03 May

Best Specimen Plants to Grow in Your Garden

Specimen plants are usually grown in gardens and landscapes to create focal points. These plants are often characterized by unusual form, bold colors, attractive flowers, or lovely foliage. Best specimen plants have year-round foliage, compact growth and low maintenance needs. When grown indoor, small specimen plants can be used to brighten up small spaces by creating focal points or create dramatic effects by placing these plants at strategic spots. When grown outdoors, large specimen plants can be used to fill spaces or create permanent displays.

Some of the best specimen plants that are always at the top of my list include:

Colocasia esculenta – A nice specimen plant grown for its large, attractive foliage.

Taro, Best Specimen Plants

Pennisetum setaceum – Commonly known as ‘purple fountain grass’ is a beautiful specimen plant for growing outdoors.

Pennisetum Setaceum 'Rubrum'

Pennisetum Setaceum ‘Rubrum’, Image by Matt Lavin

Miscanthus sinensis is a bold, upright and attractive grass.

Miscanthus Sinensis Grass

Miscanthus Sinensis, Image via Wikipedia

Acer palmatum or ‘Japanese Maple’ is a small tree with interesting and colorful foliage.

 

Dioscorea elephantipes is a beautiful specimen plan known for its unusual form.

Best Specimen Plant - Dioscorea elephantipes

Pachypodium lamerei or the ‘Madagascar Palm’ is another beautiful specimen plant for growing outdoors.

unusual plant pachypodium lamerei

 

27 Apr

Top Tips for Keeping Your Indoor Plants Healthy

Keeping your indoor plants healthy and fresh all through the year is not difficult at all. Whether you are growing an exotic orchid, a tropical foliage plant, a miniature succulent or large specimen plant, general rules for keeping your indoor plants healthy and fresh are simple and universal.

Keeping Your Indoor Plants Healthy

Select the Right Spot

Provide your indoor plants with the right spot. Not at all plants have same requirements. Some like prolonged exposure to the sun, some like indirect light. Some indoor plants can thrive in low lights whereas some benefit seasonal outdoor exposure. Make sure that you understand light, moisture and temperature needs of your plants and then provide them with the right indoor spot. Do not change location of indoor plants frequently. Plants that are moved frequently spend most of their energy adjusting to their new spot.

Protect Indoor Plants from Direct Exposures

Most indoor plants do not like direct exposure to harsh sunlight in the summer season. Do not put them on windowsill or near a window with direct sunlight during most part of the day. Avoid placing your indoor plants near radiators, heaters or air conditioners. Extreme and frequent change in environment is not good for indoor plants.

Monitor Temperature and Moisture Level

Use a temperature and moisture gauge to keep a check on indoor temperature and moisture level especially when you are using humidifiers, heaters or dehumidifiers.

STARRICH Portable Mini LCD Digital Thermometer Hygrometer Air Temperature and Humidity Meter Moisture Mete for Household

You can buy a quality device like STARRICH Thermometer, Air Temperature and Humidity meter to keep a check on indoor climate. Most indoor plants do not prefer extremely dry or moist conditions. If you are growing plants that prefer moisture, you can group them together to raise moisture level around them. It is a good practice to group plants with similar moisture and temperature requirements.

Provide Your Indoor Plants with the Right Pot

Repot your indoor plants into larger pots every two year or so. This will ensure that plants get enough room to grow their roots.

Water Your Indoor Plants Carefully

Indoor plants usually require less watering. A good practice is to allow the soil to dry completely before each watering. Water generously before next watering. Make sure that your pots have sufficient drainage at the bottom. This will prevent the soil from bogging and keep the roots properly aerated.

Act in Time

Keep a close eye on your plants and do not procrastinate if you notice something unusual such as pests, falling buds, or withering leaves. Be proactive and solve the problem as early as possible. If a plant infested with pests, immediately separate the affected plants. Natural and organic pesticides are better than chemicals and are safe for children and pets. Some organic insect killers such as EcoSmart Botanical Insect Killer can be purchased online.

 EcoSmart Botanical Insect Killer

Allow Your Indoor Plants to Rest

Allow your indoor plants to rest during the dormant months of winter. During this time, reduce watering and move your indoor plants to a little cooler place. Do not fertilize or repot them during dormant months.

17 Apr

How often do I need a pest inspection?

If you see pests in your lawn or on the plants in your garden, start inspecting your home for pest infestation. Similarly, if your home is infested with pests, they will likely creep into your garden and on to your plants. There are so many ways your home or garden can get infested with pests – soil, small animals, transferring indoor plants from outside etc. However with proper pest inspection, it is easy to protect your house from pest infestation.

Home Pest Inspection

There are many contributing factors that determine how long you can responsibly wait between inspecting your home for pests. As a general rule of thumb, you should always consider the effort involved in performing regular pest inspections versus the effort required to eradicate a large infestation. It will always be quicker and more cost efficient to exterminate a small number of pests in the early stages of an infestation. There are many precautions you can take to ensure your home will not see a full blown infestation. To maintain a pest free home you must know the major contributing factors for an infestation, which include: the environment in which you live, the abundance of wildlife in the community, and a history of repeated infestations. Learn more here about your free home inspection.

The environment in which you live can play a huge role in how often your home is ransacked by small pests. In colder environments, many pests will come into your home searching for warmth and a dry shelter. This is a natural behavior for the animals to survive the conditions. However, these are not harmless animals. Many rodents coming into your home carry dangerous diseases that can be transmitted to humans and our pets. If you live near a heavily wooded park or forest, you may need to check your home more often for rodents. If you live in an environment that is cold or near a lush greenbelt, you should perform a regular inspection of your home at least once every other month.

The single greatest factor for infestations is the abundance of pests in the area. As stated above, if you live near a greenbelt, you will most likely see more small rodents than other communities. This is because many rodents can live in the foliage with minimal predators and reproduce very quickly.  Similarly, there are pests that thrive in desert communities, such as: termites, scorpions, bees, spiders, and cockroaches. Cockroaches can be especially abundant in warm climates because they can reproduce at a very quick rate. A cockroach will lay up to 50 eggs in their ootheca, or better known as their egg sac. If you live in a community with a high abundance of pests, you should perform an inspection of your home once a month so you can quickly take care of any problem that arises.

If your home has a history of being infested with pests, there may be small spaces on your home you need to board up. A mouse can enter your home from a hole the size of a nickel, so this should be your benchmark for determining if a hole needs to be filled. Many rodents enter your home from appliances with hoses that lead to the outside of your home. You should fill all the gaps in these holes with caulking, and install metal mesh coverings to cover all vents. If your home has a history of pest infestation, then you should regularly check your home every month just to be safe.

17 Jun

Top Tips on Growing Tomatoes in Your Garden

Growing your own vegetables and fruits is an exciting experience and it is not difficult to grow them in your own backyard or kitchen garden. Today, we are sharing expert tips from the folks at Carpenter’s Nursery on growing tomatoes in your own garden.

Growing Tomatoes at Home

First Crop / Image via Flickr

Growing Tomatoes

Tomatoes can be grown effectively in grow bags, hanging baskets (variety – Tumbler), pots, greenhouses or the ground. Despite being subtropical plants they are surprisingly resilient and versatile. For best results though the greenhouse provides the best crop – but if you don’t have one don’t let that discourage you.

If growing from seed, sow in early Spring indoors in seed trays. Seed sowing compost is the ideal germination nutrient. Once the seeds reach an inch in height transplant them into individual pots. Once they reach 6-8 inches transplant them into larger pots, grow bags or tubs etc.

Fertilizing Your Tomatoes

For best results add some long lasting feed or organic fertiliser to a good compost. You can buy it or use your compost heap – dark rich compost will give you the very best results. If you start with nice healthy plants and great compost you are 95% of the way there to getting the perfect results and a huge crop.

Once you have planted the tomatoes water only sparingly initially – then as the flowers come up you can water more. This will mean your tomato plants have a stronger root system.

Taking Care of Your Tomatoes

Tomatoes like warm and moist conditions and you should not let them outside until the weather has significantly warmed and the nights a frost-free unless you are putting them into a greenhouse. At night you can wrap tomato plants in fleece if they are staying outside or just bring them in each night until the weather warms.

Once established tomatoes are fairly easy to maintain. They require regular water (in evenings to avoid evaporation) and should be checked regularly for pests and diseases. Feed every one to two weeks once the plants are producing fruit. The most important issue to look for is Blight – which appears as a brown black fungus that quickly destroys plants. The only real way to protect from this is to grow in a greenhouse or buy disease resistant variety. Other common issues are viruses which will destroy leafs and eventually plants. If your tomatoes start to mottle or leafs die trip them off carefully.

Best Growing Tomato Plants

Carpenter’s Nursery recommends these varieties:

Sungold (Buy seeds online– A popular sweet tomato variety bursting with flavors. Yellow and orange and easy to grow.

Gardener’s Delight (Buy seeds online) – Large cherry tomatoes full of juice and incredibly succulent.

Alicante (Buy seeds online) – A classic variety of tomato and ever popular this is an English classic and always produces exceptional crop yields.

Shirley F1 (Buy seeds online) – Remains one of the most popular varieties for cultivating in cold or slightly heated greenhouses. This early maturing tomato has become an exhibitor’s favorite for its heavy crops of excellent quality fruit.

03 May

Gardening by the Poolside – Practical Tips

Gardening by the side of an outdoor pool not only adds life and serenity to the environment but also gives you many option to introduce privacy, shade, and seasonal interest to the landscape. Today’s posts gives some handy tips on gardening by the poolside.

  1. Select low-maintenance, evergreen plants. They do not shed a lot of leaves. Deciduous plants shed a lot of leaves that clog filters.
  2. When space is not an issue, grow plants at least 4 to 5 feet from the pool to keep debris and soil from contaminating the pool.
  3. Pools create a micro environment – moist and humid. Carefully consider plants that can easily adjust to this type of climate.
  4. Mix and match small trees, shrubs, ground covers, and seasonal bloomers to design a balanced landscape by the poolside.
  5. Small trees are best for creating some shady spots where as shrubs and bushes can be planted for introducing interesting foliage and texture.
  6. Use bushes or small trees to create privacy screens.
  7. Creepers and ground covers are helpful in filling empty spaces and keeping debris and soil from washing away with rainwater.
  8. Some succulents make nice accent plants and can be easily incorporated in your landscape design. Most of them are low on maintenance and last long.
  9. Use ornamental grasses. There are many ornamental grasses that can grow to short and medium height and add delicate, feathery texture to the landscape. See examples of landscaping with ornamental grasses.
  10. Use pergolas, and trellises, oversized planters to introduce artistic element and structural depth to the environment. See examples of modern trellis designs.

Besides a long list of plants to grow by the poolside, here is a list of some unusual and interesting plants that you should consider:

Shrubs & Bushes to grow along the poolside

  • Kalanchoe beharensis – hardy and evergreen bush known for its distinct looks and unusual foliage
  • Loropetalum chinense – evergreen shrub with fringe-like flowers that appear in spring and summer.
  • Pelargonium trifidum – low-growing shrub with sprawling branches and brittle stems. The leaves are succulent and aromatic. When provided with proper support of a tree or fence, the plant can grow up to 1 meter.
  • Alluaudia procera – a really striking succulent shrub grown for its ornamental value.
  • Breynia disticha – makes an excellent plant for borders where it grows as a small shrub (up to 4 feet) and produces beautiful foliage of green, white and pink colors.

Small trees to grow by the poolside

  • Schotia brachypetala – low-maintenance small tree with attractive evergreen foliage and large clusters of spring flowers.
  • Amherstia nobilis – though hard to find, this low-maintenance tree produces very attractive and unusual flowers.
  • Brownea coccinea – evergreen plant that grows into a small spreading tree and produces nice foliage and flowers.
  • Nymania capensis – Evergreen shrubby tree known for its beautiful, rose-pink and papery seed pods that look like Chinese paper lantern.

Ornamental grasses to grow by the poolside

Accent plants to grow by the poolside:

Examples of Gardening by the Poolside

27 Aug

9 Lovely Plants for Beautiful Indoor Foliage

Indoor plants are a great way to freshen up your house. They add softer and natural touch to your home interior. However, selecting the right indoor plants for your home interior is a bit difficult especially when you do not have a green thumb. This post lists some lovely indoor plants that produce beautiful foliage and can be grown in most indoor conditions.

Ficus lyrata / Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

The first plant in the list is Ficus lyrata or Fiddle Leaf Fig tree. I would highly recommend this plant if you are looking for a fresh, bold and a modern look to your home interior. With its prominent and lush green leaves, Ficus lyrata makes a nice foliage plant. Ficus lyrata likes a well-lit spot (preferably near a window) and slightly moist soil. It is not a demanding plant.

Ficus lyrata has a vigorous root systems therefore it should be repotted annually in a bigger pot size until the plant reaches the desired size. Larger plants should be provided with a fresh layer of top soil every year.

Sansevieria trifasciata / Snake Plant

Sansevieria trifasciata or Snake Plant is known for its unusual and beautiful foliage. The plant produces succulent upright leaves with beautiful shades of green, white and sometimes yellow variegation.  Sansevieria trifasciata makes a nice indoor accent plant. It requires bright sunlight and moderate watering in a well-drained soil. The plant can be propagated easily from division.

Philodendron

Philodendrons are widely grown for their beautiful foliage. Easily grown indoors, most species of Philodendrons produce large and lush green foliage that creates a dramatic effect in a home interior. Most Philodendrons require moderate light and slightly moist soil.

Crassula

Though not common, Crassulas are nice foliage plants to grow indoors. They offer a large variety of color, size and texture. Most Crassulas form small clumps of rosette-forming plants. They are suitable for growing in an indoor dish garden. Like other succulent plants, Crassulas are hardy plants that love indirect light and slightly moist conditions in a well-drained soil.

Ficus elastica / Rubber Plant

Commonly known as  rubber fig, rubber bush, rubber tree, rubber plant, or Indian rubber bush, Ficus elastica is a popular houseplant. This hardy plant can be grown in almost any indoor condition. For best results, provide your Rubber Plant with bright light and water only when the soil is slightly dry.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia / Zanzibar Gem

Zamioculcas zamiifolia are not usually seen in indoor settings but this lovely plant makes an excellent indoor plant because of its attractive foliage. Commonly known as Zanzibar Gem, Zamioculcas zamiifolia is an easy plant to grow and maintain for indoor foliage. In fact, it can easily sustain a little neglect. For best foliage, provide your plant with bright light and ample water. Water only when the soil is dry.

Pachira aquatica / Malabar Chestnut

Pachira aquatica is another plant to try, if you are looking for something unusual. This lovely plant produces nice foliage and does not require regular repotting. Pachira aquatica loves ample sunlight and sufficient water. When growing it indoor, make sure that you keep the soil moist and remove dead leaves regularly.

Yucca elephantipes / Stick Yucca

Yucca elephantipes or Stick Yucca is one of my favorite plants to grow in indoor settings. This hardy plant produces striking foliage and does not require special attention. It is a slow growing plant and will grow happily in its pot for many years.

Aloe vera

It is rather unusual to see this plant growing indoors, but you cannot beat this plant for its ability to adapt to almost any indoor conditions. Aloe vera produces fresh and succulent leaves. This lovely plant grows nicely in compact corners, and requires only occasional watering and bright sunlight.

 

24 Mar

9 Beautiful Examples of Apartment Gardening

If you are living in a high-rise apartment or condo building or have small space for gardening, you just have to be a little bit creative to grow a beautiful garden. Need examples? Here are 9 beautiful examples of apartment gardening.

Apartment Garden

Apartment Garden / Image via globo.com

Condo Garden

Condo Garden / Image via Pinterest

Apartment Gardening

Small Garden/ Image via shelterness.com

Indoor Apartment Gardening

Indoor Apartment Garden/ Image via parentingpatch.com

Little Garden

Little Garden / Image via nashmadethat.blogspot.ca

Small Apartment Garden

Small Apartment Garden / Image via apartmenttherapy.com

Small Space Raised Garden

Small Space Raised Garden/ Image via apartmenttherapy.com

Small Garden

Small Garden / Image via Pinterest

Small Terrace Garden

Small Terrace Garden / Image via apartmenttherapy.com

These beautiful examples demonstrate that even small spaces can be utilized to grow wonderful gardens. All you need is the right selection of plants,  the right-sized planters and a little creativity is managing your precious space. In fact, a careful garden in your apartment’s balcony can grow your favourite show plants, vegetables, seasonal bloomers, as well as all-season specimen plants like ferns, succulents, and other foliage plants.

08 Mar

Composting: Turning Trash into a Garden Treasure

Have you ever thought about compost? As a gardener, compost is a great source of organic matter as well as fertilizer which can be mixed into the soil when planting. Whenever you do some gardening or planting, using organic fertilizer is a great idea.

The great thing with a compost is that it is cheap and helps the soil in water retention where it’s needed. So what makes up a compost pit or what is a compost pit made of? A compost is made up of organic matter like the fallen leaves, trimmings of plants, clippings of grass or remains of other plants. There are fruit peels, kitchen and household wastes, coffee grounds, egg shells and so much more. Did you also know that you can also use shredded papers into the mix? Well, we do know that paper decomposes – just limit the amount of paper added in the compost because the more you add, it will clump together and the longer it will decompose.

Though we mentioned that the compost is made up of organic materials, here are some of those organic materials that should not be added in the list: grease, dairy products, meat scraps, or those materials that produces bad odor because these will attract wild animals. It is also a ‘no-no’ to add cat litter or dog and other animal droppings into your compost as they may contain parasites and other harmful organisms.

Knowing which organic materials can be used for your compost, you now need to locate where in your yard that you need to allocate for your compost pit project. Keep in mind that the area should be level, have a good drainage and can be hit partially by the sun. Make sure there is a good water source near because you will need that for your compost.

Basic Steps for Preparing Your Own Compost

1. Building your compost pit – structure. You can use wires woven together, big barrel, concrete blocks or treated lumber (1 by 4 inch dimensions). If you don’t want to make your own compost structure, you can buy prefabricated compost bins in hardware stores or turf suppliers.

Compost Bins

Compost Bins / Image by London Permaculture

2. Starting your pile. This is where your materials that you collected come next. You need to arrange them in layers.

3. Keeping the pile moist. Always keep a constant check of your pile by squeezing a handful – make sure to wear garden gloves for protection.

The compost takes 4-7 days before you are able to turn the pile and mix the materials. Make sure that the pile should heat up and that it should be moist enough.

When the compost is done which usually takes six weeks to a year, it should look dark brown and crumbly – soil consistency with a sweet and musty smell. Then you can use them in your garden bed.

17 Sep

4 Plants that Repel Pests Naturally

Beetles, mosquitoes and flies, oh my! Not many people like to deal with creepy crawly bugs, especially in and around their home. Each season brings new insects that can destroy landscaping, bite people and pets and spread disease. According to Ohio State University, Americans spend more than $3 billion each year on pest control services alone, while another $400 million is spent on DIY applications. Fortunately, pest control doesn’t have to come from the use of harsh chemicals. Many natural plants and herbs can repel these pesky pests and provide many other benefits.

1. Mint

Mint has been used for centuries to preserve food, deodorize rooms and ward off insect infestations. This non-toxic, eco-friendly plant is particularly useful at keeping ants, mosquitoes, fleas, cabbage moths and flies at bay. All species of mint, both cultivated and wild, contain aromatic properties that are repulsive to pests. When mint is brushed or crushed, the pungent scent is released. Pleasant to your senses but offensive to your small, unwelcome guests. Mint is an invasive plant and can become problematic in garden beds as it competes with other plants for space. If you wish to grow your own mint, keep the plant confined in a garden pot or place leaves in sachet bags around your home.

2. Catnip

Nepeta cataria, Catnip

Nepeta cataria, Catnip/ Image by Isabelle Blanchemain

While catnip may be useful at driving your feline crazy, the perennial herb has other excellent uses. According to researchers at Iowa State University, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its unique odor is approximately 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, a compound used in many commercial insect repellents. If you grow catnip yourself, the stalks and leaves can be used to create a catnip bug spray. DoItYourself.com suggests stripping the leaves from the stalk and putting them into a food processor, while the pulp goes into a pot. Add two cups boiling water to the catnip, let sit for 10 minutes and strain the leaves. Keep the mixture in a spray bottle in the refrigerator and spray when needed to keep pests away.

3. Garlic

Garlic not only repels troublesome vampires, but its distinct odor is also revolting to insects. This powerful natural bug repellent can help eliminate mosquitoes, Japanese beetles, Mexican bean beetles, aphids and winged ants. According to Patrick Parker, SavATree Plant Health Care Program Director, one treatment with garlic can repel bugs for up to one month. To keep insects out of your garden, create a border of garlic plants around the perimeter. Garlic sprays can be made by peeling and crushing cloves of garlic. Place the garlic in a covered container with one gallon of water, one minced onion and a tablespoon of cayenne pepper and let sit for two days. Strain your new garlic repellent into a spray bottle and use as needed.

4. Basil

While delicious in pesto and salads, basil is also a highly efficient way of keeping your home free of flies. The oils found in basil plants can repel a variety of insects, including thrips and mosquitoes. Basil can be planted next to doors and windows to keep insects out of your home or in a foundation planting mixed with flowers. This popular garden herb is often used in companion gardening, planted alongside tomato plants to produce tastier, larger tomatoes. Inside the house, basil can be planted in pots using seeds or store-bought seedlings and sat on window sills. Basil needs full sun and well drained, rich soil. Many people prefer to start their seed indoors and then move their basil outdoors after the last frost. This herb is sure to repel those bothersome flying insects both inside and out.