30 Nov

Aromatic Tropical Tree: Vitex Trifolia ‘Arabian Lilac’

Vitex Trifolia, often described as Arabian Lilac, is a beautiful and strongly aromatic small tree from tropical regions of Australia and Asia especially Pakistan and India. The plant forms attractive accent plant for gardens both as hedge or small ornamental tree where they can be easily propagated from cuttings or layers.

Vitex Trifolia, The Arabian Lilac

Vitex Trifolia, The Arabian Lilac, Image by Ahmad Fuad Morad

The plant does not have any special requirements and would grow almost in any soil when it receives moderate water and protected from long spells of freeze and frost. Besides its ability to provide attractive and aromatic foliage and flowers, Vitex Trifolia is also used in preparation of traditional medicine for arthritis, inflammations, dysentery, and ulcers.

Depending on growing conditions, Vitex Trifolia can grow quite quickly. Young plants have bushy growth however it eventually grows into a small tree up to 6 meters. Mature plants produce fragrant spikes of yellow, white, red, blue or purple flowers in later summer. If you are looking for a small tree for shade and breaking the wind, Vitex Trifolia would perform very well with bonus of fragrant foliage and flowers. It is also a good choice for embankments or as street plant where it would last longer without requiring much care.

29 Nov

Lovely Flowering Plants for Shaded Garden Spots: Veltheimia

One of the most challenging places to cultivate in a garden is under shady trees. These places are a bit tough for plants to survive because they often have to struggle for light and food, and live with the ‘habits’ of the tree. That is why keeping these difficult spots clean and cultivated all through the year is not an easy tasks. However there are plants, like Veltheimia, that can live under shady trees and give a great show of interesting foliage and lovely flowers.

Veltheimia, Flowering Plant for Shady Garden Spots

Veltheimia bracteata

Veltheimia is a genus of bulbous plants from South Africa that perform very well under shady trees. These shade-loving plants can be planted to cover the ground under large trees or grown as pot plants. Leaves of Veltheimia have wavy edges. Flowers grow on erect stalks up to10 cm. Typically, these plants would divide faster to make large clumps and cover the ground. When in bloom, these clumps send out abundance of stalks topped by drooping flowers. These flowers last long and have all shades of yellow and pink.

Veltheimia prefer well-drained soil. For best results grow them in enriched soil or feed with a general purpose fertilizer. When grown as ornamental pot plants, these plants can be placed in balconies, windows, and patios.

Popular species include: V. bracteata and V. capensis.

26 Nov

Lovely Landscape and Indoor Foliage Plant: Iresine

Iresine is one of the ‘must have’ plants in my landscape schemes because of its ornamental foliage and ability to grow quickly and cover empty spaces. Native to tropical regions of the world, most species are frost tender plants and require sunny conditions to flourish. Among more than 20 species, Iresine herbstii is the most popular for its variety of colors. Usually known as Bloodleaf, this small and quick growing shrubby plant produces attractive waxy leaves of bright green or purple-red colors. When in full bloom, this beautiful plant adds splashes of bright colors in landscape, which is why, it is grown as part of massive plantation schemes – usually in mixed borders, as ground cover or for bedding purposes.

Iresine Herbstii, The Bloodleaf Plant

Iresine herbstii, The Bloodleaf Plant, Image by Leonora Enking (flickr)

Iresine herbstii grows as tall as 2 meters and can be pruned and shaped easily. Flowers are inconspicuous and should be pinched back in order to encourage healthy growth of foliage. These plants require adequate water and a well-drained soil. It can also be grown indoor at sunny positions, preferably near a well-lit window.

24 Nov

Colorful Flowering Bush for Tropical Garden: Marmalade Bush

Marmalade Bush – the name is as delightful as the plant itself is. Grown as bush, hedge or ornamental pot plant, Marmalade Bush or Streptosolen jasmesonii  is an evergreen bush that produces colorful flowers almost all through the year. Though classified as spring bloomer, the plants continues to produce flowers in all seasons in tropical climate. Trumpet-shaped flowers appear as yellow blooms and gradually put on orange and then red color. You would often find clusters of yellow, orange and red flowers on a single plant – that is how it justifies its common name.

Streptosolen Jamesonii, The Marmalade Bush

Streptosolen jamesonii / Image by Eric Hunt (flickr)

How to Grow Marmalade Bush

Streptosolen jamesonii is easily propagated from cuttings. It prefers bright sunlight, moderate watering and a well-drained soil. Young plants can grow as tall as 2 meters and spread as delightful foliage plants. If not in bloom, the plant is covered with glossy-green leaves thus making it a good evergreen shrub for landscapes.

The plant can be easily pruned to form topiary shapes or grown as arching bush over walls or trellis. Marmalade Bush attracts butterflies and garden birds too.

22 Nov

Lovely Bloomer for Cold Climate: Leucojum, Spring Snowflake

Leucojum Vernum or Spring Snowflake, as it is usually known, is a lovely flowering plant ideally suited to cooler and Mediterranean regions. This bulbous plant originally belongs to Europe and Russia and grows very well under trees or near ponds where soil is moist or boggy.

White Flowers of Leucojum, Spring Snowflake

Spring Sowflake, Image by Louisa Billeter

The plant produces clumps of narrow, lily-like leaves of dark green color. Flowers are small and inconspicuous but fragrant. These bell-shaped flowers appear on drooping stems. Each flower has white petals that are tipped with green. Flowers appear in winter or early spring.

How to Grow Spring Snowflake

Spring Snowflake can be grown in containers, flower beds, borders or as ground covers. It reproduces itself quickly and can be propagated from divisions planted in spring. Though Leucojum would grow in almost any soil, provide it regular watering and feed in a well-drained soil under full or partial sun for best results.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance winter bloomer for your cold climate garden, Spring Snowflake is a good choice – both for beginners as well as master gardeners.

21 Nov

Long Flowering, Tropical Bush: Gaura, the Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush belongs to the genus of Gaura, which grows natively in most tropical parts of Mexico and the US. These hardy annuals and perennials grow fast and produce long lasting flowers. Ideal for garden borders or as ornamental houseplants, most species of Gaura are tough and accommodating plants. The most common of them is Gaura Lindheimeri or Butterfly Bush. The plant grows as tall, evergreen shrub and produces very delightful flowers of white color with a tinge of pale pink. These beautiful flowers grow on tall stems and stand out in any background.

Gaura, Butterfly Bush

Gaura, Butterfly Bush

The plant grows up to 1.2 meters and can be propagated easily from divisions. Like other species of Gaura, Butterfly Bush is a sun loving plant and blooms in summer. The plant flourishes in a well-drained soil and is able to withstand droughts in tropical or sub-tropical climates. When in full bloom, it attracts a lot of butterflies and justifies it common name very well.

18 Nov

5 Steps for Growing Lush Green Lawn from Scratch

There is nothing like a secluded, lush green lawn in your home for summer retreats. However having a grassy green and manicured lawn is not as easy job – it requires good preparation and a lot of patience especially when you are growing it from scratch.  Today, we are featuring a few tips for creating a lush green lawn from scratch.

1. Check the soil

First and the foremost step is to check the pH of soil. Ideally, it should be near 6.5. If the value is lower than 6.5, add lime to the soil before hoeing it.

If you soil is too sandy, add well-rotted garden compost and manures to the soil (check out our tips for improving sandy soil). If you soil has poor drainage, add gypsum and organic matter to improve it.

2. Prepare the Soil

Hoe your soil extensively to make sure that it loose and properly tilled. If you want to install an automatic sprinkler system, this is the right time. Rake the soil tediously to remove rubble, weeds, stones and lumps of soil.

How to Grow Lush Green Lawn from Scratch

Image by Russell James Smith (flickr)

3. Spread Seeds

Once the soil is ready, spread seeds equally and evenly all across your lawn area. It is recommended that you divide the whole quantity (ask your seed supplier for correct quantity of seeds for your lawn area) into two parts. Add sand to each part; it helps spread seeds evenly. Spread the first lot of seeds in one direction, and then the second lot at the right angles to it. Once seeds have been spread, rake them lightly before watering the area. Depending on your budget, you can also lay ‘ready-made’ turf. It established quickly and does not have bare patches.

4. Dampen the Soil

For best results and successful germination, keep the soil moist all the time. If you are staring in warmer months, do not allow the soil to go dry.

5. Pamper Your Lawn

Once seeds have germinated and started covering the ground, spot bare patches and seeds them again until the entire areas has been covered. Occasionally fertilize the soil as poor soil would have more weeds and less healthy grass.

Do not mow your lawn vigorously before the grass has established and the entire area of your lawn is covered properly. Keep regular maintenance and enjoy a lush green lawn for years to come.

17 Nov

Hardy Flowering Plant for Garden Borders: Jerusalem Sage

Phlomis is a genus of hardy bushes and shrubs from the Mint family and is popular border plant for tropical, sub-tropical and the Mediterranean climates. The most popular species of this genus is Phlomis Fruticosa or Jerusalem Sage. It is a tough and quite hardy plant that can be grown in almost all climates except climates with long spells of freeze and frost.

Phlomis, the Jerusalem Sage, Flowering Bush

Jerusalem Sage, Image by Wulf Forrester (flickr)

Easily propagated from cuttings, Jerusalem Sage grows up to 1 meter and produces velvety leaves and yellow flowers. Flowers usually bloom in summer or late spring and grow as small, ornamental clusters. Young plants require fertile soil and regular watering however mature plants can grow in a well-drained and alkaline soil without requiring much water.

Though popular as border plant, Jerusalem Sage can be grown as container plant as well.