X as in Xerophyllum

X as un Xerophyllum. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Melanthiaceae

Genus: Xerophyllum

Species: Xerophyllum tenax

Common names: bear grass, squaw grass, soap grass, quip-quip, Indian basket grass  Swedish name: björnlilja

Xerophyllum is a genus of perennial plants native to North America. There are two species, X. asphodeloides and X. tenax, both are monocots and closely related to lilies.

Xerophyllum asphodeloides (common names: turkey beard, eastern turkey beard, beartongue, grass-leaved helonias, mountain asphodel). This species grows in the sandy soils of New Jersey pine barrens habitat, as well as oak-pine woods in the Appalachian Mountains. It is threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its habitat and fire suppression. It is considered a popular garden plant, producing spikes of white flowers.

Xerophyllum tenax is an important part of the fire ecology of regions where it is native. It has rhizomes which survive fire that clears the ground. The plant thrives with periodic burns and is often the first plant to sprout re-colonizing burnt out areas.
The elongated leaves were used for basket weaving by the Native Americans. Its fibrous leaves, which turn from green to white as they dry, are tough, durable, and easily dyed and manipulated into tight waterproof weaves. They also braid dried leaves and adorn them on traditional buckskin dresses and jewelry. Today the bear grass are harvested for commercially use in flower arrangements (both fresh and dried) or sold in craft stores for use in arts and crafts as well as home decoration.

I have chosen to describe the bear grass because it is the one I have found out being grown in Sweden. But the description and plant care is mostly the same for both species.

Bear grass. X as in Xerophyllum. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Xerophyllum tenax – bear grass

Description: Xerophyllum tenax is a hardy long-lived solitaire plant with spiky pine needle-like or thread-like herbaceous leaves. It blooms in the early summer carrying small stellar flowers of white at the tip of the stalk like an upright club. The flowers are slightly fragrant. Plant colonies typically only bloom every five to seven years. It grows in a tuft and creates colonies by the spreading rhizomes.

How to grow: Xerophyllum tenax prefers full sunlight and well-drained but moist, rich soil. It can tolerate wet soils. It is important to supply mulch in spring to keep the moist in the ground. Regular watering is needed. Once established do not move. Propagation by seed or dividing in the spring in cooler areas or the autumn in warmer areas. 

Native arts and crafts

Almost every country, indigenous culture, and native folks have their significant crafts. Some skills have been lost over time but some still thrives. It is amazing what we can do with natural materials and the art that can be preformed. Garden/nature crafts belong to gardening and a greener living. If we do it with care and respect. At the ethnographic museum I can stand and study the arts and crafts of long gone people. Mesmerized by the beauty made by hand and few but abundant resources. Have you ever tried basket weaving?

Woven basket. X as in Xerophyllum. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Let your creativity loose. Gather old scraps or whatever you got at home and make a basket. Here follows some tutorials for inspiration.

Tutorials

R as in Rosa

R as in Rosa. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Rosaceae

Genus: Rosa

Species: Rosa dumalis

Common names: glaucous dog-rose Swedish name: nyponros, törnros

The genus Rosa consists of about 200 species distributed from subtropical to cool temperate areas. I think most of you are familiar with the beautiful flowers often used as ornamental plants. They have a long history of being cultivated and hybridised. But there are also many wild forms growing in nature contributing to wildlife and foraging.

Rosa dumalis is a species of rose native to Europe and southwest Asia. It grows wild in Sweden and can be found in glades, forest edges, pastures and along roads. The epithet dumalis means shape like a bush and describes its way of growth. It is seldom used as an ornamental plant but it produces one of the best rose hips. Rose hips are common to the Rosa spp. and are false fruits or pseudocarps. Rosa dumalis is often mistaken for Rosa canina which is a rose used in gardens, for example in hedges. Rosa gallica is another species often used in perfume and beauty products.

The rose hips of Rosa dumalis is very rich in vitamin C and is widely used in cooking. The rosehips are dried and pitted to be stored for later. Or if to be used fresh boiled softly and mashed before adding them to the meal. Other uses for rose hips are tea, flour, herbal treatments.

R as in Rosa. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Rosa dumalis. Photo: Kari Pihlaviita ©

Description: Rosa dumalis has an erect and robust growth. It has rough, bent thorns which are blue-green, smooth or slightly hairy. It blooms in summer (in Sweden June-July), the flowers got dark or pale pink petals and a yellow center. The sepals are upright and remains during the season. The rose hips are smooth, oval and quite soft. Rosa dumalis is shifting in appearance between individuals.

How to grow: Since it is not cultivated there are no general advice how to grow it. But looking at its natural habitat gives us a glimpse. It prefers full sun or partial shade. A well-drained but moist soil. It requires low maintenance and is quite modest in its needs. Pruning may be done in spring. Cut a few twigs to the ground to make the bush more airy and encourage new growth. I do not recommend to use this species in a garden bed but rather in a wildlife patch.

Recipe – Rose Hip Soup

Rose hip soup is one of my favorites and have been that since I was a kid. You can buy it at the grocery store but I prefer it homemade. It is made of rose hips, water, sugar and potato flour. The soup can be eaten cold or warm. It can be served with small almond biscuits, sliced bananas, splinted almonds, whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.

Rose hip soup with with small biscuits made from almond, sugar and egg-whites. R as in Rosa. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Rose hip soup. Photo: Johan Jönsson ©

Ingredients:

  • 5 dl dried rose hips
  • 1,5 liter water
  • 1,3 dl sugar (or other sweetener of your choice)
  • 1,5 tbsp potato flour
  • 1 cinnamon cane (optionally)

How to make:

  1. Soak the dried rose hips in the water over night or for a couple of hours
  2. Blend the rose hips with a mixer
  3. Put the mixed rose hips (with the water) in a saucepan
  4. Add the cinnamon cane (optionally)
  5. Let it boil on medium heath for about 3 hours. Stir every now and then
  6. Measure the rose hip soup and add 1,5 dl sugar to every 1,5 liter
  7. Mix 3-4 tbsp potato flour with 0,5 dl of water until it is solved. Add the mix to the soup.
  8. Heath the soup while stirring
  9. When it starts to boil it is ready
  10. Serve the soup or let it cool

You can use 7 dl fresh rose hips instead of the dried ones but then you have to prepare them before making the soup.


© The photos are licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved.

Q as in Quercus

Q as in Quercus. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Fagaceae

Genus: Quercus

Species: Quercus robur

Common names: oak, English oak, French oak Swedish name: ek, vanlig ek

Quercus is a genus of about 600 species of deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs. Many deciduous species are marcescent, not dropping dead leaves until spring.They are native in the Northern Hemisphere extending from cool temperate to tropical areas. Many species are important as lumber and for wood production. Two species Q. robur and Q. petraea are domestic in Sweden. The two North American species, Q. rubra (red oak) and Q. palustris (pin oak), are cultivated and quite common in Swedish cities and parks. Maybe the most famous Quercus is the cork oak Q. suber which bark is used in the production of corks (wine stoppers).

The oaks have many uses and a historical interest. The wood was used in the construction of ships (from Viking longships to naval warships) and buildings. Today the oak is most used in furniture, home decoration and flooring. Barrels of oak are used in the production of fine liquors like wine and bourbon. In which the beverage is stored and aged. Oak wood chips are used when smoking food like fish, cheese and meat.

The fruit is a nut called an acorn, borne in a cup-like structure known as a cupule; each acorn contains one seed (rarely two or three) and takes several months to mature. The acorn is characteristic for the genus Quercus but they look different between species. Acorns are also edible to humans in processed form, after leaching of the tannins.

Q as in Quercus. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Quercus robur. Photo: Charlotte, My Green Nook ©2015

Description: Quercus robur is a significant large tree reaching an age of about 1000 years. The crown is wide and the branches reach almost horizontal from the stem. The bark is rough and knobbly. The spieces epithet robur is derived from the Latin robustus meaning strong and hard. Which alludes to the trees massive growth and dense wood. In spring, a single individual produces both male flowers (in the form of catkins) and small female flowers. Quercus robur drops its leaves in the autumn.

How to grow: Quercus robur like most oaks prefers a slightly chalky, loamy and moist soil. Full sun and not too windy. It is best grown as a solitaire or in spaced groups. Some varieties are useful as avenue trees.

 

Biodiversity

A tree may just be a tree to many people. But there is much to learn. If we take our time to study a tree closely we will find it crawling with life. Oaks are no exception rather good examples of trees with high biodiversity – sustaining many other species in nature.

At high age the oaks start to wither inside and becomes hollow. Insects and small animals gain from this. The murky wood sustains more than 500 species of insects many of them directly dependent on old oaks. Oaks play a critical role in the ecological community being keystone species, which means they have large effect on their environment relative to their abundance. In a wide range of habitats oak trees are important components of hardwood forests, and certain species are particularly known to grow in associations with members of the Ericaceae in oak-heath forests. A number of kinds of truffles have symbiotic relationships with oak trees. The European pied flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca) is an example of an animal species that often depends upon oaks. Acorns are a vital part of the forage consumed by wildlife, including squirrels.

Quercus botanical illustration. Q as in Quercus. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Many species of oaks are under threat of extinction in the wild, largely due to land use changes, livestock grazing, unsustainable harvesting and climate change.

  • Ecologya woodland ecosystem at BBC.co.uk. Do not miss the informative picture showing the complex system of the life web/community in an oak.

H as in Hydrangea

H as in Hydrangea.  Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook Family: Hydrangeaceae

Genus: Hydrangea

Species: Hydrangea petiolaris (syn. Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

Common names: climbing hydrangea Swedish name: klätterhortensia

 

Hydrangea is a genus of 70-75 species of flowering plants native to southern and eastern Asia and the Americas. Most common form are shrubs but some are small trees or lianas climbing up trees. They can be either deciduous or evergreen. Cultivated species are all deciduous.  Several Hydrangea spieces are old plants – 50 million year old fossils of seeds have been found in the western US. Hydrangea petiolaris is native in Japan, Korea and Sakhalin. Where it grows up trees and rock faces, climbing with small aerial roots on the stems.

H as in Hydrangea. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Hydrangea petiolaris. Photo: Rachel James ©

Description: Hydrangea petiolaris is a deciduous woody climbing vine plant. With flat white flower heads. The center core of subdued, fertile flowers is surrounded by outer rings of showy, sterile flowers. The fruit is a dry urn-shaped capsule containing several small winged seeds. It is a plant with year-round interest. Beautiful foliage and blossom. The leaves turn yellow in the autumn. The dried flowers stay on the plant during the winter giving it a decorative value. Flowers can be used in arrangements both fresh and dried. Hydrangea petiolaris attracts bees, butterflies and birds.

How to grow: Hydrangea petiolaris is a useful low-maintenance climber for a shady garden area for example a north wall. It is at its best where it gets morning sun and afternoon shade, but it works well in dense shade. If grown with consistently moist soils it can tolerate the full sun. Best grown in rich, fertile, moist but well-drained soils. It usually is used climbing on fences, walls or trellis but can also be used as a ground cover. Slow to establish, but quite vigorous thereafter. Propagate by seeds or stem cuttings. Pruning is not required but possible.

Climbing plants

Plants may have different organs or tools for climbing. It is interesting to look at the climbing parts and as a gardener or house owner it is good to know since some plants can be destructive. Therefore not recommended to grown on a wall of a house or a valuable structure. Some will need more support than others to grow appropriate. There are two main groups of climbing plants true climbers and trellis plants. The big difference is that true climbers have the capacity to climb with out support by attaching to the surface. Whereas trellis plants need constant support to climb otherwise they will fall to the ground or at least start to hang down.

It is the true climbers you may have to be careful growing against your house. Depending on the walls condition and material. The trellis plants do no harm but make sure they get enough water. Do plant them at least half a meter from the house.

 


© The photo is licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved. License Attribution 2.0

G as in Geranium

G as in Geranium. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Family: Geraniaceae

Genus: Geranium

Species: Geranium sp.

Common names: cranesbill Swedish name: näva

 

Geranium is a genus of about 430 species of flowering annual, biennial, and perennial plants. They are found throughout the temperate regions of the world and the mountains of the tropics, but mostly in the eastern part of the Mediterranean region. In Sweden for example there are 14 species of wild growing Geranium. The common name cranesbill derives from the beak-like appearance of the fruit capsule of some of the species. The Geranium genus has a distinctive mechanism for seed dispersal. Where the fruit capsule springs open when ripe and casts the seeds some distance.

There are many cultivated species of Geranium most are hardy perennials treasured for their attractive flowers and foliage. Several hybrids have been awarded, ‘Rozanne’ is one of them.

Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Geranium sp.

Description: The long, palmately cleft leaves are broadly circular in form. The flowers have five petals and are coloured white, pink, purple or blue, often with distinctive veining. Some species have spreading rhizomes. Among those there are two cultivars I often use for their ground covering function along with rich blossom. Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘St Ola’ and Geranium macrorrhizum. Both are lovely to use with other perennials as well as with shrubs and trees.

How to grow: Geraniums will grow in any soil as long as it is not waterlogged. The majority need only reasonably fertile and moist soil. A few prefer gritty, well-drained soil. They are normally grown in part shade to full sun. But some works even in shade therefore suitable for woodlands and as ground cover under shrubs. Propagation is by cuttings in summer, by seed, or by division in autumn or spring.

Spieces dependent of forest fires to survive and thrive

The great forest fire in Tyresta National Park, Sweden.

In August 1999 ten per cent of the national park and nature reserve burnt down. For about two weeks fire fighters tried to extinguished the fire before getting it under control. The extremely hot and dry conditions contributed to the extent of the fire and made it very difficult to put out.

The fire in Tyresta National Park was a tragedy in many ways. The park is known as a valuable area of unspoilt natural beauty. It is uncommon with such an old forest so close to a large city, Stockholm. Many plant and animal species dependent on an unharmed habitat were threatened and lost. At the same time, fires are a natural part of the life circle in primeval forests and from an ecological point of view not a disaster. Fire may start a natural regeneration of the forest.

Controlled burning. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

The natural chaos in the aftermath of a fire is beneficial for many species. Geranium lanuginosum and Geranium bohemicum are two floral species that depends on fire for their seeds to germinate. They have to be heated to 50-100 °C. Their seeds may lie latent in the soil surviving for a long time (in some parts of Tyresta for 200 years). In today’s society we are extinguishing the forest fires very fast which leads to only small areas of forests get burnt yearly. Due to this many fire dependent species are endangered or close to extinction. Svedjebruk, controlled slash-and-burn, is necessary to save and keep these spieces alive.

E as in Eryngium

E as in Eryngium. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Family: Apiaceae

Genus: Eryngium

Species: Eryngium planum

Common names: sea holly Swedish name: rysk martorn

 

Eryngium is a genus of flowering plants including about 250 species. The different spieces are distributed almost worldwide wherever their growing conditions are met. The majority are grassland plants but some belongs in rocky or coastal areas. The Eryngium genus contains both annuals and perennials. Several species of Eryngium have been used as food and medicine. The Native American people used many of them for varied purposes. Eryngium yields an essential oil and extracts have anti-inflammatory properties. The roots have been used as vegetables or sweetmeats. Young shoots and leaves are sometimes used like asparagus.

Eryngium planum is native in central and southeastern Europe as well as central Asia. The essential oils and bioactive compounds of it are used in European folk medicine as diuretic, stimulant, and appetizer. Ethanolic extracts of shoots and roots show a significant antifungal and moderate antibacterial activity.

E as in Eryngium. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Eryngium sp.

Description: Eryngium planum is a herbaceous perennial thistle with branched silvery-blue stems, and numerous small blue conical flower heads surrounded by spiky bracts in summer. It is very beautiful to use in flower arrangements, fresh or dried (eternal). It is also attractive to use in garden beds, since it is a very hardy species adding superb color. The shimmering blue being a nice contrast to yellow or gold neighbours. Attracts butterflies.

How to grow: Eryngium planum is easy to divide in early spring. It requires low maintenance and is easy to take care of. Tolerant of hot, dry sites, and soils high in salts which makes it suitable in coastal gardens and along roads which may be salted during winter time.

Herbal and medicinal plants: traditional and folk medicine has laid the ground for many modern medicines produced today. Without the research and knowledge gained in history modern medicine would have looked very different. If it even had existed. Nature is still a source of new remedies and studies are done on newly discovered plants. To be able to make new medicines for modern diseases. I think it is a very interesting history to take part of so I thought I would share this link with you:

Sadly the use of traditional medicine has led to extinction or alarming threats of several spieces. Since harvesting and collecting have been to intensive. Meanwhile modern medicine have leaked out in our water systems via the sewers causing disturbances in the reproduction of aquatic species among other things. Yet again we have sustainability issues to tackle to ensure a healthy planet.

D as in Dianthus

D as in Dianthus. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook
Family: Caryophyllaceae

Genus: Dianthus

Species: Dianthus barbatus

Common names: sweet-william, carnation Swedish name: bortsnejlika

Dianthus barbatus is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. The flowers are edible, having a mild flavour and may be used as a garnish for vegetable and fruit salads, cakes, desserts, cold drinks. Many Dianthus species have medicinal properties but this is not investigated in the case of Dianthus barbatus. It attracts bees, birds, and butterflies which makes it suitable for wildlife gardens. How it got its English common name sweet-william is not clear but there are different sayings. The flower symbolizes heroism and courtesy. Catherine Middleton included sweet-william in her bridal bouquet as a tribute to Prince William at their wedding.

D as in Dianthus. Blogging from A to Z April (2015) Challenge | My Green Nook

Dianthus barbatus. Photo: Marilylle Soveran ©

Description: Dianthus barbatus is a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant. Wild plants produce red flowers with a white base. There are many cultivars and hybrids selected for differing flower colour, ranging from white, pink, red, and purple to variegated patterns. Some with double flowers. They have a typical spicy, clove-like scent. Dianthus is self-seeding and have the possibility to spread but it is not considered invasive. It is a commonly used plant in cottage gardens (in Swedish mormorsväxt – one of grandmother´s plants).

How to grow: Dianthus barbatus thrives in loamy, slightly alkaline soil with sun to partial shade. It is propagated by seed, cuttings or division. Seeds of cultivars will not look like the parental plants (aka breed true) . If it is planted from seed after the last frost (Spring), it will flower in the second year (biennial behavior). If it is planted before the last frost (Autumn), it may flower in the first year. Some gardeners recommend deadheading to encourage further flowering but then you lose the seeds.

The cottage garden: The distinguishing features of a cottage garden are informality, abundance and diversity. Which is perfect for gardeners engaged in environment and wildlife. The early purpose of the cottage garden was to provide food and flowers were just optional. Therefore there is much to learn from the cottage garden for vegetable and fruit growers. Especially those working in small plots since the original cottage gardens often were quite small. There are no rules which flowers to grow but there are some traditional plants often used. Read more about the cottage garden:

 


© The photo is licensed by Creative Commons and some rights are reserved. License Attribution 2.0