For the Love of Miniature Roses . . .

February 6th, 2014 § 3

Miniature_Roses_copyright_2014_michaelamedinaharlow:thegardenerseden.com Fragrant, Gold Roses on a Cold Winter’s Day (Rosa chinensis hybrid)

Although I am very fond of winter, at this time of year, I confess that my indoor garden is a great source of pleasure. There’s something undeniably delicious about waking up to the sweet scent of roses on a cold morning. Buying fresh flowers is part of my winter shopping routine, but I rarely purchase cut roses. Instead, I opt for miniature rose plants, which are usually much less expensive (less than ten dollars this week at my local florist), and when properly cared for, much longer lasting. And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, they make a beautiful, living gift! In spring, after the last frost, these cold-hardy beauties can be moved outdoors, where they will thrive for many years (protect with a mulch mound at root zone, as you would other hardy roses, in winter).

A few simple tips for success growing miniature rose plants indoors . . .

1) Provide bright, direct sunlight (near a south or southwest facing window).

2) Ensure even indoor temps from 55-75°F/16-24°C.

3) Water regularly, but avoid soggy soil. Allow planting mixture to dry out a bit at the surface, between waterings. I like to grow roses in double pots or in gravel-line trays to keep the root-zone properly drained.

4) Fertilize monthly with a balanced product, rich in micronutrients.

5) Deadhead spent blossoms and cut plants back after the first flush of bloom is complete (usually 1-2 months after they begin blooming)

6) Repot or move outdoors as soon as possible. When transplanting, any good, well-drained garden soil or quality potting mix will suffice. In the garden, a 2″ top dressing of well-rotted manure/compost serves as both mulch and fertilizer. During the growing season, once-per-month application of Rose Tone or similar, organic product provides a steady wave of bloom.

7) Plants can be container-grown outdoors (be sure to re-pot and separate plants if necessary), however in cold climates, it’s best to overwinter pot-grown roses in a garage or cellar to provide a period of dormancy without freezing the root-zone.

8) If insect pests or spider mites become a problem, spray leaves (including undersides), with an organic, insecticidal soap containing neem oil. Repeat at 10 day intervals until the infestation has cleared. Spider mites are a common problem with roses. Prune away damaged/infested parts of the plant when possible. Because spider mites thrive in hot, dry conditions, I like to raise humidity by misting the plants or using a warm-water room humidifier.

For more houseplant tips & ideas, visit the Indoor Eden page by clicking here!

Need help selecting a miniature rose for a special Valentine? There are hundreds and hundreds of varieties of miniature roses. Visit the American Rose Society Website, here!

Minature_Roses_on_the_dressing_table_copyright_michaela_harlow_thegardenerseden.com Miniature Roses on My Dressing Table – Permission is Granted to Move Your Roses Around Daily, as Suits Your Nose!

Photography & Text ⓒ  Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, artwork, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of Michaela Medina Harlow and/or The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without permission. Thank you!

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Casual, Late Summer Arrangements … Shadow, Light & Texture for the Vase

August 10th, 2012 § 4

The Dark Centers of Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) and Fine Texture of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) Play with Light and Shadow on the Early Evening Dinner Table –  Jar from Terrain

I love fresh cut flowers, and at the end of a busy week, I find there’s nothing more relaxing than a stroll through the garden, meadow and surrounding forest, to gather leaves, ferns, branches and flowers for arrangements. Beginning the day with a bit of meditative flower arrangement is the perfect way to get creative juices flowing. While outside I like to keep my eyes open for fresh combinations. Late summer blossoms are beautiful in vases, of course, but why not bring more of nature’s abundant beauty indoors?

An Old Atlas Jar, Filled with Un-Ripe Blackberries, Sprigs of Elderberry and Luminous Hair Grass from the Meadow

In late summer, the garden is overflowing and I’m constantly taming borders and clearing paths by clipping things back. Rather than compost my cuttings, I’m often inspired to create arrangements with some of the the extra foliage. Shiny hosts leaves, textural conifer branches, feathery ferns, wispy blades of wild grass and lacy tendrils from vines all make beautiful additions to the vase. Wayward bits of foliage in the vegetable garden and berry patch are fair game as well! Why not create an edible centerpiece with berries or nasturtiums? When putting arrangements together, I like to contrast bits and pieces that catch light (grass, delicate seed pods, lacy flowers) with darker elements (berries, gnarly brown branches or shadowy leaves). Looking for inspiration? Lately, I enjoy visiting Pinterest for fresh, creative ideas!

Gathering Foliage & Flowers in the Morning, Fresh from the Garden: The Entire Process —Selecting, Cutting, Prepping, Arranging— is Relaxing and Fun

Delicate Queen Anne’s Lace and Immature Hydrangea Blossoms Lighten a Vase Filled with Lush Foliage in Cool Shades is Calm & Refreshing on a Hot Summer Day

Tips for Keeping Flower Arrangements Fresh & Lovely

1) Cut flowers & foliage when it’s cool in the garden. Morning or evening.

2) Use sharp, clean pruners or shears.

3) Carry a bucket with you while cutting and place flowers & foliage in tepid water.

4) Cut flowers in bud or just as they are beginning to open & young, fresh foliage. Be creative. Select twigs and branches, berry brambles, ferns, conifers, vegetables and other items. Have fun and experiment!

5) Cut stems long, but take care to remember the rules of pruning; particularly when cutting roses, lilacs & other shrubs (revisit this basic pruning post).

6) Strip off lower foliage and side branches as you go (anything below the waterline of the intended vase).

7) Sear sappy/milky stems with a flame or boiling water (poppies, hollyhocks, etc).

8) Hammer the bottom and strip bark from woody stems.

9) Arrange flowers in a clean vase, filled with tepid water. If you are having a party and want to keep arrangements fresh until guests arrive, place vases in a cool basement or refrigerator (be sure cool storage temp is set well above the freezing mark)

10) Add a tiny bit of sugar and a few drops of bleach (hydrogen peroxide based is fine) to the vase when you arrange flowers.

11) Check and change the water in vases every day when it’s hot. For greatest longevity, try to place arrangements out of direct sunlight and in a cooler part of the house, if possible.

Woody Stems of Old Fashioned, Flowering Weigela (W. florida ‘Red Prince’) Fill My Kitchen Sink

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Out With The Old & In With The New: Creating A Lush & Lively Indoor Oasis …

January 3rd, 2012 § 6

Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: A Scene from My Wintertime Oasis. Clockwise from back: Cycas revoluta, Agave geminifolia & Kalanchoe ‘Manginii’

I kicked my Christmas tree out yesterday (p.s. Sorry Mr. Balsam, I will miss your sweet fragrance, but you were growing stale and it was time for a fresh start). Of course no sooner did I shove that big boy out the door than I began to long for something fresh and new to fill the void. Luckily, I have a growing collection of houseplants —many transitory summer residents of the balcony and terrace, seeking seasonal shelter from the cold— and they’ve been begging to move beyond their cramped corner in my studio.

This gorgeous orchid has just begun to bloom (Paphiopedilum Magic Leopard #1 x Paphiopedilum fairrieanum). Some orchids prefer dry, desert-like conditions, and others prefer tropical heat and humidity. Click back to my previous post on orchid obsession for resources and easy-care, species suggestions.

And while it’s certainly true that there’s a plant for almost every indoor situation, finding the right place for each species can be a challenge. Cacti and succulents thrive in hot, dry conditions; making them perfect winter residents for homes with wood stoves and furnaces. But other houseplants prefer cooler temperatures and high humidity. Just as you would investigate the cultural requirements of a perennial or shrub before choosing a spot for it in your garden, it’s wise to get familiar with the needs of your houseplants in order to provide them with the best microclimate within your home.

Most herbs, like this rosemary plant, prefer full sun and infrequent watering throughout the winter months. Situated beside a south-facing glass door in the kitchen, this plant provides fresh flavor to many dishes and refreshing scent beside the compost bin and dog dish (is that your bad breath, Oli?)

If you have pets or small children in your home, it’s very important to familiarize yourself with toxic plants and either avoid them entirely, or situate them within enclosed terrariums, high upon shelves, or in out-of-the-way, closed-off rooms. Revisit my post ‘Dangerous Beauty’ for helpful links, online lists and other toxic plant resources. And no matter how careful I am, inevitably some insect pest or other finds its way into my home and onto my houseplants during the winter months (even fresh cut flowers sometimes provide a ‘free ride’ to bugs!). Click back to my previous post on the subject of insect infestation for some non-toxic solutions and trouble-shooting resources.

Peperomia are wonderful, easy-care  houseplants. This particular cultivar, P.caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’, has become one of my all-time favorites. Read more about this beauty in my previous post, ‘Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name’ by clicking here.

In addition to providing a pet-proof glass barrier for poisonous plants, terrariums also increase humidity and create endless possibilities for beautiful display of small, tender plants and objects. Learn how to make a terrarium and find more resources on my Indoor Eden page by clicking here.

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Indoor Gardening Gifts to Inspire & Delight …

December 10th, 2011 Comments Off

I own and love many of Terrain’s terrariums. And this modern take on the garden-beneath glass (above) is my current obsession: Terrain’s Glass Drop Tillandsia Kit

December 10th —what— already? Have you started your holiday shopping yet? I confess that I haven’t wrapped a single present. However, I have been doing a bit of late-night, browser-window shopping, and I’ll definitely be heading out to my local shops this weekend to pick out a few special gifts for friends and family as well. Of course there are plenty of practical gifts to give gardeners, which I recently discussed in a guest post for Blogher, “Dirty Girl Christmas: Holiday Gifts for the Gardener”. But, sometimes you want something really special; magical, beautiful and delightful.

I love sharing the gift of nature, even with my not-so-green-thumbed friends — don’t you?  Here are some inspirational indoor garden ideas; lovely little presents to bring a bit of lush life inside throughout the long, cold, winter season …

This Copper Watering Can from Terrain is just one example of the beautiful and useful garden tools available through the company’s website

Want to introduce a favorite cook to the pleasures of homegrown herbs? This Mediterranean Trio of Herbs is an attractive and simple place to start

With proper care, Meyer lemon trees make wonderful houseplants. A lemon topiary is a beautiful & unusual holiday gift that keeps on giving. Here’s one good source: Organic Meyer Lemon Topiary from VivaTerra. Trees from this company are sent priority, in pretty clay pots. And if you hop to it, there’s still time to order before Christmas (order by 12/20 for Christmas delivery)

Whether snipping sprigs of fresh herbs or disciplining my over-eager ivy, I find my Okubo Shears get near-daily use. And with such attractive looks, it’s perfectly reasonable to leave these pruners displayed on my desktop or table.

Cerulean Blue Stoneware Planter by Vermont Artist Virginia Wyoming – Available at Etsy Here

Gardens-beneath-glass are great, low-maintenance choices for busy friends. And this apothecary-inspired Canister Terrarium by Terrain, is a real beauty

Publisher Timber Press recently released this beautiful & inspirational book: Terrarium Craft – Amy Bryant Aiello

And there’s always this modern-cloche-head classic: The New Terrarium – Tovah Martin

Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos in this article are courtesy of linked websites. All content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Indoor Eden: Preparing & Chilling Bulbs For a Glorious Mid-Winter Display …

November 5th, 2011 Comments Off

Last Winter’s Forced Narcissus by the Front Door in February

My friend Eve recently said that autumn always makes her think of spring. I couldn’t agree with her more, and as I squirrel away hoards of daffodil, tulip, and hyacinth bulbs, my mind drifts to the scents, sights and sounds of late April and May. Winter is a long season here in the northeast, and come late February and March —when the grey days outnumber the blue— I know I’ll be longing for soft, damp earth on my fingertips and the fragrance of fresh flowers. So while planting spring-flowering bulbs outside in the garden, I always pot up a few dozen favorites —and begin chilling them early— for forcing indoors.

Though Most of My Bulbs are Planted Outdoors in Autumn, I Always Save Some for Forcing Indoors …

Click Here for Instructions on How to Force Narcissus in Decorative Stone

Pre-chilled, fragrant bulbs make wonderful holiday gifts —and this project is particularly fun to share with children— but you’ll need to start right away. Most spring flowering bulbs need at least 6 weeks of cold (10 or more is ideal for tulips, crocus, snowdrops and hyacinth). I like to force most bulbs in lightweight, recycled plastic pots with fast-draining potting soil (some bulbs can be forced in decorative stone or glass, click here for tutorial). When planting, you can combine bulbs with similar bloom times together, or plant one kind in each container and arrange them in combinations later. Once I settle the bulbs into their pots, I moisten the soil, cover the top with black plastic (secured with rubber band) and place them in my garden shed (protect bulbs from mice with wire mesh/cages if rodents invade your shed in winter). Any cold, dark place will work —under a deck, in a garage, cellar bulkhead, etc— the key is to keep the temperature below 40 degrees fahrenheit. If you have extra space in a spare refrigerator, you can chill bulbs in there as well. In order for the bulbs to develop roots, it’s important to keep them cold, dark and moist (but not soggy). I like to check on progress every week or so. Once the chilling period has passed, I uncover a few plastic pots each month, water them well and slip them inside decorative containers or baskets. I use polished stones, dried moss, grass or other attractive mulch to hide the top of the plastic pot and conserve moisture. Then, I set the containers out in a cool, bright room to enjoy the show. I always enjoy them on the dining table and by the front entry door. It’s so lovely to watch the green leaves unfold and delicate petals open. Click here for my previous post on forcing narcissus for further instructions and ideas; including how to force bulbs in polished stone.

A Pre-Planned Prelude to Spring!

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Blushing Autumn Blossoms …

October 23rd, 2011 Comments Off

Blossoms to Spare & Share: One of the Gardener’s Greatest Rewards (Sprigs of Eucalyptus cinerea & Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ with Autumn Blush)

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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Gathering Moss: It’s Terrarium Time …

October 3rd, 2011 Comments Off

My Gothic Wardian Case is from H. Potter & the Misty Apothecary Jar is from Amazon

A rainy Sunday indoors inspired a bit of renewed terrari-mania yesterday afternoon. After a morning walk through the misty garden —gathering moss and partridgeberry  between raindrops— I set to work refreshing my collection of apothecary jars and wardian cases; pruning back overgrown foliage in the maturing containers and creating a few new vignettes to enjoy at my desk and dinner table. When it comes to indoor gardening, terrariums are as easy as house plants can get! Interested in creating a basic, low-maintenance terrarium for your home, dorm, school or office? Planting a miniature garden beneath glass is a great rainy-day project; especially good for entertaining a group of restless kids. Click here to find my previous tutorial post with a step-by-step guide to basic terrarium building and visit the Indoor Eden page for more advanced terrarium ideas and other projects by clicking here.

While tending my miniature gardens beneath glass yesterday, I also took time to gaze upon some of the new, online offerings from favorite terrarium supplier, Terrain. Oh what lovely, lovely things have made my wish list for the indoor garden this year. Aren’t these beautiful wardian cases, apothecary jars, glass bubbles and cloches tempting? I simply can not resist adding just a few more terrariums to my collection!

I just ordered this gorgeous Tall Hanging Atrium Terrarium from Terrain. I’m thinking it will make the perfect home for an elegant orchid or perhaps a simple fern in a bed of moss …

I’m also trying one of Terrain’s Hanging Orb Terrarium. I’m thinking –filled with some low maintenance flora– these might make unusual holiday gifts for my apartment dwelling friends.

I also love this Recycled Glass, Wall-Mount Terrarium from Terrain. I think it would work beautifully in a tight space –like a powder room or tiny office– to bring a bit of nature’s beauty indoors. There are many, many more gorgeous terrarium containers available on the Terrain website (click here).

This beautiful Wardian case is from H.Potter. I rotate plants each season to create table-top displays for my desk or dining room table. Above, the wardian case is pictured with Begonia ‘Tangalooma’ and Nephrolepsis cordifolia ‘Duffi’. With gorgeous metal and glass construction, this terrarium is always the center of attention, even when filled with a simple display of moss and ferns!

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photos, articles and content on this site (with photos 2, 3 & 4, noted exceptions from Terrain) are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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The following small, online shops sell beautiful terrariums, kits, plants and other beautiful indoor and outdoor gardening items…

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Gathering Beauty Before the Storm …

August 27th, 2011 § 2

Riding the Storm Out: Fragile Pots & Plants Gathered Safely Inside {plants, clockwise from bottom left: Verbena canadensis with Stobilanthes dyerianus (Persian Shield), Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’ (Butterfly Weed), Angelonia angustifolia ‘Angelface Blue’ with Lysmachia nummularia (Creeping Jenny) and repeat}

Sunlight & Calm Before the Storm {Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’ and Verbena canadensis. Campo de’Fiori pots available at Verde Garden & Home and Walker Farm in VT and online at Terrain.}

Lovely Lavender Haze: Verbena speciosa ‘Sterling Star’ Beside the Door

With voluptuous hydrangea blossoms gathered by the armful, and fragile pots all collected safely inside, there’s little left to do but wait out the storm. It feels a bit eerie, looking out at the summertime terrace –dining table and chairs folded neatly away–  the empty expanse of grey stone, naked without its bright riot of floral color. But here inside –nestled in every nook and cranny– potted plants and freshly cut blossoms fill the house with beauty and fragrance. At the moment, I feel like a guest in an extravagant hotel conservatory, which gives me all sorts of delightfully outrageous ideas…

Freshly Cut Hydrangea from the Garden (H. paniculata ‘Limelight’)

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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A Visual Feast: Beautiful, Edible Flowers

May 23rd, 2011 § 1

Pansies (Viola × wittrockiana) are lovely atop cakes, in salads and especially when floating in cocktails…

Or Cocktails, Like this Sunset Mangotini (click here for recipe)

(Viola × wittrockiana ‘Matrix Purple’)

Candied rose petals, lavender ice cream, hibiscus tea, chocolate cupcakes laced with violets; some flowers are more than a visual feast, they’re actually good enough to eat. It’s fun to decorate food with colorful blossoms, and it always feels a bit naughty too —eating something so pretty— when I pull the tiny flowers off a slice of cake and gobble them down. “Don’t eat the daisies“, they say… But that’s part of the fun, now isn’t it?

I grow flowers in my potager for a wide variety of reasons —to support pollinators, provide fresh bouquets for the table, and add beauty to the vegetable patch— but one of the best reasons to grow flowers in the kitchen garden, is to eat them! I enjoy spicy nasturtium and chive blossoms in salads, scarlet runner bean and rosemary flowers in soup, and many other blooming beauties as both ingredient and garnish to dishes from spring to fall…

Bright Orange Calendula Brightens this Garlic Scape Pesto (click here for recipe)

Nasturtiums Add Bold Color and Spicy Flavor to Salads

Fresh From the Potager: Nasturtium, Lettuce and Radishes Make a Colorful Salad with Zing

Never tried eating a flower? Think again. Broccoli and cauliflower are two of the most popular edible buds! Some other, commonly consumed edible flowers include nasturtium, dandelion, violets and pansies, geranium (Pelargonium spp), daylily, squash blossoms, calendula, chamomile, lavender, chive, mint, sage blossoms and of course rose petals. But many other flowers can be grown and used in a wide variety of dishes. Try citrusy bee balm (Monarda didyma), fruity red bud (Cercis canadensis) and apple blossoms, spicy anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), fresh red clover and scarlet runner beans.

Thinking of adding a row of potager posies to your backyard garden? If you’ve never grown edible flowers before, I’d recommend stopping at an organic nursery or farm stand in your area to shop for plants. Do a bit of research before you collect your six packs and ask a knowledgable staff member at your local garden center for a bit of guidance. Two of my favorite edible flower gardening resources in print —by Cathy Wilkinson Barash and Rosalind Creasy— are listed below. Both books contain great cultural and culinary information; including recipes and tips for storage!

Edible Flowers: Desserts & Drinks by Cathy Wilkinson Barash

The Edible Flower Garden by Rosalind Creasy

And although it should be common sense, I must emphasize that not all blossoms and buds should be consumed. In fact, some flowers —and many berries, leaves, roots and sometimes entire plants— are quite toxic. So, never eat a flower or any plant unless you can positively identify —with 100% certainty— that it’s safe for human consumption. If you have very small children frequenting your garden, or as members of your family or household, never grow anything toxic in your potager. In fact, I recommend  that all gardening adults keep a copy of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants in an easy to locate place. If you are growing your own food, it’s always a good idea to become familiar with both edible and inedible plants, and it’s never wise to grow anything poisonous around small children.

The Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants

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Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site (with noted exceptions) is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Un-Flower Pots: Designing & Caring for Spectacular Succulent Container Gardens

May 9th, 2011 § 12

Beautiful Container Gardens are all about Color, Form and Texture. Great Designers Work with both Contrasts and Harmonies to Create Stunning Results. Hanging basket available at Walker Farm.

Saturday morning I spent the better part of an hour and a half listening to enthusiastic oohs and ahhs at Walker Farm’s Succulent Container Gardening & Hanging Basket Design seminar. I had so much fun watching Karen Manix demonstrate how to create a container garden of succulents and listening to Daisy Unsicker talk about how to care for these gorgeous plants, that I just had to share a bit of my experience with all of you here today…

Pretty, dark-violet hued Aeonium arboreum and orange-tipped, chartreuse leaved Sedum nussbaumerianum (opposites in the spectrum of colors) make a stunning color combination

Last week I mentioned how much I’ve come to love succulent container gardening. My new-found obsession started innocently enough a few years ago, while expanding my indoor gardening pursuits during the cold winter months. Because I am so busy with gardening during the growing season, I’ve traditionally kept houseplants to a minimum; with only windowsill herbs, and a few tough ferns to satisfy my horticultural-urges from December through March. Then, after creating a Secret Garden Room, and experiencing much joy and success with my expanded indoor garden pursuits —and a passion for epiphytes and terrariums— I began to develop an interest in succulents…

Click on the photo above to read a previous post on indoor gardening with succulents

I’ve been teaching myself about cold-climate container gardening with succulents as I go along. And much to my delight, this expanding indoor-outdoor collection of tropic, sub-tropic and desert region plants has thrived and grown, thanks to a lot of research and a little help from my friends. I’ve discovered that succulents are remarkably easy, undemanding plants to grow —even for cold-climate gardeners— both indoors and out. But like all living things, succulents and cacti do have specific requirements and preferences all their own. Getting the container, potting mix and combinations right are the first step toward success with succulents. By learning about each plant, and continuing to provide these beauties with what they need —and never more— a gardener can achieve long term success and satisfaction from their investment.

And here are two of the plants pictured from the previous photo, now transferred to a larger pot which I’ve moved outdoors

Lucky gardeners in attendance at Walker Farm’s free seminar last Saturday got a real head-start on the subject by learning how to care for succulent containers from real pros! I’ve mentioned before that local Walker Farm is a world-class horticultural destination for rare plant connoisseurs throughout New England, New York and even further afield. Beyond the fact that their plants are unusual, healthy and beautiful, we hortimaniacs love Walker Farm because their staff is incredibly friendly, unpretentious and truly knowledgable about what they sell. The owners and staff at Walker Farm have a real passion and enthusiasm for what they do and generously share their experience without a trace of the dread ‘high brow’ attitude that so often tuns new gardeners away from horticulture. The excitement and creativity at Walker Farm is downright contagious, and it’s one of the many reasons why their loyal fans keep coming back for more.

Karen Manix began the talk by covering the basic principles of container garden design, with succulents in mind. Quickly covering the five most important aspects of composition —scale and proportion (finding correct sizes and structure for the container), balance (creating a sense of unity and point of view), contrast (using different colors, textures and forms to create interest), rhythm and flow (repeating color, form and texture plays) and fullness (giving a sense of lushness to satisfy the senses)— Karen immediately jumped into a wonderful demonstration from a dynamic display of containers and plants…

Karen Manix, owner of Walker Farm, demonstrates the basics of container garden design, using a variety of succulents in different sizes, shapes, textures and colors. Isn’t that clam-shell container gorgeous? Perfect for topping an outdoor living room table…

Succulent Container Design in Action. Isn’t this a beautiful pot?

While filling a gorgeous, clam-shell inspired planter with growing medium, Karen discussed the importance of proper planting mix for succulents. Because these fleshy, shallow-rooted plants need to dry out between waterings, it’s important to choose a light-weight, fast-draining container medium; such as cactus mix or a home-made equivalent. Regular potting soil is too dense and holds too much moisture to keep succulents and cacti happy. As a general rule, planting medium for succulents must contain 1/3 to 1/2 pumice or coarse sand —such as builders sand or poultry grit— for proper drainage. Some succulents prefer slightly more porous planting medium than others. Always read up on the plants you are growing and know their soil preferences prior to placing them in pots. Before you begin designing your succulent container, Karen recommends filling the pot 3/4 full of growing medium, and adding a small amount of time-release fertilizer (which you can mail order or pick up at most garden centers).

Just a few of the beautifully tempting terra cotta pots available at Walker Farm

And speaking of pots, getting settled in the right home, with a location you love,  is just as important for your plants as it is for you! Although terra cotta is the best choice for succulents and cacti, due to its porous nature, it’s equally important to choose a pot that suits your plant’s style, and satisfies your eye. Try playing the colors and textures of your chosen pot against the colors and textures of foliage, as well as your overall design and composition. Check to be sure that your chosen pot has a good drainage hole (although pots without holes can be modified with a base of pumice, but this is more advanced). Karen mentioned covering the drainage hole in pots with screening, rocks or broken pottery. Although this isn’t always necessary to prevent soil-loss, it can definitely come in handy when you are moving pots in and out of your home, or when you are dealing with large sized drainage holes.

This spiky, ice-blue Senecio serpens would be nice in combination with a terra cotta pot or another plant with peachy toned foliage or flowers. Red-orange and green-blue are opposite on the color wheel, and they make beautiful music together…

Once you have your container and growing medium ready, feel free to play around with individual plants while they are still in their nursery containers, until you find a combination you like. Perhaps you might combine a dramatic upright specimen with a mound shaped plant and a couple of trailers in colors chosen to contrast with your pot. Like a dusky-purple echeveria? Look for a chartreuse colored species to settle in next to it, and make that violet color sing. New to container design? Don’t be afraid to look at photos for ideas or imitate other gardeners until you get the hang of it. The process should be fun and relaxing. And remember, you can always move the plants around and try again if you aren’t quite happy.

Choose pots to bring out the best in your plants. Walker Farm has incredible selection in their potting shed, but if you live far from here, you can find some real beauties online in Etsy shops; such as those made by Vermont artist Virginia Wyoming (click here to visit her lovely shop). And there are plenty of gorgeous containers melting my heart at Terrain as well.

Satisfied with your arrangement? Karen advised us to tuck in all the plants; gently adding potting mix to fill in gaps, and bring soil level approximately 1″ below the container rim. Top dress the container with a decorative mulch to help keep soil stable during watering and conserve moisture. Some designers like to use glass pebbles or marbles, others prefer to use colored gravel or natural stone. Whatever you choose, when you are finished, brush growing medium away from leaves and gently water, rinsing dust and soil from the foliage as you go.

At this point in the seminar, focus shifted to long-term care of succulent containers. Both Karen and Daisy (pictured below) emphasized that over and under watering —particularly in tandem— are a recipe for plant woes. Keeping soil moist —but no wetter than a wrung-out sponge— and allowing the planting medium to dry out a bit between waterings is key to success. Keep in mind that these conditions mimic the natural environment of these semi-tropical and desert region plants. The foliage of plants like succulents and cacti has evolved to hold moisture, in much the same way as a camel stores its water in humps to provide hydration between stops at the oasis!

Daisy, head propagator at Walker Farm, discusses the maintenance and care of succulents and container gardens…

Daisy covered all of the keys to success with container garden maintenance. In addition to balanced watering and regular fertilizing —probably the two most important chores in gardening— one of the major points Daisy covered in her thorough over-view was container size as relative to plant size. It’s always important to educate yourself about the plants you are working with. How big is that cute little button going to get in a year? How long will that enchanting vine trail… Will it visit you in your bed at night? With scissors in hand and orders to clip away at plants for fullness and to promote flowering, Daisy declared: “You control your plant, your plant doesn’t control you”. Now there’s some advice worth taking! Potted plants looking scraggly or leggy? Then it’s time for a haircut. Prune and pinch plants frequently, she advised, to keep them looking great and in proportion with the container. There’s no reason to struggle with an unmanageable plant.

Keep hanging plants attractive and manageable with regular pruning. Manage growth in confined containers, such as wreaths or baskets, by limiting fertilizer.

Of course, Daisy emphasized the importance of knowing both yourself, your location, and the plants you choose. Are you away from home a great deal? Lower maintenance, drought-tolerant succulent species are the best choice for your containers! Sunny spot with six or more hours of direct sunlight? Choose plants that can tolerate such hot, dry conditions. Cacti and many succulents from the American desert regions are a good choice for full sun. Partially sunny location? Most container plants thrive in this situation; including many succulents from the tropics and subtropics. Shade? The vast majority of succulents do not like full shade, and with a few exceptions —such as sansevierias— plants other than succulents will be a better choice for containers in shady situations.

Aphids are sometimes a problem for succulents, particularly when they are brought inside to overwinter. A lack of natural predators allows outside pests to grow un-checked when carried indoors. Here, they cluster and feed on a Kalanchoe in my studio. Click on photo for details on how to deal with succulent garden pests….

Pests aren’t usually a big problem for succulent container plants outdoors, but aphids, scale and mealy bugs can occasionally trouble some plants; particularly during and just after over wintering. Daisy, Karen and I all strongly advise using organic methods to deal with pest problems, and always try the least aggressive method first. During summer, try removing aphids by spraying plants with a strong blast of water from a hose. Often this will knock back pests long enough for natural predators —like ladybug larvae— to take on the battle. For particularly troublesome container pests —like mealy bugs or spider mites— or serious infestations, try insecticidal soap with neem oil or hot pepper in the mix. See my previous post (click here) for more ideas.

The Jewel Box Garden – Thomas Hobbs

Looking for more design ideas and care tips for succulent containers? We’re all big fans of Thomas Hobbs’ gorgeous books. I especially love his colorful Jewel Box Garden (pictured above). And of course, as I recently mentioned, Debra Lee Baldwin’s Succulent Container Gardens is a wonderful resource for the creative container gardener. Walker Farm’s seminars and the regular support of their friendly staff are a great resource for local gardeners here in southern Vermont. I’ll be reporting more from their wonderful gardening seminars in the coming weeks. And if you live in the area, I encourage you to take advantage of these fun and free events for gardeners of all ages and stages…

Succulent Container Gardens – Debra Lee Baldwin

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Gardening Seminars at Walker Farm are Free and Open to the Public. The Gardener’s Eden received no compensation, of any kind, for editorial mention of businesses or products in this post.

Article and all photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Everlasting Beauty: Displaying Dreamy, Delicate, Dried Narcissus…

March 5th, 2011 § 3

As Pretty Dried & Arranged in a Bowl on the Vanity as Fresh in the Flower Pot: Various Dried Narcissus

I’m the girl in back of the dining room; lingering with the last crumbs of her chocolate cake and bubbling prosecco. I like to draw my pleasure out; never leaving too soon. Of course, I feel the same way about about flowers. As the blossoms of my forced narcissus fade and wither, I snip them off and collect them in bags. Once dried, I like to arrange them in bowls and vases; scattering them here and there along tables, shelves and vanities in order to stretch out my enjoyment. Throw out my flowers? Oh, I hardly ever! Narcissus, lily of the valley, roses: many blossoms are as beautiful in dried arrangements as fresh…

Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ – Pretty Fresh or Dried

Lovely in a Vase Atop the Dresser

I’m Particularly Partial to the Look of Flowers in Bowls, and I Display Them on My Desk, Dinner Table, Dresser, Vanity & Book Shelves. Fresh & Floating or Delicate & Dried, I Think Flowers are Gorgeous Most Any Way. Never Let Go of Something Beautiful, Too Soon… Dried Narcissus are Pretty Pinned in Hair and on Packages too!

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First Hints of Spring…

February 21st, 2011 § 4

Last Year’s Nest Remains Intact, Decorated with the Pink-Tinted Buds of Viburnum Bodnantense ‘Dawn’

Spring is exactly one month away, and eagerly, the garden awaits her arrival. Already, swollen buds, glowing bark and the sing-song voices of chickadees calling “spring’s here”, fill trees and shrubs with new life…

On Warmer Days, Blushing Viburnum Buds Near the Stone Wall, Hint at Coming Spring

Click here to here listen to the ‘typical’ sweet, spring song of the Black-capped Chickadee {via Cornell Lab of Ornithology}.

{Forced branches give the house a prelude-to-spring. Click here for more information on forcing branches, and here for details about this lovely shrub: V. bodnantense ‘Dawn’}

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Seasonal Prelude: The Scent of Spring…

February 17th, 2011 § 2

Forced Blossoms: The Intoxicating Scent of Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’

Remember the fragrance of spring; warm air carrying the sweet perfume of new blossoms on the breeze? Distracted by day dreams of earth-scented pathways; chilly melt-water gurgling up from stone?  Finding yourself stalking the swollen buds of witch hazel, viburnum, azalea and other fragrant, flowering shrubs? Take heart, friends… She’s coming. The garden’s tender love letters are waiting for her; ready to burst open and unfold their sweet adoration… All for Spring.

Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ is one of the most exquisite scents of springtime. The sweet perfume of the blossoms fills my studio entryway with fresh fragrance…

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For a tutorial on how to force Narcissus (as shown in photos above), click here.

For a tutorial on how to force spring-blooming tree and shrub branches, click here.

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What’s Love Got to Do With It ? Confessions of Lust, Longing & Orchid Obsession…

February 14th, 2011 Comments Off

It Always Starts so Innocently… Water Droplets on a Pure White Phalenopsis

When I say ‘Valentine’s Day’, do you think red, long stemmed roses? Many people do. After all, roses certainly are lovely and romantic. But sexy? When I think about Valentine’s Day —and that naughty, naked, imp Cupid: flitting about and firing off poison darts laced with love potion number nine— I think about lust, longing, and mind-melting passion. And roses? Well, they seem just a little bit too buttoned-up for all that.

Now the orchid —there is a sexy flower! Exotic, fashionable and elusive; if orchids could speak, they would whisper blush-inducing phrases in breathy, foreign accents. Suggestive looking? Oh yes. And to the insatiable orchidophile, this seductive flower is a much more accurate symbol of passion and desire than a prim-and-proper rose…

Paphiopedilum orchilla ‘Chilton’ at Lyman Conservatory

Phalenopsis Beside the Bath

Paphiopedilum primulinum at Lyman Conservatory

My long-standing love affair with orchids began rather innocently —sparked some years ago, by a pure-white Phalenopsis— and slowly, it has morphed into something I can only describe as obsession. The barely-restrained desire I feel for these plants is most evident on visits to the local conservatory, where —instead of relaxing and enjoying the warm, tropical environment— I find myself breaking out in a cold sweat; mentally-mortgaging my home in mad pursuit of the ultimate orchid house. From the common, easy-to-grow Cymbidiums, Oncidiums, Phalenopsis and Paphiopedilums, to the luminous-violet, musky-scented Bollea coelestis and the fiercely-fantastic Draculas: I love them all.

A Lusty-Looking Cymbidium (C. ‘Tiny Tiger’ ) at Lyman Conservatory

Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow. And while it’s true that some of them are indeed, quite challenging —even for experts— the degree of difficulty varies by species. Choose your love wisely, and you won’t be disappointed! Phaelenopsis are not only inexpensive as orchids go, but they are among the easiest to care for and grow —there’s a reason you find them at Home Depot— and they also offer some of the most seductive, beautifully colored flowers. Phalenopsis are tolerant of low-light conditions, which makes them a good choice for those of us living up north. This Asian tropical does like moist air, so place her on a bathroom vanity or in a steamy, humidifier-enhanced boudoir and watch her glow. The roots of this plant should be kept moist, but never soggy —bark mixtures are a good growing medium— and a liquid fertilizer (one intended for orchids and other ephiphytes is best) applied weekly will result in enhanced vigor, and healthy growth. Cool fall temperatures trigger Phalenopsis’ bloom (50 F or so), and recreating these conditions will increase the likelihood of repeat flowering.

Of course, not everyone loves epiphytes the way I do, but they certainly are sexy. So, if you are looking to inspire a bit of passion in your Valentine, consider a trip to the orchid room of your local conservatory later today. Or better yet, why not wrap up an exotic Paphiopedilum or Phalenopsis, and send a message that’s just a bit more racy than a rose-is-a-rose-is-a-rose….

Happy Valentine’s Day xo Michaela

Now Here’s a Come-Hither Glance, If I Ever Saw One!

And for the true Orchidophile, consider giving the one and only ‘little black book': William Cullina’s Understanding Orchids

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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A Warm Wash of Fragrance: Dreaming Of Lilies and Sultry Summer Evenings…

February 5th, 2011 § 6

Dreaming of Warm Summer Nights and a Garden Filled with Softly Blushing Lilies…

Asiatic, Oriental, Trumpet, Species or Hybrid: I’ve yet to meet a lily without falling in love. And while my weekend may be filled with practical matters —shoveling, clearing hoop-houses of snow, cleaning grow lights and sorting seed packets— there’s sure to be a certain amount of summer fantasy slipping in…

Soaking in Summer Fantasies…

Yes, I confess. Dozens of summer-blooming bulb catalogs drape the rim of my claw-foot tub, where —surrounded by bubbles and steam— I find myself lost for hours; conjuring sultry August evenings and heavy-scented-air, filled with the fragrance of Black Beauties, Brasilias, Casa Blancas and Salmon Stars. Oh, those deliciously intoxicating Oriental lilies… Could there be a more glamorous summer flower? I’ve found great prices on lilies (and other summer flowering bulbs & tubers, like Dahlias) at Dutch Gardens and a fantastic selection at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs online, and I will be ordering them early to get a jump on the crowd! For me, this will be a year of mass perennial and bulb planting. And I plan on adding great waves of lilies —both for cutting and enjoying in the garden— this year.

The Colors of a Summer Sunset (Lilium ‘Pretty in Pink’)

Cultural Notes for Lilies

When planning your springtime lily plantings, keep in mind that these perennial bulbs prefer to be planted deeply –in rich, well-drained soil. Most lilies require full sun, but like their roots cool. Companion planting with other lush, leafy perennials —and mulching with clean, fresh organic material— helps to shield roots from the heat of the sun’s mid-day rays. Lilies are fantastic flowers for attracting pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. However, lily leaf beetles (bright red nemesis of this gorgeous plant, and other flowers) can be a problem in some areas (emerging in March-June from debris surrounding lily plantings). I treat lily leaf beetle infestations organically with neem (targeted to lily foliage every 5-7 days when new growth and beetle larvae both emerge in spring).

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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A Warm, Sweet Welcome for February: Forcing Narcissus Indoors…

February 1st, 2011 § 6

Hello February – Golden Greetings in the Entryway {Forced Narcissus}

A Bit of Golden Color to Brighten Stormy, Grey Days…

Welcome February…

It’s the first day of February, and outside my front door, snow is falling steadily and the sky is a gloomy, powder grey. Overnight, a winter storm swirled in, and the forecast warns of a wintry mix with more than two feet of new snow. For those of us living in northern climes, this can be a long, tough month. Dingy snowbanks, endless shoveling and bitter, cold days can take a toll on even the sunniest of dispositions. And much as I love the spare landscape, winter sports and cozy nights by the fire, I always crave a bit of bright color at this time of year.

Every fall, while ordering and planting my bulbs, I plan a little indoor extravaganza to help me through the long winter months. Many spring flowering bulbs can be forced indoors, bringing a bit of April’s garden to my world in February. Most bulbs require a cool, dark period prior to blooming in spring (exceptions to this rule include paper white narcissus, which may be purchased, planted and forced right away). And with a bit of planning, it’s possible to mimic those natural conditions and enjoy a little prelude to spring. I pot up left-over bulbs in all sorts of containers, water them well and cover with black plastic and an elastic band. Store potted bulbs in a cool dark place (a garage, basement, root cellar, outbuilding, etc), and check on them in about a month, watering enough to keep bulb roots moist, but never soggy. After 8-10 weeks, you can begin bringing the bulbs into your living space (cooler rooms are best). I like to bring them out in waves, saving the bulk of the show for the dreariest New England months: late February and early March.

Pre-Chilled Narcissus Grand Soleil d’Or and a Glass Bowl filled with Decorative Stone/Charcoal for Drainage.

But even if you haven’t planned ahead, you can still enjoy the pleasure of forced bulbs. Pre-chilled bulbs and paper white narcissus —purchased and potted up now— will begin to bloom in a month or two; ushering in spring a little earlier! With prepared bulbs, the forcing process is foreshortened, but the first few steps are quite similar. Practice this way, and next year, write yourself a forcing reminder for late fall. This is a fun project to share with kids, and a great make-your-own gift for Valentines Day, Passover or Easter. A pretty container will make the arrangement extra special, and it can be recycled after the blooms are spent. Remember not to expect bulbs forced in gravel to grow and bloom the following year. Compost these plants and start again next year, as you would with annuals in your outdoor containers.

Many garden centers, florist shops and online retailers offer pre-chilled bulbs and paper whites. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs has a fantastic selection (click here for link). Think of these bulbs as you would annuals: meant for growing and enjoying for this season only. Some good choices (among many) for forcing in gravel, include: Paperwhites, Grand Soleil d’Or (pictured above: produces sweetly fragrant flowers with golden petals and bright orange trumpets 6-8 weeks after planting), Angels in Water, Craigford and Chinese Sacred Lilies. Keep in mind that some narcissus —including the delightful miniature Tete a Tete— perform best when potted up in soil as opposed to gravel. When in doubt about how to force a particular cultivar, check with the retailer for advice on proper growing mediums/procedure. Brent and Becky’s Bulbs is a great online resource.

Pre-Chilled Grand Soleil d’Or Settled into a glass container filled about 1/3 full with a base of pea stone and a few pieces of horticultural charcoal (for freshness).

How to Force Narcissus in Containers Filled with Gravel

Materials:

Bulbs specifically prepared for forcing (pre-chilled in a dark place) or paperwhites

Horticultural charcoal

Decorative pea stone, gravel, rocks or glass

A bowl or other container without drainage holes (glass is lovely if you like to look at the stone). Size will depend upon the type of bulbs you have chosen to grow. Using a deep container can be helpful in supporting taller bulbs.

Green wire plant supports for taller bulbs (available at florist or craft supply stores)

Instructions:

Wash the container and stones thoroughly and dry. Fill the base of the container with a small amount of decorative stone. Add a handful of charcoal bits and then fill the container about 1/3 full. Make planting space for bulbs, and nestle them in; packing them tight together for support. Add more decorative stone or glass until the bulbs are about 2/3 concealed (leave the ‘shoulder’ and green tips free). You can use all one kind of stone, or get creative and mix it up.

Fill a jug with lukewarm water and fill the container about 1/3 of the way up. You want the water at the roots, but not soaking the bulb itself. Eventually, the roots will extend down toward the base of the container. Even prepared bulbs grow best when given a bit of darkness (exception: paperwhites). Place the container in a basement or cool closet for 2-3 weeks, checking the water level every few days as the roots extend. IMPORTANT: Never let the roots dry out.

When watering, rumor has it that adding a bit of vodka or gin to the mix can assist with stronger stem and leaf growth. But keeping the bulbs in a cool, dark place (for a 2-3 week period before forcing) seems to work just as well if you lack a stocked liquor cabinet.

Forced bulbs last longest in cooler rooms. I keep mine near the entry way door, where they provide a cheerful welcome and never mind the drafts. If the stems begin to flop, it can be helpful to hold them up with green florists stakes and tape (discreetly position the supports toward the center of the container and pull up slightly – a bit of droop looks natural and relaxed). Be sure to keep thirsty bulbs well-watered but never swamped.

Enjoy!

Forced Narcissus Tete a Tete, Beside the Entryway Door

A Prelude to Spring

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Falling for Bold, Beautiful Bromeliads: Glorious Guzmania ‘Passion’ & ‘Luna’

January 28th, 2011 § 1

Guzmania ‘Passion’

Guzmania ‘Luna’ and Guzmania ‘Passion’ – Could There Be a More Lovely Pair?

Guzmania ‘Luna’

So here we are, nearing the end of January. It’s mid-winter, and after many major snow-storms, the garden outside is now fast asleep beneath a heavy white blanket. Yes, it’s still beautiful, but the winter landscape is definitely more spare. Friends in warmer climes often ask me how I —such a complete hortimaniac— deal with the long, New England winters. Well, I could try to explain with words, but in this case, a picture really does paint a thousand of them. Images like these usually help others understand how I make it ’til April. Although I have no travel plans this year, I’ve somehow managed to bring quite a bit of South-Central America to Vermont. Now, can you imagine suffering from winter doldrums with these two tropical beauties in your house? My indoor garden is a true paradise that sustains me during the cold, dark months.

I’ve always loved the Bromeliaceae family, and with their colorful bracts and erect inflorescences, they make quite a statement in all kind of interiors; from minimalist to ornate. And at this time of year —when the outdoor world is nearly devoid of such bold color— the Guzmania species is pretty hard to resist. Two beautiful hybrids —‘Luna’ and ‘Passion’— and many others, are the result of a G. lingulata/wittmackii cross. Although these tropical bromeliads look as if they might be difficult to care for, Guzmania are very tough epiphytes (plants that, in nature, grow on and in other plants, but do not feed off them – including orchids, bromeliads and many ferns). Because they tolerate a wide range of temperature and light conditions (avoid full sun, and provide filtered, bright light and temps 55-80° F for true plant happiness), Guzmania actually make great houseplants –even for novices.

Guzmania ‘Passion’

Of course, there are some key points to keep in mind when caring for all bromeliads, including Guzmania. Always keep the rosette (the central cup of the plant), filled with water. I use lukewarm tap water from my well (use spring or filtered water if you live in a city), and gently pour/drizzle water down the center of the plant, allowing it to collect in the wells. When I fertilize (once a month during the growing season only – spring to fall), I mix the epiphyte fertilizer into my long-spouted watering can, and apply it when I am giving my Guzmania a drink. Many members of the Bromeliaceae family prefer high humidity, but this species is a bit less demanding; provided I keep the rosette moist. Guzmania aren’t particularly fussy about their soil (regular, well-drained potting soil is OK), but during the winter months, keep the root-zone on the dry-side of moist. And although they tolerate a wide range of light conditions, bright but indirect sun —and temperatures at the warmer end of their range— is essential to bring this lovely plant into bloom. In the spring, offsets form along the sides of the mother plant. These can be left in place to form colonies as the central plant dies back, or they may be divided off and potted separately. Pests are not a big problem with Guzmania, but mealy bugs (and sometimes aphids or occasionally scale) may attack –particularly if the plant is under stress. Gently sprayed applications of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil (once every 5 days or so for a month) should relieve plants of sap-sucking insects.

Looking for a bold way to brighten someone special’s day? Or perhaps you prefer to give living plants and flowers for Valentines day? Guzmania ‘Luna’ & ‘Passion’ are sure to delight. And at this time of year, bromeliads are relatively easy to find in most florist shops, and even at some larger garden centers (Recently, I spotted some fine specimens at my local Home Depot for under $25). Just look at these flamboyant, uplifting hues! I’d take a blooming bromeliad over a bunch of soon-to-die, cut-roses any day… Wouldn’t you?

Guzmania ‘Luna’

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Simply Lovely: Etched-Gourd Cachepots

January 25th, 2011 Comments Off

This Pretty Etched-Gourd Makes a Lovely Cachepot for Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ (and on the right, Colocasia affinis ‘Jenningsii’)

Displaying plants indoors can be as creative and fun as arranging pots outdoors on porches, patios and balconies. Whenever I spot an new and interesting vessel —natural or man-made— I log it in my mental-file cabinet as a potential cachepot for a plant. Two years ago, while traveling in Vieques, Puerto Rico, I picked up this etched gourd from an artisan at a street market. Sure, it makes an interesting bowl for collecting spare change or keys, but why not use it as a cachepot? I sealed the inside of this gourd to waterproof it (wood-sealer or shellac work well) and filled it with a lush Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ —and wow! The purple-red stems jump out when played against subtle golden-undertones on the surface of the dried gourd. You may remember how much I love this plant from a previous post (To read “Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name” click here).

A great mix: Crafter’s Gourds from Renee’s Garden Seeds

Like the look? There’s no need to travel to the Caribbean to get it! Growing gourds is fun and easy —a great garden project with kids— and when dried and sealed, they can be used in all sorts of creative ways. I plan to etch and carve many more gourds this year to use as indoor cachepots. Just imagine the possibilities! Of course, dried gourds can also be used as serving bowls/dishes, desk accessories or jewelry holders, and in addition, bottle-type gourds are often used as small bird houses. Gourds do require a long growing season —they are harvested in fall— so in cold climates these decorative delights are best started indoors before the last frost date. Now is a good time to order gourd seed from one of the many catalogues filling your mailbox. Renee’s Garden Seeds has a great “Crafter’s Mix” which includes larger, smooth-gourd varieties -these seeds are specially selected for creating vessels of all kinds. An excellent selection of gourd seed, as well as organic gardening supplies can also be found online at Burpee (and they sell luffa gourds: perfect for drying and using in the bath). Gourds grow on vines in full sun, and they can be trained up a trellis in a small space, or left to sprawl in a larger garden.

Read more about the lovely Pepperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ here.

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Hummingbird - (Animated)

Gardener's Supply Company

Plow & Hearth

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