Showing posts from September, 2007

Jack (Jak) Fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)

One of the many trees that were fruiting while we were at the Florida cottage was Jack Fruit, shown in the photo. A neighbor, who was there for her grandchildren’s birthday and lives in Florida, led me around the compound and helped identify many of the plants that had lost their labels. We were both happy to have made a new gardening friend. Some time later, I saw her walking along the driveway that led to her cottage, opposite ours. Whatever she was carrying was very large, very heavy, and very orange. Within minutes, she re-emerged from the cottage and was headed our way. The manager had picked a ripe Jack Fruit for her and cut it open, so that we could eat it. It is just as strange on the inside as it looks on the outside. The color is that of a mango, and the flavor is like a combination of mango and banana, although some people describe it as having a pineapple taste. The interior consists of long, fibrous, edible strings that resemble a wide pasta noodle, such as fettuc

Of Fish and Flowers

You never know when or where you’ll run into plant lovers. Later this week, we set off to the Treasure Coast of Florida to visit my Dad, who is celebrating his 80 th birthday. While there, we’ll stay at the River Palm Cottages and Fish Camp , a compound of small cottages along the Indian River in Jensen Beach. While most of the visitors seem to go there for Captain Rufus’ fishing forays, we chose it because Melynda has planted their seven acres with more than 80 varieties of edible plants, fruits, and medicinal herbs, as well as tropical trees and flowers. While visitors are not allowed to pick the fruits, they can make a selection from baskets placed outside the office each morning. There are also fresh eggs when the hens are laying. The owners have gardening books available for the curious, or garden writers like myself, who never truly feel on vacation unless they can be somewhere where there are interesting gardens to explore. It is also a

Why Use Native Plants?

Beginning this weekend and continuing through September 16 th , the fall plant sale at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, , in New Hope Pennsylvania, features native wildflowers, vines, ferns, shrubs and trees. The Preserve waives their usual entry fee during the sale, so you’ll have a chance to explore the 134 acres while you’re there. Although there is some difference of opinion, native plants are basically those that originated in an area prior to the European colonization of the Americas in the 1600s. Confusion arises because many of the plants that now grow wild in our region, such as English daisies and Queen Anne’s lace, were introduced early in the colonial era and have been here for more than 100 years. But these are actually naturalized non-natives. Native plants, by contrast, evolved over geological time, adapting to soil and climate conditions, as well as to the animals, birds, reptiles, insects, etc. that inhabit the same ecological niche. Because

Detention Basins: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In our area, stormwater sewers that serve housing developments and some businesses empty into the dreaded detention (or retention, or infiltration) basin, a visually hideous engineered method of holding large volumes of water until it can safely disperse to groundwater, natural streams, ponds, etc. (top photo). These are generally grass monocultures or rip rap which, if not properly maintained become weedy, overgrown maintenance nightmares. Suffice it to say that anyone who can get away with not maintaining one will continue to not maintain it. Frequently, the town ends up owning and maintaining such basins, meaning that all the taxpayers pay. When grass is used as the only groundcover and pesticides and fertilizers are applied, they can contaminate the runoff. Regular mowing of the basins is difficult because of the steep sides and wet floor. This maintenance adds contaminants to the watercourse, as well. Grass basins also attract undesirable wildlife, such as Canada Geese, which