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03 Jul 2018

Abies (Pinaceae) Abete

The name derives from the Latin abire «to leave, to leave», ie to rise from the ground, with reference to the great height that can be reached by some species. They are all evergreen trees, of considerable size, and have the characteristic of having erect thrills. As ornamental species, they are usually planted individually, but they are widely used, at least in the case of white fir, in reforestation. In the common language, the genus Abete is confused with the genus Picea, and the species belonging to the two groups are usually referred to as Spruce.

Abete

Cultivated species:

Spruce alba (sin pectinata) or silver fir, is the most important spruce in Italy, where it is fairly common in the Alps, mostly mixed with beech, often also with spruce. It is also present in the Apennines, where it once was much more common. Today, in its natural state, it is only found in some limited areas, very distant from each other, as on Mount Amiata, in Molise, on the Massif del Pollino, in Lucania, where the establishment of a National Park is planned, also to protect this important species, and to Serra S. Bruno, in Calabria. It lives in the mountains in cool areas and particularly in the beech environment. Another Italian A., very similar to the previous one, is the Abete nebrodensis which, as the name clearly indicates, is a Sicilian species, where it lives precisely in the Nebrodi Mountains. Still widespread and constituting dense forests at the time of the ancient Romans, as a result of climatic variations, but above all grazing, fires and reckless cuts, it has almost disappeared. Among the species cultivated foreign to the Italian indigenous flora, the only one that has a certain practical importance is the A. cephalonica, originally from Greece. Of smaller dimensions of the. white, it grows well on calcareous soils, where instead the other species grows stubbornly. It also adapts better to warmer areas and is less demanding in terms of humidity.

Cultivation Abete:

All members of the genus Abete prefer fresh, fertile, forest soils and do not tolerate clay soils. The best medium for the propagation of these species is the seed. It will be good to collect the strobili in the late autumn, which will then be kept in a well-ventilated environment. At the beginning of spring, the cones break down, after which the seeds are extracted and sown as soon as possible in the seedbed. It will be good, then, to transplant the seedlings, as soon as they are sufficiently developed, in their final location. Even when they are bought, the seeds are put into seedbeds as soon as possible. In general, pruning is not necessary for cultivated plants, which is sometimes desirable in forest plants.

01 Jul 2018

Abelia (Caprifoliaceae)

The name derives from that of its discoverer, the English doctor, and diplomat Clarke Abel. These, staying in China in 1816-17, following the commercial mission of Lord Amherst, he devoted himself, among other things, to the study of the flora of that country. One of the last plants discovered by Abel was precisely the Abelia and precisely the Abelia Chinensis. They are flowering shrubs, always-green and deciduous, of moderate height, with delicate flowers and graceful bearing.

Abelia Grandiflora offers its magnificent pink-colored flowers in summer and autumn, with a characteristic bell shape.
Abelia Grandiflora offers its magnificent pink-colored flowers in summer and autumn, with a characteristic bell shape.

Cultivated species:

Abelia Chinensis (m 1.25), deciduous, white scented flowers shaded in pink in summer and autumn; Abelia floribunda (cm 95 – m 1,50), evergreen, pink-red flowers in summer; A. Grandiflora (m 1.20 – 1.80), semi-deciduous, white and pink flowers in summer and autumn; A. Schumannii (1.50 m), deciduous, small white or pink flowers in late spring and summer; Abelis trifflora (3.70 – 4.60 m), deciduous, white flowers shaded in pink at the beginning of summer.

Cultivation Abelia:

any permeable soil will be good for the Abelias; sunny position, except in the hottest places where, in the summer months, it requires a half-shade. The plantation is carried out in autumn or late winter; pruning must be done after flowering, cutting some of the older branches and shortening the most disordered; however, a real pruning is rarely necessary. The multiplication is done by cuttings in the month of July, using glass containers or propagation beds with heat source from the bottom; in spring the longer branches can be used to make offshoots.

 

23 May 2018

A silent green world

The daily repetition of the gestures and actions that leads men to work, to study, to the usual activities, often leaves no time to consider, or appreciate, the great weight that the plants have, not only with regard to the man himself , but also towards all the vital phenomena that take place on Earth. Unlike any animal, which attracts the immediate curiosity of children and adults because basically there are frequent similarities with the human animal, a plant does not always arouse sensations. Sometimes, in fact, one can marvel at the size, the beauty of the flowers, the inebriating perfume, but there is usually indifference towards a green mass in which there is no obvious difference compared to another neighbor. We proceed then considering the green world as a background, a frame in which our life takes place. All this is due to the apparent static nature of the plants with which we have more relationships; the plants, solidly rooted to the ground, live passively towards external changes, unable to react to human destructive interventions or those of atmospheric and natural agents. When a leaf or a flower is torn, not a cry, not a reaction from these strange organisms; only when a tree breaks down, after the noise of the chainsaw and the squeaks, the final thud and the silence that follow them strike the imagination. Although so vulnerable, however, the plants have developed in the course of their history mechanisms that have been able, so far, to overcome almost all critical moments that occur in the life of an organism, claiming a fundamental principle of nature: what matters is the maintenance over time of the species, not of the individual. So infinite adaptations are discovered that often overcome man’s ability to intervene on nature, trying to take away space from what, apparently, is not useful, to favor food, industrial and forest plants. In the alteration of the original equilibrium, however, gaps remain or are always formed, immediately occupied by other or new plants that will be able to fully exploit the space left to them. All this happens without great clamor, often manifesting itself only to specialists; species forgotten until yesterday suddenly become very common weeds, others migrate from distant countries, others disappear because they are missing environments suitable for their survival or because, commonly cultivated once, are no longer required by the market. When we move into our cities, we rarely notice the large foliage of a tree, or disturb the flowering of some ornamental, which drops the corolla faded to “dirty” the cars; then we do not talk about the autumn fall of the crazy chestnuts, which are also able to leave their mark on the expensive (but thin) bodywork. We try to transform that common idea that we have of the lawn: no longer a green carpet, made up of indistinct elements, but a balanced and not random set of different plants, especially with different needs and vital rhythms, with showy or inconspicuous shapes. We try to raise our heads and look at the trees of the avenue: they are often taller than houses, they bear pruning that mutilate them, have their roots covered by the asphalt mantle and succeed, every year, despite everything, to mark the seasons. The culture of our western world is linked through innumerable symbols to the world of plants. In the past, in addition to using vegetables for food, men were united by centuries-old traditions, of which today only pale examples remain: few, in fact, the head of laurel (symbol of victory and wisdom) on the day of graduation, nor brides are adorned with myrtle (symbol of love and happy weddings) on the wedding day; oak leaves and acorns (symbol of wisdom and longevity) are still found in some coat of arms or perhaps in the uniform decorations. We will try through these lines to give some space to the history and importance of what we commonly call plants, because through the knowledge of the diversity of species and the mechanisms that regulate their lives, it will be possible to improve our relationship with the plants. incredible green world.

Life on Earth depends on plants. The Earth, the blue planet, is the only one in the solar system in which there is life today. The fossil record and the succession of different living organisms, in the seas and on the emerged lands, show that the complexity of forms depends directly on the development of the different species of plants. We must shortly clarify some basic concepts: by plant we mean an organism, made up of one or more cells (which are the fundamental building blocks of living matter), capable of photosynthesizing, of producing that substance that can be used by the plant as nourishment.
 This production takes place starting from water and carbon dioxide, and exploiting sunlight as a source of energy. While water and carbon dioxide are substances of the inanimate world (inorganic, that is, not exclusive to an organism), the substances produced by living cells are organic, that is, they are found only in organisms. Examples of organic matter are starch, cellulose, sugars, fats, proteins. The organic matter thus produced can also be exploited by other organisms without the ability to photosynthesize (the animals). It is clear, however, that they depend on the quantity of plant matter (primary productivity) that they will consume (first-order consumers); in turn these “herbivores” (in the sense that they feed on plant matter and can be unicellular living in water, worms, molluscs, insects and vertebrates) will become nourishment for other organisms (second-order or predatory consumers), whose life will depend from the presence or absence of first-class consumers; predators of predators (superpredators) also exist. These are placed at the top of the so-called “trophic or food pyramid”, which we can imagine to build by overlapping the biomass (quantity of organic matter produced) in the individual levels. Because in order to keep alive the living of a level, it is necessary to consume a part of the energy that arrives, passing from one level to another the biomass will be gradually smaller. This explains why large predators are always fewer than the prey they feed on. Each element of the various levels depends on the previous level, thus forming a food chain that at the beginning however always has the plants.

It should be emphasized that the passage of substances does not take place only from one level to another, but at every level there are bodies called “restitutors”, which use the remains of plants and living in general, transforming them into simpler substances (decomposition) and returning them to the environment in the form of an inorganic substance (remineralisation); in this sense they are fundamental, as well as numerous decomposers such as insects, worms, fungi, especially many bacteria that make available to the environment again the inorganic materials such as water, carbon dioxide and minerals, used by green plants in the synthesis of organic compounds. In the oceans and in the waters the primary producers are above all microscopic plants, unicellular algae, that constitute the phytoplankton. The food chain of the seas has in these tiny organisms the origin of all the vital phenomena that reach the greatest living beings on Earth, like the blue whale.

How men are related to flowering plants In the terrestrial environments, flowering plants predominate, ie plants that have organized a particular reproduction mechanism that provides for the formation of seeds (see: Pollination, Fertilization). Plants with seeds (Spermatophytes) are the main primary producers of the environment in which the man lives who, as a consumer, depends directly (fruits, seeds, vegetables) or indirectly (products of breeding, hunting). When we think of a flower or a plant, we usually refer to color, shape, smell, underestimating all the other relationships of dependence that exist between plants and man, which uses them as a source of food, materials to construction, textile fibers, medicines. The evolution of human society has produced an extreme division of labor, with a progressive specialization. The primary need, that of nutrition, has been solved, with the development of agriculture, thus allowing to devote a good part of the energy to improve the living standards of the population. The history of man is linked precisely to the ability to produce economically and to accumulate stocks for critical periods. The full granaries in the territories of the fertile crescent (area between the Nile, the eastern Mediterranean coast and the course of Tigris and Euphrates), meant not only wealth, but also, as today, constituted a strategic asset that allowed to keep an army to defense of the territories against the raids of the nomadic raiders. In Jarmo, in the current Iraq, remains of two types of wheat and one of barley have been found, ascribable to 7000 years BC. Agriculture has brought about a great change in the history of man: from collector-hunter, from nomad who followed their prey, he permanently fixed his home, raising animals and cultivating the land. Plants used for fodder for livestock or for human food are all flowering plants or, as we have already pointed out, plants with seeds and fruits. And it is these seeds and fruits that represent the part that can be conserved, rich in substances destined to nourish the seedling when it begins to develop and which instead man uses as his own nourishment.

It is no coincidence that the dawn of civilization saw the cultivation of cereals, not very demanding plants, annuals, easy to preserve as a seed from one year to another and to be transported. But, they say, one does not live by bread alone; man needed tools for agriculture, and these were obtained from the wood of the trees; they served houses and warehouses, then logs and branches; the fire was needed to cook the bread, the food and even the clay with which to make the jars for the conservation of the crops, and the fuel was of vegetable origin. Exchanges were made with the improvement of living conditions; using means of transport more capable than the back of a donkey or a dromedary, with the wood of the trees were built ships (for a long time the transport with wagons would be limited by the lack of roads and the difficulty of tying the animals to the cart itself) . The demands became more and more sophisticated; to the skins of the animals the wool was preferred, then the fabrics of linen and cotton. From the vegetal fibers the ropes were obtained for the ships and the sails that pushed them from a landing to the other, with the holds filled with jars of oil and granary amphorae. The oil squeezed from the olives served, as well as food, also to illuminate the nights of antiquity and to dissolve ointments, balsams and perfumes. From the plants the medicines were obtained to solve the ailments and the illnesses, the surgeons knew the plants to get a quicker and better cicatrizzazione. Precisely the need to correctly recognize medicinal plants will stimulate the birth of that science called botany. The products of flowering plants and their derivatives have accompanied the life of man through his history, providing food and material for his clothes, but also as voluptuous elements or not tied to strict survival; so we think of spices, stimulating drinks like tea or coffee. The selection made on the cultivated plants has allowed to obtain ever better and more efficient varieties, but far from the wild progenitors, such as corn. In corn, the scientists managed to manipulate the genetic make-up with bioengineering procedures; this in order to make the plant, which is unable to do it naturally, produce a certain quantity of an essential substance, the amino acid lysine, which is accumulated in the fruit, thus providing a complete food for humans and animals.

12 May 2018

Ananas (Bromeliaceae)

From the name nanas, aborigine of South America. The genus includes tropical herbaceous, commercially cultivated on a scale where the climate allows it, for the “fruit”, which is a fleshy syncropus, consisting of single berries welded together, with the rachis and with the bracts from which only the extremity protrudes. , and ending in a tuft of leaves called the crown. As a whole, the plant is made up of a rosette of radical leaves, generally curved out and thorny, in the center of which stands the inflorescence that will give rise to the fruit. In cold and temperate climates it is cultivated in a pot, as ornamental and it is possible to make it fructify, albeit to a lesser extent, in a warm-humid greenhouse. Some varieties, especially the variegated ones, are used at the youth stadium as houseplants.

Ananas comosum variegatus is a specimen of pineapple that is grown in the greenhouse for ornamental purposes.
Ananas comosum variegatus is a specimen of pineapple that is grown in the greenhouse for ornamental purposes.

Cultivated species of Ananas:

Ananas bracteatus, with enlarged rosette, flat leaves of bronze green and long spaced spines; has a var. striatus or variegatus, where the yellowish white, often with rosy reflections in excellent light, is predominant along the margins of the leaf that has the green center, often with further white streaks; Ananas comosum, with leaves reaching 1.50 m long, reddish purple flowers in spring; var .: sativus, with larger fruits and thorny leaves; debilis, with wide and wavy leaves, long fruit; lucidus, without thorns; porteanus, with a yellow-whitish central strip on the upper page of the leaves; variegatus, with wide ivory margins, red thorns and the center of the pink rosette. In cultivation, dwarf forms of several more compact and decorative varieties were obtained if used in the apartment.

Cultivation:

the Ananas require high temperatures with a winter minimum of about 18 ° C, high humidity and frequent waterings during the vegetative period, more moderate in winter. Fruits are not formed before the plant has reached two years of age; during their formation, it must be fertilized and the watering will be reduced as they mature. The multiplication will be carried out by means of the suckers that the plant emits at the base or by rooting the crown of the fruit with strong heat, after letting the fleshy part that remains at the base dry so that it does not rot.


Read also: Anagallis (Primulaceae)

11 May 2018

Anagallis (Primulaceae)

The name derives from the Greek anagallís, «pimpinella». Although many species of this genus are perennial, it is common in cultivation practice to treat them as annual plants. They are all rather low and often have a creeping course; for this reason they are used for borders and in border, in the first line.

Among the annual blue-colored flowers, Anagallis linifolia is undoubtedly one of the most pleasing and harmonious examples.
Among the annual blue-colored flowers, Anagallis linifolia is undoubtedly one of the most pleasing and harmonious examples.

Cultivated species:

Anagallis arvensis, anagallis, prostrate, with quadrangular stem and red corolla, blooms in summer, grows wild in gardens and cultivated land and its seeds are poisonous for small birds; var. cerulea, with blue flowers, phoenicea, with red flowers, latifolia, with blue flowers; Anagallis linifolia (30 cm), with a gracile stem, elongated or lanceolate leaves, 10-12 mm flowers, blue, with a red spot in the center, blooms in June-July; it is a species rich in var .: breweri, with red flowers; hill, with purple pink flowers; lilacina, lilac; monellii has bigger flowers than the same species; phillipsii, with intense gentian blue flowers; Anagallis tenella (10-15 cm), with a corolla much larger than the glass, about 10-15 mm, pink with darker veins, blooms in summer. These three species are spontaneous in Italy, but the last two are cultivated more often for ornamental purposes.

Cultivation:

A. arvensis and A. linifolia love the sun and require normal garden soil; A. tenella prefers wet and also swampy areas. They can be sown at the beginning of spring and transplanted in June, or sow directly in April; Anagallis linifolia can be multiplied by division and, being perennial, can be left in place.


Read also: Anacyclus (Compositae)