Human Flower Project


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Glimmer Twins of the Western Slope

Talk about a dream hike in the Rockies…two expert mountain plantsmen meet at last, and lead the way to Pike’s Peak.


A “bun” of Phlox condensata

growing at Colorado’s Cumberland Pass

Photo: Allen Bush

By Allen Bush

Eighty-two % of Colorado’s population lives on the Front Range megalopolis—north and south of Denver—but, if you’ve got a shred of interest in alpine flowers, curiosity will lead you west across the Continental Divide to hidden treasures on the Western Slope. Two gifted gardeners first met here over the July 4th weekend: one a Western Sloper by birth, the other a Western Sloper by the grace of god. (Pardon the variation on the Southern USA car bumper sticker.)

Panayoti Kelaidis is the pride of Oak Creek. Kirk Alexander is the best-kept secret in Carbondale. Lucky is anyone who has the good fortune to travel for a few days with them, the very best talent the Colorado Rockies have to offer.

Their meeting place, with an arresting view of snow capped Mount Sopris, was the spectacular hand-built home and garden that Kirk Alexander shares with his wife, Sue. They live in the hills above the Roaring Fork River, a tributary of the Colorado near Carbondale.

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Posted by Julie on 08/16 at 09:36 PM
EcologyGardening & LandscapeTravelPermalink

Monday, August 08, 2011

Torreya taxifolia: Seeing Is Inciting

Some plants are worthy of a pilgrimage. And as any pilgrim will tell you, such journeys have a way of changing one’s view of the world.

By James H. Wandersee and Renee M. Clary

EarthScholars™ Research Group

imageSurviving native range of Torreya taxifolia in northwestern Florida

Map: The Torreya Guardians

The month is August. It’s sunny and nearly 100° Fahrenheit outside, with 92% relative humidity. We have journeyed by pick-up truck to sparsely populated northwest Florida, near the small city of Bristol, to an area long ago claimed to be the site of the Garden of Eden by one Elvy E. Callaway.

We have come for a live plant encounter with one of our nation’s most venerable, rare, and critically endangered species, Torreya taxifolia, commonly called the Torreya tree (pronounced tor-REY’-ah).  Only about 500 specimens of this tree, a conifer and primitive member of the yew family, are estimated to be left in the wild, and this is the best place in the world to see some.

Having survived over 100 million years, according to the plant fossil record, the Torreya tree is now teetering on the edge of extinction. (The aforementioned Mr. Callaway thought this tree was the biblical gopher wood tree used to build Noah’s Ark—hence his Garden of Eden claim.)

It should be noted that the tree’s namesake is the famous American botanist John Torrey (1796-1873).  His eponymous genus, Torreya, has six species—but Torreya taxifolia is by far the rarest.  All six species are small-to medium-sized evergreen trees, ranging from 15 ft. to 60 ft. in height when mature.  Torrey is also honored today through the famous Torrey Botanic Society Journal and the renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course near San Diego, California.

The trees we visited were growing inside Torreya State Park, a 12,000-acre Florida State Park which lies along the Apalachicola River. It cost us only $3 to enter the park,  a well maintained, lush, and serenely beautiful area.

We found that few park visitors come here specifically to see the Torreya trees. Surprisingly, our analysis of 276 of the most recent handwritten, spontaneous visitor comments in the park’s guestbook uncovered no comments written specifically about the Torreya trees!

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Posted by Julie on 08/08 at 09:37 PM
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Joe Pye Weed, My Man

It’s hotter than a boiled peanut! Time for the hard-core gardeners of the Mid-South—like Allen Bush—to show what they’re made of.


Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum ‘Atropurpureum’)

stands tall in the July garden with Rose Cooper Bush

Louisville, Kentucky

Photo: Allen Bush

By Allen Bush

After two hours of weeding and planting in the sweltering morning heat, it’s usually time to throw in the towel. Well, not quite. I keep a towel handy to wipe the sweat off my creased brow and dab my receding hairline. This is one coping ritual for mid-summer. A cool swim later in the afternoon can work wonders, too. But the Lakeside temperature is hovering near 90 F (32 C).  There’s no magic, there. When the morning temperature hits the low end at 80 F (27C), as the sun comes-up, you know you’re in for a rough ride the rest of the day. There’s no stopping 90 F (32 C) or hotter. During spells like this, when the humidity is as stifling as the debate on debt limits, it’s hard to catch a break.

July wasn’t hot straight the way through, and I wasn’t stuck in Kentucky all month, either. I caught a breather in the Colorado Rockies, with good friends, looking at alpine wildflowers in early July. My pals Kirk Alexander and Panayoti Keliaidis organized a great tour. I’d call home each day and Rose would tell me about the skyrocketing Louisville heat index that hovered in the triple digits for days. I tried to be sympathetic. The annoying heat index – a summer flogging by forecasters - combines ambient temperature with the relative humidity. But it doesn’t skewer “the hardware of reality.” It’s hot and we all know it.

I didn’t tell Rose I was wearing a cotton sweater at 10,000 on the road up to Pikes Peak.  Nor did I dwell on walks through meadows in the alpine tundra filled with primroses and alpine forget-me-nots. 

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Posted by Julie on 07/29 at 02:07 PM
Gardening & LandscapeTravelPermalink

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Breadfruit: The Real Thing

There’s no taste like home; for Georgia Silvera Seamans, that’s creamy Jamaican breadfruit.


Artocarpus altilis is a member of the mulberry family.

Drawing: Bats and Breadfruit

By Georgia Silvera Seamans

I received a small gift of Jamaican breadfruit recently. Until I prepared it, frying slices and serving them with cherry tomatoes, avocado, and scrambled egg for dinner, I hadn’t realized how much I’ve missed breadfruit. 

You can eat it with breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And I have. My husband, a non-Jamaican, asked me what one would traditionally eat with breadfruit.  It partners well with eggs and slices of tomatoes, and I also remembered one of my favorite accompaniments – ackee and saltish, Jamaica’s national dish.  (Or maybe it was ackee & saltfish, prepared with onions and tomatoes, with a side of breadfruit.)

My mother used to prepare breadfruit by frying peeled slices or by slicing a breadfruit that had been roasted on the stovetop.  Simply place the fruit on a burner, slowly turning it until it is charred entirely.  Slice the breadfruit and remove the skin before serving.  More detailed roasting preparations as well as selection tips can be found here.

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Posted by Julie on 07/16 at 12:10 PM
CookingCulture & SocietyTravelPermalink
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