A Tale of Two Lawns

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This is my front lawn right now. You know that we are completely organic and that we don’t irrigate at all–the only water this lawn has gotten all summer it got when it rained–and this is a slope, obviously (this abuts the ski slope driveway that I occasionally reference or photograph).

Obviously because we are organic there have been no pesticides used at all. Occasionally we use a corn meal gluten fertilizer in the spring. I don’t recall if we did this year but we certainly don’t do so yearly.

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Not all parts of the lawn look so fabulous but they’re all equally lush. This section, as you might be able to tell, is right next to the road. It’s got lots of clover for the bees, some plantain, and some creeping Charlie (or Jenny, depending on which common name you prefer).

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Now, not to engage in neighbor shaming but this is just one of several of my neighbor’s lawns that looks like this. What do they all have in common?

First, supplemental irrigation. This lawn gets watered twice a day, whether it needs it or not. Mushrooms are growing here, and I have seen the sprinklers going in the rain.

Next, this lawn gets cut religiously once a week, again whether it needs it or not–although with all that watering, it sure needs cutting a lot more than ours!

Finally pesticides. It seems that I regularly have to avoid the street in front of this house because of some sort of pesticide treatment. I used to think there was a “4-step” lawn care program. In my neighborhood, I think pesticides are applied every 2 weeks–& I am not kidding! And yet–this.

Whenever I lecture and say I am an organic gardener, I will get asked about weeds, to which I shrug and say that many of our so-called lawn weeds are actually nectar sources for bees and butterflies.

Then I am asked about grubs and I am genuinely mystified. It’s not that we don’t have grubs–I will find larva in our gardens when I am planting.

It’s just that we don’t have them in any quantity to do damage. I attribute that to our organic property. Birds come and feast on the grub larva before they can do any damage. They won’t eat from poisoned lawns–would you?

The New House Plant Pet Rock?

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Remember this photo from Wednesday? Did you recognize it as a marimo moss ball?

Depending on your point of view, these are some of the coolest things going, or they are the house plant equivalent of the “pet rock” from a few decades back.

I have the one above on my desk at home. It’s actually kind of nice to look at. There are surprising variations in it, and little air bubbles form–it’s not quite as static as one would believe.

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These are some others. You can see that they come in various sizes. You can get them from plant companies or aquarium suppliers. That’s where these came from. I thought that I would try them with my fish but no. All she does is make a mess of her tank with them. So they are now my plant pet rocks,

These balls of moss are harvested from different lakes in northern parts of the world. Try to find a supplier that claims yours is sustainably harvested because–with this suddenly becoming a “thing”–these moss balls are declining.

They are slow growing–the smaller ones that you see are supposedly 6-8 years old, so you can see why sustainability might become an issue.

And like most moss, they do not want to be in direct sunlight. Bright indirect light only for these guys.

If, however, you want a plant that has proven harder than an air plant to kill, (at least for me) this might be right for you.

The Great House Plant Migration

It’s that time of year again. Night time temperatures have dropped into the 50s (farenheit) so it’s time for any house plants (and at my house, that’s a good number of them) to return indoors for the long winter’s nap, so to speak.

Whenever I lecture on house plants, I get the question about bringing “things” in with my plants. For those of you who have been following this blog for long time, you may remember the time that I brought a bird in inside a very dense hanging basket!

That’s the only “thing” that’s ever come in that was unwanted–and thank goodness, it cooperated by remaining in the basket while I took it back outside!

So, with that out of the way, what do I do to bring in the plants? Generally, I wash off the pots–and sometimes the plants, if I have had an issue with insects when the plants went outside–then I will set their saucers or trays in place and bring them in.

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What that means is that windows that once looked open and airy all summer now look like this. And I can no longer water with a hose. Ah well. Only 9 months until they can go back outside.

Stripes, or….

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If you have read this blog for a long time, you know that I am a huge fan of the genus sanseveria. Call these plants what you like–I usually call them snake plants but I know Mother in laws tongue is pretty common too–these plants are having their “moment” right now.

And they should. They always travel with me to lectures. I use them as examples of plants that will “almost grow in a closet.” In other words, they will grow in a very dark corner, completely neglected, and un-watered for weeks. Isn’t that where most of us encountered our first one, maybe in childhood or in a commercial building?

However, while they will grow in dark corners, these plants will also grow in east or west exposures–at least in my northern climate. And that’s where they really begin to shine and look glorious. They will bloom for you–mine bloom every year. And they will take on interesting coloring, even in the so-called boring green varieties.

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Here’s one of the variegated varieties with the bloom stalk about to open.

Incidentally, they also make great container plants for outdoors. I generally plant them with plants that tend to like it on the drier side–succulents, heuchera or even annual pelargonium (geranium) would work. But I wouldn’t plant them with something that’s going need a lot of water.

Snake plants are some of my favorites. Their interesting shapes and colorful leaves brighten a room year round. The fact that mine bloom is just an added bonus.

Is It or Isn’t It?

This post actually ties together 2 things I have been thinking about: patterns in foliage and misidentification of plants online.

Lately I have been seeing so many plants being misidentified online. It seems to be happening when folks use stock photos. There’s nothing wrong with stock photos–they are significantly better than mine!

In certain instances, it might indicate carelessness on the part of the writer, or lack of knowledge. So be careful: writers need to know their plants–please!

And we all get tired on occasion. I perpetually confuse hyacinth and hydrangea when I am speaking. I can be looking right at the shrub “hydrangea” and call it the bulb “hyacinth” or vice versa. It’s my own personal issue.

Online, one of real confusions I see is between pothos and philodendron–and plants that are neither. So here we go.

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This is philodendron ‘Brasil’. It is a true heart-leaf philodendron. You can actually see the heart shaped leaves in the photo.

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This is a pothos. I believe the cultivar is Marble Queen, but don’t quote me. Botanically it is epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen.’ You’ll notice that the leaves are also heart shaped but both they, and the stems are thicker.

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You may see this plant referred to as either neon pothos or neon philodendron. Technically, botanically, it is epipremnum aureum, which would make it a pothos.

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While we’re confusing things, here is a plant sold as a pothos, satin pothos. This isn’t a pothos and it’s not an epipremnum. Confused yet? It is scindapsus pictus hybrid.

So when I call for clarity in plant names–and using the correct photos–it’s only in an attempt help folks learn what they’re growing so that they can do it well.