Warm thoughts.

Wow, it’s cold here!  I read one time that it is a typically Canadian characteristic to express the temperature while taking into consideration the windchill factor –  I guess we sound even hardier and dare I say heroic if we say it’s minus 36 degrees Celsius with the windchill instead of a “mere” minus 29 without.  (That’s minus 33 and minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively).  The wind is something you definitely have to factor in, especially when you have get somewhere on foot or wait for a bus – it makes sense to give it its due.  The crazy thing about all of this, it’s even colder the further south and north you go in the province.  I saw a snippet on one of the local news broadcaster’s Facebook page this morning that said of the 15 coldest places in the world right now, 5 of them are here in Alberta.  (Should we be proud of that or what?).  By comparison, we’re actually downright balmy here in Calgary.

Unfortunately, a tropical escape is not in the works for me right now (I have all that holiday baking to do – I simply can’t leave now!).  😉  In lieu of a white sand beach and non-stop sunshine, and with the pressing need to get organized before the new year, I’ve been going through my photos from the summer, including the ones I took at the conservatory at the Devonian Botanic Gardens.  Located in Devon, Alberta, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Calgary,  the 190 acre Gardens are run by the University of Alberta.   My hubby and I hadn’t been there in years and to say we were impressed would be an understatement.

One of the plants in the greenhouse that stands out for me as I browse through the photos this morning is Jacobinia carnea (formerly Justicia, Flamingo flower, Brazilian plume), a South American native with spectacular firework-like blooms.  I made a mental note in July to do some research about this beauty – it turns out there are about 400 species of Jacobinia but only two are used in horticulture, J. carnea and J. pauciflora.  (The latter is apparently considerably less common).  In zones 8 to 11, Jacobinia is an evergreen shrub, and can actually reach a height of 215 cm (7 feet), with a spread of 90 cm (3 feet).  I read that it’s easily espaliered and is often grown that way as a backdrop for other perennials.  Here, of course, it can be a successful houseplant if given low light conditions and plenty of humidity.  If kept in a container, it supposedly gets a bit leggy after flowering, so it is advised to cut it back after the blooms have faded.  Temperature is a concern – Jacobinia does not tolerate the cold and will not perform if kept in a room hovering below 12 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit).

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The flowers come in various shades of red, yellow, orange, white and this incredible pink.  J. carnea is definitely a plant to remember if I ever get a sunroom to put one in.  Sigh…SUNroom….

Are you familiar with Jacobinia?  Do you grow any houseplants?  What are your favourites?

Angelica.

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Many of you are probably far more familiar with this plant, Angelica archangelica, than I am…I’d never set eyes on one before I spotted this massive specimen on the grounds of the Devonian Botanic Gardens in Devon, Alberta. (Maintained by the University of Alberta, the Gardens showcase pretty much every type of plant you can possibly grow in this province. My hubby and I took a tour a couple of weekends ago, but it will likely be awhile before I get through the volume of photos we shot. There will definitely be more posts about our trip!).

I find it fascinating that angelica is grown commercially (most notably in France) for the confectionary trade – apparently its stalks are candied and used to decorate cakes and other baking. I guess you can candy the leaves as well. (There is a recipe for candied angelica here, as well as some really interesting recipes involving reindeer meat and the herb). I also read that the stems and stalks are often eaten as vegetables, and that the seeds and roots are used to flavour liqueurs and gin. AND you can eat the flowerheads! What a versatile plant. If it wasn’t so insanely large (2 metres tall), I might consider finding a spot for it….  According to what I’ve read online, angelica tastes somewhat like celery – is that right?  In my head, I’m lumping it in with lovage, another Apiaceae family member.

A relative, A. sylvestris, is now on the noxious list of invasive plants in the Maritimes, and it is believed that it is only a matter of time before it makes its way west.  From what I’ve read, it appears that A. sylvestris grows wild in many parts of the world and it is often used as a forage plant.

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I’m curious to find out more about this plant! Do you grow or know anything about angelica?