Friday, April 20, 2007

praying mantis

At our last Backyard Herbalist class, one of my students gave me a bag of praying mantis egg cases... the praying mantis has a long Latin name just like plants do... Tenodera aridifolia sinensis. They are carnivorous insects that will feed on almost any other insect they can overcome, including their own kind.

The case is a mass of hardened foam containing from 50 to 400 eggs, that the female secreted on twigs in late summer or autumn.

Purchased cases can be kept in a jar in the refrigerator until you want to release them in the spring. Attach the egg case to a stem a few feet off the ground.

I can have fun observing this case for signs of a hatch while I work on cleaning up the flower bed this weekend. Actually, the case doesn't change in appearance once the young hatch, and it may take up to 8 weeks, but I'll be around and looking for these interesting "pet bugs."

emerging herbs

dutchman's breeches



pulmonaria (lungwort)

hepatica (liverwort) - unfortunately, my first hepatica didn't like the location where I planted it. However! it apparently sowed a substitute plant for me about 10 feet to the very middle of a clump of soapwort. The photo is awful, but it is what it is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I'm ignoring the FDA controversy

to post a photo of my ginger coming up... an ugly photo, but the leaves are like furry cat's ears, soft enough to pet...

...and posting photos of my spring beauties. Transplanted, with permission, from private property along the Flint River.

Why no ranting about the FDA? It's not the first time the FDA has threatened the so-called "alternative medicine" biz.

Here are some of the spring ephemerals that made it through the weird weather blast from the Arctic that Michigan experienced last week.
At one of my Lady's Garden Clubs today, everyone was reporting their mushy hyacinths and narcissi.
You recognise this corner ... I had no idea the hardy cyclamen would be hardier than the native bloodroot. And look, some of the winter aconite actually are setting seed, even through the adverse weather.

My first bloomin' weed! A Buttercup, a.k.a. Ranunculus somethinornother... when the buttercups bloom, can the dandelions be close behind?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

damage assessment

The arctic blast after all of those warm days in March 'did a job' on my spring bulbs. The snowdrops, crocuses, dutch irises and eranthus that usually enjoy long, cold early springs were hurried out in record time. The earlier than normal blooming hyacinths and daffs whose stems turned to mush will recover and bloom again next year.
May we all be here to see them bloom properly again.
The later to wake and rise bulbs in the same plantings will be fine, but the beds will be sparser.
The twinflower and bloodroots were hit hard, but surprisingly, the hardy cyclamen coum is still blooming prettily. The primroses are blooming fools. Scilla and pushkinia are perking up after laying down on their beds like femme fatales in a soap opera.
Spring Beauty, which the very mention of makes Herb laugh as being some kind of silly spring gardener joke, are just beginning to bloom.
And I'm out pruning woodies whenever I manage a conjunction of (my) schedule with outdoor temperature and sogginess of lawn. I wanted to tackle the roses yesterday, as the forsythia have been blooming for a few days, only the wind was turning the thorny stems into lethal weapons. But there is always something else to do.

a little arrow on tax day

I wrote an editorial this morning about pollution and paying taxes, but the political nature of it made me post it over on my environmental blog (link).

Thursday, April 05, 2007

just sayin'

My very own piece of folk wisdom, "it always snows on the daffodils", has been validated once more... snowed last night. Here is a photo of some of my daffodils a few days ago, I'll have to take a snow picture after breakfast.
Happy Spring, Michigan!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

ready for the rhubarb

This recipe makes topping for four fruit crisps. Use one portion and freeze the remaining three in separate containers, for preparing easy desserts on those days when you've spent all day out in the yard.

Crisp Topping for Fruit Crisps

2 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks (8 ounces) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 t. grated nutmeg
2 cups walnuts, chopped (opt: pecans)

Cut together the flour, sugar and butter as for pastry. Stir in the
oats, nutmeg, and walnuts. Work together (with your fingers)
until the texture turns crumbly.
Ready to use, or to package and freeze.

To use:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Crumble topping over a pie plate or shallow casserole of prepared fruit.
I like cinnamon spiced fillings of rhubarb, or apple, or peach, each
thickened according to my favorite pie recipes.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until topping turns golden and the fruit
starts bubbling. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Oh ye of little faith

Tried following a "winter sowing" technique this year, and the parsley is UP!

I had no faith... none of the lists I read listed parsley as a winter sowing candidate, and then, after I set the sown milk jug out on the patio, the temperatures plunged into the teens for days.
I chalked it up to a 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' experience. What a pleasant surprise!
Next year I'm winter sowing!

more photos from yesterday in the backyard: Twinleaf

A rare plant for Michigan... at least I never met anyone growing it. Or seen it shown in a lecture or discussion hereabouts. Named after President Thomas Jefferson, also called twinleaf.
Jeffersonia diphylla pops up early, and this year I caught it before it even begins to 'green up'.

(with flash)

first wave of spring in my Michigan backyard

The primroses from Januaries past... they are hardy.

I always call these Dutch irises, I. reticulata, I think... my memory for the Latin nomenclature is shot these days.

Hardy cyclamen has a nice big tuber this year... not the easiest plant to situate, but I think it likes this spot.