Sunday, January 27, 2013


St. Paul Winter Carnival Orchid Show

Every year my wife and I travel to Como Zoo Conservatory in St. Paul in the dead of winter to take a breath of the tropics. The morning temp started at -5 below zero and by noon we were in a tropic rainforest! An added benefit was the St. Paul Winter Carnival Orchid Show, camera in hand we took pictures of some of our favorite orchids on display at this judged show. 

A beautiful small cymbidium
Mashell and I both want this Ascocentrum species for our living room.
A classic phalaenopsis
Paphio hybrid
Need a break from winter doldrums?
Visit your local winter orchid show! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Artemisia lactifolia guizhou group
White Mugwort
Black Stemmed Artemisia

White Mugwort, Artemisia lactifolia is grown in China as a leafy vegetable and medicinal herb. Artemisia lactifolia guizhou group, is an uncommon selection of White Mugwort, differentiated by black green leaves and red-brown stems. This clumping shrub-like perennial typically grows 4’ to 5’ tall. In summer, sprays of creamy white flowers will bloom above the musk scented foliage base. The stiff stems do not need staking. The stocks can work as cuttings. Rust and powdery mildew are sometimes problems but White Mugwort has no serious insect or disease problems.

This is an exceptional perennial rarely found in nurseries. I have seen it backed by flowering 6’ tall Joe-Pye-Weed, Eupatorium atropurpurem. It also works well with Helenium, Anemone tomentosa “Robustissima,  Solidago rugosa “Fireworks” or “Crown of Rays”.

“Guizhou” should be planted with full sun in rich well drained soil. Water around 10 to 14 days as it prefers constant moisture. Try drip irrigation about the plant. Cut stems to the ground in fall once the foliage yellows. It is best divided in late fall. Zone 3-9

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


I was listening to the Heroes Symphony by Phillip Glass and thinking of the men I admire, one of those is the reluctant genius Charles Darwin. Back in 1980 I began watching a seven part program aired on PBS called The Voyage of Charles Darwin. My life was very busy at the time I was not able to watch all seven episodes.  I found the entire program on YouTube recently I watched the series over three days, check it out!

I have occasionally thought of the voyage of HMS Beagle and wondered if the same sites visited by Darwin still exist today? How many remain untouched allowing us the ability to conjecture on the same spectacles of life Darwin pondered? Even the remote Galapagos Islands, flora and fauna, are under pressure by the hands of men.
Obviously I lack the money to produce another full voyage but what an adventure! I wonder how many individuals would see evidences and am able to conclude as Darwin did, not be dogmatic as Commander FitzRoy? If we could see the physical and natural world Darwin saw through the course of the Beagle!

The Beagle by Owen Stanley 1841

I understand why Darwin waited to publish until he received the pressure produced by Alfred Russel Wallace’s letter (another hero, often overlooked by many) on natural selection. What controversy one can stir through a discussion on the origin of species to this day! Today we have a firm understanding of genetics and genomes, science to validate evolution and still billions cannot grasp a picture of life without the supernatural.
Mastodons, Glyptodons, Toxodon, Megatheria and extinct horses; we see finished skeletons in museums, to have the experience of digging them from rock and soil!  Darwin the palentologist, geologist, botanist, zoologist, taxonomist, comparative anatomist, the Beagle allowed him to contemplate the slow and gradual transformation of life.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Northern Bush Honeysuckle
Dwarf bush honeysuckle
Diervilla lonicera

Three species comprise the genus Diervilla. Related to true honeysuckles (Lonicera), Northern Bush Honeysuckle is native to eastern North America. Found throughout northern boreal and hardwood forests in the deep shade of mature woods to forest openings or cut clearings in full sun or semi shade.

A low growing deciduous shrub with upright arching stems to 3’ tall. Bush Honeysuckle is a very competitive, tough shrub which can grow into dense waist- high colonies. Tolerant of many soil types and almost indifferent to pH, rampant growth happens in acidic mesic soils. It begins blooming in late June throughout summer; the tubular yellow flowers have slight fragrance. The flowers which attract bumblebees, swallowtails and hawk moths, turn orange-pink after pollination. Individual stems last only a few years, old stems drop leaves and can be culled.

Typical specimens have large green smooth, serrated, opposite leaves with woody green stems. Nurseries have plants selected for red stems and bearing young reddish foliage. Fall color is superb in red, orange, and yellow.

I grow Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle under a canopy of oak holding a steep slope. Colonies of seed grown green shrubs matched with a border of nursery purchased reddish specimens makes an eye catching year round attraction which culminates in a fall spectacle.