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.