Floral notes: Early December 2011.

Well, we don’t need much convincing…gardeners have always known that digging in the dirt is good for us.  But now we have scientific proof!  According to an article posted by the Therapeutic Landscapes Network, Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacterium found in soil, can actually improve mood, combat stress, and maybe even reduce the symptoms of asthma.  (Of course, it’s necessary that we…well…ingest a bit of the bacteria in order for it to go to work on us, and I believe most of us stopped eating dirt when we grew out of the toddler stage.  Still, the research is interesting, particularly given the effects the bacteria may have on cancer patients).   See the full text of the article here.


We certainly ran the gamut as far as weather was concerned this past week here in Calgary – we went from extremely damaging high winds and balmy plus-teen temperatures to a raging, snow-filled winter storm all within 72 hours.  A skiff of pebbly snow and ice is now firmly encrusted on the ground, caking over the slumbering (and probably dessicated)  forms of my perennials and shrubs.  A timely article by the The Gardening Canuck, Dorothy Dobbie, has got me thinking about how snow (and rain) is formed:  apparently, the process may be linked to another bacterium, this one called Pseudomonas syringae.  Along with dust particles, P. syringae acts as a nucleator around which the rain drops or snow flakes are constructed – and researchers are realizing that they may be able to manipulate the bacterium to relieve drought, for example, or to reduce the potential for frost damage on tender food crops.  (A known plant pathogen, P. syringae can be a bit of a nasty beast as well, so extra study and care must be undertaken to keep it from harming plants instead of helping them grow).   Read Dorothy’s post about bioprecipitation and its implications here.


Looking for a new flavour to sweeten your holiday baking?  Why not try birch syrup?

Yep, that’s right, there’s a resurgence of interest in tapping Canada’s paper birch trees (Betula papyrifera) for their precious – and apparently, very delicious – sap, which can be used to make syrup and other sugary products, as well as spirits.  As horticulturalist Wes Porter describes in his article “Son of a Betula:  It’s Birch Syrup” (gotta love that title!), it’s not an easy process to get the viscous elixir out of the trees, rendering the cost of a bottle of birch syrup far steeper than Canada’s ubiquitous and beloved maple syrup.  But I’m making it my mission to track one down as soon as I can – and then, let the tasting begin!  (See Wes’ article  here – you’ll have to scroll down a bit, as it’s the third entry in on the blog).

Has anyone out there tried birch syrup (or birch beer or wine)?  I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!


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