01 Aug

V is for Verbena

The letter ‘V’ reminds me of two things – Vendetta and Verbena. I love both: Vendetta for its dramatic and thought-provoking effect, and Verbena for its small fragrant flowers.

Verbena is a genus of small annual and perennial shrubs from tropical parts of the Americas. These lovely plants are known for their colorful and long lasting flowers.

Verbena are multi-purpose plants – the low-growing and sprawling varieties can be used as ground covers whereas the compact varieties can be grown in flower beds or containers. Flowers in most species of Verbena are fragrant and have a variety of colors ranging from red, pink, purple, lavender, white and mauve. Most varieties produces groups of rounded heads each containing dozens of small fragrant flowers.

Verbena rigida

Verbena rigida/ Image by Arthur Chapman

Verbenas can be propagated easily from divisions or seeds. Some varieties are self-seeding. Most species of Verbena would happily grow in an ordinary soil under bright sunlight.

Among many hybrids, popular species of Verbena include: Verbena canadensis, and V. peruviana.

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.

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.

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.