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This week in your Massachusetts garden & landscape

Week of December 18, 2017
  • Dahlias are related to Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus).  Dahlia tubers are edible, however, they don’t all taste good.  Some are bitter, some are bland and others have a sweet flavor with a crunchy texture or a mild flavor often compared to water chestnuts or celery.  The heirloom variety Dahlia pinnata ‘Yellow Gem’ is most often recommended for eating.  Grate or dice them into raw salads and slaws where the crisp apple texture and celery like flavor will shine.  They can also be grated for baked goods like muffins or breads.  Roast or boil the tubers and eat them like potatoes.  Add chunks of diced tubers to soups and stews.
  • Most often book lovers and gardeners go hand in hand.  A great book for the gardener on your gift list this holiday season is The Rose Rustlers by Greg Grant and William C. Welch.  The book is a master class in the methods and philosophy of collecting and preserving roses.  It offers details on everything from disease to propagation.
  • Houseplants grow and look their best if they are bathed and showered from time to time.  It is important to keep the leaves free of dust and grime.  When doing so, it is important to rinse the leaves above and below as well as the stems with water at room temperature or slightly warmer.  Set aside time to drain until dripping stops.  African violets bathed in this manner should not be placed in direct sunlight until the foliage is completely dry.
  • Prune a climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) just before growth begins by cutting back overly vigorous stems and shortening flowering stems that are growing too far out from the wall or other support.  Pruning also stimulates the growth of new shoots, on which flowers are borne.
  • Plant Paper Birch (Betula papyifera Marsh.) to invite the downy woodpecker, blue jay, tufted titmouse and American goldfinch to your landscape.  All of these birds find the branches of the paper birch excellent for cover.  All, but the downy woodpecker, find the seeds to be a nutritional food source too.
  • Calla lilies (Zantedeschia spp.), caladiums, and elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta) contain oxalate crystals that can pierce cell walls in the mouth and throat causing pain and swelling.

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