The Trouble with Common Names

What do you call that thing connected to a wall that water comes out of?

I call it a drinking fountain. But I have friends who call it a water fountain. Or a bubbler. Continue reading

Black medic (Medicago lupulina)

Black medic. It’s a weed I’ve known for what feels like forever, I teach students to correctly identify it every year in the weeds lab, but other than that it is one I’ve paid very little attention to until recently. As in this week. Continue reading

Tree ID Books: A Review

I used a dichotomous key for the first time way back in elementary school. Way, way back. Which means my memory of the details is fuzzy, but I do remember this: going out near the playground where there were some large trees (ash, willow, maybe cottonwood?) and some not quite as large trees (crabapples, I think) and we learned how to identify a tree using a key. Obviously, it must have been quite a simplified key, and probably just for the trees we would encounter out there. Regardless of how simplified or not the keys may have been, the lesson stuck with me; you can identify a tree (or any other plant) by paying close attention to its parts.

In the third installment of my reviews and recommendations for plant identification guides, we’ll take a look at a couple books about trees, one of which has a lovely dichotomous key to help you along.

(I took some photos of the books, but didn’t realize I had the lens cap on my camera. *face palm* So, if you click on the title of the book, you’ll be taken to the description of the book on the Logan Library website. I’m a big advocate of libraries, so check to see if yours has the books!)

The first book is Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West: a Guide to Identification and Use by Michael Kuhns. This book gives well-written descriptions about both native and introduced trees that you will encounter in Utah and the surrounding states. There’s not really a good dichotomous key, so you have to have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking at before you thumb through the book to check and see if you are right.

However, one of the highlights of the book is the section on use in the back. There are extensive tables listing all of the trees in the book and their stats – mature size, aspect needs, whether it has specific ornamental qualities like flowering or fall color, general shape, and overall home landscape suitability. For that reason alone I would recommend this book.

The second book is the National Geographic Field Guide to the Trees of North America by Keith Rushforth. This book is one that I would recommend if you want an easy-to-use general guide of trees of North America. Obviously not all trees within the country can be contained in one, packable field guide, but the most common ones  are included. The dichotomous key at the front of the book doesn’t have too many technical terms, so you won’t have to have a botanical dictionary on hand to use it, but it does help to have some familiarity with plant terms. If you need some brushing up on the difference between simple and compound leaves or the different fruit types, there are some nice illustrations also included.

The key itself only gets you to the tree family, and then you have to thumb through the pages dedicated to that family to find your particular tree of question. That being said, having a reduced key makes for an easier to use (and carry with you) book.

 

Do you have any favorite tree id books?

Garden Tour: Cache Soil to Table

This past weekend I went on a Garden Tour hosted by the Cache Soil to Table group in conjunction with the Bridgerland Audubon Society. The Cache Soil to Table community is a group of garden enthusiasts, that among other interests is also dedicated to creating beautiful, edible, drought tolerant and pollinator friendly landscapes. For the tour, six gardens were showcased that exemplified one or more of these characteristics. At each of the gardens, the homeowners and other volunteers were on hand to answer any questions. Continue reading

Have a garden question? There’s an app for that.

This is a completely unsponsored post. I’ve just found this app useful and wanted to share it with you.

It’s no secret that I love podcasts. I listen to them while I clean the house, do the laundry, make dinner, and work on the computer. If you were to look at the podcasts I’ve subscribed to, you’d notice the topics range from science news to money and business to motherhood. And, of course, gardening.

Continue reading

Get Outside – Gardening with Kids

I saw an ad today that said we spend 95% of our time indoors; that we were facing an “indoor epidemic”. Now, I know a few people for whom this is not accurate at all, but sadly for the majority (and even more sadly, for me lately) is that it’s probably pretty close.

I used to spend the majority of my work time from April – September outside. That’s just what happens when you work in weed science. But over the years I’ve been finding myself at my computer more often than out in a field, and especially since having a baby and transitioning to working from home I spend all of my work time inside.

But it’s not just for work that I’ve found myself staying inside. I’ve been making all sorts of excuses for staying indoors – it’s hot and we don’t have a lot of shade anymore since they took down the tree and I don’t want Grace (or myself) to get sunburned, Grace is napping so I should stay inside, I just cleaned Grace up and don’t want her crawling through the grass and dirt again, etc. Notice a trend? I keep blaming it on my baby! This is the complete opposite of the mom I envisioned I’d be while pregnant.

I want my girl to love the outdoors, and I don’t want to be the one that’s getting in her way.

Which is one reason why I make it a point to involve her with my gardening. Sure, she likes to pour all the water out of the watering can all over herself. Sure, she likes to taste the dirt and get it all over her hair and face. And, sure, I might lose a few leaves from my strawberry or onions. But I *think* in the end that having a girl who doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty and exploring the great outdoors will be worth any plant casualties or extra loads of laundry.

Do you have experience gardening with kids? What are your tips? Or what do you do to get outside?

The Right Plant for the Right Place

This post isn’t meant to get in to the ethics or morals (or lack thereof) of big-box stores. It’s just an observation from a recent perusal of my local Wal-Mart’s Garden Center, and a caution to new (and experienced) gardeners.

We were nearly out of toothpaste and sunscreen, so yesterday I decided to run to Wal-Mart to pick them up. As I got out of the car I noticed the big outdoor section of the Garden Center, and as I’ve been busy dreaming up the landscape for our soon-to-be new home, I decided I’d walk through for a bit of inspiration.

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Garden Tour: Tulip Festival at Ashton Gardens

This is the first in what I hope is a continuing series of Garden Tours: virtual tours of the gardens I visit, both public and private. If you know of a garden you think I should visit, let me know in the comments below.

Tulips often evoke images of the dikes and windmills of Holland; generally not the semi-arid Utah desert or the rugged Turkish or Persian steppe. Yet every year in mid- to late-April, these three places – Utah, Turkey, and Holland – become intertwined in the annual tradition of Tulip Festival.

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#EarthDay Special: evolution from bud to blossom

apple bud

apple buds expanding

apple bud petals 1

apple bud petals 2

open apple blossom

apple blossoms

Happiness is…gardening

Earlier this year I had the crazy thought that I wouldn’t plant a garden this year. I’ve got a new baby, I’m still working part-time, we’ll be moving into a new house this summer so by the time we get in it might be too late to get a garden in, etc. Basically I almost had myself convinced that planting and maintaining a garden would just be too much work.

And then I realized that I just couldn’t not plant a garden. And I also realized that the way I’ve been doing a lot of my gardening the last few years – aka in buckets – really cancels out all of my previous concerns:

  • They are portable! I can plant them now, here at my apartment, and then whenever we happen to move, I can easily take them with me.
  • They are easy to maintain – besides daily watering and an occasional feeding with fertilizer, they don’t need too much fussing. (Read: no weeding here!)
  • I can plant my lettuce and spinach and onions now, and if I don’t get to planting a tomato (because I must have garden-fresh tomatoes in the summer) until we move, it will still have enough time to mature.

So, in the spirit of National Gardening Month, I planted up my bucket garden – at least a couple buckets worth of it – last week and I am oh, so happy I did.

Gardening really is good for the soul. (Well, my soul, at least.)

 

Is gardening a happiness boost for you?

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