it’s kind of funny–my plants come in in “waves,” as l call it. And people who know me will periodically ask, “are all your plants in? They have no idea what they are asking!
The tropical plants, or house plants, are all in because it is getting quite cool here. It’s down to the mid 40s this morning. So the 200 or so tropical plants are safely inside and have been for the last 3 weeks. I will talk more about my theory on that–and some other theories–on Monday.
Then there are these: amaryllis bulbs. They should be drying out before I bring them into the basement for winter. I may have to bring them in when they are wetter than I care for them to be. I should have brought them in this past weekend but I was too busy pruning dead stuff off my other plants because of our summer drought.
Then I have the plants that come into the sun porch–that’s the photo at the head of this post. These herbs and “tender” evergreens can take some cold, but not New England cold. They will need to come in before a hard freeze.
And then there are my containers that also will need to come in before a hard freeze because, as a general rule, container plants can’t be left to over-winter outside here. These are things like potted succulents that would be hardy if I were growing them in the ground, blueberries in containers, and plants that everyone else thinks are appropriate to plant in the fall like hydrangeas and roses so they ship them to me but if I were to try to plant them now, they would die–so I have to overwinter them in my garage.
So the “are all your plants in?” question is hugely complicated!
Because I have been thinking so much about trees, I have also been thinking about shade. So many of us garden under trees here in New England, so we are very familiar with shade gardening. In fact, I remember distinctly a couple of decades back now (although it seems like almost yesterday) when my Mom bought a house, she asked for me to help with the landscaping.
Well, she was blessed with full sun. And I had been gardening in shade for almost a decade by that point. I had to completely reverse my thinking to pick out trees, shrubs and perennials for her. In addition, she was at the beach and had very sandy soil–not my heavy clay. It was really a total switch for me. Luckily we found some good garden centers where we could choose some plants.
But it always shocks me when I start thinking about shade–and how I might describe shade, for example–for a lecture I am giving. You come across the descriptions of “part-shade” as 4 hours of sun. That’s totally shocking to me because there are areas which get 4 hours of sun in my yard and I call that “full sun!”
For the record, “full sun,” is described as at least 6 hours of continuous sun. There are very few places in my yard that I have that–in fact, I think the only place that I do have 6 hours of sun is around my mailbox where I grow my roses.
But shade has its own advantages. The houseplants–even those that normally sit in my south windows all winter–prefer a partially shaded site once they’re outside and getting the benefit of true sunlight. And those that like less light prefer it under the shade of my dogwood, which actually throws quite a bit of shade, but still permits some early morning sunlight to get to the plants (before they roast on these midsummer days!)
True shade houseplants actually sit on my front stoop where the shade from the house protects them. Shade from a building is of course total shade–all light is blocked. Some ambient light filters to them from the front, but nothing gets to them from the rear–and they are completely happy and growing like that.
So all shade is not created equal–it helps to remember that whether you are gardening in containers or in the ground!
You might have heard that the northeast had some strong winds recently. This really isn’t unusual for us. We regularly get strong winds above 50 mph in the spring and the fall as fronts come through.
And unfortunately, because we are a heavily treed state, with large, mature evergreens, someone, somewhere will lose a tree–or two. You can see my neighbor’s woodpile in the photo behind what is soon to be more timber. He stacks his logs in between our upright pine trees.
As the above photo shows, one of our pines took a hit in these most recent winds. The top half came off, flew across the yard and landed on the roof with a thud so loud it woke me from a sound sleep (not an easy thing to do!) and shook the whole house.
Once it bounced off the roof, it slid down the side of the house, taking off the siding.
This is the “small” end of the tree. The larger part is in the top photo. I missed the “good part” yesterday where the branches were up to the second story windows.
And one of the sad things is that it shattered a lovely granite bench into several pieces, beyond repair.
But here I am, telling you all about it–so there’s nothing truly sad about this at all really. Because this could have been so much worse!
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!
It’s that time of year–I start “decking the halls” (or walls, in this case) with all sorts of live greens. And no, I don’t make them myself.
I may go cut some fresh holly from my backyard, but for the most part, my holly grows in too much shade to make abundant berries–and I would much prefer to leave the berries outside for the birds to enjoy anyway.
So I splurge on these purchased things–and for the most part, I leave them up until well into Lent!
I used to get kissing balls but the last few years I’ve gotten these baskets. They seem to last a little better, and depending on what they’re grown in, I may get a bonus container at the end. The last couple of years when I had gotten “kissing balls” they seemed to disintegrate in January or February–well before I was ready to recycle them. These last better.
And I brought this home and set it in its usual spot and realized it was next to 2 pots of succulents which were frozen in place–so I had to re-think that placement in a hurry! As it turns out, I like this placement better–until our next snow, at least, when the Spoiler will blast it with the snowblower! I’ll have to hope my succulents thaw so that I can move them!
Remember on Friday I talked about watching plants for signs of insect infestation? Apparently I wasn’t taking my own advice.
Of course these little evergreens are never happy indoors and I know that. But I was shocked to see this plant go from healthy to basically dead over the course of a week.
Only the bright green parts are still alive –& there are very few of those. Everything else is dead and crumbles under my fingers when I touch it.
What can cause such rapid deterioration? Only one thing: spider mites.
Now here is more evidence that Stephen King isn’t a gardener. Spider mites are tiny little spiders–almost invisible to the eye. Just like regular spiders , some make webs and some don’t . The ones that make webs are easier to find, but usually by the time you find your plants covered in the webs, it’s too late. They’re too far gone to save.
They breed quite quickly as well, reproducing themselves every 3 days. So a small infestation can get out of control quickly.
And they are so light that they can easily travel between or among plants on any current of air–or your watering can spout, for example .
Once you know that you have these in your house, you want to remove infested plants (this one is dead anyway) and watch everything else anywhere nearby very closely .
Do as I say, not as I do to avoid a lot of heartbreak.
As you plan for winter arrangements, scavenge in your yard for some foliage.
I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest so I don’t have a lot of those wonderful cedars with cones that you see in the professional arrangements.
And here in the northeast, our magnolias are not evergreen, so that lets out using their lovely glossy leaves.
And I usually want to leave my berried plants–holly, juniper and crab apple–with their berries–as winter treats for my wild life.
This is what I have left: scavenged branches from the bottom of my Christmas tree (Fraser fir from good old Somers, CT), some variegated euonymus and some hellebore leaves.
By the way, that adorable nativity just to the left of the top container is from El Salvador. It’s one of my favorites (I collect nativities, among other things) because of the rainbow arch, the palm trees and the sweet little lambs.
I doubt you’ll ever see most of my collection on here (not gardening or weather related) but most come from countries like Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and the more “rustic” they are , the better I like them!