Ephedra equisetina_Bluefir Jointstem_ColoSpgs-CO_LAH_5027

It’s only November, but when it comes to gardening in a cold weather climate, it may as well be winter. From the first sudden freeze, now months ago, the leaves have been brown. For those of us who have gardened in more mild conditions, we crave green, especially evergreen shrubs, but the choices are severely limited. There are the ubiquitous junipers and other dwarf conifers. Yuccas. Firethorn (Pyracantha). Perhaps some Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia) if you have a sheltered spot so the leaves can avoid desiccation. Even my supposedly evergreen Cotoneaster is brown. But there’s one often-overlooked shrub that stays green all winter—even if it doesn’t exactly have noticeable leaves.

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Deadly? Or Delicious?

Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)
Devil’s Trumpet (Datura sp.)

Eating just a few leaves or berries will leave you writhing on the ground. Your mouth dries, your pupils enlarge, and you run a fever. Within minutes, you gasp as painful cramps turn into vomiting and diarrhea.  First your pulse races, then it slows, as does your breathing. Your head pounds, and then the hallucinations start. You’ve become paralyzed.

But soon, none of that matters any more—because you’ll be dead.

Happily, if you do manage to get to a hospital in time, there’s a good chance you’ll recover, although the symptoms can last up to three days. Eating an unidentified plant is never a good idea, but if it happens to be one of the more dangerous members of the nightshade family, it could be fatal. Continue reading “Deadly? Or Delicious?”

Pretty Purslane?

Portulaca oleracea 'Toucan Fuchsia'_Purslane_DBG-CO_LAH_7226

What were those vibrant pink flowers? They were definitely show-stoppers, especially as they were spilling out of planters crammed full of flowers in other shades of pink plus various yellows—creamy white Cockscombs (Celosia cristata), pale pink, ruffled Cosmos and darker pink Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena), butterscotch-yellow Lantana, Petunias in either a lush purplish-pink or a pale cream with yellow throats, and finally, bright lemon Flowering Maple (Abutilon). Whoever had designed the display, situated along the walkway in front of the greenhouses at Denver Botanic Gardens, clearly had a good eye for shapes and colors. Continue reading “Pretty Purslane?”

Just the Facts, Please

Purslane_Tyndale garden-ColoSpgs-CO_LAH_2881

A few weeks ago, I wrote that I intended to verify claims that purslane (Portulaca oleracea) has “amazing health benefits.” I had read an article about this supposedly nutritional plant that seemed a little too good to be true. Being ever the skeptic, I dug in—and learned some things. I’ll use this as a case study on how to verify health claims that you read online. Continue reading “Just the Facts, Please”

Campanulaceae: Beautiful Bellflowers, Lovely Lobelia

Campanulaceae is a family of plants with members ranging from the towering palm-lobelias of Africa to cottage garden flowers with names from a child’s book of fairytales: Canterbury bells, Cup and Saucer Vine, Harebells, and Fairy’s Thimbles. Two familiar genera, Campanula and Lobelia, are members of this family.

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Hydrangea Heaven

Hydrangea_LakewoldGardens_Tacoma-WA_LAH_4511r

I just spent two weeks in the Pacific Northwest. Since our daughter and her family live there, we visit frequently, but typically at Thanksgiving or in mid-winter. This time we managed to arrive in July. What a treat! With blue skies, light breezes, and puffy white clouds, the weather was (mostly) perfect. All that rain during the fall, winter, and spring results in stunning summer gardens, with emerald green lawns and towering trees. And the flowers! Yes, the rhodies and azaleas were done, but the hydrangeas were in full bloom. Everywhere we looked, we saw huge flower clusters of bright pink, magenta, white, and most noticeably, pure sky blue.

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Red, White, and Blue Berries

What kind of fruit comes in red, white, and blue? Berries, of course!

Blueberries are a huge treat. Our daughter in western Washington grows them by the bucketful, although our granddaughters have a habit of grazing on them in the backyard, so they don’t always make it into the kitchen.

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