Horticultural Gems of North America

North America, with a diverse range of environments and climate zones it makes a wonderful place to see and discover all manner of different plants. One plant family in particular, the Cactaceae (Cacti) family is endemic to the Americas.

For many years exotic gardening enthusiasts in temperate climates have long searched for hardy cacti and succulents. One highly recommended cacti for temperate gardens is the Opuntia Polyacantha, known commonly as the plains prickly pear, it is found naturally on the great plains and prairies of the US and Canada. Given the harsh continental climate with ragingly hot summers and bitterly cold winters it fares well in a temperate climate winter.

Opuntia Polyacantha

Another gem from North America is the Echinacea Purpurea, with its bold flowerheads it has become a firm favourite in the cottage garden. It is fairly easy to grow and prefers a freely draining site. It has been given recognition from the RHS as being perfect for pollinating insects

Echinacea Purpurea

Californian Lilac (Ceanothus) is a much loved and commonly used garden shrub in the UK. It has lovely clusters of electric blue, honey scented flowers in the spring time. It is an evergreen and has small dark green leaves and stems the year round. It attracts lots of bees and is generally a fast growing but relatively short lived shrub.

Ceanothus in Bloom

Obviously this is merely a minute selection of all the wonderful plants that originate from North America but they are certainly gems and highly recommended for temperate gardens.

Comics’ Kickass Women

To continue with our theme of the US, something that the US has gifted us is comics and comic book characters such as superheroes. I wanted to take a little bit of time to explore some of these and their recent representation on film and TV. Most of these series (apart from Wonder Woman) are available on Netflix and some are available on DVD if you don’t have a Netflix subscription. Currently the Iron Fist and Luke Cage are not available on DVD so I’ve included the original comic book version.

Wonder Woman

The recent film phenomenon Wonder Woman [4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital Download] [2017] by DC has got me thinking. It has earned rave reviews for its feminist take on the superhero genre and for the fact that the lead Gal Gadot was pregnant when it was filmed. I haven’t watched it myself yet but hope that the premise lives up to the hype generated. It has been extremely successful financially also which kind of blows the predominant theory that films have to be extremely macho to make a return.

I’ve recently been catching up with some of the Marvel series on Netflix and have been pleasantly surprised with the strength of the female characters included.

Jessica Jones

The most obvious Marvel series is Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 1 [DVD] [2016] which I have already raved about in a previous post. The titular character a private detective and reluctant superhero is strong but damaged and relies on other strong females in her life to help her at time such as her best friend Trish Walker and lawyer Jeri Hogarth. She does have like most superheroes and private eyes, flaws. She is an alcoholic plagued by demons from her past, but ultimately she is good and usually does the right thing.

Colleen Wing in Iron Fist

I love the Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection Volume 1 series. It was slower to start than the other Marvel series but a few episodes in it gets great. The titular character Iron Fist / Danny Rand is male but he frequently relies on and seeks help from Collen Wing (a kick ass martial arts instructor) and Claire Temple (a nurse who is also good at martial arts and features in all of the Netflix Marvel series so far). Colleen is determined, capable and at times stubborn character who has to learn to trust others more and [Spoiler alert!] grows close to Danny. Collen fights men just as easily as women which is a nice contrast from older representations of female fighters in the action genre who usually had girl fights only. Colleen, like Jessica Jones is ultimately a survivor. Joy Meachum, another female character is a strong businesswoman and Danny Rand’s childhood friend though she has questionable motives at times on an ethical level.

Claire Temple in Daredevil

Marvel’s Daredevil [DVD] was the original Marvel series on Netflix and now has two season on which to binge. I have just started Season 1 so can’t comment much on it but I can already see that it features strong female characters. I was glad to see the actress Pamela Ann Woll (who played Jessica the vampire in True Blood) featuring in a lead role and also nurse Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson who stars for the first time in this role. Although Daredevil / Matt Murdock is a male role, I can see him leaning on these female characters for support. A strong adversary Madame Gao (leader of The Hand – a villainous organisation) also stars for the first time and then appears menacingly later on in Iron Fist.

Misty Knight in Luke Cage

I’ve not watched many of the episodes of Luke Cage: Avenger yet so have to catch up. For me, so far this series has more of a masculine presence probably because Mike Colter seems to inhabit the titular character so well so the focus is naturally on him more. It is good however to see female cop Misty Knight featuring who has a strong sense of political justice and believes in the system, we also see nurse Claire Temple featuring once again.

All in all, it is great to see that there are many strong female characters appearing in these superhero dramas and that the female role is not just reduced to a helpless character waiting to be rescued a la Fay Wray! Long may the strong female role in these dramas continue to be created and performed for many years to come.