- Author: Lanie Keystone
What a wonderful surprise! I walked into our local post office today asking for a book of flower stamps. I was shown the “usual suspects” of rose love stamps and the cactus stamps. And then, the clerk brought out the newest stamps—a book of winter berries. They're beautifully designed and seasonally perfect.
The book has four different winter berries, each perfectly executed: Juniper Berry, Winter Berry, Beauty Berry, and Soap Berry. After using a few, I became curious about each of these seasonal berries. So, a quick check found these few bits of information:
Winter Berries: Ilex verticillata, is a holly, native to eastern North America in the US and Southern Canada. It's a dioecious plant—one that has separate male and female plants and is fast-growing.
Soap Berry: Shephercia canadensus: is in the Oleaster family. It's found in most of Northern and Western North America. Here, in our area, it can be found inland and is most happy in dry, moist open woods with rocky or sandy soils.
Juniper Berry: Is the female seed cone produced by various specious of Junipers. The cones from a handful of species are used as a spice—especially in European cuisine and is what gives gin its distinctive flavor. It may be the only spice derived from conifers.
Beauty Berry: Callicarpa americana: grows 3-5 feet tall—often as tall as 9 feet. It's a deciduous shrub found in the Southeast US. While the foliage is not spectacular, it's known for it's one remarkable feature—the bright purple berries that grow around the plants stems in plump clusters.
It would have been great if some information about these wonderful berries could have been printed on the stamp packet—but, how grand that the postal service has featured them and we have these beautiful stamps to use. I think they'll be getting everyone's “stamp of approval”!
- Author: Kathy Low
Now that we're in the midst of the holiday season you see poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) plants in many homes and businesses. But how much do you know about the history of the poinsettia? And have you wondered why it's associated with the holidays?
Native to Central America, the Aztecs called the plant “Cuetlaxochitl.” They used the plant's latex as a fever treatment and made a dye from the plant's leaves.
The plant was named after Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779 – 1851), who was a doctor, amateur botanist, former member of Congress, and who served in a variety of government positions. He helped found the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, which later became the Smithsonian Institution. While he was the first American Ambassador to Mexico, he first encountered the red-leaved plants and was taken by its beauty. So he sent plants home to his greenhouse and began propagating the plant in smaller sizes (it can grow naturally in Central America to small tree size) and sending it to botanic gardens. Since Mr. Poinsett is credited with introducing the “Cuetlaxochitl” to the United States, the plant became known as the Poinsettia.
There are a few explanations as to how it became associated with Christmas. The first is in Mexico the plant leaves only turn red naturally around Christmas. Another explanation is that the shape of the plant leaves is believed to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and the red leaves the blood of Christ. The third explanation concerns an old Mexican legend.
According to the legend, a poor Mexican girl didn't have a present to give to the Baby Jesus during Christmas Eve services. As she walked to the chapel with her cousin, her cousin told her that any gift given by someone who loves him will make him happy. She still had nothing to give him. So along the road, she gathered a small bouquet of weeds to give him. When she arrived at the chapel she placed the bouquet of weeds at the base of the nativity scene. To everyone's surprise, the weeds suddenly turned into beautiful bright red flowers, i.e. poinsettias.
Poinsettias have become a very important floriculture crop in the United States. In fact, December 12th is now celebrated as National Poinsettia Day. So if you've purchased poinsettia plants for your home this holiday season, you're not alone!
- Author: Launa Herrmann
Part One: Iguazu Falls, Argentina - Its Water
- Author: Lanie Keystone
How fortunate we are here in Solano County, that our gardens provide such beauty all year through.
But, still—we must think ahead to make that beauty a reality.
Here are some important tasks to do that not only make our gardens look lively and tidy during the winter months, but ensure that they thrive come spring and summer.
- Make a change! This is a great time to experiment with something new for you and your garden. So, go to your local nursery and check out all the bare root plants on display through January. Think roses, fruit trees, grapevines, cane berries, strawberries, artichokes, and asparagus. They're all there to brighten up your summer garden and add some “delicious” to your dinner table!
- Plant spectacular bulbs. They are some of the most popular and reliable bloomers in the plant world. Being so self-sufficient and low maintenance, they'll surprise you every spring as they multiply and peep their lovely heads up above the soil when you least expect it.
- Winter pruning is essential. December is a perfect time to view your trees and shrub's basic structure. Look for over-crowded, crossing or dead branches and prune away. With an eye toward the near future, winter pruning stimulates spring growth.
- If you have space for new hardy trees, shrubs or perennials, this is the time to plant them. They may be dormant now, but they'll get a good root system boost before the first robins sing.
- Late in December, begin pruning roses.
- Plant winter color to invite you outdoors even on the most cloudy day. Foxgloves, columbine, blanket flower, and pansies are wonderful choices.
- Remember your container plants under eaves and patio covers. Even in a good down-pour, they'll miss all that natural nurturing water…so help them out.
- Drain water from garden hoses in case of frost. And, while we're talking irrigation, shut off and drain irrigation lines and protect exposed faucets, valves, and risers from frost, as well.
- Don't forget all your favorite garden tools: gather them up from around the yard, then, clean them with steel wool. Sharpen your hand loppers and hand pruners. Store these essentials in a dry place in readiness for spring.
- Bring some outside color indoors for those darker winter months. Amaryllis is a beautiful choice for your home or as a gift for friends and family.
With these tasks complete, your garden is sure to have a wonderful winter as you prepare for your
Happy Holiday Season!
- Author: Mike Gunther