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: