Meet the Apiaceae

Heracleum sphondylium ssp montanum - Cow parsnip_DBG LAH 058What do carrots, cilantro, celery, and poison hemlock have in common? Think like a botanist. How do the leaves look? What shape is the root? What about the flowers? Yes, they’re all members of the Apiaceae (aka Umbelliferae) family of plants. So are caraway, anise, parsley, parsnips, and a whole host of other familiar species.

Members of this family are relatively easy to distinguish. The most obvious feature is in the way their flowers are arranged—like an umbrella, with a stalk and a cluster of flowers on stems all springing from a central point.

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Snow-tolerant Veggies

Yes, it’s May. And yes, it’s still snowing. In fact, we had temperatures around 20 degrees, with snow, over the past few days. The prediction is for warmer weather, but in previous years we’ve had snow and lows below freezing well into June. Of course I’m anxious to get my garden growing—but what will survive our winter/spring weather? Surprisingly, quite a lot!

Kale
LAH_7318We were gone last fall, so I never got around to pulling out last summer’s freeze-killed veggies. It turns out that was a good thing. With no protection at all, my Starbor kale roots survived our Zone 4 winter, and new growth is appearing from a dead-looking stump. I expect the kale plants to bolt as soon as it warms up a bit more, but in the meantime, I’m harvesting kale now. I plan to include kale in my garden again this year, starting seeds inside and setting out plants in late June to mature in September and October, after frost sweetens the leaves. You can bet I’ll leave those plants in place next fall, maybe with a bit of mulch or a row cover, for yet another early harvest. Continue reading “Snow-tolerant Veggies”

My Favorite Herbs

thyme_blkforest-co_lah_7184While most of my garden lies dormant for the winter, I’m still picking fresh herbs to use in my cooking. Last year I planted thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil, and sage in large pots, and this fall I hauled them into a sunny spot indoors. The plants are thriving.

As I snipped some rosemary for last night’s dinner, I started thinking—while my in-ground herb garden is spacious, I only have room for a limited number of pots. So, which herbs do I consider essential? And which cultivars do I like the best?

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Swallowtail Butterflies—and Parsley, Too

black-swallowtail_david-cappaert-michigan-state-university_5255023
Photo: David Cappaert, Michigan State University

Like an bejeweled flower, the butterfly fluttered around my garden, never stopping to rest, moving from blossom to blossom until it gently drifted over the fence. I love watching butterflies flutter by, but feeding their caterpillars is another matter. I don’t want to sacrifice any of my garden plants to hungry mandibles. In at least one case, at least, I’ve discovered a compromise.

Black Swallowtails are some of the most beautiful butterflies found in Colorado. They’re large and black with a double row of yellow spots delineating their wings, and sapphire-blue sequins at the base of  their long, pointed tails. They’re the kind of butterfly that everyone oohs and aahs over. I’m no exception.

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