June 12, 2017

Plant Life Near the Grand Canyon


Who visits the Grand Canyon and notices the plants?


Last summer, we took a road trip out west for a family reunion, and stopped at notable landmarks along the way. When we were waiting to meet up with cousins to view the Grand Canyon, I photographed a few of the plants outside the visitor center.

Honestly, I find native plant life fascinating wherever I go. (I'm assuming most gardeners, naturalists, and plant enthusiasts do?) Many of the plants were marked with informative markers, which was helpful.

pink cloud
Fallugia paradoxa

My favorite plant of the lot was Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa), which I posted about back in July 2016. Others included:

wax currant
Ribes cereum

Wax Currant (Ribes cereum), with tiny maple-shaped leaves and red berries, traditionally used in jams, jellies, and pemmican.

white fir
Abies concolor

White Fir (Abies concolor), a large, lovely specimen with flat, curved needles and upright 3-5 inch cones.

Achillea millefolium

Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), caged and apparently delicious to the local wildlife.

cactus squirrel

Speaking of wildlife, a very brave squirrel put life and limb in danger to gnaw on a patch of cacti.

Opuntia polyacantha

No denying: It did look delicious.

utah juniper
Juniperus osteosperma

Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma), with edible berries, bark for bedding, and wood for fuel and building.

golden rabbitbrush
Chrysothamnus nauseosa

Golden Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosa), traditionally used for woven baskets.

pinion pine
Pinus edulis

The stately Pinyon Pine (Pinus edulis), a great source of wood for building materials and fires, nuts for eating, and sap for waterproofed baskets.

Several other plants weren't marked, so please correct me if I've misidentified them:

utah agave

Utah Agave (Agave utahensis)


Camphorweed (Heterotheca subaxillaris)


Sand Sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia)

banana yucca

Banana Yucca (Yucca baccata)

The scenery at the Grand Canyon was, of course, amazing. Apparently, a previous visitor lost his/her hat over it...


See the hat on the ledge?

I could describe the geology that created the Grand Canyon, itself, but I'll leave that to the National Park Service. Here are a few parting views out over the canyon...

grand canyon 1

grand canyon 2

grand canyon 3

grand canyon 4

grand canyon 5

May 31, 2017

The Meme Had to Die Change
(And the Winner Is...)

milkweed seeds

The Garden Lessons Learned meme has reached a turning point. Because short, concise, illustrated social media posts now reign, it's time to change the format.

Also, when you no longer want to participate in your own meme--a meme you created--it's time to change. So...

From now on, I'll plan to gather "Lessons Learned" posts from around The Interwebs, as I find them, and post them under the Lessons Learned tab.

If you find a post, or write a post, with garden lessons...please let me know! I think there's still value in sharing the wisdom--it's just that trying to meet the confines of a regular meme is becoming less fun and more of a chore. Sometimes I want to write about garden lessons, other times simpler topics, and still other times inspiration leads in an entirely new direction.

Thanks to all those who've participated in the meme in the past, and those who'll share lessons yet to come.

Here's to new lessons and new directions! Oh, and happy summer to those in the Northern Hemisphere; happy winter to those in the Southern Hemisphere!


And the winner is...

On my last post, I promised to pick a random name to award a copy of Kylee Baumle's new book, "The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly." The winner is Jason at Garden in a City! Congratulations!

May 16, 2017

What Do You Think of When I Say
The Word 'Milkweed'?
(And a Giveaway)

monarch male

When you think of Milkweed, what do you envision?

The plant growing in concrete cracks at the abandoned lot down the street? The “weed” your dad made you pull all summer long between rows of corn at the farm? Something that will spread all over your garden?

By now, most North Americans (and particularly gardeners) are probably aware that Monarchs are in peril for a host of reasons. And Monarchs need Milkweed (Asclepias spp.), which is their “host” plant ... but what does that actually mean?


It means Monarch larvae—the caterpillar stage—can only eat Milkweed.

But when someone says, “Monarchs only eat one plant,” that’s a little misleading. First, adult Monarch butterflies can nectar on a wide range of flowering plants. And second, while their baby caterpillars can only eat plants in the Milkweed family (Asclepiadaceae), that’s quite a selection!


Did you know there are more than 140 species of Milkweeds native to the Americas? Every state in the U.S. has a wide selection of native Milkweed plants. All of them are garden-worthy in the right setting, in the right garden, and in the right climate and ecosystem. In cold climates, many of us even grow some warm-climate species as annuals.

Milkweed does not have to be a messy plant. As with any plant or group of plants, you, the gardener, can choose where you want to place it. Some Milkweeds even grow beautifully in pots. And the various species come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some species wander more than others. If you don't want it to spread by seed, you can harvest the pods to give away or grow more plants in a different location.

Here are just a few Milkweed species native to my state and much of the Midwest:

Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Common Milkweed (A. syriaca)

Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata)

Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata)

In addition, while there are valid reasons to avoid growing tropical species where they aren't native, they often work well as annuals in cold climates like mine. Many grow fast from seed, and they die with the first killing frost. Here are two examples:

Tropical Milkweed (A. curassavica)

Swan Milkweed (Gomphocarpus physocarpus, formerly Asclepias physocarpa)

So, the next time you hesitate to add Milkweed to your garden, think about the Monarchs. Remember, Milkweed isn’t just “one plant,” rather, it’s a family of plants. Add a few to your garden to help the Monarch population recover.

An added note: Make sure any Milkweed you plant is pesticide-free. Plants treated with pesticides will be harmful to the caterpillars, butterflies, and other pollinators. If you see a tag with wording similar to, “This plant is protected from _____ and other unwanted pests by Neonicotinoids,” don't buy it. Purchase from an organic grower, or ask your plant supplier if their Milkweed has been treated.

Some of you know that I recently traveled to the Monarchs’ overwintering sites in Mexico with my friend, Kylee Baumle, who is a garden author and self-taught expert on the Monarch (Danaus plexippus). To celebrate the release of her book and the new gardening season, I’m giving away one copy of Kylee’s book“The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly. (Kylee includes great information on various Milkweed species.) All you have to do is leave a comment here, on the PlantPostings Facebook page, or send me an email at plantpostings[at]gmail[dot]com. I will draw a random name and announce it with my next post. Good luck!


Note: I’m taking a short break to get some plants in the ground, move some around, and tend others that need a little TLC going into the gardening season ahead. See you on the other side of the break!

May 10, 2017

New Perspectives for Wednesday Vignettes

shagbark vignette
Carya ovata framed by Syringa vulgaris

Do you ever see a scene in a totally different way? The other day as I was washing dishes, I looked out the window and noticed the Lilac shrub in the distance framing the unfurling Shagbark Hickory foliage. The soft peachy bud scales were glowing in the low light and the magenta Lilac flowers created a complementary halo for the new Hickory leaves.

Springtime is full of magical scenes and new perspectives. Wednesday Vignettes are hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.