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review 2018-01-08 23:05
Intriguing Ideas
Niki Jabbour's Veggie Garden Remix: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun - Niki Jabbour

Tired of planting the same old thing in your garden? You know, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, etc. It can get boring, year after year. The author identifies 238 new things to plant to "spice up" your garden. For example, instead of tomatoes, try cape gooseberries, or ground cherries. Instead of the same old spuds, try Jerusalem artichokes. She goes on to identify alternatives for tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, snap beans, arugula, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, radishes, onions, and peppers.
The book has beautiful photographs. The writing is clear, and the descriptions can be mouth watering.
I, personally, have been gardening for 50 years, and am looking forward to attempting a good many of these this year, and in years to come.

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review 2017-10-04 08:44
100 Plants That Almost Changed the World
100 Plants That Almost Changed the World - Chris Beardshaw

First let me get the major problem out of the way:


The title totally lies.  At best... 93.  Nettles have four separate entries and at least one other plant has 2.  There's an entry that covers the invention of the lawn mower.  While most can be argued to have had significant enough impact to fall under "almost changed the world", some, like entry #1, fail to impress (although it does have the impressive name of "Fishy Goatsbeard", which, in my opinion, is a different kind of impressive).


Aside from those things, the book is gorgeous.  Richly illustrated and easy to read it was chock full of interesting tidbits about different plants - not all of them the obvious run-of-mill plants, like roses, you'd expect (see Fishy Goatsbeard).  The author is definitely a big fan of Stinging Nettle.  Personally, I'm going to be googling bilberry jam when I'm finished writing this and quite a few of the plants I have in my garden have taken on a whole new importance.  MT's dislike of my tansy plant has lost all ammunition and I'll definitely be looking for a mother-in-law's tongue this weekend.


Die hard gardeners might not enjoy it as much as I did; it's not an in-depth exploration of any plant, but merely several paragraphs of highlights, but for the enthusiastic, avid, or newbie gardener, I think the book would be a treat.  Just don't pay any attention to the title.

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review 2017-05-02 07:19
How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do - Linda Chalker-Scott

This is a good beginner book for any gardener (no matter how inexperienced or experienced) to read.  The author discusses the science behind plant growth and gardening techniques in an accessible manner that does not require a biology degree.  She also explains the workings (or lack thereof) behind some gardening myths.  This book explains how plants work - it is NOT a plant identification guide.


A more detailed book that explains how plants work is: Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon (third edition).

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review 2016-10-13 00:00
Flora Mirabilis: How Plants Have Shaped World Knowledge, Health, Wealth, and Beauty (National Geographic)
Flora Mirabilis: How Plants Have Shaped World Knowledge, Health, Wealth, and Beauty (National Geographic) - Catherine H. Howell This is a really pretty book with a lot of good information. However, the way it is organised is awkward and frustrating. One page will be in the middle of a sentence, then the next couple pages will be about something else entirely, then continue on where it left off. It makes no sense to make a book like that.
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text 2016-05-11 21:06
Darwin Used to Feed Raw Meat to Plants



Dionaea or Venus flytraps are carnivorous plants. It is also the name of a band. This article, Venus Flytrap Carnivorous Lifestyle Builds on Herbivore Defense Strategies, says some interesting things about them. However, first here is a handy page about how to grow them. My favorite part:


“If the plant is not catching its own food, it needs to be fed in the traps with live insects, rehydrated dried blood worms, or other kinds of fish food high in insect-derived protein that can be conveniently rehydrated. If you use dead food, the traps need to be massaged to stimulate full closure and digestion.”


In fact, this page even has pictures:


Today's special: rehydrated dried blood worms


Other carnivorous species you crazy kids might be growing!


While this place sells different clones!


The interesting parts from the article are as follows:

1. Darwin used to open flytraps and tempt them with raw meat to see how the trap worked. He found out that it closed slowly and then started to secrete digestive enzymes.


2. This is where things get even more awesome. The first time an insect triggers the trap via mechano-electric stimulation of the hair on the trap, it activates the “poised to capture” mode. If the trigger is re-elicited within 20 seconds, the trap closes fast, capturing the prey. The struggling insect hits the trigger repeatedly and after five or so hits, its fate is sealed. Digestion begins!



3. The plant is mechano-smart enough to suss out the size and juiciness of the prey by the times it triggers the hair on the trap! It is smart enough to recognize chitin between its paws er jaws er leaves (part of the insect exoskeleton) and increase its enzyme secretion by a thousand-fold.



4. What links the carnivorous plants with non-carnivorous ones is that hair stimulation in the former causes the biosynthesis of a chemical that is induced by herbivory and wounding in the latter. Hence, the author’s conclusion that “Dionaea re-wires defense responses known from non-carnivorous plants in order to operate its carnivorous lifestyle.”



5. What is too bad is that all this insect-munching costs the plants metabolism-wise. The cost it extracts is in the form of growth inhibition.


6. Lastly, as soon as the digestion of insect-scrumptiousness begins, the resultant goodies are applied towards growing new capture organs and those organs, only!


I leave you now with the Great Slug that defied the odds and slithered itself to freedom!



Source: genome.cshlp.org/content/early/2016/04/28/gr.202200.115.full.pdf
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