{ Archive for the ‘indoor gardening’ Category }

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?

 

Things to do while it’s raining

Day 1

-Grumble about wishing I had more planted before the weather changed.

-Resolve to be productive anyway.

-Enjoy the smell of spring rain.

-Tidy up the shed.

-Read gardening magazine/books.

Day 2

-Grumble a bit; then think positive.

-Edge a flower bed, careful not to step in the bed.

-Clean some tools that got missed in the fall.

-Measure the rainfall.

-Watch birds.

-Read more.

Day 3

-Sigh.

-Do top-to-bottom organize of shed.

-Repair and prepare hoses (meant to get that done ages ago, three points for me!).

-Watch grass grow in front of my eyes.

-Inventory seeds that could have… I mean, will be planted.

Day 4

-Go to greenhouse for sympathy and support.
-Update garden scrapbook.

-Count worms.
-Tidy up houseplants.

Day 5

-Watch dandelions go to seed.

-Lose boot in mud after attempting to “check on things”.

-Consider collecting stamps with flowers, trees, and vegetables on them.

-Retire to couch with scrapbook and magazines.

-Give up and actually get something done inside the house.

At least I am well prepared with my new boots!

This weekend: Learn about ikebana

One of the things I love about my job is learning about something that inspires me to try it. This week on CanadianGardening.com, I posted an article about ikebana, the Japanese style of flower arranging by Suzanne Hartmann. I find the whole discipline so fascinating and was interested to learn that ikebana featured prominently at the recent G8 and G20 summits. Then, I got a note from Suzanne informing me about the 42nd Anniversary Floral Art Show of the Hamilton Chapter International Ikenobo Ikebana Society. It is this Sunday (September 19) from 1 to 5 at the Royal Botanical Gardens. At 2 pm there will be a demonstration by Prof. Masakazu Nakamura from Kyoto, Japan. I’m bringing my sister, who taught in Japan for three years, and look forward to learning more about this floral art form.

I grew a violet!

Without even trying. Usually the life of my houseplants veers sharply in the other direction–towards the death side of things. But in my wee violet pot, a baby was born. My question is, how do I take it out to repot it without damaging the roots?

violet

Are you scared of your houseplants?

eyesIt’s not often that gardening is chosen as a topic to be portrayed in main stream media. That’s why I was thrilled to watch this video clip from Saturday Night Live. Christopher Walken stars in this short comedy sketch. He’s the host of a fictional gardening show ‘Indoor Gardening Tips from a Man Who is Very Scared of Plants.’ To help ease his fear of plants, he glues googly eyes on all his houseplants. If you’re in the mood for a chuckle, I highly recommend you watch this video clip!

Houseplant vacation

3-169With the nights getting colder, I thought it was time to bring my houseplants indoors. I don’t want to risk my 25 year old ficus (Ficus benjamina) and other tropical plants from getting a chill.

Each spring I go through the routine of moving them outside to enjoy a breath of fresh air. They thrive during the summer with all the sunlight. The rain waters them and washes all the dust of the leaves. I’ve never had a problem with any insect infestations, but to make sure I don’t bring any bugs into the house, I give each plant a bath at the end of their vacation. I use a spray bottle with water and a tiny bit of liquid dish soap to coat the leaves, stems, and branches. I gently wash the leaves, and then rinse the plant with the garden hose. Some of the plants need a trim after enjoying a summer growth spurt, especially my ficus. If I don’t trim the upper branches, I can’t get in through the door.

Just like the rest of us, some of the plants have a hard time adjusting to life after a relaxing vacation. A few leaves may turn yellow and drop and their growth slows, but for the most part they all transition well. I’m sure my houseplants enjoy fond memories of warm summer days as winter approaches and dream of the day when they’ll be able to enjoy their next vacation on the deck when spring comes again.

The incredible flowering hoya

hoya1

One of my most treasured houseplants is my Hoya carnosa `Snowball` or simply known as a hoya or waxflower. Native to Eastern Asia and Australia, H. carnosa is one of 100 species in the Asclepiadaceae (milkweed) family. This tropical vine has dark, green leathery leaves that leak a milky sap when damaged.

My hoya is probably over thirty years old and has been passed down like a family heirloom. It was originally my grandmother's plant, who gave it to my mom, who in turn gave it to me. hoya2

Like clockwork, it blooms twice a year, once in July and again in January. It has clusters of attractive, star shaped, white blossoms with red centres. It's spectacular when it blooms. Right now, it's covered with dozens of flowering clusters.

hoya3

I've already removed a handful of flowers that have finished blooming. The waxy flowers look fake, but I assure you they are real. Once the blooms opens, they are extremely fragrant, especially at night. I'm not sure why the fragrance increases at night, but the sweet scent easily fills my entire house. I've heard of some people removing the flowers because the fragrance is so strong.

So what's the secret to my hoya's success? Simple–I ignore it. I occasionally water it and rarely fertilize it. I did repot it a few years ago and replaced the soil, but other than that, it just hangs in my dinning room window. The new shoots grow quickly and it isn't until they've grown a few feet that they get leaves. There have been a few occasions where I've discovered new vines that had weaved their way through the strings of the blind, with full-sized leaves stuck in between. Unfortunately, the only way to remove them was to remove the leaves and pull the vines through. A hoya will bloom more frequently if placed in direct sunlight, but they'll also tolerate low light.hoya4

If you're looking for an exotic houseplant to grow, consider bringing a hoya home. Notoriously long-lived and hardy, these trouble-free plants are ideal for beginner and experienced gardeners alike.hoya5

My lonely Christmas cactus bloom

One of my favourite holiday plants is the Christmas cactus. When in full bloom, they are an absolutely gorgeous contrast of colour and interesting leaves. I've had mine now for a few years and the last two, I got one lonely bloom. So I asked Anne Marie what I can do to bring back that riot of colour next year. Here is what she had to say:

Christmas cacti are plants that respond to cooler temperatures and the length of the day (short days and long nights) to trigger them to flower. Keeping them slightly dry in the fall may also help, too.

To get them to form buds in early winter or late fall, put them where they will get night temperatures near 15 deg. C (55 F) and day temperatures below 18 deg. C (65 F). After about six weeks at this temperature, buds will form at the end of the branches. Placing the plants where they can get 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night also helps bring on the flower buds. Once the flower buds are formed, the cooler temperatures and long night darkness can be stopped.

But, don't let the plant get too hot, too dry, too cold or experience a sudden change or else the flower buds might drop off.

It's going to be a long wait, but I look forward to the challenge to bring on the blooms!

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