The Plant Hunters

The Plant Hunters: Two Hundred Years of Adventure and Discovery Around the World

There are so many wonderful plants that gardeners enjoy and admire at home as well as in famous gardens and parks. But how many of us know the origins of these plants or how they came to be here? Most of them, if not indigenous to our location, were brought here by plant collectors or “Hunters” from around the world. Collected from nearly every continent on the planet by botanical/horticulturists that, far from being ‘airy fairy pansy lovers’, were intrepid, adventurous and daring folk, the Indiana Joneses of the plant world: Sir Joseph Banks aboard the EndeavorDavid Douglas and the Read more

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fava beans in #5 pots

Container gardening pros and cons

Think of growing veggies in pots as mini raised beds. Because that’s what they are with certain advantages and only a few caveats. Advantages;1. Using plastic pots in sizes ranging from #5 (5gal) up to #25 (25 gal) or larger is a far cheaper proposition than the material costs of a “raised bed”/garden box.Additionally, most pot/container setups are temporary, allowing for other uses of the space when not in garden use.2. Using black plastic pots or black painted containers will help to warm soil above the surrounding ground soils allowing for earlier planting in temperate climates. This same factor can

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Mukasi Leonotis mollissima

Leonotis mollissima

With its seed origin on the northern tip of the island of Unguja in the Zanzibar archipelago, this rare member of the genus Leonotis has found its way into my gardens this year.A perennial plant it is native to East and South Africa.White whorls of flowers and large aromatic leaves are attractive to both bees and butterflies.Nearly every plant in the genus of Leonotis is used in traditional medicines and ‘Mukasi’ is no exception.(A close relative being Lion’s Tail, Leonotis leonurus)In traditional African medicine (TAM) it is used as an intestinal bitter against stomach complaints (tea or fresh leaf chew)

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bracer roots on corn

Bracer roots

A deformity? Scary Halloween toes?Nature’s wonders may not always be beautiful but they are fascinating.This is the base of a stalk of corn and the extensions are called “bracer roots”.They are more commonly seen on heirloom varieties that are tall growers.The indigenous Mixe community in the isolated village of Totontepec in the eastern mountains of Oaxaca, grow a maize, known as olotón which grows to nearly 20’ feet in height.It produces a mucous like gel from these bracer roots.The gel contains nitrogen forming bacteria that drips to the soil and nourishes the plant!Further research with this unique trait could revolutionize

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Crinum moorei

Crinum moorei

We’ve made it halfway through the week (or to somewhere).This beauty is Crinum moorei,( Moore’s Crinum Lily, Natal Lily, Lily of the Orinico). it’s blooming late this year by about two weeks which is in keeping with current climate change; Spring two weeks earlier, Fall two weeks later.Still it looks great against that ‘Kodachrome’ sky!

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Moroccan orange slices

Citrus sinensis, Blood Orange

Of all the varieties of “sweet” oranges (Citrus sinensis), the Blood Orange stands out as my favorite. While oranges, in general, originate from China and are likely a hybrid between the Pomelo and the Tangerine, blood oranges originated as a mutation of the sweet orange. The origin of the Blood Orange is uncertain, either in Asia or the Southern Mediterranean. There are at least 15 named varieties of Blood orange, the most common being the Tarocco (native to Italy), the Sanguinello (native to Spain), and the Moro, the newest variety of the three. All are characterized by being somewhat smaller

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Pink stem Cardoon ‘Rouge de Algiers’

Cardoons and a recipe for Cardoon Potato Gratin

Pink stem Cardoon ‘Rouge de Algiers’ A ‘Food Forest’ or ‘Forest Garden’ is a design practice that falls under the broader heading of ‘Permaculture’. (The term Agro-forest is also used but I tend to avoid using it as it lends itself to a more commercial connotation)Within such a design plan one tries to establish layers of mostly perennial plants that will provide an abundance of food, medicine, and sometimes utilitarian uses.One such plant that I love to grow is the cardoon, which will grow wherever its cousin the artichoke thrives. And like the artichoke, cardoons are loaded with Silymarin.At first

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Hummingbird nest in salvia karwinskii

A hummingbird nest

So I’m watering a stand of Salvia Karwinskii (Karwin’s Sage*) in the garden the other day and all of a sudden something odd catches my eye…on closer inspection; a Hummingbird’s nest!I am certain that I, with both my hands, could never create something as incredible! Karwin’s Sage is a perennial shrub native to the moist mountain forests of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, typically growing in or near pine or oak forests at 4,000 to 8,000 feet (1,200 to 2,400 m) elevation. It is known as a honey-producing plant in those areas but is rarely seen in private

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Rose infused vodka

Rose-infused Vodka

June is almost at a close.In honor of the flower most often associated with this month, the Rose, I offer you (those who imbibe of adult beverages) one of the easiest ever methods for really enjoying this flower.First, you need a clean jar with a tight-fitting lid (I like mason jars)Second a blossom, or two, of a VERY fragrant rose, (any color but white) pesticide-free of course.Third about a pint of your favorite vodka, (If you use cheap stuff though, it will still taste cheap!)Separate the petals, put them in the jar, cover to almost the top with vodka, seal

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