31 Jul

Ornamental Foliage Plant for Tropics: Lipstick Palm

Cyrtostachys Lakka or Lipstick Palm is one of the most beautiful and striking palms in its genus. It can be recognized easily for its red stalks in plantation. Lipstick Palm grows as slender foliage plant up to 5 meters or more, and bears long leaves (about 2 meters) on bright red stalks. Native to Malaysia and the Pacific Islands, this beautiful ornamental palm is capable of growing in very humid conditions where very few plants can flourish.

Lipstick Palm is an excellent choice for landscapes, ornamental pot plants as well as for plantation schemes.

Ornamental Foliage Plant, Lipstick Palm

Lipstick Palm, Image by Steve Linder

How to Grow Lipstick Palm

Propagated from seeds, Lipstick Palm requires full or partial sun in a humid environment. Sensitive to cold, frost and conditions, these plants should be grown in well-drained soil. Ideal temperature for growing Lipstick Palm is 75-85 F.

29 Jul

Striking, Fragrant Flowers of Monarda Didyam: Bee Balm

Monarda Didyam or Bee Balm is an excellent perennial for gardens for its aromatic leaves and fragrant flowers. These sun loving plants form large clusters and bloom prolifically in summer and autumn. Flowers are rich in nectar and attract lots of butterflies, bees and birds. Flowers of Bee Balm are scarlet-red and serve well as cut flowers in both fresh and dry arrangements. are Leaves are usually crushed to obtain a highly fragrant oil. Bee Balm is also a good companion plant in vegetable and fruit gardens for its ability to attract pollinating bees.

Fragrant Flowers of MonardaDidyam, Bee Balm

Bee Balm Flower, Image by Stephanie Wallace

How to Grow Monarda Didyam/ Bee Balm

Native to North America, Monarda is a small genus of perennial and annual plants. These fast growing plants propagate easily from seeds or divisions.  Bee Balm prefers full to partial sun. Plants grown in full shade produce dense foliage but less flowers. Almost all species of Monarda grow well in moist but well-drained soil.

28 Jul

How to prepare your own garden compost!

Reducing waste and recycling natural resources is not only the need of the day but also a productive activity for gardeners. By following some simple methods of recycling organic waste from lawns, gardens and kitchen, you can prepare your own garden compost to save some bucks and keep the natural environment clean and healthy.

Preparing your own garden compost might sound like an overhead and time consuming activity but it certainly pays dividends in the long run in terms of healthy plants, better gardens and cleaner environment.

Preparing Garden Compost at Home

Home Made Garden Compost, Image ⓒ Michaela (thegardenerseden.com)

Preparing your own garden compost is not difficult; at the same time it is not as easy and heaping up all your garden and kitchen waste. Preparing good garden compost requires methodical approach, appropriate heat, air and moisture for decomposing organic matter. Major ingredients in balanced garden compost are:

  • Grass clippings
  • Animal Manure
  • Leaves
  • Prunings
  • Kitchen waste (peelings, fruit and vegetable scraps)
  • Weeds
  • Straw

To start preparing your own garden compost, collect ingredients of compost regularly from your kitchen and garden. Prepare layers of compost material in the form of a heap and water it once a week. Turn compost material as often as possible with a fork. Allow organic matter to break down into a balanced compost. If you have a large garden, you can start with two heaps – while you are working on one heap, keep adding daily collections to the second heap. In this way, you would be able to maintain a steady supply of home-made compost.

Green thumbs who live in high rise buildings or do not own gardens can use compost tumblers. They are easily available at any garden store or you can make your own compost tumbler (video). Add daily collection of organic waste to compost tumbler. Add water regularly and let some air get into the layers but regularly turning layers of organic matter. Since these tumblers would retain temperature and moisture, the organic matter breaks down quickly and form balanced compost within two or three weeks. If you have enough space, start with two compost tumblers – one for ready-to-use compost and the other one for future use.

26 Jul

Lovely Flowers of Strelitzia: The Bird of Paradise

If you ask me one plant that I would always like to grow in my garden that would be Strelitzia Reginae or Bird of Paradise. Indigenous to South Africa where it is known as Crane Flower, Bird of Paradise can be grown with a little effort in most temperate regions of the world. This evergreen, shrubby plant is popular because of their showy and very unusual flowers that actually resemble the Bird of Paradise (Paradisaeidae). Flowers usually appear in spring and summer though some species would flower in autumn and winter. Leaves are lush, long and broad. Flowers grow on long stalks and exhibit a rainbow of red, green, orange, purple, white and blue shades – just like a real bird of paradise.

Strelitzia Reginae tend to form dense clusters that require plenty of space to flourish.

Strelitzia Reginae, Bird of Paradise Plant

Strelitzia Reginae © Daniel Mosquin

How to Grow Bird of Paradise

All species of Strelitzia require bright sunlight, rich soil and plenty of air in a warmer spot. The best place for Bird of Paradise plants is garden beds where these plants are protected from strong winds. Water only when the soil is dry. Strelitzia can be propagated easily from suckers.

Bird of Paradise plants do not like to be disturbed, thus they should be allowed to establish themselves properly in a suitable spot.

Popular Varieties of Strelitzia

Strelitzia Nicolai also known as Wild Banana is a tree-like shrubby plant that bears lush arching leaves. Flowers closely resemble but are not as colorful as the flowers of Bird of Paradise.

Strelitzia Juncea forms dense clusters of long leafless stalks and bears bright orange flowers.

25 Jul

Companion Plants for Vegetable Gardens: Tagetes (Marigold)

Tagetes is one of the popular garden bloomers in most parts of the world. These versatile annuals have numerous cultivars that vary in size and flowering habits. Some of the species grow as dwarf bloomers whereas some grow into bushy plants of 1 meter or more. Yellow, orange and deep-rusted flowers are often double and bi-colored. These sun loving plants bloom in spring and summer though some species would flower in warmer winters.

Tagetes are commonly known as Marigold and grown commercially for several purposes. They are excellent insect repellent and thus grown as companion plants of tomato, potato, tobacco, pepper, and eggplant. Marigolds are source of marigold oil which is used in manufacturing perfumes. The flowers are also used in confectionary, salads, and potpourri. They are an excellent choice for mass plantation as well.

Tagetes Erecta, African Marigold

Tagetes Erecta, African Marigold

How to Grow Tagetes / Marigolds

Though native to the Americas, marigolds have been successfully naturalized in most parts of the world. These sun loving plants are quite easy to grow from seeds. They require moderate water and bright sunlight. When grown in overly rich or fertilized soil, Tagetes would grow vigorously at the expense of flowers. Removing dead flowers regularly would encourage a longer flowering season.

Popular Varieties of Tagetes

Tagetes Erecta (African Marigold), though it does not belong to Africa as the common name suggests, African Marigold is a stout flowering annual that bears orange or yellow flowers. A variety of cultivars of African Marigold are grown commercially.

Tagetes Patula (French Marigold) is a bushy annual that bears showy orange, yellow or rusty-red flowers. These plants usually grow as dwarf bloomers.

Orange Marigolds

Orange Marigold

24 Jul

Evergreen, Ornamental Foliage Plant for Beginners: Tree Ivy

If you are a beginner looking for some easy-to-grow plants for year round ornamental foliage, you should give Tree Ivy (x Fatshedera Lizei) a try. It is a less-demanding as well as a versatile plant that can be grown as evergreen ground cover, as climbing plant against walls and trellis, as evergreen shrub in garden or as pot plant grown both indoor or outdoor.

Tree Ivy is a hybrid between Fatsia Japonnica (a tree) and Hedra Helix (an ivy) that is why it has characteristics of both. Tree Ivy bears relatively larger ivy-like leaves and stiff, shrubby branches. The glossy green leaves appear round the year to make Tree Ivy an excellent foliage plant. Stiff branches require support for climbing against a wall, tree or trellis. A variegated variety (x Fatshedera Lizei ‘Variegate’) is also grown widely for its ornamental leaves (with white margins).

Tree Ivy, Evergreen Ornamental Plant

Tree Ivy, Evergreen Ornamental Plant, Image by S John Davey

How to Grow Tee Ivy

Tree Ivy requires a shady spot, moderate watering and protection from frost. Plants propagate from cuttings and reach about 2 meters or more in height. When pruned regularly, Tree Ivy can be grown as ornamental pot plant.

21 Jul

Black Eyed Susan in My Garden: Thunbergia Alata

Black Eyed Susan (Thunbergia Alata) is one of my favorite climbers. Fresh green leaves and bright orange and yellow flowers make it an excellent choice for gardeners as a climber of ornamental plant for hanging baskets. Native to Africa and Asia, Black Eyed Susan is easy to grow is most tropical and temperate regions of the world where it can be grown as ornamental climber. Flowers appear in summer and autumn.

Black Eyed Susan Flowers - Thunbergia Alata

Black Eyed Susan Flowers – Image by Shihmei Barger

How to Grow Black Eyed Susan/ Thunbergia Alata

Propagating from seeds and cuttings, Black Eyed Susan requires moist but well-drained soil. These fast growing climbers prefer full to partial sun and protection from frost. Black Eyed Susan is a perfect climber to be grown against fences, pergolas, trellis, and arches where it can grow up to 8 feet.

The name ‘Black Eyed Susan’ is also used for other flowering plants like Rudbeckia and Hibiscus.

20 Jul

Unusual Flowering Plant: Dicentra, Bleeding Hearts

Dicentra Spectabilis (now known as Lamprocapnos Spectabilis) or Bleeding Hearts is a perennial plant known for its ornamental and unusual flowers. As the name suggests, most species of Dicentra produce heart-shaped flowers. Petals on these unusual flowers are curved and spurred to give them the shape of bleeding hearts. These herbaceous perennials are native to North America and parts of Asia.

Dicentra Spectabilis grows up to 60 cm and bear rosy red and white flowers in spring that hang on long leafless stalks. Flowers last for several weeks when spring is cool.

Dicentra Spectabilis, Bleeding Hearts

Dicentra Spectabilis – image from Wikipedia.org

How to Grow Dicentra Spectabilis / Bleeding Hearts

Almost all species of Dicentra are grown in semi-shade. Bleeding Hearts require rich, loose and well-drained soil, and protection from frost and high winds. Propagation can be done by seeds, cuttings or divisions. Seeds can be sown in fall so that they get enough freezing spells, which is required for successful germination. Do not leave young plants dry and thirsty especially in warmer weather; a bit moist environment is perfect for Bleeding Heart plants. These plants do not require much pruning or fertilizer.

Popular Varieties of Dicentra

The name ‘bleeding heart’ is specially associated with Dicentra Spectabilis. Other popular species include: Dicentra Cucullaria (Dutchman’s breeches), Dicentra Canadensis (Squirrel Corn), and several hybrids and cultivars.

Flowers of Bleeding Heart may cause skin irritation.