15 May

How to Care for Amaryllis in Your Garden

Amaryllis are beautiful flowers that, if cared for correctly, will bloom year after year. They have a magnificent, exotic appearance and are best known for featuring red or red and white blooms. Although they do come in other colors such as purple, pink and yellow and some varieties are even multicolored. These colorful flowers are grown from bulbs and Amaryllis is the more popular name for what is actually the Hippeastrum bulb.

Amaryllis are easy to plant and of all the flowering bulbs, they are the easiest to bring to bloom. While they are ideal for any garden, they also make fantastic houseplants and have become popular gifts at Christmas because of this.

Amaryllis

So, you have your Amaryllis bulb, now what do you do…?

Ideally you will plant it between October and January, they will then flower from winter to spring – generally within six weeks of planting. Amaryllis bulbs are tender and need warmth to grow therefore it is best to plant them in pots – in nutritious compost – and start them indoors, to avoid the frost. The Amaryllis should be grown in a pot only slightly bigger than the bulb itself, with two-thirds of the bulb remaining above the surface.

You should begin to water sparingly – then, as the new leaves develop, start watering regularly avoiding excessive watering while not letting the compost dry out.

Amaryllis should be placed in full sun – they will grow in light shade but they tend to develop better in brighter light – but remember to turn the pot regularly to avoid the stalk growing towards the light. You should feed your amaryllis bulb every few weeks with a balanced fertilizer and stake larger flowers as they start to grow.

Once the flowers on the initial stem have faded, cut the stem back to the bulb and another should grow and flower.

So, when can you move Amaryllis into the garden?

Firstly, as soon as the plant starts flowering it should be moved to a cooler spot to help extend the flowering period. Then, in the summer, once the last of the frost has passed, it can be moved outside. When choosing where to place it in the garden remember that Amaryllis should not be in intense sunlight, instead look for a semi-shaded position.

Once outside you need to be aware of and on the look out for slugs and snails! Similarly, if you find that your plant is flowering this could be down to growing in conditions that are too shady, or under-watering during the previous summer. But, this could also be due to attack from fungal disease or bulb pests.

You may be tempted to start pruning but you don’t need to do this until the leaves turn yellow (around late September) – then you can cut them back to around two inches from the top of the bulb. Your Amaryllis will need re-potting every two to three years in January to March – after flowering.

Amaryllis will be a great addition to any garden and if you care for them properly, you will be able to enjoy their pretty, colorful flowers for months and years to come.

03 Jul

Growing Herbs and Vegetables in Containers

Every day I hear something from the news or on social media talking about the benefits of fresh herbs and vegetables – even if it’s just that using them makes food taste better. But what if you don’t have the space for a big garden, or a convenient farmer’s market? Container gardens are becoming more and more popular, allowing you to grow fresh herbs and veggies on your porch or deck, so that the freshest produce is right outside your door!

Benefits of Container Gardening

The benefits of container gardening are many and varied, including convenience, soil to kitchen control over the produce you serve your family, enhancing your outdoor space and the cost-effectiveness of growing your own produce compared with buying it at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. In addition, growing your garden in containers allows you the ultimate flexibility in positioning for the best sunlight for any given time of year and creates an environment where any potential problems, like fungi and other plant diseases will not spread to the rest of your garden.

Aloe Test Garden

Challenges of Container Gardening

Container gardens can be a bit of a challenge because they rely on the gardener for all nutrients – meaning you’re responsible for making sure each container is getting the proper amount of nutrients, water and sunlight that the plant inside it requires, which can vary significantly. You may need to water certain plants twice a day in the hotter summer months, but that much water could kill the plant in a different container. But as long as you understand the differences in what the plants in your garden need, this is a challenge easily overcome. There are several great resources that can tell you about the care your specific herbs and vegetables will need. My favorites are the Garden Guides and AZ Master Gardener Manual pages.

Do Your Research

Since there are some significant differences in how you care for in-ground plants compared to container plants, it’s important to do your research when looking to grow any particular vegetable or herb in a container. For example, one of the most significant differences is root temperature – in-ground roots will never warm up as much as roots in containers can, so to grow plants that need cooler roots you may need to use a larger, light-colored container to minimize the effect of the sun. Mother Earth News has a great article for the beginner container gardener, including container-friendly plants and information on everything from the best buckets, soil and fertilizer to use to using your containers as design elements on your deck.

For added benefit from your container garden, choose acceptable pots and decorate them to fit your personal style, or keep track of your potted garden with this great idea from Martha Stewart.

27 May

How to Use Large Planters in Landscape Design

I have several hundred plants in my rooftop succulent garden – grown in planters of all sizes, shapes and materials. I am very choosy about form and function of planters. I select planters that not only provide sufficient room and the right growing conditions to the plant but also complement the shape and size of the plant.

I have planters made from plastic, stone, terracotta, porcelain, wood, and concrete. The size varies from 2 inches (for seedlings in my rooftop succulent garden) to 150 gallons (for palms and other large plants in my landscape garden).

I like large planters (Buy planters online) because of their utility and versatility. They can be used for multiple purposes. I have used large planters to grow large plants (like palms and some large specimens of Euphorbia and Dracaena), to grow mixed plants in a planter, or some times just to add interesting forms in the landscape design. In fact, large planters are excellent for creating a center of attention in your garden. I have also used large planters with (narrow base) in tight spots. They do not take much space on the ground and give you a nice pedestal to grow your favorite plants.

There are numerous ways to use large planters in your landscape design. Browse the following examples and see you can use these creative ideas and spice up your landscape design.

How to Use Large Planters in Landscape Design

Large planters can be used in tight spaces.House By The Pond

Large terracotta planters are very versatile. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors and can be used to create focal points in your garden.
Mediterranean Patio
Large planters with annuals and evergreens placed at the front door create a nice welcoming effect and enhance the curb appeal.
My Houzz: Iris Dankner
You can group large planters with ornamental plants in both indoor and outdoor settings.
My Houzz: McGeachy Residence
There are so many ways you can use large planters to create dramatic effects. Be creative.
Contemporary Landscape
A beautiful example of mixed plants in a large planter.
Huniford Design Studio, Getaway to the 2013 Holiday House Hamptons
Convincing?
50s remodel
Big planters create big effects.
Cottage Perennial
Another example of large planters being used in tight spaces.
Large Planters in Tight Spaces
Can you reproduce this effect in your landscape design?
Large Planters
18 May

Ornamental Grass for Containers: Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ is a popular ornamental grass for growing in containers as well as in garden landscapes. This lovely grass is commonly known as Ribbon Grass because its green leaves and beautifully stripped in contrasting white or cream.

Ornamental grass for containers

Phalaris arundinace ‘Picta’ / Image by F. D. Richards

How to Grow Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ makes a nice choice when you want to cover slopes or empty spaces in your garden landscape. It spreads quick and easily when grown in a sunny spot and provided with moist soil. Therefore it makes a nice ornamental grass when grown around ponds or under shady trees (it grows slowly under shade).

Like most ornamental grasses, Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ can be easily divided from rhizomes. The best time of the year for planting ribbon grass is spring or fall when you can take out healthy rhizomes from the root zone and plant them in to the ground or containers. If you do not have plenty of space to accommodate this spreading grass, grow it in containers as evergreen ornamental plant. Otherwise invasive, ribbon grass is easy to maintain and control in containers. Usually a 5 gallon container is a good size. When allowed to grow freely in the ground, Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ can grow up to 3 feet in height and spread from 3 to 4 feet across. Be careful when you are planting ribbon grass with other plants because of its rapid spreading and sometimes invasive root system.

Phalaris arundinacea ‘Picta’ is a low-maintenance grass. It is generally a pest-free grass that requires regular watering and light pruning in midsummer to encourage fresh growth.

09 Aug

Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Silver Mound’

The plant in pictures is Artemisia schmidtiana. Commonly known as ‘Silver Mound’, It is grown for its interesting foliage.

Artemisia schmidtiana

Artemisia schmidtiana/ Image by Quinn Anya (flickr)

Artemisia schmidtiana grows as a low-growing perennial that forms symmetrical mound of feathery and silver-green leaves – making it an excellent choice for pots, borders, and a filler plant for flower beds. It can also be combined with other annuals and perennials in the garden.

Silver Mound plant

Silver Mound plant/ Image via flickr

Though the plant produces small ball-like flowers of yellow color in summer, the flowers usually remain unnoticed. It is the delicate, fern-like foliage that gives this plant its ornamental value.

How to Grow Artemisia schmidtiana

The plant can be grown easily from stem cuttings or by dividing the rootball. It requires sunny exposure and survives in almost any soil type. It also requires moderate watering and thrives in a well-drained soil. It can also withstand spells of droughts easily.

30 Dec

Lovely Ground Cover for Landscapes: Aloe brevifolia

Aloe brevifolia is a low-growing succulent and is usually grown as a beautiful ground cover or lovely pot plant. The plant forms beautiful rosette of grey-green leaves that grows up to 1 foot and produces lovely orange flowers on long spikes. In winter, leaves of Aloe brevifolia turn pink to add striking colors to the garden.

Aloe brevifolia

Aloe brevifolia// Image by Gardening in a Minute (flickr)

Unlike most Aloes, Aloe brevifolia is a smaller plant that seldom grows beyond 1 foot in height and width. The succulent leaves form compact rosette. Mature plants produce suckers near the bottom to form tight clumps making it a nice ground cover for landscapes. The flowers appear on long spikes that usually appear in spring and continue to bloom till mid-summer.

Because of its compact growth and showy succulent leaves, Aloe brevifolia can be used as effective ground cover or as small specimen plant grown in pots or rock gardens.

In its natural habitat, Aloe brevifolia grows in a coastal area and thus likes the similar environment. However, it is can adapt to various growing conditions. Ideally Aloe brevifolia should be grown under full or partial sun in a well-drained soil. Though the plant can withstand light frost, it should be protected from long spells of heavy frost in colder climates.

Aloe brevifolia is propagated from seeds or suckers.

04 Dec

Exotic and Colorful Foliage Plants: Neoregelia

Neoregelia is a genus of beautiful foliage plants from the Bromeliad family. Native to the South America especially Brazil, these tropical plants are grown for their colorful foliage. The genus comprises of more than 100 species and many cultivars and hybrid varieties that make exotic specimen plants.

Neoregelia foliage

Neoregelia/ Image by Eric Hunt

Like most Bromeliads, Neoregelia are not difficult to grow or propagate. These are quite hardy plants that grow under filtered sunlight and do not require much water. Most species of Neoregelia would grow easily in a regular soil mix and under moderate temperatures. The coloration, however, varies according the exposure to the sun.

Neoregelia bromeliad

Image by Adam Fagen

The inflorescence of Neoregelia plants is inconcpicous as compared to the showy and colorful foliage of the plant itself.

Neoregelia plants

Image by Christoph Diewald

25 Nov

Ornamental Miniature Aloe – Aloe descoingsii x hawothioides

Aloe haworthioides as it is commonly known is a beautiful and miniature variety of Aloe. The plant is a hybrid of Aloe descoingsii and A. hawothioides.

Aloe haworthioides is an easy and fast growing plant that produces large clumps of miniature plants that grow very well in pots. The plant characterizes fresh green leaves marked with white spots and tiny bristles on their margins.

Aloe haworthioides

Aloe haworthioides

Aloe haworthioides is good as pot plant as well as an excellent choice for miniature gardens. It requires slightly moist but well drained soil. The plant can be grown propagated from divisions or seeds that germinate easily and form miniature plants quickly. Aloe haworthioides does not require much care and grows well under partial sun. Water generously when soil is completely dry in summer. In winter, keep these miniature plant protected from heavy frost and water barely sufficient to protect them from rot.

Like other species of this genus Aloe haworthioides produces small tubular flowers on a long stalk. Spring flowers are orange-pink that attract a lot of birds to the garden.

17 Nov

D is for Delphinium

Delphinium is a genus of wonderful annuals and perennials known for their colorful and attractive flowers that grow abundantly on long stalks. Native to temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, Delphinium are easy to grow and manage. Most species grow tall with stalks full of flowers though some low-growing species are also available. Taller species are prefect for growing in the background of flower beds or landscape.

Delphinium is know traditionally for its showy flowers of strong blue or purple color, however a large number of hybridized Delphiniums have also been produced in recent years. The hybridized Delphinium produce flowers in all shades of white, blue, mauve, red and yellow.

Delphinium flowers

Delphinium/ Image by hello-julie(flickr)

Popular in traditional gardens, Delphinium has been extensively hybridized to produce long-lasting cut flowers. Some popular hybrids of Delphinium include: ‘Atlantis’, ‘Blue Dawn’, ‘Elizabeth Cook’, ‘Oliver’, ‘Summerfield Miranda’, and ‘Sungleam’.

Delphinium requires fertile and slightly soil but well-drained soil under the bright sun. The plants can be propagated from seeds as well as divisions. The flower stalks should be provided firm support of staking when the stalks reach 10 inches or more. Delphiniums can be cut back to the ground after the end of flowering season in order to encourage better growth for the next flowering season.