The American Holly


Holly is a popular Christmas and Winter holiday season decoration. In English poetry and English stories, the holly is inseparably connected with the merry-making and greetings which gather around the Christmas time.But this tree offers much more. It lends its unique beauty to the landscape all year long and provides shelter and food for birds.

The American holly, Ilex opaca, is a species of holly, native to the eastern and south-central United States. It is a medium-sized broad leaved evergreen tree with alternate leaves that are stiff, green and often pale yellow beneath. The edges are curved with several spike-like points. The petiole is short with a pair of minute stipules. The leaves remain on the branches for two to three years, finally falling in the spring. The sexes are separate with the female tree producing those beautify red berries.

The American holly is often cultivated by plant nurseries for use as an evergreen ornamental plant. It is planted as a shrub or as a slower growing ornamental tree with over 1,000 cultivars available.

If you are interested in growing holly please remember these facts and choose a suitable location. The American holly grows to a height of 40–50′ and a spread of 18–40′ at maturity. This tree grows at a slow to medium rate, with height increases of anywhere from less than 12″ to 24″ per year. Full sun and partial shade are best for this tree, meaning it prefers a minimum of four hours of direct, unfiltered sunlight each day.

The Blooming Poplar


The tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, is one of the largest of the native hardwood trees of the eastern United States, known to reach the height of 190 feet. Common names are confusing and include yellow-poplar and fiddletree but this tree is not related to either poplars or tulips. The genus Liriodendron in the magnolia family. It is fast-growing and a valuable hardwood species. The alternate leaves are simple and pinnately veined.

The perfect large brilliant flowers are solitary, greenish yellow with dashes of red or orange. They yield large quantities of nectar. Each inflorescence is borne on a short peduncle with flower parts arranged in a spiral which is a condition of basal angiosperms. The flower parts not distinctly differentiated into sepals and petals. The male and female portions of the flower are numerous. The stamen filaments are distinguishable from the pollen-producing anthers. The tree’s flower superficially resembles a tulip, hence the derivation of the common name.

Tulip trees grows readily from seeds. If seeds are planted in autumn they come up the succeeding spring. However, if sown in spring they often remain a year in the ground. It is reported that seeds from the highest branches of old trees are most likely to germinate. Alternatively, the tree can be propagated from cuttings. It prefers deep, rich, moist soils.

How To Propagate Hydrangeas From Cuttings


It’s easier than you may think to root cuttings from your hydrangea bushes. The first step is to select a choice stem for cutting. A stem for hydrangea propagation should be at least six inches long, with no flower. The stem needs to be a new growth which is a lighter green than old growth. Once you have selected a stem to propagate, use pruning shears to cut the stem off just below a leaf node. A leaf node is where a set of leaves will be attached to the stem. The hydrangea cutting should contain at least one additional set of leaves above the selected leaf node.

Next, strip all but the top most set of leaves from the cutting. The cutting should have only two leaves left. Cut the two remaining leaves in half crosswise. This will prevent excess water loss from the cutting and will quickly callus over.  Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone which will increase the chances of successfully propagating hydrangeas. Put the cutting into damp potting soil. Use a pencil first to make a hole, then firmly press the soil around the stem. Cover the pot with a plastic bag, making sure that the bag does not touch the leaves of the hydrangea cutting.

Place your hydrangea cuttings in a sheltered location out of direct sunlight. Check your hydrangeas every few days to make sure the soil is still damp. In about four weeks, the cutting will be have grown new roots. Your hydrangea propagation will be complete. That is all you need to know about how to propagate new plants for friends and family.

Botanical Star of Bethlehem


Ornithogalum umbellatum, or Star of Bethlehem, is a genus of perennials native to southern Europe and southern Africa. Growing from a bulb, the plant has slender basal leaves and a stalk bearing clusters of white star-shaped flowers, sometimes striped with green. The common name, Star-of-Bethlehem, is based on the flower’s star-shape and the star that appeared in the biblical account of the birth of Jesus.

This plant can quickly out-perform other species and take over when planted in beds with other ornamental flowers and will quickly become a nuisance in gardens and lawns.  Seed production is uncommon, mostly spreading by small, abundantly produced bulblets.  If interested in growing this plant it is safest to grow it in containers or areas where it can be kept confined.

The Star of Bethlehem flower is steeped in Christian symbolism, from its supposed Biblical reference. It is often used in floral bouquets and arrangements for ceremonies, such as christenings, baptisms and marriages.

Ornithogalum was originally described by Linnaeus in 1753.


Buttercups 101


Buttercups are familiar wildflowers of open fields, roadsides and river banks.   They belong to the genus Ranunculus containing about 500 species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae. These plants flower from April to May, but flowers may be present throughout the summer. Some species are popular ornamental flowers in horticulture, with many cultivars selected for large and brightly colored flowers.

The yellow petals are often bright and glossy, owing to a special coloration mechanism. The petal’s upper surface is flat causing a mirror-like reflection with sunlight that is comparable to glass. The reflected color is yellow due to the absorption of colors in the blue-green region of the spectrum by carotenoid pigment located inside the petals. The flashy color aids in attracting pollinating insects and helps in temperature regulation of the flower’s reproductive organs.

Buttercups have leaves attached as a whorl around the stem. In many perennial species runners are sent out that will develop new plants as a form of asexual reproduction. The leaves lack stipules at the petiole base.

The flowers have both male and female reproductive structures. Each flower has sepals or bud leaves with five yellow, green or white petals. At the base of each petal is usually one nectary gland that is naked or may be covered by a scale. Male anthers are often arranged in a spiral with yellow pollen which will become the male gametophyte. The female portion of the flower have green or yellow individual carpels. These structures contain the female gametophyte.


Some Facts about buttercups:

  • Can grow from 14 to 16 inches in height
  • Have cup-shaped flowers composed of 5 petals
  • Flowers are usually bright yellow colored
  • Have lustrous flowers thanks to special layer of reflective cells
  • Buttercups are poisonous to humans and livestock. Contact may cause dermatitis.
  • Can be propagated via parts of the root and bulb or via seed

Aristocrats of the woodland garden


Commonly known as hellebores, the genus Helleborus consists of approximately 20 species of herbaceous perennial flowering dicots. These plants belongs to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. Common names include “winter rose”, “Christmas rose” and “Lenten rose”; however, hellebores are not closely related to the roses.    The leaves are toothed and leathery leaves. Many hellebore species are poisonous.

The distinctive flowers have five petal-like sepals surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries which are actually modified petals to hold nectar. The sepals do not fall as petals would, but remain on the plant, sometimes for many months.

Hellebores are widely grown in USDA Zone 5 through 8 gardens for decorative purposes. They are particularly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring flowering period.  The plants are surprisingly frost-resistant and are best grown in groups in wooded or shady borders.