Horse bean is a cool weather annual and a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupines, mimosa, and black locust. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean area where it has been grown and consumed since 6000 BC or earlier. The plants grow 1.5-6′ tall and have 2-4 stems that are square in cross-section. The pinnate gray-green leaves are 4-10″ long and have 2- 7 leaflets. The summer-blooming flowers are very fragrant and have 5 petals, 2 white standard petals, 2 white wing petals with a black spot, and a white keel petal. The fruit is a leathery pod that is green maturing to dark blackish brown, has a downy surface and contains 3-8 round to oval seeds. The seeds of horse bean are intermediate is size between the larger broad bean seeds and the smaller pigeon bean seeds. Although eaten by humans in ancient times, horse beans are now grown as animal feed and for soil improvement as bacteria in the root nodules fix nitrogen in the soil. The genus name, Vicia, is the classical Latin name for vetch. The specific epithet, faba, is the classical Latin word meaning bean. The variety name, equina, is from the classical Latin word equis, meaning horse, and refers to the use of the bean for horse feed. [click to continue…]
Also known as bearded iris and common flag, this herbaceous perennial is native to the eastern Mediterranean and may be a natural hybrid between Iris pallida and Iris variegata. It is best known by its multitude of cultivars that exhibit great variety height of plant and color and size of flowers. Although no medicinal properties of German iris are recognized in modern times, the plant was one of 16 herbs recommented in the 9th century plan for the physics garden of the St. Gall Benedictine abbey in Switzerland, one of the many plants recommended for the gardens of Charlemagne, and one of 23 plants in Walahfrid Strabo’s list of herbs for his garden that may have been a physics garden. Photo Credit: Bernd Haynold Wikipedia [click to continue…]
Horse bean is a cool weather annual and a member of the pea family, Fabaceae, that also includes lupines, mimosa, and black locust. It is native to an unidentified part of the eastern Mediterranean area where it has been grown and consumed since 6000 BC or earlier. The plants grow 1.5-6′ tall and have 2-4 stems that are square in cross-section. The pinnate gray-green leaves are 4-10″ long and have 2- 7 leaflets. The summer-blooming flowers are very fragrant and have 5 petals, 2 white standard petals, 2 white wing petals with a black spot, and a white keel petal. The fruit is a leathery pod that is green maturing to dark blackish brown, has a downy surface and contains 3-8 round to oval seeds. The seeds of horse bean are intermediate is size between the larger broad bean seeds and the smaller pigeon bean seeds. [click to continue…]
This tuberous short-lived perennial is native to the Mediterranean and a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, that also includes delphinium, clematis, and hellebore. The poppy-like flowers lack petals but have red, white, or blue showy sepals surrounding a dark center. They are carried singly on stems six to eighteen inch tall in early spring. The medium green leaves are 1-2″ long, divided, and fern-like but disappear in the summer when the plants go dormant. All parts of the plant are poisonous when fresh.
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Purple Beach (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea)
Purple beech is a deciduous tree resulting from a natural mutation of European beech (F. sylvatica), that is native to most of Europe from southern Sweden to northern Sicily and from northern Portugal and central Spain to northwest Turkey. The trees are large, growing up to 60′ tall and 40′ wide, and have smooth gray bark and a pyramidal to rounded crown. The broadly elliptical leaves are 2-4″ long and are fringed with silky brown hairs. They are purple when they first emerge but become green in the summer and turn coppery in the fall. Yellow-green male and female flowers appear on the same tree in mid to late spring. The male flowers are in tassel-like catkins that hang from the ends of the twigs while the female flowers grow in pairs. Fertilized female flowers give way to bristly fruits that are edible. Since the tree is very large and its branches reach to the ground, it is suitable as a specimen tree in a large area. Trees can be pruned to form an attractive hedge.
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Rich, moist, well-drained; does not tolerate wet, poorly drained-soil.
Hardiness: Zones 5-7
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Thornless Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis) ‘Ruby Lace’
This deciduous tree has pinnately or bipinnately compound with small leaflets so that raking is rarely necessary. foliage ruby-red as it emerges in spring, bronze-green in summer and yellow in autumn. The light shade of the canopy combined with the late appearance and early disappearance of the leaves facilitates the growing of grass beneath the tree. In late spring to early summer spikes of greenish yellow inconspicuous male and female fragrant flowers are produced on different trees. Fertilized female flowers are followed by large twisted brown to purple pods over 3″ long that can be a considerable litter problem. The short main trunk is gray-brown and develops plate-like patches separated by furrows. It is attractive especially in winter but may bear thorns that can be a hazard. Thornless honey locust is tolerant of drought, heat, short term flooding, compaction, and pollution so can be used in difficult sites including urban area such as parking lots and medium strips. Unfortunately, it is susceptible to a considerable number of pests and disease so should not be planted in mass.
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Fertile, moist, well-drained but tolerates a wide range of soil.
Hardiness: Zones 3-8
Black Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifer) ‘Nigra’
Prunus cerasifer is native to southeastern Europe and western Asia and grows 15-20′ tall. The cultivar ‘Nigra’ has dark purple twigs and leaves that emerge bronze in the spring, turn almost black in the summer, and orange to red in the fall. From early to mid spring pale pink, single, cup-shaped flowers .8″ across with 5 petals emerge from dark pink buds and cover the branches before the leaves appear. Red or yellow fruits are occassionaly produced and attract birds. Plants are prized for both their foliage and floral display and are a good choice for a speciman plant but can also be planted en mass and used as a hedge or screen.
Light: Full sun to parital shade
Soil: Moderately fertile, moist, well-drained
Hardiness: Zones 4-9
Also known as desert poplar, firat poplar, and salt poplar, this deciduous tree is native to North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and western China where it grows in woodlands, shrublands and deserts as well as in the floodplains of arid and semi-arid areas. It is a member of the willow family, Salicaceae, that also includes aspen and cottonwood. The trees grow 30-45′ tall, and have a wide but relatively shallow root system. The stem is usually bent or forked and develops a thick, rough, olive green bark with maturity. White sapwood surrounds red heartwood that is almost black in the center. The leaves on young trees and the sterile lower branches of older plant are linear to lanceolate with entire margins while those on fertile branches are elliptic, oblong, ovate, rhomboid or deltoid and often irregularly dentatate. The leaf blades are stiff textured and carried on weak flattened petioles facilitating the creation of a rustling sound in a breeze. Male and female catkins of appear in late winter to early spring. The male catkins are about 1-2″ long while the female catkins are about 2-3″ long. The ovoid-lanceolate capsules are less than 1″ long and contain tiny seeds wraped in silky hairs. Euphrates poplar grows well in seasonally flooded land and is tolerant of saline and brackish water. The trees are useful for afforestation, erosion control, and as windbreaks. The wood has been used for firewood, the leaves for fodder, and the fiber for paper. The genus name, Populus, is the Latin word meaning people and may refer to the use of some members of the genus in public places. The specific epithet, euphratica, is the Latinized form of Euphrates, referring to the river where it is native. [click to continue…]
These herbaceous perennials make a long season combination with their attractive foliage and lovely flowers. The foliage of Japanese anemones appears in spring and forms an attractive dark green ground cover. In late summer tall wands of flower stems arise bearing round buds that open to single flowers with bright pink petals arranged around a mass of golden stamens with a green button of stamens in the center. Meanwhile in mid summer, monkshood produces upright spikes of intense purplish- blue to indigo flowers. An upper helmet-shaped hood covers each pea-like lower flower and creates the look of a hooded monk. Both plants grow well in light shade with adequate moisture and well-drained soil. although Japanese anemone thrives also in full sun and drier, less fertile soil. [click to continue…]
Also known as field mustard, wild mustard, and crunchweed this annual is native to the Mediterranean basin including temperate regions of North Africa, Europe, and parts of Asia. It is a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, that also includes broccoli, cabbage, and alyssum. A cool weather crop, wild mustard is erect, branched in its upper part, and grows 2-4 feet high on green stems that may have a purplish tinge. The upper leaves form a rosette and are ovate and 2 to 8 inches long. They have petioles 1/3-1.5″ long and uneven lobes with toothed margins. The upper leaves clasp the stem, and are unlobed and smaller as they ascend . Bright yellow flowers with four petals and measuring ¾” wide are produced in clusters at the tips of branches during the spring and early summer. Long thin seed pods 2-3 inches in length have a short thick base and long flattened beak. Each pod contains 10-18 seeds. A single plant can produce over 3,000 seeds that can persist in the soil for decades. The root system is a fibrous taproot. Charlock mustard is wide spread in North American and is considered an invasive weed in many areas. It is common in gardens, cultivated fields, pastures, roadsides, waste areas and is especial troublesome in winter small grains where it can significantly reduce yield. Although the flowers of wild mustard are a prime source of pollen and nectar for pollinating insects, the plant is an alternative host for a number of disease causing organisms that can affect vegetable crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. The genus name, Sinapis, comes from the Greek word sinapi meaning mustard. The specific epithet, arvensis, is the Latin word meaning from/of the field and refers to the usual habitat of the plant. [click to continue…]
Native to an unknown place in the Mediterranean region, this cormous perennial belongs to the iris family, Iridaceae, that also includes gladiolus, crocosmia, and blue-eyed grass. It is sometimes called autumn crocus but that name is also used for a species of colchicum that is similar in appearance but poisonous. The plants grow up to 1′ tall and have basal linear grass-like leaves and fragrant, lavender, white, or purple cup-like flowers in the fall for 2-3 weeks, opening during the day and closing at night. The flowers are 1.5-2″ across and have 3 long style branches each with a reddish-orange stigmas that may protrude beyond the petal cup. [click to continue…]
Native to rocky and stony areas in the mountains of Iran and northern Iraq, mountain tulip is a perennial bulb and a member of the lily family, Liliaceae, that also includes fritillaria. Plants grow 4-8″ tall and have linear , blue-green, glaucous leaves with undulating margins. The cup-shaped flowers are 2-4″ across, usually a shade of red from scarlet and crimson to blood-red, and have a greenish-black blotch in the center and yellow anthers. The blooms appear on short stems in early spring, early summer, or mid summer depending on the geographical location. A yellow form exists in the wild. Mountain tulips are a good choice for rock, cottage, and patio gardens as well as containers. The genus name, Tulipa, is the latinized version of the Turkish word for turban, Tulbend, referring to the resemblance of the flower to a turban. The specific epithet, montana, comes from the Latin word mons, meaning mountain, and refers to the native habitat of the plant. [click to continue…]