Have you tried growing Castor Bean?
It's one of Michael Pollen's favorite plants.
Check out the way he starts his article on the plant called, "Consider the Castor Bean", :
"Pretty they are not, but a garden can labor under a surfeit "sur·fuht" of prettiness, be too sweet or cheerful for its own good. Sometimes what’s needed in the garden is a hint of vegetal menace, of nature run tropically, luxuriantly amuck. For this I recommend the castor bean."
While most of us have heard of castor oil (extracted by crushing and processing the seeds), growing the castor bean plant can be a new adventure for gardeners.
The castor bean plant is the only member of the genus Ricinus communis and belongs to the spurge family. Unlike other members of the euphorbia family, castor bean does not have that milky latex sap, the sap of castor bean is watery.
The giant, tropical leaves and peculiar seed pods make the plant an exotic addition to your garden. A native plant from Ethiopia, castor bean can grow to 40 feet tall when it can grow year round. For most gardeners who grow castor bean as an annual in a single season, castor bean will grow quickly and vigorously but it will only reach about 8-10 feet.
If you grow castor bean, you need to be aware that the seeds are extremely poisonous. If you have kids around, keep plants out of reach and eliminate seeds altogether by cutting off the flowering spike. As you probably suspected from the latin name, the toxin in castor seeds is ricin (RYE-sin), one of the world's deadliest natural poisons.
During the Cold War, the Bulgarian journalist, Georgi Markov, was killed when an umbrella rigged as a pellet rifle, shot a small BB into his leg as Markov stood in line at a bus stop. After he died in 1978, Scotland Yard investigated and found the BB; it was the size of a pinhead and it had been drilled with two holes producing an X-shaped cavity and the holes had been packed with ricin. The holes had been coated with a sugary substance which trapped the ricin inside the BB. The coating was designed to melt at body temperature, at which time the ricin was free to be absorbed into the bloodstream and kill him.
Despite their unnerving history, castor beans are still good garden plants. They look beautiful with cannas, bananas and elephant ears for a tropical garden. They make a wonderful backdrop for grasses. And, they shine at the back of the flower border where they create a magnificent screen in no time.
Castor Beans do best in full sun and they don't like wet feet - so plant them high and dry or in well drained locations.
#OTD It’s the birthday of Emily Brontë who was born on this day in 1818.
Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature's sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart, how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown.
#OTD It’s the birthday of Ellis Rowan, who was a well-known Australian artist and botanical illustrator, born on this day in 1848.
"She was an explorer. She set off alone at 68, for Papua New Guinea - who died in 1922. She dyed her hair red; had a face-lift; left her husband (the suggestion is that she was bored); was a member of one of Victoria's great pastoralist families; was a much-admired, prolific, technically proficient and joyous painter of plants and birds; and a conservationist she campaigned to stop the slaughter of birds for the decoration of ladies' hats... in her day she was known as "Australia's brilliant daughter" which, indeed, she was."
#OTD And it was on this day in 1901 that the General assembly of Arkansas selected the apple blossom as the floral emblem.
"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it."
- Russel Baker
"Dirty hands, iced tea, garden fragrances thick in the air and a blanket of color before me,
who could ask for more?"
- Bev Adams, Mountain Gardening
Gertrude Jekyll was one of the most influential garden designers of the early 20th century. This wonderful book explores her life and work at the home she created for herself at Munstead Wood in England.
The book is a fantastic collection of all things Jekyll; her writings and photographs, as well as personal accounts from friends and acquaintances.
Today's Garden Chore
When you are done harvesting blackberries or boysenberries, it is time to do a little housekeeping.
Cut this years fruit bearing canes back to the ground and tie up the new green canes to take their place.
Reviving the little botanic spark in your heart
It was on this day in 1932 that Walt Disney premiered his first academy award winning animated cartoon.
The short was called "Flowers and Trees" and it was the first cartoon to use technicolor.
Thanks for listening to the daily gardener,
"For a happy, healthy life, garden every day."
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SI HORTUM IN HORTORUM PODCASTUM IN BIBLIOTEHCA HABES, NIHIL DEERIT.