Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Plant By Numbers

Mossy Falls (Steve Asbell)
 Most people have at least one or two houseplants plopped here or there in their homes. In his new book , Plant by Numbers, though, Steve Asbell demnstrates  how to put houseplants together to make living arrangements. Think of it as a "container" garden for indoors. Use houseplants like you do your spikes, geraniums, and ivy as your "thriller, filler, and spiller". It can be difficult to put plants together that have the same water and light requirements, but in this book, Steve shows us how to do just that. It is as easy as A, B, C!

Femme Fatale (Steve Asbell)
 We've all had one of those dish gardens given as a gift or from a funeral, at one time or another. Those small plants become huge and quite often high light plants are planted with low light plants or moisture loving plants with cactus. Also, they never have drainage holes. We are set up for failure from the beginning. 
The first part of the book deals with the basics of plant care. How much light do I have?- or not have? How do I raise the humidity? How much space do I have? What is the average temperature in my home? How do I plant my container and keep it looking good? What kind of soil do I use for the plants I am using? How do I handle problems that come along, like insects and diseases?
The second part of the  book is where the fun begins. Steve gives you the recipes for making the containers. The recipe includes the shopping list with common and botanical names of the plants. If you can't find the specific plants he recommends, he has alternative options for you to choose from. How could you fail?

Pink Limeade (Steve Asbell)

 Steve likens these houseplant combinations to "works of living art. Colorful plants are your palette, with patterns, textures and shapes. But what really makes painting with plants exciting is having the opportunity to work with a growing and changing medium." 

Jungle Glow (Steve Asbell)
  If you don't find a combination you like, Steve has lists of plants that you can pick from according to the conditions you have in your house. I love these lists! A few examples are edible houseplants, trailing and vining houseplants, lime colored plants, silver plants, pink plants, plants for low light, plants that like it sunny and dry, or sunny and moist. He has a list of plants for every condition you can think of. He also tells you to listen to your plants. Growing healthy plants depends on being a good listener. Visual cues are yellowing leaves, dropping leaves, and pests. You need to pay attention to these things and deal with them immediately. If you have to let the plant go, don't beat yourself up. It happens. 
Lime and Coconut (Steve Asbell)
 So, if you've had bad luck with houseplants in the past, don't wait to read Steve's book. 
And that's where the best part comes in. I am giving away Steve's book, right here!  Leave a comment below telling me your favorite houseplant and why.  Then, on April 15, yes, the dreaded tax day, I will pick a winner with  I figured we could use something good to think about on tax day. Entries must be received by 8 pm April 15. I will contact the winner via email and if you do not respond within 3 days, you forfeit the book and I will choose someone else. Remember to leave your e-mail in the comment so I can contact you. Thanks! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Begonias at Hidden Lake Gardens

Begonia masoniana  Iron Cross Begonia

 Two weeks ago, we went to Hidden Lake Gardens in Tipton, MI. We were there during their annual Spring show.  You can see those pictures here. In past visits I have taken pictures of the begonia collection. I decided to share those in this post. Many of the begonias have Logee's Greenhouse tags in them. Logee's is a mail order nursery in Danielson, Conn. with a large begonia collection and many of them are represented at Hidden Lake. Another great mail order place is Kartuz Greenhouse. For really great information on begonias, visit Brad's Begonia World page .
Iron cross begonia
The iron cross begonia is a rhizomatous begonia, meaning it grows from stems, (rhizomes) that creep along on the surface of the soil. This type is easily grown from these rhizomes. Cut pieces of them, lay them on the surface of a container of moist soil, pressing them down into the soil a bit so that they have good contact. I use florist pins to pin them down, to ensure they are in contact with the soil. Roots will grow from the stem pieces and send up new leaves from the top side. If your rhizomatous begonias start defoliating, they are either cold sensitive or staying too wet. Most begonias have very shallow root systems, thus needing only a shallow pot. I find that clay pots work well and look good with the begonia foliage.

Begonia 'Mike's Mauve'

'Mike's Mauve' is a rex begonia. These begonias have extremely colorful leaves. Some of the mini rexes need to be kept in a terrarium because their requirements for humidity are so high. All rexes appreciate high humidity, so keeping them on a tray of wet pebbles is a great idea. Do not keep the soil overly wet and good air circulation is essential, as well.

Begonia listada

Begonia listada  is a species begonia, meaning it hasn't gone through hybridization, but is in its natural state as it would be in the wild. It is native to the far south of Brazil. Lisatada is derived from Spanish and means "striped" obviously referring to its leaves.                                
Begonia listada leaf

'Northern Lights' begonia

'Northern Lights' is a rhizomatous begonia and I have one of these at home growing in a large shallow clay pot.

Eyelash begonia- Begonia bowerae
The Begonia bowerae is a rhizomatous begonia. It is a Mexican species, also called eyelash begonia because of the white hairs on the edges of the leaves that look like eyelashes. This is a small begonia that is perfect for a terrarium. 

Begonia x erythrophylla or beefsteak begonia is a very old variety that almost everyone has seen. This is one of those "Oh, my grandma grew one of those" plants. It was hybridized in the mid 1800's and it is quite often passed down through families, not unlike the Christmas cactus.'Bunchii' below is a cultivar of erythrophylla.

Begonia x erythrophylla 'Bunchii'


Begonia 'Palomar Prince'

Begonia 'Black Velvet'
Begonia schmidtiana - Schmidt begonia

The Begonia schmidtiana, from Brazil, is a very hairy species. This is the species that the semperflorens begonia came from. It needs a warm, bright position out of direct sunlight.




Begonia ricinifolia 'Immense'
Begonia ricinifolia 'Immense' is a rhizomatous begonia and this one is, as it's name implies, immense! I also have one of these at home, as well, but it isn't immense as this one. The hairy stems add more interest to the plant. Notice them in the picture below.
Begonia 'Immense'

Begonia 'Chessun'

Begonia 'Di-erna'
The begonia 'Di-erna' is a cane type begonia. It was about 4' tall and had these beautiful large cluster of pink flowers hanging off it. 

Begonia 'Holley Beauty'
Begonia 'Holley Beauty'

As you have seen, begonias are a very colorful and most are easy to grow. I would try a rhizomatous begonia first, as they seem to be the easiest to grow. But, let me warn you now, you won't be able to stop at just one. Soon you'll have a collection of begonias. They are a very diverse group of plants and the more, the better!

Monday, March 24, 2014

It's Spring Somewhere!

I know we've visited the Hidden Lake Garden conservatory before, but I thought we could all use a shot in the arm of color after this ridiculously looooong winter. Here in Michigan, we are ready for some green and warmth, but this is as close as we are getting right now. 
As we entered the show room yesterday, you can imagine from these pictures the aroma that met us. We were in heaven. I hope you enjoy the pictures and it adds a little joy and spring  to your day.

A cart full of amaryllis

Amaryllis 'Misty'

Amaryllis 'Prelude'

Amaryllis 'President Johnson'

Amaryllis 'Flemenco Queen '

Happy Spring!