown primarily for their attractive seed pods and foliage, but the seed pods may not appear until the 2nd or 3rd year.  This iris is especially shade tolerant and is a good choice for a shade garden especially among shrubs.  The common name, stinking iris and roast-beef plant come from the unpleasant beefy odor of the leaves when bruised.  The genus name, Iris, honors the Greek goddess of the rainbow.  The specific epithet, foetidissima, is the Latin word meaning very foul smelling and refers to the unpleasant odor of the bruised leaves. [click to continue…]

Book Review: Farming

Farming Gail GibonsIn her delightful book, Farming, Gail Gibbons explores the activities that take place throughout the year on an old fashioned, idealized, family-owned, small farm probably in the Northeast. The farmer grows everything from vegetables to fruit and grain, and raises cows, sheep, pigs, horses, and poultry. He also keeps bees and taps the maple trees for syrup. Readers see how both indoor and outdoor activities on the farm change from spring to summer to fall and then winter. [click to continue…]