January 2012

James A. Baggett

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

I found this vintage black-and-white photograph years ago at a flea market and it’s always intrigued me. It’s obviously a float in a parade with the theme of “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary” and if you look closely you can see a sundial and a lattice trellis covered in flowering vines. I can spy angel wing begonia leaves around the perimeter and if you could look real close you could see that some of the flowers beneath Mary have creepy doll faces. I’ve never heard of a May Day parade. Perhaps an Easter parade? Maybe this isn’t even in the United States. What do you think?

 

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Denny Schrock

Trends in indoor gardening

The Tropical Plant Industry Expo is the place to go to see what’s hot in indoor gardening. The fact that it’s held in southern Florida in mid-January, is another incentive to attend! Trends that I saw this year include a resurgence in the popularity of terrariums and dish gardens. But these aren’t simply a return to mass-produced fad gardens from the 1970s. Modern mini-landscapes have more style and individuality. Often they’re displayed in unique containers or feature sculptural plants. The emphasis is on tough, easy-care plants such as succulents and bromeliads. Here are some examples that I saw at this year’s Expo.

The ribbed glass on this terrarium adds a unique perspective, resembling a pumpkin. It makes a great centerpiece.

The ceramic base on this terrarium hides the soil and root zone while displaying the foliage clearly.

Put that cupcake holder to use displaying begonias, ferns, peperomias, nerve plants, and miniature palms.

Spikes of maroon Dracaena marginata explode from a bed of heavily patterned peacock plant (Maranta) in this combo.

These earth stars (Cryptanthus), a type of bromeliad, look other-worldly when displayed on a pedestal.

Echeverias, kalanchoe, and peperomia team to create amazing texture and color in this succulent dish garden.


Denny Schrock

The winter garden at Mobile Botanical Gardens

On a recent press tour of the Mobile Bay area as a guest of the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, I had the opportunity to visit Mobile Botanical Gardens, a 100-acre site with collections of hollies, rhododendrons, magnolias, and perennials. One of the highlights at this time of year is the camellia winter garden honoring horticulturist and plant breeder, Kosaku Sawada. He developed numerous varieties of camellias adapted to the Alabama Gulf Coast. Here are images of some of the color I spotted on my tour.

Top row (l. to r.) - Camellia japonica 'Kiku Toji', Camellia japonica 'Alba Plena', Camellia sasanqua 'Sarrel's Favorite'; middle row: Camellia hiemalis 'Chansonette', loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), fried egg plant (Gordonia axillaris); bottom row: Confederate rose (Hibiscus mutabilis), white ginger (Hedychium coronarium), calamondin orange (XCitrofortunella)

The open canopy of longleaf pine encourages the growth of dozens of species of wildflowers.

The garden is also known for its work in longleaf pine forest restoration. Much of the site is devoted to this important Lower South habitat, home to dozens of species of wildlife and wildflowers.

Other sites nearby to experience nature include the 5 Rivers Delta Center, an educational center and starting point for nature tours in the delta, The Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, with its boardwalk, aquariums and exhibits, and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. The latter two are located on Dauphin Island, a barrier island at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

For a more formal garden experience in the Mobile Bay area, be sure to visit Bellingrath Gardens and Home. I wrote about it several weeks ago. Here’s a link to that post.


Denny Schrock

Indoor plants of steel

Who knew that January 10 is Houseplant Appreciation Day? I certainly didn’t until I came across it in an obscure reference. But it makes sense to celebrate the beauty and health benefits that plants bring to indoor living and working spaces during the depths of winter. (Okay, not so much THIS winter when we’ve been enjoying springlike temperatures for weeks on end here in Iowa.)

If you’ve shied away from houseplants because you’re afraid of killing them, it’s time to bring in the heavy artillery with Plants of Steel. This is a term coined by Costa Farms, one of the largest suppliers of houseplants in the world. Among their Plants of Steel, they list four foolproof plants: Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata), snake plant (Sansevieria), and Zeezee plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia). I don’t know how they could have missed cast-iron plant (Aspidistra) and the ubiquitous pothos (Epipremnum), often mistakenly called “philodendron”, so I’ve added them to my short list pictured below.

Check out the bhg.com website for more easy-to-grow houseplants.

Most forms of Chinese evergreen have variegated silver and green foliage.

'Valentine' aglaonema is one of the colorful new Thai forms of this easy-care houseplant.

This ponytail palm is more than 30 years old, surviving more than ten moves, a testament to its toughness.

Snake plant is so easy that even my mother could grow it! It's one of the few houseplants that she managed to keep alive.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia is a mouthful to say, so simplify it by calling it zeezee plant. It needs little water because it has thick, succulent leaves.

As it's name suggests, cast-iron plant is a tough-as-nails houseplant.

Silver Queen pothos has lovely marbled cream and green foliage on a vining plant.


Denny Schrock

Some of my favorite plants

Asking a hortiholic to list his or her favorite plant is like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. It’s impossible to choose just one! So when I was asked to select top picks of recent plant introductions that I have grown, I came up with a “short list” of 25. You can see them all here on the bhg.com gardening website. To pique your interest, see the garden combinations below which contain some of my favorites from the 2011 garden season.

What were your favorite plants this last year?

Zahara Double Fire zinnia, Henna coleus, and Mahogany Splendor hibiscus are attention grabbers!

Senorita Rosalita cleome makes a stunning backdrop to Vista Fuchsia petunia.