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Look at these adorable pots I scored as a Christmas present from Mom:
I love them! She got them from Chive.com. They have lots of beautiful gifts.
I also got some cuttings from Mom’s plants, so yesterday I finally potted them. I’m very happy with the outcome.
Here they are in their new home, in front of an east window:
Because I’m a neatfreak…
This crap had to go on a recent warm afternoon.
Most of it, anyway. The Gaillardia still had an awful lot of green for a plant that was supposedly zapped by the frost:
Most of the flowers were frost-bitten but surprisingly there were lots of new flower buds. Apparently the Blanket Flowers aren’t ready for dormancy.
There were other surprises, too.
Like the sickly parsley plants I found once I cleared out the basil:
It’s hard to believe they could hold on in the shadow of the monster basil. But they did.
So did these succulents I found when I cleared out the Portulaca:
Surprise! I did not expect to find those.
Cleaning out garden clutter is always a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Come spring, I’ll be glad I got the hard work out of the way.
What about you? Have you cleaned up your garden yet, or are you going to wait until spring?
I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.
Stanley, a Kalanchoe luciae, has been kickin’ it on the kitchen windowsill for about six months now.
He joined the family last winter but for some reason I never got around to introducing him. Here he is in December of 2011:
You can see that he’s an enthusiastic grower.
When he’s not busy growing, Stanley likes to play harmonica and write short stories. He’s also a talented sculptor. Last spring, he wrote biographies of all the foyer houseplants.
Sunlight makes him happy, and shorter days encourage him to grow more red. The other windowsill plants tease him about this, accusing him of blushing all the time.
Like other succulents, Stanley’s not a big drinker. Too much water would make him sick.
His goals for the future include moving to a more spacious home, starting a family and reaching the ceiling. He is also interested in becoming a reporter for a television news station. Some day, he would enjoy visiting relatives in Africa.
But for now, he’s proud of how much he’s accomplished in his short life, and he’s content to remain in the kitchen through the rest of the winter.
Ever since the E Sill band broke up, due to Rosa the Jade’s addiction to mealy bugs, I figured Hank would be forlorn.
But he’s not – he’s happy!
A former East Coaster, Hank has adjusted well to life in the desert Southwest. He avoids direct sunlight, has had a child, and has launched a solo music career. The local newspaper named him best plant guitarist in Albuquerque.
He enjoys porous soil and good drainage, and poetry.
He told channel 7 news that he likes being part of the foyer welcoming committee but sometimes misses his former bandmates.
Someday he wishes to meet a nice lady succulent and settle down. Until then, he’s content to keep working on his music in the foyer.
Low maintenance and chill, Hank’s a role model for the other succulents in the house. He doesn’t drink much water and he started an after-school program for young succulents (he believes no plant should be a latchkey plant).
Day after day, he keeps reaching for the ceiling.
It’s hard not to like a houseplant like that.
I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.
Karen, the Carruanthus peersii I named after my late Aunt, is, well, peculiar.
I think that would make my Aunt happy, actually.
Sometimes it’s easy for me to think that all succulents need the same basic care, and that they act basically the same. Give them a sunny window, don’t give them much water, they’ll be fine. I’ve probably written essentially that on this very blog.
But it’s not true, they can be quite varied.
My Huernia, for example, hated the sunny kitchen windowsill, as the sun burned its leaves. It’s much happier in the shade.
My little Kalanchoe drinks a LOT of water for supposedly being drought-tolerant.
And now the Carruanthus is doing her own thing.
Let’s see if you can spot the weird. Here’s the first flower bud on September 2nd, in the morning:
And then late in the afternoon:
On the morning of September 11th, the first flower was fading, and the other was set to open:
Then late in the afternoon, it opened:
The flowers are in direct sun from about 11am on, but they don’t open until late in the day. Here’s what the flower looked like a couple of days ago around 3:30pm:
And then 6pm:
I think it’s a little peculiar that the plant takes all day to open the flower. Then the flower is only open for about three hours before closing again and starting the whole process over the next day.
Don’t you think that’s weird?
If I were a flower, I’d want to be out and open all dang day. Like, “Hey Bees, I’m over here,” or “Look at me, World.”
So the first flower lasted 9 days, the second lasted 7 days.
The plant has been getting a little bit of water, every few days, all summer long, as she sits on my kitchen windowsill. But now that it’s September, she’s going to get moved to a shady spot far away from me. The less attention I give her, the better her chances of surviving the winter without me accidentally overwatering her.
One thing most succulents have in common is that it is very easy to overwater them – they can practically die overnight from too much water. Especially in September, when most houseplants slow way down on their water intake. Even indoor plants sense the change in season, so they begin to shut down. Until the heaters come on later in the fall, and then they will begin drinking again.
I did a little research on the Carruanthus, and one site said that in their native ecosystem, they prefer shade. Hence the move to a shady spot. I’ll see which she prefers.
One another site, I learned that they can self-pollinate. I didn’t realize that when I snipped off the first spent blossom, but I will leave the other on the plant to see if it produces a seed. Not that I really need any more seeds…
I’ll miss having those cheerful flowers greeting me each morning on the kitchen windowsill. But it’s in the plant’s best interest to be somewhat neglected over the winter.
Oh, the things I do for plants!
I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.
“What’s in a name?”
I recently met a woman named Elizabeth, who told me that when she was a kid, she wished that her name was Liza. I laughed and told her that when I was a kid, I wished for a “normal” name that people wouldn’t make fun of or mispronounce.
She got me thinking about the importance of names.
When it comes to the names of plants, I’ve been making a concerted effort to identify plants by their proper names.
It’s not easy. Consider Exhibit A:
You would think that if a plant comes with a tag, that tag would be accurate. You would be wrong. Here’s what an Echeveria hybrid, ‘Electric Glo’™ actually looks like:
The image above came from the Proven Winners website, they own the trademark for the hybrid. Their plant has much more pronounced ridging around the edge of the leaves than mine. And mine has fat, flat leaves, not curled skinny ones like theirs.
The tag that came with the plant was not a Proven Winners tag, it had the name of the local nursery on the other side. Did it come to the nursery from Proven Winners, then an employee switched the tags? Or did it come from another grower who simply took the name?
I’ll see if I can find out, but I’m not optimistic about my chances of success. Recently, I was at a different local nursery and a cute little Sedum caught my eye. I asked an employee, who turned out to be the buyer for the nursery, what its name was, and she told me she didn’t know. She said she asked the grower, who’s here in New Mexico, but he didn’t know either.
Whaaaaaaat? The grower doesn’t know what he’s growing?
She said it drives her nuts – he hardly ever knows the names of the plants he sells them. She’s been pressing her boss to switch growers because of it.
Names are important, they define us.
I may never know the name of this Echeveria, but I’ll keep trying. I know I’ll go back to the nursery where I got her and at least let them know of the mislabeling.
And in the meantime, I’m calling her Mary.
I’ll be back manana, I hope to see you here.
Most of these are succulents, because I’m obsessed with them right now. From recent journeys to a couple of nurseries in town:
There are so many things to love about succulents and houseplants. The different varieties, the textures, the shapes and goodness, what spectacular flowers!
Mother Nature, I am impressed. You grow girl!
Haha! Anyway, I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.
Hi little aloes, and happy Thursday!
Well, happyish anyway. I’m going to be honest. I’ve been feeling totally disjointed the last couple of days. Has anyone else been feeling weird? Maybe it’s the harvest moon, or autumn, or that mr_s is on hiatus (don’t panic, he’ll be back Sunday), or that I’ve woken up to rain two days in a row (where’s my blue sky, New Mexico?) or maybe it’s my general Piscean sensitivities. Whatever the reason, my focus has been, well, compromised. This photo is similar to how I feel:
This storm the other night was beautiful, colorful, captivating, thrilling and dangerous. She was ready to strike at any moment. I’m not saying I’m all that. But I do think it’s a metaphor for my life right now. For all of our lives, not just mine.
You see, I started off the week feeling so peaceful and creative. I’d spent the weekend making some beautiful gardens, and it’d been awhile, so it was absorbing and fulfilling. I also photographed a lot, and am getting to know my newish camera better. So it was good. The projects turned out well, check out these sweet succulent gardens that will one day hang vertically in my garden:
It was after making these that the disjointed feeling crept in, and hunkered down. What should I do, I wondered, what? What? WHAT? How can I parlay this passion into something that makes the world a better place?¹
I decided on a theme week. Yes! A theme week would help me focus and concentrate on the trends I love – Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork. I love theme weeks! So I dove right in, but then, yesterday, I was like, “What am I doing?” Am I just blathering on about my own projects, or was I going to showcase designers who were doing it professionally? I definitely wanted to showcase everyone, but then it became a much bigger project than I had anticipated. I guess I didn’t expect the kindness and generosity that the designers responded to me with after I appealed to them. They are wonderful, and I would like to give them their due. And I will.
But there’s that disjointed feelin’ again. It hasn’t gone away. Maybe it will once the moon begins to wane…that’s often how it goes.
I think this is sortof my way of letting this theme week fizzle out. I’ll be back tomorrow with an all new Ask the Experts (we do that every Friday), so today was going to end the week anyway. But. Well. So. Anyway. Um, see ya manana?
Hey look, another pretty picture:
See? Disjointed. And striking out!
¹ Via blog, in this instance. I mean, generally I try to make the world a better place all the time. Who would want to make it worse? Not gardeners or Nature lovers. But I was referring specifically to what I could do with the blog to improve the planet.
Hi pumpkins, and happy Tuesday! Welcome back to my latest theme week, Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork!
Today, we’re going to play with succulents. Before we get started, a big fat disclaimer, aka, covering my ass:
Caution – Danger! Danger! Danger! Many succulents contain sap so it’s important to wear gloves when handling them! The sap can irritate the skin and make your eyes swell, so be very careful to wash your hands thoroughly and often, and don’t touch your eyes! Houseplants in general are apt to be poisonous, so tread carefully. I don’t want anyone to get hurt or swollen or itchy while experimenting with houseplants, succulents or otherwise.
Danger aside, I still think succulents are a great way to introduce kids to nature. They’re juicy, they grow really fast, and they’re funky. You can get a kid hooked on gardening for life with succulents, just play it safe, ok? Ok, good, we have a deal.
How To Create A Succulent Wall Hanging
There are a thousand ways to build your own wall hanging, there are a thousand containers and a thousand plants from which to choose. I’m going to show you how I made my most recent succulent garden in hopes that you get the general basics, and from there, you can let your creativity explode.
I knew I wanted to create a design to hang outside in my garden, so I started with a basket that I liked the shape of -it was deep, but not so deep it would look weird hanging on a wall.
I gathered the basket and the plants on my work station in the back garden:
The plan is that after it’s all planted and rooted in, I can take it off the wall (or fence), drench the whole container with a hose until it’s thoroughly soaked, then hang it back up again. I suppose I could just spray it with the hose while it’s on the wall, but that seems, I don’t know, rude or something.
By planting these little guys in a basket, I’m ensuring they’ll have good drainage. I wanted to make it easier for them inside the container, too. So I lined the bottom with gravel from my driveway:
Then, I’m not kidding, I made a mixture of Fox Farm Ocean Forest Potting Soil and gravel from my driveway. I really did, look:
How dork is that? Like mixing cake batter. Anyway, it was effective. Succulents appreciate a porous mix of regular potting soil and tiny rocks or sand even. You don’t want to plant in all sand or rocks, because they won’t retain enough moisture for the plants to thrive.
I decided not to secure the soil mixture like I had in yesterday’s post for a couple of reasons. One, I know this planter is going to stay indoors until spring, because it’s already September, and I don’t want to take any chances on these little guys getting too cold. By spring, their roots will have secured so well in the soil, that I won’t need anything to help hold the soil in place. There’s one more reason, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
The planter was ready for the plants:
I love this first juicy fella. He was labeled “Haworthia,” which is not really very helpful:
Haworthia what? cooperi? cymbiformis? bayeri? I mean, I don’t care, I’m going to love him anyway. I’ll probably name him Larry and forget all about his particular cultivar. But I’ve been trying to get the correct names for my readers who like to know.
I looked at the labels while I was at the nursery, and asked an employee about them. He was about as useful as the label.
This one was labeled, “Echeveria.” Thanks, that’s again super helpful.
What type of Echeveria is it? I don’t know – after scrolling through pages and pages of pinkish bluish rosette succulents, they all start to look a little alike to me. My bad!
I planted five plants total, and added more of the potting soil mixture around the plants:
Aw, they look cute in there!
Ok, remember when I said I had one more reason for not securing the plants in the soil? It’s because I had another layer I wanted to add in order to help both secure the plants and retain moisture.
See, I’m already wondering how these guys will do in our hot desert summers. Once they’re outside, even if they’re not in full sun, the heat is brutal.
I had some moss leftover from previous plantings, so I decided to try using it:
Well, it sure looks pretty now. I’ll be mindful of watering through the winter months. And if the moss turns all brown and gross looking, I’ll pluck it off. No harm, no foul.
I couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at what it will look like:
Ok, I can’t stand it completely upright right after I planted it, but did it spark your enthusiasm? I’d love to know if you decide to try making a living wall hanging of your own. For indoors or out.
I’ll be back manana to continue Vertical Gardens and Living Artwork week. Instead of looking at my creations, we’ll check out what brilliant designers around the globe are creating – hint, they’re breathtaking projects! Hope to see you here!
Hi Zinnias, and happy Thursday!
A few days ago, one of my clients, Paul, told me he wanted to get a houseplant for his house, but he wasn’t sure what kind to get. He said that he’d recently watched a movie, Desk Set, starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn (1957). (He didn’t remember the title of it, but I found it later on IMDB.com.) He had noticed that Hepburn had a plant in her office that had vined around the whole room. He said he wanted one of those.
My first thought was that it must’ve been a Philodendron. I haven’t seen that movie but they’re pretty and they’re viney – what else would it have been? A little informal searching on the Web later confirmed my suspicions. It was a Philodendron. The movie sounds charming, by the way.
We talked a little more, and he said that he wanted a plant that he could enjoy watching grow, but with as little as care as possible. I wouldn’t really put Philodendron in that category. I mean, they’re pretty easy to grow, but not as easy as say, a Cactus that you only have to water once a month.
Since our conversation, I thought about plants he might like. A Cactus might be ok, but they are slow growing (boring), and I think that’s why a lot of people can’t get into them. I’d rather turn him on to something more rewarding – a fast-growing, easy-care houseplant that also looks interesting.
So I compiled this list of the most rewarding houseplants. Paul, any of these would be great for you.
Oh, and please remember – if you haven’t handled houseplants before, wear gloves and wash your hands often. You may be allergic to the leaves or the sap inside – be careful. Some plants can be quite toxic, especially if you touch your face after touching the plant.
Top 5 Most Rewarding Houseplants for Novices
Just to be clear, this isn’t a list of the easiest houseplants out there. For novices, I want easy-to-care for plants, but I also want ones that will dazzle with their quick growth and interesting appearance. We live in an instant gratification society – you can’t use a barrel shaped cactus as bait if you want people to connect with Nature.
Over at Plants Are the Strangest People, mr_subjunctive compiled a list of houseplants in terms of difficulty. I love his list – it totally cracks me up – but my list isn’t just about the care level, so keep that in mind.
Ok, without further ado, the top five:
Succulents are plants with fleshy leaves or stems that can store water. Cacti are a type of succulent, but for novices, I recommend the soft, juicy plants like the various Sedums, Aloes, Jades, Crassulas, Hens and Chicks, etc.
Because they store their own water, they’re extremely forgiving to a newbie who might forget to water them. Plus, they come in zillions of different shapes and sizes, so a novice will hopefully get hooked. Lastly, they grow super fast.
They are also great for kids – you can develop a lifetime love of Nature by teaching kids about succulents.
2. Scindapsis aureus (Pothos)
Pothos are similar to Philodendrons in that they vine out quickly, but Pothos have bigger, sturdier leaves. They’re pretty plants that hopefully will capture the attention of any novice.
They are not care-free plants, but they are very forgiving. If they are in smallish pots, say 8′ (diameter) or smaller, I would tell a novice to soak it in the kitchen sink every two weeks. For bigger containers, water thoroughly once a week from Spring through Fall, then sparingly in the winter. A Pothos will let you know when it’s thirsty – its leaves will become droopy.
The dark-leafed varieties require very little sunlight and even the more variegated ones will adapt to low-light situations.
Pothos is very similar to Katharine Hepburn’s plant in the movie – you can train it to go around the room, if you like that sort of thing.
3. Cissus rotundifolia (Arabian Wax Ivy, Peruvian Grape Ivy)
Boy was my face red a little while ago! I was determined to include this plant on this list, but I had no idea what the name of it was. I’ve always called it a Hoya, which was incorrect. Special thanks to mr_s. for coming through for me when the nursery employees could not.
It would’ve been sooooooo embarrassing not to have its name!
Even without knowing its name, I am familiar with this plant, and it grows like crazy. It’s sure to enthrall novices with its sheer force of growing. Forget to water it? No problem, it’ll still grow. Hot apartment? It’ll thrive. Low light? It doesn’t seem to care. It would prefer regular waterings, a cool environment and some sunshine, but it doesn’t need them.
Seriously, this is one of the most enthusiastic plants I’ve ever seen. It’s like it has goals or something.
The only downside, and it’s a fairly big one, is that its sap is toxic. I wouldn’t let toxicity stop me from recommending the plant, though, because if I’m giving advice to novices, I’m also cautioning them about the dangers of plants.
4. Chlorophytum comosum (Spider Plant, Airplane Plant)
It’s pretty. It grows at lightning speed. It produces adorable little offshoots. And it’s pretty mellow in terms of care. Why wouldn’t it make the list?
It would prefer to have good thorough waterings every two weeks or so, and a sunny window nearby. In my experience, though, it’s not picky.
Spider plants have been charming people for decades. I don’t care what anyone says about them being “bad Moms,” I think they’re awesome.
5. Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorns)
Ok, with a name like that, is this plant really deserving of the fifth position?
Well, it’s true, it has gnarly thorns. Here’s my thinking: Just because they’re novices doesn’t mean they need coddling. The Crown of Thorns plants are great teachers of how Nature can be fierce (the thorns) and gentle (the adorable little bracts) at once. It’s like the sweetest most vicious plant I know. Plus, it grows really fast and requires hardly any water.
It too has toxic sap. But even with the sap and the thorns, I would still recommend this plant for novices and even kids, with the proper cautions.
1. Euphorbia tirucalli
All the fun of a Euphorbia with none of the thorns!
2. Tradescantia Zebrina pendula (Wandering Jew)
Purple stripes. Maybe I should rethink this plant’s position.
3. Philodendron scandens (Sweetheart Plant)
I picked Pothos over Philodendron because they’re a little less girly. That’s all. It’s a perfectly good plant for novices.
If you just want to see things grow fast, and you think that’ll hook you on Nature, check out your back yard.
Most of the plants on the list were chosen with the assumption that the novice would actually like to become more knowledgeable about plants, and get better and better at taking care of them. The joy of discovering Nature and all.
But if you’re not that novice and you’re more like the kind of person who wants a plant in the house but doesn’t want to be bothered by remembering to water very often, a Cactus is your plant. Now, I’m not sure why you would want a plant if you’re not going to learn more about them, but I’m sure that describes many people and I’m trying to be inclusive here.
For Those of You Wondering…
Ivy plants didn’t make the list because they’re so susceptible to bugs. A Mimosa plant, which folds its leaves when you touch them, would be a masterful teacher, especially to children. But I haven’t seen one in years, so I can’t in good conscience recommend them. I do love them, though.
Some plants aren’t on the list because they’re ugly. But the majority of plants were eliminated because of the difficulty of care levels. For example, I think Dracaenas (Dragon Trees, Corn Plants, Janet Craigs) are tricky. A little too much water and they freak out. Not good for a novice. Also, plants like Palms depend too much on where the novice lives – they don’t do well here in the desert because unlike me, they like humidity.
So, those were some of the guidelines I used when choosing these plants.
There you have it, novices. Now, go out there and get yourself a plant! From a local nursery!
I’ll be back manana with a brand new Ask the Experts edition and an answer to last week’s plant puzzler. Hope to see you here.