Sweetly Fragrant Lady of the Evening: Delighting in Angel’s Trumpet Datura

June 15th, 2013 Comments Off

Angels_Trumpet_Datura_in_Bloom_(Datura_meteloides)_michaela_medina_harlow_thegardenerseden.com She Flies by Night Upon Perfumed Clouds: Angel’s Trumpet Datura (Datura meteloides ‘Evening Fragrance’)

At nature’s golden hour —as the sun begins her daily, departing dance along my hilltop— evening creatures and shadow-spirits begin to stir. I love strolling through the garden with a glass of wine at this time of day; watching as backlit flower petals transform to brilliant stained glass. Lingering long in the deepening twilight, eventually I make my way back to the breezeway where I find evening drama unfolding beside the door.

Greeting me with a sweet, olfactory aperitif at sunset, Angel’s Trumpet Datura (Datura meteloides ‘Evening Fragrance’, aka D. inoxia), makes a show-stopping entrance and continues to enchant, late into the evening. With her enormous, silken, white petals and intoxicating perfume, delightfully fragrant Datura is my absolute favorite among the night-blooming flowers. Mysterious, exotic and dangerous —flowers, leaves and seed are all highly toxic— this hypnotic beauty resides in a protected spot beside my entryway door. A tender, sun-loving, summer-blooming shrub with a preference for evenly moist soil (3-4′ tall and wide at maturity, hardy in USDA zones 8-11), I often feature Angel’s Trumpet Datura ‘Evening Fragrance’ on patios, balconies and terraces as part of my annual, container arrangements. But beware: this show is an adults-only pleasure. Like all poisonous plants, Datura meteloides should not be included in gardens where children or pets wander unsupervised.

For more information about night blooming flowers and moon gardens, please click back to my previous post, here. Datura meteloides ‘Evening Fragrance’ seed may be purchased from Johnny’s Seed and Thompson and Morgan online.

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/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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A Trio of Central American Beauties: Hot House Queens from the Tropics . . .

March 26th, 2013 § 3

Heliconia vellerigera 'She Kong' ⓒ 2013 michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.com JPGNative to the tropical Americas, Heliconia vellerigera’s (cultivar pictured: H. vellerigera ‘She Kong’), yellow blossoms are accented by  fuzzy, red bracts that remind me of the glamorous, fluffy shrugs worn by Hollywood starlets. An important food-source for hummingbirds, the Heliconias require constant moisture, warmth, partial to full sunlight and rich soil.

Flower gardening in the Great White North is a seasonal affair. Unless you have your own greenhouse or access to a large-scale conservatory, there are few flowers to be enjoyed in New England during the months of winter and very early spring. For a hortimaniac, it’s hard to live life without flowers. Like many northern gardeners, I suffer from zone envy and I often spend my snowy evenings fantasizing about a heated glasshouse and dreaming of all the exotic beauties I’d invite to my housewarming party.

In the meantime, there’s always travel. And over the past few weeks, I’ve been meeting some of my favorite, hot house beauty queens up close and personal, in their natural, tropical habitat at the Tree of Life Wildlife Rescue and Botanical Garden in Cahuita, Costa Rica (learn more about this special place in upcoming posts). Here are three of my favorite, hotties from the tropics; brilliantly colored plants I adore, and regularly visit in my dreams. But although they can be enjoyed outside during New England’s growing year, these tender lovelies must have a warm, moist  habitat year round. Large conservatories can grow large tropical plants without trouble, however most average, cold-climate homes can host only one or two. I can’t make a proper home for Heliconia or Etlingera , but the Crimson Passionflower Vine (Passiflora vitifolia), having long ago twined her way ’round my heart, will once again find a home at my front door this summer . . .

Pink Tulip Ginger (Nicolaia elatior) ⓒ 2013 michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden.comjpg Native to Java, but cultivated throughout the tropics, Etlingera elatior or Nicolaia elatior (Pink Tulip Ginger) reminds me of the magical wands carried by good witches in fairytales. The torch gingers are large plants (up to 20′ tall) and require  ample space, moisture and sunlight.

Passiflora vitifolia (Crimson Passionflower Vine) ⓒ 2013 michaela medina harlow - thegardenerseden Native to Central America and Northwestern South America, Passiflora vitifolia (Crimson Passionflower Vine) is a hummingbird favorite that blooms on and off throughout the growing year. A great choice for vertical garden spaces, this vine can grow 20′ or more and requires ample sun, moisture and a trellis, pergola or arbor for support. Northern gardeners can grow this beauty as a tender perennial in protected spaces, and bring her inside to a bright, warm, sunny room to overwinter. This may be the perfect tropical companion for tropical lovers in the great white north.

Photography 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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Tip-Toe Through the Tree-Tops: Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica …

March 7th, 2012 § 3

Selvatura Park, Santa Elena, Costa Rica: Suspended Bridges Span Verdant Valleys & Lush Canopies of Mist-Covered Tree Tops

When describing a great adventure, sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to begin. Such was the case when I returned from my recent travels in Costa Rica. Because I truly fell in love with one particular area —the Monteverde Cloud Forest Region— I knew right away that I would find it impossible to tell the tale in chronological order. So I skipped right to the middle, and I hope you won’t mind!

Getting to Monteverde Cloud Forest —4,662′ above sea level— is quite a journey in and of itself. Miles and miles of narrow, dusty dirt roads twist and turn up, around and through the rugged mountainous terrain in the Puntarenas region. The travel is slow-going, with tourist-filled busses and supply trucks popping up around perilous corners. Although I love to drive, for once, I was very happy to be in the passenger seat!

The View from the Mountains Leading to Santa Elena, Looking Down to the Coast and Nicoya Peninsula 

The Monteverde area sits high above sea level, spanning Costa Rica’s continental divide, and encompassing a variety of microclimates.  The Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve is a protected, natural area founded by American Quakers when they settled the area and began farming in 1951. Since that time, more Cloud Forest area has been devoted to parks and preserves …

Mist-Covered Tree Tops at the Edge of the Continental Divide, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

Cloud Forests are truly some of the rarest, most magical places on Earth. Only 1% of the world’s wooded areas are cloud forests. While staying in Santa Elena de Monteverde at the beautiful Arco Iris Lodge, I visited two of these mysterious, mist-covered forests within minutes of each other: Selvatura Park and Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

Michaela in the Monteverde Cloud Forest

Selvatura Park alone boasts 8 suspended bridges, carrying hikers through and above the cloud-shrouded forest canopy. We spent approximately 3 hours hiking in Selvatura Park, and a similar amount of time in Monteverde Cloud Forest; listening to the sounds of tropical birds, breathing in the moist, warm air and ogling countless botanical beauties. There are far too many photographs and stories to share in just one post, but here’s a first glimpse at some of the incredible flora I observed at ground level. I truly felt as if I were roaming a gigantic terrarium …

Slender Threads of Mucuna Vine (there are seven different species in Costa Rica) Drape Between the Trees Like Emerald-Hued Web

Delightful Combinations of Hart’s Tongue (Elaphoglossum eximium) & Tree Ferns Mingle Upon & Between Moss-Covered Trunks

Begonia convallariodora, a cloud forest native, blooms in the shadowy, blue mist

This gorgeous, pink-tinged Blechnum occidentale, stands out amid her lush, verdant neighbors

Another Native of the Monteverde Reserve, This Beautifully Pink-Tinted Begonia involucrata Shimmers with a Fresh Coat of Raindrops

Familiar, Yet Strange: It’s Always a Pleasure to Stumble Upon a Common Houseplant —Like this Leathery Philodendron— Growing in Its Native Environment.

Bright Red, Tubular Cuphea appendiculata Flowering on the Forest Floor

Pathway Through the Monteverde Cloud Forest Floor, Lined with Senecio cooperi

At the End of One Trail, a Waterfall Spills Into a Fern-Lined Pool, Carved into Earth and Stone

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina and WB for 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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Field Notes from Costa Rica …

March 4th, 2012 Comments Off

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Where in the world is Michaela? Yes, it’s been a long time since my last blog post, of this I am well aware. But, if you have been following The Gardener’s Eden page on Facebook, you’ll know that I’ve been hiking all over beautiful Costa Rica. With warm, moist air and lush, tropical cloud forests filled with begonias, epiphytes, moss, ferns and so much more, this country is a hortimaniac’s dream-come-true!

I have so much to share with you! Now that I have returned to snow-covered Vermont, I have many photos to sort through and stories to tell. I’ll be back with more soon, but here are a few photos to wet your appetite!

Michaela Standing in the Wet Winds at the Continental Divide – Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve – Costa Rica

Enjoying a Hike, Surrounded by Lush Moss, Ferns and Epiphytes of Every Kind Imaginable in the Costa Rican Cloud Forest at Monteverde

Enjoying a Canopy-View of the Cloud Forest & Strolling the Suspended Bridges in Selvatura Park, Santa Elena, Costa Rica

Photographs and Text ⓒ Michaela Medina and WB for 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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Dusting Off, Cleaning Out, Taking Stock & Getting Ready for Gardening Season… Plus Another Giveaway!

April 18th, 2011 § 33

The bright gold of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a cheerful welcome in a chair beside my front door. I like using natural baskets as decorative covers for inexpensive, recycled plastic flower pots. I do a similar thing with plants placed outside in summer, using everything from wooden crates and baskets to tin cans and flea market finds to add color, texture and interest to plants with less-than-attractive interior containers.

Ah, fog, mist, sunshine and April showers. What a mixed jumble the forecast is this week! My schedule seems to be at the mercy of the elements lately. But, undaunted by the moody weather, I’ve decided to take advantage of the unpredictable situation and use any rainy days or hours this week to sort through and give a spring cleaning to the growing collection of baskets and pots in my Secret Garden Room.

I love accenting my garden with colorful pots and overflowing baskets, but moving containers in and out every season results in a bit of wear and tear. Each year a few woven baskets are retired to the compost pile, and I lose one or two clay pots to a ‘whoopsie’. For the most part, I’ll replace those containers with new ones found at flea markets, tag sales, curb-side freebies and recycling centers. But sometimes a special handmade vessel catches my eye and I will add to my collection of beautiful clay pots, ceramic urns and stoneware containers. Right now I am admiring a few gorgeous pots I spotted at the lovely online garden store, Terrain, and last fall I also spied a bunch of fabulous pieces at Virginia Wyoming’s pottery studio in Westminster, Vermont. There are so many wonderful handmade pots on Etsy and local craft fairs. I like supporting independent artists when I can, and I always encourage others to do so as well…

Sometimes an Empty Vessel is as Lovely as a Container Filled with Plants. Here, a Cracked, Old, Clay Pot Adds Character to a Shady Nook Filled with Perennials (Including Kiregeshoma palmata and Astilbe) in My Garden

I Like to Create New Container Garden Vignettes Every Year. Here in Front of My Painting Studio, a Collection of Pots, Urns and Vessels Brings Color and Life to the Stone Terrace and Tobacco-Stained Barn Siding. All of these pots came from local, Vermont sources like Walker Farm and A Candle in the Night

Here’s Another Empty Vessel in the Walled Garden. I Love Contrasting a Smooth Surfaced Pot with Intricately Textured Foliage. Here, Indian Rhubarb (Darmera peltata) Provides a Lacy Skirt on this Beautiful Piece of Pottery.

Like many gardeners, I’ve recently become enamored with succulent container gardening. And why not? Succulents –and their close relatives, cacti– are so easy to care for. Last year, my studio’s steel balcony was filled with all sorts of dramatic pots (including the one pictured below), crammed with outlandish, colorful beauties and textural curiosities. Like ornamental grasses, succulents make great container plants for hot, dry spaces; think stone terraces, decks and windy balconies. Of course not all succulents are cold-climate hardy, so they must come inside if you live in a wintry region. But some cacti and succulents –including many sedum, sempervivum and others– are quite tough, and can be overwintered outdoors. Most of these fleshy, shallow-rooted plants are easy to propagate, and in cold climates, cuttings can be taken indoors before the frost in autumn and saved for next year’s container display. If you live in New England, I recommend signing up for Walker Farm’s free, succulent container gardening seminar on May 7th (click here for details). Daisy Unsicker, who will be leading the seminar with owner Karen Manix, propagates some incredible succulents at Walker Farm. Daisy creates gorgeous and inspirational succulent containers. Click here —or on the photo below— to see my previous post on “Un-Flower Pots”, for more unconventional, lower-maintenance, container gardening ideas.

A Collection of Plants (including Sempervivum and Haworthia) From Last Year’s Succulent Container Garden – Click Here for Post with More Details, Photos and Plants

A few years back, The Jewel Box Garden, one of my now-favorite container gardening books by Thomas Hobbs (author of the also gorgeous garden book, Shocking Beauty), inspired me to look at unconventional ways to use pots and vessels in my landscape. And more recently, I’ve found some fabulous ideas in Debra Lee Baldwin’s book Succulent Container Gardens from Timber Press. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may remember that I’ve mentioned this title before; both here and over at Barnes & Noble’s now-archived Garden Variety. This is a fabulous book, and a real must-have for any cacti/succulent lover or container gardening enthusiast.

Order Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin from Amazon.com image courtesy of fabulous publisher, Timber Press

Because I love this book so much, I’ve decided to purchase one to give away as part of this blog’s second anniversary celebration. To enter, simply leave a comment on today’s post, and in your comment, tell me what you like to grow in containers: ornamental plants, vegetables/herbs, or both. Be sure to correctly enter your email address so that I can contact you if you win the giveaway (your email won’t be visible to others, nor will it be shared or sold). Your entry must be received by 11:59 pm Eastern Time, Friday, April 22nd. A winner will be randomly chosen from the entries received in comments, and announced 4/25 here, on this site’s Facebook page, and also on Twitter. Due to shipping restrictions, this giveaway is open to readers in the United States and Canada only.

Good Luck! xo Michaela

The Winner of Debra Lee Miller’s Succulent Container Gardens is Lisa N. Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you to everyone for playing. If you didn’t win, please stay tuned for another chance this month!

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Article and Photographs (with noted exception) ⓒ Michaela at 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 used or reproduced or reposted without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Thank you!

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On Magic Wings: A Visit to the Beautiful Butterfly Conservatory & Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden…

March 4th, 2011 § 6

Postman (Heliconius melpomene) – Native to Central and South America

Spring may be fast approaching, but yesterday’s cold and wintry temperatures left me craving a bit of warmth, moisture and color. I love visiting conservatories at this time of year, and fortunately, I live near several, wonderful gardens-beneath-glass. One of my favorite wintertime ‘vacation’ spots is the nearby Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield, Massachusetts. The 8,000 foot greenhouse contains hundreds of blooming, tropical plants, a koi pond, birds, reptiles and of course, beautiful and exotic butterflies from all over the world.

Gardeners often ask me what they can do to attract beneficial insects —especially butterflies— to their gardens. Providing a constant source of nectar from cluster-blooming flowers —particularly Buddleia (butterfly bush), Asclepias (both native and tropical milkweed and butterfly weed), Verbena bonariensis, Monarda (bee balm), Phlox, Heliotrope, Aster, Scabiosa, Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace), Clethra alnifolia (sweet pepperbush), Viburnum, Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed), Liatris (gayflower) and Sedum (stonecrop)is one of the keys to drawing butterflies into your garden. And although the plants mentioned here are favorites, remember that most flowering plants will attract butterflies. Try to fill your garden with blossoms from spring through fall (when migrating butterflies need to gather strength for their journey south), supplementing flowering perennials and shrubs with free-blooming annuals. And remember, many plants attractive to butterflies are also fantastic sources of food for other pollinators; including bees and hummingbirds. Native plants and grasses supply not only food for local caterpillar and butterfly populations, but also create and provide habitat for butterflies throughout their lifecycle and metamorphosis. Butterflies prefer protected spots —enclosed by nearby fences, shrubs/hedges, trees or other tall plants— where they may light on flowers without being blown away by wind. Creating a still oasis will help you to spot these beautiful creatures on calm-wind days.

Beyond design and planting, there is another critical thing to consider when gardening with butterflies in mind. Most gardeners reading this blog have adopted organic practices, but it’s important to note that even the use of organic pesticides can be harmful to butterflies and other beneficial insects. Butterflies of course begin their lives in tiny, vulnerable egg-clusters. As their life cycle progresses —and they become voracious caterpillars— many butterflies are inadvertently killed when they consume pesticide-laden foliage on host-plants; including leaves treated with organic substances like insecticidal soap and Btk (Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki). Use organic pesticides sparingly —only when absolutely necessary— and in a targeted manner. To avoid unintentionally killing butterfly caterpillars and other beneficial larvae, become familiar with garden insects, and their various stages of development. Learning about butterflies —and watching their metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to mature butterfly— is a great activity to share with children. If you live in New England, I highly recommend a visit to Magic Wings Conservatory & Garden at any time of the year.

Cattleheart (Parides iphidamus) – Native to Central and South America

Glasswing (Greta oto) – Native to Central and South America

Yet-to-be Identified.

Female Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus) – Native to Asia (see male below)

Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonia) – Native to Central and South America

Rice Paper (Idea leuconoe) – Native to Asia

Male Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus) – Native to Asia

Owl Butterfly (Caligo eurilochus) – Native to Central and South America

Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) – Native to Central and South America

All of the butterflies pictured here —from Central/South America and Asia— were taken at Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. I will be writing more about North American butterflies in spring and summer. My favorite butterflies from my visit to the conservatory were the Glasswing and Blue Morpho, and in my own yard, I am partial to Monarch butterflies. What are your favorites? Do you try to draw butterflies to your garden oasis?

Special Thanks to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in Deerfield Massachusetts for Information, Resources and a Lovely Afternoon!

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Article and Butterfly/Botanical Photos are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All photographs, articles and content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.

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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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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of Michaela – The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without prior written permission. If you would like to use a photo or article excerpt, please see ‘contact’ page at right. Thank you !

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Indoor Eden: Trouble in Paradise… Aphids & Scale Attack the Studio Oasis!

January 5th, 2011 § 10

Pots in the Studio – Kalanchoe ‘Tessa’ (About to Bloom) Shares Space with Other Succulents (Mustard pot: Crassula ovata ‘Minimus’, Senecio macroglossus ‘Variegata’. Green pot: Kalanchoe mangini and Crassula ovata)

By now, it should be fairly obvious that I take as much pleasure in my garden during the winter months as I do during the warmer seasons. However on the grey and stormy days, when the temperature drops and the wind kicks up, there is much to be said for houseplants in January! I spend a great many hours in my painting studio at this time of year, and with its cathedral ceiling and bright, indirect light, it makes a perfect winter home for larger pots and taller plants. However this one room is hardly the limit of my indoor gardening. In fact, my entire house becomes something of a winter oasis after the hard frost in mid-October, with plants distributed throughout the studio, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, entry hall and secret garden room. In short, there are green, and multicolored things growing almost everywhere you look! And I love to admire the lush leaves and colorful blossoms against a snowy backdrop…

I Love the Contrast of Rich Green Houseplants Against a Wintery Back-Drop (That Red in the Snowy Background is Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ Beyond the Studio Door) Here, Kalanchoe ‘Tessa’ is About to Bloom, and Looks Particularly Luscious… Especially to Aphids!

Right now, my collection of Kalanchoe is about to blossom, and the various cultivars all look delightful -particularly to the aphids attacking them! It seems that sometime over the holidays —while I was too busy to notice the early signs— these nasty little freeloaders hatched and multiplied on one of my beautiful plants! Well, I caught them -and not a moment too soon. I pulled out my neem/soap mix (an OMRI approved insecticidal soap), and set to work spraying all of the foliage on this particular plant —and those sharing the space nearby— until it was thoroughly wet.  Take that you sap suckers! Experienced gardeners usually know what to look for when it comes to aphids, but just in case you are unfamiliar with them, here’s a photo to help you identify the problem…

Aphids on Kalanchoe (After Spraying with Neem) You Can Click the Photo to Enlarge & Get a Better View of Them !

Of course, this unpleasant invasion lead me to investigate my other houseplants. And lo-and-behold, there on the fine foliage of my agave: scale! Ugh! Spritz, spritz, spritz; on again with the neem insecticide. I really dislike scale, and find it difficult to eradicate. If the neem/soap mix doesn’t do it, I will upgrade to horticultural oil. Although one of scale’s natural predators, the ladybug, is active in the warmer parts of my house, this overwintering insect seems to avoid the cool studio. I always carefully check for ladybug larvae (click here for photo) before spraying, because even organic insecticides can kill beneficials like ladybird beetles as well as —outdoors during the growing season— bees, other pollinators and helpful bugs. I will have to keep close watch on this scale situation and repeat application of neem or horticultural oil weekly. Scale can become a real problem indoors unless the gardener is vigilant.

Scale on Agave geminifolia (after spraying with neem) This image may also be clicked to enlarge.

Many of my houseplants move outdoors during the summer months, but some —like the giant Ficus pictured below— are permanent indoor residents. These larger plants require regular maintenance to look their best; including pruning, which is done from a ladder in some cases. It looks like I accidentally damaged a branch while turning this tree last month, so I’ll need to get up there and make a clean cut; removing the unsightly dead foliage…

This Giant, Door-Framing Ficus Gives My Studio a True Conservatory Feel. But it Looks Like I Need to Tend to a Few Branches with My Pruners… Time to Pull out the Ladder!

After my rounds today —feeling the soil for moisture and checking all leaves and stems for pests and disease— I felt that most things were looking pretty healthy. I try to keep my houseplants on the dry-side during the winter months, but it’s important to strike a good balance between sahara and monsoon. The plants living in my studio —mostly succulents and many trees which are not particularly fond of humidity during the winter months— don’t seem to mind the dry, cool air. I keep most of the humid-air-loving tropicals —such as orchids, citrus and the mini-greenhouses: terrariums— upstairs in my bedroom, where I run a humidifier both for myself and my houseplants. I also segregate plants known and listed by the Humane Society as potential threats to my cat and dog (click here for article and links). The studio is closed up unless I am in there (where I can monitor munching), as is the Secret Garden Room.

My Feathery Sago Palm (Cycus revoluta)  —Making a Winter Home in the Painting Studio— Is Looking Healthy and Happy

Although It is the Most Commonly Grown Houseplant, Few Ficus benjamina Manage to Reach This Monstrous Height Before Getting the Old Heave-Ho. I Inherited This Specimen a Year Ago, After It Had Outgrown Its Former Home. The Weeping Fig Arrived by Trailer, and Is Now About 15′ High. The Studio is a Bit Cool for This Plant, But it Seems to Like the Bright, Indirect Light.

This Indoor-Outdoor Pot Contains Plants Recycled from a Smaller Container They Outgrew (Clockwise from top: Kalanhoe pumila, Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’, and Echeveria cvs)

I May Not Have My Conservatory Yet, But I Can Still Fake It By Creating an Eden Indoors (Cycus revoluta in foreground)

Someday, I hope to have a tiny conservatory all my own. But until then, I can enjoy most tender plants inside my home by finding the right micro-climate to suit their optimal growing conditions and by carefully catering to their needs and desires. For help with houseplants of all kinds, I highly recommend Barbara Pleasant’s The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual. I am a fan of this author in general —I adore her book Garden Stone, which I’ve mentioned here several times— and I think this book is particularly useful for indoor gardening. Pleasant thoroughly covers the essentials of growing over 150 common houseplants and —unlike some of the other books on my shelves— it is both well photographed and well written; with carefully organized, richly detailed horticultural information. Dorte Nissen’s The Indoor Plant Bible is another great resource, and with its compact size, tough cover and ringed-binder format, I find that it stays out near the houseplants where it is frequently used for quick reference. Both books are set up encyclopedia/dictionary style; with all plants arranged alphabetically by latin name. Barbara Pleasant’s book is also broken down by plant group (succulents/cacti, flowering/foliage plants). If you are new to houseplants, these two titles would be my top-shelf recommendations for indoor garden reference.

The Indoor Plant Bible and/or The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual are always on hand

It’s quite windy here today —and cold— so I won’t be spending much time outdoors. In meantime, I have my little Indoor Eden to content me and keep my color-loving eyes satisfied. My exotic houseplants bring a little bit of tropical warmth to my wintery world, and help me to more fully appreciate the stark and crystalline beauty of the landscape just outside the glass doors…

A Dusting of Sparkle-Dust on the Stone Terrace Greeting Me This Morning

And Flurries Swirled About In the Outdoor Dining Room

Reminding Me That, Of Course, Winter is Still a Beautiful Season

***

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

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast…

December 17th, 2010 § 5

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

Oh yes. I know what you’re thinking. What is she doing, lounging about in the afternoon with a plate of French Toast? Oh the sloth, the sloth! It’s just nothing but wickedness {smirk}. OK. Yes, Santa Baby, I have been a little —how shall we say— self-indulgent recently. But, try to go easy on me. During the short New England growing season —with gardens to plan, plant and tend— there are few leisurely days on my calendar. So I really treasure this quiet time of the year, and I like to treat myself a little.

Mid-Day Snow-Squall

With snow flying, and daytime temperatures struggling to reach the double digits, outside work is off the schedule. These days, I like to wrap myself in fluffy office-attire and slip into cashmere power-slippers before I settle into my couch desk for the day. Oh, I’m still keeping busy -of course. I read and review garden and landscaping books. I write. I research. I draw and sketch out new design ideas. I edit photos. I begin to shift focus to my painting studio. And you know, it’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re comfortable. That said, I find it really hard to stay focused when my stomach starts to grumble. And, it seems this little conversation with my tummy always takes place in the late afternoon. So rather than argue, I give it some love. Which brings us, of course, to the Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast…

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

Love in the Afternoon French Toast

Ingredients (serves two with an appetite, divide or multiply according to desire):

6             Slices of day-old, thick, French bread

3             Extra large eggs

1/2        Cup of cream

1/4        Cup of Vermont maple syrup

1             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)

1             Teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1             Teaspoon vanilla

1            Teaspoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

A pinch of  Salt

Fresh zest of one ripe, golden Meyer lemon (Do you grow your own yet? Oh… you really must)

For Pan:

1/2           Stick of sweet butter

For Serving:

Real Vermont Maple Syrup to Taste (warmed)

Confectioners sugar for sprinkling on top

Sweet, Organic Meyer Lemon from VivaTerra’s Lemon Topiary

Directions:

If you’re making breakfast for a group, warm an oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit to hold batches of toast on a platter until you are ready to serve.

When I make French toast I mix the batter in a bowl with a fork and then pour it in a shallow dish (a pie plate or any shallow dish will do the trick). Add each slice of bread to the dish one at a time; dunking each slice in and swishing it around as you go, to absorb the batter. Allow the slices to sit in the dish while you warm a couple of tablespoons of butter in a good sized skillet. When the butter is melted, raise the heat up to medium and add the toast. Use a good sized skillet to hold at least three slices at a time.

Add the slices of bread to the skillet and fry each side until golden brown. As the toast is frying, I like to drizzle it with maple syrup and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on each slice. Be sure not to over-cook French toast. You want the bread moist and luscious on the inside, and golden-brown/lightly crispy on the outside.

Sprinkle each serving with confectioners’ sugar and serve with a pat of fresh butter and warm Vermont maple syrup.

Can you feel the love?

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.

***

Article and Photos (excepting links from VivaTerra) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Terrarium…

December 6th, 2010 § 7

Nutcracker Suite Terrarium: An H. Potter Holds a Moon Rise and a Collection of Christmas Toys Gathered Beneath the Tree (Lycopodium obscurum aka Ground Pine Club Moss). Designed and created by Michaela at TGE

Nutcracker Suite Terrarium: H. Potter Wardian Case Filled with Lycopodium obscurum “Tree”, Sheet Moss “Carpet” and Miniatures. Terrarium vignette designed and created by Michaela at TGE.

When it comes to holiday presents, I think there’s nothing quite as memorable and meaningful as a beautiful homemade gift. And a living gift, like a terrarium, keeps giving all year long. Terrariums are a great way to introduce children to the magic of horticulture, and they also make great gifts for city-dwellers –particularly plant-lovers residing in tiny apartments or working in sterile-looking cubicles. These gorgeous, easy-care gardens-beneath-glass are also wonderful gifts for those with physical limitations, disabilities or limited time.

Beautiful terrariums can be crafted on any budget, and containers and plants can be easily found online or in garden centers. If you like, you can even put together a kit of materials and box them up as a project to share with the recipient (or send one off by mail with a gift certificate to a local garden center or online plant retailer). A holiday terrarium can be decorated with miniatures —like the one above— before giving, or to celebrate the season and add a bit of humor or beauty to your home. Handblown glass orbs, tiny figurines or holiday ornaments all make fascinating additions to terrariums. For basic instructions on how to create a terrarium, click here to visit a tutorial post from last year. If you are constructing a permanent terrarium, be sure to use horticultural charcoal (available through many garden centers or online shops – see links below). If you are creating a temporary holiday display terrarium (particularly if the plants are pre-potted), you can skip this step. Horticultural charcoal will help to keep your terrarium fresh. Below are some of my recent terrarium projects and some great online resources. You will also find more ideas by visiting the Indoor Eden page linked here, and on the left-hand side bar.

Glass Jar with Begonia ‘Tangalooma’ and Glass Ornaments. Designed and Created by Michaela at TGE

Glass Jar with Begonia ‘Tangalooma’, Sheet Moss and Colorful Glass Fruit Ornaments and Bird. Designed and created by Michaela at TGE.

Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ (Lemon button fern/Pigmy sword fern) Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament. Designed and created by Michaela at TGE.

Begonia ‘Tangalooma’ and Ornaments. Designed and created by Michaela at TGE.

Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’ and Begonia ‘Trade Winds’ with Sphagnum moss and Ceramic Ornament in an Apothecary Jar. Designed and created by Michaela at TGE.

Online Terrarium Resource List:

Terrain has some of the most beautiful and imaginative terrarium containers (and supplies) I have ever seen. This beautiful orchid house terrarium ($118), is made of wood and glass, with a liftable lid, and would make a dream gift for any gardener. I really want this one, and I am sitting on my fingers. It’s definitely on my Christmas list (hear that Santa?).

The gorgeous wardian case at the top of this post is from H. Potter. The company also has a great blog with terrarium-growing tips from author Tovah Martin. If you love terrariums as much as I do, I highly recommend checking it out.

VivaTerra has gorgeous terrarium containers, including this hanging apple and pear shaped set made from glass. They also sell pre-filled terrarium containers for gift-giving (great if you are mailing a gift to someone far away).

Terrain’s Terrarium Hanging Glass Orb $24, Would Make a Beautiful Container for Plants, and a Great Homemade Gift. See How They Have Filled One Below (Photos From Terrain Online).

Terrain Terrarium Hanging Glass Orb Can Be Filled Any Way You Like. A Supply Kit Like the One Below will Provide Enough Material for Several Small Containers.

Terrarium Supply Kit $32 from Terrain

Anchor Hocking 1 Gallon Jar with Lid ($9.99 from Amazon.com): This is the jar I most frequently use for beginner terrarium projects. It’s inexpensive, reusable and perfect for kids. Although it is glass, it’s heavy and not fragile. The gorgeous cloche below is more appropriate for a teenager or adult.

Glass Cloche with Base $58 from Terrain: This is an elegant choice for an orchid or a container of taller terrarium plants.

Amazon.com has an amazing variety of apothecary jars and glass containers. You can find almost anything you are looking for, from the budget-conscious to the extravagant.

Tovah Martin’s book The New Terrarium ($16.50 at Amazon.com) contains both inspirational projects and practical advice on how to create and care for a terrarium.

H. Potter Wardian Case with Begonia ‘Tangalooma’ and Nephrolepis cordifolia ‘Duffii’. Designed and created by Michaela at TGE.

 

Find more sophisticated and advanced terrarium ideas on the Indoor Eden page at left. Or, visit retailers linked below – all known for fine garden products and terrariums…

VivaTerra - Eco Living With Style

shopterrain.com

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All terrarium plants (with product-links excepted) are from The Old Schoolhouse Plantery.

Article and Photographs (excepting product links) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

***

Dangerous Beauty: Poisonous Plant Information for Homes with Small Children & Pets…

November 30th, 2010 § 2

Outside, Looking In: Dreamy —But Poisonous— Kalanchoe mangini Sits High Up in a Bedroom Window

Like many cold-climate gardeners, now that the growing year has ended —and my outdoor garden pursuits are limited to vegetables in raised beds beneath hoop-houses— I find myself catering to a large Indoor Eden of overwintering plants. Throughout the cold months, I keep a wide a wide variety of common and exotic plants in my home. Some of my tender plants —including culinary herbs and other edibles— are located on my kitchen countertop and in stands on or near the floor. Other plants —such as a giant ficus, sago palm, ferns, various succulents, cactus, a cherished collection of orchids and rare exotics— populate my studio workspace, bedroom, bathroom and an indoor, Secret Garden Room.

Kalanchoe mangini – Beautiful, But Toxic to Pets

Poisonous Plants —Like This Sago Palm and Succulent Container— Are Kept Behind Closed-Doors in my Painting Studio

Kalanchoe pumila: Another Pretty, but Poisonous, Plant

Plants are a big part of my life, but animals are part of my family  —I have both a dog and a cat— and yes, they have been known to “sample” the greenery. Although most plants are harmless when consumed, some can make the taste-tester quite sick -and eating certain species can even be fatal. Many common holiday-gift plants —such as amaryllis, poinsettia, mistletoe, Christmas rose, Easter lily, iris, narcissus and hyacinth— as well as common houseplants —like English ivy, elephant’s ear, philodendron and caladium, to name but a few— are toxic to pets. Even tiny bits of leaves, roots or blossoms from certain plants may cause vomiting or diarrhea in both humans and animals. And, when eaten in quantity or over a prolonged period of time, some plants may even be fatal.

Plants are Safely Off-Limits in My Secret Garden Room (Sorry, No Pets Allowed)

If you share your home with small children and pets, it’s critical that you know which plants are potential threats to their safety, and how to handle the danger. Because I garden professionally, it’s my responsibility to know which plants are toxic —both to humans and their animal companions— in order to avoid accidental poisoning and disaster. For human poison-concerns,  The National Capital Poison Center (Affiliated with GWU Medical Center) maintains a website and common poison lists (again, this list is for humans) —including toxic plants by common and latin name— which I have found useful (click here and bookmark). And for quick pet reference, I often check with The United States Humane Society online -their website includes a fairly comprehensive poisonous plant list, (click here for more information). The ASPCA also maintains a regularly updated listing of plants toxic to dogs and cats here on their site (search by common or latin name). In addition, I highly recommend keeping a copy of the Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants (pictured at bottom of this post) in an easy-to-locate spot for quick reference.

This Semi-Enclosed Terrarium Would Be a Great Way to Showcase a Less-Safe Plant on a High Shelf

Of course, the safest decision is to completely eliminate all toxic plants from your home. But for many of us, that isn’t really the most desirable —nor is it the only— option. Plants grown behind glass —especially within completely enclosed terrariums, like the one pictured below— are much less likely to be eaten by children or pets. Plants kept in high, out-of-reach, places —bookshelves and dressers come to mind— also tend to be safe from curious fingers, noses and mouths. Keeping toxic plants in a separate room, behind closed doors, is another way to avoid trouble. I do keep some toxic plants in my home. However, I take special care to make sure my pets are never exposed to the more poisonous species. Even the most mildly toxic specimens in my house are kept safely out of reach; grown within terrariums, upon high shelves or behind closed doors in my studio or Secret Garden Room.

One Safe Option for Toxic Plants, and a Lovely Holiday Gift for a Gardener: A Beautiful, Fully-Enclosed Terrarium

If a child or pet accidentally ingests a potentially poisonous plant, you should immediately call for help. Try to remain calm –remember that more often than not, small quantities of toxic plants are not fatal. However, the side-effects of poisonous plant ingestion can be quite serious. So, don’t take a chance -always seek the help of a doctor or veterinarian if you suspect your child or pet has eaten something unsafe.

Dr. Goof in the Garden

A Thoughtful Holiday Gift for A Gardener with Children and/or Pets: Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants

Article and Photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

The following online shops sell beautiful terrariums and kits…

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The Gilded Table: Shimmering Gold Garden Remnants Make Holiday Dinner Settings a Little Bit Glamorous…

November 15th, 2010 § 2

The Gilded Table – Golden Sago Palm Leaves by Candlelight

Gilded Pine Cones

Golden Sago Palm Leaves Shimmer and Glow by Candlelight

Candle lit dinners, cocktails by the fire and evenings spent with good friends; it seems like I will be spending less time in wellingtons and more time in high heels this month! Yes, it’s getting to be that time of year again, and my dance card is really beginning to fill up. I do love the holidays, and one of my favorite parts —beyond spending more time with the special people in my life— is the extra bit of shimmer and glow added to special occasions.

I like decorating for the holidays, and because I have a big garden —filled with interesting bits of this and that— I like to use what I have on hand to add a special touch to my home and dinner table at this time of year. Before snow flies, I always gather up remnants from my garden while I am working outside. I like to collect pinecones, seedpods, dried flowers, twigs or branches and other odds and ends from the beds, borders and surrounding forest.  I also save things from my indoor garden. One of my favorite potted plants, the sago palm (Cycas revoluta), occasionally tosses off leaves in spring and fall when I move it from indoors to out, and vice versa. For the past year or so, I’ve been saving those pretty, fern-like leaves in a box. They remind me a bit of ostrich feathers, and they seemed like the perfect choice for a bit of gilding with metallic paint. After spraying a few of the beautiful leaves with a soft shade of gold, I tried arranging them simply with a candle for a glamorous, but understated table setting…

Dried and Gilded Leaves of Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)

Isn’t it lovely? I think this would be pretty way to decorate a Thanksgiving dinner table, or for any occasion though out the winter holidays. At the moment, the sago palm leaves are definitely my gilded favorite -but I also like the look of gilded hydrangea, pinecones and many of the other dried bits and pieces I’ve tried. I used spray paint on my remnants (see tutorial below), but you could also brush the paint on by hand or dip cones into a pail or bucket…

How to Gild Garden Remnants

You will need: Dried garden remnants (see suggestions), pruners, newspaper, gloves, a mask, a well-ventilated work-space, spray paint (in gold, silver, bronze, copper, etc). Optional are: wire, wire cutters.

Start the project by collecting clean, dry remnants from outdoors or indoor garden spaces. Pinecones, palm leaves, dried leaves, seed pods, nuts, dried flower heads, shriveled berries and gourds all look beautiful when lightly gilded with gold paint.

Once you have collected a basket full of garden left-overs, bring them into a well-ventilated space. I work with paint in a studio equipped with a fan (and I also open doors and windows). You can use spray paint in a garage or cellar, or outdoors. Whatever you do, be sure to protect your clothes with an apron, your hands with gloves, your lungs with a mask and your floor or table with newspaper.

Spread everything out on newspaper and pick the remants over. Check your leaves over for spiders and bugs and send those little guys back where they came from. Be sure everything is completely dry and solid enough  to handle while painting and later, arranging. Clip off any wayward or unattractive pieces with pruning shears.

Select your spray paint (I like bronze, soft gold, copper, silver and pewter for gilding. I also like to use white spray paint on garden remnants and for even more drama, try black! Krylon manufactures acrylic spray paints which are a safer-health option, and more environmentally friendly. In the United States, CFCs are no longer used in aerosol spray paints of any kind). Shake the can well and test on a spot of paper. Then spray over the dried bits and pieces in a steady, fluid motion. It’s better to use several light layers of paint than one big, heavy, globby one.

Let the pieces dry for several minutes, then turn them over and do the other side. Some things —like pinecones for example— may need to be held up. Again, be sure your hands are protected with gloves, and grasp the cone with a bit of newspaper to hold temperamental bits steady. If you want to add more depth, use a couple of different shades of paint. white looks pretty with a light coat of silver, and brownish bronze looks nice with a bit of gold. I have seen “fuzzy” paints work well too. But keep in mind that just a touch of color often looks most elegant. You want to enhance the nooks and crannies on your garden remnants, but always let nature’s beauty stand out!

Once everything is well coated in paint, let your remnants dry out for an hour or until you can handle them without smudging paint on your hands. Then, gather things up and start playing with your table arrangements. You can wire things together or leave them loose. If you are going to add candles to the table setting, be sure they are always behind glass, (and, just as a reminder, of course open flames are never left untended -especially with small children and pets!).

Gilded leftovers from the garden make beautiful additions to wreaths, door swags, or in vases. In addition to all-gilded arrangements, try combining a bit of shimmer with evergreen boughs or fresh flowers, dried berries and fruit and/or vegetables. Fresh pumpkins, squash and gourds also look pretty with gilded items from the garden.

I like to reuse items from year to year, so I box them up and store them on shelves in my cellar. I have amassed quite a collection of pinecones, so I will be making a couple of gilded wreaths to give away as gifts. Because I’m always rearranging things, I like to leave my dried garden remnants loose when I store them in boxes, and I cushion the more fragile things with newspaper or bubble wrap.

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A Simple and Pretty Holiday Decoration from the Garden

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Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Sephora.com, Inc.

***

Indoor Eden: The Secret Garden Room…

October 3rd, 2010 § 10

Where does the Secret Garden lead? The Garden Room, of course…

Brrrrrrr… There’s a chill in the air this morning! Low temps hovered around 34 degrees fahrenheit last night, and in spite of the bright sunshine, it sure feels like fall now. Jack Frost hasn’t yet made his inaugural, autumn visit to the garden, but I am already preparing for his arrival. Out in the potager, hoop-houses have been set in place to protect the tender crops from freezing nighttime temperatures (click here for tutorial). And in the ornamental gardens, potted tropicals and houseplants have begun their seasonal migration indoors.

Deep within the Secret Garden, behind the high stone walls and below the rusty steel balcony, there exists yet another hidden door. This dimly-lit Garden Room —a glorified walk-out basement, really— is my secret-within-a-secret. Though dark —and I suppose slightly mysterious— the Garden Room receives considerable filtered light through a wall of glass doors. Here the Streptocarpus, Begonia, Asparagus densiflorus, as well as other tropical and tender perennial plants will make a winter home…

A Wooden Giraffe Gazes Out the Garden Door

An Enormous Old Pot, Filled with an Asparagus Fern (wheeled in and out with a handcart each year)

What else can be found in my Secret Garden Room? Well, I supposed it’s becoming something of a repository for treasured old pots and urns, hand tools and various curios and natural collections: birds nests, bones, feathers and skins, books, and winter gardening projects. In summer, this spot is a cool oasis for reading and visiting on humid days. In autumn and winter, the Garden Room becomes a place for indoor garden projects, study, quiet reflection and intimate conversation. Someday, I hope to build a conservatory for overwintering plants. But this special, secret space —secluded from the rest of my home— will always be a favorite garden retreat…

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall – Reflective Windows Add Light to the Dimly Lit Garden  Room…

Collected, Natural Curios Line Shelves and Fill Glass Jars in the Garden Room

Tools, pots, plants and curious fill the shadowy Garden Room. Candles add Warmth at Twilight, and on Dark, Rainy Days…

I finished the Garden Room walls by hand, with layer upon layer of plaster; in naturally occurring colors, ranging from buff to terra-cotta.

Looking Through the Garden Room Doors, into the Secret Garden Surrounded by Stonewalls and A Vine-Clad, Steel Balcony

Rusty Old Chairs and Candle Sticks will Remain Outdoors, Well Past the Frost

A Potted Agapanthus Settles into Her Winter Retreat

An Enormous Pot Filled With Asparagus Fern (moved back and forth annually from one side of the glass door to the other). The Old Settee was Found in a Church Tag Sale.

My Indoor Gardening Projects Include Terrarium-Making and Potting Bulbs for Winter Forcing – See More Ideas and Resources on the Indoor Eden Page Here. This Lovely Wardian Case was a Gift from H. Potter.

The View of the Secret Garden from the Hidden Glass Doors

The High, Moss-Covered Stone Walls Surrounding the Secret Garden at Ferncliff  Were Built by Vermont Artist Dan Snow.

A Peek Outside the Secret Garden Door in October…

***

Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

VivaTerra - Eco Living With Style

shopterrain.com

Gardener's Supply Company

Dreaming of a Horticultural Harem Overflowing with Hot House Hotties…

March 13th, 2010 § 2

Hot, Hot Hibiscus © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Earlier this week in my post, “Ode to the Oscars”, comparing Oscar gowns to hot house flowers, I briefly mentioned that I am “conservatory sitting” for friends.  The owners of this small commercial greenhouse/nursery will be returning from the UK early next week, and sadly, my daily trips to their tropical oasis will come to an end. Most of my professional gardening work takes place outdoors, or at a drafting table. At this time of year, I am always rushing about, finishing up last minute pruning jobs and preparing for next month’s garden clean-ups and annual spring workshops, (TBA). I haven’t had the opportunity to log many greenhouse hours since my college days, so working in a conservatory this week has been a real treat for me. Unfortunately, it has stirred-up my passion for those hot house hotties, the exotic plants. This week’s exposure to the steamier-side of cold climate gardening has awakened my dormant lust for a glassed-in-paradise, where I can enjoy the pleasures of my own horticultural-harem all winter long.

Now that I have sampled a bit of Vieques in Vermont, I can’t help but picture myself overwintering in a giant, mist-covered terrarium, growing my own Meyer lemons and sweet oranges and enjoying the scent of nicotiana while the snow falls softly outside, (You may recall my terrarium obsession from this post, or this crazy post or say, this earlier post). Oh this is a very, very dangerous fantasy. I see lounge chairs surrounded by hibiscus and pots filled with calathea; lilies floating in a giant reflecting bowl, and verdant ivy scrambling up the window casings. How can I make this dream come true, without greedily gulping down hundreds of gallons of fossil fuel and driving myself into financial ruin? Surely I must be clever enough to figure it out? The building itself would be relatively simple to construct. I need to thin the trees along my drive, so I could easily harvest some timber for the frame, and perhaps I could find some recycled glass and reclaimed steel. I am a very good scavenger. Certainly the foundation could be built from my own never-ending supply of stone. But how to make the greenhouse truly green? Environmentally friendly heating, now that is the real challenge…

Buy Conservatory Style from Amazon / Buy Conservatory Style from B&N.COM

I know this is a dangerous move, but I am going to have to have a look at  Jackum Brown’s book Conservatory Style, (above). See that picture on the cover? That is close to the glassed-in Eden I have in mind, but my version goes a bit more gothic. Sigh. Then there is Diana Yakley’s book Conservatories, (pictured and linked below). Of course, for practicalities, there is the  how-to manual of choice from Roger Marshall, (also below). And just because I want to torture myself a bit more, next week I am going to spend an afternoon at the Smith College Bulb Show, in Northampton, Massachusetts. That ought to push me right over the edge. You will read about it soon… no doubt…

Zantadeschia aethiopica ‘Spotted White Giant’, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Kalanchoe ‘Mangini’, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Agapanthus, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Fragrant Nicotiana alata (unconfirmed cultivar), © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Kalanchoe ‘Tessa’, © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Buy Conservatories from Barnes & Noble / Buy Conservatories from Amazon

Buy How to Build Your Own Greenhouse from Amazon

Buy How to Build Your Own Greenhouse from Barnes & Noble

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Ode to the Oscars: If They Were Flowers Botanical Stars Shine on the First Annual ‘Conservatory Awards’ Red Carpet…

March 8th, 2010 § 9

Dress by Agapanthus, ‘Lily of the Nile’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by ethereal Rachel McAdams © Steve Gratnitz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

The great Bard Shakespeare once wrote that “all the world’s a stage”. Well, the thought certainly crossed my mind today as I worked, surrounded by hundreds of surreal beauties inhabiting a small greenhouse temporarily under my care. Last night’s Academy Awards ceremony was attended by some of the most beautifully dressed women in the world, yet none more spectacular than the least of the lovely ladies I encountered in the conservatory today.

So as the watering wand drifted from delicate bud to flamboyant blossom, my inner paparazzo got the best of me. Snap. Snap. Snap. At each and every turn I spotted a starlet resembling one I remembered from the night before. Look there’s Demi’s dress! Oh my God, that must be Helen Mirren’s silver gown. Aisle after aisle, it was a breathless whirlwind of divas and ingenues; with diamond dewdrops-a-sparkling and heady perfume filling the air. What a rush. Best dressed? Why, I simply can not decide. They are all beauties to my eye. So you be the judge. Who is the winner here? And who did I miss as I spun my star-struck head this way and that?

Dress by Pelargonium filifolium © Michaela TGE

As worn by delicate beauty Zoe Kravitz © Steve Granitz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Dress by Fuchsia ‘Angel’s Kiss’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by the stunning Queen Latifa © Steve Granitz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Silvery dress by Kalachoe pumila © Michaela TGE

As worn by elegant Helen Mirren © Jason Merritt/ Getty via Yahoo.com

Gorgeous ruffled gown by Begonia panasoffkee © Michaela TGE

As worn by ever fabulous Demi Moore © John Shearer/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

Dress by Impatiens namchabarwensis © Michaela TGE

As worn by alluring Mo’Nique © Kevin Mazur/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Dress by Amaryllis ‘Ema’s Grans’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by radiant Jane Seymour © Frazer Harrison/Getty via Yahoo.com

Dress by Streptocarpus ‘Black panther’ © Michaela TGE

As worn by the mysterious Kristin Stewart © Steve Grantiz/Wireimage via Yahoo.com

Dress by Phalenopsis, The Moth Orchid © Michaela TGE

As worn by the exquisite Meryl Streep © Jason Merritt/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

Dress by Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ image via White Flower Farm

As worn by ravishing Penelope Cruz © Frazer Harrison/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

Dress, (detail), by Begonia parviflora © Michaela TGE

As worn by triumphant beauty Sandra Bullock © Jason Merritt/Getty Images via Yahoo.com

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All floral images, (with one noted exception) © Michaela at TGE

All Academy Award photos are copyright as noted, used in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine

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Hello, I Love You. Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?

March 5th, 2010 § 1

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Look at this dark, smoldering beauty ! Have I introduced you to my latest crush? The mysterious, maroon-hued Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’ ? No ? Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve been so distracted, I think I forgot. Shame on my recent preoccupation with mundane, practical things like snow removal. Well, here she is now- and isn’t she something ? Meet the gorgeous, tropical thief of my melting heart. You’ve likely seen her pretty sister, commonly known as ‘Emerald Ripple’, here and there; perhaps on a friend’s windowsill or maybe tucked beneath a misty cloche or glass terrarium. She occasionally produces subtle, white, bottle-brush flowers. But of course it’s her foliage that really steals the show.

Peperomia caperata, easy-care relative of the pepper plant, comes from a large family; stalwarts of greenhouses, conservatories and every-day households. These rugged little Central and South American beauties rarely grow taller than 6″, making them perfect plants for desktops, brightly lit bedrooms and other indoor spaces. Delicate looking ? Hardly the case. Peperomia may occasionally be pestered by mealy bugs, but generally, if kept moist but not soggy, these plants are very trouble-free.

Surprisingly seductive isn’t she? Yes, I’m just mad about this moody P. caperata cultivar, ‘Raspberry Ripple’. And I’m obsessively searching for the perfect, burnished-gold pot; one that will bring out the violet undertones of her leaves and her ruby-hued stems. I think she’d be a knock-out beside the bed, don’t you? Or perhaps in a mid-sized Wardian case filled with shimmering bronze orbs or cherry-colored blossoms. She wants something glamorous, but subtle. This is no shimmy-shimmy-ra-ra bombshell. She’s the sexy but understated, sneak-up-on-you type. If she were human, I think she might be a young Rita Moreno.

Where did I find her? Where? Where? Where? Well, I spotted this particular gem at The Old School House Plantery, (They sell rare plants online at their shop, Eclecticasia on Etsy). The owners are friends and they happen to have a great little greenhouse located near me. I don’t think they have resumed seasonal shipping just yet, but they will soon. Their plants are well worth the wait.

And that perfect pot? Let me know if you see something. All in good time my pretty. All in good time…

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Peperomia caperata ‘Raspberry Ripple’

Heart shaped face with dark waves and Latin American roots? Why I think this beautiful plant may be part Rita Moreno

Article and photographs © 2010 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 or reproduced without written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Lush Foliage for Low-Light Rooms : Terrarium Bowls Continued …

January 14th, 2010 § 7

A pedestal-bowl terrarium filled with Adiantum, (Maidenhair fern), Calathea lanceolata and Selanginella kraussiana, (Club moss), warms up a modern metallic vanity in the powder room…

Grey. Grey. Grey. Today the sky is one big, dull, expanse of monochromatic ash. On days like this, with thick, low clouds and no sunshine to be found, low-light rooms inside the house can seem particularly dark. Even the sunniest of homes usually have a few shadowy spaces, and although the hard metal finishes in modern bathrooms, and cool-colored interior walls may sparkle on sunny days, in the dead-of winter, this kind of decor can leave you cold. These gloomy spots always seem to benefit from a splash of lush, verdant color.

Houseplants can add natural warmth to indoor spaces, particularly those with modern, minimalist designs. Sleek materials, like stainless steel and glass, are easily enlivened with a touch of green foliage. True, dark rooms can be a challenge for indoor gardening – cactus, herbs and succulents will wither in dank spaces. But filtered light will support many beautiful foliage plants, such as ferns and moss, and a few blooming tropicals, (including African violets, begonias and orchids).

Terrariums are a great way to display rainforest tropicals and shade loving plants of all kinds. Humidity tends to be higher in bathrooms, making this room the perfect place for moisture-seeking plants. My tiny first-floor powder room was looking particularly gloomy last week, so I put together an open terrarium in a glass-pedestal bowl. This wasn’t an expensive project, in fact the total cost, including both plants and glass bowl, came to $16. This terrarium, (pictured in my bathroom in the photo at top), includes maidenhair fern, (Adiantum), calathea, (C. lanceolata), and club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), all purchased from The Old Schoolhouse Plantery, just down the road. I love how this tiny bowl completely changes the mood of my metallic little space.

Over the holidays, I made a low-light terrarium gift for my sister, (pictured below). This large, thick-glass bowl is filled with an African violet, (Saintpaulia), club moss, (Selanginella kraussiana), and a beautiful begonia called ‘Kit Kat’. I added a clear glitter ball, (from Michael’s craft store), for a bit of sparkle. My sister lives in an old New England home, with many dark, interior rooms. Low-light plants like begonias thrive in these conditions. However, wood-stoves and dry heating-systems can make for a challenging house-plant environment. This is where terrariums come in particularly handy. Glass-houses, even tiny ones, hold moisture and increase the humidity in the terrarium’s micro-climate. Although open-bowl planters require more attention than closed, cloche-style or Wardian case terrariums, they have a few advantages. Begonias, and certain other plants, can sometimes suffer from mold in an excessively moist, closed terrarium. Since my sister has a new baby to care for, I wanted to give her a relatively easy-to-care for gift. We’ll check in to see how she rates it in a few more weeks.

When designing indoor containers for dimly-lit room, it helps to pay attention to foliage texture and pattern. Try to select a few different textures; combining smooth, lacey, velvety, and/or hairy leaves for contrast. Also have a look at leaf-pattern. To my eye, leaves can be even more spectacular than bloom. Colored veining, bold stripes and splotches, and tonal variation are all things to look for in plants. Begonia, viola, peperomia, calathea and pilea are all easy to come by in greenhouses, and offer a wide range of foliage color and texture. I like to use ferns to lighten-up the look of a terrarium, (particularly the maidenhair ferns), and mosses of all kinds add a velvety touch to a glass container. Glass balls, mirrors, prisms and other sparkly details can also help to catch light and reflect color in a dark space.

For instructions on how to create a terrarium, and for helpful resources and more ideas, you can travel back to my earlier posts, “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part One…“, and “…Part Two“. Stay tuned for more indoor gardening projects to make your winter a bit more lush…

A terrarium-bowl filled with Begonia ‘Kit Kat’, Saintpaulia, (African violet), Selaginella kraussiana, (Club moss), and a sparkle-ball accent

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Terrariums Part Two…

December 19th, 2009 § 16

A tiny Phalaenopsis orchid , (‘The White Moth’) , displayed in an open terrarium lined with pea stone/charcoal mix, and filled with a bed of bark, sphagnum and sheet moss…

Last week in ‘Terrariums Part One‘, I went over basic instructions demonstrating how terrariums are constructed, and introducing terrarium-newcomers to the beautiful, fascinating world of miniature conservatories. Starting with a simple terrarium, such as the native plant design I featured last week, is a good idea if you have never experimented with terrariums before, or if you are working with young children. However if you have already had some success with basic terrariums and houseplants, and you want to experiment with more unusual tropical plants or something a bit more challenging, you may be ready to move on to some less-typical interpretations of this indoor display method. Whether you go with a classic or a more modern design, keep in mind that a homemade terrarium is both an economical and memorable gift, and there is still plenty of time to come up with something truly special before Christmas…

Open bowl-style terrarium and a blown-glass bulb amid pink polka dot plant, (Hypoestes phyllostachya), purple velvet plant, (Gynura aurantiaca), and golden hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa ‘Tatra gold’) All plants featured here are from: The Old School House Plantery

Begin by letting your imagination run wild. There are as many kinds of terrariums as there are people creating them. Terrariums may be open or closed, short and wide or tall and narrow. They may be made of solid glass, acrylic or plastic, or they can be combined with other materials, such as wood or steel. Some tiny greenhouses are smaller than lemons; others take up entire rooms. I have seen absolutely stunning, miniature conservatories made from recycled or even antique glass containers, and I have been amazed by more modern, architectural terrariums constructed from sheets of clear acrylic. Some designers like to add tiny collectibles, such as doll furniture or figurines to their designs. Other creative adornments might include itty-bitty flower pots, toy cars, prisms or glass balls. It is endless. The plants contained within terrariums also vary wildly. Naturally, your choices are limited by a wide variety of situational conditions and circumstances; including plant availability, budget, design, mature specimen size in relation to container, as well as ease of maintenance. There are also cultural requirements to consider; a few of which include humidity preferences, drainage and soil structure and chemistry.

Many plants will thrive within a moist, humid terrarium environment. In fact some, including many of my favorite orchids, actually perform better in my dry, winter home when contained within glass. The tiny moth orchid, (Phalaeonopsis), pictured at the top of this post, ($9 at Home Depot), is happily growing in a mixture of bark and sphagnum moss. Drainage is provided by a mix of pea stone and charcoal at the bottom of the container. Phalaeonopsis thrive in warm, moist conditions. Elevated humidity is provided by a tall, wide glass vase, (found at Target for $12), which holds water and reduces evaporation.

On the other hand many plants, including most alpines, cacti, succulents and herbs, tend to wither and rot in low light and dampness. But given the right container and growing conditions, some of these plants may be grown in glass planters as well. Of course, more exacting personalities might argue that wide-mouthed, glass pedestal bowls do not technically qualify as a terrariums. I encourage you to expand on these old-fashioned definitions, and to explore the concept of the modern terrarium. Although succulents are not good candidates for closed conservatories, they do make fantastic additions to open glass bowls – particularly the urn-shaped vessels intended for candy and fruit display….

A modern interpretation of the classic terrarium: non-traditional, dramatic succulents contained within a delicate glass pedestal bowl. All featured plants : The Old School House Plantery

I created a lovely succulent bowl, similar to the one above, to give as a holiday gift this year. I liked it so much that I ended up making this one for myself. I selected a glass pedestal bowl intended for fruit display, ($9 at Target), and lined the bottom and sides with polished black stone, both for practical drainage and decorative drama. The center well was slowly filled with a good potting mix and plants. Designing a terrarium or glass planter is no different from any other garden design project. Color, texture, shape, structural density and form always come into play when designing with plants. I wanted to make this classic shaped bowl a bit modern. Many succulents have bold, geometric shapes, so they seemed like the perfect choice. I love the contrast of these thick-fleshed, colorful plants against the clear, delicate glass. For my vertical element I chose stately snake plant, (Sanseveria trifasiata ‘Laurentii’), and for the mounded, central feature, I chose one large and another small Mexian rose, (Echeveria ‘Pearl’). The trio of plants is softened by the trailing, delicate beauty of variegated elephant bush, (Portulacaria afra variegata). Perhaps stalwarts of terrarium design will brush this combination off as merely a conventional planting. But I think this modern terrarium-hybrid lies somewhere between, and defies hard-line definitions.

Of course, before you begin assembling your glass container plantings, there are a few things to keep in mind. Knowing something about your plant’s natural environment and cultural preference is the key to horticultural success under any circumstances. You can find this information by looking the plant up online or in an encyclopedia, (see library page for good reference books). If you provide a plant with what it wants and needs, odds are much better that it will reward you with lasting beauty and long life. But remember that half the fun of gardening, inside or out, is experimentation. This is an art as well as a science, so have fun and be creative. If your plantings start to look a bit lack-luster, you can always re-configure your arrangements and/or swap containers. I move plants around all the time!

I will be back with more terrarium resources, tips and ideas, as well as other indoor gardening projects soon. In the meantime, some great ideas for terrariums and indoor-plants may be found in Tova Martin’s fabulous new book The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature, and/or Diana Yakeley’s beautifully photographed title, Indoor Gardening. Together with a gift certificate from a local greenhouse, either of these books would make an unexpected, much appreciated gift for novice and expert gardeners alike.

All plants pictured are from : The Old School House Plantery

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Article and photographs ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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