Category Archives: Houseplants

OUTDOOR MAPLES AND INDOOR KUMQUATS

Sap Season

Get your taps in. It’s syrup weather. Maple syrup. At least here in New York’s Hudson Valley, the sunny days in the 40s with nights in the 20s that are predicted should get the sap flowing.

  I say “should” because I haven’t yet checked sap buckets that I hung out on the trees a few weeks ago when winter temperatures suddenly turned warm; it was sap weather back then. That day was hopeful: I drilled holes an inch and a half deep, lightly hammered in the spiles, hung buckets, and attached covers over the buckets. Frigid days and nights that descended soon after that kept sap flow in abeyance.

  My “sugar bush” amounts to only three sugar maple trees. I used to have four, but a large tree that was a truly magnificent representative of its species began an irreversible path to its death. “Maple decline” is a disease …

Read the complete post…

FROM GROCERS’ SHELVES TO MY FLOWER POTS

Exotic, tropical fruits are turning up more and more frequently on grocers’ shelves these days: dates, papayas, guavas, and others. I look upon these fruits opportunistically, because within each lies dormant seeds that can be coaxed to become exotic, if not beautiful, indoor plants that might even provide a delicious fruit harvest. Such plants provide a break from the humdrum of spider plants, philodendrons, and Swedish ivies. 

Seeds of tropical fruits usually germinate best if planted as soon as the fruits are eaten. Cold-climate fruits, in contrast, have innate inhibitors that prevent seed germination until they feel that winter is over.

So all that’s necessary to grow most tropical fruits is to wash their seeds and sow them in potting soil, using the old rule of thumb of burying a seed to twice its depth. And then wait.

DELICIOUS, BUT HARD TO SAY

  I have harvested fruit grown from the seed of a …

Read the complete post…

LOOK BEYOND POINSETTIA GLITZ

A Harem of Males

Phew, what a year 2020 was! Well, it’s over and, at least at this writing, things look hopeful for the future, at least from my perspective. Except if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate, there’s not much distraction from anything gardenwise, for now, so let’s take a close look at a plant no doubt sitting on many coffee tables and windowsills. Poinsettia. I’m not a big fan of their appearance, but I do like them as botanical curiosities.

Let’s share some botanical lore of this plant by setting your holiday poinsettia on a table in good light for a close look at its flowers. I say “close  ” because the flowers are not those large, red, leaf-like structures. The large, red, leaf-like structures are just that — leaves, albeit modified leaves called bracts. The bracts attract pollinating insects to the plant.

The actual flowers of the poinsettia, …

Read the complete post…

ALMOST LIKE SUMMER

Fresh Veggies

When I was a child, it seemed that winter vegetables were mostly peas and diced carrots, conveniently poured frozen out of plastic bags into pots of boiling water. Yuk! Winter notwithstanding, my backyard garden still offers plenty of fresh winter vegetables. Let’s have a look. Kale, of course, looks unfazed by snow and plummeting temperatures. Not only does it look unfazed; it also tastes very delicious.

More surprising is the endive that I planted back in August, then covered beneath a “tunnel” of clear plastic and slightly insulating row cover held aloft by metal hoops in late October. Temperatures about a week ago went as low as -8° Fahrenheit! Thanks to the additional insulation from almost a foot of snow, now melted, the endive is still lush and tasty.

The rest of winter’s fresh garden vegetables are not in the garden. Most are in plywood boxes in cold storage, first in …

Read the complete post…

GHOST OF A NOVEMBER PAST

A Vine or a Bush?

Here’s a blast from the past, from my November 20, 2009 blog post, with current commentaries  on how things have changed — and not changed — over the past 11 years.

Dateline: New Paltz, NY, November 20, 2009, 5:30 am. New models of plants, like cars, are deemed necessary to keep consumers interested and spending money. My cars (actually trucks . . . you know, manure and all that) stay with me for as long as they keep rolling along, so it was with equal skepticism I looked upon a new “model” of mandevilla, called Crimson, that arrived at my doorstep early last summer.

I was first attracted and introduced to mandevilla about 20 years ago. The glossy leaves and the bright red, funnel shaped flowers, were part of the attraction. The vining habit was also a big part of the draw, making the plant a …

Read the complete post…

WINTER READINESS

For anyone who missed my recent 90 minute webinar on GOURMET COMPOST, the webinar has been recorded and is available for $35 on-demand from Oct. 1st, 2020 until Oct. 8th for $35. The webinar covers options for compost bins, feeding your compost “pets, monitoring progress, what can go wrong and how to right it, when is compost “finished,” and making the best use of your compost. Click below to pay almost by any of a number of ways. Thank you.

Putting Summer in Jars

I’m hunkering down for winter, which includes capturing what I can of summer’s bounty in jars and dried and frozen garden produce. With this year’s hot, sunny weather, tomato plants yielded plenty of fruit — until cut short with a few nights of freezing temperatures about a week ago. Still, I have over two dozen shiny quart jars lined up on a shelf in the basement.

This year, San …

Read the complete post…

Inside and Outside

Houseplant Envy

I wonder why my houseplants look so unattractive, at least compared to some other people’s houseplants. I was recently awed by the lushness and beauty of a friend’s orchid cactii, begonias, and ferns. I also grow orchid cactii and ferns, so what’s with mine?

Perhaps the difference is that other’s houseplants have a cozy, overgrown look. Mine don’t. Most of my houseplants get repotted and pruned, as needed, for best growth. Every year, every two years at most, they get tipped out of their pots, their roots hacked back, then put back into their pots with new potting soil packed around their roots. In anticipation of lush growth, stems also get pruned to keep the plants from growing topheavy.

Rather than being scattered willy-nilly throughout the house or clustered cozily in corners, as in friends’ homes, my houseplants get carefully sited. For best growth, plants, especially flowering and fruiting plants, need …

Read the complete post…

Watering — in the Rain?

Why Are Pots Thirsty?

With recent rains of more than 3 inches over the last couple of days, you’d think that the last thing on my mind would be having to water anything. But you’d be wrong. Plants in pots — and I have plenty of them, some ornamental and some tropical and subtropical fruits — don’t get the full benefit of all that water.

Potting soils are, and should be, more porous than any garden soil to maintain good aeration within the confines of a pot. About a one inch depth of water is needed if you’re going to thoroughly wet a 12 inch high column of potting soil. If a flower pot is, for example, only 6 inches high, only 1/2 inch depth of water would be needed; and so on.

A lot of my potted plants didn’t drink in that 3 inches of rain that fell over the past couple …

Read the complete post…

Spring Inspires

Even Bob Got the Bug

As I write, daily high temperatures are in the 30s and snow is predicted. Nonetheless, just a few warm, sunny days and almost everyone is going to be inspired to garden. Or at least do something plantwise. Even my friend Bob.

Bob’s non-interest in gardening was demonstrated decades ago as I was starting my first very own garden at a house I was renting. Bob was there as I pushed my shovel into the clay soil of the lawn to turn over spadeful after spadeful. Bob watched peacefully lying beyond the proposed plot with his head propped up on his hands. (Not so another friend, Hans, who grabbed another shovel, and dug. Now that I think of it, perhaps I owned only two shovels.)

A crown of thorns (not Bob’s)

Bob’s current interest centers around one plant, a potted crown of thorns plant (Euphorbia milii). Crown of …

Read the complete post…

Here Kitty, Kitty

 

To a Cat’s Delight

How does your cat like your houseplants? I don’t mean how they look. I mean for nibbling, a bad habit of some cats. Bad for them and bad for you because eating certain houseplants could sicken a cat, or worse, and, at the very least, leave the houseplant ragged.

One way to woo a feline away from houseplants would be to provide a better alternative. Now what could that be? Duh! Catnip, Nepeta cataria, a member of the mint family, admittedly not the prettiest of houseplants but, hey, you’re growing this for your cat, not yourself. (Other Nepeta species, such as N. x faasssennii and N. racemes, are less enticing to cats even if they are more attractive to us.)

Catnip is very easy to grow outdoors, and can be grown indoors through winter. The main ingredient that could be lacking in winter is light; six or more hours …

Read the complete post…