Gardening Uncategorized

Time to Study

Frosted penstemon at Toronto Botanical Gardens. Photo by R. Last.

Time to study up: 35 gardening terms everyone should know: Jessica Damiano shares an alphabetized list of terms that we should all know. As gardeners, we’ve probably heard all these words used, but now we have Jessica’s printable cheat-sheet so we actually know what they mean! Even simple terms like “annual” can be misunderstood, and what about the more complex terms like “ephemeral”?


November Eye-Candy, Oddities and Miscellany

Image courtesy of Desativado from Pexels.

What mirrored ants, vivid blue butterflies and Monstera house plants can teach us about designing buildings: Almost all buildings today are built using similar conventional technologies and manufacturing and construction processes. These processes use a lot of energy and produce huge carbon emissions. This is hardly sustainable. Perhaps the only way to truly construct sustainable buildings is by connecting them with nature, not isolating them from it. This is where the field of bioarchitecture emerges. It draws on principles from nature to help solve technological questions and address global challenges. Take desert organisms, for example. How do they survive and thrive under extreme conditions? One such desert species is the Saharan silver ant, named for its shiny mirror-like body. Its reflective body reflects and dissipates heat. It’s an adaptation we can apply in buildings as reflective walls, or to pavements that don’t heat up. There are so many aspects of nature we can drawn on. Picture cities with shopping centers based on water lilies, stadiums resembling seashells, and lightweight bridges inspired by cells. Water lilies can teach us how to design large buildings efficiently with smooth pedestrian circulation. Seashells can inspire the walls of large-span buildings without the need for columns. Cells can show us how to develop lightweight suspending structures. Bioarchitecture can reinvent the natural environment in the form of our built environment, to provide the ultimate and somehow obvious solutions for the threats Earth is facing. Can buildings do the same in cities? If buildings could grow, self-repair and adapt to climate, they might ultimately become truly sustainable.

The Flower Beard competition pairs florists with some of Brisbane’s best beards. (Ekka). Image courtesy of 9News, Brisbane.

Ekka’s bizarre flower beard competition: The country fair in Ekka, Queensland, features an unusual competition – a floral beard parade. This short video (1:41 minutes) was reported by 7News, Australia.

Photo by Rebecca Last

They picked milkweed to help World War II flyers. Now they grow it to help monarch butterflies: With a couple of burlap sacks slung over his shoulder, and with his pet German shepherd Fritz leading the way, third grader Clyde Seigler scoured the searching for milkweed seed pods. In September and October each year, the pods would crack open to reveal brown, oval seeds attached to white silky fibers called floss. After Clyde collected about 10 to 12 sacks filled with pods, his dad would toss them into a truck and haul them to Scott Run Elementary School where the Seigler boys went to school, and where the sacks would be turned over to the military. All Clyde knew at the time was that the milkweed fluff had something to do with World War II — that it went into life jackets. What he didn’t know was that an army of like-minded children was searching the countryside in 25 U.S. states, as well as in Ontario and Quebec, to gather milkweed pods. Gathering milkweed was not just a public relations, feel-good project. It was an essential part of winning the war. The country urgently needed the silky floss as fill for life preservers and flight vests. Tests by the U.S Navy had found 1 pound of floss was as warm as wool, but six times as light, and it was six times as buoyant as cork. A pound of floss could keep a 150-pound man afloat for more than 40 hours. During the war, children such as Clyde Seigler collected enough floss to fill more than 1.2 million life vests for America’s fighting men and women, saving thousands of lives. The balance of this article delves into the history of milkweed floss as a “strategic war resource”, and then follows the contemporary lives of a few of the now-seniors who collected milkweed seeds when they were children.

The gympie-gympie. Credit: Marina Hurley. Image reproduced from ZMEScience.

He is growing the most venomous plant in the world at home: If you think gardening is a boring hobby, you’re growing the wrong plants. You could emulate Daniel Emlyn-Jones, 49, a British gardener who is raising one of the world’s most venomous plants in his Oxford home. The gympie-gympie is native to Australia, New Guinea and Malaysia, where it grows in rainforest areas. It’s part of the stinging nettle family. Tiny little hair-like needles densely cover its leaves. Just one poke by a single skinny needle and you will be in pain. For years. Emlyn-Jones keeps his gympie-gympie in a locked cage with a danger sign on it. He handles it with heavy-duty, elbow-length gloves. He said he wants to interest other people in unusual plants. “I don’t want to come over as a loon,” he said, as reported by Yahoo. “I’m doing it very safely.” So far, Emlyn-Jones has had only a slight brush with pain when a needle tickled him through his gloves. He insists it wasn’t that awful. Will more people decide to take up raising gympie-gympies now that Emlyn-Jones has made the news? Consumers over 18 can legally buy the plant online. Be aware, however. It’s been nicknamed “the suicide plant” because the pain it causes makes people want to end it all. One story tells of a World War II officer in Australia who unwittingly used a gympie-gympie leaf as toilet paper. He shot himself.  [Thanks to reader Carol English for sharing this story.]

Photo credit Johannes Plenio from an open source image on Pexels.

TreeFM: One of my favourite CDs is a recording made by a friend in Victoria, Australia, of ambient sound around his billabong. I love listening to the birdsong and the sound of water. TreeFM is great soundscape for those who enjoy the sounds of nature. You can chose recordings from multiple forests around the world. What a great way to relax! Thanks to Jessica Damiano’s The Weekly Dirt for this reference.