Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.


Tropical Plant Orange Flowers and Sedum

Gatsby is out in the movie theaters and audiences everywhere have been wowed with the views of the astoundingly beautiful gardens in the show. This movie and its gorgeous garden-filled sets really speak to the classic book the movie is based on, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby makes aTropical Plants and Cabbage powerful statement about the roaring ‘20’s and how one bootlegger lives lavishly in a time when so many could not. Decadent living is out of reach for the average gardener as well. However, it is easy to have a garden that looks lavish, even if you do not have the cash on hand to build a Hollywood Movie Set in your front lawn.

The secret? Tropicals. I have been using tropicals for years to make a powerful color statement. Tropical plants are singularly the most decadent denizens in my Northern Zone 5b garden. They look rich and have an amazing power to be eye-catching in nearly every combination you can think of.

A few of my favorite tropicals are seen here in photos from my front lawn tropical garden. Combining giant Mega-Cabbage from Bonnie Plants with a creative selection of tropical cannas and elephant ear (colocasia) from Plants Nouveau resulted in a fantastic, rich, over-the-top tropical garden. In the photos for this garden bed you see Canna Maui Punch, Canna Orange Sparkler, Canna Blueberry Sparkler , and Colocasia Red-Eyed Gecko. Contrasting colors like chartreuse, purple, blue-gray, and orange make a fabulous eye-catching combination for a mixed annual and vegetable bed.

Tropical Plant Canna Orange and Yellow Flower

With their bold leaf colors and gorgeous flowers, tropical plants have a way of making any visitor to your garden smile and they combine well with perennials, annuals, or vegetables. Better yet, you can save money by over wintering the tropical plants from year to year. Remove them just before frost, cut off the tops of the plants (save the root system), store in the winter in a cool, dry location. Then plant again in the spring time in a soil rich with compost after all danger of frost is gone.

Build a Gatsby Garden and bring a beautiful and lavish look to your neighborhood this summer.

Tropical Plant Canna Orange and Yellow Flower

According the FTC, I need to let you know that I received products in this story at no cost in exchange for reviewing them.

Hello BHG readers! It’s nice to meet you. I’m Whitney, of the home and garden blog The Curtis Casa, and I am thrilled to be a part of the Everyday Gardeners blog. I’ll be here once a week sharing my gardening inspiration as well as a few tips and tricks I’ve learned in my garden.

When we bought our Atlanta, GA home with its shady backyard almost four years ago, I was surprised to find my favorite home-owning hobby involved playing in the dirt, studying leaf shapes and wondering about the pH of our soil. I really shouldn’t have been so surprised, I grew up with more than a few talented gardeners in my life. Three ladies in particular left indelible marks on my green thumb, Estelle, Beverly and my Mom.

Estelle, we called her “E”, was a sweet elderly lady and frequent babysitter who lived down the street from us when I was a young girl. I toddled through her perfect rows of roses and posed for Easter pictures in front of her monochromatic azaleas. Spending time in E’s garden is etched into my memory. And then there’s Beverly, who was our nanny when my sister came along, and I’ve heard countless stories about the garden adventures she and my Mom got into – installing trellises, cutting holes in sheetrock, digging up plants off the side of the road. Beverly always offers sound advice (I often type out emails from my garden bench) and even sends plants by request from her own garden. The Virginia Bluebells I just planted came straight from Tennessee! And, of course, there’s my Mom. I remember pulling weeds with her in the garden as a little one, for 25 cents a bag. Now, in my garden, Mom and I walk around discussing plants, paths and garden accents. I’m always impressed how she can pull a plant name out of her memory. She’s helping me create our shady garden, and unbeknownst to me until recently, she’s encouraged an enthusiastic gardener, as well. And that story she always tells about caring too well for her beautiful Mexican sage plant, right before it died? Her advice is consistent: “You just have to ignore it for it to grow right.”

I’m using what these ladies taught me daily and I’ve come to realize, gardening is one of those hobbies best spent in the company of others. Especially others whose green thumbs and gardens you admire. Now let’s go get our hands dirty!

One of the worst garden pests out there, IMO, is the Japanese beetle. And it’s Japanese beetle season again (sigh). You West Coasters can count yourselves lucky. All of us east of the Plains, buckle up.

In the immature stage, we know them as grubs, the kind that attack your lawn. It’s actually pretty easy to keep them out of your turf. The problem is that the adult beetles are very good fliers, and can travel miles. And they have a seemingly supernatural ability to find the foods they love. So regardless of what you do to prevent them in your own yard, you’ll still have to deal with the hordes that zoom in from surrounding areas.

Contech Japanese beetle trap

There are two things you can do: spray the plants they favor (beans, linden trees, wisteria, hibiscus, and rose, to name a few on a very long list); and use beetle traps. Actually there’s a third thing: many recommend knocking the beetles by hand into a bucket of soapy water. Conceding that the soapy water DOES work on the few dozen or hundred that you might actually succeed in capturing, that still leaves the other 4,568,342,721 to deal with. If you have a mild infestation, you’re lucky, and soapy water might be a viable solution. If you have a bad infestation, well, you know what I’m talkin’ about. Call out the bombers. Or move to another state.

What I’ve started doing is using traps. I know of the research that says they draw in more than they actually catch. But in my case, I’m not so sure. I know this much: when I DON’T use a trap, the beetles do a number on my garden. When I DO use a trap, there’s still a goodly amount of damage, but I think it’s a little less. It certainly isn’t any worse. Meanwhile, as I see it, every beetle in that trap is one less that’s out eating my green beans, and laying eggs for next year’s hatch.

I have used several different traps. They all work. In fact, you would not believe how they pull in beetles! They use a pheromone that gets the beetles in the mood, if you know what I mean. So that would explain why they’re so effective.

It’s what happens after that that sets the traps apart. You see, these things can catch a LOT of beetles. So the capacity of the trap becomes a pretty big deal. But another issue is how easily the trap empties (because they do fill up). And yet another issue is ventilation and drainage holes. Guess what happens when it rains and you get a pile of dead beetles fermenting in warm water of the bottom of a bag? Yeah, it’s as repulsive as it sounds. You better have a cast iron stomach if you want to clean that out without wretching. So…..that’s a problem.

All things considered, the trap I like best is a Contech model. The plastic basket unscrews easily, is vented and drains (not perfectly, but well enough), and it’s heavy enough that it doesn’t flap around in the breeze (which is another thing I don’t like about some other brands). The big problem is its capacity. Often, I come home to an overflowing trap. The other day, I decided to keep emptying it, all day long, to see how many beetles it could capture. And the total was (drumroll, please): 3.4 pounds. Yes, seriously, I weighed it. If the trap could hold a gallon of beetles, it would be the perfect unit. Unfortunately, it only holds about a quart. You can’t have it all, I guess.

3.4 pounds of Japanese beetles -- One day's haul

This all leads to a problem I never considered until I started trapping beetles. What do you do with them all? First you have to kill them. If you don’t, they eventually escape from whatever you hold them in. Usually, a few minutes on hot pavement does the trick if they’re trapped in a bag. Unfortunately, once they’re dead, they stink. Bad. So I have started keeping them in plastic bags on the ground outside our garage (so they don’t smell it up), then I throw them away on trash day. The wife wasn’t real happy about bags of beetles sitting around. She reminded me that our neighbors are trying to sell their house, and bags of dead beetles in the yard next door might be an impediment. Could be she has a point.

But the dilemma remains: what the heck do you do with 20 pounds (a weeks harvest, give or take) of Japanese beetle carcasses? There’s no easy answer.

All I can say is, thank goodness beetle season only lasts a few weeks!

Apparently Pinterest has been around now for quite some time.  I however didn’t jump on the bandwagon until recently. Not to anyone’s fault other than mine: I just wasn’t aware of it! So I’m doing you a favor by introducing you to Pinterest.

Say hello.

Pinterest is about sharing–’pinning’ to be exact. Pinning what you admire. Pinning what you’re doing. Pinning what you’re envious of. Pinning what you’re aspiring to be.

Pin anything. Well…almost anything.

Pinterest to me, is like picking up my favorite magazine filled with images of inspiration tailoring to all my facets: vintage, burlap, gardening and so much more.

Pinterest is also about sharing goodness. If you find something interesting and think the world might also find it interesting this is your platform. That’s what I love the most (other than of course the inspiring images). This closely coincides with my love for Better Homes and Gardens.

What better platform than Pinterest to share the BH&G love! Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m particularly enjoying pinning these days:

To see more of my Better Homes and Gardens favorites…check out my board. Or make a board of your own! Happy pinning!

Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated with snake grass (also called horsetail, or Equisetum hymale) thanks to my babysitter who showed me how to disassemble each section and carefully snap them back together {also…the blades worked really well to whip at my little brother}.

But there is something more you should know about snake grass….she spreads. Like crazy. And will best serve your landscape if she was contained or left to flourish in her natural habitat.

Cleverly this homeowner notched out a piece of sidewalk for the plant to soften the dreary look of their mailbox.

In addition, the homeowner planted snake grass along her foundation–so the plant is still contained by the front sidewalk. The grass complements the modern, sleek characteristics of the house while providing an unique, low maintenance element.

Beyond your landscape, snake grass works well in wetlands–waterways, ditches, etc–to soak up some of the water and choke out unsightly weeds, similar to how cattails perform. Or use it for a filler within your cut flower bouquets. However you interject snake grass in your garden, please be mindful of its growing habit and plant wisely.

If you’ve grown this grass before–tell me about your experience–how you used it–how you contained it–or how you had fun with it!

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With temperatures here in Des Moines forecast for the mid-40s this weekend for the first time in more than 3 months, we’re daring to think that spring may finally be on its way. It will take several more weeks for all the snow to melt away, but in the meantime I can plan and dream about what I’ll plant in the yard this year. We’ve recently come out with two new books that will help.

Beds&Borderssmall Containerssmall

Both of these books feature plant-by-number plans for gardens that are sure to appeal to those who like a template to follow. Each plan lists how many plants of each type are needed, shows where to plant them in relation to the other plants, and has a picture of the gorgeous results you can get by following the plan. If you can follow a recipe, you can plant these gardens! If you’re more inclined to venture into uncharted territory, you’ll  find lots of inspiring plant combinations and ideas to incorporate into your own plans.

Both of these 224-page books are published by Wiley Publishing and retail for $19.95. They are available at major bookstores or you can purchase them online at Wiley Publishing or at Amazon.com. Here’s a link to details on Beds & Borders. And here are the details on Container Gardening.

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