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.
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.
You may have heard by now that the Pantone fashion color report has designated Tangerine Tango as the must-have color for 2012. This reddish orange tone is not for the timid! The vibrant hue makes a bold fashion statement, whether you use it in home decor or in the landscape. It’s a festive color that infuses a happy mood. But it can be difficult to use in combination with other colors. Try it with blues and purples, which are complementary colors. Or go with reds and yellows, which cluster with orange on the color wheel.
If you’d like to inject some fashionable color in your yard in 2012, here are some suggestions for flowers that provide a punch of orange.
Row 1 (left to right): 'Sunset' daylily, 'Nonstop Apricot' tuberous begonia, Oriental poppy; Row 2: 'Safari Tangerine' French marigold, 'Sunny Susy Orange' thunbergia, 'Sunpatiens Compact Orange' impatiens; Row 3: 'Vavoom' rose, 'Warm Igloo' chrysanthemum, 'Zahara Double Fire' zinnia
Row 1 (left to right): Butterfly milkweed, 'Dreamsicle' calibrachoa, California poppy; Row 2: Clivia, 'Campfire' crassula, 'Mystic Haze' dahlia; Row 3: Crown imperial fritillaria, 'Intrigue' canna, 'Landmark Citrus' lantana
Those dreaming of a white Christmas in Central Iowa appear to be out of luck. Despite a dusting (or shall I say “slushing”?) of snow as Hanukkah began, prospects for additional white stuff before Christmas look slim. And with 40-degree temperatures in the forecast, it appears that what little snow we have will be gone before the weekend arrives.
Never fear. You can still have a white holiday in photos. I took these shots in my yard back in November when we had an early 4-inch snowfall.
Bright red winterberry holly pops against the white backdrop of snow.
The leaves of shingle oak capture newly fallen snow.
Flower Carpet roses covered in white are seemingly all decorated for Christmas.
Boxwood greens contrast with fresh snow.
This 'Blue Star' juniper topiary wears a cap of snow.
Just in time for holiday gift giving, four new gardening books have been released by Better Homes and Gardens. And even though the season for digging in the dirt may be months away, you (and your gardening friends) won’t have time to read once the weather breaks, so now is the ideal time to study up on gardening techniques and dream about plants to add to your collection next year. (By means of full disclosure, I have a vested interest in these books. I managed the editorial teams that put these titles together.) All are available through John Wiley & Sons, Publishers. Just follow the individual book links below to see more details or place an order.
Gardening Made Simple is a new cornerstone book, designed to help anyone get started in gardening. Rather than fretting that it might be too difficult, follow the step-by-step instructions and photographs to success in your garden, whether you’re growing edibles or ornamentals. No more excuses about not having a green thumb! This book includes more than 1,200 photographs and hundreds of Test Garden Tips and answers to common questions from the Better Homes and Gardens Garden Doctor. Its 400 pages include plant profiles of the easiest and most popular plants to grow. $24.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Herb Gardening will demystify the art of growing herbs. Learn how to add zing to your diet with healthful herbs. The book includes recipes from the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen for herbal teas, spreads, sauces, dressings, and seasonings. The encyclopedia section describes 145 herbs and includes dozens of how-to growing tips. $19.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Orchid Gardening simplifies growing techniques for this gorgeous group of flowers. Choose your favorites from a gallery containing more than 200 varieties of easy-to-grow beauties. This 192-page book includes lots of step-by-step instructions to ensure success with orchids. $19.99.
Better Homes and Gardens Water Gardening shows you how you can create a restful water garden retreat in your own landscape. Whether you have space only for a container water garden or a large water feature with cascades and pools, this book will guide you through the process. Seasonal care charts serve as reminders of what to do when with your water garden. It even includes 15 plant-by-number water garden plans. $19.99.
I recently traveled to Mobile, Alabama as a guest of the Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau. My major interest in participating in the trip was to see Bellingrath Gardens and Home, but I was also pleasantly surprised at the wide variety of attractions available within walking distance of the tour group headquarters, the historic downtown Battle House Hotel. The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center delighted with its interactive display about the human body and petting zoo of Australian animals that tied in with the IMAX presentation on the Australian Outback. The Museum of Mobile provided great historical context for this first capital of New France and original home of Mardi Gras in the New World. The Dauphin Street Historic District Walking Tour showcased dozens of historic buildings, including a couple of the restaurants where the group dined, Wintzell’s Oyster House, and Spot of Tea.
But the highlight of the tour for me had to be the gardens and displays at Bellingrath. Fellow garden communicator Sharon Asakawa and I arrived ahead of the main tour group so that we could spend some time viewing and photographing the late fall chrysanthemum displays, formal rose garden, and other gorgeous plantings before darkness fell. After a tour of the mansion, we returned to a magically transformed landscape decked out with more than three million holiday lights in 950 displays. Pictured below are just a few of them. The holiday light display at Bellingrath Gardens and Home continues through December 31.
The courtyard in the Bellingrath home featured cascading chrysanthemums on the balcony and scrolled ironwork typical of historic buildings in Mobile.
The terrace garden features bluestone pavers that originally were used as sidewalks in downtown Mobile.
This Chicago Peace rose was in near perfect condition.
After dark, the rose garden is transformed by its glowing gazebos and uplit fountain.
Triangular trees and sparkling snowflakes create a postcard scene on the lawn.
I really thought that the train engine should have been labeled BH&G rather than BG&H!
The stockings are hung by the chimney.
Clusters of holly leaves and berries line a walkway.