Monday, November 30, 2009

Greenhouse specimens at Montreal Botanic Garden

Montreal Botanical Garden’s greenhouses are bursting with rare blooms. On October 6 I’d posted about the agave plant, Mauritius hemp (Furcraea foetida) that was about to bloom. Now it has (pictured at left). The many star-shaped flowers, about 5 to 7 cm across, are blooming for the first and last time, over a period of several weeks. Once it has finished flowering, the plant will gradually die back, as is the case for most members of this family. On display in the Arid Regions Greenhouse.

What else can you see right now? A tree dahlia (Dahlia imperialis), on display for just a few more days, reached 3.5 metres in a single season; unique bromeliads in bloom in the Tropical Rainforest Greenhouse; the enormous parts of the elephant foot yam (Amorphophallus paeoniifolius var. campanulatus) in the Orchids and Aroids Greenhouse; the iridescence of the blue strap fern (Microsorum thailandicum), a member of the Polypodiaceae family, thought to be due to the presence inside the leaves of thin layers of cells whose thickness or shape reflects certain wavelengths of light (in the Ferns Greenhouse); and False holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus), with leaves almost identical to those of a real holly plant, but with highly scented flowers, on display in the Garden of Weedlessness (penjing) Greenhouse. More at

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gorgeous Bamboos!

Bamboo has kind of been growing on me lately. Probably my scouting trip to Hawaii last year didn't hurt. But recently I received a press kit from Greentop, LLC, a company known for its planter systems and who had recently acquired New England Bamboo. Inside the kit was a catalogue that kind of blew my mind. Forty-eight pages of bamboo showing shapes, textures and colors -- just the kick I'd needed to become a full-on bamboo-loving convert. I asked the owner Chris DeRosa to send me a gallery of images that show how bamboo can be used in garden design. Honestly, I think you might be rather astonished. See it online at (click on the story on the homepage). You can also view the catalogue as a pdf at

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Naples Botanic Garden opens major new gardens by renowned landscape architects

I wish I could tell you that I’d been there myself, and when you see the pictures of the new Naples Botanic Garden, you’ll wish you were there too. Featuring gardens representing cultures and landscapes found between the 26th Latitude north (the latitude of Naples, Florida) and the 26th Latitude south, the Garden re-opened last week, showcasing three major garden installations by a dream team of renowned landscape architects: Herb Schaal (Children’s Garden), Raymond Jungles (Brazilian Gardens) and Robert Truskowski (Caribbean Garden). Plus, a stunning transitional area called River of Grasses that mimics the Florida Everglades and was created by the overall design team headed up by Ellin Goetz. Plan a visit now! See more

Photo: Brazilian Garden designed by Raymond Jungles

Friday, November 13, 2009

Designing Peace Gardens in India and Nepal

Next Saturday the Bay Area designers Tim O’Shea of Greenworks Design and Davis Dalbok of Living Green are headed for Bodhgaya — the famous site in India where The Buddha attained Enlightenment — where they will begin work on the first of Eight Mandala Peace Gardens dedicated to the Eight Sacred Sites of The Buddha. The duo will be working under the auspices of The Light of The Buddhadharma Foundation International, which works to beautify the ancient places where the Buddha walked and taught, and that still echo with his teachings and blessings. To date, Eight World Peace Bells have been donated and installed in Sarnath, Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Vaishali, Kushinagar, Shravasti, Tso Pema and Sankasya. All Eight Bells will eventually be surrounded by beautiful gardens designed by O’Shea and Dalbok, which will reflect the awakening and flowering of the Buddhaharma throughout India and Nepal.

The Bodhgaya garden plans were developed to revitalize a disused area of the Mahabodhi Temple grounds to the south of Mucalinda Lake. This Peace Park will facilitate walking meditation by creating greater connection to the adjacent areas. The Scripture Garden will display plant species both mentioned in Buddhist scriptures and known to be growing in the Buddha's lifetime. Shade trees and the Meditation Houses/ Veranda allow for restful contemplation and mindful awareness. This plan was designed by Tim O'Shea of Greenworks Design and Davis Dalbok of Living Green with direction from Wangmo and Richard Dixey of the Light of the Buddhadharma Foundation International. See the complete plans on Dalbok's blog

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Last chance to WIN a copy of Amy Stewart's Wicked Plants

Beware! The sordid lives of plants behaving badly. A tree that sheds poison daggers; a glistening red seed that stops the heart; a shrub that causes paralysis; a vine that strangles; and a leaf that triggered a war. Amy Stewart, bestselling author of Flower Confidential, takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature's most appalling creations in an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. Menacing botanical illustrations render a ghastly portrait of evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. Drawing on history, medicine, science, and legend, this compendium of bloodcurdling botany will entertain, enlighten, and alarm even the most intrepid gardeners and nature lovers.
10 lucky winners will receive a copy of Amy Stewart's Wicked Plants. Go to Contest ends tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seed Bank Exchange

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, visited Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanic Garden this past Saturday, presenting a small but valuable packet to the garden’s director Harry Jongerden. In it were six varieties of seed of native British Columbia plant species from the vaults of The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. In return, Mr. Jongerden presented The Duchess with wild-collected B.C. native plant seed for Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, which are not currently in its collection.

The seeds received by VanDusen Botanical Garden are:

* Gaillardia aristata
* Helianthus maximiliani
* Penstemon procerus
* Nothochelone nemorosa
* Hydrophyllum tenuipes
* Brodiaea coronaria

The seeds sent by VanDusen to RBG Kew are:

* Arbutus menziesii
* Aquilegia formosa
* Bidens amplissima
* Lilium columbianum
* Dicentra formosa
* Erythronium oregonum

Kew's Millenium Seed Bank recently celebrated its success in banking 10 percent of the world's wild plant species.

For more information on VanDusen Botanical Garden:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recyled bottles never looked so good

Last April we covered a line of indoor-outdoor pillows by San Diego interior designer and colorist Kathleen Roarty that found their inspiration in Roarty’s family’s worldwide travels. Her company, Mint Pillows, has just launched a new collection, Elements: Water, Earth, Fire and Air — each an individual series with six slightly different patterned pillows. I’m digging Water, which mimics an alluring shallow patch of sun-dappled ocean in the Bahamas.

Each collection is a limited edition, and each pillow is hand-crafted, numbered and dated. The insert is a cushy faux-down that is soft and dense but also durable for the outdoors. Now, Mint Pillows has switched all of their pillows to a soft new fabric that is made from 100% recycled water bottles. The results are luxurious feeling, nap-inducing pillows. I’m a believer. More at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I want this i-Phone app

I don’t have an i-Phone, yet. But I learned about a new app (is that really a word?) that makes me want one. The Botany Buddy tree & shrub finder is an interactive database of 1,300 native and ornamental trees and shrubs that helps you identify plants in the field or — because you can create collections of plants — to use as a tool when planning landscapes and gardens. You can actually create custom plant collections and share them with other users. For every plant listed, there are enough images to see its shape, leaf, flower, bark and seed and the advanced search engine allows you to search by common or botanical name, growth habit and requirements, size, usage, color and more. Co-developer Charlie Hopper has spent 25 years as a landscape designer. He told me that the first time he took it out for a test run at a weekend tailgate fruit and veggie market in Ashville, NC, “it felt like a pair of Felco pruners.” This, I have to see. A preview and direct link to the iTunes store is available at

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