30 Jul

Lovely Shrub for Gardens: Myrtus communis (Myrtle)

Today’s featured plant is Myrtus communis – an excellent ornamental shrub from the Mediterranean regions of the world. Commonly known as Myrtle or Greek myrtle, this beautiful shrub has been in cultivation as long as the days of ancient Roman Empire where it was an essential garden element. Today, Myrtle is known for its beautiful and fragrant foliage.

Myrtus communis

Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Image by Tim Waters

Myrtus communis has a bushy growth. The plant produces glossy green leaves that emit strong fragrance when crushed.  Summer is the time of full bloom when small clusters of small fluffy flowers are borne on Myrtle – making it the center of attraction.

Myrtus communis is good for containers as well as landscape plant. When grown in containers, it serves as a nice accent plant for patios. Besides its bushy growth, Myrtus communis can be easily pruned to any shape. That is why it is often used in designing topiary designs.

Myrtle is easy to grow as it does not have any special requirement. The plant requires a regular soil mix, full to partial sun, and moderate watering. In fact, it can be grown as a drought tolerant plant in rock gardens or xeriscapes.

Myrtus communis can be propagated from cuttings.

24 Jul

My Garden Accessories Wishlist

Now that the month of fasting starts, I really do not get enough time and energy to attend to my garden regularly. My pastime these days is shopping accessories for my garden – umm… not shopping – in fact building my garden accessories wishlist.

I do not have a big garden; in fact, I have a small rooftop garden (20×30 square feet) that accommodates my collection of Agaves, Howarthias, Aloes and other succulents. I am planning to spice up the place with some decorative objects, some garden furniture and a couple of practical garden accessories.

Here goes my garden accessories wishlist for 2012:

Myto Chair: This is the top thing in my wishlist. I love this lightweight chair because of its ergonomic design. Made from recyclable material, Myto Chair can be easily stalked up and moved. So, this is possibly the best garden furniture that I can add to my small garden.

Myto Chair

Halley Solar Lamp – I just love thing solar lamp because it can be easily configured in different styles and direction. It is lightweight, portable and stylish.

Halley Solar Lamp

Wingspaces Timelapse Camera – I do not get much time to attend to my garden (half an hour before leaving for work in the morning and about an hour at night). So I often miss my blooming succulents (they usually bloom in the afternoon). This nifty and waterproof timelapse camera can take photos automatically for creating a timelapse movie of moments that I often miss – a practical garden accessory indeed.

Timelapse Garden Camera

Relaxing Hammock – I do not have sufficient space for this relaxing hammock for I seriously want this in my garden. 😛

Relaxing Hammock

Outdoor Thermometer/Humidity Gauge – May be this should be at the top of my garden accessories wishlist. It measures temperature and humidity (with daily highs and lows) on a digital display.

Acurite Humidity Monitor

Wheelbarrow Set – With changing seasons and new plants coming in, I often have to move my plants. They are either planted in large containers (old Agaves, Yuccas and some cacti) and many of the plants (Haworthias etc.) are in small pots. Thus moving them around is really tiresome. This lightweight and sturdy wheelbarrow would be a very practical garden accessory.

Wheelbarrow

23 Jul

Magnolia grandiflora, Lovely Flowering Tree for Warm Climates

Magnolia is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen trees that are popular for their beautiful and scented flowers. This is also one of the longest surviving trees on the planet dating back to about 95 million years ago, that is why mention of Magnolia is found in ancient as well as modern culture and literature. Long before it was introduced in horticulture, Magnolia has been used in China and Japan in traditional medicine.

The genus primarily belongs to Southeast Asia but grows natively in many parts of the world including the Americas and West Indies.

Magnolia Tree

Magnolia Tree, Image by serenithyme(flickr)

Today, Magnolia is popular among horticulturists and gardeners as an excellent flowering tree. The waxy flowers are known for their beautiful shape and colors and intoxicating fragrance. That is why, it has also been extensively hybridized to produce various new varieties with a broad range of colorful flowers. The most popular and widely cultivated species is Magnolia grandiflora which is an evergreen species with large leathery leaves and magnificent flowers. The plant can grow up to 6 meters in cultivation and as tall as 30 meters in wild. The foliage and flowers vary greatly according to the growing conditions. The size of leaves, flowers and the tree itself depends on the conditions of light, water and soil.

Popular Varieties of Magnolia grandiflora

A number of popular cultivars of Magnolia grandiflora are also commercially available. These include:

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Goliath’ – Nice flowering tree with bushy growth and extended flowering season.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ – Fast growing tree with green, leathery leaves. Flowers are large and strongly scented.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ – A dwarf and slow growing cultivar with a columnar shape which reaches around 4.25 m, prolonged flowering cycle in warmer climate.

Generally, Magnolias prefer fertile and slightly acidic soil, plenty of water and good exposure to sunlight. Young plants of Magnolia need protection from strong winds.

21 Jul

Pisonia umbellifera, the Bird Catcher Tree

Pisonia is a genus of shrubs and small trees suitable for gardens as a specimen plant. The plant is grown for its foliage though is known for its sticky fruits that often trap insects and small birds – this giving it its common name – Bird Cather Tree.

Pisonia umbellifera Variegata

Pisonia umbellifera 'Variegata', Image by Joel Abroad

Pisonia is majorly represented by variegated variety of Pisonia umbellifera. It grows as a small tree (up to 4 meters) and produces fresh green leaves with blotches of cream color. The beautiful foliage of Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’ makes it a nice ornamental plant for gardens. The plant is evergreen and produces clusters of yellow flowers in early summer.

Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’ is sensitive to cold and frost, thus grown as greenhouse plant in colder climates. In its native climate of Indo-Pacific region it grows as evergreen plant which is propagated from stems cutiings. Pisonia umbellifera ‘Variegata’ requires partial shade and moderate water.

19 Jul

Sedum album, the Coral Carpet

Sedum album or Coral Carpet is a low-growing and very attractive plant for containers as well as a mat-forming ground cover. The plant is known for its small, mossy and succulent foliage that makes this plant look like coral from the oceans. Sedum album or Coral Carpet makes an excellent ground cover because of its shiny and dark-green leaves that turn red in winter. Since it is frost hardy, it is used in rock gardens, containers or garden landscapes for a year-round effect.

Sedum album, Coral Carpet

Sedum album (Coral Carpet), Image by William Kirby

Sedum album spreads horizontally and effectively covers empty areas with its succulent growth and tiny, star-shaped flowers of white or pinkish color. Flowers usually appear in midsummer.

Sedum album is a good plant for a beginner’s collection. It only requires bright sunlight, and loamy but well-drained soil. Water moderately in summer but only occasionally in winter when it turns red. New plants can be produced from leaves that root easily and grow into small plants. When grown in containers, repot your plant every other year in spring.

18 Jul

Antigonon leptopus, the Coral Vine

Antigonon is a small genus of creeping vines grown for their lovely pink flowers that appear in midsummer till fall. The most popular plant from this genus is Antigonon leptopus that comes from Mexico and Central America and is commercially known as Coral Vine or Mexican Creeper.

Antigonon leptopus, the Coral Vine

Antigonon leptopus (Coral Vine), Image by Tatiana Gerus

Antigonon leptopus is a fast growing vine that can climb supporting walls, pergolas or trees and produces small clusters of pink flowers. Ideal for growing in gardens, against walls, or over pergolas, Antigonon leptopus grows up to 40 feet. Heart-shaped leaves and vigorous growth of tendrils makes it easy for this creeping vine to cover empty spaces very quickly.

Antigonon leptopus requires full to partial sun, regular watering and a loamy soil in which it can establish its tuberous roots.

Antigonon leptopus can be propagated from seeds or cuttings.

16 Jul

Quick Tip # 3: Controlling Ants and Scale Insect

Scale appears as hard ovals of brown color on woody stems or underside of leaves and damage plants by sucking essential sap. Scale is hard to combat when it reaches it maturity. Hence it is important to get rid of it at early stage. Scale on small plants can be removed by brushing with an old tooth brush. Large plants can be sprayed with methylated spirit (50% diluted with water). Spray every ten days until scale is completely removed.

Ants are majorly responsible for the growth of scales. Therefore, it is important to combat ants as well. An easy way of dealing ants is introducing small saucers (like jam jar tops) filled with 1 tablespoon of borax with 4 tablespoons of sugar diluted in 250 ml of warm water . This solution would attract ants that would consume the liquid and then go back to die in their nests.

15 Jul

Beautiful Flowering Plant for Landscapes, Alcea rosea (Hollyhock)

If you are looking for an easy to grow, hardy and rich flowering plant for your garden landscape, consider Alcea rosea. Commonly described as Hollyhock, a number of tall and dwarf varieties are popular among gardeners – majorly because of the variety of colorful flowers that ranges from beautiful shades of pink, white, maroon, purple, yellow and black.

Alcea rosea, Hollyhock

Alcea rosea (Hollyhock), Image by Charles Roffey

Hollyhocks make excellent ornamental houseplants because they do not require special care or climate. They can grow in ordinary soil mix under full or partial sun. These drought tolerant plants can be used to fill uncultivated spaces where they would grow up to 3 meters or more as biennial plants to produce showy flowers in the second year. Alcea rosea produces vigorous tap roots and should not be grown with plants that cannot compete for food and moisture. Hollyhock grows best when cultivated separately in background of landscape design or places where ordinary plants cannot be grown.

Alcea rosea originally comes from Mediterranean and tropical climates of Asia, thus it requires bright sunlight and moderate watering. Long stalks of flowers need to be protected from strong winds. Thus, Alcea rosea is grown against walls or in locations where they are not directly affected by strong winds or they should be provided with support of staking. Several dwarf species of Alcea rosea are also available that can be grown in windy conditions.

Alcea rosea can be propagated easily from seeds.

11 Jul

How to grow moisture loving plants in dry summer

If you are living in a region where summer is long, hot and dry, growing moisture loving plants like ferns or air plants can be a bit tricky. However, there are several quick and easy ways to maintain appropriate level of humidity for your plants and keep them healthy and happy in hot and dry summer.

Summer in the region where I live is harsh and dry (reaching 104 – 116 ◦F) but I still manage to keep several moisture loving plants including Tillandsias that require higher level of moisture.

The following are some of the techniques that I use to retain humidity for my moisture loving plants:

Group moisture loving plants – Grouping plants with similar requirements tightly creates a micro climate for these plants. This micro climate can retain most of the moisture lost due to evaporation from soil and leaves of these plants. Most plants, when grouped together, would respond positively and grow healthier in their micro climate.

Mist them regularly – Plants that are sensitive to hot and dry climate benefit from regular misting. I use spray bottle to mist sensitive plants several times a day. Always avoid misting flowers while spraying your plants.

Use self-watering pots – This is quite easy and time-saving technique. If you are too busy to attend to your moisture loving plants, transfer them self-watering pots. These pots have attached water reservoirs, which helps creating a humid climate around the plant.

Moisture Loving Plants

Image by Hawkoffire (flickr)

Place them in bathroom – Bathroom is usually the most humid room in the house. During long spells of hot and dry summer, I place my air plants in bathroom where they benefit from higher level of moisture.

Use non-porous pots – Most of my plants are potted in terracotta pots, however, plants that require humidity and moist soil are grown in plastic pots. This is an easy way to slow down evaporation process and keep the soil moist.

Use moisture retaining shell – If it is not possible to move or group your container plants together, an effective way of retaining moisture is placing the container inside a bigger container and then filling the outer ‘shell’ with coco peat or peat moss. Now every time you water your plants, add some water in the outer shell. The peat would retain moisture and maintain good level of moisture for your moisture loving plants.