Flowery Prose

Sheryl Normandeau's growing words….


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Alberta snapshot: Hoodoos.

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Hoodoos – Tunnel Mountain – Banff.  Photo taken 17 May 2013.

Here’s another pic from my (one-day-in-the-nebulous-future-to-be-defunct) blog There is a Light.  I did some research on the origins of the word “hoodoo” and got snarled up in a linguistic nightmare – let’s just say the word may or may not be a version of “voodoo,” probably referring to the weird shapes of the spires.

I do love the French names for them, however:  Demoiselles coiffées (“Ladies with hairdos”) and Cheminées de fées (“Fairy chimneys”) – so imaginative and beautifully descriptive!  And apparently in Blackfoot and Cree traditions, hoodoos were thought to be petrified stone giants that animated in the dark of night to hurl rocks down at unsuspecting passers-by.


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Giveaway Winner Announcement – Shawna Coronado’s book Grow a Living Wall!

Drum roll please….

The winner of a copy of Shawna Coronado‘s new book Grow a Living Wall is Boomdee!  Congratulations!  Boomdee, please let me know your mailing address (you can e-mail me directly using the form on my ‘Contact’ page) and I will get the book out to you this week!  I hope you enjoy it!

Thank you to everyone for participating in the giveaway – it was so great to read all of your comments and ideas for living walls.  (And thank you once again to the publishers – Cool Springs Press/Quarto Publishing Group USA, Quayside Publishing Group – for the books!).

Have a wonderful week!

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A tropical-themed living wall in Calgary’s Devonian Gardens


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Interesting facts about cow parsnip.

One of the plants my hubby and I found in abundance on our recent walk in Strathcona Ravine was cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum, syn. H. lanatum, H. linatum – sometimes called H. sphondylium subsp. monatum).  It’s a common wild flower in Alberta, usually found in any location with damp soil.  I find them endlessly fascinating, with their huge leaves, hollow stems, and impressive white flower umbels…but many people know them only because they are frequently confused with their highly toxic relative, giant hogweed (H. mantegazzianum, sometimes mistakenly called H. maximum), which – as far as I understand – is not yet found in this province.

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Interesting Facts about Cow Parsnip

  • H. maximum is the only native North American plant of the genus.
  • “Heracleum” is a reference to Hercules; the plants are so named due to their large size.  Cow parsnip will grow up to 2 metres in height.  The dreaded giant hogweed will grow up to 5 metres tall.
  • Cow parsnip flowers can be brewed into an infusion that will apparently ward off mosquitoes.  No word on whether or not you apply the infusion to your skin or just leave it in a mason jar on your picnic table.
  • Cow parsnip is a member of the Apiaceae family – this is obvious by those characteristic flower umbels, which can be up to 20 centimetres across.
  • Cow parsnip is highly attractive to butterflies.
  • The white flowers apparently smell a bit like vanilla, but I’ve never noticed this.  I tend to think of cow parsnip as a rather stinky plant – but maybe I usually encounter it when it is fruiting.  The fruit does not have a pleasant odour.
  • Cow parsnip does not like to be transplanted – it also does not grow well in disturbed areas.
  • H. maximum has a short life span, but it makes up for that by reseeding itself all over the place.
  • You can make a yellow dye from cow parsnip roots.
  • Historically, the immature roots were cooked and eaten by North American indigenous peoples. The young stems and leaf stalks were also peeled, cooked, and eaten.  They supposedly taste like celery. Raw stalks were also peeled and eaten.
  • Cow parsnip may be used for erosion control or to stabilize slopes due to its substantial root system.
  • The stems of cow parsnip are hollow between the nodes.  I used to play with the dried ones when I was a child – I was fascinated by the fact that they were hollow.
  • Wear gloves when you pick the flowers of cow parsnip, as they have tiny spines along the stems.
  • Cow parsnip was once used to treat bruises and blisters, and to reduce swelling of the extremities.
  • The stems and leaves of cow parsnip contain small amounts of furocoumarins, toxins which can cause phytophotodermatitis.  To be on the safe side, wear gloves when handling cow parsnip.  However, cow parsnip should not be confused with the highly poisonous giant hogweed, which can seriously harm a person.  Giant Hogweed or Cow Parsnip?

Does cow parsnip grow where you live?

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Alberta snapshot: Strathcona Ravine.

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Emerging green in Strathcona Ravine, in southwest Calgary.  A small (23 hectares) park in the middle of a residential area, the Ravine has its own springs (which you can wander alongside using a convenient boardwalk) and sections of restful, dense forest.  Because of the shade and damp conditions, much of the growth consists of chokecherries, currants, willows, poplars, and cow parsnip.  I imagine it is really cool and refreshing to walk here on a hot summer afternoon….


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Flowery Friday.

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This week in my garden:  one little clump of my brand spanking new late tulips (Tulipa tarda) bloomed! (The other clump was first dug into by squirrels, then chewed on by jackrabbits – at least no one went hungry.  Sure happy I could provide).  This is my first time growing these and they’re such a delight.

Do you grow tulips?  What are your favourite cultivars, colours, etc.?  Please feel free to link up to any blog post you’ve written about them – I know I’ve seen some pretty spectacular tulip photos on some blogs recently!  Do share!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  What are your plans, gardening or otherwise?


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Book Review and Giveaway – Shawna Coronado’s Grow a Living Wall!

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Shawna Coronado – Grow a Living Wall (2015, Cool Springs Press/Quarto Publishing Group USA, Quayside Publishing Group)

According to the book’s subtitle, Shawna Coronado’s Grow a Living Wall focuses on “vertical gardens with purpose” – and, boy, does it ever, with imaginative style and flair.  Featuring twenty themed designs, including walls for bees and other pollinators, veggies and herbs, and aromatherapy, I was instantly taken with the sumptuous photography and the creativity of the ideas.  There is a vertical garden here for every size and space:  fabric pocket gardens, mini gardens for instant curb appeal, and moss and fern arrangements for shady spots.  There are gardens made from old pallets and sparkling glass mason jars – and my personal favourite, a repurposed bookcase mounted on a fence (I do work at a library, after all!).  :) You’ll find a therapeutic herb garden, a mixologist’s dream garden, one with houseplants for the indoor office, and several plans ideal for the patio or deck or a glamourous outdoor room.  Coronado does a fantastic job of offering clear, easy to follow, step-by-step building instructions, recipes for plant selection and complete care and maintenance tips.  If you have a small space or just want to grow “up,” you’ll love the designs and ideas in Grow a Living Wall.

(The publisher generously provided copies of Grow a Living Wall for me to review, but I was not compensated for my opinion).

I have one extra copy of Shawna Coronado’s Grow a Living Wall to give away!  If you’re interested, please leave me a comment below – you can tell me what type of living wall you’d like to create (or have created!) in your garden, or just drop me a “count me in,” or “yes,” for your chance to win.  Contest closes at midnight, MST, on Friday, May 15, 2015. (And yes, it is open to everyone!).  I will announce the winner on Monday, May 18, 2015. 

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