Thursday, May 18, 2017

They don't call it Prickly Pear for nothin'.

Opuntia ficus-indica (aka Smooth Mountain Prickly Pear, Indian Fig, Mission Cactus, Tuberous Prickly Pear, Nopal) is a perennial, evergreen cactus probably native to Mexico, but is found growing in many arid, warmer climates around the world. It grows from 4 to 20 feet tall, depending on growing conditions. It forms clumps of flattened pads, which are actually modified stems. Its pads are medium to grayish green. Clusters of sharp hairs known as glochids appear on the pads. The flowers are bright yellow, lasting for only one day. Fruit is pear-shaped, fleshy, and purple when mature. The pulp is reddish-purple with tiny, brownish seeds.
Opuntia ficus-indica fruit
 Opuntia likes dry, well-drained, and sandy to rocky soil. It prefers full sun, tolerates heat and some cold, and will take some light shade.

The plant is cultivated for its fruits and pads which are used for food, medicine, condiments and beverages. Foods include nopalitos, prickly pear honey, prickly pear cheese, colonche – a fermented drink. Medicinal uses are said to include tea for kidney disease, flower paste for measles, and cancer treatment.

Prickly Pear has also been used for cattle feed. Large hedge-rows have been used for fencing, marking boundaries, and discouraging intruders.

Name(s): Opuntia ficus-indica, Smooth Mountain Prickly Pear, Indian Fig, Mission Cactus, Tuberous Prickly Pear, Nopal

Flower Color: Yellow.

Bloom Time: Spring

Foliage: Succulent, paddle/pear-shaped modified stems.

Height/Spread: 4 feet to 20 feet x 5 to 10 feet.

Climate Zones: 8, 9, 10

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.

Soil Condition: Well-drained to dry, pH 6.1 to 7.7

Features: Drought tolerant, sculptural form, large yellow flowers, edible fruit and foliage.

Uses: Xeriscaping, succulent gardens, edible gardens, medicinal gardens, rock gardens, home security.

Comments: When planted as a hedge, Prickly Pear makes one helluva barrier against intruders. Planted around the home they are superb for homeland security.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Ten Simple Landscaping Ideas for Home/Land Security

Homeland security is in the news every day, but the problems seem so far away. Beside, we never expect violence in our own backyards.  

Don’t think it can’t happen to you. According to the FBI “there were an estimated 1,579,527 burglaries in 2015. Burglaries of residential properties accounted for 71.6 percent of all burglary offenses. Victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.6 billion in property losses in 2015. The average dollar loss per burglary offense was $2,316.”

Most residential burglaries happen during the day when homeowners are away. There are more break-ins during summer months. The majorities are forced entry, but unlocked windows and doors make it easier.

Top items targeted are cash, electronics, jewelry, medications, firearms, tools, liquor, documents that facilitate identity theft, cars, bikes and such.

That’s scary. But did you know there are simple landscaping steps you can take to improve your home security against intruders?

Here are ten safety precautions:

1.      Choose low-growing foundation and border shrubs.
2.      Use thorny plants for hedges, near windows and entrances.
3.      Prune foundation shrubs to 3 feet high.
4.      Avoid planting tall shrubs near garage and other entrances.
5.      Avoid planting trees next to the house.
6.      Do not construct sturdy trellises near the house that could be climbed.
7.      Lock up ladders and tools that could be used to gain entry.
8.      Use small gravel near the foundation to make noise when stepped upon.
9.      Make sure you provide a clear view of your house from the road.
10.  Install night lighting around your home.

Keep these ideas in mind to make your home a safer place for yourself and your family.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Japanese Aralia Is Very Satisfying

Japanese Aralia - Fatsia japonica

Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) might have had Ara the Beautiful, King of Armenia (c. 800 BC) in mind when he named Aralia. According to ancient legend, Ara was so desirable that Queen Semiramis of Assyria wanted him madly. She must have been quite a woman. Many cultural advances of ancient Persia were ascribed to her. Nevertheless, Ara preferred his wife, so refused her advances. Furious, she declared war on Armenia to capture him alive. Alas, Ara died in battle. Semiramis remained semi-satisfied.

Flowers of Japanese Aralia
Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica), a member of the Araliaceae family including other awesome plants, is also known as Fatsia. It is big, bold, glossy and handsome. Large, palmate (like the palm of a hand), evergreen leaves with wide lobes (like fat fingers) lend an exotic appearance to the landscape. Foliage may be deep green to variegated, depending upon the variety. Small white flowers in big umbel (umbrella-like) clusters appear late fall to early winter. Japanese Aralia may grow to 18 feet, though the average mature height is around 8 feet.

Japanese Aralia can be grown in partial shade to full shade in Zones 7 to 9.  Gardeners in Zone 7 should plant it in a protected area and provide extra mulch during winter. Gardeners in Georgia’s higher elevations can easily grow it indoors for its handsome foliage. Loamy, well-drained soil with pH ranging from 6.1 to 7.8 is best. Pests and diseases are few, and usually of little concern. Plants are drought-tolerant when established and deer-resistant. For a bold, beautiful appearance in your southern landscape, Japanese Aralia is very satisfying.

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