Nadine asks: “I have a tall ‘Tuscan Blue’ rosemary plant; can I use it for cooking?”
Yes. All of the rosemary herbs can be used for cooking. The leaves on this variety are wide and very aromatic and especially nice to use on the barbecue.
Joseph M. writes: “Would topping or heading back poplar trees stop the roots from running rampant through my lawn and garden and possibly into my septic tank?”
All the poplars are known for their rapid growth and invasive root systems and are not recommended for city streets, lawns or small gardens. They definitely shouldn’t be planted near water features, swimming pools, sewer lines, septic tanks or leach lines.
If a crack develops, (no matter how small) in irrigation lines, sewer pipes or water mains, the roots from the poplar tree will find the fissure, damage the pipes by enlarging the crack and completely plug and fill it up with roots.
“Topping” or “heading back” is the most popular way to reduce the tree’s size, but will do nothing to control the roots.
Topping means cutting back to a stub, a lateral bud or a small lateral branch. Re-growth is vigorous and upright from the stubs.
The new branches form a compact head or canopy, cast dense shade and are weakly attached to the older ones; sadly the tree loses its natural form.
Jim L. asks: “What is the best milkweed plant (Asclepias) for attracting butterflies?”
Narrowleaf milkweed is the preferred larval food for Monarch butterflies. Showy milkweed has showier flowers, as the name suggest. It is a California native.
Why plant milkweed? The plant attracts egg laying Monarch females. Planting a variety of milkweed — the more the better for optimum success. Cal Flora nursery and Emerisa are excellent sources for milkweed plants, particularly since their plants are free of treated insecticides and Bacillus thuringiensis (known as Bt — a non-toxic, naturally occurring biological larvacide). The effects of Bt can last up to 2 weeks. Always ask your local nurseries if their plants have been treated with insecticides.
Birds avoid eating Monarch caterpillars and adults because the Monarchs have fed on the toxic and poisonous milky sap from the milkweed; they are a distasteful snack.
In humans, handling the milky sap when planting can cause a contact dermatitis.
Milkweed is also poisonous to dogs, cat, horses, cattle and other grazing animals.
Julie West, our local butterfly “guru” offers additional non-native and native nectar plant selections for the garden. She grows all of these successfully and they have attracted Monarch butterflies and other varieties of butterflies. Her picks include: Red valerian, abelia, lantana, heliotrope, marigold, zinnias, scabiosa and mints. Among the native plants: asters, goldenrod, brodiaea, coffeeberry, bacharris, wild sweet fennel and monardella.
A butterfly garden is a stop and go site for critters passing through, so plant to attract butterflies, eliminate toxic sprays and enjoy their beauty while they are there.
Daniel A. asks: “I purchased a gorgeous staghorn fern at a local plant sale. I now have it hung on a fence in a shady area. Can you give me any additional advice on its care. It is too important to lose! The fern is mounted on a flat piece of wood with chicken wire wrapped around the wood with a wire hanger making it easy to hang.”
Zmanin Nature-Directed Jewish Community
December events, various Sebastopol locations:
— Kabbalah & Jewish Spirituality, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays
— Sacred Hebrew Chanting, 9 a.m. Wednesdays
— Fire & Stars, 4-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17
— Women’s New Moon Gathering, 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29
— Hanukkah Party, World Series of Dreidl & Shabbat Celebration, 4:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30