Photos by Rebecca Ballew
Today I had to put a note of caution on the greenhouse door, warning people about the baby Cardinal birds roaming around on the greenhouse floor. Each year a Cardinal pair raises a clutch of anywhere from 1-4 babies in the greenhouse. They often come back to the same nest each year too. Just today, the babies awkwardly flew out of their nest, and they’re simply driving their poor parents crazy. The parents are noticeably anxious. The babies can sort of fly up about a foot into the air, but then they land very awkwardly. Their wing feathers are still growing, and their color is dark gray so they’re had to see. They chirp constantly though, so you may not see them right away, but you can really hear them. The parents can fly in and out of the greenhouse through the open vents, and because of this they have been bringing the babies food all day from the outside
This fragrant plant can grow in very dry soil in full sun, making it a great rock garden plant. Its common name is rose verbena and you can find it blooming right now along road sides, rocky bluffs, prairies, glades and sunny hillsides all over Missouri. Its sprawling low-growing habit lends itself to being used as a ground cover in rock gardens. It does spread and will take over an area (not quite like mint though). The flower color is simly stunning. From rose to purple shades.
Check out the Tucker greenhouse rock garden located on the north side of the Tucker greenhouse.
Dirca palustris, commonly called Leatherwood or Eastern Leatherwood, is found in the Thymelaeaceae family. This sweet little native Missouri deciduous shrub is blooming right now right outside of the Tucker greenhouse. It typically blooms from March to April, but the flowers are so tiny, one could easily miss them blooming in the woods. The flowers are pale yellow and about a centimeter long. This sweet little shrub prefers to grow in part shade to full shade. It blooms before the leaves emerge. After the flowers are pollinated, they produce a green drupe fruit (fleshy fruit with one seed).
The genus name comes from the Greek word for fountain. The species name means ‘marsh-loving’. This plant does prefer a moist habitat near streams, or rich bottomland.
The Tucker Greenhouse has its share of ‘critters’, but right now there is a ‘bloom’ of these nasty whitefly insects, AND they are slowly defoliating a large Ficus tree in one of the tropical greenhouses. They seem to like certain plants better than others too. They love feeding on members of the Araceae, and Moraceae plant families in particular.
For a great description of whiteflies and the havoc they can wreak on plants, see the following from Planet Natural, a research center for organic gardeners…
The Curry Tree or Curry Leaf plant is very fragrant. The flowers are fragrant, the leaves are fragrant, the whole plant is simply fragrant! This tropical plant is native to the moist forests of south Asia. The fresh leaves of the plant are used as a flavoring in Indian/Asian cuisine.
For more information on the use of the Curry Leaf plant please check out http://kurma.net/essays/e8.html
The Tucker Greenhouse Curry Leaf plant is located in the main hallway at the entrance to the greenhouse. When you find it, feel free to gently pull off a small leaf and crush it in your hands, or simply smell the flowers. The aroma is tantalizing. If these flowers produce seeds, I’ll be planting them a.s.a.p.
The genus name Murraya, pays honor to Johann Andreas Murray, a Swedish professor of medicine and botany in the 1700’s.
The ginger lily in the tropical room has just begun to bloom. It typically blooms in February in the Tucker Greenhouse. If you’d like to find it, go in to the room with the pond and look just west of the deepest pond. You’ll see several ginger inflorescences filled with whitish, yellow & orange orchid-like flowers.