About Growing Those Shrubs as House Plants…..

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What are you looking at? Last year’s poinsettia of course. Are you surprised? I know that no one really keeps these things from year to year. By March, they are toast–or perhaps if they’re lucky, compost.

But they do have a long and storied history as shrubs, particularly in Mexico, which is their home country. And obviously, if they are growing as shrubs in the ground, no one is doing the crazy machinations we hear about in the news or on blogs or web sites (which you won’t read about here, by the way) about putting the plants in closets or under boxes to get them to bloom. I think those folks who have them as shrubs in their yards have better things to do with their time.

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So if you don’t mind your plants not blooming not quite on schedule (and you know I don’t–I’m the one with last year’s amaryllis in June!) this is what you can expect. And this is just the beginning.

So this year, if you have the room, perhaps consider saving over a lovely poinsettia of your own. Or at least compost it, if you can!

Gardening Resolutions #5

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This resolution is sort of an offshoot of Monday’s resolution to stop falling in love with shrubs. This is not the plant I wanted. I wanted a Norfolk Island Pine. In retrospect, it’s better that I didn’t find one in a size that I wanted to buy (I won’t even go into the reasons for that!)

But I did this same thing last year. I bought a little evergreen–which, by the way, is not intended to live indoors, even in my chilly house. I nursed it all the way through the winter. And then we got into March and the thing promptly succumbed to something. I think it was shortly after I had re-potted it because it was woefully pot-bound but I never re-pot in the dead of winter.

In any event, I have done the same thing–I have bought a completely inappropriate plant for the house. The tag says it will grow to 8-15 feet! So that indicates it’s definitely it’s an outdoor plant–but not in my climate. However, I suspect that just like last year it will succumb to something–perhaps the mites that seem to be affecting some other things in my collection this year–well before I can re-pot it and get it outdoors for the summer.

Perhaps next year, I will just content myself with my bulbs!

Gardening Resolutions #4

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The large plant in the center of the photo is what’s prompted this “resolution.” I seem to be full of them this year, most of them which I am sure that I will never be able to keep, of course!

This is a variegated pittosporum. It’s not a house plant. It’s a shrub that grows in warm climates. I saw it on my trip to Italy in 1999 and fell in love with it. I’ve also seen it, as well as its non-variegated cousin, on my trips to Texas.

My “resolution,” if you will, is to try not to fall in love with these huge plants that were never intended to be house plants. As I just mentioned, this is a shrub. The only reason it’s in my house in a pot is that I can’t grow it outside in my cold climate.

So why am I growing it at all? Well, because, as I mentioned, I saw a lovely hedge of it in Italy, outside of Rome, at a restaurant where I enjoyed a lovely open-air dinner on a warm, late summer night. My chair backed up tot this hedge and the foliage is slightly fragrant. That was all it took. When I saw a small plant offered for sale, it brought back that wonderful memory of that open air dinner and the rest is history.

I didn’t realize that this plant flowered and had lovely fragrant flowers int he spring. It won’t do it for me every spring–but that’s part of its charm too. But still–if I keep falling in love with shrubs, I’ll have to move out of my house!

Gardening Resolutions #2

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Why am I showing you a pot of dirt? Because it isn’t, really, of course. It’s an exercise in patience. Or, in other words, compost no plant before its time.

This is a rhizamatous begonia–no really. I have found that for me, some grow just fine 12 months of the year. And obviously, as you can see by this post, some don’t.

For years, what I did with the ones that didn’t was to put the rhizomes in with some other plant–maybe a large banana or or something that I was over-wintering. I would have the large tropical plant to look at for the winter, and in the spring, when I took the large plant outdoors, it would have something interesting at its feet. My banana now has several begonias in with it.

But I have decided to just let these plants be, in an out of the way spot. I will keep them just moist enough so that they don’t turn to dust. And I suspect, come spring, I will have a begonia again.

And if I am wrong, well, then I can always compost it in the spring.

Gardening Resolutions #1

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Remember this photo of my citrus from early October? I said that in a few months they would lose their leaves.

So when the large variegated one on the end began to do so about 2 weeks ago, I really didn’t even pay attention. All the citrus get scale every winter and I could see it recurring. So I figured between the scale and the unbelievably dim light that we have been having because of all the rain (but it’s still rain, not ice and not much snow, so I will take it, thank you very much!) it was just normal leaf loss.

This is a warning about what happens when you assume. Needless to say, it wasn’t normal leaf loss, nor was it due to the scale alone.

I am not even sure how I noticed: it might have happened in a rare sunny moment (because we don’t get whole sunny days).

I was watering and I noticed that the variegated plant was covered in webbing. Spider mites. So not only was that plant infested, but every other plant on the windowsill was infested–because spider mites get out of control very quickly.

Luckily I had a warm day to take everything outside to spray it off with an organic oil. I also washed the whole windowsill down and washed all the trays out.

But for the rest of the winter now,I will need to be vigilant about watching–& probably treating for spider mites.

Oh well. At least I won’t be bored.

More Seasonal Color

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Was anyone surprised to see my post listing this plant as a “bulb?” If you’re an outdoor gardener in a cooler climate, you might have planted its smaller cousins in a shady spot.

With my heavy clay soil, cyclamen corms just rot away and don’t even come up in the spring, nevermind naturalize in the lovely drifts that I have seen in other gardens.

For that matter, this plant doesn’t do particularly well in my home. I am not entirely sure why. It’s certainly cool enough.

It may be my watering practices and the fact that it is a corm (which is a bulb-like structure. Crocuses are corms if that helps you visualize).

All “house plants” that grow from bulbs–calla lilies and caladiums are just 2 more examples I can think of–need to be kept evenly moist. Once bulbs dry out, it tells them to initiate dormancy.

In my house, I am not so good with “evenly moist.” So I suspect that’s why I fail with these. But they are lovely to look at for the season.