A Trip to Seed Savers Heritage Farm

Posted by Jordan | Tuesday, July 29, 2008 | , | 3 comments »

This past Saturday, Annah and I drove down to the Seed Savers Heritage Farm near Decorah, Iowa. Seed Savers is an organization that is dedicated to collecting, growing, and preserving heirloom seeds so that the genetic diversity of all plants can be maintained. I have been visiting Seed Savers for probably somewhere around 15 years, and they have a nice store (the barn you see in the second picture above), beautiful gardens, and a fantastic collection of plants.

Information about the Seed Saver's Preservation Gardens:
"More than 24,000 rare vegetable varieties are being permanently maintained at Heritage Farm, including 4,000 traditional varieties from Eastern Europe and Russia. About 10% of each crop is grown every summer, on a 10-year rotation, to grow fresh seed for the collections. Each summer up to 2,000 varieties are multiplied in 35 certified organic gardens (500 varieties of tomatoes, 500 beans, 125 peppers, etc.) that cover about 24 acres. Colorful display gardens beside the barn feature old-time flowers, vegetables and herbs that are especially rich in cultural history." 1
We spent a while in the store carefully picking through the bags of seeds and discussing what delightful plants we could grow in our yard next year. It was fun trying to plan out next year's flower garden and vegetable garden! After purchasing ten bags of seeds, which included tomatoes, snow peas, cucumber, spinach, arugula, borage, morning glory seeds, chrysanthemums, hollyhocks, and silverbeets. we then went out and walked through one of their small gardens where we took some photos of flowers and had a fun time!

Seed Savers also has an Historic Orchard:
"In 1900 there were about 8,000 named varieties of apples in the U.S., but the vast majority are already extinct and the rest are steadily dying out. In an attempt to halt this constant genetic erosion, SSE has obtained all of the pre-1900 varieties that still exist in government collections and large private collections, but has only found about 700 that remain of the 8,000 known in 1900. SSE has developed the most diverse, public orchard in the U.S. where those 700 different varieties of 19th century apples are on display. SSE’s Historic Orchard also contains many old grapes, including more than 100 breeding lines from the collection of famed grape breeder Elmer Swenson." 1

There are also Ancient White Park Cattle:
"These cattle roamed the British Isles before the time of Christ, and are described exactly in ancient Celtic lore. Today only about 800 of these extremely rare, wild cattle survive worldwide, including slightly more than 200 in the U.S. (and about 80 of those reside at Heritage Farm). These distinctive cattle have white coats, lyre-shaped horns with black tips, and black ears, noses, eyes, teats and hooves (and sometimes black is splashed from the hooves up the front shins toward the knees). The cows are intelligent, alert, quite hardy, healthy, and are aggressive grazers that favor brush." 1

I have had the pleasure of seeing the preservation gardens and the historic orchard, whereas Annah has only seen a fraction of the preservation gardens and not the historic orchard. I have not yet seen the Ancient White Park Cattle on the farm, but I plan to one of these days.

If any of you are in Northeast Iowa and have some free time then you should check out the Seed Savers Heritage Farm!


1From http://www.seedsavers.org/heritagefarm.asp

White Hollyhock (Alcea Rosea)

Posted by Jordan | Thursday, July 24, 2008 | , , | 1 comments »

I found this Hollyhock out in the garden last night and I think I've identified it as an Alcea rosea 'Chater's Double Icicle', which is a pure white hollyhock with a somewhat ruffled appearance. The plant, however, did not have a label on it so I cannot be sure of the exact type of Hollyhock. It is currently the only blossom on the plant.

These Morning Glory (Ipomoea tricolor 'Heavenly Blue') flowers, with their deep and intoxicating blue color, are yet another one of my favorite flowers out in the garden. While this plant isn't blooming profusely at the moment, the blossoms that it does have are simply amazing.

Garden Tour Flowers

Posted by Jordan | Wednesday, July 23, 2008 | , , , | 1 comments »

Last week Annah and I, along with my mother, toured four gardens in the Annual Garden Tour around town. Each garden was beautiful and each one had ideas which both Annah and I and my parents can implement into our own gardens. We didn't really take that many pictures, mostly due to the fact that it was very crowded, but we were able to snap a few pictures during the tour.

The first picture (to the right) is a tomato plant that has been trained to climb up single pole, which is far different from the way we have been growing our tomatoes. Usually we just plant the tomatoes and then place a metallic cage around them. When the plant branches out and gets really heavy this metal cage holds them up and allows for easy access to the tomatoes. Using a single pole instead allows you to train the tomato plant to grow up the pole by pinching off the branches that aren't from the main branch. This allows for what seems like a more efficient growing method for growing tomatoes. Unfortunately, our tomato plants are already too far along to implement this method this year, but we will definitely be trying it next year.

In the next picture, if you click on it to see a larger version of it, you will see three different varieties of Lilies. The first Lily starting from the left is a dark pink variety with white mixed in, the second Lily next to that is a plain pink one, and the last one in the back is a stunning dark red color. We will definitely have to purchase some of these because they are simply magnificent!

I've always liked Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) for some reason, and at the last garden we saw a beautiful plant with a few blossoms on it. In our own gardens we have yet to plant any Foxgloves, but it is on the list of things to be planted. Regardless, I took two pictures (see below) of the pink Foxgloves. Enjoy!

I'm not sure of the identity of the last plant that I photographed (below), but it is a beautiful flower and as soon as we find out the identity we will need to add it to our list of flowers to grow! Update: While researching hollyhocks tonight I found out that this flower is a Malva sylvestris 'Zebrina' or "French Hollyhock" so now we can officially add it to the list!

Stevia Rebaudiana - A Natural Sweetener

Posted by Jordan | Wednesday, July 16, 2008 | , | 1 comments »

I purchased two of these wonderful plants last month from one of the local garden stores. The Stevia Rebaudiana plant is an herb that is used as an alternative for sugar as a sweetener. Annah and I have so far only eaten some of the leaves raw, taken right off the plant, and they are very sweet with a little bit of an herbal flavor. Next, we will be experimenting with brewing some of the leaves as a tea. Refined Stevia extracts and dried Stevia powder are extremely sweet and can be used in cooking. It is also beneficial to eat because it contains practically no calories when consumed.

Our Stevia Rebaudiana have grown quite a bit in the recent weeks with the sunny, 80-90 degree, and humid weather that we have been having. We expect to have them outside until the cold weather returns at which time we will try to winter them indoors, which is supposed to be relatively easy with Stevia Rebaudiana.

Some other interesting facts that I found out about Stevia in this article at Stevia.com are:

  • Stevia Rebaudiana is an herb in the Chrysanthemum family which grows wild as a small shrub in parts of Paraguay and Brazil. The glycosides in its leaves, including up to 10% Stevioside, account for its incredible sweetness, making it unique among the nearly 300 species of Stevia plants.

  • There are indications that Stevia (or Ca-he-he) has been used to sweeten a native beverage called mate since Pre-Columbian times. However, a Natural Scientist names Antonio Bertoni first recorded its usage by native tribes in 1887.

  • ...Two tests conducted by Purdue University's Dental Science Research Group have concluded that Stevioside is both fluo-ride compatible and "significantly" inhibits the development of plaque, thus Stevia may actually help to prevent cavities.

  • Stevia does not caramelize as sugar does. Meringues may also be difficult since Stevia does not brown or crystalize as sugar does.

  • [The future for Stevia is bright] as long as the gene stock of the Native Paraguay Stevia Rebaudiana species is preserved in the wild. Overharvesting and foreign transplantation has depleted this stock which contains the greatest possible gene diversity, essential to the strength and continuance of the species.
The last point is interesting because the fact that I purchased this from a garden store that had to at some point remove it from its native habitat, I am in some way contributing to the decline of the genetic diversity of Stevia Rebaudiana. I did not intend this since I wish to help protect and promote the biodiversity of every living plant and animal on Earth.

As long as the natural genetic diversity can be maintained in Paraguay, I recommend that all of you grow this wonderful plant on your own!

Pretty Flowers in July

Posted by Jordan | Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | , , , , | 0 comments »

I was going to post today about two of my peperomia plants that were flowering, but when I went to take a picture of my newest plant, a Peperomia 'Golden Gate', the flower fell off and I decided that I'll have to wait to take some more pictures of my houseplants. I still wanted to type up a quick post so I went outside and found several plants in bloom that were not blooming before. Below are the pictures that I took. Enjoy!

Monarda fistuloa L. var. mollis ("Bee Balm")

Monarda fistuloa L. var. mollis ("Bee Balm")

Asclepias tuberosa ("Butterfly Weed")

My Eldest Sister's Garden

Posted by Jordan | Thursday, July 10, 2008 | , , , | 0 comments »

Alissa, who is my eldest sister, and her boyfriend have an enormous garden this year. This is the second year that she and her boyfriend have embarked upon having their own large garden on the land which her boyfriend owns. Last year they had a smaller garden with tomatoes, beans, lettuce, kohlrabi, squash, cucumbers, melons, and such. This year, with the larger garden, they have tomatoes, sweet corn, field corn, onions, potatoes, peppers, lettuce, swiss chard, beets, carrots, beans, cucumbers, squash, melons, radishes, and apples. Once all of the fruits and vegetables are ready, my niece and nephew will be selling a lot of it at their own Farmer's Market Stand at the business her boyfriend owns, and if Annah and I get the chance to go help pick and sell the produce we will be happy to help!

My parent's vegetable garden is very bland compared with Alissa's massive garden since we only have tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, and some peppers.

I will continue to post more pictures as the gardens continue to grow!

Enjoy the pictures below!

Photo Credits: Alissa (my sister)

Sansevieria Blooming

Posted by Jordan | Monday, July 07, 2008 | , , | 1 comments »

I was quite surprised last week when I noticed my Sansevieria at work was sending up new growth. I thought someone had placed some sort of fake plant in between some of the flowers, but upon further inspection I noticed that it was indeed part of my sansevieria. The flowers themselves are delicate and definitely add a bit of zest to a otherwise somewhat bland plant. If you look at the picture above you might think that the office setting is too dark for this plant, but it is just the flash of my camera that made the office appear quite a bit darker than it actually is. Take a look at the pictures further down in the post to get a better idea of the lighting in the office.

This specific plant was purchased back in January at Lowe's with on of their $10 off any houseplant coupon, which was distributed by Learn2Grow, which in the end I only owed the tax for the plant. Unfortunately, on the drive from the store to my work some of the tips were exposed to the harsh winter cold air, since some of the tips were closed in the door and I did not realize this until we arrived back at the office.

Out of the three Sansevierias that we own, this is the only plant that is flowering. All of the plants receive about 14-16 hours of fluorescent light per day and each are watered once per week. The humidity at work is most likely a little lower than the humidity at the house where the other two are growing, so it is unclear what condition specifically allowed for this Sansevieria to bloom and not the others. In any case, these flowers are pretty and we hope to see the other Sansevierias bloom someday!