Friday, June 24, 2011

Planting with a Purpose: Pharmaceutical Plants

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I happened to walk by the American Pharmacists Association headquarters building. I was intrigued by the plants growing outside the building so I stopped to take a closer look. And then I realized it... they were planted with a purpose. All these plants have medicinal and healing properties.

From the sidewalk, I could see Yarrow (Achillea), Yucca, Coneflower (Echinacea), St. John's Wort (Hypericum), Yew (Taxus) and Monk's Pepper (Vitex).

Yarrow (Achillea) is said to be named after the Greek mythical figure Achilles, who used it to stop the bleeding wounds of his soldiers. Today, Yarrow is believed to help with digestion. The plant contains flavonoids which increase saliva and stomach acid. It's also good for treating and managing the symptoms of colds, flu and fever.

Yucca leaves and roots are used for arthritis pain relief and joint inflammation.

Coneflower (Echinachea) is probably one of the most popular herbs in America today. Echinachea comes from the Greek word "echinos" which means hedgehog, no doubt referring to the prickly seed head of the flower.  Echinachea is used to help reduce symptoms of the flu and common cold. Many herbalists recommend it to help boost the immune system and help the body fight infections.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum) is another herb that had been used by the ancient Greeks. Recent studies have shown that St. John's Wort may be effective in treating mild depression. In addition, it has also been used topically as an antiseptic, helping heal wounds and burns.

Yew (Taxus) leaves, bark and seeds are highly toxic. However, studies have shown that the bark contains the substance "taxol" which has been used to fight cancer.

Monk's Pepper or Chasteberry (Vitex) got it's name from the belief in medieval times that potions made from the berries helped monks maintain their vows of chastity by quelling their libido. Today, it is generally used to treat symptoms of PMS such as cramps, headaches, irritability, water retention, etc. and help the woman's body regain a balance of hormones.

What a great way to tie in the garden plants to the theme/purpose of the association's headquarter building. What looked like a rather ho-hum building along my route to some of the bigger known monuments in the city, became one of the coolest finds of my day.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Sweet, Sweet Peas

I am so pleased with my sweet peas this year. I planted them along with string beans and both have been climbing a triangle shaped trellis I put together in a container. The string beans have a few buds on it and soon will be teeming with veggies, but right now the real joy is seeing the different colored flowers of the sweet peas popping up everywhere.

I bought a pack of seeds in the early spring that promised a mix of colors. So far, it hasn't disappointed me yet!

But even better than the sweet blossoms is the sweet fragrance that comes from them. I clipped a few and brought them inside for a small vase. Even just this small cluster filled the room with a wonderful scent!

I'll keep bringing these in as long as I can because the more you remove the flowers from the sweet pea vine, the more blossoms it will produce. Yeah to that!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's Blooming: June

It's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! Here's what's growing and blooming in my garden this month.

All my containers are starting to bloom and fill in. The house faces east and therefore, the front gets the most sun in the morning and midday. Here is a look at what the front porch area looks like:

A close up on the flower boxes and containers:
The main box is planted with impatiens and geraniums (both from cuttings), morning glories, white bacopa, purple saliva, black eyed susan, yellow zinnia and sweet william.

Below the box are two pots containing flat leaf parsley and columbine seedlings. To the right of the box are perennial daisies just starting to bloom and beneath that is the geranium plant I overwintered and took cuttings from this spring. It has just started to bloom and produce new growth.

The left box is filled with pansies (still holding on!), impatiens and geraniums, pink pentas, purple saliva, lobelia, morning glory vines, lychnis and white salvia.

The middle box is filled with white Angelonia augustifolia, pink verbena, campanula, pansy, purple salvia and a wild flower seed mix (still not sure what will bloom from these seeds). A small pot of basil I grew from seeds sits below the flower box.

 On the railing, I filled this box with small annual dahlias and yellow chiffon superbells.

I placed a strawberry pot filled with pansies, mint and strawberries (both of which came back on their own this year) on top of a tree trunk log for some height.
The rose bush is blooming nicely (a Valentine's gift from my honey two years ago). String beans and sweat peas are climbing vigorously on the teepee - I spotted my first sweet pea flower today! Sunflowers are growing in the container on the steps.

In April, I posted about my new Raspberry shrub. I honestly didn't know if it would be happy in a container, but so far it has been doing great. My kids and I even ate a few berries from it today!

Here's what's going on in the backyard, which gets part shade/dappled sun only in the afternoon:
Double impatiens, coleus, white impatiens and lobelia

This box still has yet to fill in, but when it does, the impatiens and lobelia together will look nice I think. 
 Two more impatiens created by cuttings this year, planted here with more lobelia

My newest addition this year - 6 large containers filled with 2 Ostrich ferns, 1 Cinnamon fern and 2 different varieties of hosta. I'm hoping the ferns will grow tall and act as a screen from the park path behind my house.

Beneath the maple tree, I have 3 containers each filled with Caladium. Impatiens fill in the outside boxes, while Lysimachia fills in the middle one. And how cute is my stone owl?!

Along the back fence, under the maple tree, I placed a long flower box and filled it with lime colored coleus and pink begonias. It adds a little bit of color to a very shady spot. I transplanted the ivy along the ground last fall and am happy to see new growth on it this year.

And that's it. By next month, I'm hoping the Morning Glory vines will have reached new heights, the string beans will be full of beans and the ferns grown taller. Be sure to come back and check in with me!

Many thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the monthly Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mohonk Mountain House - Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, Mohonk Mountain House Part 1, the first part of my trip was covered in a dense fog. But by the middle of the second day, the clouds parted, sun shone through and blue skies took over.

Mohonk means "lake in the sky" and the Victorian castle is located along Lake Mohonk where rock formations from the Shawangunk Ridge frame the 266-room hotel.

According to John Van Etten, the grounds superintendent for the Mohonk Mountain House, the "400-acre estate's natural beauty is emphasized by its many specialty gardens. The landscape features 15 acres of flower gardens, a 3-acre show garden, a memorial rose garden, rock gardens, perennial borders, three cutting gardens, herb gardens, sunken gardens, an aquatic area and an ornamental-grass garden."

I especially loved the fern trail which had about 30 varieties of ferns surrounding a winding path.

And nestled among the ferns, I even found a few Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) plants. I just find these plants so fascinating with the leaf hood covering the spathe in the center:

Now that the fog had lifted, I was able to see the alliums and violas planted together in the flower beds. I loved the color and texture combinations.

After Memorial Day, the flower beds are filled with annuals and tropicals grown in the on-site greenhouse. I am looking forward to going back and visiting at different times of the year to see what is blooming. You can follow along with the gardens and all that's blooming at the Mohonk Gardens on their blog:

Mohonk Mountain House is just 6 miles west of New Paltz, NY and the NY Thruway, 80 miles from Albany International Airport and 90 minutes from Manhattan.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mohonk Mountain House - Part 1

The Mohonk Mountain House is located in the Catskills region of New York. In 1869, Albert Smiley purchased 280 acres of land and a ten-room inn at the heart of a 26,000-acre natural area in the Shawangunk Mountains. Smiley envisioned a peaceful retreat where people could enjoy the beauty of nature in a spectacular setting. What started as a ten room inn and tavern is now a historic New York hotel that can accommodate up to 500 guests.

The gardens are very well known and over the years, have attracted amateur and professional gardeners who come to attend horticultural lectures, demonstrations and workshops. To quote from The Story of Mohonk, "Gardening with Mr. Smiley was dangerously near a passion." Over the years, succeeding generations of the Smiley family have tried to live up to his gardening standards. The gardens reflect the influence of the French and Italian, but mostly English styles of landscaping of the mid-19th century. On the first few days I was there, every inch of the property was covered with a thick, dense fog. It was beautiful and mysterious at the same time.

The tulips were just about finishing up for the season and the moisture from the fog clung to their petals.

The formal gardens lie between the Mountain House and the surrounding woodlands. Visitors are encouraged to wander through the beds and admire what is blooming. Here, the alliums were towering over the pansies. Beyond this bed were others, waiting to be planted with summer blooming annuals and tropicals.

266 arborvitae make up this fantastic maze. I'll admit, the fog made it even more spooky to me...

A beautiful young cooper beech stood alone in the fog. The property has several fine specimens of copper, weeping and cut-leaf beech trees.

After a day and a half of fog, the sun did make an appearance and transformed everything into a glowing sight of color, shadows and majesty. Stay tuned for my post on Part 2 of my trip to Mohonk Mountain House.