18 Aug

Lovely Foliage Plants for Cold Climate Gardens: Tradescantia

If you are looking for easy-to-care perennials for long flowering season, try Tradescantia. Tradescantia is a genus of low-growing plants that rapidly sprawl to form clusters of beautiful foliage. Originally native to Canada and the Americas, Tradescantia is grown as foliage plant, ground cover or hanging plant is cold climate gardens (-5 C to 30 C).

Tradescantia offers a wide variety of foliage plants with a long flowering season that usually starts in early summer and extends till early fall. These clump forming plant usually have self-seeding habit that is why, they spread quite rapidly. Most species of Tradescantia would benefit from a regular watering in regular but moist soil mix.

Tradescantia virginiana

Tradescantia virginiana

Because of their sprawling habit, most plant in the genus of Tradescantia make a good choice for garden borders, hanging baskets, containers or waterside landscape schemes. In places where you do not have sufficient room for these clump-forming plants, the best way to control them is cutting them back to the ground at the end of flowering season.

Popular species of Tradescantia include:

Tradescantia virginiana – Low growing perennial with purple flowers.

Tradescantia fluminensis – Usually known as Wandering Jew, T. fluminensis is a low-growing plant which is suitable as ground cover or hanging plant. The plant is easily propagated from cuttings and produces fresh green foliage.

Tradescantia comes from the family of Wandering Jew and is commonly described as Spiderwort.

15 Aug

Small and Beautiful Foliage Plant: Peperomia carperata

Peperomia is a genus of popular houseplants used for their ornamental foliage. These slow growing plants have bushy habit and are rather easy to grow. Originally coming from tropical forests of South America, a number of species in this genus are grown widely as ornamental houseplants such as Peperomia carperata, which is known for its lovely foliage.

Peperomia carperata

Peperomia carperata, Image by Grigoris Deoudis

Peperomia caperata grows as a dwarf plant. It is usually grown in containers or mixed with other foliage plants where it complements its companion plants with attractive and textured leaves. Peperomia caperata produces inconspicuous flowers in late spring or late autumn. The flowering period is the time when the plant requires higher level of humidity and frequent watering. Once flowering season ends, water Peperomia caperata plants only when the soil is dry.

Peperomia caperata prefers bright but indirect sunlight. The best soil mix for Peperomia caperata is loamy and well-drained soil that does not retain much water. Being humidity loving plants, Peperomias tends to drop its leaves when temperature (minimum 10◦ C) or humidity level is too low. Like other plants in the genus, Peperomia caperata prefers moderate watering in summer and barely sufficient water in winter.

Peperomia caperata can be grown from leaf cutting as well as seeds.

Other popular species include: Peperomia sandersii, Peperomia prostrate, Peperomia puteolata, Peperomia obtusifolia, and Peperomia orba ‘Variegata’.

12 Aug

Lovely Flowers of Helichrysum

Helichrysum is a large genus of flowering perennials, annuals, and shrubs with worldwide distribution in New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The genus is known for its glossy and papery flowers that come in almost all shades of yellow, orange, red, and pink including many double and single flowering varieties.

The genus of Helichrysum offers a wide range of ground covers, dwarf bloomers, and lovely shrubs that can be grown in flower beds, garden borders, rock gardens, containers as well as window gardens. These lovely bloomers require sunny exposure, loamy and sandy soil and average watering. In fact, Helichrysums can withstand drought and poor soil conditions thus making themselves a popular choice for gardeners.

Helichrysum acuminatum

Helichrysum acuminatum, Image by Michel Dignand

Because of diverse growing habit and variation in foliage and flowers, many members of the Helichrysum genus have been reclassified in smaller genera such as the Everlastings (Xerochrysum, Coronidium, Antennaria etc.).

The genus of Helichrysum is primarily popular for its showy and long lasting flowers. These flowers are often preserved as used in dry flower arrangements. Some of the species, especially Helichrysum italicum, are a source of essential oils that are valuable for their restorative properties, and medicinal uses in chest complaints, colic, fever, internal sores, coughs, colds, headaches, and skin treatment. The oil extracted from Helichrysum italicum is particularly used in aromatherapy.

Popular species of Helichrysum include:

Helichrysum petiolare – Shrubby plant with silvery foliage spreading up to 2 meters and producing ivory white flowers in summer.

Helichrysum bracteatum – Commercially known as Everlasting and grown as popular houseplant; several varities of H. bracteatum grow as small annuals and produce flowers of orange, red, pink, yellow and white color in summer.

Helichrysum splendidum – Produces dense foliage of silver-grey color and grows as erect shrubby perennial.

06 Aug

Olinia ventosa, the Hard Pear Tree

Olinia ventosa or Hard Pear is a graceful tree with glossy green leaves and tiny white flowers. Native to South Africa, Olinia ventosa grows as a tall and evergreen forest tree. However, when grown in gardens it matures into a small tree.

Olinia ventosa

Olinia ventosa, the Hard Pear tree

Olinia ventosa is a good choice for landscapes and gardens for its decent foliage, fragrant flowers, and shady canopy. The tree is quite hardy and tolerates drought and neglect. Flowers, though insignificant, bloom profusely in spring and emit almonds-like fragrance. Clusters of tiny white flowers attract birds butterflies that visit the tree for its fruit and nectar.

Besides its horticultural use, Olinia ventosa is a good source of quality timber which is used in manufacturing of fine furniture.

Olinia ventosa prefers regular soil mix but can survive poor soil conditions as well. Propagation can be done from seeds. Young plants grow slowly but once established, Olinia ventosa grows rapidly and forms vigorous roots and branch system.

06 Aug

Lovely Flowering Vine for Tropical Garden: Distictis buccinatoria

Distictis is a small genus of flowering vines from tropical regions of West Indies and the Americas. These evergreen and sun-loving vines grow rapidly and produce showy flowers in spring and summer. Their fresh green foliage and attractive flowers make them a good choice for tropical gardens. The plants in the genus of Distictis have vigorous roots systems and tendrils that help these vines climb up trellis, fences, trees and walls. That is why Distictis is a popular flowering vines among gardeners and horticulturists.

Distictis buccinatoria

Distictis buccinatoria, Image by Mark Pilbeam

How to Grow Distictis buccinatoria

Distictis buccinatoria is commonly described as Red Trumpet Vine because of its showy orange-red flowers that bloom in abundance during the months of summer and spring. Distictis buccinatoria can grow up to 30 feet. It is easy to train and prune this lovely flowering vine, that is why it is a good choice for growing in gardens, balconies, or patios to get a year round foliage and decent summer flowering. It benefits from regular watering, full to partial sun, and occasional fertilization with a general purpose fertilizer. Young plants require regular watering but they become drought tolerant and they mature. Distictis buccinatoria can be propagated from cuttings in a sandy to loamy soil.

Other popular species in this genus include Distictis laxiflora (Vanilla Trumpet Vine) and Distictis ‘Rivers’ , which is a pink flowering hybrid of  Distictis buccinatoria.

30 Jul

Lovely Shrub for Gardens: Myrtus communis (Myrtle)

Today’s featured plant is Myrtus communis – an excellent ornamental shrub from the Mediterranean regions of the world. Commonly known as Myrtle or Greek myrtle, this beautiful shrub has been in cultivation as long as the days of ancient Roman Empire where it was an essential garden element. Today, Myrtle is known for its beautiful and fragrant foliage.

Myrtus communis

Myrtle (Myrtus communis), Image by Tim Waters

Myrtus communis has a bushy growth. The plant produces glossy green leaves that emit strong fragrance when crushed.  Summer is the time of full bloom when small clusters of small fluffy flowers are borne on Myrtle – making it the center of attraction.

Myrtus communis is good for containers as well as landscape plant. When grown in containers, it serves as a nice accent plant for patios. Besides its bushy growth, Myrtus communis can be easily pruned to any shape. That is why it is often used in designing topiary designs.

Myrtle is easy to grow as it does not have any special requirement. The plant requires a regular soil mix, full to partial sun, and moderate watering. In fact, it can be grown as a drought tolerant plant in rock gardens or xeriscapes.

Myrtus communis can be propagated from cuttings.

24 Jul

My Garden Accessories Wishlist

Now that the month of fasting starts, I really do not get enough time and energy to attend to my garden regularly. My pastime these days is shopping accessories for my garden – umm… not shopping – in fact building my garden accessories wishlist.

I do not have a big garden; in fact, I have a small rooftop garden (20×30 square feet) that accommodates my collection of Agaves, Howarthias, Aloes and other succulents. I am planning to spice up the place with some decorative objects, some garden furniture and a couple of practical garden accessories.

Here goes my garden accessories wishlist for 2012:

Myto Chair: This is the top thing in my wishlist. I love this lightweight chair because of its ergonomic design. Made from recyclable material, Myto Chair can be easily stalked up and moved. So, this is possibly the best garden furniture that I can add to my small garden.

Myto Chair

Halley Solar Lamp – I just love thing solar lamp because it can be easily configured in different styles and direction. It is lightweight, portable and stylish.

Halley Solar Lamp

Wingspaces Timelapse Camera – I do not get much time to attend to my garden (half an hour before leaving for work in the morning and about an hour at night). So I often miss my blooming succulents (they usually bloom in the afternoon). This nifty and waterproof timelapse camera can take photos automatically for creating a timelapse movie of moments that I often miss – a practical garden accessory indeed.

Timelapse Garden Camera

Relaxing Hammock – I do not have sufficient space for this relaxing hammock for I seriously want this in my garden. 😛

Relaxing Hammock

Outdoor Thermometer/Humidity Gauge – May be this should be at the top of my garden accessories wishlist. It measures temperature and humidity (with daily highs and lows) on a digital display.

Acurite Humidity Monitor

Wheelbarrow Set – With changing seasons and new plants coming in, I often have to move my plants. They are either planted in large containers (old Agaves, Yuccas and some cacti) and many of the plants (Haworthias etc.) are in small pots. Thus moving them around is really tiresome. This lightweight and sturdy wheelbarrow would be a very practical garden accessory.

Wheelbarrow

23 Jul

Magnolia grandiflora, Lovely Flowering Tree for Warm Climates

Magnolia is a large genus of deciduous and evergreen trees that are popular for their beautiful and scented flowers. This is also one of the longest surviving trees on the planet dating back to about 95 million years ago, that is why mention of Magnolia is found in ancient as well as modern culture and literature. Long before it was introduced in horticulture, Magnolia has been used in China and Japan in traditional medicine.

The genus primarily belongs to Southeast Asia but grows natively in many parts of the world including the Americas and West Indies.

Magnolia Tree

Magnolia Tree, Image by serenithyme(flickr)

Today, Magnolia is popular among horticulturists and gardeners as an excellent flowering tree. The waxy flowers are known for their beautiful shape and colors and intoxicating fragrance. That is why, it has also been extensively hybridized to produce various new varieties with a broad range of colorful flowers. The most popular and widely cultivated species is Magnolia grandiflora which is an evergreen species with large leathery leaves and magnificent flowers. The plant can grow up to 6 meters in cultivation and as tall as 30 meters in wild. The foliage and flowers vary greatly according to the growing conditions. The size of leaves, flowers and the tree itself depends on the conditions of light, water and soil.

Popular Varieties of Magnolia grandiflora

A number of popular cultivars of Magnolia grandiflora are also commercially available. These include:

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Goliath’ – Nice flowering tree with bushy growth and extended flowering season.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ – Fast growing tree with green, leathery leaves. Flowers are large and strongly scented.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ – A dwarf and slow growing cultivar with a columnar shape which reaches around 4.25 m, prolonged flowering cycle in warmer climate.

Generally, Magnolias prefer fertile and slightly acidic soil, plenty of water and good exposure to sunlight. Young plants of Magnolia need protection from strong winds.