The Garden Blog

Carnivorous Plants

Carnivorous plants have long fascinated plant enthusiasts, well before Charles Darwin published the first truly popular and widespread book ‘Insectivorous Plants’ discussing the known carnivorous species and their adaptations to growing in low-nutrient environments. Today, botanists are continuing to expand on our understanding of carnivory in plants, finding species as common as teasel exhibiting carnivorous behavior. Darwin himself noted multiple species that may be trapping and digesting insects in ways similar to sundews and butterworts, to include the familiar tobacco and petunia. With the ever-expanding definition of carnivory in plants and sub-categories like proto-carnivorous, near-carnivorous, and even ‘murderous’ plants, it’s

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Japanese American Farming in California: A Personal History

Japanese American Farming in California: A Personal History

To mark Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, our Education Coordinator, Kiyoko Nakatsui, shares her family history and their multi-generational association with agriculture. By the time I was born the farm was just a memory. Like many other Japanese American families mine started their American dream tilling the land. All of my grandparents’ families were farmers at some point. Prior to World War II Japanese Americans farmed up and down the west coast and some eventually returned to the land. On my mom’s side my grandma’s family farmed in Montana and my grandpa’s family in Orange County. On my dad’s

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The Broms

Bromeliads are one of the most spectacular groups in the new world tropics, occupying many of the harshest habitats across the Americas. With around 3,500 species currently accepted, the Bromeliaceae is by no means a large family when compared to Orchidaceae (~30,000+ species) or the Asteraceae (~30,000 species). However, its diversity rivals that of any tropical plant family. Originating from the Guiana Shield, a relict of land relatively undisturbed by major climatic or geologic changes for many millions of years, the family has since radiated through and speciated throughout tropical/subtropical America. A major factor in such speciation has been the

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Edmond Albius and the Story of Vanilla

 Ice cream, cake, frosting, candy, pudding, the list goes on! Vanilla is one of the quintessential flavors for desserts, and a scent that you can find perfuming homes around the world. It’s a  classic flavor you can find everywhere, but did you know that it was once coveted for its rarity and supposed medicinal properties?  The vanilla orchid has only one known pollinator, the Melipona bee. Both are native to Mexico, so when the vanilla orchid was first exported in the late 1700’s around the world, none of the plants produced vanilla pods. This is where Edmond Albius comes into

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Mandalas in Nature

Landscape Gardener Tim Chadd at one time designed and replanted Sherman Library & Gardens’ modern formal garden as a living mandala with butter lettuce, thyme, and bok choy. The word ‘Mandala’ is a Sanskrit word for a circle contained within a square, often with sections radiating out from the center point. The process of making mandalas helps to manifest stability in our inner life. I first began drawing and creating flower mandalas when I received a copy of Carl Jung’s “Red Book” which I bring to the mandala classes that I instruct for your inspiration. Throughout his career Jung encouraged his

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The Hardiest Houseplant You’ve Never Heard Of

Pull up a chair, roll up your sleeve, and put on a brave face because it’s time for your daily dose of trivia! Ready? Let’s begin: What plant is hand pollinated using cat whiskers? Need a hint? This plant shares its name with the mascot of Georgetown University. If you answered Hoya, then treat yourself to a lollipop on the way out. Well played! Plants of the Hoya genus, known colloquially as wax plants, are predominantly vining species native to tropical and subtropical Asia and Australia. They are members of the dogbane family, Apocynaceae, whose relatives include horticultural heavyweights such

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Horsefeathers in Horticulture

Starve a cold and feed a fever. Don’t cross your eyes too long or they’ll get stuck that way. Always wait thirty minutes after eating before swimming. Drinking coffee in adolescence will stunt your growth. Shaved hairs grow back thicker. Unless you were raised by wolves, you’ve likely heard at least one of these admonitions growing up. Perhaps some of you are even guilty of perpetuating these and other old wives’ tales when raising your own children! You can rest assured, though, that adherence to old wives’ tales like these is generally harmless. In all likelihood, the persistence of these tales

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Captivating Carnivorous Plants

Precocious pitcher plants, seductive sundews and the vivacious, yet vicious Venus fly traps use their alluring bodies to entice their naive guests into a romantic dinner for two. But there’ll be no walk along the beach after this malicious meal. For the carnivorous plant, its date is the main course in this tale of summer love. These carnivorous plants have broken out of their winter dormancy and are ready for the summer sun. They grow in bog conditions of moist soil and pure rainwater and soak up hot, sunny locations. They will charm you with bright colors and striking patterns, resprouting

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We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

In 1900, L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This classic tells the story of a young girl, Dorothy, entering a strange magical world where she must rely on the help of her friends to find her way back home. As Dorothy follows the yellow brick road to find the powerful Wizard of Oz, The Wicked Witch of the West tricks Dorothy and leads her into a magical field of poppies. Dorothy and her dog, Toto, are induced into a deep slumber from the magical poppies. Baum used dramatic license when he employed opium poppies in his storyline, however in

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