Written on September 20, 2013 at 1:26 pm , by BHG Guest Blogger
The following is a guest blog post from Leslie Halleck.
With Halloween just around the corner, I find myself giddy with anticipation. I’ll admit that Halloween is my favorite holiday when it comes to decorating. As the designated “scary house” of the neighborhood, I feel it’s my duty to deliver not only on the sweets when the kids arrive, but also to max out the “creepy” factor. In addition to all the standard decorations that go into creating a house of haunt, I also like to create plant combinations that reflect the season. There’s nothing better than adding plants with black foliage to porch containers to complete the look and feel with some style.
Plant varieties with black foliage are hot right now, but plants with true black foliage are far and few between. One of the newest arrivals is the BLACK DIAMOND™ series of dwarf crapemyrtles. When I first spotted these beauties I knew I had to have at least one, and that they’d be perfect for Halloween container specimens. The plants sport spectacular black foliage that offers up a striking contrast to the five available flower colors. BLACK DIAMOND™ Pure White is my favorite; the bright white flowers against the dark black foliage are stunning. If you’re using the “thriller, filler & spiller” method of container design, these are definitely your thriller (which just happens to work perfectly with our Halloween theme, no?). When mature, these semi-dwarf shrubs reach a maximum of 10- to 12’ feet tall, but can be kept to a container size by tip pruning. Make sure you place them in a full sun location to keep plants in bloom and foliage color strong.
For an architectural modern look, Aeonium arboreum ’Zwartkop’, also known as black rose, is the perfect filler for a Halloween themed container. Aeonium is a striking succulent which forms clumps of tall gray stems that hold shiny rosettes of almost black leaves. These rosettes are often called flowers because of their shape. Another fantastic fall filler for your Halloween doorstep is Petunia ‘Black Velvet’. I adore this variety because the flowers are as black as can be with a velvety sheen to them. Don’t forget about black pansies or violas! ‘Black Devil’ offers up coal-black blooms with a tiny yellow center. They make for the perfect tabletop centerpiece when planted or displayed inside pumpkins.
A good container combination always benefits from a plant that trails over the edge…also known as your “spiller”. ‘Black Heart’ Sweet Potato vine is a vigorous creeping vine with beautiful heart shaped leaves. Foliage color is a deep burgundy to almost black. This annual is easy as can be to grow and can work in a full sun to part sun environment. It will also tolerate dry spells if you forget to water, which is a bonus if you live in a hot climate. All of these black beauties create a striking contrast with combined with silver foliage plants such as dusty miller or Centaurea cineraria ‘Colchester White’.
Leslie is a dedicated horticulturist and gardener with more than 20 years of green industry experience. She earned her M.S. in Horticulture at Michigan State University and her B.S. in Biology/Botany from the University of North Texas. Leslie is also a Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH). She currently runs her own consulting company, Halleck Horticultural. You can read her growLively garden blog at www.lesliehalleck.com
Written on September 19, 2013 at 5:30 am , by Whitney Curtis
Since it’s National Indoor Plant Week this week, I thought I’d show you a few easy indoor plants to inspire you to add some greenery to your home. I have a bunch of indoor plants around my house, they really do add depth and life to any room – and they purify the air too! Below are my top five picks for indoor plants, as well as light and water requirements. And here are a few more houseplant suggestions.
Light: Low light
Watering: High humidity and consistent moisture (I water mine daily!)
More info on Maidenhair fern here.
Philodendron “Orange Prince”
Light: Low light
Watering: Moderately moist soil, water once or twice a week
Pachira Aquatica (aka The Money Tree!)
Light: Bright light, no direct sun
Watering: Moist soil, high humidity
Aphelandra (aka Zebra Plant)
Light: Bright light, no direct sun
Watering: High humidity, moist soil (Don’t let the soil dry out!)
More houseplants with fantastic foliage here.
Light: Medium light
Watering: Moist soil, but tolerant if you forget every now and then. (You can water into the stem where the leaves form a little cup at the base, above the soil. It’s actually a good idea to keep some water in that “cup.”)
Written on September 17, 2013 at 6:10 am , by Shawna Coronado
Fall is almost upon us, so it is time to start planning for how you are going to extend those garden crops for as long as possible through the frost season (see the before picture on the right). Helping your vegetables survive through fall means a longer growing season and money saved in the bank. There are two types of frosts to be aware of. Advective Frosts are plant killers; very cold temperatures that drop below plant hardiness levels. Radiation Frosts are survivable for your plants if they are covered and generally represent the frosts most likely to occur in early fall.
Below are three super-easy ways to help save your crops from a radiation type of frost. Advective frosts are tough to fight and you might need more powerful protection tools. All the below concepts involve covering the crop and trapping the heat of the soil beneath the covering. These coverings work as long as they do not get wet. A wet cover makes the temperatures surrounding the plant cooler.
1. Blanket and Sheet Covers
These are the simplest to use. Simply toss a lightweight blanket or sheet over the area of garden you are trying to protect. I have been known to use all the blankets in my house and ask my neighbors for theirs, but have had regular success in saving the garden for many weeks if there is only a one or two night frost situation; the covers help the plants survive those two nights in order to enjoy the Indian Summer later in the fall. Be sure to remove the blanket in the morning so the plants receive sunlight and warmth during the day.
2. Floating Row Crop Covers
Floating covers keep frost and insects off the plants, but allow daylight to provide enough light for growth. Depending on the plant, you can leave the row cover up all day without a problem. Do not forget to water the plants that are beneath the floating row covers.
3. Plastic and Garden Covers
Plastic covers work, particularly if you have a supportive frame to cover the planting bed. If you like, you can add lights at night to increase warmth within the protective frame. In the top photo you see the miniature greenhouse garden cover I have placed over my raised beds from Greenland Gardener. The garden cover is easy to assemble – it took me less than 15 minutes to put this together and place it properly. Unfold, assemble support pole, place in position, tighten Velcro (see photo below), tie the poles together at the top, place over beds, and DONE!
According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them. They worked well and I am happy about that.
Categories: Better Gardener, Gardening, Products | Tags: advective, blankets, crop cover, floating row, floating row crop cover, frost, frosts, garden, Gardening, greenhouse, ground cover, killing frost, plastic, radiation, Shawna Coronado, Soil
Written on September 15, 2013 at 6:00 am , by BHG Guest Blogger
The following is a guest blog post from Justin Hancock.
Looking for an easy way to make your life better? Grow houseplants! Seriously: Having houseplants can improve your quality of life. There’s a wealth of scientific studies out there showing just how good houseplants are for us on a fundamental level.
For example, a study from the University of Michigan found that having a plant in your home office can make you more productive. Turns out having plants in our indoor spaces improves concentration and memory.
Other research shows plants help us relax, making them perfect picks for bedrooms. And when you add in the fact that plants filter indoor air pollution (like dangerous VOCs found in paint, carpet, cabinets, etc.), it seems like an even better idea to keep a houseplant or two nearby.
If you’ve never had a houseplant, now’s the perfect time to get one. It’s National Indoor Plant Week, a time to celebrate the benefits of having plants around us indoors.
About Justin Hancock: A hardcore gardener and professional horticulturist (and former Better Homes and Gardens staffer), Justin lives in Miami and works for Costa Farms, the country’s largest grower of houseplants. He surrounds himself with plants at home and in the office, making him a happy, well-adjusted person. His garden writing has appeared on websites, print, television, and video.
Written on September 12, 2013 at 5:30 am , by Whitney Curtis
Sometimes a garden just hits you. Sometimes you walk into a garden so fabulous, your jaw hangs open for a period of minutes while you take in its glory. This feeling first happened to me at Ryan Gainey’s Atlanta home walking around his cottage garden and it happened to me again over the weekend at the greenhouse on the Anne Springs Close Greenway property just outside of Charlotte, NC.
Every corner of the greenhouse was as full as it could be with greenery, pots and plants. A lime tree, variegated bougainvillea, orchids, hibiscus, the list goes on. And the size of the fiddle leaf fig tree just blows your mind, doesn’t it?
The greenhouse of my dreams has shelves just like this – the perfect size for terra cotta pots en masse. I couldn’t get enough.
I spotted this Starfish Flower Cactus (Stapelia grandiflora ) from all the way across the room. I have never seen anything like the star-shaped flower that blooms at the tips of these branches. It’s quite a sight, especially with at least a half a dozen blooms right behind the first large flower.
Orchids galore… Here are a few tips on growing your own.
And a little treat tucked far in the back near the wall, a baby pineapple sprouting up!
All photos by Whitney of The Curtis Casa
Written on September 10, 2013 at 9:22 pm , by Eric Liskey
The most interesting time of year in the garden is late summer, IMO. It’s when the insects become most numerous, and flock to the late bloomers like caryopteris, Russian sage, sedum, and goldenrod, to name a few. Take a few minutes at dusk, on a sultry early September evening, and watch what comes to the blooms. It’s fascinating.
The moth pictured here is a white-line sphinx, feeding at a Summer Skies butterfly bush in my yard. It’s probably the most common sphinx moth, and a regular visitor to garden blooms. Just one of the small but precious gifts of the garden.