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most popular garden blog post of 2013...Gardening: Nature's Anti-depressant

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photo by Jan Johnsen
 This post got many thumbs up on Google + this year:
Are you feeling a little down? depressed? Well here is a way to fix that -  go out and plant something...
Studies have found that an hour of gardening a day reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke and increases bone density more efficiently than aerobics or swimming!

In fact, even looking at nature can result in a drop in blood pressure within five minutes and lower our stress hormones.


One 16-year study in Australia revealed that those who did daily gardening even cut their risk of getting dementia in later life.

(Gardening boosts endorphins, the body’s good-mood chemicals. Personally, my theory is that we need the sunlight on our pineal gland and this can delay dementia, but I have no proof, its just a 'knowing')


Here is a lovely story from Timesonline United Kingdom, dated March 27, 2010

"...Jane Robertson was earning a small fortune in the pressured world of derivatives markets when she had a …

Another great fern - Chilean Hard fern (Blechnum Chilense)

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Here is an evergreen beauty for warmer climate zones!

The Chilean Hard Fern (Blechnum chilense) is an evergreen, slow growing fern that tolerates sun and enjoys dappled shade with adequate moisture. It is rated for USDA zone 8 (may be grown in zone 7 where it may suffer some frostburn but this can be trimmed).

In colder areas protect and shelter it in a deep woodland or in close proximity to a building.Place leaf mulch around the crowns of these plants if you experience regular hard winters.

The Chilean Spanish name for the species is ‘Costilla de vaca’ which means ‘cow’s rib’ referring to the shape of the fronds. The species can be found growing at both low and high altitudes in Chile. It often colonizes alongside roads as it is quick to establish after disruption to the land.

It spreads by underground rhizomes and can colonize an area. The young and emerging leaf fronds having an orange-rusty color but as they mature they develop a waxy dark green appearance. It reaches 2-3 ft tall, may…

Outdoor Chair : Light as Air - Photo of the Day

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The [Ch]air designed by Alexander O.D. Lorimer looks to me to be based on a bee hive and its hexagonal cells...he says the geometric base of acrylic was inspired by the geometry of soap bubbles and how they cluster. 

The base of the chair appears so lightweight and fragile, yet its structure is able to support the weight of a person!  Ingenious. Click on photo caption for more information.







'Acrocona' Norway Spruce - Photo of the Day

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Dwarf Acrocona Norway Spruce -  Picea abies 'Acrocona'
Even when young, this delightful dwarf evergreen conifer develops remarkable, raspberry-red cones on the tips of its branches in spring. 'Acrocona' means "with terminal cones on the ends of the branches." Unique not only in color but also in its irregular upright form.   It becomes a broad pyramid with time, 5' tall x 4' wide in 10 years. Deer resistant.
Prefers full sun in well-drained soil. Hardy to -50 degrees. USDA zone 2. It has been known since 1890, when it was found in a forest near Uppsala, Sweden



Woolly Lambs Ear - a substitute for bandaids

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Woolly Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantina) has soft, absorbent leaves and so it has been used as a battlefield wound dressing historically.  

But did you know it also has blood clotting properties and contains antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties as well?



Instead of  store bought bandages try this on a bruise or insect sting: 

Press on the leaves so the juices of the plant are released and wrap the affected area with it.

Woolly Lamb's ear is also an excellent remedy for stinging nettle. 



Deer and rabbits do not eat  lambs ear. It makes a lovely border plant for gardens and walkways.




Cucamelons, Mouse melons - Bite sized Watermelon Look-alikes

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Have you heard about Cucamelons? Also called mouse melons?  This tiny watermelon look-alike from south of the border is grape-sized and tastes of cucumber with a hint of lime. They are going to be very popular soon, kind of like the 'ipad mini' of the vegie world...
Why? because they are pest free, drought tolerant, easy to grow, and a vigorous climber/trailer that produces masses of fruit throughout the summer! 

Its botanical name is Melothria scabra and it comes from Mexico/Central America where it is called sandita de Raton (little mouse melon). They have been grown there since Pre-Columbian times and need a sheltered sunny spot to grow. 

Their taste is unusual in that - first it tastes like cucumber but the aftertaste is something tart.. Karen Bertelsen of the blog 'The Art of Doing Stuff' describes it this way:
"When you bite into the mouse melon the first flavour you get is cucumber, but then your salivary glands do that weird thing where they kind of burn and cl…

The Wish Tree - a new/old Tradition

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Omikuji: random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines in Japan. They are often tied to a tree.... Literally “sacred lottery”, these are usually received by making a small offering (generally a five-yen coin as it is considered good luck)and by pulling one out randomly from a box that one shakes, hoping for the resulting fortune to be good. It is not always that good....

The omikuji falls out of a small hole, scrolled up. (now they also come form a coin-slot machines).  Then you tie it to a tree, pole, or similar.....

People often do this at New Year's...
And then Yoko Ono took this tradition and made it into her idea of a Wish Tree - She suppliesslips of paper where guests write their wishes and tie them to a branch of a branch.  Yoko Ono collects all of the wishes when the “piece is done” in an area.  

Currently well over one million wishes have been tied to her trees!  All of the wishes are being stored in the Imagine Peace Tower that Yoko constructed in Iceland as a …

Photo of the Day - 'Salsa Red' Coneflower

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I planted 'Salsa red' coneflower (Echinacea Sombrero™ Salsa Red) for the first time this year. It is in a west facing garden border. The hot summer sun bleaches out all pastel colors there but this vibrant red perennial was eye popping! 

Combine it with blue Angelonia and Sedum ' Angelina' for a rear colorful display in summer.

Light Producing Plants - Here they come!

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In Avatar's forest of Pandora the plants glow...but that's the movies right? Well, here they come! Glowing plants for your next wedding or to light your garden path.

'Starlight Avatar’ is a nicotiana plant that emits a dim, blue-green light comparable in strength to starlight -  an ambient glow that is best seen in a darkened room.  It has a two- to three-month lifespan. It is an indoor plant and is unlikely to survive outdoors. The photo below is art - not the real thing.


This first “autonomously luminescent,” or autoluminescent,plant is produced by Bioglow Tech, founded by molecular biologist Dr. Alex Krichevsky.  He has worked for more than six years to develop light-producing plants. 

Greenhouse Grower covered his research in the 2010 article, “Glowing Plants: The Next Big Opportunity.” Bioglow claims its plants emit light on their own without the need for chemicals or UV light. This is an actual plant below.



The company’s website explains that these plants are similar to …

Autumn Fern - one of the Best

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Autumn Fern (Dryopteris erythrosora) is a great hardy fern. It grows 18" high by 18" wide and has orange-red new fronds that come out in spring and in late summer bright-red spore clusters appear on frond undersides. 

New growth continues through the season, giving a colorful tapestry effect of copper and green from Spring to late Fall.  The the fronds age to a lustrous dark green and remain well into winter. 

It is a spreading fern, by rhizomes. Native to woodlands in Japan. Slow to establish...

Autumn fern is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 5 and stays evergreen in frost-free areas.It was named a Florida plant of the year for 1998 by the Florida Nurserymen & Growers Association.

It looks beautiful in a mass planting in the shade! It combines well with hosta, hellebore, Mahonia and Holly Fern. Also Mertensia (Virginia Bluebells), Phlox divaricata, Pulmonaria (Lungwort), Tiarella (Foam Flower), and Viola. 


Autumn Fern prefers moist, rich, well-drained, acid soils in full to part…

photo of the Day by Ellen Hoverkamp

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Another photo of the great perennial, Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'. This is by Ellen Hoverkamp who does amazing photos using a flat bed scanner!

See more photos and her book at her website. Click here.

Photo of the Day - Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'

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Do you want to be immortalized? Just have someone name a fabulous plant after you!

 Honorine Jobert was very lucky because this flowering hybrid anemone is a wonderful bloomer and extremely adaptable. Blooms from August through September, every year.

Low maintenance and good in perennial borders, cottage gardens, city gardens and open woodland gardens. Named a 'Tried and True' plant by the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Gardening Tips from Thomas Rainer, via the New York Times

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Michael Tortorello has just written a wonderful NY Times article about Thomas Rainer, garden blogger extraordinaire. His blog, Grounded Designtakes a stand against the dogma of green landscaping. “The native plant movement is, in part, this Protestant idea that it has to hurt in order to do good ..... Sustainability should be more hedonistic, more pleasurable.”  Let's hear it for hedonism in the garden! All the green movement people should embrace their inner 'peony lover'.  I, for one, feel we should include as many native plants in our garden as we can (for the bees, butterflies, birds) but I also agree with Thomas when he says, "Don’t be dogmatic about native/exotic, straight species/cultivar".... I think we cannot deprive ourselves of some glorious dahlias or exotic Japanese ferns.  Rainer writes: "When it comes to plant selection, great plantsmen are often pragmatists, not crusaders. 
....What makes a garden-worthy plant is not the plant’s pedigree, but its …