Finally! Tall, hardy ornamental grasses for northern gardens


Tall, hardy ornamental grasses are a little hard to come by in the zone 4 region. Some do well for a few seasons, but eventually succumb to the elements. I’m assuming they were zone 5 grasses.

Recently I discovered a couple of tall ornamental grasses that should be able to handle our tough winters.  

One of the new zone 4 grasses I ran across actually has a familiar name: miscanthus. What’s new about this one is the fact that it is hardy. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Miss’ grows 2-3 feet tall. I haven’t tried growing it yet, but sellers describe it as a plant with “narrow arching foliage” that emerges green in spring and then develops “carmine and purple tones” from early May with strongest coloring in October and November. Clumping centers remain fresh green for a two-tone effect. The flower heads are striking as well, reddish in color from July to October for a long season of interest.


Miscanthus 'Litttle Miss'
Photo courtesy of PlantHaven International, Inc.

“Little Miss’ is also considered easy to care for and drought tolerant. It’s suitable for a large container or can be grown in a landscape up near a home or iin an island bed. Sounds like a lot of bang for the buck, plus it’s hardy to the area! Pinch me, I must be dreaming.  

As of this writing there are 4 nurseries licensed to propagate ‘Little Miss:’

Briggs Nursery

Emerald Coast Growers

EuroAmerican Propagators

JRT Nurseries
Another ornamental grass that should make its way to northern gardens is a variation of a native little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Standing Ovation,’ offered by North Creek Nurseries. Besides being hardy down to -30, it will do well in  poor, dry soils, perhaps in those areas close to the lake shore where native beach grasses tend to thrive. ‘Standing Ovation’ has spiky bluish-green stems that look attractive all summer.

photo of little blue stem
Photo courtesy of North Creek Nurseries

‘Standing Ovation will also add autumn interest when it transitions to a eye popping display of oranges, reds, yellows, and purplish-browns. The seed heads swaying in the wind will provide winter interest before being cut back in spring. Don’t let the name fool you, this little stem variety grows 3-4 foot tall on sturdy stems. The seasonal color changes is nothing short of spectacular, which will add a richness to your landscape and flower bed.

Neil Moran writes articles, blog posts, and other promotional materials for green industry and other businesses. You can check out his work and services at Haylake Business Communications.

Birds, bugs, and wildflowers (connecting the dots)

coreopsis lanceolata - lance-leaved coreopsis (2)
Insects are attracted to native wildflowers, like this lance-leaved coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata) which in turn attracts the songbirds we so love to see.


I’ve found a reason to become enthused about wildflowers (again). I’ve always enjoyed them and I even have a couple of areas on my property where I planted wildflowers. Heck, I even wrote a book about them. It didn’t exactly hit the bestsellers list. Actually, it left me scratching my head wondering why people just didn’t seemed to be that interested.

monarda fistulosa - wild bergamot (1)
Wildflowers, like this wild bergamot (monarda fistulosa), attract pollinators needed to pollinate the crops.

For several years I was involved in a native plant and seed cooperative. In all those years we never seemed to garner a lot of enthusiasm for wildflowers in the area where I live (Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan). Sure, we sold a few plants at annual plant sales and got some requests for them from public agencies and so forth; however, native plants never seemed to be top mind for most people in this area. Our little group finally dissolved as a couple of the members moved away and interest in the group fizzled.

monarda bradburiana - bradburys monarda (4)
Everyone loves seeing the butterflies, especially children. Bradburys monarda (monarda bradburiana) really attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects.

So for the past few years I’ve pushed wildflowers to the back of my mind. Then, just last week, I had the opportunity to interview Bill Carter, President of Prairie Moon Nursery in Winona, Minnesota.  The last I knew  about Prairie Moon they were kind of a niche business selling wildflower plants and seed to a pretty specialized group, such as the forest service, utility companies, and a few back to nature types.

That’s all changed. Carter says wildflowers are in demand, but not only because they attract bees and butterflies and grow well in their natural environments.

It’s because they attract insects.

Now, Carter says not too many folks get excited about bugs.  But everyone loves birds and birds love insects. Get the connection? Different plants, native to a region, are attractive to different insects. And you thought birds just like bird seed! Sure, they do, but they need insects to be part of their diet, and different birds need specific insects to sustain themselves and their brood.

People are getting the connection, at least in Minnesota, and are flooding Carter and his staff with business. They’re selling seed, plugs, and potted plants via mail order. They sell lots of live plants but the demand for seed is exploding.

“The demand for seed has gone through the roof,” says Carter. “It actually caught the industry off guard.”

He says the largest demand used to be for grasses first, and then wildflowers. Organizations wanted grasses to stabilize banks and restore wild areas. Now, it’s the other way around. He says people are going wild for wildflowers because they get the connection between the birds and the bugs.

A few days after I interviewed Carter I got a call to set up a wildflower display at an event on July 9 in Cedarville, Michigan that celebrates the natural world. It’s called Frogfest. The backdrop for this event is the beautiful Les Cheneaux Islands, a haven for diverse waterfowl and songbirds.  I’m looking forward to getting back into wildflowers and meeting people at Frogfest. If you’re out that way, stop by and chat and perhaps I can talk you into incorporating wildflowers into your landscape.

I’ll be giving away seeds and information on growing wildflowers so you too can attract a greater variety of birds (and bugs!).

Neil Moran is the author of North Country Gardening with Wildflowers, a guidebook on growing wildflowers in the Upper Midwest region.

Sex education for cucumber growers

After years of mediocre production from my cucumber plants I’ve decided to take some action. My first thought was to call the folks at Johnny’s Seeds to see what they have to say about it. They told me they grow all their cucumbers on trellis’ and they also prune them. Having grown up in a farming town in Michigan’s “Thumb,” I had never given it a thought to trellis them.Cucumbers, Vegetables, Eating, Kitchen

My memories from those days are of Hispanic workers out in the fields picking cucumbers from bushy plants that would then be trucked into Aunt Jane’s Pickle Company, which was just a block away from where I lived. I played baseball across the street from the plant, which smelled of a mix of dill pickles and rotten sewage from the dikes that held waste liquid from the plant.

Sex education for cucumber growers

The other thing I didn’t know until a few years ago is you can buy cucumbers that are gynoecious and parthenocarpic.

Gynoecious simply means the cucumber plants contain all or mostly female flowers, which isn’t typical of the older varieties. This means you’ll get higher yields from these types. Two gynoecious varieties that Johnny’s sells include two slicers, Corinto and Diva.

Parthenocarpic means they don’t require pollination, which is another relatively new trait. Taken together, you have a higher yielding cucumber plant that can be grown in a greenhouse without the aid of pollination.

Sounds good to me.

So this summer I’m going to start a few in my little greenhouse (in containers) and let the rest trellis up the fence that surrounds my garden. I’m hoping to have enough cucumbers to feed an army.

Quick tips for starting cucumbers:

  1. Cukes love the heat. Wait until the soil warms to at least 60 degrees (about 75 degrees air temperature) before planting.
  2. In cool climates, use heat caps to get them off to a good start or start them in a hoophouse.
  3. Start in peat pots that can be placed in the garden pot and all when it comes time to plant. Never disturb the roots of cucumber plants or other vine crops, like pumpkin and squash.

Watch for the striped cucumber beetle, they can be devastating. See Johnny’s and other sources for organic pest control.

DIY, Self Draining Irrigation System


With spring once again upon us you may be wondering if this is the year you’ll get around to installing an irrigation system. After all, the best way to have a lush,green lawn that is the envy of the neighborhood is by applying the proper amount of water at the right time. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on Mother Nature to deliver water to our lawns at the exact time it is needed.largeareathreezonekit

“It would be great if we could rely on the weather,” says John Coyne of UP Irrigation and Auto Rain Lawn Gear. “Normal precipitation is not always normal, and if your lawn goes dormant during a dry spell pre-emergent weeds will quickly sprout and be hard to eradicate.”

Watering with sprinklers has gone the way of the shoe horn. People just don’t, or shouldn’t be using sprinklers any more. Sprinklers not only waste water and drive up water bills, but people don’t have time these days to turn them off and on and hassle with kinked-up hoses and dysfunctional sprinklers.

An irrigation system will save you time and money, says Coyne. You can set up an irrigation system on a timer and water your lawn for a few minutes each night while you sleep.

Lawn irrigation systems have traditionally been a significant home improvement investment, similar in scope to paving the driveway. Now, there is a DIY irrigation system, called Auto Rain Lawn Gear, that can be installed by the do-it-yourselfer. It’s a system that ARLG owner and irrigation specialist Coyne says can be installed at a fraction of what it would cost a professional contractor.

“For many years people have been intimidated to take on a project like this,” says Coyne. “By installing an ARLG kit themselves, homeowners can save up to 70% over the cost of a contractor.”

The Auto Rain Lawn Gear irrigation system comes as a kit complete with sprinkler heads, clamps, and other attachments. It also contains instructional materials for set-up, including a DVD showing an actual installation. The kits contain name brand irrigation components that have been used by irrigation contractors for years, including Rain Bird sprinkler heads. The ¾” poly pipe needed to run the water lines is sold separately and can be purchased in any hardware store, according to Coyne.

Like any DIY project, the ARLG irrigation system may be beyond the skill level of the less than handy types. No worry. According to Coyne any reputable landscaper or a handy relative will be able to install an ARLG system. If in doubt whether to take on the task they can view a 5 minute instructional video on the ARLG website and decide for themselves.

“For anyone who decides to install one themselves there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction,” says Coyne. No permits or license is necessary to install the ARLG system, according to Coyne.

Before you buy a kit Coyne suggests you time the water delivery from your faucet. You need to have a water source that can deliver at least 5 gallons of water per minute. Place a five gallon bucket under an outdoor spigot and run the water for a minute. Make sure all other faucets, washing machine, etc. is turned off inside the house before you run your test. If your bucket fills to the top in a minute or under, you’re all set.

A round shovel is all that is needed to bury the lines and sprinkler heads. Dig a four-inch deep trench. When done laying the pipe, scrape the soil back into the trough and pull the sod over it. Within a few weeks spring you’ll be hard pressed to see where you removed the sod.

Self Draining System

Typically, irrigation systems need to have the water blown out of the lines before winter. This is an added cost to the homeowner. If this is not done, it can cause the lines to burst over the winter, resulting in further costs to find and repair the hole.The ARLG system is self draining, saving the homeowner the time and/or money of blowing out the lines in the fall.

ARLG kits come in different sizes to match the size of your lawn and can also be used to water a flower bed. They’re being sold at various Lowes stores around the state and various hardware stores. You can also purchase them online at

Instructional videos are available on the company website.

Looking for an endless tomato harvest?

There are so many tomato varieties to choose from in the catalogs it is tempting to try them all. One variety I’ll be sure to include with my order when it goes out next week is Jasper cherry tomato.JssJasperTomato

If you’re looking for a prolific harvest of sweet, tasty cherry tomatoes, grow the Jasper. This All American Selection sold by Jung’s and others is a real winner in my mind.

I planted about six of these right up against the fence that surrounds my garden to keep the deer out. I originally planted them from seed in my greenhouse and when I set them out they took right off, which I think is key to a successful harvest of anything in the cold climate. I never did need to tie them to the fence or offer any other type of support, even though they grew to about five feet tall! I just fed them fairly regularly with Espoma’s organic fertilizer for vegetable gardens.

What I got was a seemly endless supply of sweet cherry tomatoes. Each time I went to the garden (which is about every day for me, I would bring a bowl with me and fill it up. Jasper did much better than Sweet Million (these tomatoes didn’t ripen as early.

My garden hat is off to Jasper cherry tomato!

Butternut Squash for Northern Gardens

I was pleasantly surprised, no make that ecstatic with the Canesi Hybrid Butternut Squash I planted last year. I ordered it from Jung’s kind of on a whim, since I had given up on growing butternuts in my northern zone 3 garden. In the past, there just wasn’t enough season to get these to mature, at least not in my garden. But lo and behold, the Canesi matured–and how! The largest one grew to 13 inches. This was during a season where my pumpkins didn’t fare so well. I didn’t do much special, except I planted them in a shallow hole I amended with compost; I fertilized and side dressed with 12-12-12. Not only were they big, but prolific, yielding about five fruit from each plant, not bad for here in the north.

The flesh of the Canesi is almost banana yellow, with a mild flavor that is enhanced with a few seasonings. We’ve boiled it so far, but will try baking it. I’m interested in seeing how long it will keep. Canesi for Christmas dinner?

Plant a pencil? A lollipop?

Here are a couple of items I ran across that are intended to get kids interested in gardening and eating healthy vegetables. They should be of interest to parents and teachers.

Plant a Lollipop?

The first one is VeggiePOPS™. This looks like a lollipop and even has the colored wrappings on each different VeggiePOP™. But don’t eat it! Inside is 3-4 seeds of easy-to-grow vegetables and a little seed starting mix and nutrients to get it off to a good start. VeggiePOPS™ comes with online instructions and a full scale teacher’s curriculum, called Bloomers Island, to help youngsters (and adults) learn more about gardening and achieve gardening success. They also sell VeggiePOTS™, growing containers made from recycled plastic bottles, which  you can use to start the seeds in. The EarthBox® kit, which has been around a while now and sells for about $55, will also work well for growing the vegetables.VEGGIEPOPSSTAND-300dpi

The VeggiePOPS™ are really catching on, according to Cynthia Wylie, Founder and CEO of VeggiePOPS™ and Bloomers Island. VeggiePOPS™ and Bloomer Island is designed to get kids interested in gardening and not see it as a chore.

“Our whole goal was to make gardening as fun and as easy as possible,” says Wylie.        VeggiePOPS™ come in 6 different “flavors,” including Swiss chard, carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, and bush beans.

Wylie says this is the first generation of kids with a life expectancy less than the previous generation. She thinks this is due, in part, to diet and kids having a more sedentary lifestyle as a result of playing video games and such. Gardening will not only get the kids on their feet, they’ll get eating better.

“Less than ⅓ of kids eat more than one serving of vegetables a day,” says Wylie.

She says they have found that kids will eat vegetables they grow themselves. Parents are very excited about this, which is also driving sales of the product.

“It’s a taste of gardening,” says Wylie. “And invariably what happens is there are a couple of kids in every class that become obsessed with it and those are the kids that you want to encourage, they’re the ones that are going to be the AG majors of tomorrow.”

VeggiePOPS™ sell for $3.99 each or $20 for a package of 6. You can find out more about VeggiePOPS™ and the learning curriculum, which includes a poster that you and your grandchild can use to track the growth of your vegetables, at

Plant a Pencil?

Here is a product that is intended to get kids interested in gardening and start thinking about conserving natural resources. It’s called the Sprout Pencil. It’s a lead-free eco-friendly pencil made of biodegradable ticonderoga cedar. Contained in the top capsule are seeds for different vegetables, herbs, and flowers. When the pencil is down to a nub the capsule is removed and planted. There are over 12 different Sprout Pencils, including colored pencils for drawing, that contain seed for growing herbs, vegetables, and flowers.

Sprout Europe new3619_highres

The idea for the Sprout Pencil originated at MIT, where students were looking to create a sustainable product for children. The MIT students formed a company around their invention and then sold it to an investor in Denmark. The rest, as they say, is history. They now sell over 450,000 of the pencils per month both here and abroad.

“For every tree that is used to make a Sprout Pencil, we plant another one,” says Ed Goldman, who is in charge of North American sales for Sprout World, the parent company. “The nice thing about the Sprout Pencil is they don’t end up in landfills like other writing utensils.”

Sprout World also sells what they call Tiny Gardens, which are shallow containers made from recycled cardboard. Instead of a potting type soil, the Tiny Gardens contain a fibrous hemp mat, which is used to start the seeds of basil, broccoli, cress, radish, and sunflower.

You can also grow microgreens in the Tiny Gardens. Microgreens became popular in the 1980’s among chefs in California. Micro-greens are small plants, which you harvest as soon as they have developed their first set of true leaves. The stem is longer than normal, because micro-greens are grown for a short, intensive period, during which the stems strive for sunlight.

All of these products, including the Sprout Pencil, can be ordered via Amazon. Check for them also in your local garden center. They’ve been featured on CNN and the Today Show, so they could end up in a store near you. You can also go to for more information about their products and to find a store.




Reasons to garden, for those who need a few!

Why Garden? The National Garden Bureau’s Top Ten

Cell phones, tablets, and Fit Bits have become the tools of our modern lives. But it wasn’t that long ago that a shovel, a patch of soil and a bag of seeds were the only tools needed to provide sustenance and satisfaction. Gardening was a part of daily life. Ask any gardener today why they garden and you’ll get a variety of reasons why it’s important to them.thumbnail (3)

1. Garden for safe, healthy food.

Reports of food-borne illnesses and contamination regularly appear in the news media. Growing concerns about pesticides in our food supply have led to an increased interest in organic gardening and availability of organic produce. Processed foods contain additives and preservatives that many consumers want to avoid. The National Garden Bureau believes an easy solution is to grow your own vegetables. It’s estimated that during WWII, 20 million homeowners had Victory Gardens that produced close to 40% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States. Start your own garden and know the food you’re eating is fresh and safe with fantastic flavor not always found in grocery store produce.

2. Garden for exercise.

Tired of the gym routine? Get a good workout without even thinking about it. Gardening activities provide both cardio and aerobic exercise. Studies show that an hour of moderate gardening can burn up to 300 calories for women, almost 400 calories for men. For older people, especially women, gardening can help reduce osteoporosis. Mowing the grass is like taking a vigorous walk, bending and stretching to plant a garden compares to an exercise class, while hauling plants and soil is similar to weightlifting. Adaptive tools help those whose physical limitations prevent some activities. And after you’re finished, you see immediate results in your garden even as your physical health improves—without being bored.

3. Garden to add beauty.

A house with a nice yard is a pleasure to look at and satisfying to live in. Your home can be made more inviting simply by adding a container of colorful flowers near the front door. Herbs in the kitchen add freshness to the room, as well as flavor to daily meals. Trees and shrubs not only provide color and shade, but shelter for birds and wildlife. Think of the garden as another room to be enjoyed whether you are inside or outside the house.

4. Garden to learn.

Gardeners find that the more they learn about plants and gardening, the more they want to know. Problems with insects or spots on leaves provide the opportunity to find out the cause and understand how to keep plants healthy. Moving to a new house may mean leaving favorite plants but also provides the opportunity to discover new plants and growing conditions. There are a variety of ways to increase gardening know-how such as seminars, Master Gardener programs, vo-tech courses and formal degree programs at a college or university.

5. Garden to make money.

For some people gardening is a lifelong hobby. For others, the love of plants can lead to a rewarding job at a local garden center, a large global company, or even owning their own business. A garden can be a source of flowers, vegetables, herbs, and other crops that can be sold at local farmer’s markets and roadside stands. And whether you live in your dream home or plan on moving soon, gardening adds value to your property. Real estate agents estimate that attractive landscaping increases a home’s value by as much as 15%. It also creates interest in the house and can mean the difference between a potential buyer simply driving by or stopping to take a closer look.

6. Garden to meet people.

Gardening is a great way to expand your social circle. Whether it’s with someone who lives down the street or halfway around the world on the Internet, gardeners love to talk about plants. Surplus tomatoes, a bouquet of flowers, or an extra plant, are gifts to be shared with friends and neighbors. Meeting other gardeners through garden clubs, plant organizations, and gardening websites is an easy way to share information, ask questions and get involved.

7. Garden to be creative.

Gardening provides an outlet for creative and artistic expression. A garden’s design can reflect a personal sense of style such as a romantic cottage garden or a peaceful Japanese garden, as well as provide a showcase for art and sculpture. Like to try something new? With the wide variety of seeds and plants available in garden centers, it’s easy to experiment with new plants or change a garden’s color scheme every year.

8. Garden to win.

For people with a competitive streak, gardening is a friendly way to show off their skills. Garden clubs regularly have shows that highlight the best flowers grown by local gardeners. County and state fairs provide an opportunity to show everyone the giant pumpkin, beautiful beans or luscious tomatoes harvested from the garden. Competitive gardening is not only fun and interesting, there can even be national recognition and financial rewards.

9. Garden for emotional needs and spiritual connections.

Gardens play an important part in our well being. A garden might serve as a tranquil retreat or private escape from the demands of everyday life. The beauty of flowers can lift spirits, while pulling weeds can be a great release for stress and excess energy. A harvest of colorful flowers or tasty vegetables provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success, while neighbors and visitors often express their appreciation of those efforts.

On a higher level, gardening provides a spiritual connection to life. It’s a miracle to take a tiny seed, nurture it, and watch it grow into a beautiful flower or delicious food for your table. Tending a garden also contributes to improving your own living space, the environment and our planet.

10. Garden for lasting memories.

Yards that once grew gardens have been replaced with hot tubs and driveways. Today’s kids are missing the joy of cutting a bouquet of flowers for their mom or tasting the sweetness of a cherry tomato picked right from the plant. Gardening is a fun activity that can be shared with children and grandchildren, even if the garden is a single container or small spot in the yard. And a garden provides a beautiful way to remember a special person or time of life.augsept09-028


The National Garden Bureau encourages you to discover your own reason to become a gardener. And forget that excuse about not having enough time. Gardening takes less time than that new television show and is much easier than getting a new video game to work on your computer. Whatever reason appeals to you, gardening is a satisfying activity that provides a lifetime of benefits.

We credit Janis Kieft as the author of this article.

Photos from the collection of Neil Moran

The possibilities offered by a few seed catalogs


I went through the seed catalogs for the first time today. It’s a spring ritual to sit down and seriously ponder the possibility that spring will arrive while choosing what I think will be the best tomatoes and peppers to start inside while the snow is still deep outside

It’s an easy decision. Celebrity tomato and New Ace peppers will make the cut for sure. They always do well in the short season zone and perhaps speak to the predictability I want for my own life. Control? That may be too powerful of a word. Let’s leave it at predictability. More like knowing each day the sun will come up–each year I’m pretty much assured I’ll have some red ripe tomatoes and a boat load of petite, but delicious bell peppers.

After I get that out of the way I can ease out of my comfort zone and look at some other possibilities. The possibility that other varieties of tomatoes and peppers may give good results as well, the possibility that maybe some day we really will get to spend a couple of months away from this snow and cold. Oh, the possibilities!

I like the possibilities that the seed catalogs hold for gardeners in the northern region. Like those new meaty egg plants from Burpees, Meatball Hybrid. Is there still be a possibility I can grow an eggplant here in the short zone 4 season?thumbnail With the weather trending toward an early spring this year and the possibility that I really will get that portable hoophouse up this year, it really could happen. Anything is possible.

There are many varieties of vegies that are possible to grow here in the north. Just make sure you do your homework and order or purchase varieties suitable to the region. Most of the root crops and lettuce greens do well, as do the cool tolerant cole crops, like cabbage and broccoli. Warm season crops like tomatoes and peppers and most of the vine crops will require a little more research on growing requirements. If you’re in the cool Upper Midwest make sure to order vine crops, like squash, pumpkin, and, watermelon, that require no more than 75 days to maturity, unless you have something like a hoophouse or low tunnel to extend the season.images (1)lowtunnel

Approximate dates to start the following crops indoors: tomatoes and peppers (March 15-April 1); cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce (April 1-April 31); Vine crops, cukes, squash, watermelon (April 15-May 15).

What plants can teach us

Humankind has explored the secrets of plants ever since a caveman saw a plant growing outside of his cave. We’ve discovered the culinary, medical, psychotropic, and the practical use of plants to make things like dyes and clothing from plants.Sprout Europe new3619_highres
However, we’ve largely ignored the life lessons that can be learned from plants. By their very nature plants can show us the way to patience, love, hope, perseverance, and even help guide us as we get older. At least that’s the premise of Gina Mohammed’s delightful little book, Catnip and Kerosene Grass.
Here are a few plants Mohammed talks about and the lessons she says they teach us about the world at large.

Islaya Cactus

The Islaya cactus lives in very dry deserts near the Pacific Ocean. Years may pass with very little rain, the plant surviving off the scant mists that reach it from the ocean. Yet it survives and occasionally even blooms with bright, yellow flowers. Mohammed says we have something to learn from the Islaya cactus: persevere, she says, when we experience our own drought of inspiration, ideas, and hope. Like the scant mist that sustains this cactus, we need to look for the smallest of signs of hope when times are tough.

Trees of the forest

A mature forest represents generations of growth, change and adaptation. Left to their own devices, trees can overcome the worst calamities without our intervention.
For example, after a fire or being clear-cut by loggers, seedlings of Jack pine, birch, and aspen quickly emerge. In the years ahead pine, spruce and hemlock will rise above the forest undergrowth of ferns, mosses, and the berries that offer food for wildlife.
You should take great pride in the contribution you’ve made to the generations that have followed you. Your solid advice, guidance, and giving spirit will help the next generation of men and women grow strong and tall.

Partridge pea

Out on the prairies there is a wildflower called the partridge pea. Though it has lovely bright yellow flowers, they are often hidden under foliage. It is also a sensitive plant; its leaves quickly fold when touched. Do you know people with these traits? They have a story to tell or a gift to give, but are reserved and shy. This person could be your grandchild or a neighbor. Perhaps if you take the time to listen to them they may well blossom.

Be kind and careful

Did you know that a plant can sense when it is being eaten? Scientists believe plants are capable of knowing when it is about to be munched on and raises its defenses accordingly. If we think about it, don’t we put up our defenses when our life is being threatened or when we simply want to be careful walking across a busy street? Take a cue from nature and become aware of your surroundings and be careful!

Kerosene grass

In the Australian outback there is a peculiar weed called kerosene grass, named for its extreme flammability when dry. An outback trick is to moisten its fruit in your mouth and then shove it part way into the sand. Immediately, it starts to swirl, burrowing the seed base into the ground. It does this by employing a clever method whereas stringy strands within the seed structure relax and unwind. This is an ingenious method of reseeding itself after a rain.
When our daily lives become very hectic do we sometimes work ourselves into a tizzy. When this happens let’s be like kerosene grass and unwind from all that stress.

Let’s learn to work together

Like Mohammed, Michael Pollan, author of Botany of Desire, moves beyond the obvious uses of plants and explores, what you might call the “plant psychic.” In a similar way to Mohammed, Pollan’s thoughts on plants transcend the status quo. He postulates in his book that we’re not the conquerors of the plant world like we think we are. In fact, plants actually manipulate us into propagating the species. In his book he writes about potatoes, apples, and cannabis and shows that these plant do their best to draw attention to themselves so we’ll not only keep growing them, but improve the species along the way. It seems to be working! Life lesson? Learn to let go, we’re not always in charge.

Neil Moran is a freelance writer/copywriter. His business website can be found at Green Industry Writer.