Easy to Grow Amaranth is New Again

amaranthus caudatus.jpg

The only place I would see these plants back in the ’70s was in gardens tended by old ladies.  Plants oddly named love-lies-bleeding are annuals bearing long magenta red tassels that dangle from huge plants related to pigweed amaranth, a common pest in my own garden. Old fashioned love-lies-bleeding is an ornamental Amaranth. Long before the advent of corn, tiny black amaranth seed was a vital grain, and it is still a common food crop in Latin America.  This plant bears a remarkable cultural history but today is known far better by flower arrangers than market gardeners.  It’s beauty is truly unique, and quite striking fresh cut or when dried.  Nearly as easy to grow as pigweed, all the amaranths are grown from seed. New Amaranthus ‘Dreadlocks’ is exclusive to Park Seed. I found a great selection in the Park Seed catalog (see Cool Links) including an exciting new variety this year known as ‘Dreadlocks’.  It’s a combination of features from older amaranth strains with the form of love-lies-bleeding combined with the dense flower clusters of both candelabra and elephant head varieties.  Vivid magenta coloring is also unique, with its predecessors primarily ruby red or orange. Upright amaranths sold as ‘Elephant Head’ or ‘Candelabra’ in front of a golden colored love-lies bleeding. Amaranth love heat and sun, making a great addition to your summer vegetable plot.  You can use the blossoms fresh cut, dried, or harvest for the black seed you prepare much like popcorn.  Plus, the new tender leaves of amaranth are also edible and an old time salad or pot green.  If you don’t know about amaranth, try ‘Dreadlocks’ or sow different Park Seed varieties for comparison and enjoy the fun of this really cool, ancient plant. 

Free Holiday Craft and Decor at MoPlants.com

holiday_half5.jpg

We’re excited to offer you so many new free features at MoPlants.com.  Our ideas, images and inspiration will keep you crafting and decorating all through this wonderful holiday season. Discover two new albums at our Free Graphics Gallery http://www.moplants.com/gallery2/main.php Handmade Digital Botanical Greeting Cards Just this week we’ve posted handmade cards I created using free botanical images I downloaded from the Internet.  I’m using exotic hand made papers and stamps plus real plant stuff to create mixed media beauty.  Christmas Card Botanical Graphics  I scoured the best archives to bring you a collection of beautiful vintage botanical pictures suitable for your card making efforts.  This saves many hours of hunting down the best images for winter greetings.  Evergreens and poinsettia can be printed out at any size you wish to fit the blank card of your choice.  Feel free to download and use any of these pictures free of charge.   Learn how to decorate with plants, handcraft gifts, and create beautiful botanical theme projects with our beautiful free eBooks.  http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php Holiday Gifts & Decorating Ideas from the Crafter’s Garden This full color eBook will be your guide to decorating with cheap or free plant materials from garden or wild places.  There’s even a recipe for rose hip jam!      Online Botanical Illustrations: A Treasure Trove of Free Images for Digital Crafts  Turn on to the wealth of beautiful botanical art through this handy guide to the best of the digital archives.  Learn how to hunt for images, store and use them for all sorts of crafts using your color printer. http://www.moplants.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc      

Discover Winter Woodland Fungi With Children

fungi 2.JPG

“On the wreck of the year they flourished, sucked strange life from rotten stick and hollow tree, opened gills on lofty branch and bough, shown in the green grass rings of meadows.” As a botany student in the rain-forests north of San Francisco, my greatest epiphany was the discovery of the kingdom of fungi.  I became fascinated with a little known, yet beautiful world which flourishes during winter in this region.  The continuous rot of damp forests is what feeds them.  The ghosts of old growth redwood and cedar trees lying beneath blankets of moss are their haunts, clues of their existence are fruiting bodies appearing on the outside aligned like flat shelves in a pantry. These are but a small part of the massive fungal family which are actually an odd symbiotic mix of two separate organisms inhabiting the same body.  The shelf is nothing more than a fruiting body of a much larger organism hidden inside the decaying wood.  This web-like network of living fibers known as mycelium may spread throughout the entire rotten tree or log, working its magic to decompose the cellulose.  Some mycelium are capable of amazingly rapid growth, putting on up to a kilometer of mycelium in 24 hours when conditions are just right.  On the undersides of the shelves are microscopic spores ready for easy release into the damp forest floor. During the rainy season the shelves grow thick and highly colorful, standing out like bright blossoms in the darkest part of the forest.  During the following dry season they will wither and nearly disappear from view as they wait for the rains to come again. With a better understanding of the world of shelf fungi, walking in the woods, particularly with children is a whole new experience.  Back in those learning days I ceased to focus on the living trees and ferns and began searching out the dark corners of the forest.  There I would find fruiting bodies of all kinds of fungi and lichens, mushrooms, slime molds and a dozen other forms.  There I found neon-hues standing bright in the darkness, and a whole world of exotic life forms overlooked by all but the botanically minded.

Easy Handmade Digital Botanical Christmas Card

Christmas card.jpg

There’s something really cool about combining high tech digital images with low tech naturalistic materials.  Maybe it’s that yin and yang thing that balances out the forces of the universe to achieve harmony! At the MoPlants.com Photo Gallery we’ve posted a collection of holiday inspired botanical images from the Illustrated Garden collection at the Missouri Botanical Garden Library.  Below is a card I made in minutes that combines hand made Lokta paper from Tibet with a vintage botanical image printed by a standard desktop photo printer.   How To Make This Card Blank red card approx 4 to 5 inches by 6 to 7 inches tall. Stick glue or photo mounting stickers. Medium letter rubber stamps Gold pigment (not ink) stamp pad. Color printer and mat photo paper. Step 1  Log on to the Free Graphics Gallery at MoPlants.com to access the botanical image or use this link to go directly to the album   http://www.moplants.com/gallery2/v/Christmas+Cards/ Step 2   Save the first image for this card or select from the other holiday card image options. Step 3  Print the card on mat photo paper at a size that allows at least 1/2 inch on top and sides, and 1 inch clear on the bottom for the lettering.  Tip:  Print a number of them on each sheet using print package features in the software to save on expensive photo paper. Step 4  Cut out the print using scissors or flat bed paper cutter. Step 5  Position and glue the print to the face of the card.  Tip: You can slide it into the pages of a book for a few hours to ensure the adhesive is secure before adding message – less chance of dislodging it. Step 6  Use your stamps to print PEACE across the bottom in gold. Step 7  Optional:  Print your holiday greeting onto semitransparent vellum, cut it out and fix onto the inside of the card.  For more holiday decorating, crafts and card ideas, download our free eBooks: http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php 

The Sun and The Inca

guatamala peppers.JPG

To the entire world I give my light and my radiance, I give men warmth when they are cold; I cause their fields to fructify and their cattle to multiply; each day that passes I go around the world to secure a better knowledge of men’s needs and to satisfy those needs.  –Inca Myth

Mighty Temple of Trees

woods.JPG

Does a man bare his head in some old church?  So did I, standing in the shadow of this regal tree, and looking up into that completed glory, at which three hundred years have been at work with noiseless fingers!  What was I in its presence but a grasshopper?    My heart said: “I may not call thee property, and that property mine!  Thou art the child of summer.  Though art the the mighty temple where birds praise God.  Thou belongest to no man’s hand, but to all men’s eyes that do love beauty, and that have learned through beauty to behold God!  –Henry Ward Beecher, A Discourse On Trees, 1893

Free Botanical Illustrations for Christmas Cards

holiday_half3.jpg

Announcing: Free MoPlants.com Christmas Card Botanical Graphics! For all you holiday crafters out there who love plants and gardens, I’ve added a fun new feature to MoPlants.com.  We’ve saved you the hassle of working through the online archives to find great looking images for your holiday greeting cards.  In the MoPlants Photo Gallery, the Christmas Card Botanical Graphics album now contains 10 beautiful botanical images, line drawings and vintage holiday photos. http://www.moplants.com/gallery2/v/Christmas+Cards/ You can download any or all of these pictures for your card projects.  Once in your computer, be sure to increase the dpi so your print out is high quality and well detailed.  These images print very well onto mat photo paper, but you can also use regular paper in a color printer.    For more holiday decor, gift and card ideas, download our free eBooks chock full of  detailed instruction and plenty of inspiration.  Holidays are all about crafting and at MoPlants.com, so we’ve made it easy to save money by making your own creations that warm the heart and embody the essence of this wonderful season. Holiday Gifts and Decorating Ideas from the Crafter’s Garden http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php Online Botanical Illustrations: A Treasure Trove of FREE Images for Digital Crafts http://www.moplants.com/eBooks.php