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Tabor Oak, Valbnea Oak, Valonia Oak Quercus aegilops L.
This is a lovely tree reminding me immediately of the huge shady oaks of my childhood in New England.
Greece through to Turkey
Photographed: In the Botanical Garden in Palermo, Sicily, in Italy in 2012.
Planting and Care:
Text and Photograph Copyrighted © 2014

 **Oakleaf Lettuce Lactuca sativa
The beautiful plant in the foreground of the photograph was a volunteer in our garden this spring. It took up residence in my pot of romaine and they coexisted quite well.

Photographed: In our garden at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala in 2014.

Planting and Care: Plant a pot of romaine and wait.
Text and Photograph Copyrighted © 2014


Oats Avena sativa
I never ate oatmeal and I never will, but I do love homemade oatmeal bread and when a kid I loved my mother's homemade chocolate oatmeal raisin cookies. YUM!

        If you like oats in any form -- breakfast cereal, bread, or cookies -- that is probably not a bad thing. It is said to reduce LDL cholesterol, the bad one, to be in some way good for your heart, to be beneficial in fighting off colds and flu and to reduce your hunger at lunch if you have it for breakfast. But if, like me, you don't like oatmeal for breakfast why would you eat it? I do like oats in bread and cookies and there are lots of alternatives to oats that are also beneficial in reducing LDL.
        A local doctor in Guatemala suggested that soaking in a wet bath of oatmeal would reduce allergic itching. I tried it and wasn't impressed, but I have always loved oatmeal soap.
From: Near and Middle East
Planting and Care: Oats seem to be an easy crop to plant and bring to harvest, when the real work begins in preparing them for the kitchen. They are planted in very early spring and harvested before the heat of full summer at the end of July and into August.
Text Copyrighted © 2014

**Okra Hibiscus esculentus
I consider okra inedible, but the dried vegetables are beautiful and make a wonderful dried flower arrangement with just a little imagination.
From: Africa
Planting and Care: This is an easy grower in a Caribbean environment. It seems to require little, but hot sun and sometimes water to thrive and produce prolific amounts of the vegetable okra. Unfortunately, I can't bear the slimy quality of the vegetable, but if you can, this is one of the best plants to get started with in your hot climate garden.
Text Copyrighted ©KO 2010

Old Man Cactus, Old Man of Mexico, Cabeza de Viejo Cephalocereus senilis
This is one of those incredibly appealing cactus and it is lucky to be so because it is endangered in the wild. Its appeal means it will be maintained in Botanical and private gardens around the world.
From: Mexico
Photographed: In the Naples, Italy, Botanical Garden
Planting and Care: The Old Man likes full sun with a bit of shade in the hot afternoons. It will not tolerate temperatures below 50° F. Even during the summer months it does not require much water and will live on almost none in the winter. Plant it where it will have very good drainage. Given these basics, this cactus may grow to be 45 feet tall with girth of 1 1/2 feet. That is of course if you have a couple of hundred years to care for i
Text and Photograph Copyrighted ©KO 2012


Old Man of the Andes Morawetzia sericata F. Ritter
Central Peru
Photographed: In the Palermo Botanical Garden in Sicily, Italy.
Planting and Care: This hairy frost tolerant cactus likes to live in full sun with some afternoon shade in very hot places. It has beautiful flowers and will grow to be about 4 feet tall. It likes only light watering.
Text and Photograph Copyrighted © 2012

Oleander Nerium oleander L.
You'll see no stars by this bush; we eradicated every one on the property as it is too known to us as a California highway bush. They are planted everywhere along major highways and roads in California because they are indestructible. Sadly, they have become popular here in Montserrat for the same reasons that the California Department of Transportation chose them -- they can't be killed even by the gardeners in Montserrat! But, in truth they just aren't that interesting and I think we can do better.
Benefits and Cautions:
         Oleanders are producers of serious allergens, so anyone with a lung disease or plant allergies will suffer dreadfully if an oleander is in the neighborhood and blooming. As well, a tea made from its leaves is a traditional abortifacient. Indeed the plant is poisonous and can cause dreadful reactions and death. When you are working with oleander, be careful to keep your hands away from your face. The sap from this plant can be very irritating to your eyes.
          And, if all of that is not enough to steer you away from planting oleander, maybe this will, "A single leaf contains enough toxins to be lethal to an infant or small child. Like other poisonous plans, ingesting it first affects the digestive system with vomiting and diarrhea, then poisoning progresses into life-threatening circulatory problems. If your heart's still ticking after that trauma, oleander can also deal a fatal blow to your central nervous system, causing seizures, tremors, and coma that can lead to death."
From: Far eastern Europe.
Planting and Care: You are on your own for this one. But, oleander is a popular highway planting in California where it is hot, dry and inhospitable much of the year, so you won't have any problem getting one to grow in your yard, where ever it is.
Text Copyrighted ©KO 2008/2010 and © 2013 

**Olive Tree Olea with Olea Europea being the main source of olive oil
These twisted centuries old looking trees need a cool winter and a long hot summer to produce the olives that are our main source of olive oil. In Greece on the island of Corfu in areas away from tourism, lands in the center of the island away from the heavily visited coastal beaches, much of the dry rocky land is devoted to growing olive trees. Beside winding narrow almost maintained roads, there are groves of olives -- beautifully shaped trees appropriate to this harsh environment. Beneath the trees are black carpets of net to catch the falling fruit (along with leaves, bugs, bird feathers and bird poop). The nets are gathered up; the contents emptied into the back ends of small pick up trucks which are driven a short distance to the local oil factory where these olives become a coveted liquid -- virgin olive oil.
Olive oil has features that may enable it to work as a pain reliever like ibuprofen. It is also a healthy alternative to the GMO oils common in the US, corn, canola and soy. Use extra virgin on your salads if you like the taste and the lighter variety for frying as it has a relatively high burn temperature. I don't use much of anything else.
From: Coastal Mediterranean areas
Planting and Care:
I planted a package of olive tree seeds with great anticipation as my husband is Greek and lives for bread and olive oil. Although the seed packet said, "GUARANTEED TO GROW" I was disappointed at the one seedling that emerged. Still, it is surviving in my kitchen in a sunny window to keep it from the chilly winter nights here in the mountains. Every few days I give it about a half glass of water. Soon it will be repotted and returned to a sunny spot on the terrace. Even if it never bares olives it has been fun to bring home from Greece such a staple food source.
Text and Photographs Copyrighted ©KO 2008
  and © 2013

To see a mom and pop, mostly pops, olive oil factory we visited in Corfu, Greece, click here. It's wonderful.

Photographed: At Lu Baruni Campground in Scopello, Sicily, Italy, in 2012.

From the roadside as we traveled through Sicily in 2012.


From the roadside as we traveled through Sicily in 2012.

From the roadside as we traveled through Sicily in 2012.


Photographed: In the (Ortobotanico) Botanical Garden in Naples, Italy, in 2014.

Photographed: In the (Ortobotanico) Botanical Garden in Naples, Italy, in 2014.

Climbing Onion, Sea Onion Bowiea volubilis, Schizobasopsis
This is a strange little decorative plant that I would not recommend trying to eat. I have seen it in gardens as far north as Rhode Island in the US and as far south as Guatemala in Latin America. I think it is one of those oddities serious garden folks just can't resist.
Planting and Care: Plant this strange little plant in a pot that will reside in the sun or in a semi shady place. Don't give it too much water and you can sit back, watch it grow and wonder at nature's peculiarities.
Text and Photograph Copyrighted ©KO 2010 and © 2013

Photographed: In the Blithewold Garden in Bristol, Rhode Island 2013.


Photographed: At the Hotel Atitlan on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, 2010


**Onions Allium cepa
       The photograph on the left is of a field of onions planted by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Onions are a good crop here, but there is some risk of disease ruining the entire field.
I've grown them in New England and found them an easy crop to grow organically. I had no problems with them at all and was able to successfully dry them for winter use. They do need to be stored in a cool and especially dry area. If you live by the sea probably your attic would serve better than your basement.
Benefits: Let's face it, onions are just plain good for you! They don't make you stink like garlic and give you all the same benefits. What could be better than that?
From: The exact place of origin of onions is not known, but they have been around a long time even drawn in hieroglyphics in Egypt.
On Hacienda San Buenaventura land by Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Text and Photograph Copyrighted ©KO 2010 and © 2014
Orange New Zealand Sedge Carex testacea
I found this plant attractive in the same way that I find ornamental grasses appealing. It is relaxed, its coloring draws my eyes and I suspect it is easy to care for.

Photographed: In the Blithewold Garden in Bristol, Rhode Island 2013.
Planting and Care:
Text and Photograph Copyrighted © 2013

Orange Tree Variety Unknown
Citrus trees are almost always attractive, even as this one on a patio in Oaxaca, Mexico. The oranges it produced were not wonderful, but every morning as we passed the tree, we were enlivened by the sight of fresh oranges.
Benefits and Risks:
Juice freshly squeezed from organic oranges is terrific. Juice from commercial oranges should probably be avoided as you can't remove the pesticides and coloring agents from the skin. As you squeeze these oranges the juice becomes contaminated and unhealthful. Old juices bought in cartons in the supermarket are undesirable as are frozen juices unless they are organically produced and processed. Good luck!
In our apartment courtyard in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Text and Photograph Copyrighted ©KO 2010 and 2013


Orchid Primrose, Chinese Pagoda Primrose, Red-Hot Poker Primrose Primula vialii
Look at this beauty. A bit exotic, but doing very well in a cool climate. Though not growing quickly it is well worth the wait. It will grow to be a foot or a foot and a half tall almost perfect for intermingling with other plants.
The Chinese Pagoda Primrose is native to China
Photographed: In the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay Maine, 2013.

Planting and Care: This perennial loves a rich soil in a moist place that may be sunny in cool climates, but probably prefers shade in warm climates. It definitely does not like to be in a place that dries out. It is tolerant of soil types and pH.
Text and Photograph Copyrighted © 2014

With My Great Appreciation, My #23 Mystery was solved by Sara V., from Bristol, in the UK


**Orchid Tree Bauhinia spp. or Bauhinia purpurea
This relatively small tree has lovely orchid like flowers and large light soft green butterfly shaped leaves. It is charming in the garden and requires very little care. It does have a few months of looking rather unattractive so it is best placed a little distance from your deck or patio; somewhere you will still see it in its glory, but will be able to ignore its downtime. We had a white flowering one in Montserrat and now have a pink one in Guatemala.
From: India and China
Photographed: In Panajachel, Guatemala.
Planting and Care:
Plant this small flowering tree in full sun in an acid soil with a pH less than 7.5 and it will zoom to its 25 or 30 feet of height. It is a fast grower and once settled in, it is a tough tree highly resistant to drought.

Text and Photograph Copyrighted © 2015


**Oregano, Greek Oregano Herb Origanum heracleoticum or Origanum vulgare syn. Majorana
From all I've read and from all the folks I've talked to in Taxco, Mexico, and in Tobago, oregano and marjoram are the same thing. I don't really think this is true, but I don't have anyone nearby to give me an alternative. I do know that when we cook with Greek oregano it really is a different experience from cooking with our local marjoram/oregano. Who can imagine living without a fresh sprig of oregano; not us. We had big pot with a thriving plant in Taxco, but we gathered from the plant no seeds for our garden in Montserrat. A wonderful substitute in the Caribbean is local marjoram which tastes almost like Greek oregano. Spread liberally on a homemade pizza along with fresh basil; it's an unbeatable combination.
Oregano is said to enhance your bodies ability to more effectively deal with bacterial or viral diseases. As if that weren't enough it also aids digestion and provides lots of vitamin K. Inhaling the steam from oregano tea may give you some relief from a chest cold.
From: The Mediterranean. In 2007 we traveled to Greece, visiting many islands along with the mainland. Wherever we went I asked about Greek oregano seeds and was always told that the plant was essentially a weed. It grew everywhere so no one grew it in their garden and no one saved the seeds. I was very disheartened.

Planting and Growth: If you have Greek oregano seeds think of them as similar to marjoram. Oregano likes a sweet soil (alkaline), full sun or semi shade and a reasonable amount of water.
Text and Copyrighted ©KO 2008

Oregon Grape, Mahonia, Holly Grape Mahonia sp.
We found this growing in along side many woodsy bushes in the Naples Botanical Garden. It looked like this area of the garden was casually planted as you might find in the gardens of older homes. I think it was especially artfully done.
From: East Asia
Photographed: In the Botanical Garden in Naples, Italy.
Planting and care: In a cool climate the mahonia will prefer to be planted in full sun. Planted in tropical gardens it prefers partial shade. It also likes regular rainfall or watering to be at its best.
Text and Photographs © 2012

Shrub Mystery solved
by Ursula G. living in Southern Germany


Organic Foods and Organic Farming
Reasons for eating organic foods and raising organic produce are evident, but when the bugs get going, all too often it is easy to reach for the commercial poisons. And, doesn't the idea of not ever having to weed sound wonderful? are some reasons you might want to put a little more commitment behind your choice to go organic. This excerpt is from an article on the web that I saw in Yahoo Shine.

12 Foods That Are Worth the Organic Splurge, Sarah McColl, Yahoo Shine staff, on Tue Feb 16, 2010
"The dirty dozen below have the highest levels of pesticides when grown conventionally. The thin skins on many of them make it easy for pesticides to penetrate to the food and impossible for us to wash away the chemicals. Opt for USDA certified organics of these foods and you're ensuring your salad wasn't raised using man-made chemical pesticides, fossil fuel- or sewage-based fertilizers or genetically-modified seeds.

1. apples
2. sweet bell peppers
3. carrots
4. celery
5. cherries
6. grapes (imported)
7. kale
8. lettuce
9. nectarines
10. peaches
11. pears
12. strawberries"

**Oyster Plant Please See the "B" Page -- Boatlily

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Click below to see our plants alphabetically listed by common name with their cures and cooking ideas
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