Learn About Insects!
The video MicroCosmos (Miramax Films, 1996; $14.95) captures the details and awesome diversity of the spectacular hidden universe of insects. Close-up views and time-lapse photography provide you with a front-row seat to witness the amazing transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, the remarkable birth of a mosquito, ants drinking from dewdrops and milking aphids, and several other minute miracles of life. It's a video I use in my entomology classes to introduce students to the wonderful world of insects, and it's always well received.
Favorite or New Plant
Both big and different, clary sage (Salvia sclarea) is a difficult plant to describe. This summer bloomer, growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, is Victorian in appearance and is clothed in bluish white and pink flowers. It has many stems, and its leaves are oval, toothed, and hairy, up to 9 inches long.
Like Canterbury bells and foxglove, clary sage is classified as a biennial, which means it completes its life cycle in two years. The first year from seed it produces just leaves; the second year it flowers, sets seed, and dies. If you allow it to go to seed, those many seeds may self-sow, and you'll have little seedlings the next spring to start the cycle all over again.
I use clary sage as a filler or back-of-the-border plant. It combines well with other cottage garden flowers, such as pink hollyhocks, scabiosa, and asters. Clary sage will draw lots of attention as a cut flower as well. It's so unusual that if you see it, you'll just have to have one!