Monday, July 21, 2014

More Astrocities Done to Plants

Money tree glued down

How many of you have bought plants that have pebbles glued on top of the soil? I hate this. I realize it is done for ease of shipping. The soil stays put, the plant stays upright. It's all good. And to add insult to injury, the containers they are in are usually without a drainage hole. I  recently bought a Pachira or money tree after Father's Day.  It was 1/2 off -I couldn't pass it up!

Pachira out of the pot with stones still attached

So my question is-how would you know your plant needs water. You certainly can't stick your finger in the soil to check for the plant's water needs. Or how would you know if it has too much? You can't look inside the pot.
So, where to begin? First, I chiseled the plant out of its pot. As you can see above, the stones are still intact on top of the root ball and around the stem.

Second, I pulled the glued stones from around the stem. I was as careful as I could be, but as you can see in the above picture some of the bark of the Pachira tree was also removed from around the stem.

After removing the stones, I realized how much soil was around the stems. The soil was way too high up the trunk. After removing the superfluous soil, I found a tie around the stems. When they braid the stems, they need to be tied to stay and grow that way. That is necessary, but as you can see in the pictures below, the tie was cutting into the stem. I'm not sure how long it would have been before this tie girdled the tree and killed it. Would we think out plant just died, or think we had done something wrong? When all along, it is being slowly strangled. Had I not removed the rocks and the soil that were too high on the stems, I would never have know the tie was on there, slowly killing my plant.

So, to help the plant live, I cut the tie so it could "breathe". I think it felt like I do when I take my belt off at the end of the day.

As you can see in the pictures above and below, this plant already has damage from the too tight band.

Even the tag is glued into the rocks.

Lastly, I drilled a hole in the container it came in, added new soil and replanted it. I know it is going to be a much happier plant! So if you see one of these plants and really want it, it isn't a terrible job to get the glued rocks off and re-pot the plant. You may just be saving the plant!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Houseplant Bonsai


I recently (yesterday) went on a garden walk. I love garden walks as I have stated before in a previous post. I especially love seeing people's houseplants which they've placed outside for the summer. One of the gardens we visited had tropical bonsai on the deck. Some of them were protected from the harsh West sun by a latticed area. The ones that could take the sun were in the full exposure, such as the above bougainvillea. It was blooming beautifully.

Ficus grove
I loved this ficus grove. It was beautifully landscaped with bridges and rock outcrops. The details in the landscape made all the difference. The sedum and golden baby tears added additional color and there was even a man boating under the bridge. An overall beautiful vignette and as you can see, a ribbon winner.

The above bonsai is a crested form of a Euphorbia. It is a succulent which is nice when considering bonsai, as watering is a crucial part of growing bonsai. Because of their small root systems, they dry out quickly. Using a succulent means the watering practices are much reduced compared to other varieties of bonsai.

Portulacaria afra
This bonsai above, Portulacaria afra,  is also a succulent and is called elephant bush and dwarf jade. This plant is native to South Africa and is very important to browsing animals, such as the elephant, because of its ability to thrive in dry areas. It can grow 8-12' tall in its native habitat.

Fukien Tea
The Fukien tea, Ehretia microphylla, is a common bonsai plant. It has very attractive leaves and bark and is relatively easy to grow. It is named after its native habitat which is the Fukien or Fujien Province in Southern China. It has an abundance of small white flowers a lot of the time, which adds to its popularity. 

Natal Plum

This cascading bonsai is very attractive and the Natal plum is well suited to this form. It is native to South Africa, and blooms with fragrant white flowers. The fruit formed can be eaten or made into pies, jams, and sauces. It has shiny, deep green leaves and makes a very attractive bonsai.

I love the work and imagination these small plants take to make them look like old, full grown trees. Using houseplants is much easier than using outdoor trees which need a cold dormant season. This means a place to keep them in the winter is essential. With the houseplant bonsai, they are beautiful year round and can be kept in the house. I'd like to try one, and with my schedule, I think the succulent form would be my only choice.