Tagua (pronounced tog-wah) nuts, or "ivory of the rainforest," are a vegetable-based and sustainable alternative to elephant ivory. The seeds are hard and smooth, and easily carved and dyed. They were once used for military buttons, Victorian chess pieces, and dice. Today, tagua "vegetable ivory" is a popular material for jewelry and baubles.
A Cuban vine "communicates" with bat pollinators by emitting an echo through its acoustically-designed leaves. Scientists say the plant is the nocturnal analog of bright flowers that attract visually-oriented pollinators.
The Marshall strawberry: A bit of horticulture history that would make a great gift! Once abundant in the Pacific Northwest and praised as "the finest eating strawberry in America," the Marshall strawberry is today very rare. Now an artist in Indiana has begun an effort to revive the berry, offering starter plants in hand-sewn containers.
New leaves on this Indian bean tree emerge wine colored to chocolate, segueing to green in summer. White flowers are lavender-tinged. Though it can reach 40 to 50 feet tall and wide, it can be pruned hard to keep it shrubby. Zones 5-9. forestfarm.com
With commentary by Oehme, van Sweden principal Eric Groft.
Adding a “nice red spark” to the garden from July through October, Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ forms a bushy mound of handsome foliage with distinctive markings, topped by brightly colored “tails” of tiny crimson flowers.