from the ground up

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Plant Profile: Jacob’s Ladder.

Common Name: Jacob’s Ladder

Latin Name: Polemonium caeruleum

Family: Polemoniaceae

This herbaceous perennial is beautiful in borders, cottage gardens, or right in the center of a strawberry patch.  They prefer partial shade, but our little gem does well in full sun with a partial beautybush canopy.  Hardy in zones 4-8. The deer seem to overlook the blue bells and the fern like foliage.



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Plant Profile: Corsican Mint

Corsican Mint.  Mentha requienii

My first “real” job was at a locally owned greenhouse in Colorado.  Surely, no one is surprised to learn that bit of information!  I LOVED working there and continued there all through my high school years.  While learning about plants and deepening my love for them, I also became a great customer!  My parents yard became the constant nursery for unlabeled varieties and broken shrubs; ‘orphans’, as we called them.  Not only did the outside gardens begin filling in with extras, I also brought home MANY houseplants.  I literally could not help myself!

One plant in particular, which brings back an intense aromatic nostalgia is Corsican Mint.  Having moved to an almost exotic climate, from my beloved and comfortable zone 3/4, I have found this favorite readily available…as a perennial!

Common Name: Corsican Mint
Latin Name:  Mentha requienii
Family: Lamiaceae

Description:  A extremely low growing, highly aromatic herb.   Sweet spearmint, with a little bit of spice.

  • Native to Italy/Corsica.
  • Can be sensitive to drying out, but also likes good drainage.
  • Originally used as the flavoring for crème de menthe.
  • Hardy to zone 7, as a perennial.
  • Makes a fabulous houseplant, for a sunny window.
  • Outdoors, partial shade.
  • A great groundcover or “steppable” plant.

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Plant Profile: Angel Wing Begonia

Common Name: Angel Wing Begonia

Latin Name: Begonia aconitifolia × B. coccinea

Family: Begoniaceae

This hybrid begonia is an easy to grow houseplant. With origins in South America, this plant prefers moist soil and air. This cane begonia can grow up to 4 feet tall or pruned to shorter stature. Easily propagated with cuttings.

Many (many) years ago my husband and I obtained a cutting of this plant from our college union building which contained a forest of amazing houseplants. It has been pruned, trimmed, and restarted many times. But it still resides in our kitchen several homes later. It still provides us with a pretty show every few months. My littlest boy recently mistook the flowers for those of bleeding heart;  I can see the resemblance.



Plant Profile: Poppy ‘Danish Flag’

There is always a bit of a thrill mixed in with my ordinary seed orders each spring.  I spontaneously add a few extra packets to the list.  Newbies.  Will they do well in my zone 4 climate?  I am thrilled with my impulsive purchase this season.


Common Name: Danish Flag Poppy, Feathered Poppy, Fringed Poppy

Latin Name: Papaver somniferum

Family: Papaveraceae

The somewhat ragged foliage of this poppy could easily be mistaken for a weed.

I planted this beauty in one of the most challenging areas of my garden: a small bed tucked between the heat of southern exposure and wooden siding. It is often shorted on water, as we spare the adjacent kitchen counters a sprinkle.  And yet, it is thriving, blooming and dropping seeds, for an abundant patch again next year.


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In the spirit of summer, I always try to have a glass of this on hand.


Reaching for a handful of fresh herbs, on a quick stroll through the garden, while taking compost out to the pile.

It starts my day with a burst of fragrance, a bit of nostalgia (breath in, oh lavender), and a reminder to drink. Water.  More water.

It feels like a treat, a delicacy and is a token to help cherish these long, hot days of summer.  Most days it is mint and lavender, but then there are the sage and citrus marigold days, and cilantro blossoms are running a close 3rd.

So, we (yes, my glass is often in the hands of another family member, or two…) slow down and drink. Quench.  And toast, with each glassful, to the beauty of summer.


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Green Wizard.


Common Name: Western coneflower, Green wizard

Latin Name: Rudbeckia occidentalis

Family: Asteracea

Growth Requirements: Native to mountain meadows in Montana and other Western states. This perennial, hardy in zones 3-9, is an easy grower in backyard gardens. Works well as a tall fence or home border. Prefers full sun, moist soil. At 3-5 feet tall, can need staking or support. Rather than rays, dark tubular flowers are clustered in a cylindrical head, surrounded by green sepals.

Additional information: A unique piece for a sunny garden. Beautiful as a cut flower. Also can double as a spear, a sword, a flag, and of course a magic wand.

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Plant profile: Wooly Veronica

Common Name: Wooly Veronica, Wooly Speedwell, Creeping Veronica

Latin Name: Veronica pectinata

Family: Plantaginaceae.  (This is a huge plant family, with over 90 different genera!  Some other, more familiar, genera in this family are Antirrhinum– Snapdragon and Penstemon– Beardtongues.)

This is one tough perennial!  We had temperatures that dove down below -35F this winter, and this beauty is going strong.  Check out these photos of how it is thriving:

Growth Requirements: Full sun to partial shade.  Low moisture requirements; considered a xeriscaping must-have!   Low growing groundcover, 1″ to 2″ in height and up to 2 feet of spread.

Additional information: Flowers are a deep blue when they first appear and fade to a soft purple as they age.  An excellent choice for in between patio stones or pavers.  It can easily be divided to create new clumps…this one shown here came all the way from my parents’ yard, in Colorado.

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Plant Profile: Air Plant.

Common Name: Air plant

Latin Name: Tillandsia species

Family: Bromeliaceae: Bromeliad family

Growth Requirements:  Air plants are epiphytes, often growing attached to other plants in their native habitat.  They are not parasitic plants, but only grow attached to others externally by clinging to bark or nestled on a branch.  They are also aerophytes, requiring no soil for growth and collect particles out of the air for food.  Air plants prefer filtered light, direct sun may burn the leaves.  As a houseplant, water by soaking in warm water, up to 2-3 times per week depending on temperature and humidity of environment.

Additional information:   There are over 500 species of Tillandsia. They range from small and spiny, to the large, smooth and very bulbous. Their flowers are small, but intricate and are a wonderful conversation piece.

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Plant Profile: Christmas Cactus.

Our childhood home has a wonderful sunroom on the south side of the house.  In the summertime, it was HOT.  But in the winter, it was a great spot to sit with a book and enjoy the winter light, warmth and plants.  Our mom faithfully watered her houseplants, cleaned and maintained them, and many of those plants are still thriving today.   Several of the beauties that she diligently cares for are Christmas Cactus.  They were passed along from her own mother, bloomed each winter and still do.

Common Name: Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, crab cactus, holiday cactus

Latin Name: Schlumbergera species

Family: Cactaceae

Growth Requirements  Plants enjoy indirect sunlight.  In their native habitat, Brazil, they grow as epiphytes. They naturally grow in small pockets on rocks or trees. They prefer filtered light, direct sun may burn the leaves.  As a houseplant, allow soil to thoroughly dry out between watering. Keep in a warm area, free from cold drafts.

Additional information:

There are two different groups of this genera of cactus.  The first group (Truncata) has much more asymmetrical, pointed leaves.  The one featured above is in this category.  It tends to bloom earlier in the year and is often coined the Thanksgiving cactus.  The rounded leaf variety (Buckleyi) tends to bloom a little later in the calendar year and is therefore typically called the Christmas cactus.  This one is featured below.