31 Oct

Lovely Flowering Shrub: Chaenomeles speciosa, the Japanese quince

Chaenomeles speciosa, commonly known as Japanese quince, is a beautiful flowering shrub from the family of Rose. Native to China and Japan, Japanese quince is a popular plant in horticulture. It is often used for forming hedges, screens, and garden borders.

Chaenomeles speciosa

Chaenomeles speciosa/ Image by Etringita (flickr)

Japanese quince grows as a dense and broad flowering shrub that grows 6-10 feet tall and wide. This lovely shrub is known for its beautiful cup-shaped flowers that appear in late winter and early spring. Flowers are usually red, pink or white. Flowering is followed by formation of berry-like fruits called quince.

Japanese quince growing in a container

Japanese quince growing in a container/ Image by Cpike55151 (flickr)

Japanese quince moderate watering and a well-drained soil. This shrub loves bright sunlight and blooms profusely when provided with ample sunlight. The plant can be propagated easily from cutting.

Besides Chaenomeles speciosa, a number of cultivars are also grown for their beautiful flowers. Popular varieties include:

Japanese quince

Japanese quince/ Image by kuromeri (flickr)

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Cameo’  produces double flowers of pink colors. The plant grows as a low growing shrub (4′ to 5′ tall) with bright green foliage and few thorns.

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Contorta’ is characterized by twisted stems and lovely  white flowers.

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Texas Scarlet’ is another low-growing plant (to 4′ tall) with few thorns. Flowers are bright red.

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Toyo-Nishiki’ is a rather unusual form with red, pink and white flowers in the same flower cluster.

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Geisha Girl’ is a compact deciduous shrub with semi-double salmon-pink flowers borne on leafless branches in early spring.

30 Oct

A beginner’s guide to growing a Gardenia Bonsai: 4 Amazing Tips To Grow One

A lot of people love to grow and cultivate gardenia bonsais because of their elegant appeal, amazingly beautiful flowers and remarkable fragrance. The shrub is known for its delicate white flowers and glossy green leaves and because of that it’s used in many modern homes in order to complete their look. The gardenia bonsai can be grown outdoors in zones seven to nine, but you may also consider it as a houseplant until the summer months. When doing so, you’ll easily be able to protect it from temperatures that are harmful to its health. With that in mind, below we’re going to take a closer look at A beginner’s guide to growing a Gardenia Bonsai.

Temperature and location

To enhance flower growth and foliage, a gardenia bonsai needs to be exposed to diffused light or direct light up to 4 hours per day. During its active growing season you should expose it to temperatures between seventy and eighty five degrees Fahrenheit, which are basically the temperatures between spring and fall. During wintertime though, you’ll need to take greater care of and expose it to temperatures that will never go below forty five degrees Fahrenheit. Also, since gardenia bonsais require extra humidity, you should place yours next to a tray filled with pebbles and water or next to other leafy shrubs.

Watering the Bonsai

You should make it a point to keep the soil moist, but without being soggy. In the warmer seasons though, you’ll need to consider watering the bonsai every day but how will you determine if you’ll need to water it or not? Well, that’s simple and all you need to do is check the color and feel of the soil’s surface. Once it dries up, the soil will tend to have a light color and when touching the surface, it will feel a bit dry.

The gardenia bonsai should be placed in a shallow dish with around two inches of water and remember that it’s important to allow it to soak moisture when the soil starts to look and feel moist or for a minimum of twenty minutes. However, if the soil dries out completely, you’ll just need to immerse the pot in water for maybe five minutes until the soil is thoroughly wet.

Pruning the Gardenia Bonsai

To maintain the bonsai’s bushy appearance in the spring, you may want to cut its unbranched and long growths. It’s important to keep the cut above the leave joint when pruning and since it has flower buds that grow at the end of its branches, be sure you take extra care so you don’t pinch out all of them. After the bonsai has flowered, you may go ahead with enhancing the shape of your plant by pruning these branches.

Fertilizing Your Gardenia Bonsai Tree

From the beginning of spring through fall, it’s recommended you’ll use half strength acid type fertilizer once a month. Some of the leaves may change their color and turn yellow with green veins so if this happens, then you improve their appearance by applying iron chelate. Lastly, you should remember that gardenia flower buds will likely drop off before they even start blooming. There are many factors which can cause this to happen and some of them include:

  1. Premature bud drop
  2. Sudden temperature changes
  3. Night temperatures exceeding seventy degrees
  4. Insufficient amount of light
  5. Under watering

As you can see, by following the tips of A beginner’s guide to growing a Gardenia Bonsai you’ll easily be able to grow a Gardenia Bonsai that will not only look wonderful, but at the same time offer your room or the space in which you’ll place it in a new and refreshing feel.

This guest post is written by Mauricio Greene. He is a bonsai expert and runs the site Bonsai Tree care. Mauricio aims to create a community that cares and cultivates these amazing plants, and importantly, appreciates the beauty and tranquility they provide.

30 Oct

Frugal Gardening Techniques With Pool Liners and Covers

You’ve managed to take down that unused above-ground pool, and you now want to use that reclaimed space for a frugal garden spot. Before you throw all the scraps and pieces into the dumpster, hold back on discarding the pool liner. The pool liner and matching pool cover are made of yards of vinyl fabric, which are perfect for frugal gardening upcycling techniques. Depending on the size of your yard, waterproof landscape fabric can cost up to $100 or more (as discovered while browsing Lowes.com), and this is just one of the uses for this free resource.

Weed Barrier

Weed Barrier

Image by Beachbums3 (Flickr)

Savvy gardeners lay a weed barrier, also called landscape fabric, on top of the soil after planting seeds and seedlings in the spring. This waterproof barrier helps to hold moisture in the soil while shading out any weed seeds that may sprout. Lay the pool liner flat and cut out 6-inch holes where the seedlings will grow. Water can reach the soil through these holes when you water the plants. Put in your bushes and other landscaping plants, and then cover the liner with an attractive layer of wood chips, as Doug Green’s Garden suggests.


Small Garden Pond

Image by Biofilter tech (Wikimwedia Commons)

A cool, natural-looking pond is a big asset to any landscaping decor, adding curb appeal as well as a relaxing view. Homemade ponds are very simple to create, and pool liners make ideal pond liners. As ThisOldHouse.com suggests, dig the pond hole, measure and cut the liner to fit, lay the liner in the bottom and fill it with water. Add rocks around the edge to cover the plastic and place a fountain and some aquatic plants at one end of the pond for a cool addition.

Protect From Frost

Frosted Plants

Image by Peupleloup (Flickr)

If you live in a southern state and a frost threatens, or if your frost is coming early in the north, you probably have vegetable plants with food that’s still not ripe. You can save the harvest by creating a barrier between the plants and the outside air. A thinner layer of plastic will do for this job, so save the pool cover for this time of year. If you don’t have one to recycle, you can find pool covers online for much cheaper than a similar amount of rolled plastic. Wrap the liner around the tomato cages, or place a stake in the middle of some plants and create a small tent for shorter peppers and the like. The heat from the soil will be just enough to keep the plants from freezing overnight. As The Garden Helper recommends, remove the plastic in the morning when the frost melts, and replace it at night again when needed.


Fallen Leaves

Image by Nate Steiner (Flickr)

Whether it’s leaves in the fall, fallen twigs in the spring, or piles of soil when double-digging, every gardener has a large job of carrying to do once in a while. Instead of spending money on a wheelbarrow, use a pool liner or cover to do the heavy lifting. Lay out a length of the plastic cloth and place the materials on top. Grab one end and pull the liner to where you need to go. The slick vinyl surface of the pool liner will slide easily over grass or gravel, making for a simple way to transport garden items.

22 Oct

Beautiful Flowering Plants for Shady Conditions: Clivia

Clivia is a small genus of flowering plants from South Africa. Grown as excellent flowering plants for shady spots, most species of Clivia also server as nice pot plants for shady patios and some indoor situations. These lovely bloomers are characterized by strap-like leaves and bell-shaped flowers that grown on a prominent stalk. Flowers of Clivia vary in colors from yellow through orange to red.

Clivias are typically forest undergrowth plants. They thrive in shady and rather dry conditions. In their native climate, they receive summer rainfall and almost completely dry winters. The same conditions can be imitated by watering them thoroughly in warmer months and then providing them barely sufficient water in winter. Excessive moisture rots these plants whereas long spells of drought hamper the growth of roots.

Clivia miniata

Clivia miniata/ Image by Maja Dumat

Most species of Clivia will benefit from slightly acidic soil and filtered sunlight. Popular species of Clivia include:

Clivia miniata: Commonly known as Bush lily, Clivia miniata grows up to 45 cm and produces flowers of orange, red, or yellow colors. Flower often emit slight but sweet fragrance.

Clivia nobilis closely resembles C. miniata but produces smaller drooping flowers.

20 Oct

Beautiful Flowering Shrubs and Trees: Tamarix

Tamarix is a genus of flowering shrubs and trees from arid regions of Africa and Eurasia but widely spread in most parts of the world. Known for their feathery flowers, most species of Tamarix are grown as drought-tolerant ornamental plants in gardens and landscapes.

Tamarix shrub

Tamarix/ Image by Matthijs Quaijtaal (flickr)

Gardeners often plant these plants and ornamental shrubs in gardens or as shade trees in landscapes. Most species of Tamarix produce slender stem and branches that grow scale-like leaves. Major attraction of Tamarix is from spring to fall when these plants produce feathery flowers of pink or white color. These lovely flowers appear is dense masses at the tips of slender branches. When not in bloom, Tamarix server as good plants for hedges or screens.

Because of their ability to withstand long spells of drought, Tamarix are easy to maintain. They are grown from seeds and cuttings and thrive easily in saline soils. Most species of Tamarix would grow well under full sun and require moderate watering.

Popular species of Tamarix include:

Tamarix hispida, commonly known as Kashgar tamarisk, is known for its vigorous growth and beautiful pink flowers.

Tamarix ramosissima, usually described as Saltcedar, has shrubby growth. It can be grown in poor and saline soils. Under preferable conditions, this plants can become seriously invasive.

18 Oct

Growing Helianthus, the Sunflower, in Landscape and Gardens

Helianthus, commonly known as Sunflower, is a genus of lovely and prolific flowering plants. These lovely bloomers are easily grown in almost any soil and make excellent flowering plants in gardens and landscapes. Most species of Helianthus are annuals and perennials growing from 2 to 4 meters. Helianthus is typically characterized by stout, hairy and seldom branching stem. Each stem has a terminal flower head bearing showy and fairly large-sized flowers.

Helianthus annuus

Helianthus annuus/ Image by Margrit (flickr)

Because of their columnar growth, bright flowers, and easy maintenance, many species of Helianthus have become popular flowering plants in many parts of the world. These species vary in height, and size and color of the flower.

Popular garden species of Helianthus include:

Helianthus annuus or common Sunflower: This is a branching annual growing up to 3 meters. The plant is characterized by coarse leaves and large yellow flowers. The Spanish name ‘annuus’ is because of the movement of flower head along with the sun. It actually follow the sun each day, facing eastward in the morning, westward at sunset.

Helianthus tuberosus is another popular plant from this genus. Unlike its cousins, this lovely bloomer produces smaller flowers on delicate stems. The tubers are edible and are usually known as Jerusalem artichoke.

Helianthus tuberosus

Helianthus tuberosus/ Image by Kingsbrae Garden (flickr)

Helianthus decapetalus ‘Multiflorus’ is popular because of its tufted flowers. This perennial blooms in summer and bears golden-yellow flowers.

Other popular species include: H. salicifolius, H. divaricatus and Helianthus debilis.


Sunflower/ Image by Maja Dumat (flickr)

Most species of Helianthus easily grown in average, moist and well-drained soil under full sun. Propagation is done from seeds or divisions. Regular feeding and watering encourage prolific flowering.

10 Oct

Ensete ventricosum: The Abyssinian Banana

Today’s featured plant is Ensete ventricosum. It is a large, evergreen perennial plant known for its giant and lush green leaves. Commonly known as Ethiopian Banana, false banana or sometimes as Abyssinian Banana, Ensete ventricosum is widely grown as an ornamental plant for gardens and landscapes.

Ensete ventricosum

Ensete ventricosum/ Image by Gardening in a Minute (flickr)

Ensete ventricosum grows up to 6 meters and produces large banana-like leaf blades. The stout trunk of the plant is formed by overlapping leaf-bases. The ornamental value of Ensete ventricosum is because of the texture and lush green colors of the leaves. Leaves that usually up to 5 meters have smooth texture and a contrasting midrib of salmon color.

Because of the fast growth rate and easy maintenance in temperate climates, Ensete ventricosum is a favourite landscape plant among gardeners and horticulturists. Because of its big size, the plant requires plenty of room to grow to its full potential. A healthy and mature plant makes an excellent specimen that instantly grabs attention. Besides, its ornamental value, Ensete ventricosum is also grown as fodder plant in Africa.

Ensete ventricosum flowers once and then dies. The flower is actually a huge bunch of 2 to 3 meters that hangs like a pendant. The bunch consists of maroon bracts that surround the actual flower.

Ensete ventricosum can be grown easily from seeds. The plant requires generous watering, plenty of sunlight, and protection from heavy frost.

Another popular species in the genus of Ensete is Ensete maurelii (Red Abyssinian Banana). It is a beautiful ornamental plant that grows up to 10 – 20 feet produces beautiful foliage of green and maroon shades. Because of its relatively smaller size, Ensete maurelii can be grown in large containers too.