The greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture. – Thomas Jefferson
14 Fun Facts About Fireflies
What’s more magical than a firefly light show on a warm summer night?
15 of the most remarkable trees in America
They stand witness to history, being rooted in place sometimes for thousands of years, as generations of people come and go. They act as landmarks; they are the centers around which stories take place. They are workhorses for the environment and give us shade and food. We would be nowhere without them; yet sadly they’re not always recognized as the living monuments and eco-superheroes that they are.
A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Europe’s Huge New Vertical Farm
Outside the growth room is a winding, humming network of pipes, screens, and dials. Van der Feltz pulls back a large sandwich panel door, and when we step inside, the air is noticeably warmer and more humid. It smells like a farm, except without the manure, and it feels a little like being on a spaceship—trays of plants are stacked four levels high, hundreds of blue and red pinpoints of light beaming down on them from above.
The Lurie Garden in July
If you plopped the Lurie Garden down in some suburb it would still be a wonderful garden, but it wouldn’t be as exciting if it weren’t surrounded by the Chicago skyline.
Days Of Whine And Desert Roses
Iguanas do not eat Desert Rose!
Nitty Gritty Dirt Man
Order of the Thistle
There are gardeners who regard the giant cotton thistle, Onopordum acanthium, as a weed, but I love them and carefully dig up the seedlings where they pop up in clusters and redistribute them for better effect.
Monty Don; The Guardian
The Evolution of American Landscape Art
The Hudson River School emerged out of a sense of disenchantment with the unchecked growth of crowded, dirty industrial cities in the Northeast. Artists traveled up the Hudson in search of pristine wilderness, documenting the remnants of a natural world that was fast disappearing.
New York Times
July Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day (in the Philippines)
The most durable plant in my garden is the blue Duranta erecta. It is already as tall as around 10 ft and don’t stop flowering even during the dry season. It serves as the butterflies’ nectar source all year round.
Pure Oxygen Generators
Beekeepers Feel The Sting Of California’s Great Hive Heist
Literally billions of bees are needed to pollinate California’s almond crop. …Earlier this year, around a million dollars’ worth of stolen bees were found in a field in Fresno County. Sgt. Arley Terrence with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department says it was a “beehive chop shop.”
Rare corpse flower begins long-awaited bloom late Tuesday afternoon in K-State greenhouse
One of the rarest, largest flowers in the world, which earned the nickname “corpse flower” — because it emits a dead-animal stench — began to bloom late Tuesday afternoon at Kansas State University.
Seriously Asian: Perilla Leaves
Right now the Korean ladies are selling stacks of perilla leaves, though if you go to any Korean grocery store, you’ll see them being sold as sesame leaves. I don’t understand why they refer to perilla leaves as sesame leaves, but they do.
Chefology: Rethinking the Cucumber
There are many more cucumbers than your average English variety. Here, a primer.
Sweet Alyssum, Lobularia maritima
The sweet smelling flowers have a honey-like fragrance and are very attractive to bees, flower flies, sting-less wasps and butterflies. It is a particularly good nectar plant for beneficial insects as those tiny insects can easily access the tiny nectaries of the small flowers.
University of Wisconsin, Master Gardener Program
The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land.― Abraham Lincoln
To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. Hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. – William Blake
– Permaculture Plants: Red Clover
Red Clover is one of the most popular green manure, fodder, and cover crops grown in the world. As a legume, it puts atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. …There are a number of varieties available, but they can be grouped into two divisions: early-flowering and late-flowering. Typically, late-flowering (also known as Mammoth) Red Clovers are used in more northern climates.
Temperate Climate Permaculture
– Fermented red clover extract stops menopausal hot flushes and symptoms
Fermented Red Clover extract is demonstrated to decrease significantly both the number and severity of daily hot flushes. The study also found that the extract prevents the normally accelerated menopausal bone loss affecting one in three women over the age of 50. These findings are very promising as the benefits take place without any of the side effects of traditionally proscribed hormone therapies that increase the risk of cancers and cardiovascular diseases.
– Blanket Flowers: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
Produced above a clump of hairy, narrow, gray-green leaves, the blossoms of perennial blanket flower have petals that may be solid colored shades of yellow, wine red , orange or peach, or may be banded in combinations of red or orange with yellow. The petals of some are frilled, while others have a unique, tubular shape.
The National Gardening Association
– Why No Dig
Save time and effort by helping natural processes to work with you: undisturbed soil can develop its own aerated structure so vegetables/flowers grow more easily and weeds grow less.
– The Rambling Rose and the Climbing Rose. What’s the Difference?
Ramblers are distinctly different from the Climbing Roses in that they have blooms in clusters of seven (the climbers have clusters of five) and their leaves are in groups of seven (the climbers have groups of five). The other difference is that the Ramblers will only flower once eg. the Banksia Rose, whereas the Climbers will flower repeatedly eg. Madame Alfred Carriere. However, two ramblers do flower repeatedly – ‘Malvern Hills’ and ‘Snow Goose’. Ramblers also have very few thorns compared to the Climbers.
All My Favourite Flower Names
– Verily Robot Will Raise 20 Million Sterile Mosquitoes for Release in California
Alphabet’s life sciences arm, Verily, says it has built a robot that can raise a million mosquitoes a week and has used it to produce infertile male insects. The company has started releasing the first batches of what will total 20 million sterilized mosquitoes in Fresno County, California.
MIT Technology Review
– Passiflora incarnata; Purple passionflower, Purple passion vine, Maypop
Purple passion-flower is an herbaceous vine, up to 25 ft. long, that climbs with axillary tendrils or sprawls along the ground. Intricate, 3 in., lavender flower are short-stalked from leaf axils. …The name Maypop comes from the hollow, yellow fruits that pop loudly when crushed.
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
– Discovering Aji Amarillo Peppers
In 2012, we were asked to grow Aji Amarillo peppers for one of our customers. They are used extensively in Peruvian cuisine, but here in the U.S. they are often in short supply. It is now almost 3 years later and we still haven’t been able to deliver the Aji Amarillo for the customer who requested them. Paradoxically, Aji Amarillo has become one of our favorite peppers, although it feels like we are only scratching the surface of its potential.
Mother Earth News
– Fish Pepper: A Peculiar Pepper With Deep Roots in African-American History
Fish peppers are a mutation of serrano or cayenne peppers (history has never been certain), bearing the recessive gene that causes albinism. They start as pale cream-colored fruit, gradually maturing into light green with dark green striations, then orange with brown striations, and then finally red, at which point the peppers are at their hottest.
– How the transgenic petunia carnage of 2017 began
Two years ago, plant biologist Teemu Teeri was walking by a train station in Helsinki when he noticed some vivid orange petunias in a planter. The flowers reminded Teeri, who has studied plant pigments at the University of Helsinki, of blooms created in a landmark gene-engineering experiment some 30 years earlier. As far as he knew, those flowers never made it to market. But he was curious, and he stuck a stem in his backpack.
– Charles Jencks: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation
It all started with a swimming hole.
– Eight dreamlike abandoned settings being reclaimed by nature
Eventually, abandoned structures become completely swallowed up by vegetation and the earth itself, leaving few traces of our human footprint.
Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them. – A. A. Milne
I wasn’t much of a daylily fan until coming to Kansas. But any plant that can thrive in tough prairie conditions deserves respect, so last year I added several Hemerocallis cultivars. I’m glad I did.
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. – May Sarton
– Popcorn Bush
The pollen-producing stamens are the least of the show: They’re the small frilly bits right at the center of the flower. But the pistils—which are what receives the pollen—are almost blushingly genital.
Louis the Plant Geek
– Vinegar: A cheap and simple way to help plants fight drought
The study reports a newly discovered biological pathway that is activated in times of drought. By working out the details of this pathway, scientists were able to induce greater tolerance for drought-like conditions simply by growing plants in vinegar.
Nandina grows 5 to 7 feet high and spreads 3 to 5 feet. The plant looks like bamboo in its lightly branched, cane-like stems and delicate, fine-textured foliage. The leaves are divided into many 1- to 2- inch, pointed, oval leaflets, creating a lacy pattern. Young foliage is pinkish, then turns to soft light green. The foliage is tinged red in winter, especially in full sun and with some frost.
– Thomas Dolliver Church
He became involved in landscape architecture at a time of transition and experimentation. Travel through Italy and Spain exposed him to cultures in which outdoor living was similar to that of his native California, and this was a major influence on his design approach.
The Cultural Landscape Foundation
– Spiny Solanums
You’ve heard of prickly pears. But are you aware of their equally intriguing and just as needly relatives, the spiny solanums?
– Cydonia oblonga: The Unappreciated Quince
During Colonial times a quince tree was a rarity in the gardens of wealthy Americans, but was found in nearly every middle class homestead (Roach 1985). The fruit—always cooked—was an important source of pectin for food preservation, and a fragrant addition to jams, juices, pies, and candies
– A Fond Farewell to a Veteran Quince
At The Met Cloisters, we treasure history. For this reason, we are particularly saddened to lose one of our four veteran quince trees.
In Season, Met Museum
– The Intelligent Plant
Plants are able to sense and optimally respond to so many environmental variables—light, water, gravity, temperature, soil structure, nutrients, toxins, microbes, herbivores, chemical signals from other plants—that there may exist some brainlike information-processing system to integrate the data and coördinate a plant’s behavioral response.
Michael Pollan, The New Yorker
– The Braided Rivers Project; the beauty of stone
I’ve been working with stone for over 30 years, and I have to admit it is something of a love affair that I’ll never tire of. I’m just beginning to work on what is called The Braided Rivers Project at Camp Glenorchy in the little town of Glenorchy, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu on the South Island of New Zealand.
– Balsam, Impatiens balsamina
Also known as Touch-Me-Not, Garden Balsam, Rose Balsam. Very shade-tolerant, balsam brings the tropics to the annual garden with brightly colored flowers borne closely along the upright, bright green stem of the plant.
If a tree dies, plant another in its place. – Carl Linnaeus
The mailbox bed is home to wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), Echinacea purpurea, Shasta daisies, maiden grass, three Sedum, Euphorbia and Yucca nearly blooming. The six-year-old snowball bush on the left, Viburnum opulus ‘Sterile,’ bloomed profusely, dozens of white softballs, for 10 days in mid-April. My neighbor likes it too. The white-flowered mullein in front, Verbascum thapsus ‘Governor George Aiken,’ is one of three seedlings planted three years ago–this is generally a biennial species. It didn’t bloom last year but is off to an impressive start now. The other two sent up nine-foot velvety spikes of creamy, nickel-sized flowers in early June. The street gets hot; whites, pastels are cooling.
The yucca plant is exclusively pollinated by the yucca moth. The caterpillars of the yucca moth can only survive on the seeds of the yucca plant. These organisms co-evolved, a perfect example of mutualism.
Creek bed, back to front: two-year cutting from a wild elderberry (Sambucus canadensis), taken from the Burroughs Creek Trail under (rare now) snow in early January; the ultra-thorny, white-flowered ‘Darlow’s Enigma’ rose, just after first prolific flush of blooms–not convinced it repeats; and dark-leaved ninebark, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Seward,’ starting it’s third year at three feet tall, so far.
Front walk: The pseudo-shrubbery, with shaggy boxwoods and yews, hostas, Solomon’s Seal, Arum italicum Marmoratum, a dwarf red barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Concorde‘), and Virginia sweetspire, Itea virginica ‘Little Henry,’ in full, fragrant bloom.
Big pond: Back patio, facing north.
Big pond: Facing west from the top step to the back porch.
Past the pond and into the back garden. On the left, someday, sturdy raised beds; now, wheelbarrows, old boards, plastic pots… anything suitable. A new bean trellis is in progress–see the 4×4 in the center of the picture.
Looking to the southwest on the main path. Prairie dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis, in the urn and below. Mexican evening primrose, Oenothera speciosa var. berlandieri, a thug in pink, in the foreground. The clump of pots on the left side contain a young Meyer lemon tree; three blue cultivars of Agapanthus; cuttings of Sedum spectabile ‘Blade Runner’ in the smaller pots; all under-planted with ‘Red Sails’ lettuce, orange pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis), and low-growing Zinnia ‘Profusion Apricot’ for the butterflies.
Urn bed: Looking north. Variegated upright basil ‘Pesto Perpetuo,’ Greek oregano, thyme, sweet william, red miniature roses, wild violet, purple coneflowers. The large, spherical seed clusters on the right are Allium christophii, about two feet tall and fading after silver-lilac bloom. The starry green shoots on the way up, bottom center, are ‘White Diamond’ lilies, ultimately four feet tall and highly fragrant. A rogue woodland tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris, holds it’s ground, bottom right.
The garage bed. Looking east. The seven-foot trellis will follow the line of the old 4x4s on the ground, ending next to that lucky peony that never blooms, center. Purple pole beans, Poona Keera and National cucumbers, bitter melon and Thunbergia alata will be the inaugural climbers. Lettuce and tomatoes in the cage on the right, soon joined by eggplants and basil, all grateful to be shaded from our merciless summer sun by the deep red ‘Carmencita’ castor beans coming up at the posts.
A photo of ‘Carmencita’ castor bean, Ricinus communis, behind the banana on the right, taken two years ago. That one was about nine feet, with a heavy crop of bright red seedpods. The Ricinus clan–generally tall, dramatic and toxic–are very useful as shade for other plants, the degree of shade adjustable by pruning. It ignores intense heat, humidity and drought, though it does love regular water. Of tropical origins, Ricinus have strongly reseeded in my Zone 6 garden for the past five years.
Garage bed, facing north.
There are four flowering Jalapeno pepper plants spaced among the red Ultra Star petunias in the big pot on the left. That gaudy petunia was the first plant I grew successfully as a child. I haven’t grown it since, more than 50 years ago, and I’m very glad to have it again. Snow peas are on the trellis to the left, arugula and dwarf blue cornflowers below. Self-seeded tomato and castor bean on the other trellis, purple-podded pole bean seeds in the ground below.
The tubular red flower on the right side is the firecracker flower, Dichelostemma ida-maia, a hardy bulb native to California and Oregon, averaging two feet tall. Behind it, the spire with yellow flowers is the moth mullein, biennial Verbascum blattaria, a potentially pernicious weed in some areas. It rarely shows up here so I welcome it’s company. The strappy daylily to the left is ‘Steeple Jackie,’ bright yellow blooms on six-foot scapes.
Monty was four or five months old when he came here four months ago. He’s adjusting well.
A major component of my rabbit defense program is the making of many dozens of chicken-wire cages. These protect lavender and hyssop seedlings, immediately devoured in the open last year. The bricks protect a variegated ‘Fish’ pepper from digging squirrels.
Another prison pot containing, appropriately, Eryngium leavenworthii, and, in front, a seedling of red-flowered Petunia exserta, nearly extinct in the wild. The pot is flanked by ‘Spicy Bush’ basil, with ‘Chicago Apache’ daylilies and ‘Wyoming’ canna behind. The cage in the background contains ‘Scheherazade’ Orienpet lilies, ‘Danish Flag’ poppies and ‘Tennessee Cheese’ sweet peppers.
Hosta ‘Daybreak,’ ‘Isla Gold’ tansy, lemon balm and plume poppies, Macleaya cordata, jostle with wild knotweed, Polygonum virginianum. The pots on the stump contain golden creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea,’ and ‘Empress Wu’ and ‘Guacamole’ hosta.
Left front, our native bee balm, Monarda fistulosa, delights the honeybees and makes a fine tea for humans. This bed also contains Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’–another excellent bug plant, blooming in autumn; dark red daylilies; Miscanthus grass; rue; true blue-flowered viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare, another good bee plant); lemon balm; catnip; and three plants of purple-tinged, spiky, seven-foot-tall ‘Malevolence‘ (Solanum atropurpureum).
The same bed from the north side. The cages on the dinosaur kale were no protection from cabbage moths, now just a line of leafless stems. The pots contain ‘Winter Sunset,’ a Griffith Buck rose with apricot blooms; a three-foot bay tree in training; scented Pelargoniums and tarragon.
More depredation. Last year, rabbits chewed this newly planted Clematis jackmannii to the ground within an hour of planting. In a fit of cat-inspired optimism, I removed the cage two days ago and noticed today that the vine, four feet tall with six fat buds, was wilting. Here’s why. I’ll have a talk with Monty this evening.
I like everything about elderberries: the form, the foliage, the flowers, the vanilla fragrance and, of course, the delicious, health-giving fruit. Last year I made a tasty elderberry liquer. The salad bowl on the stump to the right contains ‘Red Sails’ lettuce and a lone kale seedling. I had great germination from ‘Red Sails’ this year–you may have noticed it all over the garden. A good-looking, nutritious eating lettuce, it also makes a fine ornamental. Most of the plants in the ground will be left to bloom for seed. In the center, the tall yellow flowers are new blooms of Thermopsis villosa, the Carolina bush pea.
Flower cymes of Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis.
The main path with a checkerboard of escarole and red lettuce; peonies; feathery gray wormwood (Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’); Calamintha nepetoides aka Nepitella, another good honeybee and tea plant; Rattlesnake Master, Eryngium yuccifolium; lilies and ‘Hyperion’ daylilies.
Blue-flowered Phacelia tanacetifolia, Bee’s Friend, in the foreground. Why so many bee plants? First off, bees are extremely important to plant life–everyone should have bee plants in their gardens. Secondly, the aged, hollowed Catalpa tree in the background contains a huge hive of native bees.
The main entrance to the hive is the hole on the left side of the crotch.
Apparently, all the bees buzzing around the entrance confused the camera’s auto-focus. This was the sharpest of over 30 photos; you can glimpse the honeycomb inside. This hive swarmed in April, half the group taking up temporary residence in the mulberry tree in back. A bee-keeping neighbor came over and captured the swarm, involving a bee suit, a 20-foot ladder and a pole saw. And, in a moment of serendipity, the following day another neighbor came over with a homemade gift…
… a top-bar hive. A top-bar hive differs from the standard hive, or Langstroth hive, in that it contains no pre-made frames for the honeycombs. The combs simply hang from bars of wood, ostensibly making for lighter work and easier harvests for the beekeeper.
I have much to learn on this fascinating new project. Bees are exacting in their requirements.
The hive sits under a wild cherry tree, with good morning sun. Seems like the perfect spot, so far.
Overall, May 2017 has been good to the garden, with more rain coming tonight. Through an ever-escalating series of defenses, the three-year rabbit plague has mostly abated. I’m growing lettuce in open ground. A pleasant half-hour at dusk yielded salad greens and enough mulberries for a pint of jam and a couple of pancake breakfasts. I take care of the plants, the plants feed me, I feed the mosquitoes… Everything in balance.