The Terrorist’s Favorite Weed/ Castor BeanWritten by Thomas Ogren
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Assassination Georgi Markov was a Bulgarian journalist who had spoken out against Bulgarian government. While waiting for a bus near Waterloo Station in London, in 1978, Markov was murdered, stabbed in leg with a poisoned umbrella. A perforated metallic pellet stuck in his leg was found to contain deadly ricin toxin. More recently it has been widely reported that Thomas C. Leahy, known by his neighbors as “Mad Scientist,” was producing ricin in his Wisconsin basement. Leahy, a high school dropout and self-taught chemist, had also tried to grow anthrax. Ricin if inhaled or even touched can kill in a day or two. Luckily for us, Leahy is now serving seven years in state prison for shooting and wounding his 13-year-old stepson. Going Native Castor bean plant spreads quickly because it has many built-in advantages over native plants. A very robust grower, its leaves are poisonous even to predatory insects. Aphids that can safely feed on many other poisonous plants quickly die after sucking juice of castor bean leaves. But castor bean has one disadvantage. It is completely easy to recognize and can then be killed by chopping it down or spraying it with herbicides. I have long advocated eradication of castor bean because it causes so many allergies. It would be wise to realize too, that not only is castor bean pollen allergenic, but it is also poisonous pollen. Exactly what effects of breathing in poisonous pollen are we don’t know, but it cannot be good. Given deadly potential of this all too common weed for bio-terrorists, perhaps it is time we have our state and federal marijuana hunting exterminators, shift gears and change targets. They won’t have to look hard. In California Ricinus communis can be found growing lushly all along Highway 101.
Tom Ogren has held many different jobs, including horticulture teacher in Watts, community gardening organizer for Cooperative Extension, brakeman on the Santa Fe Railroad, dairy farmer, boxer, landscaper, nursery owner, and free lance writer.
Horticultural TherapyWritten by Thomas Leo Ogren
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The Fen Shui Garden. The more people you talk to about Fen Shui and gardening, more opinions on it you get. Ms. Robin Wood, a very talented landscape architect once told me, “Fen Shui gardening is really just good landscape design.” And to a point, I would agree with her. In many ways ancient Chinese philosophy of Fen Shui, also called Feng Shui, is all about creating harmony. In a true Fen Shui garden focus is on atmosphere. A garden is created that encourages meditation, relaxation, close connections to Nature. A good Fen Shui garden does not ignore any of our senses. There are fragrant flowers to smell, wind chimes, sounds of water, and songs of birds to please our ears, shade from hot sun, protection from wind, places just to sit and think, contrasting surfaces to feel, beauty to please our eye, and perhaps even some fruit or vegetable for our tongue to taste. A true Fen Shui garden is not strictly formal, overly clipped, too tidy and sanitary, all drawn with squares and rectangles. Shrubs don’t need to be square nor do all trees need to resemble each other. A quiet restrained informality is encouraged. Love, peace, understanding, and wisdom reign in a true Fen Shui garden. In many ways during all my years at Youth Authority, although I didn’t know it at time, I was instinctively trying to develop a Fen Shui garden. Surrounded by guards, gangs, and concertina razor wire, I aspired to create an inner sanctum, a natural place for me and my students to remove ourselves from all bad vibes so very close by. I am not a Fen Shui expert by any means and certainly do not claim to be, but I have read a great deal about it, listened to numerous talks given by so-called experts, and I have long been interested and involved in garden design. I think that Fen Shui does indeed have much to offer and that it is well worth exploring. However, I often notice a certain snobbishness surrounding subject. One expert writes that none of others know what they’re talking about, especially Western writers and speakers. I’ve met some Fen Shui designers and writers who were cold, impersonal and rude, none of which jives with true Fen Shui in my mind. I sometimes encounter a similar snobbishness with people who refuse to grow any plants not native to their own little local area. My feeling about all these snobby attitudes in gardening is this: Elitism doesn’t belong in garden. Plants aren’t critical, let’s not be that way ourselves. Many people, far wiser than I, have long known that more we learn about something, more we realize how little we know. Harold Young, wonderful senior editor of Pacific Coast Nurseryman Magazine once wrote me in an email, “I used to think I knew a lot of plants.” I know just what he means.
Tom Ogren loves fishing, hiking, boxing, baseball, gardening, his family and friends. He is author of 5 published books and hundreds of articles. His website is www.allergyfree-gardening.com