Research shows berries are good for your heart

Singing Gardener: Plus, don’t forget to get those evergreens ready for winter

Commonly known as Cushion Spurge, you may want to add this garden showpiece to your landscape.

What kind of a gardening season has 2021 been for you so far — and how do you feel about gardening this year? If you want to write to me and share a little or a lot about that, I’m a good listener and Grainews subscribers are great readers. Most often sharing is good medicine, so don’t keep it bottled up within yourself. Reach me at: [email protected].

Things that bring me closest to being present at creation begin when a mother gives birth and when a packet of seeds sown on a plot of earth begin to sprout.

Question: Are you eating at least one cupful or three servings of blueberries and/or strawberries each week? Read ahead why it’ll do your heart a favour.

I’m impressed by this month’s feature plant that’s pictured. It’s commonly known as Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia polychroma). You may want to add it to your perennial collection. Also some insight about sunscald on juvenile deciduous trees and importance of watering evergreens before freeze-up.

Times have certainly been challenging for all of us these past 18 months or more, and we could certainly use some solid ground to walk on. It’s still very good to be Canadian. It’s also good to tip my hat of welcome to my family of Grainews readers. Here are some words to an old Irish pub song. I’m paraphrasing just a bit with very few word changes.

I had a hat when I came in,
I hung it on the rack,
I’ll have a hat when I go out,
Nothing truer said than that,

I’m a decent man I am, I am,
And I don’t want to shout,
But I had a hat when I came in,
And I’ll have a hat when I go out.

The natural health world

Longevity experts agree there are many steps we can take to live longer, live well and take care of ourselves. More and more folks are asking, “What did our ancestors do?” and how do you the reader, feel about Indigenous and ancient medicines? I’m deep into researching past medicines and healing methods from the plant world. Here’s an example.

I’ve a beautiful specimen of Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) growing in my garden now and shall take its picture soon. It’s mostly treated as a weed to be eradicated, yet seeds are actually available for purchase through Richters Herbs at Goodwood, Ontario L0C 1A0 — phone 1-800-668-4372. The large, soft, velvety leaves were once frequently used in herbal medicine. But, here’s a twist — and you’ll get a chuckle out of this. Those same fuzzy leaves were once commonly known as “cowboy toilet paper” and were used for the same purpose as today’s rolls of toilet paper. Remember a year or more ago when toilet paper was as scarce as hen’s teeth? For a time, this  essential but suddenly rare commodity was either nowhere or hardly anywhere to be found on store shelves. That’s just one example. I’ll write more about this plant in future.

Attention ladies! Want a healthy heart?

Research says add years to your life by eating berries. I’d say it also applies to men. We can help avoid a heart attack and maintain a healthy heart by eating blueberries and strawberries. That’s according to Harvard Medical School research and natural health food news. It’s confirmed that eating more berries contributes greatly to heart health and lowers the risk of a heart attack. The study included health data that came from 93,600 women between ages 25 to 42 who had signed up for the Nurses’ Health Study. Participants ate at least three servings per week of a combined cup of both fruits. Those who ate the highest amounts of these fruits were a full 34 per cent (about one-third) less likely to suffer a heart attack. The conclusion: As long as some berries are eaten regularly, there are positive heart health benefits.

Wondering what’s in blueberries and strawberries that provides such value? Both are rich in chemical compounds called anthocyanins, which are a type of flavonoid. In addition to antioxidant benefits, their key compounds also help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel elasticity and flow.

Remember the key is to strive for at least three portions of these health-sustaining foods every week for best heart health results. The bonus is these berries with their potent antioxidants also have an anti-cancer effect. Remember to go easy on the sugar. Try to gradually adjust your tastebuds to use as little sweetening as possible or no sugar at all when berries are fresh and in season.

Cushion spurge (Euphorbia polychroma)

Personally I have two of these fabulous  perennials. For me, they began with rootlet cuttings from my sister-in-law’s host plant and now have grown up beautifully to form eye-catching mounds or domes. Light-green leaves are covered with masses of bright, flattened golden-yellow bracts during mid- to late May. As these showy, long-lived mounds transit through June and into July, the foliage takes on bicoloured white, bluish green and finally changes into delightful shades of red, orange and purple when evenings begin to cool during approaching fall. The cushion mounds are 40 to 45 cm (16 to 18 inches) across and not quite as high.

Cushion Spurge is an all-purpose plant that’s as easy to grow as hostas (but not bothered by slugs in a wet season) and becomes a garden showpiece during the three seasons of spring, summer and autumn. It lends itself well to be perfectly at home as a single accent plant, in a group and even individually in a container. However, if the pot is not sufficiently large, it may not reach its full potential in size. Another option is Cushion Spurge in bloom alongside tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs. This low-maintenance plant should only be pruned after flowering. Inquire about herbaceous perennial Cushion Spurge at outlets that sell cacti and drought-tolerant plants or inquire at www.jeffriesnurseries.com for location of a nursery or garden centre near your area or send an email to [email protected].

Deciduous tree sunscald

Weather conditions have been so hot and dry in most areas this year that sunscald may have left its mark on some newly planted deciduous trees, particularly those in landscape settings. Also known as “southwest injury” sunscald is most injurious to young trees with thin, smooth bark still in juvenile stage. It begins in late winter and carries through until early spring when afternoon sunshine causes localized heating of bark and interior tissue fluids. Solar energy is further enhanced when nearby surrounding snow cover is heated and then reflected back once temperature drops, often resulting in blisters and fissures. Eventually a wound may develop on the tree trunk or it may actually die. Once bark on surviving trees begins to age, changes in colour and texture provide more protection against sunscald. Damage from sunscald on high-risk trees can be minimized by wrapping tree guards around exposed limbs or by applying white spray paint or some form of whitewash on each tree trunk and exposed area.

Overwintering evergreens

Water evergreens until the cows come home and then water some more. Evergreens must receive abundant moisture in fall before soil freezes as they lose moisture from their foliage throughout winter and are unable to take up replacement moisture from frozen soil below. Deep watering in fall is the best approach to fully hydrate an evergreen prior to onset of winter.

Desiccating winter winds are cruel to evergreens. It’s wise to put simple windbreaks in place beside each tree to deflect wind. Avoid wrapping the tree to protect it. Instead, create a burlap wall before winter on either side of an evergreen. This ensures adequate air circulation around it without burlap wrap ever touching the foliage and limbs. Where possible, plant evergreens in a partially shaded sheltered location that holds snow cover. On an eastern side or rear of a building is nice but not always possible. This provides a major chance for long-term survival. And oh yes, don’t plant young trees and evergreens close to buildings. As the country song says — they grow up to be cowboys.

Well that’s it! I’ll be back again in the September 21, 2021 issue. How about you? Tommy Hunter used to say at the end of his CBC TV shows: “If the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek doesn’t run dry.”

About the author

Columnist

Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.

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