28 Feb

Ornamental Garden Tree: Podocarpus Macrophyllus, Kusamaki

Podocarpus is a large genus of evergreen coniferous trees of small to medium height. They are popular garden trees is many parts of the world because of their fresh and fine looks. Besides popular garden trees, there are a number of bushes and foliage plants of Podocarpus that are useful for many different purposes in gardens. Some make nice hedges, some are good as foliage plants, some make nice espalier whereas some are good for creating screens or visual dividers.

Podocarpus Macrophyllus, Kusamaki, Garden Tree

Podocarpus Macrophyllus, Kusamaki

Podocarpus are usually propagated from seeds, softwood cuttings or layering. Young plants grow slow but grow into attractive specimens. They are usually easy to prune and train in to desired shapes and sizes. Popular species include Podocarpus falcatus (Yellowwood) that grows as nice garden tree up to 20 meters, and Podocarpus macrophyllus which is commonly known as Buddhist Pine (though it is not a pine) or Kusamaki in Japan.

Buddhist Pine is revered as feng shui tree and has a high commercial value. Native to China and Japan, Podocarpus macrophyllus grows as a large shrub or small evergreen tree with nice foliage. It is also grown for its timber which is used as construction material for its natural resistance to termites and water.

27 Feb

Pelargonium: Lovely, Colorful, Scented Flowers

If you are new to gardening, Pelargonium is one of the best flowering plants to satisfy and encourage the passion. These easy-to-grow and evergreen bloomers offer a wide variety of colors. They are not fussy about growing conditions, and do well in almost any soil type and light conditions however a light loamy soil and good exposure to bright sunlight is preferable.

Pelargonium Flowers

Originally growing in Mediterranean climates of South Africa, Madagascar and parts of Asia, Pelargoniums are now cultivated in almost all parts of the world. There are a number of cultivars and hybrids of Pelargonium with different growing habits: shrubby, bushy, trailing, and low-growing. The easiest and the fastest way to propagate Pelargonium plants is by cuttings that root easily and become new plants in a couple of weeks.  Young plants can be grown in containers to decorate window gardens and patios. They are also good for bedding or just as ornamentals for seasonal display.

Water your Pelargoniums moderately during the growing season from spring to summer; water sparingly in winter.

Pelargonium Garden Flowers

A number of Pelargoniums emit nice citrus or fruity scents. Some of these scented Pelargonium species are grown commercially for the production of perfumes and geranium oil. Some species produce edible leaves and flowers are also used for flavoring in desserts, cakes, jellies and teas.

Popular species include: Pelargonium bowkeri, P. cucullatum, Pelargonium echinatum, P. domesticum, and P. elargonium. Scented Pelargoniums include:

Pelargonium crispum (lemon scent), Pelargonium odoratissimum (apple scent), Pelargonium x torento (ginger scent), and P. capitatum (rose scent).

23 Feb

For Every Climate, There is One Clematis

It won’t be wrong to say that there is one Clematis for every climate. Belonging to the buttercup family, Clematis is a large genus of several hundred species, cultivars and hybrid varieties from temperate regions of the world. However, there are a number of varieties available today that can grow well in other climates.

Clematis Flowers

Clematis Flowers, Image by Jonathan Moreau

Clematis are traditionally known as woody vines that bloom almost all through the year. They can be grown against trellis, fences or walls where they tend to climb up and establish themselves easily. These lovely creepers and climbers produce colorful and sometimes fragrant flowers that start appearing in late summer and continue to bloom for most time of the year. Actual petals on a Clematis flower are quite inconspicuous but these are surrounded by very colorful and attractive sepals.

Clematis can be grown from seeds or cuttings. Young plants prefer rather cool and moist conditions. Once established, they will take care of themselves. The best time to plant Clematis cuttings is late autumn or mid-spring. Established plants require bright sunlight and a slightly rich and well-drained soil. Whether you are planning to grow Clematis in containers or beds, these lovely bloomers comes in many different shapes and sizes – low growing creeping plants for garden beds to vigorous climbers for trellis, and from woody vines and mound-forming varieties to delicate hanging plants for balcony gardens. All have to do is find the right kind of Clematis for your garden.

22 Feb

Easy Growing, Ornamental House Plants: Philodendron

Philodendron is a large genus of creepers and clambering plants. Widely grown as indoor ornamental plants, philodendrons make excellent container plants for difficult (dark, shady and ignored places) spots. Native to tropical climate of the Americas, these beautiful foliage plants come in a large range of sizes, colors, and growing habits. Some are good for hanging baskets, some flourish under shady trees, and some of them server as outdoor ornamental plants.

Philodendron, Ornamental Foliage Plant

Philodendron, Ornamental Foliage Plant, Image by Ahmad Fuad Morad

In their native habitat, Philodendrons usually outgrow their neighbours however plants grown indoors or captivated in containers do not grow vigorously. In fact, they are quite easy to train when grown as indoor container plants.

Most species of Philodendron are characterized by evergreen lobbed leaves and aerial roots. They are easily cultivated from cuttings and prefer a damp and rich soil all the time. Avoid overwatering and place Philodendron plants in places where they receive indirect sunlight for some part of the day. When grown outdoors, protect them from direct, harsh sunlight and provide them with rich organic soil. As a general rules, all species of Philodendron should be provided with a warm environment (minimum 55 F).

Popular species include:  Philodendron Selloum, P. Squamiferum, P. Cannifolium, P. Scandens, and Philodendron Bipinnatifidum.

Philodendron Selloum

Philodendron Selloum, Image by Kahlil (flickr)

21 Feb

Lovely Rudbeckia for Lovely Gardens

Rudbeckia is among the most favorite perennials of gardeners worldwide. It is easy to grow, offers a long flowering season, serves very well in landscapes, borders and mass plantations, and brings a variety of butterflies to the garden. If you are planning a mixed flower bed or border, Rudbeckia would be a nice addition.

Rudbeckia Flowers

Rudbeckia Flowers, Image by Jacob Pilich

Most species of Rudbeckia are low-growing plants that bloom from mid-summer till fall. They are easily grown from seeds. Young plants require regular watering, however, once established Rudbeckia plants are able to tolerate brief periods of drought. They are not much fussy about food. A regular soil mix is good enough for these hardy plants. For healthy and long flowering period, regular deadheading of the faded flowers is usually required. Rudbeckia can also be propagated from divisions.

The best spot for Rudbeckia plants is a sunny or partially shaded bed with a well-drained soil. Popular varieties include: Rudbeckia Fulgida ‘Goldsturm’, Rudbeckia Hirta ‘Double Glory Daisy’, Rudbeckia Hirta ‘Indian Summer’, and Rudbeckia ‘Toto Rustic’.

20 Feb

Sweet, Lovely and Ornamental: Persimmon Tree

Japanese Persimmon or sometimes called Kaki Persimmon is large deciduous tree from the family of Diospyros. It is a large genus of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs from tropical climates of Asia, some parts of Africa and major parts of Japan and China. Listed as Diospyros Kaki, this tropical tree has been in cultivation since many hundred years in China where it is largely grown for its edible fruit. In fact, more than 90 percent of its total production comes from China. Other species from the genus of Diospyros are also useful trees and are grown for their timber or as ornamental plants. The timber is collectively known as ebony.

Persimmon Tree

Diospyros Kaki, Persimmon Tree, Image via wikipedia.org

The sweet and slightly tangy fruit of Persimmon is quite attractive itself and makes this tree very ornamental. Pulp of ripe fruit is soft and jelly-like substance. Immature Persimmon is, however, has a bitter taste because of high amount of tannin acid. Creamy yellow flowers of Persimmon are inconspicuous.

Persimmon tree can be grown in sunny locations where it receives rich loamy soil and moderate watering. The tree is frost tender and sheds most of its leaves during the months of winter. A mature tree of Persimmon can grow up to 15 meters.

18 Feb

Jabuticaba, The Brazilian Grape Tree

Myrciaria Cauliflora is a beautiful and unusual tree from the family of Myrtaceae. Native to tropical climate of Brazil, the tree is commonly known as Jabuticaba and usually grown for its grape-like purple fruits. Though a bit slow growing, Jabuticaba makes a nice ornamental tree for small gardens.

Jabuticaba, The Grape Tree

Jabuticaba, The Grape Tree, Image by Roberto Antonio

From a horticulturist’s point of view, Jabuticaba is quite unusual tree because of its habit of producing flowers and fruits on its trunk. A healthy and well-kept tree would produce abundance of beautiful white flowers on its trunk. These flowers are followed by fruits that cover the entire trunk and branches of the tree.

Jabuticaba tree would grow as a medium sized tree (up to 6 or 7 meters tall). Small, salmon-green leaves of the tree emit a typical fragrance that attracts birds and bees. The fruit is spherical with sweet and soft pulp. However, it has a short shelf life and is usually consumed locally as ripe fruit or preserved as jam, jelly or liquor. Because of its grape-like fruit, Jabuticaba is also described as Brazilian Grape Tree.

Jabuticaba Flower

Jabuticaba Flower, Image by Cristiano Oliveira

Jabuticaba can be grown easily is a well-drained and preferably acidic soil. It requires moderate temperatures, regular watering and full sun to flourish well.

13 Feb

Cussonia – The Cabbage Tree of Africa

Cussonia is a genus of ornamental trees from South Africa and Madagascar. These drought tolerant trees make excellent accent plants with a crown of lovely green foliage. Most species of Cussonia grow as solitary trees forming a slender and twisted trunks crowned by long and glossy leaves. This unique growing habit gives these trees the name of ‘Cabbage Tree’.

Cussonia, The Cabbage Tree

Cussonia, The Cabbage Tree, Image by Louisa Billeter

Most species of Cussonia grow quickly and last long. Average height of Cabbage Tree can be 8 to 12 meters. Leaves are evergreen and are used as fodder. Small, stalked flowers appear in Spring or early Summer followed by fleshy fruits. Nectar produced by Cussonia trees attracts bees, wasps, birds and other pollinating insects.

Cabbage Tree is grows easily from seeds and does not require much care. Most species resist drought and prefer a sunny spot to grow. Protect them from frost and grow in a well-drained and slightly rich soil.

Popular species include:

Cussonia Spicata – Fast growing, evergreen tree that grows up to 10 meters and produces greenish flowers in summer.

Cussonia Paniculata – Grows as a tall (up to 6 meters), slender and twisting tree. Leaves are long and waxy. Small green or crème flowers appear in dense spikes.

12 Feb

Aromatic Flowering Shrub: Cistus Ladanifer

Cistus is a genus of evergreen flowering shrubs from the Mediterranean climates. Known for their colorful and variety of flowers, Cistus are excellent addition to any garden where they offer a long flowering spell in early summer. Originally growing is rocky plains and mountains, these colorful flowering shrubs are commonly known as Rock Rose because of their ability to grow in poor rocky soil and resemblance of flowers to old-fashioned single rose flowers.

Cistus Ladanifer, The Rock Rose Shrub

Cistus Ladanifer, Image by Joan Simon (flickr)

There are more than 20 species of Cistus, all of them are evergreen shrubs ranging from 1.5 to 2 meters in height. Flowers of Cistus have 5 showy petals of purple, pink, white or cream colors. A number of hybrids and cultivars are also available; however, the most popular of these flowering shrubs is Cistus Ladanifer. It is grown for ornamental purposes and to extract aromatic material, Labdanum, which is naturally found in the leaves of Cistus Ladanifer. Ladbanum is commercially sold and is used as an important ingredient in several perfumes.  The plant is characterized by its white flowers with a yellow center and maroon spots at the base.

Most species of Cistus can be grown easily from seeds. These flowering shrubs prefer a sunny spot where they receive average water and are protected from frost.