In the garden: Feels good, Smells good, and… HUH?

Spending time in nature is good for health. Benefits include improved attention, reduced stress, and increased happiness. No wonder in The Secret Garden, the sickly, tyrannical Colin tells his cousin Mary that if he were to go the the garden everyday, he should stop being bad-tempered.

“There is Magic in there—good Magic,” he proclaims.

So this past weekend, Jessica and I went on two guided walks at the Los Angeles Arboretum. We found more than just “good Magic”.

Something Fuzzy

Meet lamb ears, or Stachys byzantina aka woolly betony. These silver-leaved perennials offer great tactile joy with their oval, pointed leaves that are super fuzzy-soft.

Don’t believe me? Jessica has declared that her birthday present wish list is now a bed of lamb ears. Bug-free, of course.

And did you know that there is more to lamb ears’ white fuzzes than just soothing to the touch? Because the color white can reflect sunlight (e.g., natural sunscreen!) and does not attract heat, lamb ears’ coat of white fuzzes help to provide themselves great sun protection.

Something Good-Smelling

Colorful and easy-to-grow geraniums are a garden classic. But did you know these abundant bloomers are also widely used in perfumery?

There are hundreds of species of geranium. Each variety produces its own scent, including rose, lemon, mint, apricot, and chocolate. Simply rub some leaves between your fingers to release the oils comprising various characteristic scents.

The type of geranium that is most commonly used in perfumery is Pelargonium graveolens, or rose geranium. It smells similar to rose, but with a more herbaceous and lemony undertone.

Something HUH….

Did you know that in addition to bees and butterflies, there are some very unusual pollinators?

Beetles, which have roamed the Earth alongside dinosaurs during the Mesozoic Era, some 200 million years ago, remain essential pollinators. Because these insects cannot see very well and rely on their sense of smell, they are attracted to strong-smelling flowers that are sweet, musky, or fermented like overripe fruits. Beetles are also clumsy fliers and need a wide landing surface and opening to get to the flower, so most beetle-pollinated plants have open or cup-shaped flowers with exposed pollen.

Even bats pollinate.

Dragon fruit plants, which are fruit cacti, have flowers that only bloom at night. The flowers, which can grow up to 10 inches long and not capable of self-pollination, are highly dependent on bats to do the job.

Your local, grocery store bought dragon fruits, however, are not from the labor of bats. They are pollinated by paintbrushes by a human being pollinator.

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