Archive for January, 2008

Stag’s Horn Sumach

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Mezereon is a small, sparsely branched shrub growing to a height of 30- 120 cm. The twigs are greyish, the buds dark brown. The flowers appear before the leaves in early spring (February-March) and have a strong fragrance. The round drupes ripen in July and contain a single ovoid black- brown seed. Both fruit and bark are poisonous.

This shrub is a native of eastern North America from Indiana northward to Canada. It grows on rocky hillsides and dry banks, mostly on limestone. It requires abundant light but will grow on poorer and drier soils. It has been cultivated in Europe for several centuries, being valued for the vivid colouring of the foliage in the autumn and the ornamental fruits.

Because of its dense root system and tendency to develop root suckers it is also sometimes planted on hillsides to prevent erosion. In some parts of Europe experiments are being carried out to cultivate it in plantations for tannin, as its leaves contain up to 25 per cent of this substance.

Fruits of the Shrubs

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The fruit contains one, several or many seeds. The seed consists of a membranous or hard covering and inner nucleus. The fruit contains one, several or many seeds.

The seed consists of a membranous or hard covering and inner nucleus. It is the spot through which the seed absorbs the greatest amount of water during germination and also through which the sprouts generally grow.

Only in rare instances are buds without scales and covered only with a thick pubescence, e.g. those of the wayfaring tree and alder buckthorn. These are called naked buds. Buds with scales covering only the bottom part and with the leaf tips showing are called semi-naked, e. g. those of the common elder and cotoneaster.

Discernible below the buds is the leaf scar where the leaf was attached to the twig. Leaf scars vary in size and often have a characteristic shape. The leaf scars of the common elder, red elder, staghorn sumach and bladdernut are quite large. Sometimes the part of the twig below the bud is swollen and this spot is called the peg.

Coffee

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Chewing cola nuts is a widespread habit amongst the inhabitants of the whole of north Africa. It is a form of more or less harmless drug addiction that might he compared to drinking black coffee or tea.

The pericarp is composed of two layers, a white, spongy inner layer (albedo) and an outer cover or rind (flavedo), coloured yellow when ripe and containing numerous large cells filled with the essential oil of lemon which gives the peel its characteristic smell.

It is obtained by carefully peeling the rind of fully-ripened lemons; this may be dried and then crumbled and stored in air-tight containers for later use.

They contain approximately 2% caffeine, which is gradually released as they are chewed; at first they have a bitter flavour which gradually becomes sweet. Also released during chewing is a red pigment that colours the lips. Dried and ground cola nuts may be used to make a hot beverage in the same way as coffee.

Lemon peel gives foods a refreshing aroma and is used in pastries, candies and compotes. The essential oil of lemon is obtained for industrial purposes by pressing (prime quality) or distillation (lower quality).

A Beginner’s Guide to Bonsai Trees

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Growing bonsai is an art that needs total commitment. These fascinating mini trees require much attention, and won’t last long if they are neglected. Before you start out on your first bonsai you need to be aware of a few basic rules. You have to keep in mind that you are dealing with a living, growing tree that needs proper care.

Many people wonder what the big deal is when it comes to growing a bonsai tree. It’s just an indoor plant that needs water and light, isn’t it? If this is your attitude toward the art of creating bonsai, don’t even get started.

The environment has to be just right in order to produce a healthy bonsai tree. Room temperature and lighting must be carefully monitored. It’s essential that you give it the correct quantities of fertilizer and water. A bonsai tree is actually quite delicate and can die very easily.

Here are a few tips to help ensure that your indoor bonsai trees will thrive.

1. Water the plant thoroughly to ensure that the roots get an adequate amount. The amount depends on the type of plant you are growing. And be certain that there’s good drainage because you don’t want water accumulating at the roots.

Coriander

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Coriander is a cultivated annual or biennial herb native, most probably, to the eastern Mediterranean. Long ago, it spread to southern Asia and Europe, where it often grows wild as an escape. Finds in old Egyptian graves confirm that it was used by the Egyptians.

Henry VIII of England was so fond of saffron in his kitchen that he forbade its use as a hair-dye by the ladies of the court.

Cornelian cherry is one of the few shrubs whose fruits, like those of juniper and barberry, are used to flavour foods. They are red, barrel- shaped drupes that are sour at first.

Even though the shrub flowers in early spring the fruits ripen in late autumn, remaining on the shrub well into winter and turning sweet only after the first frost. Inside the pulp is a hard seed which, when sown, does not germinate until the second year. They are used both fresh and dried to flavour apple and pear compotes, which are otherwise bland, and also in sauces served with game and grilled meats. In the Balkans they are distilled to make an alcoholic liqueur.

Bladdernut

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

Holly is an evergreen shrub or tree 2-10 m in height with a conical crown. The bark is smooth and grey-brown. In older trees the leaves in the upper part of the crown arc only slightly spiny. The flowers, borne in the axils of the leaves, appear in May-,June. The red fruits ripen in October and remain on the tree until late in the winter. In Great Britain and the United States it is used as a Christmas decoration.

A native of western and southern Europe, it thrives exceptionally well in the moist and mild coastal climate. It requires partial shade and often grows in woodland. In the Alps it is found at elevations up to 1200 m. In central Europe it is often planted in parks, though it suffers great damage by frost in severe winters.

A prolific sprouter, it regenerates well and puts out new sprouts when cut back. It is a very attractive shrub in parks and is planted not only in groups but also as hedges because it can be clipped. It prefers situations sheltered from wind and winter sun and is best propagated by means of seeds. There are several good silver-and golden-leafed forms grown in gardens.

Herbs History

Friday, January 25th, 2008

The herbs and spices of the Mediterranean region owe their spread throughout Europe chiefly to Charlemagne who recognized their importance in cooking during his many military campaigns. In the year 812 he included in the instructions to the steward of the royal household a list of 74 herbs which he ordered to be grown in the imperial gardens.

Man’s oldest ancestors fed on the seeds of grasses, although later they began to occasionally eat the flesh of various animals. This was eaten raw for fire was unknown to them and so they had no knowledge of cooking. The change to the present wide assortment of foods took place slowly and our day and age continues to see an increase in the variety of foods, which is mainly due to the use of herbs and spices. Thanks to these it is possible to make a tasty pt even from seaweed.

The siege and conquest of Rome by the Visigoth king Alaric at the beginning of the 5th century was the means whereby pepper was introduced to the Germanic peoples, with whom it rapidly became popular.

The Structure of Shrub Leaves

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

The leaves of plants are very important. They are the plant’s manufacturing organs and act also in the capacity of lungs and partly as an excretory system. The most important plant function takes place in the leaves. Called photosynthesis, it is a process whereby the chlorophyll in the leaf cells with the aid of the sun’s energy transforms atmospheric carbon dioxide into organic substances essential to plant growth.

The plant, like all living organisms, also breathes, i.e. it absorbs oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide. This, too, takes place mainly in the leaves.

Most shrubs native to central and western Europe are deciduous, that is to say they shed their leaves in winter. With the onset of autumn the organic substances in the leaves are concentrated in the plant stem and roots and the leaves begin to change colour.

The proportion of carbon dioxide in the air is very low and the plant must therefore process great quantities of air and absorption must thus take place on the greatest possible leaf surface. That is why plant leaves are so thin and why a mature shrub has several hundreds to thousands of leaves.

How to Propagate Shrub by Cuttings

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Once the cuttings have rooted they should be hardened off in the autumn by removing the glass and left in the frame for the winter. Woody plants that throw out shoots from the roots may be propagated by root cuttings. This is a fairly simple method, which may be carried out during the dormant period when the gardener has the most time.

Hardwood cuttings require little care. All that needs to be done is removal of weeds and watering during dry spells. Within three to four weeks a callus (healing tissue) forms on the bottom of the cutting and usually soon after the first roots appear. The roots of most hardwood cuttings are well established by early winter.

Summer or softwood cuttings are an even more effective means of propagation, used with shrubs that do not multiply well from winter cuttings, e.g. Cytisus, Viburnum, Spiraea, Staphylea, Rhamnus. Summer cuttings must be inserted in a greenhouse, frame, or box covered with glass because they wilt easily and require a moister atmosphere. Summer cuttings are taken from June to the end of August according to the nature and maturity of the shoots. Cuttings from evergreens are usually taken as late as August.

The Importance of Shrubs

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Shrubs are closely relate&to trees, the two supplementing each other in complex forest communities where the former form the lower layer. Their shorter height and better adaptability to extreme conditions enable them to penetrate even areas where trees cannot grow and to establish extensive thickets.

The loveliest features of parks as well as private gardens and often also true masterpieces of the gardener’s art are heath and rock gardens. Here, in particular, shrubs and sub- or semi-shrubs play an important role. Heath gardens are made up almost exclusively of shrubs and sub-shrubs, the most common being vaccinium, Pernetya, Rhododendron, Kalmia, Ledum, and Erica. Best suited for rock gardens, apart from certain dwarf evergreens, are various members of the genera Cotoneaster, cytisus, Daphne, Erica, Vaccinium, Berberis, Rhododendron, Hebe, etc.

Beyond the Arctic Circle, in regions with a shallow layer of soil that thaws only during the brief summer season, the shrub communities include arctic species such as dwarf willows and birches.

At the first hint of spring the sallow provides bees with their first nourishment of pollen and nectar after their long winter sleep. In March sun- warmed hillsides in central and eastern Europe are covered with the yellow blooms of the cornelian cherry, which likewise attract swarms of bees.