I found this beautiful specimen of Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) at the Bangor Flower Show yesterday. Although I had seen photos, I had never seen a real one before. I wasn't disappointed. These tropical plants can't survive the winter in Maine and must be grown in containers and brought inside during the winter.
This hibiscus flower looks lighter orange because it was under a light. Both photos are from the same plant from different angles.
I have added hibiscus to my wish list of plants and would love to give one a try in my unheated greenhouse this summer. Perhaps I will seek one out once the weather warms and we set up the greenhouse.
I tried an experiment with growing peppers in my Aerogarden and am happy to report that I have baby peppers just 66 days from planting them from seed. Those of you who have grown peppers from seed will understand my excitement as they typically grow very slowly inside the home.
As you can see from the photo the plant is "peppered" with blooms. I have been hand pollinating them with a small paint brush.
Update! Peppers at 74 Days
Hand Pollinating Pepper Plants
To hand pollinate a pepper bloom, use a small, artists paintbrush (or a Q-tip) to collect pollen from the stamens. There are several pollen-covered stamens inside the bloom. Gently brush the pollen you have collected on your paint brush or Q-Tip onto the stigma of the flower. This is located in the very center of the bloom. The pollen will stick to it and pollinate the flower. Move from flower to flower repeating the same procedure.
Once pollinated, the petals will shrivel and fall from the bloom and you will see a tiny, pea-sized green pepper beginning to form.
The largest pepper on my plant is 1 ¾ inches long and slightly more than 1 inch in diameter today, but it is growing rapidly. I first noticed the pepper about a week ago.
I'm not sure how much room there is for my peppers to grow, but I'm going to let them grow as long as their is room for them.
I trimmed the tops of the plant because it has outgrown the Aerogarden.
Queen Anne's Lace (Daucas carota) grows wild throughout Maine and many parts of the world. It can be found along roadsides, in open fields and along the edges of wooded areas. Also known as wild carrot and the bird's nest flower, these showy flowers are often used as cut flowers, especially in combination with Black-Eyed Susan flowers. At first glance the flower head appears to be one large flower, but this really isn't the case.
Unique Flower Head Can Be Deceiving
The flower head of Queen Anne's Lace is made up of clusters of tiny white or ivory flowers on short stems (called umbels) that splay outward like an inverted umbrella. The clusters of flowers give the illusion of white lace giving this flower part of its common name.
Legend of Queen Anne's Lace
According to Legend, the flower earned it's name when Queen Anne (wife of King James I) was challenged to make lace as beautiful as a flower. While making the lace, Queen Anne pricked her finger and a drop of her blood created the red flower in the center of Queen Anne's lace. While it is a fanciful tale, some claim the name Queen Anne belonged to another that gave this flower its name. According to this legend, Queen Anne refers to St. Anne (the mother of Mary) the Patron Saint of lacemakers.
Either way, botanists do not know the purpose of the dark flower in the center of the flower head. It can range from rosy-pink to dark red or purple. It is theorized that the dark flower serves as a mimic of an insect and encourages wasps and larger insects to visit the flower for a tasty meal, which in turn helps with pollination.
Seeds Trigger Flower Head to Curl
After the tiny flowers are pollinated and the seeds have formed the umbels curl inward giving the flower the appearance of a cup or nest.
Dried Flower Heads Look Like Bird's Nests
As the seeds dry they turn brown creating the illusion of a bird's nest atop a tall slender stalk. Seeds are dispersed by wind or by catching a ride in the fur of animals. Once the seeds have dispersed the remaining stems often take on a heart-shaped appearance.
Nearly everyone knows that eating raw veggies is better for you than eating cooked veggies because cooking destroys their nutrients, right? Not so fast. While it is true for some vegetables, cooking many vegetables actually increases their nutritional value.
Use this guide to decide whether eating your veggies cooked or raw is better for your health.
Cook Tomatoes & Red Peppers to Release Lycopene
Lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes, red peppers and other rosy colored veggies lowers the risk of cancer and heart attacks. Cooking your tomatoes and other veggies with lycopene releases more lycopene, making it readily available for your body to use reports Scientific America. To reap the health benefits of lycopene, cook your veggies before eating them. You will still get some lycopene if you eat them raw, but cooking will boost the amount of lycopene your body can use. This happens because cooking the vegetable helps to break down the cell walls and releases lycopene..
Cook Carrots to Release Antioxidants
If you thought that eating your carrots raw was the best way to boost nutrition, you might be surprised to learn that cooking your carrots is actually better for you. That's because when the cell walls are broken down via cooking the carrots release more antioxidants, such as, carotenoids and ferulic acid to fuel your body. Cooked carrots contain more beta-carotene than raw carrots, says Prevention.
Cook Spinach and Other Greens to Release Calcium
Spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens are all high in calcium, but if you want to get the most calcium from these veggies, you will need to cook them first. They contain the compound oxalic acid which binds with the calcium and makes it unusable to the human body. Cooking breaks the bond and makes the calcium available for absorption.
Eat Broccoli and Cauliflower Raw
Broccoli, cauliflower and other Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts, may be more nutritious eaten raw, explains Deborah Baic at the Globe and Mail. This is because they contain a substance called myrosinase that is released when you chew or chop the raw veggies. It in turn helps to convert phytochemicals to cancer-fighting compounds. Cooking these veggies destroys the compounds and reduces their cancer-fighting abilities.
Balance is Key
Eating both raw and cooked vegetables is good for your health, as not all nutrients respond the same to cooking. Heat may cause one nutrient to increase, while another decreases. Some vitamins like Vitamin A and C can be lost during the cooking process, especially if you cook your veggies with a lot of water. But many experts agree that the gains in other nutrients during cooking may offset any loss of these readily-available vitamins.
Other considerations include whether you (or your children) are likely to consume more vegetables cooked or raw. Obviously, if little Katie refuses to eat cooked carrots, but devours them raw, she will get more nutrients from raw carrots. Likewise, a healthy helping of cooked broccoli may outweigh a nibble of the raw veggie.
If you are new to gardening, you may have questions about cooking fresh garden veggies. One of the most common is: "Should you start veggies in hot or cold water?" Although your instincts may tell you that starting with hot water is the way to go to cook your veggies quickly, it isn't always a good idea. Here's why.
Start Above-Ground Veggies in Hot Water
Start tender, above-ground veggies in boiling water. Because these veggies cook quickly, hot water is ideal. Starting with boiling water also reduces the cooking time and helps to retain both color and nutrients.
Start Below-Ground Vegetables in Cold Water
Vegetables that grow below the ground, commonly referred to as root vegetables, are more dense and require a longer cooking time. These veggies should be started in cold water to preserve their flavor and texture. Cold water that is heated slowly warms the veggies all the way through before they begin cooking and ensures the vegetables cook evenly.
Starting root vegetables in hot or boiling water causes the outside of the veggies to overcook before the inside of the vegetables are fully cooked. This can cause the outside to be mushy or mealy and they lose their characteristic flavor and texture.
If you are like most people, you may have a few misconceptions about the difference between a traditional ladybug and an Asian Lady Beetle. You may be surprised to learn how similar these two really are.
Myth #1: Ladybugs and Asian Lady Beetles Are Completely Different
Even though Americans typically refer to the American version as a Ladybug, it is really a Lady Beetle or a Ladybird Beetle. Both the traditional ladybug and its Asian look-a-like are Lady (or Ladybird) Beetles. They both belong to the same family (Coccinellidae). According to National Geographic, there are more than 5,000 species of lady beetles worldwide, with more than 500 species in the U.S. That means there is a lot of variation in the color and number of spots when it comes to ladybugs.
Myth #2: You Can Tell Asian Lady Beetles and Ladybugs Apart by Their Color
Many people assume that the color of the beetle determines whether it is an Asian or American Ladybug, but this isn't always true. Traditional ladybugs can range in color from bright red to orange-red. While Asian Lady Beetles range in color from orange-red, orange and nearly tan. It can be difficult to tell the difference between the two at first glance.
You can tell American Ladybugs and Asian Ladybugs apart by looking at their 'face'. Asian ladybugs have a white pronotum (the section between the head and the body of a ladybug) with a black M or W above their eyes, while the traditional American version has a black pronotum with small white cheeks.
Myth #3: Asian Lady Beetles Are Bad and Ladybugs Are Good
While it is true that Asian Lady Beetles can become a nuisance because they often crawl into buildings in the fall and over-winter inside, they aren't that different from an American Ladybug. Both consume aphids and insect pests in the garden. In fact, the Asian Lady Beetle was originally introduced to the U.S. by the Department of Agriculture to help control insect pests on pecans and apples. Both are beneficial to farmers and gardeners.
If you find Asian Ladybugs a nuisance in your home, go ahead and vacuum them, but understand that they are not harmful and they do not breed in your home. The bugs you see crawling out in the spring are the same ladybugs that sought shelter in the fall. They will find their way back outside in the spring as soon as it is warm enough for them to survive.
Let's face it. Most of us garden because we love to watch things grow and like to think we have a hand in the process. Naturally, it makes us feel good to see the fruit of our labor and to get out in the fresh air and sunshine.
What you may not know is that gardening provides a host of health benefits you might not have thought about before. Consider these proven benefits to gardening.
We all experience stress in our daily lives and gardening is one way to relieve it. According to CNN Health, a study completed in the Netherlands actually measured the stress hormone cortisol in two groups of subjects instructed to either read or garden for 30 minutes. Gardening reduced cortisol levels more than relaxing with a good book.
High cortisol levels caused by stress are known to contribute to increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and insulin resistance, suppress the immune system and cause fatty deposits in the face, neck and abdomen. Lowering your cortisol levels will improve your health and may even help you lose few pounds.
Gardening is a good way to relieve stress and reduce cortisol levels.
Improves Mental Health
Gardening has also been shown to improve mental health, specifically by alleviating depression and reducing anxiety. While there may be a number of reasons why gardening might elevate mood and relieve symptoms of depression, such as exposure to new experiences and working out in the fresh air and sunshine, there may be another reason.
Soil contains a harmless bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae , that stimulates the release and metabolism of serotonin in the brain. This stimulates the area of the brain that controls mood and cognitive functioning. Digging in the soil and contacting soil that contains Mycobacterium vaccae is like getting a mini-boost of serotonin-boosting antidepressants.
As an added bonus, food grown and eaten straight from the garden contains this beneficial bacteria, too. Perhaps this explains why so many gardeners enjoy a tasty snack of fresh veggies while working in the garden.
Studies on people in the 60's and 70's suggest that those who garden are less likely to suffer from dementia by an amazing 36 to 47 percent. (CNN Health) These results are likely due to a combination of effects, such as exercise, experiencing new things and perhaps getting a good dose of beneficial bacteria.
Nearly everyone knows that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is good for you. When you grow them yourself you also control whether they are exposed to pesticides or other chemicals. But that's not the only benefit to eating fresh fruits and veggies from the garden.
If you are into the New Age practice of Earthing, you will be happy to learn that gardening is a natural form of earthing. Earthing refers to the practice of going barefoot or otherwise making contact with the earth without artificial barriers (like the rubber soles on your shoes) between you and the earth..
Earthing is thought to draw negative ions from the earth to re-balance the body by evening out positive and negative charges in the body and restoring your body to its natural state.
According to supporters of Earthing, our bodies are filled with positive ions, mainly from free radicals caused by food additives or other environmental sources. These positive ions can lead to inflammation, pain and disease. The earth, on the other hand, is a natural source of negative ions. If your body (with a positive charge) contacts the earth (with its negative charge) energy from the earth is drawn into the body to neutralize your body's energy. Earthing is thought to bring a host of health benefits from feeling better and experiencing more joy and happiness to eliminating pain and inflammation and other health ailments..
If you find yourself feeling a bit guilty because you don't mow your lawn as often as you should, it's time to relax your standards. Mowing your lawn less frequently is actually good for your garden and the environment.
Recent research concludes that lawns that are mowed every two weeks support 30 percent more bees than lawns mowed every week, says the American Association of Science. And that is good news for both your garden and the environment at large.
Bees are major pollinators of both wild plants and plants raised for food. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 90 percent of wild plants and 30 percent of crops depend on cross pollination via insects.
Letting your lawn grow for an extra week during the summer provides more flowers for bees and provides a sustainable habitat for them. Of course, that means you may need to tolerate dandelions and other weeds that may have your neighbors complaining. But, you can always tell them you are doing your part to help the environment and to save the bees.
Nearly everyone knows that bees are important to gardens, but not everyone knows there are more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide. While most of us recognize a honeybee and a bumblebee, we aren't necessarily skilled at recognizing other bees. I thought this bee was a honeybee until I took a photo from the rear.
As it turns out, this bee is probably a cellophane or polyester bee (Colletes spp). It may sound like we are talking about Walmart's patent for a robot drone bee, but I assure you, cellophane or polyester bees are living bees and probably inhabit your backyard.
What is a Cellophane or Polyester Bee?
Cellophane and polyester bees are about the same size and shape as a honeybee and it is easy to mistake them, especially when you are looking at the head. However, they have dramatic black and yellow or black and white stripes on the abdomen with less hair than the honeybee.
They get their name from the habit of coating their nest and their brood cells with a water-proof substance similar to cellophane or polyester. This protects the nest from the ravages of water and makes it possible to nest in areas that may flood.
Cellophane bees build their nests underground, typically in sandy areas with sparse vegetation. While cellophane bees tend to be solitary and nest individually, theirs nest are often part of a large colony.
Cellophane bees are beneficial to gardens and wildflowers as they are effective pollinators. They are one of the first bees to arrive in the spring and can bee seen here on wild Lupines. They are also known to pollinate apples and other native plants or trees.
According to LookSeek.com, cellophane bees are harmless to humans because their stinger does not penetrate human skin.
"Roses are red,
If you grew up with this rhyme, you may have wondered why the violets you see are actually purple not blue. The truth is some violets are named purple violets while others are named blue violets. Their petal color ranges from blue to shades of purple, but you can't always tell them apart by the color of the petals.
In other words, some blue violets are actually purple, while some purple violets can be blue. To confuse the matter even more, GoBontany says that both purple and blue violets can also be white.
According to the Wild Seed Project there are 18 species of violets in Maine with many hybrids. This makes it difficult to determine the exact species of violets found growing in the wild. For most of us, that means referring to violets that look blue as blue violets and those that look purple as purple violets.
Whatever you call them, these delightful little wildflowers emerge in early spring and can be found in woodlands, meadows, edges of forested areas and even on banks along the roadside. Some violets invade lawns.
Violets prefer humus-rich, well-drained soil that is moderately moist, but will grow in nearly any soil.
This violet is obviously more purple than blue, but I can't confidently identify the species to give it a proper name. Note the yellow center that differs from the white throat in the blue violets above. Purple violets tend to grow in clumps.
Delicate white violets can also be found throughout Maine, but they are not without their variations, too. This variety, called Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda), is a small woodland violet. It has an intense, sweet fragrance.
Yellow violets (Viola pensylvanica) typically grow under deciduous trees in areas where the sun reaches the ground in the spring, but they can be found in mixed forests. Look for clumps of yellow violets around the bases of trees or along the edges of wooded areas. Yellow violets often spread freely, blanketing a large area with a splash of yellow in early spring.
Find out how you can sponsor one blog post or the entire Garden Thyme Blog.