In anticipation of Halloween, I thought it would be fun to find as many plants as possible with names that you would associate with Halloween. As I started doing my research, I found that many others had had the same idea so, rather than repeat or plagiarize information that has already been posted on the web, I thought maybe a link to some of the more interesting articles would be better.
Then, we have a list from Earth Rangers compiling plants with names or shapes that make you think of Halloween. For instance, Wolf’s Bane, Witch Hazel, and Devil’s Claw. The Dracula Orchid is the one that makes me say “Ewwwww”. Check out this fun list compiled on a website aimed at getting children interested in the outdoors and the environment: http://www.earthrangers.com/wildwire/top-10/top-ten-spooky-plants/
Another creepy-looking plant is actually a fungus: Devil’s Tooth (Hydnellum peckii). This gross little blob of a mushroom isn’t an edible plant — not that you’d want to. But it’s a beneficial fungus that attaches itself to host tree roots and gives out minerals and amino acids in exchange for tasty carbon. It grows throughout North America. When moist and healthy, it bleeds droplets of bright red juice that inspired its other nickname, “strawberries and cream.”
I think maybe I’ll just stick with Chinese Lanterns — a beautiful and harmless addition to any Halloween or Autumn gathering!
Bonsai is a Japanese word meaning “plant in a tray”. It is usually thought of as a Japanese art from but there is evidence that it actually began in China in the 8th century and made its way to Japan in the 13th century. Today Japan is still the Mecca for bonsai masters.
Bonsai is an art form whose objective is to mimic nature on a small scale. In nature you will see trees with contorted gnarly trunks or trees that have been struck by lightning or blown over in a storm yet still survive. You will also see majestic trees with gracefully symmetry. These are all models that form the basis of bonsai.
The various styles, for the most part, take their name form there form. Terms like formal upright, informal upright, twin trunk, cascade, grove or wind swept are used to put trees into categories. These terms give the viewer a fairly accurate idea of what the tree will look like. Choosing a style is mostly dependent on what the tree has to offer and its natural growth habit. For instance a blue rug juniper lends itself to a cascade style and could not be trained to an upright style. A maple tree is adapted for an upright style and could not be made into a cascade. Certainly the bonsai artist can train branches to grow in a desired direction, but it is more about fine tuning what exists. Training is done by selective pruning and wrapping wire around a branch. Once the wire is in place the branch can be bent into the desired position or shape. After a few months the wire is removed and the branch will, hopefully, retain the new shape.
A misconception that I had was the bonsai trees started small then grown to full size bonsai. This is done, but most commonly the source for trees is the discount bin at nurseries. Plants that are mostly dead or misshapen would not look good in a landscape but are prime material for bonsai. The key to selecting a plant is the trunk. A thick trunk with a gradual taper communicates to a viewer that the tree is old. Special varieties are not needed. Just your ordinary landscape plants are often the best to use. I have even dug maple seedlings that have come up in my garden. Once a tree has been selected the rough trimming begins. As much as 80% of the tree any be removed. Often within a year you have a respectable looking bonsai. From that point it is largely a matter of refining the shape.
Getting started in bonsai is simple. Tools need to get going are a scissors, pruning shears, wire cutter and wire. The wire can be just normal electrical wire. All are items that you already have. Specialized bonsai tools are very helpful and purchased for 25 – 30$. I have often heard the comment that people don’t have the patience for this art form. It really does not take much time. A couple times a year the tree will need to basic maintenance pruning – maybe an hour or two. Other than that it is a matter of basic care similar to any other potted plant.
The Fox Valley Bonsai Society will be having its annual show at Lowneys Landscape Center 6064 N. Richmond (it is about 2 miles north of I-41). This is a chance to see a variety of trees and learn more about this art form. The show is October 3, 2015 from 11:00 – 3:00. You can also get more information about the Society on our Facebook page facebook.com/Fox-Valley-Bonsai-Society.
I was observing at my garden this spring, contemplating which plants would need to be moved and what new flowers I would add to replace those that didn’t survive the winter. Normally I think about color, height, and flowering season; however flower shapes also are an important element in garden design.
Here’s a list of eight flower shapes and what you can expect them to do for your garden.
Daises are the shape to choose for a simple, natural look.
Flatheads horizontal shape gives the eye a place to rest and has a down to earth feel.
Clusters provide some weight to a design. Loose clusters like phlox make good transitions between different shapes because of their indistinct form.
Spikes are great attention getters that add height.
Plumes bring a playful mood with fuzzy flowers and make a good transition between spikes and flatheads.
Globes unusual shape stands out making them great accents or focal points.
Trumpets and Cups are similar in shape but different in effect. Trumpets are attention getting while cups are simpler and more casual.
Fillers provide a good looking backdrop to fill in bare spots.
Planning a lot of differ shapes, will keep your eye moving throughout the entire garden, making it more interesting to look at. On the other hand, too much contrast can create a confusing jumble. Remedy the situation by repeating a shape to provide a sense of unity.
Even a wild color combo like pink and orange, can be unified if you keep your flower shapes simple such as hot pink zinnias with flame orange sunflowers.
To keep a monochromatic garden from becoming bland, use a variety of shapes like white hydrangea, lilies and delphinium.
If you want to spotlight a favorite lily, plant it with filler, like baby’s breath which isn’t such an eye catching shape.
Finally don’t forget, flowers change with the seasons, so take advantage of the shapes of seed heads and blooms, like coneflowers, that dry out on the stem to add year-round interest to your garden.