Hopping Good Times

hops-cones

Common Hops, Humulus lupulus, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Cannabaceae or hemp family. It is a native to Europe and is cultivated in North America as well.  The sexes are separate or dioecious with the female plant’s strobili (pictured above) being of economic importance. The male staminate flowers do not have petals. Hops rely on wind-pollination of flowers. The plant is a herbaceous perennial climbing plant which sends up new shoots in early spring and dies back to a cold-hardy rhizome (underground stem) in autumn. You can find leaves with 1, 3, 5, and 7 lobes on the same plant. Plants can produce up to 20 years.

The female cone-shaped fruits from H. lupulus are used by breweries.  The fragrant flower cones, known as hops, impart a bitter flavor, and also have aromatic and preservative qualities. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages.

Hops plants grow best in the latitude range of 38°-51° (growing zones 5 – 8) in full sun with moderate amounts of rainfall and nutrient-rich soil with good drainage. Plants use the long summer days as a cue for when to flower around July or August. Plants can grow up to 30 feet tall and are typically suspended by free-standing poles or lattices will trellising twine.

Any hop rhizomes you buy will be female. Male hop plants are not cultivated.  Spring is the best time to plant hops.  First-year plants expend energy growing roots with only a few cones possible.  By the second year, you should see a marked increase in cones.

Chmelnice

A commercial hops yard using a trellis and pole system to suspend hops plants.

The American Holly

american holly tree

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 from 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.

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