Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's blooming in paradise

Their beauty makes them look fake, like brightly crinkled paper perfectly formed. My cranberry hibiscus plants are loaded with buds and I just noticed the first blooms the other day. 

They are a different species than the tropicals, these are more like a native plant, requiring less care, drought tolerant and propagating all by themselves. The flowers are a beautiful shade of purple/maroon with oddly shaped leaves and stems to match in a darker shade. 

I'm going to make a point of gathering seeds to get them started all over the yard for no-fuss beauty . . . the shrubs are pretty without the flowers with those beautiful green and purple leaves.

The photo is from another season since I haven't gone out there to take photos.   This past winter with unusual freezing temps for more than one or two days  destroyed all that I had.  I lost many of my plants, especially the tropical hibiscus and some of the gingers.  Anyway, the cranberry hibiscus babies started popping up here and there . . . they have had no care at all and need to be transplanted.

Awesome plant!  It was one of those plants that I acquired through plant swaps with local members of an old gardening group that I maintained online.  I'm really starting to enjoy native plants moreso than any others . . . they are the ones that bounced back quickly from the brutal winter.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Organic pest control

Someone left a comment on one of my posts asking the question . . .
"how do I keep bugs from eating my basil?"

I'm an organic gardener and don't use chemicals in my garden, especially on herbs and vegetables. 

There are several recipes that I've used to control pests, but the one that is very simple . . . a squirt of dishwashing liquid in a gallon of water (do not use Dawn or any other grease cutting dishwashing liquid). You can also add a teaspoon of cooking oil to make it stick to the leaves of the plant.

Something else I have learned to do is spray the plant with plain water with the spray nozzle on the hose . . . the spray of water will knock the bugs off the plant.

Another remedy is to utilize beneficial insects, such as ladybugs . . . they can be purchased at organic gardening centers and widely available online.

The key is to keep the leaves clean and check your plants often.

Most of these practices are good for indoor gardening as well as outdoors.

Check out my website,, for lots of gardening pages.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Calissia fragrans . . . thriving in my Paradise

This is an older post from another blog
 that I am currently restructuring.

The calissia fragrans are still thriving, although the
unusually cold winter knocked them down a bit this year.

I'm currently propagating them from runners and cuttings
in containers and will start another "farm" in the ground.
I love these plants!!

They are multiplying and blooming for the first time . . .
they must love acid since I have been feeding them coffee.

Calissia fragrans is an unusual and tropical semi-epiphyte (grows mainly in trees, but will root in soil). Individual leaf rosettes may be 8" wide at the center stalk. Snaking out from the stalk are runners that trail as much as several feet to find a new place to root. Fragrant white globular flowers on upright spikes bloom in summer, then fade and lose their fragrance, then perk up and become fragrant again on and on.

Flowering or not, it is a spectacular plant that would look awesome hanging from a tree in a shady spot in the greenhouse or in a hanging basket as a houseplant. I plan on lining my carport jungle with hand painted hanging containers loaded with these gorgeous plants.

This is where the plants in the carport jungle began . . . I cleared out a few of these plants that were growing in the pathway and placed them in this container that I use to start plants or experiment with my propagation projects.

At the moment, I am experimenting with the calissia fragrans in my carport jungle, planting the runners into individual containers. I've been doing this for several months and those babies are already putting out their own runners. I left the runners intact in this container and they are growing another rosette. How cool is that? You can see some of the runners in the above photo.

I have a few spots in the yard where I planted a few here and there and now have my "farm" of mass plantings. Hopefully, they will be one of the plants to start my mail order plant business.

It all started about 7 years ago when I had a gardening group on MSN and made some local gardening friends that I swapped plants with. These came from Sally in St. Petersburg . . . she is very much into native plants and I have some other plants I got from her that are still thriving through neglect. There is something to be said about native plants!

All my container plants in the carport jungle have been getting a regular dose of watered down coffee and water that I boiled vegetables in (without salt) . . . the calissia fragrans are especially responding successfully and I have never seen them looking so healthy and big. Keep in mind that I have not used commercial fertilizer on them at all.

These are my new perfect plant . . . as you can see from the following photos taken from previous seasons, I have them growing in my "trash to treasure" book rack lined with moss. They went through one winter night freeze, neglect, no watering, no fertilizer with minimal damage. The ones in the carport jungle look much better since they are being pampered and I will soon transfer some of them to renourish the rack. I'll take some recent photos soon.

I'm getting the gardening bug again . . .
it makes me smile!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Screening with container plants

My gardening theme for this month
is container gardening.
We plan on restructuring the carport jungle and the surrounding area this month and look forward to starting many herb and vegetable plants that we will grow in containers.

Container gardens can add a green privacy screen to a balcony or an open area.

A trellis gives vines a structure to grow on and stakes added to the bottom of the trellis help support it on the outside of the planting box. Trellises and stakes should be attached to the containers with galvanized bolts.

Water-sealed redwood and cedar are good choices for planter boxes. To help them last longer, line boxes with landscape fabric which has the added benefit of preventing soil from washing out the drainage holes. After the fabric is in place, add a mixture of half potting soil and half compost. Fill the box to within 10" from the rim.

Select a fast-growing evergreen vine to cover the trellis. Once you've selected a vine, remove it carefully from the nursery container, and place the back of the stake supporting the vine against the trellis. Cut away the plant ties from the support stake, and disentangle the vine. Tie each stem to the trellis, fanning out the stems as you go.

If you like, add other plants to your container for additional color and interest. Make sure the additions have growing requirements similar to those of the vine.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Container gardening at Busch Gardens Tampa

Inspiration for our garden is one of the reasons I love visiting Busch Gardens.
Container gardening is my preferred method of gardening since it allows for quick changes to the landscape and makes it easy to move plants into the greenhouse or indoors in the event of cold snaps or hurricanes.

I've included some older photos of the entrance at Busch Gardens . . . one of the few disappointments I've encountered at BG is the whole revamping of the entrance.  I loved the old entrance with the festively tiled water features and sitting areas adorned with lots of container plants.  It was gorgeous!  A portion of the old facade now resides at the entrance of the Moroccan Theater.

The following video was created with photos we have taken of container plants at Busch Gardens.

Hope you enjoy it and find some inspiration for your garden!

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