{ Archive for the ‘indoor gardening’ Category }

Winter floral arrangements

Now and again, I’ll treat myself to fresh flowers from the market, but I scratch my head when I look at the selection available in the wintertime (fluffy hydrangeas, colourful dahlias, etc.) – how far did these blooms travel before finding their way into my local grocer? Most are likely imported from far away places, such as South America, Africa, China and Europe, and they’re lacking in fragrance, charm and garden-grown appeal.

In December 2013, The New York Times published a fascinating article titled “The Farm-to-Centerpiece Movement.” Writer Stacie Stolie says: “The explosion of interest in seasonal and pesticide-free food tilled in local soil is now spilling over into the commercial flower industry, making it possible to go local, even in the middle of winter.” I always try to choose local and organic produce, so it’s natural that I question where my flowers are coming from, too.

With this in mind, I asked Toronto’s Alison Westlake of Coriander Girl to share some photographs of the arrangements she’s been creating during the deep freeze. Alison favours local flower suppliers (including Sarah Nixon of My Luscious Backyard whose arrangements we featured in fall/winter issue) for her floral design business.

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Ceramic artist Frances Palmer

I’ve long admired the work of potter and gardener Frances Palmer. Her one-of-a-kind handmade ceramics have beautiful, organic shapes that can stand alone, but are perhaps even lovelier when graced with spring flowers.

 

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Gardener’s bookshelf: Bonnie Trust Dahan

One of the joys of keeping a garden for me is being able to surround myself with the beauty of nature, and not just when I’m out of doors: I love incorporating plants, flowers, and natural objects into my interior decor as well. If I’m in the mood for inspiration minus the pesky details of how, when, and how much, there are two lovely volumes on my shelves from Chronicle Books that fit the bill beautifully: Garden House and Living with the Seasons, both produced by Bonnie Trust Dahan with photography by Shaun (or Sean) Sullivan.

Part of the gardening section of my library… yes, just part...

One of Sean Sullivan's gorgeous photos from Garden House. The flash glare is mine, not his.

Both are over a decade old, but I still find them lovely and worthy of study. There are touches of modernism, country, and Asian design influences, but because everything is focused on the natural plants and objects, the ideas tend to be timeless rather than fit any particular trend. Primarily pictures with minimal commentary, you will find no real ‘how-to’ spreads.  However, each turn of the page offers something to admire or contemplate, even if it’s a simple tableaux of ordinary objects, made beautiful simply by us being reminded to notice them.

Indeed, both these books invite contemplation of the simple sights, smells, and textures that nature offers, and the simple joys these experiences can bring to the everyday. It is a true pleasure to use Dahan’s books as a springboard for my own ideas in enhancing the beauty and joy of my home and garden.

P.S. A third book, Garden Home City, explores the same territory, viewed through the lens of city life.

P.S.S. If you missed the inaugural Gardener’s Bookshelf post, you can read it here.

 

Decorating with succulents

I grew up in a household that was always full of flowers and plants. My mom loves having fresh flowers around the house – she would collect flowers from local florists or from her own garden every weekend and switch out the vases Sunday mornings. She also has a substantial orchid collection that could wow most gardeners! I’ve come to expect being surrounded by flowers, so when I moved out years ago, I have tried to continue this tradition. Currently I have eight orchids in my apartment (probably one too many but I just love them!). However, orchids can be a difficult plant to live with. They are gorgeous for a few weeks/months, and then the flowers fall and you have to be patient and wait a while for them to re-bloom. On the weekend I decided to go a different route and purchased a few small succulents – a plant that I have never had before.

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DIY holiday gift idea: Terrarium ornaments

I first discovered air plants at the Tropical Expressions booth at Canada Blooms a few years ago. I was fascinated that they do not require soil, and I learned that air plants collect water from the rain. They also attach themselves to and derive nutrients from other plants (though they’re not considered parasitic).

I incorporated air plants into an article about quick and easy holiday terrariums for Canadian Living‘s January 2013 issue. Because of their minimal care requirements, air plants can be popped into one of those clear, plastic or glass ornaments you can purchase at craft stores. I also created another option, which involved planting succulents in a larger glass ornament. All the how-to information can be found in the Crafts section on CanadianLiving.com.

These ornaments make great gifts, but be sure to make a few for yourself!


photo by Joe Kim/TC Media

Hostess gift idea: Rosemary tree

A rosemary tree makes for a festive hostess gift, don’t you think? Its conical shape resembles a miniature Christmas tree (although its boughs aren’t sturdy enough to hang ornaments off of) and its fragrance is just so herby and delightful.

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‘Tis the season for holiday plants

With Remembrance Day behind us and Halloween firmly in the past, it is time for many of us to get into the full swing of all things Christmas.

I’ve got my poinsettia going, and my baby rosemary plants are putting on new growth. Now it’s time to try something else: forcing bulbs.

I’ve never grown an amaryllis or anything like that, but this year I thought I’d try paperwhites. I’m a die hard daffodil fan, so these cousins (Narcissus papyraceus) aren’t too far outside my comfort zone.

The little gift pack I stumbled across at Walmart for five bucks actually came with a pot and a disk of compressed coir, but many people plant the bulbs in a dish of water topped up with pebbles or marbles for stability. My kit says to plant them six weeks before you want blooms; most people on the Interweb say three weeks, so I’m doing it today and we’ll see.

I decided to ditch the coir and pot that came with the kit and do something prettier.

I put a shallow layer of stones in this (plastic-lined) dish, placed the bulbs, then covered them up to their "shoulders" in more stones and added just enough water to keep their bottoms wet.

I did find an intriguing tip for keeping blooming paperwhites from getting top-heavy –get them ever so slightly drunk. But as to why paperwhites are thought of as a Christmas flower, I couldn’t find any clues other than they bloom in December in warm climates. There doesn’t seem to be any special symbolism.

Poinsettias symbolized purity to the ancient Aztecs, and there’s the usual holly and ivy to represent eternity and resurrection. Evergreen trees fall into the same category. But amaryllis? Christmas Rose (Serissa or Helleborus, depending on who you ask)? Christmas cactus? We just seem to be looking for something alive and lovely in the dark winter months.

Fair enough. We were pretty excited when Chris got a zygocactus (Schlumbergera) blooming again.

Rosemary babies in the background!

At least, he’s the one who rescued the poor little guy. It was languishing in a corner after being relocated during the ever-present renovations, and he moved it to his studio where it gets bright, indirect light. He’s taking full credit for the transformation; I think he accidentally did exactly what it needed. 

But I’m not complaining. It’s pretty exciting to have so many things growing when there’s carols on the radio and four inches of snow.

Attention poinsettia keepers

I am embarking on a test of concentration and dedication.

I have kept my poinsettia going from last Christmas, and it is now time to help it “flower” again. This requires keeping it in the absolute, uninterrupted dark 14 hours a day, and bright sunlight at least six hours a day. As suspiciously as this sounds like a schedule, I, the queen of distraction and misplaced to-do lists, am going to attempt it.

I first learned the ins and outs of poinsettia keeping from a column Karen York did in the 2013 Annual edition of Canadian Gardening. It’s true, I may have neglected a few of her well-explained steps (such as monthly fertilizing and cutting it back in early spring), and I never did take it outside for the summer. But it’s stayed a happy houseplant in spite of me, and I figure it’s worth a shot to get those red bracts back.

Karen’s tips specify starting this controlled light regimen October 1, so I’m right on time! Yay me! I’ve put an alarm on my iPad for every morning so I’ll remember to get it out from under its cardboard box in the closet. I think I’ll remember to put it away at night if it’s smack in the middle of the kitchen counter…

On second thought, I’ll set an alarm for evenings too.

Things I never knew would sprout

Here in Alberta, we’re still willing away the last of our snow, and most of my growing (other than daffodils) is happening on the kitchen counter top.

This is my “jungle”–a couple of tomatoes and peppers waiting for summer, a lemon verbena, a poinsettia I am attempting to hold over the season, a spider plant baby sprouting roots in a glass of water, a mossy saxifrage (that may be my new favorite ground cover, picture below), an overgrown pot of philodendron (known lovingly as “Dagobah” a Pulsatilla vulgaris (crocus), some alfalfa and radish sprouts, and that little greenness bottom left is the wonder of the week: Romaine lettuce.

I’ve been sprouting philodendron leaves and spider plant babies for years, and edible sprouts are a staple at my house. And I’ve heard of people trying to sprout avocado seeds or pineapple tops, with mixed results. But I never knew you could get lettuce crowns to sprout year round on your counter top! One of the instructors of the gardening class I am taking showed me how. Instead of tossing the lettuce ends in the compost, place them in water. Change the water daily, and you’ll get more lettuce! (And fast, too: the largest one there is about four days growth.) You can keep them going in water or you can pot them up. I potted mine up today.

This totally makes sense when you think about it; I ‘cut and come again’ my garden lettuce and green onions all the time; I just never thought to do it with my store bought stuff through the winter.

Next on the list of things to try: celery and lemongrass.

Mossy Saxifrage, “Pixie”. Isn’t she lovely?

Houseplant for the holidays: Norfolk Island pine

Have you seen them yet?

They show up every year right about now, with glossy bright green foliage that could capture the heart of any gardener entering GSW (Growing Season Withdrawal). Looking for all the world like miniature, limey-er Christmas trees, Norfolk Island pines are often sold in pots in North America, though back home in the South Pacific they grow to be proper, full-on trees. Not a true pine, Araucaria heterophylla has softer ‘needles’ and a somewhat droopy habit reminiscent of cedars or–dare I say it–palm trees. Its unique blend of familiar and exotic elements, combined with its sheer aliveness whilst everything else is going to sleep, make it an easy sell at the Walmart checkout.

I, in my short but illustrious career, have already killed two. One succumbed to either too much water or too little light, the other I’m quite certain disapproved of the cold draft it got every time someone opened the front door. My sister kept one out of drafts, in bright, indirect light, with infrequent watering, and it lived for ages as one of the happiest, loveliest houseplants you could wish for.

I am determined to try again. Third time’s the charm?

 

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