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.
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.
This is the view I see most of the time. This picture was shot from the table in the alley, where I have coffee in the morning and feasts with friends at night. Ageratum, Rosa “Golden Celebration,” and in the distance, Perilla, Patrinia and a banana. A baby Pelargonium blooming on the bench.
Previously published 9/19/2013.
A Hopi Elder Speaks
You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is The Hour. And there are things to be considered:
– Where are you living?
– What are you doing?
– What are your relationships?
– Are you in right relation?
– Where is your water?
Know your garden. It is time to speak your Truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
“There is no try. There is only do and not do.” – Yoda
– Topiary Gardens by a Man Named Pearl
Bishopville, South Carolina is home to less than 3,500 people, yet last year it was host to more than 15,000 visitors. They traveled to this small, impoverished town to wander the gardens of a man named Pearl. There, on a former cornfield that was cleared in 1981, you will find the Pearl Fryar Topiary Garden.
My Black Journey
– African-American Gardens at Monticello
Wormley Hughes, the African American often called Monticello’s “Head Gardener,” collected seed, planted precious plants in the Monticello nurseries, and set out Mr. Jefferson’s “pet trees.” Gardener John espaliered grapes, aided in the terracing of the kitchen garden, and planted a sugar maple tree that survived for 200 years…
Twinleaf Journal Online
– If You Want to Grow a Healthy African American Kitchen Garden–Here are Your Marching Orders
Let me say this first–in the African, African Diaspora and African American cultural traditions have long embraced the kitchen garden as an essential piece of daily life. Don’t let the new crop of food advocates and activists fool you–this is a tradition that our Ancestors established, cultivated and fought for…Before anyone ever heard of a Victory Garden we had our truck and huck patches, which served as a means of cultural, economic and social power in the slave quarter through the age of the Freedmen and segregation.
– A Renaissance for African Botanic Gardens?
If botanical gardens are going to demonstrate their value as resources for sustainable development, it is in Africa they will do so. The African botanical gardens have had a hard ride. Many were established by the old colonial powers, under which they flourished until the financial and political upheavals of post-colonial Africa reduced them to under-resourced shells. Today, that pattern of decline is being reversed as many African nations rise to the challenge of the Convention on Biological Diversity and produce strategies that recognize the need for retaining plant resources.
– The Seeds of Survival
The broader truth is that gardening is a lost tradition in many African-American communities. The National Gardening Association doesn’t tally the number of black gardeners — nor, it would seem, does anyone else.
New York Times
– In Praise of the Misunderstood Quince
As long ago as 1922, the great New York pomologist U. P. Hedrick rued that “the quince, the ‘golden apple’ of the ancients, once dedicated to deities, and looked upon as the emblem of love and happiness, for centuries the favorite pome, is now neglected and the least esteemed of commonly cultivated tree-fruits.” Almost every Colonial kitchen garden had a quince tree.
New York Times
– Pretty Prairie Lass
So, should you grow ‘Prairie Lass’? It seems to be a nice rose and bush and is healthy enough to keep a place for it in a collection of Buck roses. But I don’t think it is a rose that will ever make a garden visitor gasp in surprise.
– Distant species produce ‘love child’ fern after 60-million-year breakup
A delicate woodland fern discovered in the mountains of France is the love child of two distantly-related groups of plants that haven’t interbred in 60 million years, genetic analyses show. Reproducing after such a long evolutionary breakup is akin to an elephant hybridizing with a manatee, or a human with a lemur, the researchers say.
– Wild Fennel; Foeniculum vulgare
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an erect perennial herb, four to ten feet tall, with finely dissected, almost feathery leaves and characterized by a strong anise scent originating from stems and leaves. The flowers are yellow and small (one-quarter inch across), and are clustered in large, rounded, umbrella-like groups (compound umbels), roughly four inches across, that are conspicuous from April through July.
Eat The Weeds
“What you think, you become.” – Buddha
“My work is about plants and people.” – Dr. Kelly Kindscher
Kelly Kindscher is a Senior Scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey and a Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Kansas, where his students call him “Kelly.” Many Kansans know him as “Mr. Prairie.”
A lifelong Kansan, Kindscher is a founder of the Kansas Land Trust, a statewide conservation group, and KU’s Native Medicinal Plant Research Program, which bio-prospects for medicinal compounds in native prairie plants. Somewhere in there, he found time to map coneflower populations in Wyoming; study wetlands in New Mexico; chart the plants in Kansas’ state parks; and publish dozens of papers and two books: Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie (1987) and Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie (1992); both published by the University of Kansas Press.
In 2006, Kindscher and University of Arizona ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan published Renewing the Native Food Traditions of Bison Nation, a manifesto calling for the large-scale restoration of free-ranging bison to large tracts of the Plains, and the renewal of food traditions unique to the region. Immense herds of bison modified the prairie landscape for thousands of years, creating rich habitat for many plants and animals, which in turn provided highly nutritious food for Native Americans–a population now plagued, like much of the nation, with diabetes.
Kindscher knows full well the wealth of the prairie. Thirty years ago he and a friend walked across Kansas, a 70-day trek in blazing summer, tracking the changes in vegetation.
Prairie turnip (Psoralea esculenta), chokecherries, lambsquarter, wild licorice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota), prickly pear cactus, leek-flavored Yucca blossoms and wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa; “The best prairie mint.”), were once used as food and medicine by Plains natives. Kindscher is powerfully fond of lambsquarter (Chenopodium album), a quinoa relative weedy enough to infuriate gardeners. He cooks big pots of it with olive oil. “I wish more restaurant chefs would catch on to lambsquarter,” he says. “It’s a hearty, flavorful green, a sweeter version of chard, and it grows wild everywhere. It gets a nine out of ten for flavor.
He also favors the puckery chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), once a dietary staple of Plains tribes, combined with bison jerky to make pemmican, the native American equivalent of a mega-energy bar. In the creek-laced woods are leafy stands of LINK pawpaws (Asimina triloba) with green, oblong fruits with a golden, custardy pulp that mingles tastes of pineapple and banana. “The pawpaw is the only tropically related fruit that has made it this far north,” Kindscher notes. He praises the buffalo currant (Ribes odoratum), especially “Crandall”, a Kansas cultivar prized by rural jelly-makers. “Jelly and preserves are a great way to capture phytonutrients,” he adds.
The wild prairie is abundant in edible roots, bulbs and tubers rich in complex carbohydrates–a trade-off for their often subtle flavors. “Most native root crops–prairie turnips, hog peanuts, Jerusalem artichokes–are too bland for modern palates,” Kindscher observes, “though they generally offer superior nutrition. You have to choose between healthy food and junk and sometimes that means different tastes.”
The concept of food as medicine looms large in Kindscher’s work with the Native Medicinal Plant Research Program (NMPRP). The NMPRP was granted a U.S. patent in 2012 for the discovery of new chemical compounds in the wild tomatillo (Physalis longifolia), a prairie fruit significant to the Indian diet. “Dried, they taste like sweet cranberries,” says Kindscher. The compounds in wild tomatillos also show promising anticancer activity in melanomas, thyroid and breast cancers, and certain leukemias.
The NMPRP’s work on the lonesome prairie has not gone unnoticed by the mainstream. In spring of 2013, Kindscher was contracted by Kellogg’s “to prospect prairie plants for healthful cereal products,” he says, “looking specifically for fiber and protein.” Someday there might be a taste of the wild prairie in your breakfast bowl.
Kindscher’s knowledge of prairie plants takes him to the classroom and the field, the kitchen and the community pot-luck, the laboratory and the dais, the courtroom and the publisher. “I’m a jack-of-all-plants,” he laughs. And how does a jack-of-all plants unwind at home at the end of another flora-filled day? He tends a vegetable garden that most people would call a small farm.