Thursday, June 4, 2009
It's like found money!
Already knew: It's a little odd that I know what a Bearded Iris looks like, but I don't know what any of the other varieties of Iris are called. I have a pictured of a little tiny Iris that I haven't used for this because of that. I don't appear to have any of the Bearded Irises in my yard, but this is a very typical looking Iris. Well, except for the color. Anyway, Irises are a plant that blooms in the late spring. They are normally yellow, purple or white. They have big floppy outer petals and smaller petals inside. Irises also have tall pointy leaves, usually two to a plant. Iris is the Greek word for rainbow.
Recently learned: This looks a lot like the Yellow Flag Iris, but that is a plant that likes wetlands and acidic soil, so it's probably not what's in my yard. Iris is the common name for a wide variety of plants covering three genus. The arrangement of petals and stamens makes for a perfect landing pad for larger insects, which is why Irises do so well in most places.
Already knew: Potatoes are an edible, starchy root in the nightshade family. If you do not dig up all the little potatoes you plant in your vegetable plot, you are very likely to end up with volunteers the next year in your garden, that's where these came from. You shouldn't eat the sprouting eyes, because there are trace amounts of toxins in those. You can't plant potatoes you've bought commercially because they are sprayed with a solution to keep them from sprouting. Even though they will sprout if you leave them in your cupboard too long, they won't sprout well enough to be a good crop. When you plant them, you want to keep most of the stem and leaves covered. The traditional way to do this is to keep mounding dirt up around them resulting in a hill, but if you have the time, you can dig a deep trench instead and just fill it in as necessary. You dig them out of the ground when the plant starts flowering.
Recently learned: The flowers of a potato plant can be blue, purple, red, white or pink. White flowered potatoes generally have white skins and the colored ones are generally red. The fruit of a Potato plant resembles a cherry tomato, and each one contains hundreds of seed. The fruit is highly toxic.
Already knew: This is an evergreen tree, with red wood. It's bark falls off in big hunks when the wood is mature. The leaves are dark, glossy green on one side and brownish on the underside. It has small white flowers, but this one doesn't seem to want to flower, so I gave up waiting. When the white settlers first arrived in Seattle and saw the area now called Magnolia, they thought it was covered in Magnolia trees, but it's actually covered in Madronas. I don't really see the resemblance, but whatever.
Recently learned: It is part of the Arbutus family. European varieties are called Strawberry Trees, because of the red wood. They are called Madrone south of the Siskiyou Mountains and Madronas to the north in the US. In BC they are called Arbutus. How confusing. This is the Pacific Madrone. The berries are edible, but high in tannin, so they are very astringent. Local natives used to chew them or make them into cider. The Pacific Madrone is difficult to transplant, so it should be set into it's permanent spot when small.
Already knew: A vine that has cascades of tiny purple or white flowers that blooms in the late spring. There's one of these a the Arboretum taking over a Rhodedendron. It's an awesome sight.
Recently learned: The world's largest Wisteria is in Sierra Madre and is more then an acre big. Even more awesome. The seeds are poisonous. Wisteria has a nitrogen fixing problem, so if you have too much in your soil, it would not bloom. Whatever you grow it on should be very sturdy, because a mature Wisteria has a big woody trunk and is very heavy. The flowers grow near the base of the last year's growth.
Already knew: Cornflower is an annual blue flower with pointy green leaves. I like the way the petals are arranged, but I've always preferred Bachelors Buttons (a variety of the species). I have a seed packet I should plant soon. These bloom in the spring.
Recently learned: Cornflower used to grow as a weed in crop fields, which is how it got named. It is now endangered in England, it's native habitat, due to the over use of herbicides in industrial agriculture. It's flourishing here though, because people like it as an ornamental planting. Cornflower is one of the ingredients in Lady Grey tea. It is also traditionally used as a treatment for conjunctivitis and as a wash for tired eyes.
Already knew: Foxglove grows with lots of bell shaped flower up one long stalk. It's usually purple with white spots or white. It self seeds pretty well in this area, but not well enough to take over from the California Poppies. The latin name is Digitalis, and an extract from this plant is commonly used to treat heart problems. Certain varieties are also deadly.
Recently learned: Foxglove is biennial, and the compounds used to treat heart problems are derived from the leaves of the second years growth. Herbalists don't use this as a treatment anymore because of the narrow range of usable dosages, although Western medicine has refined the technique. This is Common Foxglove.