Articles

Image Caribbean Cruise (November 19 to December 2, 2014)
By Larry Rettig on December 7, 2014

None of the words I can think of adequately describe the fabulous time we had! We spent our first two days on Florida's Gold Coast in Ft. Lauderdale Beach. Our room was located directly on the beach, which was just a few steps from our door. Please click on photos to enlarge and to view the entire photo.

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Image Blizzard!
By Larry Rettig on January 7, 2014

As a large portion of our nation continues to face dangerous winter weather, I'm reminded of a similar time here in Iowa in the early 1980s.

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Image My I-380 Garden
By Larry Rettig on January 4, 2014

It was a warm evening in May, in fact the third warm evening in a row, when the phone rang just before dark. It was our daughter, Robin, calling to inquire about her window air conditioner. My wife and I had stored it for her in our attic during the off-season, and she allowed as how it was getting rather warm in her apartment. Could I please come and install her air conditioner? Being the ever dutiful and doting parent, I responded, “Of course!”

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Image Looking Beyond the Garden: What Came Before the Big Bang?
By Larry Rettig on July 7, 2013

This article concludes the series, "Looking Beyond the Garden." As we’ve seen in two of the previous articles, a tiny portion of something exploded into space and grew to an enormous size. It created a universe of matter and energy, from which grew nebulas, stars, and planets, among other things. And eventually it produced abundant life on the planet Earth. The universe is still expanding today, a phenomenon that can be measured scientifically. But what came before this Big Bang?

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Image Looking Beyond the Garden: The Higgs Boson
By Larry Rettig on May 13, 2013

This is the third in a series of articles looking beyond my garden to see nature's bigger picture. In the first article, "Looking Beyond the Garden: A Convinced Gardener Considers Climate Change," I focused on the planet Earth and one of the ways in which its atmosphere is affected by what goes on here. In the second article I ventured beyond our atmosphere into outer space to consider some of the fantastic discoveries made by modern physics. In the current article I will consider the Higgs boson and the significance of its discovery.

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Image Looking Beyond the Garden: How did all those plants come to be?
By Larry Rettig on April 9, 2013

This is the second in a series of articles looking beyond my garden to see the bigger picture. In the first article, Looking Beyond the Garden: A Convinced Gardener Considers Climate Change (to access, click on the word "Articles" in the column to the right), I focused on the planet Earth and one of the ways in which its atmosphere is affected by what goes on here. The rest of the series ventures beyond our atmosphere into outer space to consider some of the fantastic discoveries made by modern physics.

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Image Looking Beyond the Garden: A Convinced Gardener Considers Climate Change
By Larry Rettig on March 28, 2013

As a gardener, I’m concerned about climate change and convinced that it is real. While I love the intimate relationship I have with the soil and the plants in my garden, I know that I need to look past them to larger, more global issues that will ultimately affect me and my garden as well as those who come after me.

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Image The radish: Who knew?
By Larry Rettig on November 13, 2012

Having been born into a German-speaking family, I knew at an early age that my last name means “radish.” It wasn’t until recently, though, that I realized that I had never looked into the history of this crisp and spicy root vegetable that also happens to be my namesake. I’ve set about to remedy that.

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Image Not Up or Down But Sideways
By Larry Rettig on March 10, 2012

A sure harbinger of spring, and perhaps the earliest one, is the flowing of sap in sugar maples. Interestingly, the notion that sap rises up the tree from the roots in spring and goes back down to the roots in fall is completely erroneous.

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Image A Field Gardener
By Larry Rettig on February 23, 2012

Peonies are particularly popular pass-alongs, not only because they’re beautiful in bloom, but also because they’re extremely tough and long-lived. Of particular note among these peonies is an early red one called the Double Fern Leaf Peony (Paeonia tenuifolia 'Rubra Flora Plena'). Its leaves are unique to the peony world, as its name implies. So how did so many of these peonies find their way to seven villages in Iowa?

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Image The Adventures of Joel Poinsett (Conclusion)
By Larry Rettig on December 25, 2011

Leaving the Khanate, Poinsett and his party set their sights on the Caspian Sea and the city of Baku in Azerbaijan. There he marveled at the pools of petroleum oozing from the earth and predicted that someday this amazing substance might well be used for fuel. He noted that the pools were often set ablaze by a sect of fire worshipers.

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Image The Adventures of Joel Poinsett
By Larry Rettig on December 22, 2011

I've come to realize that as far as plants are concerned, this time of year belongs as much to the poinsettia as it does to the Christmas tree. It pops up everywhere and in ever-changing variations. There is the basic red, the white, and now pink and cream, all pink, red and cream, and even a double red pompom variety.

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Image Amana Heritage Seed Bank Brochure
By Larry Rettig on November 29, 2011

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Image Elevating Tulips
By Larry Rettig on November 23, 2011

Just like that pair of jeans in one's closet is often the foundation of one's wardrobe, so tulips are a mainstay, not in closets, but in spring garden beds all over the world. From those early days when species tulips were first collected in the wilds of Kazakhstan, to the frenzied “tulipomania” that gripped Holland in the 1630s, to the thousands of varieties that find a home in gardens today, tulips have become one of the world’s most easily recognized and beloved flowers. It appears that their popularity may soon take a new direction.

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Image Hitchhikers
By Larry Rettig on October 20, 2011

Replacing zippers or buttons on clothing. Fastening shoe straps. Mounting a smoke detector on a wall or ceiling. Securing cushions to outdoor furniture. Hanging signs. This is but a small sampling of the 101 uses of Velcro. No doubt about it, Velcro has taken the world by storm.

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Image Horticulture Heroes
By Larry Rettig on September 23, 2011

It’s a rare thing to encounter heroism and sacrifice in the world of horticulture. That’s why I was drawn to the story of the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Image Do Plants Have Feelings?
By Larry Rettig on August 23, 2011

When I first came upon this issue a number of years ago, I chuckled to myself, deeming it silly to even pursue such a topic. But curiosity eventually got the better of me. I started doing some research.

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Image Can a Gardener Become a Plant Whisperer? Talking to your Tomatoes
By Larry Rettig on June 23, 2011

Research conducted at the fringes of any field often appears wacky, if not downright absurd. But is it really?

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Image Stalking the Wild Tulip
By Larry Rettig on April 20, 2011

Where did tulips originate? ...Holland? The Dutch are certainly known for their tulips, but no. ...Turkey? That’s closer.

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Image Gardeners of Iowa Gathering
By Larry Rettig on April 4, 2011

Gardeners who have gathered together for the Iowa Roundup, during the eight years it has been in existence, have a new gig.

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Image Seed Greed: A Battle for Control
By Larry Rettig on March 20, 2011

A battle for control of the seeds you sow in your garden is raging in the worlds of home gardening and large-scale agriculture. Corporations are spending billions of dollars to win that war. At stake are thousands of plant varieties that we as gardeners have come to know and love. [INSPIRED BY INTERESTING AND SOMETIMES PASSIONATE READER RESPONSE, I HAVE DONE SOME ADDITIONAL RESEARCH AND OFFER MY FINDINGS AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE.]

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Image Is This the World’s Fruit Bowl?
By Larry Rettig on February 26, 2011

Some of our most popular temperate-zone fruits may have originated in a single region of the world. The region is somewhat remote and exotic, one that we Westerners have paid little attention to. It encompasses the sliver of land between the Caspian- and Black Seas and spreads east into southern Kazakhstan and then into the Tian Shan and Kun Lun mountain ranges along and south of Kazakhstan’s border with China (see map below).

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Image Are You Made of Corn?
By Larry Rettig on January 22, 2011

Sound like a silly question? It’s not.

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Image Upgrade Your Brown Thumb to Green
By Larry Rettig on November 22, 2010

I’ve been gardening for 55 years now, I know a thing or two about plant care, and I don’t need a fancy gadget to tell me what to do, thank you very much!

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Image Plants and Your Health: The ABCs of Herbal Medicine
By Larry Rettig on October 6, 2010

Did you know that chimpanzees, our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, actually use plants in the wild to medicate themselves? Incredible, but true.

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Image Plants and Their Relationship to Human Emotions
By Larry Rettig on September 29, 2010

In a previous Cubits article I explored with my readers one kind of relationship we can have with plants, that of likening flowers and flower parts to objects we’re familiar with in the real world. In this article, I’ll explore ways in which flowers and plants evoke emotional responses.

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Image Bleeding Hearts: What Secrets Do They Hold Inside Their Blossoms?
By Larry Rettig on August 17, 2010

Perhaps you remember from your own childhood—or that of a friend or relative—the art of making “dolls” wearing gowns fashioned from Hollyhock blossoms. Flower shapes and colors can remind us of real-life objects. Dutchman’s Pipe, Lady’s Slipper Orchid, and Stella d’Oro (Italian for “star of gold”) come to mind. Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) belongs to this group as well, but its blossoms are special because they reveal an entire story. This is how it’s told.

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Image A Garden Wedding in Photos
By Larry Rettig on July 28, 2010

Weddings are such wonderful occasions. Some of my male friends barely tolerate them, but l always look forward to the event. It's filled with such pagentry and genuine emotion. Sometimes there are surprises. A barefoot bride for example. A squadron of bagpipers. Nontraditional songs and dress.

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Image Papaver somniferum: Is This Drop-Dead-Gorgeous Poppy Illegal to Grow in the U.S.?
By Larry Rettig on July 5, 2010

As a gardener and avid reader of articles and books related to gardening and horticulture, I’ve more than once stumbled upon a curious assertion that the Bread Seed Poppy, Papaver somniferum, is actually the Opium Poppy and therefore illegal to grow. I didn’t give the claim much credence, because the seed is sold openly by such venerable establishments as Thompson and Morgan, Burpee, Park Seed, Cooks Garden Seeds, and many others.

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Image Karl Foerster's Lasting Imprint on the World of Horticulture
By Larry Rettig on April 26, 2010

As a gardener--especially if you’re a fan of the wildly popular clumping grasses—you may be familiar with a grass called Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster,’ more commonly known as Feather Reed Grass. In 2001 it was even named the Perennial Plant of the Year by the U.S. Perennial Plant Association. But it’s not the plant that is the subject of this article. It’s the man.

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Image The New German Garden Style
By Larry Rettig on April 13, 2010

Until recently, most gardeners in temperate zones in the U.S., in Canada, and throughout much of Europe have paid little attention to the strict ecological requirements of the perennials we plant in our gardens. (Note: This article does not display well in most versions of Internet Explorer. Please use Firefox. If you need to download it, you may do so free of charge at the end of this article.)

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Notes from the Garden

Articles I've written on many different aspects of gardening

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Cubit owner: LarryR