Gardening Resolutions #4

20181229_125050

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!

Another Holiday Worthy Plant

20181213_195734.jpg

This stunner unfortunately doesn’t have one good common name. Its botanical is stromanthe sanguinea ‘Triostar’ (or sometimes variegata). I have seen it called Persian Shield, but not often, and I have also seen it called Tricolor Prayer Plant, which is even more misleading, because it does not belong to the calathea/maranta genus which are usually called “prayer plants.” So feel free to come up with some good common name yourself.

I say it’s “holiday worthy” of course because of the colorations in the leaves. I suppose it could easily be be gifted around Valentine’s Day as well for the same reason. This photo shows the nice maroon stems fairly well. I didn’t capture the maroon undersides of the leaves though. It really is a stunner of a plant!

For me, I grow it in an east or west exposure–where ever I have more room in a given season. I have had this plant for several years and it hasn’t grown very much (and I like that in a plant sometimes)–many of my plants are outgrowing my house!

In the summer, I put it outside under a dogwood that throws fairly dense shade. Despite the outside/inside routine for at least 3 or 4 years, it has never had an insect problem.

In my cooler house, it only needs water once a week. Outside, it might get watered every day, depending on temperatures.

I definitely can recommend this as a plant. As I often say–what’s not to like?

Wait, What? This Plant is Trendy Too?

Because I write this blog (and columns here and there for other publications) I get a lot of things sent to me. Most come via email but occasionally I will actually get an old-fashioned press release in the snail mail.

Just recently I got an email newsletter about how we all ought to be ramping up our house plant design for the holidays (oh my. Even I am not quite ready to think about house plants for the holidays, but then again, I don’t get paid the big bucks for this).

20181031_184115

Interestingly enough, the newsletter had things like rex begonias, variegated and green dracenas paired, side by side, the ubiquitous ZZ plant and this plant–the Ponytail Palm (beaucarnea recurvata).

First thing to know–of course this is not a palm. It is native to Mexico, so for those of us growing in colder climates, we are doomed to grow the poor things in pots.

I have read that proper culture says that we are not to snip off the ends of the leaves as they grow. That may be fine for these plants “in the wild” but in our “over-heated” (or under humidified) homes, the ends of the leaves get quite messy and brown. I snip away with abandon once a year on mine–I can’t stand the look of a half dead leaf. The rest eventually dies off and is then removed anyway.

20181031_184150

The other important thing to know is that these plants prefer to be grown on the dry side. The swollen caudex (or caudices–in this instance, I have about 5 in this pot!) actually stores water so it is possible to over-water them and kill them.

Finally, I have not found that mine are particularly fussy about light–they grow in fairly dark conditions quite nicely. The photos I have seen of them “in the wild” show them in bright light and flowering. Mine haven’t done that, but I expect it’s a light issue (or maybe a light and warmth issue.

You can see that the one above is on a coffee table in the middle of a room. Granted, it’s an extremely bright room–the room has two bay windows that face south and east–but it’s still no where near a window!

As for the trendy part, I suspect it’s the sculptural aspect of these plants that makes them trendy. While I can’t see them being used in the way that the snake plants are–as room dividers, in a row–these are definitely funky accent plants (provided the tips of the leaves aren’t brown, of course.)

And since they’re very easy care, this is definitely a “trend” that could be appealing, especially at the holidays!

What a Difference A Little Warmth Makes!

April in Connecticut was nasty! It was the 5th or 6th coldest April on record (and our records go back into the late 1800s, so that’s a good bit of weather to compare with!)

We got almost 2″ of rain above average–you won’t ever hear me complaining too much about rain, but when it’s so cold, extra rain is extra ugly.

And we had over 6″ of snow above average. That I will complain about!

But so far the beginning of May is making up for it–or as I always say, we only have two seasons here in this state, winter and July.  We haven’t had much temperate weather–it’s either been below average (or much below) or much above. I presume that’s how averages are made.

Still, when I got back from Oklahoma, I found all this in bloom!

20180501_073032

Azaleas were everywhere ( as were forsythia, but I don’t have those)

20180501_073002

Magnolias similarly were everywhere. I have a star magnolia, but I am a bit concerned that it somehow died over the winter. I see no signs of life–either blossoms or leaves. This is a 30 year old tree. I hate when that happens!

My yellow magnolia is doing fine and will be in bloom shortly.

20180501_073306

Bulbs are popping up in places where I planted them–and where I didn’t. More about that in another post.

20180501_073316

My weeping cherry–which is always later than the magnolia–is spectacular.

20180501_073248

And this funny plant–petasites japonica–is doing quite well because of all the moisture. It will do well as long as it’s moist. If it becomes hot and dry, it will get ratty and I cut it back.

20180501_073053

So I was very pleased to see spring at last on my return.

 

 

Don’t Try This at Home

20171112_100136

This doesn’t look so bad, does it? The orchid looks nice and healthy and there are new growth tips on the roots. What could the problem be?

I’m not sure if you can tell, but when I re-potted it, I didn’t have the proper size clay pot available so I used a plastic pot. Bad mistake. Because while the orchid is happy, I am not.

First of all, it continually tips over and that’s really not good for the plant. I have already damaged one of its leaves that way.

Next, when I go to re-pot this plant, I am inevitably going to have to damage some of the roots–and I am going to have to cut the pot off. That’s not good for either of us.

With a clay pot, if I got desperate, I could just have broken the pot away (something that accidentally happened that led to this fiasco).

20171112_100150

But check out these roots coming through the bottom here. Not good. I mean, the roots themselves look fine, but how will I ever be able to disentangle them from this pot at re-potting time? Oh boy.

So take my advice–don’t try this in your home!

Got Herbs?

20171014_142513

I love herbs and I love growing them. And I hate to give them up at the end of the season.  So this is my compromise.

Everything you see here–with the exception of the basil–will winter over just fine right here.  There’s also a lavender that you don’t see that’s not hardy for my zone that’s also going to winter here with these herbs.

If I need some fresh thyme or chives or Bay, I know right where to find them–no wading through the snow required.

And it’s just a nice garden to come home to at the end of the day as  well.

If you have an unheated porch that gets plenty of sun, give it a try!

I Thought the Drought Was Over

Although I thought that the national media did a horrible job of publicizing the fact that the northeast just endured well over two years of extreme drought, complete with water rationing,  reservoirs drying up and massive plant die offs along with insect infestations, most of that seems to be over now, thank goodness.

The drought stretched from Maine all the way down to the south at times and as far back as the Ohio Valley but New England was particularly hard hit. Parts of Massachusetts were rationing water for well over a year and here in Hartford County Connecticut we are still drier than we should be even after abundant rainfall elsewhere.

Still,  this year, things look much better than they have for years with the exception of the aftermath.

20170530_164120

You heard on Friday that my gardening is pretty much limited to pointing my finger or my camera at this point for the next several weeks.  But the Spoiler has had to call in help to clear out all of the drought killed plantings–& every time we look we find more. This partially killed blue spruce around our pond is just one example.

In many cases, things haven’t been killed outright,  which is a blessing.  I just wonder, after the pruning, what they will look like. This kerria will look just fine. The blue spruce that I showed above, not so much, I fear.

20170530_164154

And then there are the things that are just dead and need to be pulled out. Several hydrangeas and a rose finally succumbed.

20170530_163937

And finally there are things that just aren’t going to bloom this year at all–but at least they survived and came back. This peony is one example. (And notice that lovely “grass and weed” mulch. I may never recover from that either–but that’s a different issue!)

I have rhododendons taller than I am also without blooms–but it would be a catastrophe to have lost those.

We’ll need a few more weekends of help to get the pruning all done. Good thing it’s a long summer.