Monday, November 26, 2012

shelstring blog: Just Sittin'

shelstring blog: Just Sittin'

I happened upon this post of your and I thought it was just the nicest part of my day.  I think it was nice that your hubby helped you on your bench when ya needed it but left you to do it with your boy when ya didn't.  I think it turned out beautiful.  What a great project and great success you had.  I hope you enjoy it for many years and the memories follow your son into the years with his own children.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Work has been a little crazy lately so apologies for being absent.  My plants are missing me as well.  Today, they screamed and cried for attention by sagging and laying down and threatening to die on me.  After 3 days of nearly 90 degrees and no water, I sure hope they survive.  It's been just terrible here and I've been so tied down at work.  These are excuses.  Lame excuses.  Today, I made the time.  I also made the time to repot 3 of my orchids that were literally climbing out of the pots and pulled one out of a pots that was super soaking wet because there was no drainage hole in it.  That last one would have rotted and died in no time flat.  I checked on the new baby I potted and so far it's still alive.
Plumeria 5/19/2012

The plumeria plants are all doing well.  Every slip now has leaves coming.  One is doing better than all the rest, but every one of them has leaves coming.  This is very good news.  My husband calls them stick plants.  He couldn't believe I would actually get plants from the slips.  To be honest, I wasn't all that confident myself.  I'm not super gardener.  I'm an average person who likes to garden when I have time on the weekends or if I'm not too tired after work.  I love flowers and plants and learned this love from my grampa and my mom.  However, I am forgetful of my plants in the house and they often die from lack of water.  This is why I can only have outside plants.  :)  If you recall, the plumeria slips came from Hawaii and I think if I protect them from frost, they'll be fine.  
The Curcuma Ginger graced us with its blossoms this week, while the Chinese Lily finished blooming.  I forgot just how pretty these were.  We talked a while back about these and how you can use these as house plants if you live in the colder zones.  Just remember to take advantage of your warm outdoors in the summer months.   I'm thinking about moving all the Chinese Lilies and the new lilies I got for Mother's Day in the yard so they can increase in number.  

Finally, I thought we'd look at the damage from the deer.  We talked about trying to plant outside the screened patio or lanai despite all the deer.  I planted some lavender, which are heavily scented and therefore deer-resistant.  I also planted sunflower seeds.  The poor little sunflower seedlings are trying to grow, but are having one heck of a time.  The deer come by and continue to nibble on them.  I thought you might like to have a gander at them and see what this damage looks like so you can recognize it in case it's not prevalent in your area.  For me, it's a daily problem.  They even ate my hanging baskets of petunias.  I'm now a certified Bambi-hater.  I have gotten a few more ideas to try to keep the deer away.  A master gardener suggested I try garlic oil with dish soap and water and spray it on the plants.  This is my next solution to try.  If you decide to try it first, let me know how it works for you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!  I've spent nearly all of my mother's days the same way with a few exceptions.  I am willing to bet I am not alone.  I spend them in the yard and garden.  Mother's Day is the turning point in the year - the sign that it is safe to plant.  Safe that frost won't sneak up on your tender seedlings and snatch them up in a brutal overnight gone bitter cold.  There were more than a couple times that I forgot the golden rule of waiting until Mother's Day to plant and got impatient only to lose some of my early planted flowers to frost.  
As I think back upon all of the years of Mother's Days that have passed, it is the earliest ones.  The leanest ones.  Those when we has the least.  We didn't plant a lot of varieties of flowers, but I always planted marigolds.  They were my grandpa's favorites.  I guess it's my
tribute to him.  He had a beautiful garden.  When I was little girl and went to his house, I thought he had the biggest and most beautiful garden.  The lesson for today is to really pay attention to these zone charts and freeze dates and don't let your impatience get the best of you.
Traditionally, I receive some plant each year from one of my daughters.  Last year, I got my Lace-cap Hydrangea.  This year, I got a really pretty day lily and a large purple Phalanopsis orchid from her.   Day lilies are great plants.   They put on a wonderful show for a flower and they are super fragrant.  Each of them has a different zone range but they have a great zonal range.  The lilies have average watering needs and need good drainage.  They'll come back the following the year in greater abundance and continue to multiply.  This is a great plant to share with your friends by just giving them some of the bulbs.
I admit that today I was a bit impatient myself and cut that little baby off my orchid and potted it.  Now, we just wait and see if it will get some roots and live on its own.  I also repotted it with some fresh potting media.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Plant Media
Orchid Leaves

Let's take a look at that phalanopsis orchid.  We'll start at the bottom and look closely at all areas of the plant and by the time we're finished, you won't believe this little orchid had so much to tell us.  This first photo looks at the plant media or the stuff that the orchid is planted in.  It's mostly old moss and very little bark.  Most of the bark has broken down and the moss is mostly ineffective in holding much moisture.  We'll talk about how we know this in just a little bit.  We can see it's inefficient planting matter because you can see all the little poke holes from my fingers sticking in it checking to see if it was wet or dry to determine whether or not it needed water.   The  second photo focuses on the leaves.  This is our second giveaway that the the plant matter is not working well in the water retention area. We know this because our leaves are all wrinkled.  If you look very, closely you can see the oldest leaves are the most wrinkled and the newest leaves are firm, strong and greener.  What you cannot see are the older leaves feel softer and thinner and kind of saggy.  
Next, we see this little protuberance coming out of the base of the plant if you look real close.  This is a new stem.  Most of the time when you buy an orchid, you try to purchase the ones with more stems because the more stems you have, the more flowers you get blooming at the same time.  This is, after all, why we buy orchids.  Isn't it?  We want the spectacular display of flowers.  I was really happy to see a new stem coming.  Normally, our orchids, flower.  Then the flowers die and the stems, die off and we cut them back and new stems come.  This plant has been really unusual in that the stems, never died off.  So..... I never cut them back.  This stem will make a third stem on this plant since the other two stems are currently flowering for the third or fourth time.  I've lost count to be honest.    The next photo shows the plant flowering with......a bud.  Each stem has an additional bud.  So this plant is by no means finished flowering.  You can see it's a healthy blooming plant despite the desperate need to have the planting media replaced.  
This plant has one final story to tell us.  What you see is a new baby growing on the top of a stem.  Two new leaves have formed at the top of the stem at a juncture below the flowers but substantially above the lower leaves.  The next step for me is to cut this stem off and plant this set of leaves in some mossy bark media and let it root.  It will shoot up a stem and flower when it's mature enough.  What am I waiting for to but this baby off?  The same thing to give it some fresh moss and bark.  I'm waiting for it to stop flowering.  :) 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I finally got around to getting the tomato into the upside down planter.  While I had two tomato plants and two upside down planters (Topsy-Turvy brand), we decided to do it with only one plant just in case it didn't work out so well.  It was pretty easy to do.  Instead of shoving the whole plant through the whole planter, you just stick the roots up inside the planter and use this little spongy thing to hold the plant in place.  Then, you fill it up with soil.  There are some holes in the side that you can put herb plants in it so it has a tomato plant growing out the bottom and then herbs cascading down the sides.    I might get around to that one day.  It looked a little sad in the beginning of the transplant, but after a bit of water and sunshine it perked right up.  I will give you this piece of advice if you are doing this - It's a two - person job or else hang it so that it's open at about waist height.  Otherwise, you end up fighting this thing.  Also, you'll want to keep the instructions handy.  It's a simple enough little thing but the top was a two pieces and I forgot to put it on until after I hung it up and then noticed I had those two pieces "left over."  Then, took it down and then had to muck around with it to put the two pieces on after the fact and it was just kind of a pain in the neck.
I noticed today that the aloe plant has two babies not one.  I'm trying to be patient about transplanting the aloe until they get a little bigger.  The aloe looks like it's about ready to  knock the pot over but I'm afraid that if I do it now the babies won't make it.  You need to look closely to see them both.  In my next post, we're going to talk orchids.  I've been putting it off, but we are going to visit one of my Phalanopsis orchids because there is a lot going on with one of them and I thought it would be a good one to look at since it's a great showcase plant.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The junior gardener was a no show today, so I had to harvest my own beans.  They were huge!!  They are perfect for making dilly beans.  For those of you who are not from our neck of the woods, dilly beans are beans made like pickles and preserved in a brine bath with dill.  Typically, they are very large beans all cut to the same size and tall enough to fill the jar from bottom to top.  I still left plenty of beans on the plants for master Josh to have some to harvest when he comes to visit next week.  What I think is the coolest part is that I have these dinky little plants in these dinky little containers producing monster beans week after week.  So, this is an important lesson for everyone.  You don't need to have a gigantic yard and work in your garden every day for it to produce great things for you and give you an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment.    This reinforces my desire to make that little sign I've been wanting to make "What happens in the Garden comes to the Table."  I saw one that said "What happens on the patio stays on the patio" and I thought it was dumb.  I think that is one of the most over used and abused sayings there is and doesn't even make sense in most cases.  
I noticed just before I left for Charlotte that we have 2 more Bird of Paradise flowers.  I'm trying to be patient and let the seed pods develop.  We'll see if I can catch them after they turn brown but before they release the seeds.  This is rather tricky business when you work a full time job and get wrapped in you work and forget about the gardening stuff from time to time.  In other words, live a normal life.  :)  I try to visit my plants but I don't always see all of them and the Birds of Paradise are in the back of the house where I hate to visit.  Usually I try to visit them only once or twice a week and sometimes even less than that.  Why?  Ants.  I hate ants in Florida and I'm always afraid I'm going to find them during my walks back there.  Just the same, we're keeping our eyes on them and trying to nab those seed pods and the precious seeds they hold.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Parsley seed progress 5/1/2012
Tam's year old Parsley 4/27/2012
Herb gardening is nice.  I think it's easy to grow them since they act like weeds for the most part.  When you go to the grocery store, take a look at the cost of those herbs.  Wowie are they expensive!  Growing them is cheap, cheap, cheap.  All you need is a little patch of soil and a little tender loving care.  You saw the parsley seeds I planted a bit ago.  When 
I got home on Monday, I was pleased with the progress.  While in Charlotte, I was impressed with my daughter's parsley.  It never went dormant over the winter months and as a result, is taller than my grandson! As you can see from the year old parsley, it has some rambling tendencies, as all herbs do.  For this reason, it's in a raised bed.   Mine are also in containers for this same reason.  It is not uncommon for me to have my herbs carry over from year to year and this happened even when I lived in Chicago, so it's not only in warmer zones.  Most of the herbs like lots of sunshine and good drainage.  There are tons of websites that give great tips on how to preserve the herbs - two of the most popular being  hanging upside down to dry  in a cool, dry, dark place or freezing.  I often just go outside and pull from the plant as I need it - except lavender.  I hang the lavender flowers upside down as they bloom to try to get the plant to become a bit bushier, rather than taller.  Keep in mind that when using fresh herbs, you don't need to use as much as when using older, dried herbs.  Fresh herbs are a little more potent and give a bit more flavor.  The basil is coming a long nicely finally.  I'm not exactly thrilled that it's all bunched together, but at least it's coming up at last.  I was getting a little worried for a while. 
Basil seedlings  5/1/2012
 I'm trying to pick out little basil babies here and there and move them to more appropriate places in the planter now and again, hoping they will not die.  So far, one has crapped out.  We'll keep trying and see what happens.  These bunched up little puppies will cramp each others' style so they can't stay this way.  Soon, I'll have to thin them out.  
The last thing I wanted to talk about were the beans.  Those beans, as you may recall, have been a real challenge this year.  I lost a total of 4 bean plants and my avocado to whitefly.  So, I thought you'd like to know that the remaining bean plants have already been harvested once and are again loaded with beans waiting for Saturday's visit of the little gardener to arrive and gather up the harvest in his basket.  He was so excited about what we gathered that I just don't have the heart to harvest without him.  These beans can wait until the weekend to be cut from the plant.  Considering the rocky start we had, things are indeed looking rosy once again.
Bean harvest 4/22/2012

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Queen's Tears
Repotted Queen's Tears parent & pup
Queen's Tears (billbergia)close up 
While I was walking Miss Savannah I saw a beautiful flowering bromeliad.  I had to look it up on the internet and learned it's called Queen's Tears.  I just had to have it.  I kept passing by it day after day, longing for it, yearning.  I just couldn't take it any more.  Without any gloves or equipment, just a dog, a leash and some poop bags, I took a tiny piece of the parent plant and a teeny pup from this raving beauty.  I left the forest with lots of scratches that itched through the night and happily carried home my prize jubilantly.  When I got home I mixed up a batch of 2/3 soil and 1/3 perlite to house my new plant.    I did this right away and gave it a bit of water.  The things to remember about this plant is that it's a bromeliad and that it propagates by having pups and it only flowers once in its lifetime.  However, I've been watching this plant flower for at least 3 weeks now.  This plant is for zone 10 and above or as a houseplant (put it outside for the summer).  It does not like full sun, so keep this little sweetheart in partial shade for the best results.  The photo to the right shows a nice close up how really cool these flowers are and now, you understand my desire to have this plant.  

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chinese Lily 4/20/2012
I've been swamped with houseguests and then away in Charlotte so please forgive me for letting life take me away from blogging for a bit.  It has not prevented me from gardening but from discussing my activities.  I'll try to catch you up on what's been going on.  It's quite late tonight so it'll be short and sweet for now.  While I was away in Charlotte, the plants grew like crazy!  The Chinese Lilies finally started blooming.  

The Lemon Lime tree had a lot of trouble.  I sprayed it several days with my homemade white oil using my new sprayer since the old sprayer crapped out finally.  I ended up with more oil on me than on the tree.  I sprayed both trees to be on the safe side.  Today, I did a little inspection and while I saw a couple of ants on the tree, the ants were not moving.  It was not the ant parade I saw a few weeks ago.  I also had a nice surprise of a nice sized piece of fruit that did not fall off and two new flowers beginning.
Kalanchoe 4/30/2012
Finally, one of the the kalanchoe plants is really gorgeous.  It's in fully bloom and looks so good that I moved the other one right next to it.  It obviously likes the sun exposure in this location.  I was really amazed at how nice the plants looked when I got home.  Being gone for 10 days, I thought I would find a bunch of dead plants, but that is not at all what I found.  Take a look!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The deer started eating my petunias in the hanging baskets.  In fact, I was furious when I saw the basket today when I went to water it.  I used to think Bambi was cute and that image has been fading over the past few years.  The avocado is looking terribly sad with black spots on the leaves, some holes eaten in the new growth and the leaves sagging something terrible.  I thought I saw some whitefly.  Yes, the darn whitefly is back.  I sprayed the plant with some white oil and then put in one of those yellow sticky cards.  This year is starting off really badly.  It's barely April and I've already had more problems this year than the entire year last year.  This is really frustrating.  I did lose both of my hanging basket flowers to the deer last year, but it was a bit later in the year.  I'm going switch out the plants and put the ivy plants in the front and put the petunia plants inside the lanai where the deer can't get them.  This should help solve one problem.  The yellow sticky card should solve the other problem.  My mom is leaving in another two days.  We have 2 days to hunt down a few air plants (Tillandsia), get the Queen's Tears delivered that I ordered, pack up the lavender I started drying and a little hanging terrarium for the air plants.  It's always nice to go home with something to remember your trip that lasts forever.  Plants last forever.
Hanging Terrarium

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ant Feeding Frenzy Put to an End! 
I showed you some pretty blossoms on my lemon-lime tree that miraculously made it through the winter.  About 2 weeks ago, I noticed a bazillion ants marching up and down the live portions of the plant without a care in the world.  I sprayed them off and they returned.  I was frustrated and once again googled my heart out to try to find out what the problem was.  It seemed the issue was scale insects are on the plant, which secrete a sugary substance the ants are "farming."  It can also be aphids.  The answer is white oil.  Next step was to make homemade white oil of course because I do everything at home if at all possible.  I googled that too.  I found several recipes and they were all pretty much the same.  1 part dish soap (I used Sunlight because the recipe I used specified this brand), 2 parts vegetable oil (I used teaspoons for 1 quart of water so I had no leftovers) mixed well and then dilute 1 tablespoon of this into 1 quart of water and spray all over the plant including both sides of the leaves.  This needs to be repeated on a weekly basis until the problem is completely eradicated.  The oil will suffocate the insects and this mixture will kill the sooty mold as well.  This should not be used until after the flowers have blossomed and the fruit has set.  I've also given the soil a nice, citrus fertilizer spike to give the plant an added boost of vitamins to help it recover.  
The little baby parsley is looking very cute.  After all this time, the seeds seem to finally have taken hold and growing on one side of the planter.  We'll wait a bit longer until the seedlings get a bit larger before we thin them out and move the ones we pluck out to the other side of the planter.  I'm just glad to see that they are finally growing.  I thought for a while we weren't going to get anything in the box at all.  Would you believe the plumeria is actually beginning to poke out the top of those slips??  I am amazed!  The sheet of paper that came with them said 90 days or something like that to get roots.  I was a bit concerned because little Josh was having a ton of fun with the hose last weekend and sprayed water water everywhere and my plants got soaked.  The instructions were VERY clear about making sure not to over water these slips.  So I was more than a little worried about them since they took on quite a bit of water if you recall.  Today, I was more careful and prepared for my little man.  I moved them far out of the little guy's reach as well as the range of the sprayer.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

We have BEANS!!
Can you believe it?  After all my moaning, groaning and complaining during the whitefly infestation, and losing 4 bean plants, we've gotten the plants to recover well enough that we actually have beans.  My husband actually laughed at me when I told him.  They are a bit skinny yet and need to fatten up a bit yet.  So, we'll watch them over the next few days or a week and let them finish growing before we harvest them.  
Drying Lavender
Today, I planted some sunflower seeds on the side of the house next to the lavender.  I'm hoping that if I do this next to the lavender.  I need to stop and pick up some more lavender to plant on the other side of the sunflowers beneath my bedroom window.  I want it to waft into the room when I open the window.  I have that going on by one of the other bedroom windows with the jasmine and it's absolutely heavenly. In fact, so wonderful, I want to replicate it for my own room with the strong scent of the relaxing, lavender scent.  Maybe it will lull me to sleep at night.  :)
I also harvested the lavender that had flowered for two reasons.  I want the lavender to bush out a bit rather than being tall and spindly.  I also thought it would be nice to take advantage of the blooms and allow new blossoms to take their place.  I have pulled all the leaves off and tied them into 3 bunches and hung them upside down to dry out.  They can be used in sachets, soap, candles or in a small vase.   They will stay smelling sweetly for a long, long time.  I wanted to try to do this today since I took yesterday, today and tomorrow off work.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Oleander 4/9/2012
What a gorgeous showy display the oleander is giving this time of year.  It's only been a few weeks and that single flower has turned into a tree full of blossoms.  This got me to do some research.  I knew how to care for the oleander based on experience and the little card that came with it when I first got it 11 years ago.  However, there was a lot I did not know about Nerium oleander.  We'll get to all of that after we discuss the care.  It has average watering needs and prefers full sun.  The soil pH should be from 6.1 (mildly acidic) to 7.8 (mildly alkaline).  I use a spring application of all purpose time-released fertilizer every year.  Otherwise, I mostly ignore this flowering shrub/tree.  It's a really pretty plant that's deer resistant.  It got some sort of caterpillar action one day when it was inside the lanai, so it got moved outside.  I planted it next to the house in the back part of the house where we could kind of forget about it and not worry about it and quarantine it and the caterpillars from my healthy plants inside the lanai.  It recovered just fine, but forever lived with the nickname of "The Charlie Brown tree" by my husband after the sad looking Christmas tree in the Peanuts cartoon.  The name does not fit in any way, shape or form any longer, but it did very much at the time. 
Let's talk a little about what I learned about oleanders.  These plants are extremely poisonous.   I was not aware when I got this plant.  In fact, I'm not sure if I bought it myself or my parents got it for me.  I know we all thought it was a beautiful, flowering shrub.    "Oleander poisoning occurs when someone sucks nectar from the flowers or chews leaves from the oleander or yellow oleander plant. Poisoning can also happen if you eat honey made by bees that used the oleander plant for nectar."1  The poisonous toxins made by this plant are contained in all parts of the plant: 

Close up of Oleander 3/17/2012

  • Flowers
  • Leaves
  • Stems
  • Twigs
Based on what I read about this plant, I have mixed feelings about this plant.  While it is quite beautiful, it is really a hazard to have around.  In order to collect seeds, one must wear gloves.  To remove the plant, the crown of roots must be completely dug out.  I read several stories of people and their pets who have died from this plant.  The toxins affect the heart, like the foxglove plants.  I will have to think on this one for a while before I make up my mind.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Aloe Vera plant has baby!
Twice transplanted aloe
Last summer I bought the cheapest aloe plant I could find and it's been transplanted twice since then.  It stays outside and gets watered once a week or week and a half (or when it seems to begin to dry out).  It gets partial shade due to the screen cage that covers the pool area.    These plants do not like frost, so it gets brought in close to the house if we get a frost warning.  These are typically considered houseplants like so many others we've been talking about lately.  Many of the plants we talk about can and should be brought outside for the summer months.  It was not until I put my first aloe plant outside for the summer in Florida that I realized the more mature plants produce flowers that hummingbirds love.  My flowers were a pale yellow color.  During the colder months, you can bring it back inside if you have hard frosts.  The websites I checked told me this was a zone 10 - 11 plant again.  I've grown these plants for over 30 years as houseplants.  I never bothered to buy aloe vera cream.  It's easier to just reach for the plant and break a small piece off.  It heals itself quickly as all succulents do being 95% water.  There are couple of things to keep in mind when repotting your aloe vera.  First, choose a wider pot rather than a deeper pot.  These plants do not have a deep root system and as you can see in the photo above they spread out quite a bit and get quite heavy.  I've had more than one aloe plant get big and heavy enough to knock my pots over and had to transplant them for this reason.  Second, add a fair amount of perlite  to the soil and use clay pot instead of plastic to help with the moisture drainage.  Aloe plants can be propagated either by seed or by separating the baby plants from the mother plant after they are several inches tall.  
Cimbidium Orchid
Shin Shiang Diamond 'Sun Cattleya
Do you remember that freebie orchid I got?  Well, it's bloomed?  In fact, we have 2 flowers!  I've had cattleyas for a year and never ever gotten them to bloom and this little sweetheart is flowering!  I did a little research and the next thing to try is more light.  So, I've moved them all to a little brighter location.  We'll see if this helps.  The cimbidium orchid is just about open after dropping several buds instead opening.  Another one, I need to do some investigation on to see what I'm doing wrong with.  The phalanopsis orchids are soooo much easier.  You just keep them dry and out of the sun.  Feed them once a week and you're golden.  These other orchids get a little more complicated as move along.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mister Josh the junior gardener came by today and watered for me and then watered some more and then some more and then again.   I finally lost my cool when my poor phalanopsis orchids were dripping wet and the plumerias looked like they might float away.  I actually took out the paper towels and dried the leaves of the orchids because they dislike wet leaves at bedtime that much.  He helped me move some plants around and watered the lava rock.  He still reminds me of a little old man sometimes watering the plants in his jammies or in today's case his underwear.  Josh took care of my plants while I was busy at work and my husband had the foresight to quickly grab the camera and snap a few photos catching him hard at work without any direction.  He knows what to do and how to do it at 3 years,  old already.  Next month, I visit my other 3 year old grandson, Brody, in Charlotte and we'll be doing all the same things.  I'm certain they'll both be gardeners.  
Torenias 4/6/2012
This year I tried a new plant - Torenia or wishbone flower.  They are related to snapdragons or foxglove.  You can tell if you look at the shape of the flower.  They look like the perfectly-shaped hummingbird flower.  These are hardy from zones 6 - 9.  They're grown as annuals because about the only place they can overwinter is zone 10 - 11, because they cannot tolerate frost.  You know I'll give it a try anyway, being in zone 9b.  I've had good luck with the pointsettias.  You never know. These little sweethearts like partial sunshine but tolerate full sun and just love a liquid fertilizer just before they bloom.  Typically, they tend to be in the blues, pinks and purples with a touch of yellow for accent.  The beauty of the torenia for me is that it's a great substitute for the pansy since pansies are a bit difficult this far south since it's so darn hot, wet and humid here.  Torenia blossoms through the entire summer from early spring.  It tolerates dry spells but does best with regular watering. They grow easily from seed, but don't push down far into the soil since they do better with sunlight.  Since they have the same hanging tendencies as pansies and petunias also with weak stems, they make excellent hanging basket flowers.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last night it poured and this morning I had a great opportunity to take some really cool photos.  Not all of them worked out well, but some of them were really great!  You'd never know I'm using a point and click camera they look so good.  I was a little concerned though because the newly planted plumeria do not like to be wet.  The instructions specifically said not to water except once every week and a half or so or they would rot.  I'll have to be really careful to bring them inside from now on if it looks like rain.  
The pointsettias were beginning to rot in the house over the winter because the aluminum foil wrapper around the pot was holding all the water.  They smelled to high heaven when I brought them outside, took off the wrappers and watched the stinky water pour out.  I thought I would pass out from the smell.  I was certain they were going to die since they were so soggy and stinky.  I tossed all of the plants that looked like they had a remote chance of living (about 6 plants) into a single pot with some soil and said a few prayers over them.  I deprived it of water for some time and then slowly started watering it on it's normal schedule again after it seemed to start to recover.  When it seems like it's doing well enough I'll cut it back so it's not spindly and a bit more full.  But, right now I would rather see it healthy more than anything.  As you can see from the photo, it's still on the mend but not looking too bad.  Pointsettia plants, native to Mexico,  like it hot and good drainage.  Drying out a little between waterings is what this plant likes.  Too much water as we saw will kill it.  This is a zone 10 and higher plant, but I've managed to keep mine alive without a problem in zone 9b and they grow quite large.  Obviously, these plants cannot tolerate frost at all and must be brought inside at any threat of hard or soft frost threat.  The nurseries get their colors for the Christmas holidays by depriving them of light for 14 hours at a time for a couple of months from the month of November onward.  I found that  I got the same color right around the holidays or just after by doing nothing at all.  These are not the easiest plants and I see my neighbors throw them away year after year to my chagrin.  
The beans seem to be recovering from the whitefly incident well enough to be beginning to flower.  This means I can look forward to seeing some beans soon! YAY!  Take a look at what I saw today.  You can see that some of the leaves still look a little goofy but the plant itself seems to be recovering nicely.    Look at that gorgeous, little, white blossom.  I am so happy I got those sticky, yellow cards and even more happy I have extras on hand in case those miserable little buggers come back.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lavender planted on 4/4/2012
I managed to get the lavender into the ground today after work.  I had picked up 3 2-gallon pots at the local home improvement store of a variety that claims to be a Florida variety of lavender and I had 2 of the Provence plants left that still needed to be transplanted into the ground.  I gave them a little extra room so they could spread out as they grow.  I love lavender.  I recently took out a vase of lavender from my garden in Chicago that is from 11 years ago.  Would you believe it still smells really lovely?  I was amazed!  Lavender is used in cooking and crafts.  It's not just pretty in the garden and fragrant to walk past in the yard or in a vase on your table.  Lavender dries great just by tying together in bunches and hanging upside down in a cool dark-ish place like the basement laundry room or garage.   
Florida Lavender
French Provence Lavender
Since I have no basement in here in Florida, I now hang in a back bedroom that is not used frequently.  The idea is to put somewhere where it won't be disturbed much.  Lavender likes full sun, good drainage and it seems to do pretty well.  They have average watering needs and do not do well if you let them go too long without water.  They prefer a sandy soil.  If you have clay soil, add sand to give it the sandy texture it prefers.   I water every other day when temperatures are in the 70s to mid 80s and every day when the temperatures are mids 80s and above.  There are some varieties that do well in shade as well.  There are 3 types of lavender: English (zones 5-8) Spanish (zones 7b-10b) and French (zones 8a-10b).    The Provence lavender I chose is a special French lavender grown for making perfume.  You can see the difference between the two different lavenders I'm growing in the photos above.  Maybe we can try making some essential lavender oil from the French Provence lavender.   If you are interested in this, I have a link for that. Everything lavender has everything you could possibly want to know about lavender.  I was really captivated by their site.  I admit that I'm enough of a lavender nut that when I went to the south of France I sought out the lavender fields.  I searched and searched until I was able to find a supplier of the French Provence lavender for my home garden and I am happy to have 4 plants now planted in it.  
So anyway, we have this little experiment going on now.  Two of the French Provence lavender plants are inside the lanai and two are outside the lanai planted on an South- Southeastern exposure.  We'll keep our eyes peeled on them and see what happens to the plants and take note of the differences.  
I thought that my seeds were not doing anything at all and was ready to go buy plants.  I noticed this week that I was wrong AGAIN.  
Parsley plants 4/4/2012 
Take a look at the photo and you'll see the parsley is actually starting to come in.  It's just me being impatient.  This is a problem I often face, not waiting long enough.    I also found a little basil seed must have blown from my basil plants last year and taken hold this spring  in the planter of dill or something strange that I cannot explain. I discovered a single basil plant growing.  I picked it out and carefully moved it to a safe place where it has plenty of room to grow.  This is where it comes in really handy to know what your plants look like as opposed to weeds.  This way you don't accidentally pull a viable plant versus a weed.  I also got the plumeria 
Basil 4/4/2012
slips planted.  I received instructions with the slips but I am never comfortable with just instructions like that.  I always search the internet too.  I found a wonderful website with a tremendous amount of good info on plumeria plants and used the instructions they had for planting mine.  The one thing I did differently was that I did not use rooting hormone.  I didn't have any on hand and so I had to do without.  I have some on order so I'll have it on hand next time I really need it.  However, I did follow all the other instructions they had posted.  I also cut out the photo of each type of plumeria and put it in plastic and put it with the matching slip.  They said it will take 90 days for the plumeria to take root.  I'm wondering how impatient me is going to deal with this.  I check my budding orchid several times a day just to see if there's any change.  :)  I have a feeling it's going to be a very long 90 days.  Wish me luck.
Newly planted plumeria slips 4/4/2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Plumeria slips
Today, I went web crawling all because I my four plumeria slips arrived. I am a cheapskate.  There is a wonderful plumeria farm in Tampa near me but their plants are very expensive.  So, I opted to order the cheapest little slips I could find and give it a go doing the hard work myself.  I read the instructions and it said to put them in perlite and water once every week or week and a half or so.  That got me to wondering what exactly perlite is.  I thought we should talk about it since it plays such a big part in horticulture.  We can talk about the plumeria slips another day after I go pick up some perlite and actually do the rooting.
Perlite is volcanic glass without shape that is from snowy white to grayish white in color with a high water content and the unusual characteristic of having the ability of increasing its volume from 4 to 20 times when heated to just the right temperature.  Typically this is above 1600 F.  Chemically, it's inert and has a pH of around 7. The US is both the largest consumer and producer of this non-renewable resource that is mined.

In 2010, estimated perlite consumption in the US was as shown in the table:[1]
53%building construction products
14%horticultural aggregate
8%filter aid
Since we're focusing on horticulture. I thought we'd just go over the value of perlite in horticulture or gardening.

  1. Aeration and drainage
  2. Sterile Rooting Medium - stimulates root initiation
  3. Hydroponics - Excellent media with superb results
  4. Neutral pH & Sterile
  5. Weed-free & Disease-free - good for seedlings
  6. Carrier for fertilizer, herbicides, & pesticides
  7. Clean, odorless, lightweight & safe to handle
  8. Serves as insulator to reduce extreme soil temperature fluctuations
  9. Does not deteriorate
  10. Holds moisture without getting soggy

Good Perlite Links:

I also planted a little basket of lavender, parsley seeds and chive seeds after work today.  It made me happy.  Let's watch and see how it does.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Curcuma Ginger Returns 4/1/2012
Curcuma Ginger in Flower 2011
Curcuma Ginger is also known as the Siam Tulip or its Latin name of  Curcuma petiolata and goes dormant from November to the spring of every year.  I read May or June but my Curcuma is just coming round now as you can see in the photo.  I've been watering it along with my other plants and trying to keep it weeded (for the most part unsuccessfully).  This plant is fragrant as all gingers are and is hardy from zone 7a/b to zone 11.  I don't want you to tune out if you are in a cooler zone than this.  This is a perfect plant for you in the warmer climes in the summer time.  It is great out on the deck in a container and then as the weather cools off you can bring it inside in a southern window.   Since it's dormant from November to May, you won't be missing anything.  You can keep it as a houseplant and treat it like one of your bulbs.  I'm going to point you to a website that gives you some houseplant tips for this plant.    In fact, I keep this in a container on my lanai as well, I just never bring it inside.  During frost season, I bring it closer to the house for some added protection.  The Siam Tulip has average watering needs but is drought tolerant.  This means is a good xeriscaping plant.  I've read that it should be both full sun and partial shade to full shade (lol).  I keep mine on the lanai which is full sun but under the screen.  When I used my handy dandy sun measuring tool, it tells me it is partial shade.   It seems to me that there is a lot of different advice about caring for this plant, so I'd say use your best judgement from what you read.  I went by the seat of my pants and did just fine.  Fertilize this little sweetheart in the spring with 10-20-10 mixture and you can divide the rhizomes in the spring for propagation as well.  You can also gather the seeds by allowing the pods to mature and dry on the plant first and then breaking them open to gather the seeds.  I've never tried the seed gathering, but I'm thinking I might this year.  
 kalanchoe blossfeldiana
My Kalanchoes are in their second flowers for the year.  It has been a strange year.  They flowered through the entire winter because it was so mild.  About a month or so ago, I cut them way back because they looked so straggly and added a bunch of fresh soil and some all purpose time-released fertilizer.  As you can see above, we have some new blossoms coming.  Kalanchoes have never really been on my list of favorite flowers for a weird reason from my childhood.  My mom had them lining the front walk to the front door.  The bees love these flowers.  I had gotten a really bad sunburn and had open blisters all over my arms.  I have a memory of the bees and the open blisters and these flowers. So, until last year, I refused to have these plants.  You'll never guess where I put them. lol  I moved them to the lanai after I realized my error.  They got a bit neglected until I moved them to the lanai.  The patio or lanai is where I spend the bulk of my time.  
So let's talk a bit about kalanchoes and what they need.  Kalanchoes originated in Madagascar and need temperatures between 60 F and 85 F.  Since they are succulents, they are drought tolerant but if you let it dry out completely, it will wither and it will take a while for it to come back.  They need bright light, so a shady location is not the best place for it.  Too much sunlight and it will grow a lot but reduce its blossoms.  This is probably why it's doing so well on my lanai.  The insects it is prone to are aphids, scale, spider mites and nematodes.  These are simple to propagate.  Just cut a stem that's 4 - 6 inches and remove the lower leaves and stick it about 1/2 way into the soil and water like it already has roots and is a plant every 2 -3 days.  It should take root and start a new plant that you can share with a friend.  Probably the most important thing to remember with your kalanchoe is to never let the temperature fall below 40 F.  Bring it inside if it's going to get that cold to protect the plant.  Otherwise, it's a stalwart little soldier of a flower.

Today's Links:
Curcuma Ginger Sites:

Kalanchoe sites: