31 Jul

Lovely Flowering Shrub for Sandy Soil: Lechenaultia biloba

Lechenaultia biloba is an Australian native plant where it is grown for its brilliant and colorful flowers. Though not found in common cultivation, the plant makes an excellent choice for rock gardens and landscape designs in sandy soil.

Lechenaultia biloba

Lechenaultia biloba/ Image by Margaret Donald

As an ornamental plant, Lechenaultia biloba offers attractive flowers of blue, yellow, red and orange colors. Since it comes from Western Australia, the plant is quite capable of enduring spells of drought and neglect.

Gardeners can use Lechenaultia biloba  as an ornamental dwarf shrub that can be easily pruned to keep it in shape. It makes an excellent choice for growing in containers or along pathways.

When not in bloom, Lechenaultia biloba looks attractive because of its grey-green fleshy leaves. The plant can be propagated from cuttings. For successful cultivation, it should be provided with bright sunlight and moderate watering in a well-drained soil.

Lechenaultia biloba is commonly known as Blue Lechenaultia.

31 Jul

Beautiful Shade Tree for Tropical Climate: Smodingium argutum

If you are looking for an easy-to-grow and maintain shade tree for tropical climate, consider Smodingium argutum. It is an attractive foliage tree with splash of fresh green leaves with fine cuts. Similar to Rhus, in appearance and habits, Smodingium argutum makes an excellent tree for small as well as large landscapes. The plant usually grows quickly when grown tropical climates where it only requires moderate watering and bright sunlight.

Smodingium argutum is commonly known as African poison ivy, because of the poisonous milky sap that emits from its damaged trunk or branches.

Smodingium argutum

Smodingium argutum

The foliage of Smodingium argutum changes interesting colors in autumn and turns fresh green in spring and summer. Though not conspicuous, spray of creamy-green flowers appears in summer.

Smodingium argutum can be grown in a well-drained soil and requires care in initial years. Mature plants can survive a variety of weather conditions and growing conditions. However, size of the plant may vary diversely according to the growing conditions. You may find Smodingium argutum growing as a shrub or as a tree as tall as 5 meters.

Smodingium argutum originally belongs to South Africa from where it has spread to many tropical climates across the globe.

17 Jul

How to attract birds, butterflies and bees to your garden

Birds, butterflies and bees rely on trees and plants for food and shelter. With a thoughtful design and the right mix of plants you can not only attract birds, bees and butterflies to your garden but also make sure that they keep coming back to your garden.

Birds source their food from native plants and trees. Some birds prefer seeds, some like fruits and berries, and some are attracted to insects. Therefore it is important to plant the right mix of plants and trees to attract a variety of birds. Birds also need safe nesting places. So you should consider growing plants and trees that provide shelter from environment and pets.

how to attract birds, bees and butterflies to your garden

If you are not already growing native plants in your garden, consider including native species. They are not only low on maintenance but a reliable source of food for birds. It is a good idea to grow a mix of native plants for different seasons so that you can offer food and seeds to the birds throughout the year.

To supplement plants and trees, you can also add a birdfeeder in your garden to attract  seed-loving birds. Placing a water pot during hot months of the year is also a good idea.

Birdfeeder

Weather Proof Bird Feeder (Buy online)

If you are more interested in attracting butterflies to your garden, grow nectar producing plants and shrubs. Like birds, butterflies also need water and protection from environment so placing fresh water, and butterfly boxes in the garden will attract more butterflies and bring them back throughout the year.

To attract bees to your garden, make sure you create a congenial environment for them. Bees need not only nectar but also a sheltered place to nest. Some species nest in the ground. Using a lot of mulch in your garden will be a big deterrent. Make sure that you have loose ground where these species can rest undisturbed and make their home. Some species like to nest inside deadwood. Some bees rest inside hollow stems. When you cut back shrubs and plants in the fall season, make sure that you cutback shrubs and plants in the fall, make sure you leave behind approximately a foot-long length of hollow stems. Fallen wood and old wooden fence also provide a safe nesting place for bees in your garden. You can also create a safe nesting place for bees by bundling together hollow stems and hanging them in you garden.

Top tips for attracting birds, butterflies and bees to your garden

  • Avoid pesticides. If you really need to use a pesticide, use an organic pesticide.
  • Plant a variety of flowering plants, shrubs, trees and bushes so that your garden has food and shelter in all seasons.
  • If you have pets, make sure that birdfeeders and butterfly boxes are out of their reach.
  • Choose a range of flowering shrubs, annuals and perennials of a variety of size and color to attract more and more wildlife.
  • Place water pots in a sheltered and safe place for birds and butterflies especially during summer.

Plants that attract birds, bees and butterflies

Here is a list of common plants that attract birds, bees butterflies.

Annuals

  • Cleome hassleriana
  • Cosmos
  • Nicotiana
  • Mirabilis jalapa
  • Fuchsia
  • Geranium
  • Lantana
  • Marigold
  • Nasturtium
  • Pansy
  • Petunia
  • Salvia splendens
  • Lathyrus odoratus
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia

Perennials

  • Agastache
  • Allium
  • Apple
  • Monarda
  • Campanula
  • Rudbeckia
  • Liatris
  • Blueberry
  • Aquilegia
  • Echinacea
  • Coreoposis
  • Dahlia
  • Dianthus
  • Digitalis
  • Phlox paniculata
  • Echinops ritro
  • Alcea rosea
  • Hosta
  • Lavandula
  • Pyrus communis
  • Sedum
  • Strawberry

Trees and Shrubs

16 Jul

Small and Lovely: Fittonia, the Mosaic Plant

Fittonia is a small genus of low-growing perennials that are usually grown for their lovely and colorful foliage. These small plants come from tropical rainforest of the South America where they grow under shade and receive higher level of moisture. Therefore, it is important to imitate the same growing conditions when growing as houseplants. Buy Fittonia online

Fittonia, the Mosaic plant

Fittonia, the Mosaic plant/ Image by Brandon Shea

In colder climates, Fittonias can be grown in small greenhouses whereas in hotter climates, they will do well indoors.

Commonly known as Mosaic Plants, most species of Fittonia are characterized by showy and colorful foliage of oval shape. The lush green leaves are made prominent by white, silver or pink veins. These colorful plants can be grown as creeping ground covers or small trailing plants that require shaded spot, regular watering, and average temperature of 70 F.

Propagation is easy from leaf-tip cutting. The most popular and commonly available species is Fittonia argyroneura which offers a number of lovely verities including: Mini White, Red Anne, Superba, Titanic and White Anne.

08 Jul

Dwarf, Lovely and Hardy Flowering Plants: Romulea

Romulea is a genus of dwarf plants known for their attractive and colorful flowers. These excellent bloomers belong to South Africa, parts of Europe and the Mediterranean region where they grow in wild and bloom in fall and early spring.

Most species of Romulea are quite easy to grow from seeds. These lovely bloomers are low-maintenance plants that require a sunny exposure and a well-drained soil. In colder climates, Romulea can be grown successfully in a greenhouse where they are protected from long spells of cold.

Romulea are specially known for their lovely flowers that have all the shades of violet, lavender, white, orange, yellow and pink.

Romulea ligustica

Romulea ligustica / Image by bathyporeia (flickr)

Some popular species of Romulea include: Romulea obscura (pink flowers), R. pearsonii (yellow flowers), R. rosea (magenta flowers), R. saldanhensis (golden-yellow flowers) and Romulea setifolia (peach flowers).

Romulea can be propagated by dividing rhizomes. They look best when grown in containers or in rock gardens.