Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets

This is the last excerpt from my stash of books on loan from our wonderful Powell River Public Library

Companion Cultivation of Mushrooms with Garden Vegetables
Garden vegetables benefit from the activities of both saprophytic (organism that grows on and derives its nourishment from dead or decaying matter) and mycorrhizal (the symbiotic association of the mycelium of a fungus with the roots of certain plants, such as conifers, beeches, or orchids) mushrooms.  First we'll explore the use of saprophytic mushrooms.  After discussing our experiments and experiences with these, I'll move on to using mycorrhizae to aid the garden.

Using Saprophytic Mushrooms to Aid the Growth of Garden Vegetables
...Vegetable seeds seek mycorrhizal fungi immediately upon germination.  (Mycorrhizal fungi are abundant in nature, but many are difficult to collect and only some, like those of the genera Glomus and Rhizopogon are suitable for most trees and plants.)  This pairing of seed sprouts and fungi helps the seeds gather nutrients and prevent parasitization (to infest or infect with parasites).  The fungi benefit from the plant's waste products, sugars, hormones, and dead tissues that flake off.  When seeds are dusted with a mix of mycorrhizal spores (primarily Glomus aggregatum, Glomus intraradices, Glomus mosseae, Pisolithus tinctorius, and assorted Rhizopogon species), the spores and seeds germinate simultaneously, thriving within the protecting and nurturing mantle of mycelium. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Excerpt from "Pollination with Mason Bees"

Continuing on with excerpts from wonderful gardening and/or garden-related books available for loan from Powell River Public Library, the next excerpt is from a 'New Book', "Pollination with Mason Bees", written by Dr. Margriet Dogterom. 

Is it a Bee, a Wasp or a Fly?

Bees and wasps are closely related insects that evolved from a common ancestor.  The major difference between bees and wasps is that bees, with their specialized branched and plumose hairs, obtain their protein from pollen and are vegetarian; wasps are carnivorous and obtain their protein from meat and other insects.  Wasps appear relatively hairless.

Similarly to bees, wasps forage for sugar from flowers and in addition forage for sugar from pop bottles, decaying fruit or any other sugary substance.  Flies often mimic bees in colour and shape, but they can be distinguished from bees and wasps by having a close look at their antennae.  Bees have a pair of antennae made of rodlike segments.  Flies often mimic the striped appearance of bees, but the absence of rodlike segmented antennae is a giveaway that you are looking at a fly and not a bee, no matter what its colour.  Bluebottle flies look a lot like mason bees, but their habit of being on refuse and not on open flowers is a good indictor you are looking at a fly and not a bee. 

Mason bee (note the mites on its body)
photo source:  frog pond photography

Bottleneck fly

Female wasp
Simple mason bee nest
More elaborate mason bee nest

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to Make a Rain Barrel

Once again, an excerpt from "Black and Decker's The Complete Guide to Greenhouses and Garden Projects," on loan from one of my favourite places, the Powell River Public Library

...you're someone who likes to work and play in the dirt.  Or at least you like the thought of it, and you're looking for inspiration to help you get out there.  In either case, you've come to the right place.  Like a garden itself, this book is filled with diverse bounty.  It is a compendium of information, advice, projects, and nitty-gritty details to help you satisfy your passion to grow things...

And no matter what type of gardening you do, the Garden Projects chapter is bound to have something you can really use:  planting beds, a compost bin, trellises, potting benches...you name it.  Best of all, every design uses simple, inexpensive raw materials that you work with your hands into something that's much more than the sum of its parts.  Sounds a lot like gardening, doesn't it?

How to Make a Rain Barrel
Tools and Materials: 
Barrel or trash can (minimum 44 gallons)    
Tape measure                                                   
Drill with spade bit                                            
Hole saw                                                             
Barb fitting for overflow hose                        
1 1/2" sump drain hose                                  
3/4" hose bibb or sillcock                                
Teflon tape                                                                                                                 
Clear silicone caulk                                            
3/4" female pipe coupling
3/4" bushing or bulkhead connector
Channel-type pliers
Fiberglass window screening
Sheet metal screws
Cargo strap, with ratchet or bungee cord
Eye and ear protection  
Work gloves
  1. Cut a large opening in the barrel top or lid.  Mark the size and shape of your opening - if using a bulk food barrel, mark a large semi-circle in the top of the barrel.  If using a plastic garbage can with a lid, mark a 12" diameter circle in the center of the lid.  Drill a starter hole, and then cut out the shape with a jigsaw.
  2. Install the overflow hose.  Drill a hole near the top of the barrel for the overflow fitting.  Thread the barb fitting into the hole and secure it to the barrel on the inside with the retainer nut and rubber washer (if provided).  Slide the overflow hose into the barbed end of the barb elbow until the end of the hose seats against the elbow flange.
  3. Drill the access hole for the spigot (either a hose bibb or sillcock, brass or PVC).  There are many ways to make the spigot connection.  We tightened the stem of the sillcock onto a threaded coupling which is inserted into the access hole.  Inside the barrel, a rubber washer is slipped onto the coupling end and then a threaded bushing is tightened over the coupling to create a seal.  Apply a strip of Teflon tape to all threaded parts before making each connection.  Caulk around the spigot flange with clear silicone caulk. 
  4. Screen over the opening in the top of the barrel.  Lay a piece of fiberglass insect mesh over the top of the can and secure it around the rim with a cargo strap or bungee cord that can be drawn drum-tight.  Snap the can lid over the top.  Once you have installed the rain barrel, periodically remove and clean the mesh. 
If you want pictures, you'll have to take the book out.  There are lots of other practical projects in the book. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jekka McVicar's "Seeds"

Excerpt Number 3, from "Seeds:  The Ultimate Guide to Growing Successfully from Seed," again on loan from the Powell River Public Library

Each seed is a complete self-contained work of art, a unique life capsule containing the blue print for the whole plant with every cell, hair, vein, leaf, petal and root preprogrammed and waiting for germination and growth in order to manifest itself to its full potential.  Seeds are a master of ingenuity when it comes to survival.  Some are able to lie dormant for many seasons or even years waiting for the right conditions in which to germinate, others evolve slowly adapting to changes in environment.  Arctic Lupin seeds have been found to be viable after lying in permafrost conditions for 10,000 years.  The means of seed dispersal is equally staggering - some fly, some fall, some float.  The Dandelion seed can travel 200km (125 miles) in a storm, and fern spores have been known to travel 20,000km (12,400 miles) from their parent.  They use the air, water, animals, birds and humans to arrive at their destination and start their cycle all over again...

...All the plants in this book have been chosen with simple criteria in mind.  They are all either common garden plants, whose seeds are simple to collect, or plants whose seeds are easily available through retailers....

...This books is to be used as a springboard into the world of growing plants from seed.  By following a few simple steps (as simple as baking a cake), and not being too ambitious at the start, you will be rewarded by having a flourishing garden at a minimal financial cost with maximum pleasure and a great sense of achievement. 

Rosa Rosaceae
A genus of hardy, deciduous, or semi-evergreen shrubs and climbers grown for their lovely, often scented flowers.  Plant in a fertile, free-draining soil that does not dry out in summer, in a sunny situation. 
It is worth mentioning that only old shrub roses and species roses can be grown successfully from seed. 

Collect the seeds in autumn from ripe hips.  Mix the seed with propagating coir and put the mixture into a plastic bag.  Seal and label the bag and put it in a warm place at 20 degrees C for 2 months.  Place the plastic bag into the refrigerator for a further month.  Finally sow the seeds into pots or modules using standard loam-based seed compost (substrate) mixed with coarse horticultural sand.  Mix to a ratio of 1 part compost + 1 part sand.  Cover with coarse horticultural sand and place in a cold frame.  Germination takes 2-3 months but can take longer.  When the seedlings are strong enough, pot up singly in 8cm (4in) pots using a loam-based potting compost.  Grow in the cold frame for a further season before planting out. 

Rose hips on bush near Old Post Office
in Townsite, Powell River

Friday, December 2, 2011

Natural Pest Control

Following is an excerpt from another gardening book entitled, "Urban Homesteading:  Heirloom Skills for Sustainable Living", available at our wonderful Powell River Public Library.  This book was written by Rachel Kaplan with K. Ruby Blume. 

Natural Pest Control
While insects can be beneficial, when out of balance they can also be hazards in the garden.  Your best protection against pests is healthy soil and strong hearty plants.  Interplanting and companion planting strategies also provide natural pest control.  While waiting for your pollinator and beneficial insect beds to mature, there are some other low-level, nontoxic ways of dealing with pests in the garden.  Unless the pests are completely decimating your plants, sometimes the best option is just to share.  Your greens might have a few holes in them, but that just proves they are organic. 
  1. Hand-picking insects and other pests off plants is an easy, front-line defense.  Snails can be handpicked off plants every night for up to two weeks and exported to interrupt their breeding cycle.  They can also be fed to the chickens, which snaps them right up. 
  2. All-Purpose Spray (works against many pests, including slugs and Japanese beetles):   Ingredients: 1 garlic bulb, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 quart water, 1 small onion and 1 tbsp mild biodegradable liquid dish soap or Dr. Bronner's soap.  Instructions:  Chop garlic and onion in the blender.  Add the cayenne pepper and water, steep for 1 hour and strain.  Add dish soap so that spray will stick to the leaves.  Mix well.  Spray mixture on both sides of leaves.  Do not spray greens or plant parts you want to eat.  Store mixture in the fridge or it will go bad.  This also works with just garlic.  You can also make a mixture of hot pepper and powdered garlic and store it until you need it.  Mix with water, spray the leaves, and wash the leaves off before you eat them.
  3. Hot pepper spray, a mixture of 1/4 cup hot peppers and two cups of water, can be blended, strained, and applied to plants every day for 5 to 7 days until pests are gone.
  4. Watering in the morning or at soil level, instead of overhead watering, can also help with a number of pests and disease issues.  It gives leaves time to dry, which helps prevent fungal diseases that thrive in damp conditions.  It also gives things a chance to dry out before sundown, thus preventing slugs and snails from travelling (which they like to do at night, in moist conditions). 
  5. A jar lid, saucer, or other shallow container settled into the soil then filled with beer will attract and drown many pests, especially earwigs and slugs.
  6. A short section of old hose or a rolled up newspaper will attract nighttime marauders like earwigs.  These can be collected and moved well away from the garden in the morning.
  7. A board laid on the soil with a little bit of crawl space is good for collecting slugs and snails.  In the morning, they can be gathered and fed to the chickens.
  8. Birds eat lots of insects.  Providing a birdbath may attract them.  A birdhouse or two will encourage birds to stay and pick off insects for you.  (They will also eat your peas or beans when you plant them , so you'll have to cover those plants with netting until they sprout.)
  9. Lizards, frogs, and toads are great insect catchers.  Make them feel welcome.  If they have a favourite place in a pile of pots, on a pile of rocks, or in a water trough, let them claim it as home and don't disturb them. 
  10. Plant a little extra for the bugs so you can share your bounty. 
Maybe most importantly, we need to change our attitude about pests.  We've lived at war with our environment for too long, and the results of that are staring us in the face.  In whatever small ways we can unlearn our ill-conceived war on nature on our own homesteads and relearn ways to live in relationship with other creatures--pests, predators, or germs--the more generative and long-lasting our living systems will be. 

Beer traps


Thursday, December 1, 2011

PRGC Calendar

Ten Benefits of Raised Beds

Below is a short excerpt from the book, "Homegrown Harvest:  A Season-by-Season Guide to a Sustainable Kitchen Garden," found in amongst the gardening books at our wonderful Powell River Public Library

Ten Benefits of Raised Beds
  • Raised beds allow easy access and require less bending
  • Soil in Raised beds warms up more quickly in spring
  • You can plant closer and get higher yields
  • Well-constructed raised beds provide ample growing depth and excellent drainage
  • You can import new soil that is most appropriate to your crop
  • One raised bed is less daunting than a large vegetable garden and may be the best way to begin
  • Raised beds can be made in any shape, and from any material to match the style of your garden
  • Row covers, netting, and plant supports are easy to manage in a raised bed
  • Well-maintained raised beds provide an attractive landscape feature
  • Paths around raised beds allow the soil within the bed to remain uncompressed by treading, thereby protecting its structure
Some interesting examples of raised beds: 

    complete wooden raised bed garden

    long raised wooden beds

    simple wooden raised bed

    purchased pvc square bed
    (available in circular shapes as well)

    reusing vehicle tires
    You are only limited by your imagination. 

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Life of Flowers Video - Enjoy!

    Life of flowers from VOROBYOFF PRODUCTION on Vimeo.

    Thank you Vorobyoff Production for sharing. 

    Bulbs for Woodlands (Shade)

    Master Gardener, Jo Canning, Guest Speaker at PRGC's October 25th Meeting, provided members with a list of bulbs suitable for planting in woodlands (shade) conditions.  Below is a collection of images of some of the bulbs found on that list. 


    Arum italicum
    Arum italicum (Italian arum or Italian Lords-and-Ladies) is a 3-season plant and a true shade lover.  Tops out at 3 ft.  Leaves sprout in late autumn or early winter.  White flowers (spathes) appear in spring and lasts until summer, when they die back, leaving clusters of red fruit until early or mid autumn. 

    Chionodoxa luciliae
    Chionodoxa luciliae, (Lucile's Glory-of-the-Snow) in its native Greece, blooms at the edges of mountain snow banks.  The blooms range from deep blue through to pink to white.  Great under deciduous shrubs where sun hits the ground in early season and equally good in rockery or along pathways.  Does well in full sun or partial shade. 

    (Also found in Autumn list)
    Cyclamen repandum
    Photo Credit:  Giuliano Campus
    The hardy cyclamen are very satisfying shade plants with varied flowers and foliage.  As long as there is plenty of leaf mould to feed them, they naturalize easily under deciduous trees, tall shrubs, or on a shaded scree or rockery.  They need an alkaline soil many coastal woodlands do not have so top the leaf mould with at least 2" of turkey grit, a type of calcium rich gravel found in feed stores.  All cyclamen self-sow.  Let the seed pods develop & drop around the parent plant.  Note:  this is not the florist's cyclamen, which is strictly an indoor plant. 
    Eranthis hyemalis
    Photo Credit:  Andrea Moro
    Eranthis hyemalis  (winter aconite) is a very early bright yellow bloomer that is good for rock gardens or underplantings  where the sun shines in spring, then becomes shady for the rest of the year.  Good combined with later blooming bulbs like crocus or narcissus.  Choose an area that never dries out or (if the tubers survive at all) you will never get a good carpet over the years. 

    Fritillaria meleagris

    Fritillaria imperialis
    Photo Credit: Trevor Sims
    Fritillaria camschatcensis
    Photo Credit: Trevor Sims

    Fritillaria species, a varied genus whose members have quite different needs, do best in moisture retentive humus-rich soils and cool summer temperatures, are recognizable for their strangely patterned flowers. 

    F. camschatcensis - (chocolate lily) bears dark purple-black pendant flowers grouped on 5" stems

    F. meleagris - the foot tall (checkered lily) has checkered deep pink and white blossoms

    F. imperialis - has a single 3-5 foot stem topped with a very showy yellow, orange or red flower; deer and rodent do not care for this plant, probably due to its unpleasant odour

    The list of naturalizing bulbs for summer is much shorter than the springtime offerings.  Many summer bulbs are spring planted and are not suited to the easy-care shade or woodland setting because either they are too tender or sun-or-drought lovers (either summer or winter). 

    Arisaema triphyllum
    Photo Credit:  Blythe Wold

    Arisaema species, unusual shade lovers, are related to the calla lily with flowers of a similar form.  All are of differing heights, with similar leaves and blooms, and are striking specimens on patios, shaded decks or at a pathway junction. 

    Cardiocrinum giganteum
    Cardiocrinum giganteum  (Himalayan lily) needs filtered sun or light shade to be happy and does well in our climate as long as it gets summer moisture and no hard freeze.   In July and August it produces huge white flowers with red markings.  It can be slow to establish but once settled becomes a spectacular 9 foot giant. 

    Lilium species (Martagon) Orange Marmelade
    Lilium species.  Modern hybrid lilies do not do well in woodland settings.  The North American and Martagon species, however, are right at home in dappled or partial shade.  They add a unique dimension to our shade gardens and reward us with spots of colour floating above the woodland floor.  Plant on mounds of leafy, gritty, well-drained soil that stays evenly moist and with a minimum of 2 hours of sun a day.  Although these species lilies are difficult to find and establish in your garden, following are some that are recommended for the woodland garden. 

    L. superbum: The Turk's Cap lily is easiest to grow. The blooms are orange to magenta with purple or brown specks. The recurved, nodding flowers appear July through August.

    L. martagon: another similarly coloured Turk's Cap from Mongolia that also offers a white (var. album) variety.

    Zantedeschia elliottiana
    Photo Source:  Wikipedia

    Zantedeschia species.  Most callas are suited only to indoor conditions but two calla lilies - Z. aethiopica and Z. elliottiana -  do well in our climate. 

    Z. aethiopica(giant white arum lily or common arum lily) it is the earlier bloomer, evergreen in a protected spot, and will often bloom in late spring through summer.  It does best in moisture-retentive soil that remains so all year so it is suited to a pond or stream margin in light shade to full sun.

    Z. elliottiana:  (golden calla or yellow or golden arum lily) has blooms that begin as green-rimmed white then mature to deep yellow. 


    Colchicum autumnale
    Photo Credit:  Milos Andera
    Colchicum species.  (autumn crocus, also called meadow saffronautumnale - quickest to naturalize, does not stand up well to wind and rain - and C. speciosum - has the largest and most weather-resistant and earliest blooms.

    Tricytris species.  (Toad lilies) This species is happy in deep or partial shade but needs humus-rich soil to thrive.  It blooms from early to late autumn on a slender but sturdy stalk up to 32" high. 

    T. formosana:  from around Labour Day through late autumn, pink speckled star-like blossoms
    T. hirta:  (Hairy Toad Lily) This Japanese native begins flowering earlier, often in late summer, and lasts through autumn. 

    Tricyrtis hirta
    Photo Source:  Wikipedia

    Tricyrtis hirta in woodland setting
    Information regarding woodland bulbs was provided by Master Gardener, JoAnn Canning.  Thank you, Jo. 
    * A reminder that Mother Nature will be stocking some of the woodland bulbs named. *

    PRGC Calendar

    News from THE BULLETIN, November/December 2011

    As members of the BC Council of Garden Clubs (BCCGC), the Powell River Garden Club receives The Bulletin bi-monthly throughout the year. The Bulletin contains news and information from the Council as well as informative and interesting articles submitted by Club members.

    Below, please find many of the articles published in The Bulletin, November/December 2011.  A printed copy of The Bulletin is available at Club meetings.

    Article #1:   Lime-Sulphur Spray
    Article #2:   Tree Sculpting
    Article #3:   Fifty Year Old Living Bridges
    Article #4:   Fall Chores
    Article #5:   BC Noxious Weeds
    Article #6:   Rhodochiton
    Article #7:   Leonotis
    Article #8:   Ladybugs
    Article #9:   Sempervivum
    Article #10:  New Plant Discoveries
    Article #11:  Allspice
    Article #12:  Amaryllis
    Article #13:  Hippeastrum
    Article #14:  Hellebore
    Article #15:  Pumpkin

    Did you know...Hot beds were very popular in Victorian times. Once set up, they can be used to grow salad crops in winter, by getting a head start on seed sowing in the spring by up to one month, and for growing melons and any of the curcurbit family in the summer. A hotbed provides bottom heat, using manure rather than electricity as the heat source, thus speeding up plant growth of seedlings and tender plants.

    A hot bed consists of two main layers:
    The heat source: Fresh straw manure in a layer 60-90cm deep (after treading). As the manure breaks down it generates heat. Tread it down well to compact it, ensuring a more even release of heat.

    The growing medium: A mixture of top soil and garden compost, ratio of 1:1. This is placed on top of the manure in a layer 20cm-30cm thick.

    Article #1:  Lime-Sulphur Spray...University of Nebraska Extension, www.lancaster.unl.edu
    Lime-sulphur, a fungicide composed of inorganic sulphur and lime, is commonly used today to control a variety of diseases such as plum pockets, black knot, black spot of rose, and a number of raspberry diseases.  

    Lime-sulphur was originally developed in 1851 by Grison who was the head gardener at the vegetable houses in Versailles, France. Grison boiled "flowers of sulphur", freshly slaked lime, and water for 10 minutes, drew off the clear liquid and mixed it with water. He then used this solution to protect plants against mildews. The solution was originally known as the "Grison Liquid" or "Eau Grison". In 1886, lime-sulphur was used to control peach leaf curl in California.

    Sulphur is the only ingredient in the mix that is toxic to pathogens. It is able to kill pathogens through direct con-tact or fumigation (sulphur vapors). The vapor action of sulphur allows the fungicide to be effective from a distance and is important in killing spores of powdery mildew. Once taken up by the fungus, sulphur disrupts the transfer of electrons causing the reduction of sulphur to hydrogen sulfide (H2S), which is toxic to most cellular proteins.

    Sulphur itself is also toxic to certain plant species and is capable of causing a phytotoxic reaction. As a result, lime has been added to the mix to reduce the phytotoxicity of sulphur. The more lime added to the mix the less phytotoxic. In general, lime is considered a "safener" for the plant.

    According to the label, lime-sulphur can be applied as a dormant season fungicide or as a growing season spray. Dormant season applications need to be applied in late winter or early spring when temperatures are above freezing, but before leaves are present on the plant.

    Growing season applications can be made after leaves are present on the plant, but should be applied in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid burning. Plant damage caused by lime-sulphur is most severe during dry weather when temperatures reach 80 degrees to 95 degrees F.

    Lime-sulphur is corrosive to the eyes and harmful if swallowed, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. Appropriate precautions according to the label should be taken when applying lime-sulphur. Thoroughly read the label before purchasing, handling, or applying lime-sulphur. 

    Article #2:  Tree Sculpting

    Axel Erlandson, born in 1884, had a passion for sculpting trees, also known as arborsculpture. As a young boy the Swedish born grew up becoming a bean farmer in Central California near Turlock.

    There, inspired when he noticed that trees of the same species would naturally ‘inosculate’ or bond together where they touch, he began to shape trees. It started out as a hobby for the amusement of his family but turned into his life’s work. His tree creations brought more and more attention from the public. Using a special set of skills, Erlandson started to sculpt things out of living, growing trees. 

    In 1947 Erlandson opened his Santa Clara Valley attraction called "The Tree Circus" where locals and tourists could pay to see his ‘World’s Strangest Trees’ and by 1957 he had created the practice of training living trees and other woody plants into artistic shapes and useful structures is know as arborsculpture, tree training or tree shaping. It is a form of living sculpture sharing a common heritage with other artistic horticultural and agricultural practices such as bonsai, espalier and topiary and employs some similar techniques. Grafting is a unique and distinguishing feature evident in many (but not all) examples of the work is the purposeful inosculation (see note below) of living trunks, branches, and roots to form artistic designs or functional structures.

    Practitioners choose from among various compliant species and an evolving array of design options, techniques, and tools to control and direct living wood, both above and below ground; perhaps bending, pleaching (see note below), weaving, twisting, braiding, grafting, framing, molding, controlling light or pruning to create a project.

    Tree shaping has been practiced for at least several hundred years (see article below).

    NOTE #1:   inosculation is the natural phenomenon in which trunks or branches or two trees grow together. When occurring in plants, it is biologically similar to grafting.
    NOTE #2:   pleaching is the term used when training trees into a raised hedge where the trunks are exposed but the branches inter-twine.

    Axel Erlandson in his living tree

    Two Leg Tree

    The Basket Tree

    Article #3:  Fifty Year Old Living Bridges, www.amusingplanet.com

    The lower reaches of the southern slopes of Khasi and Jaintia hills, in Northeastern India, are humid, warm and streaked by many swift flowing rivers and mountain streams. On the slopes of this hill, among the dense undergrowth, a species of Indian Rubber tree - (Ficus Elastica) - thrives and flourishes. These trees shoot out many secondary roots from their trunks. The trees, supported by these secondary roots, can comfortably perch itself on huge boulders along side the riverbanks or in the middle of rivers and send its roots down to the riverbed.

    The ancient War-Khasi people, a tribe in Meghalaya, had noticed these qualities of this tree and had adapted it to serve their need for building bridges across rivers and streams. In order to direct the roots in the desired direction, the Khasis sliced betel nut tree trunks half in the middle for their entire length, hollowed them out and passed the thin and long tender roots through them. The roots start growing towards other end of the stream and when they are reached they are allowed to take root in the soil. Given enough time, a sturdy, living bridge is produced.

    Some of these root bridges can carry fifty or more people at a time and can be over 100 feet long. These bridges take 10 to 15 years to become fully functional, and they keep growing in strength by the day. Some of these bridges are well over 500 years old. 

    These bridges are unique to Meghalaya only and are being used daily even today by people living in many villages around Cherrapunjee. One special bridge has two bridges stacked one over the other. The villagers of Nongriat where this bridge is located at the bottom of the valley call it 'Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge’.

    Living bridge, Meghalaya India
    Living bridge, Meghalaya, India

    Article #4:  Fall Chores

    HOUSEPLANTS: When night temperatures drop, valuable houseplants that have spent the summer in the garden or patio require attention. Assemble them so you can cut them back if required and treat them for insects you don’t want to bring indoors. Repot any that have overgrown their current containers.

    Bring them indoors so they can adjust to their new environment before the heat is turned on. You will probably get some leaf loss or browned edges on a few of your plants. This usually occurs because of the lower light levels indoors. 

    TENDER BULBS: Lift or harvest tender bulbs and corms such as gladiolas, dahlias and tuberous begonias that you want to replant next year. Place bulbs in a ventilated, sheltered spot to dry for about three weeks. Except for begonias, foliage and stems can be cut off with a sharp knife near the point where they emerge from the bulb. Allow begonia stems to dry until they are brittle enough to break off from the bulbs.

    Bulbs can be stored in a dark, cool place when they are stored in vermiculite, peat moss or sawdust. Dust with a fungicide and insecticide to halt disease and insect development while in storage.

    Except for daffodils, mice and other rodents consider bulbs of all kinds to be premium food, so store bulbs where these pests will not have access to them.

    HARDY BULBS: Plant spring flowering bulbs (ie. tulips, daffodils, anemones, snowdrops, alliums). If you have problems with squirrels or rats digging up your bulbs for a winter snack, soak them for three hours in Bobbex to make them unappealing to squirrels and rats.
    SHRUBS AND TREES: Fall banding with Tanglefoot will stop insects from climbing trees to overwinter.

    LAWNS:  Fall is the time to really take care of your lawn to get it ready for a quick and healthy start next spring. Apply herbicides to control weed infestations. Aerate if the soil is compacted. When applying fertilizer, make sure it is from controlled release nitrogen to prevent excessive growth. Remember, don’t fertilize and lime at the same time, leave several months between applying them as they cause do not react well with each other.

    ROSESFinal winterizing is usually done in late October after a deep freeze. Cut the canes back to about 6 to 12 inches and mound the plants with fresh topsoil.

    VULNERABLE PLANTS:  Make windbreaks around vulnerable plants by hammering in four wooden stakes into the ground and staple burlap to the stakes - don’t use plastic as your plants can cook on sunny days.

    Cover the root area of evergreens with a 3" layer of leaf or bark mulch to preserve moisture.

    Protect your trees by putting plastic tree guards around the bottom of their trunks to prevent damage from gnawers such as rabbits and mice. Make sure to remove them in the spring.

    If rabbits are a problem, put chicken wire cages around plants they most enjoy dining on.

    • Transplant any shrubs or small trees that require relocation.
    • Aerate your lawn and reseed any dead or thin spots. Fall is the best time to lay sod, overseed or start a lawn from seed because temperatures are cooler and rain tends to be more plentiful than in the hot summer months.
    • Once your container plants are past their prime, empty containers of annuals and store frost-sensitive containers in a protected area.
    • Plant or transplant perennials. Divide overgrown perennials – this is the best time to divide peonies and bearded irises.
    • Make notes about garden changes or plants that you might want to purchase or move in the spring. 

    Article #5:  BC Noxious Weeds...various sources

    We are seeing more and more areas of our province being taken over by noxious weeds. To help you identify and control these weeds, I have researched the ones that are fairly new to our area.

    Black Medic (Medicago lupulina)

    It is a broadleaf annual or sometimes a short-lived perennial. It grows to about 2 feet in height and spreads laterally. The leaves resemble miniature clover leaves but the flowers are yellow. They are turning up in people’s lawns, more often than not from lawns put down as sod. Black Medic also colonizes dry, infertile spots where little else will grow except grass. Plants stay close to the ground until they are ready to bloom. By the time flowers appear the stems could be almost 24" long. Keeping lawns well fertilized with nitrogen and phosphorous discourages this. 

    To control you can pull young weeds during the spring and early summer. They are easiest to uproot when the soil is wet. Getting the main root up is crucial so grasp the stem close to the stem and make sure the shallow rooted taproot comes out completely. You can use a garden fork to loosen side roots so the taproot comes out cleanly. Corn gluten herbicide applied in spring will help prevent germination of black medic seeds.

    Giant Hogwood (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
    Giant hogwood is a member of the Carrot or Parsley family. It is a biennial or perennial, flowering only once in its lifetime and reproduces only by seed. Plants form rosettes to 40" high the first year. In the second year it either sends up a flowering stem (if conditions are right) or remains vegetative and produces a very large rosette of huge leaves reaching almost 80" in height and then will flower the third year.

    The city of Burnaby issue a warning advising people their skin could be severely burned by the sap. The City of Coquitlam also issued a warning stating that the sap contained in the hairs covering the plant and in the stem can cause severe burns when in contact with human skin. Blistering to the affected areas and pigmented scars can last up to six years.
    Giant hogwood was introduced from Europe as an ornamental, and for a good reason, it is very attractive. The clusters of white flowers can be as large as two feet across.

    Both cities ask that you call city hall if you spot this weed and they will send personnel to remove it as personal safety apparel and goggles are mandatory.

    Giant Hogweed flower
    Invasive Plant - Giant Hogweed

    Article #6: Rhodochiton

    Rhodochiton, commonly called the ‘purple bell vine’ is native to the woodlands of Mexico. This plant scrambles through the undergrowth to a length of 3 metres with the same spread. The leaves are heart-shaped, covered with down and marked with purple veining. The flowers are bell-shaped, formed by five fused sepals with the petals forming the tubular purple-black protruding centre. It flowers annually outdoors with flowers sustaining over a long period in suitable conditions, making it a perennial in a heated conservatory. Propagation is by seed or cuttings.
    Two other species sometimes included under Lophospermum* are Rhodochiton hintonii and Rhodochiton nubicola.



    Article #7:  Leonotis (Wild Dagga) 

    Leonotis leonurus, also known as Lion’s Tail and Wild Dagga, is a plant species in the Lamiaceae (mint) family. The plant is a broadleaf evergreen large shrub native to South Africa and Southern Africa where it is very common. It is known for its medicinal and mild psychoactive properties.

    The shrub grows 3-6 ft. tall by 1.5-3.5 ft. wide. The medium dark green 2-4 inch long leaves are aromatic when crushed. The plant has tubular orange flowers in tiered whorls, typical to the mint family, that encircle the square stems. They rise above the foliage mass during the summer season, with flowering continuing into winter in warmer climates. A white variety and a yellow variety also exist.

    In its native habitats it attracts nectivorous birds as well as various insects such as butterflies. The flowers’ mainly orange to orange-red colour and tubular shape are indicative of its co-evolution with African sunbirds, which have curved bills suited to feeding from tubular flowers.

    Leonitis leonurus has long been used in African traditional medicine for fevers, headaches, dysentery, flu, chest infections, intestinal worms, fish bites, scorpion stings and hypertension. Externally it is often used for hemorrhoids, eczema, skin rashes and boils.

    Article #8: Ladybugs...Marilyn Holt and other sources

    Help our fearless insect fighters by providing somewhere for them to winter over. At this time of the year they are looking for a warm niche to hide in over the winter. A little about these garden gems, a little bit of lore and some actual facts.

    The scientific name for a ladybug is ‘coccinellidae’ which means ‘little red sphere’ or ‘coleoptera’ which means ‘sheath winged’. Normally they are referred to as ladybugs, lady beetles or ladybird beetles.
    They came to be known as ladybugs from a folk tale that originated in the Middle Ages. Seems farmers were having their crops eaten by insects and the harvest was minimal, causing severe famine. They prayed to the Virgin Mary and asked her to help with their insect problem. The farmers were upset when more bugs arrived, red beetles with black spots. What surprised them was the newly arrived beetles were eating the insects, not their crops. They took this as a sign that their prayers were answered and the beetles were referred to as "beetles of Our Lady" which eventually was shortened to ‘ladybeetle’. In Germany it is referred to as Marienkafer which translates to Marybeetle.

    In the 1800’s the orange and lemon groves in California were having problems with insects destroying the trees. The in-sects turned out to be Australian scale insects so farmers imported Australian Ladybugs and released them into the orchards. Within two years the orchards were free of scale bugs and the entire orange and lemon industry was saved by the ladybugs. When word got around about how effective the ladybugs were in dealing with pests a second industry was formed - ladybug farms where you can purchase ladybugs.

    Since this event there are numerous ladybug farms where you can purchase ladybugs. The best species to use are called ‘hippodamia convergens’ and these can be recognized by the two white dashes on their back, just above the hard wing casings.

    First thing I will mention is NOT to order in ladybugs if you don’t have a pest problem because as soon as there isn’t any food for them they will fly off.  The Ladybug’s life cycle is in four stages - egg, larvae, pupa and adult. The only stage they don’t feed on insects is in the egg stage. Milky yellow eggs, in groups of ten to fifteen, are laid on the underside of leaves in insect infested areas so that as soon as they hatch out they can find food.
    Predatory species of Ladybugs are used as biological control agents, and the imported species Coccinella septempunctata out-compete and displace native coccinellids.

    What I find sad is that not very many people know what a Ladybug larva looks like and thinking they are a bad bug they would spray insecticide on them. You wouldn’t know how many times people come in to the store wanting something to kill adult ladybugs because they have tons of them in their bushes. I try telling them they’re there because you have bugs, once the bugs are gone so will they be. Another thing that seems to upset people at this time of the year is when the ladybugs are trying to winter over somewhere out of the elements. It is so hard to convince them that they won’t eat anything while they hibernate, and that when they wake up they would only eat bugs not leaves, not wood and not siding…. Grrrr very frustrating!! 

    Coccinelids are often brightly coloured to ward away potential predators. A predator attack on a ladybug causes ‘reflex bleeding’ in both larval and adult, in which an alkaloid toxin is exuded through the joints - you know when you pick one up unexpectedly and they leave some liquid on your hand. They are also know to spray the same toxin that is venomous to certain mammals and other insects when they are threatened.

    Most ladybugs overwinter as adults, aggregating on the south side of large objects such as trees or houses during the winter months, dispersing in response to increase day length in the spring.

    Their eggs hatch in 3-4 days and depending on the resource available for food, the larvae pass through four stages over 10-14 days, after which pupation occurs. Adults can reproduce almost immediately and live on average for 1 to 2 years. It is believed that occinellids lay extra infertile eggs with the fertile eggs. These appear to provide a backup food source for the larvae when they hatch if insects are scarce. Larvae use their sharp jaws to crush an aphid’s body allowing them to suck out the aphid’s juices.

    Food of preference for Ladybugs - aphids, scale insects, mealy-bugs and mites. Ladybugs are among the first insects to appear in the spring so having them winter over on your property means you have been blessed.

    Coccinellids also require a source of pollen for food and are attracted to specified types of plants. The most popular ones are any type of mustard plant, as well as other early blooming nectar and pollen sources like buckwheat, coriander, red or crimson clover and legumes like vetches and also early aphid sources such as bronze fennel, dill, coriander, caraway, angelica, tansy and yarrow. Other plants that also attract ladybugs include coreopsis, cosmos (especially the white ones), dandelions and scented geraniums.

    The ladybug is one of the most recognized bugs to children in most countries. 

    Article #9:  Sempervivum

    Sempervivum, is commonly called ‘Hens and Chicks’ in North America because the central tight rosette of fleshy, pointed leaves are cuddled by miniature versions of the central rosette, much like little chicks. They are also known as Houseleeks or Liveforever.

    The name ‘Houseleeks’ came about as it was a common practice in the 1200’s to plant semps on the roof of homes to ward off evil much like garlic is supposed to ward off witches and Werewolves.

    Sempervivum is a genus of about 40 species of succulent plants of the Crassulaceae family.

    Sempervivums are native from Morocco to Iran, through the mountains of Iberia, the Alps, the Balkan and Armenian mountains, in Turkey and in the Sahara Desert. Their ability to store water in their thick leaves allows then to live on sunny rocks and stony places in the mountain, sub-alpine and alpine belts.

    Like some other plants of Southern Europe, their ancestors have likely a subtropical origin.
    The name ‘Sempervivum" has its origin in the Latin word ‘ Semper’ meaning always and ‘vivus’ meaning living. They were called ‘always living’ because this perennial plant keeps its leaves in winter and is very resistant to difficult conditions of growth.

    Each rosette propagates asexually by lateral rosettes (offsets) or by tiny seed. Usually once the central rosette blooms, it dies leaving a space for the smaller rosettes to fill in the vacant space.

    The genus Sempervivum is easy to recognize, but its species are often not easy to identify. Even one single clone can look very different under various growth conditions or even at different times of the year. The members of the genus are very similar and closely linked to each other making many subspecies, varieties and forms. There is a high frequency of natural hybrids and the possibility of back-crossings. Approximately 40 species can be individualized in the whole genus, but there are many more local populations with their own characteristics.  (i.e. In the Alps the most distributed species are Sempervivum tectorum, S. montanum and S. arachnoideum and each one will have several subspecies.)

    Some members of the sempervivum family will grow beautifully in pots as long as you make sure there is sufficient drainage.  With varieties in habitats from Zone 4 to Zone 10, there are numerous specimens to pick from.


    Sempervivum (image from Robs Plants)
    Article #10:  New Plant Discoveries...

    From one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots, Vietnam, comes a strikingly beautiful orchid, Dendrobium daklakense, with glossy white and bright orange flowers. The orchid was first collected in 2009 by a local plant hunter, who said he found it in a remote area in the Dak Lak province of southern Vietnam. It was brought to the attention of Vietnamese orchid expert Nguyen Thien Tich, who being unable to identify it, passed photographs and drawings on to Kew orchid specialist Andre Schuiteman and his colleague Jaap Vermeulen from the NCB Naturalis in The Netherlands.

    As soon as they saw these images they suspected that it was an unknown species of Dendrobium which was confirmed after further research. Working in partnership, the three botanists teamed up to produce a formal publication. Andre Schuiteman comments "Although undescribed orchids are still discovered regularly in the tropics, it is remarkable that such a distinct and showy species could have escaped detection until recently. The next step is to determine its exact location so that we can assess its conversation status, though I suspect that it is endangered".

    A wild Aubergine (eggplant) from East Africa …Commonly known as ‘Osigawai’ in the local Masai language, Solanum phoxocarpum was discovered by Dr. Maria Vorontsova on an expedition to Kenya’s Aberdare mountainous cloud forests. The spotted a wild aubergine shrub with distinctive unusual long, yellow, pointed fruits and deep mauve flowers that was indeed a new species. They collected its fruits and set out slicing them open to collect seeds for banking. While spreading the fruit’s yellow sludge onto paper so the seeds could dry for long term storage at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, one of the team noticed that the fruits began to emit a pungent odour and later that day they became ill. It is now believed that this species may be poisonous, and having consulted Kew’s historic specimens, it also proves to be used medicinally by local people.

    Like other Solanum species, this plant is pollinated bees, which ‘buzz’ the anthers causing pollen to shoot out of the holes at the anther tips. Solanum phoxocarpum grows primarily in Kenya with some occurrence in Tanzania. It is endemic to the East African Rift Valley.

    Article #11:  Allspice

    Allspice, also called Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, or newspice, is a spice that is the dried unripe fruit ("berries") of Pimenta dioica , a mid-canopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico and Central America, but now cultivated in many warm parts of the world. The name "allspice" was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
    Allspice (Pimenta dioica) was encountered by Christopher Columbus on the island of Jamaica during his second voyage to the New World, and named by Dr. Diego Álvarez Chanca. It was introduced into European and Mediterranean cuisines in the 16th century. It continued to be grown primarily in Jamaica, though a few other Central American countries produced allspice in comparatively small quantities.

    To protect the pimenta trade, the plant was guarded against export from Jamaica. Many at-tempts at growing the pimenta from seeds were reported, but all failed. At one time, the plant was thought to grow nowhere except in Jamaica, where the plant was readily spread by birds. Experiments were then performed using the constituents of bird droppings; however, these were also totally unsuccessful. Eventually, it was realized that passage through the avian gut, either the acidity or the elevated temperature, was essential for germinating the seeds. Today, pimenta is spread by birds in Tonga and Hawaii, where it has become naturalized on Kauaʻi and Maui.

    The allspice tree is classified as an evergreen shrub that reaches a height of between 32 and 60 feet. Allspice can be a small scrubby tree, quite similar to the bay laurel in size and form. It can also be a tall, canopy tree, sometimes grown to provide shade for coffee trees that are planted underneath them. It can be grown outdoors in the tropics and subtropics with normal garden soil and watering. Smaller plants can be killed by frost, although larger plants are more tolerant. It adapts well to container culture and can be kept as a houseplant or in a greenhouse. The plant is dioecious, meaning plants are either male or female and hence male and female plants must be kept in proximity to allow fruits to develop. 

    The fruit is picked when it is green and unripe and, traditionally, dried in the sun. When dry, the fruits are brown and resemble large brown peppercorns. The whole fruits have a longer shelf life than the powdered product and produce a more aromatic product when freshly ground before use.

    Article #12:  Amaryllis...Wikipedia

    Amaryllis is also known as the Belladonna Lily, the Naked Lily or an Amarillo. The genus has two species and the more famous of the two, Amaryllis belladonna, is a native of South Africa, particularly the rocky southwest region near the Cape. It should not be confused with Hippeastrum, a flowering bulb commonly sold in the winter months for its ability to bloom indoors.

    The botanic name Amaryllis is taken from the Latin amarysso meaning "to sparkle." Amaryllis is a bulbous plant, with each bulb being 5-10cm in diameter. It has several strap-shaped, green leaves, 30-50 cm long and 2-3 cm broad, arranged in two rows. The leaves are produced in the autumn or early spring in warm climates depending on the onset of rain and eventually they die down by late spring. The bulb is then dormant until late summer. The plant is not frost-tolerant, nor does it do well in tropical environments since they require a dry resting period between leaf growth and flower spike production.
    From the dry ground in late summer (August in Zone 7) each bulb produces one or two leafless stems 30-60 cm tall, each of which bears a cluster of 2 to 12 funnel-shaped flowers at their tops. Each flower is 6-10 cm diameter with six tepals (three outer sepals, three inner petals, with similar appearance to each other). The usual color is white with crimson veins, but pink or purple also occur naturally. The common name "naked lady" stems from the plant's pattern of flowering when the foliage has died down.

    The species was introduced into cultivation at the beginning of the eighteenth century. They reproduce slowly either by bulb division or seeds and have gradually naturalized from plantings in urban and suburban areas throughout the lower elevations and coastal areas in much of the West Coast of the USA since these environments mimic their native South African habitat.

    Many bulbs sold as Amaryllis and described as 'ready to bloom for the holidays' actually belong to the allied genus Hippeastrum, despite being labeled as 'Amaryllis'. Adding to the name confusion, some bulbs of other species with a similar growth and flowering pattern are also sometimes called this plant's common name "naked ladies". Some of those species have their own more widely used and accepted common names, such
    as the Resurrection Lily (Lycoris squamigera).

    There is an "Amaryllis Belladonna Hybrid" which was bred in the 1800s in Australia. No one knows the exact species it was crossed with to produce interesting color variations of white, cream, peach, magenta and nearly red hues. The hybrids were crossed back onto the original amaryllis belladonnas and with each other to produce naturally seed bearing crosses that come in a very wide range of flower sizes, shapes, stem heights and intensities of pink. Pure white varieties with bright green stems were bred as well. The hybrids are quite distinct in that the many shades of pink also have stripes, veining, darkened edges, white centers and light yellow centers also setting them apart from the original light pink. In addition, the hybrids often produce flowers in a fuller circle rather than a "side facing" habit like the "old fashioned" pink. The hybrids are able to adapt to year round watering and fertilization but can also tolerate completely dry summer conditions if need be.

    Article #13 Hippeastrum...aka...Amaryllis...Wikipedia

    Hippeastrum is a genus of about 90 species and 600 plus hybrids and cultivars of bulbous plants in the family Amaryllidaceane, subfamily Amaryllidiuceaem native to Mexico and the Caribbean. These plants are popularly but erroneously known as Amaryllis, a monotypic African genus in the same family.

    "Hippeastrum" is Greek for "horseman's star" and was named in 1837 by the Honourable Reverend William Herbert, Dean of Manchester who was also something of an expert on early medieval history. While no one is entirely sure why he picked this name, it's likely he chose it because of the plant's striking resemblance to the "morning star", a medieval weapon used by horsemen.

    Cultivars of Hippeastrum are popular bulbous flowers for indoor growing. The bulb is tender and should not be exposed to frost, but is otherwise easy to grow, with large rewards for small efforts, especially those that bloom inside during the winter months.

    Most Hippeastrum bulbs are between 5–12 cm in diameter and produce two to seven long-lasting evergreen or deciduous leaves that are 30–90 cm long and 2.5–5 cm wide. The flower stem is erect, 30–75 cm tall, 2.5–5 cm in diameter and is hollow. Depending on the species, it bears two to fifteen large flowers, each of which is 13–20 cm across with six brightly colored tepals (three outer sepals and three inner petals) that may be similar in appearance or very different. Some species such as H. calyptratum, H. aulicum, H. arboricola are epiphytic (grows on another plant/tree like air plants) and need good air circulation around their roots.

    Hippeastrum species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies) species including Hypercompe indecisa (giant leopard moth).

    The first commercial breeders of Hippeastrum were Dutch growers who imported several species from Mexico and South America and began developing cultivars and hybrids in the 18th century. The first of these reached North America early in the 19th century.

    In general only a large bulb will put up more than one flower scape or spike but this depends on the cultivar itself; some smaller bulbs have two while some larger bulbs make only one. A bulb must produce at least four large, healthy leaves in the summer growing season before it can send up a scape the following year. Some bulbs put up two flower scapes at the same time; others may wait several weeks between blooms and sometimes the second scape will have only two or three flowers rather than the usual four. Dutch bulbs usually produce flowers first, then, after it has finished blooming, the plant will begin growing leaves.

    The flower colors include red, rose, pink, white, orange, yellow, and pale green with variations on these including different colored stripes and edges on the petals. Some flowers have uniform colors or patterns on all six petals while others have more pronounced colors on the upper petals than on the lower ones.

    There are five types: 1) single flower; 2) double flower; 3) miniature; 4) cybister; and 5) trumpet. Cybisters have extremely thin petals and are often described as spider-like. Trumpets, as the name suggests, have flared, tube-shaped flowers.

    The miniature "Papilio" (which is a species hippeastrum, not a cultivar or hybrid) has a unique color and pattern with broad rose-burgundy center stripes and striations of pale green on the upper petals and narrow stripes on the bottom three. "Papilio" has been crossed with both cybister and single flower Hippeastrums to produce hybrids with unusual striping.

    Article #14 Hellebore

    The genus Helleborus comprise approximately 20 species of her-baceous perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae, within which it gave its name to the tribe of Helleboreae.

    The genus is native to much of Europe from western Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, eastward across the Mediterranean region and central Europe into Romania and Ukraine, and along the north coast of Turkey into Caucasus. The greatest concentration of species occurs in the Balkans. One atypical species, H. thibetanus, comes from western China and another , H. vesicarius inhabits a small area on the border between Turkey and Syria.

    The petals have five petals , actually sepals, surrounding a ring of small, cup-like necatiries (petals modified to hold nectar). The sepals do not fall as petals would, but remain on the plant, sometimes for many months. Re-cent research in Spain suggests that the persistent calyx contributes to the development of the seeds. Although the flowers of some species may resemble wild roses, hellebores do not belong to the rose family.

    There are Caulescent species which have leaves on their flowering stems and aculescent species where there are only basal leaves - they have no true leaves on their flower stalks although there are leafy bracts where the flower stalks branch.

    Hellebores are widely grown in gardens for decorative purposes as well as for their purported medicinal abilities and uses in witchcraft. They are particularly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period; the plants are surprisingly frost-resistant and many are evergreen.

    Recent breeding programs have created double flowered and anemone centered plants.

    Deliberate and accidental hybridizing between H. orientalis and several other closely related species and subspecies has vastly improved the colour range of the flowers, which now extends from slate grey, near black, deep purple and plum, through rich red and pinks to yellow, white and green.

    Article #15 Pumpkins

    Pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae, which also includes gourds. It commonly refers to cultivars of any one of the species Curcurbita pepo, C. mixta, C, maxima and C. moschata, and is native to North America. They typically have a thick orange or yellow shell, creased from the stem to the bottom, containing the seeds and pulp.

    The word pumpkin originates from the word pepon which is Greek for ‘large melon’. The French adapted this word to pompom, which the British changed to pumpion and later American colonists changed to the word we use today ‘pumpkin’. The origin of pumpkins is not definitively known, although they are thought to have originated in North America. The oldest evidence, pumpkin-related seeds dating between 7000 and 5500 BC, were found in Mexico. Pumpkins are a squash-like fruit that range in size from less than 1 pound to over 1,000 pounds. 

    Since some squash share the same botanical classifications as pumpkins, the names are frequently used interchangeably. In general, pumpkin stems are more rigid, prickly and angular (with an approximate five-degree angle) than squash stems, which are generally softer, more rounded and more flared where joined to the fruit. The rind is smooth and usually lightly ribbed. Although pumpkins are usually orange or yellow, some fruits are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray. 

    The colours of pumpkins is derived from the orange pigments abundant in them. The main nutrients are lutein and both alpha and beta carotene, the latter of which generates vitamin A in the body. 

    Pumpkins are grown all around the world for a variety of reasons ranging from agricultural purposes such as animal feed to commercial and ornamental sales. Of the seven continents, only Antarctica is unable to produce pumpkins; the biggest international producers of pumpkins include the United States, Canada, Mexico, India and China. The traditional American pumpkin is the Connecticut Field variety.

    The largest pumpkins are Curcurbita maxima. They were cultivated from the hubbard squash genotype, crossed with kabocha-pumpkin types by enthusiast farmers through intermittent effort since the early 19th century. As such germplasm is commercially provocative, a U.S. legal right was granted for the rounder phenotypes, levying them as constituting a variety, with the appellation ‘Atlantic Giant’. 

    Weigh-off competitions for giant pump-kins are a popular festival activity. The world record held at 460 pounds until 1981 when Howard Dill of Nova Scotia broke the record with a pumpkin near 500 pounds. By 1994 the Giant pumpkin crossed the 1,000 pound mark. The current world record holder, as of October 2010, is Chris Stevens with his 1,810 pound Atlantic Giant Pumpkin.

    Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves and even the flowers.
    Research suggests that chemical com-pounds found in pumpkin promote regeneration of damaged pancreatic cells, resulting in increased blood-stream insulin levels. According to the research team leader, pumpkin extract may be ‘a very good product for pre-diabetic people, as well as those who already have diabetes’ possibly reducing or eliminating the need for insulin injectionsdiabetes. 

    Pumpkin seed oil is a thick green-red oil that is produced from roasted pumpkin seeds. When used for cooking or as a salad dressing, pumpkin seed oil is generally mixed with other oils because of its robust flavour. Pumpkin seed oil has long believed to be a folk remedy for prostate problems it has been claimed to combat benign prostatic hyperplasia. Pumpkin seed oil contains essential fatty acids that help maintain healthy blood vessels, nerves and tissues.

    Canned pumpkin is often recommended by veterinarians as a dietary supplement for dogs and cats that are experiencing certain digestive ailments such as constipation diarrhea or hairballs. The high fiber content helps to aid proper digestion. Raw pumpkin can be fed to poultry, as a supplement to regular feed, during the winter to help maintain egg production, which usually drops off during the cold months.

    Medwyn Williams