Category Archives: News and Tips

And the Winners are… 2018 Plants of the Year!

HOW THE PLANT OF THE YEAR IS SELECTED

Candidates for the Proven Winners’ Plant of the Year are judged stringently by growers, retailers and home gardeners against the five criteria: Easy to Grow, Iconic, Readily Available, Perfect for Baskets or Containers and Outstanding Landscape Performance. Plants are selected that are easy for everyone to grow and deliver a clearly exceptional garden performance.

After several rounds of voting, the winners are announced to growers across North America one year in advance to ensure they have plenty of time to grow the millions of plants needed to satisfy the demand at retail. As a result, home gardeners can easily find a retailer who carries the winning Plants of the Year.


ANNUAL OF THE YEAR: Supertunia® Bordeaux™ Petunia hybrid

Supertunia® Bordeaux™ will quickly grow into a blanket of sparkling purple flowers in your landscape. Since it is so vigorous, you won’t need many plants to make an impact. You’ll love how they look when you grow them in hanging baskets and upright containers. Supertunia® Bordeaux™ play well with others if you’re into playing matchmaker.

  • Masses of vibrant color
  • Non-stop bloom from spring to frost
  • Self-cleaning flowers—NO deadheading needed
  • Versatility of use in containers and landscapes
  • Broad color range to suit every style
  • Remarkable vigor and disease resistance

Supertunia petunias are vigorous with slightly mounded habits that function as both fillers and spillers in containers.  They are also excellent landscape plants, best suited to be placed near the front of beds.  They have medium to large sized flowers. Whether you’re looking to add a mass of color to your garden beds or create impressive containers with curb appeal, Supertunia® Petunias are the best choice for your sunny landscape. You’ll be amazed how green your thumbs are when you grow these vigorous, reliable flowers.


PERENNIAL OF THE YEAR: Primo™ ‘Black Pearl’ Heuchera

Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ tend to grow best and have the prettiest coloration when grown in part sun, meaning 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day. In very warm climates, full shade may be necessary. In cooler zones, it will grow in full sun if given adequate moisture. Primo ‘Black Pearl’ will keep its dark coloration even in full sun conditions.

  • Jet black, glossy, ruffled foliage
  • Long lasting, light pink cut flowers
  • Attracts pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Vigorous, densely mounding shape
  • Versatile – grows in landscapes and containers
  • Naturally heat and humidity tolerant
  • Measures 8-10” tall x 26-30” wide
  • Native perennial for zones 4-9

Coral bells like Primo ‘Black Pearl’ can be grown in containers, but keep in mind that it grows notably larger than standard varieties, so give it plenty of room to show off. If growing it on its own, choose a container that is at least 10” in diameter and 8” deep. If you plan to pair Primo ‘Black Pearl’ with other plants in a combination recipe, you’ll need a much larger pot, at least 18” in diameter.


LANDSCAPE PLANT OF THE YEAR: Spilled Wine® Weigelia

Rich, velvety foliage forms a sumptuous textural backdrop for a bright floral bouquet of magenta pink blossoms that sing every spring. An updated, more petite look for weigelia, it’s the perfect choice for foundation plantings, edging landscape beds and planting en masse. Full-bodied looks and an easy constitution—that’s Spilled Wine® weigelia.

  • Dark wine red foliage all season
  • Loads of vibrant magenta pink flowers in spring
  • Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
  • Not preferred by deer
  • Low mounding shape
  • Adaptable to most soil types
  • Grows in large containers and landscape beds
  • Grows 2-3’ tall x 2-4’ wide
  • Reliably hardy in zones 4-8

Like a complex wine, Spilled Wine Weigelia embodies a certain richness and intensity that may look complicated, but there’s really nothing to it. It even adapts to most soil types, including clay. Giving it 6+ hours of sunlight, average water (about an inch per week), and a bit of slow release tree and shrub fertilizer in early spring will do the trick.


Learn more about our National Plant of the Year program at www.nationalplantoftheyear.com.

Recipe for a Successful Garden

Enter the kitchen garden:

A garden is as distinct and individual as your tastes will allow. Whether you like it hot and spicy-with herbs and peppers that sing with flavor-or subtle blends of flavorful veggies and culinary herbs, it is easier than you think to have success in the garden and in the kitchen.

Today’s kitchen gourmet is more likely to trek to the backyard garden than to the local market for fresh rosemary, peppers or cilantro. Where else can you be assured of a variety of fresh produce that is designed around your palette?

There are three elements essential to a successful planting: location, drainage and spacing

Location:
Most vegetable and herb gardens need a minimum of four to six hours of direct sunlight for peak performance. The ideal exposure would be a southwestern or a southern exposure. That would mean the garden would be bathed in sunlight from around 10 am till 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

We suggest using a rectangular shape for your garden bed. By keeping your dimensions to a 4′ x 8′ plot you will insure an easy accessibility to your garden for weeding, watering and harvesting. You might use a flexible garden hose to approximate your final garden. Just as a good carpenter will measure twice in order to cut just once, an experienced gardener will spend a week or so in gauging the available sunlight over the terrain in order to establish the best available location.

Once your location is secured, then it is time to address the issue of drainage. Almost all culinary herbs and vegetables benefit from good drainage. A garden bed is built, as in built up, to insure the best possible conditions. This type of gardening is known as a “raised” garden. Raised beds can be created quickly, often in a single Saturday afternoon.

Use wooded materials such as non-treated pine or cedar, wall-stone or edgers to frame your bed. This should result in an increase of anywhere from 6-8″ from ground zero. Once your materials are obtained and your spot is properly marked (use limestone), turn the existing soil to a depth of six to eight inches. A couple of passes with a borrowed rototiller will do the trick. If you are digging by hand, remove this soil and mix it with compost or manure, peat moss and top soil to create a rich cake-like consistancy. Turn all the materials in a large pile by fork and shovel and fill your now assembled frame. Attempt to mound towards the center. Drainage gaps can be used on the corner and center sections.

Grade your soil smooth of rocks, lumps and debris

Then it is time to lay out your plant material. Pay close attention to the spacing requirements listed on the plant tags. Plant for maturity. Our sample bed of roughly 32 square feet should hold at least 24 plants properly spaced. Depending on your needs, you might start with one or two plants of a variety. This should give you plenty of material for a wide variety of meal possibilities. With proper plant selection, it should be enough produce to spark neighborhood get togethers throughout the summer months. Bon Appetit!

Not enough room? Consider the contained garden:

Whether it is a situation where there is a shortage of a sunny spot or maybe you are simply limited in space. You can still take advantage of the information above. Just adapt it to the container(s) and space

available to you. This is a great way for apartment or condo dwellers to maintain a small culinary garden.

Whisky barrels, terra cotta planters or even window boxes can produce a bounty of herbs, vegetables and flowering material. The key to success remains in light, drainage and spacing. We’d love to introduce you to the many possibilities of container gardening.

Children in the Garden

A garden is a wonderful place for a child to experience the natural world and learn how things grow. It is a place of wonder and surprise that excites the imagination as it teaches valuable lessons about the environment, responsibility, and discipline. With a little planning and effort-and a little help from you-your child can create his or her own garden world to enjoy all summer long.

Creating a Child’s Garden

Give your child his or her own special space: Rope off a corner of the family garden, prepare a separate plot, or set up a rain-barrel planter. Just be sure to place the garden where it will get plenty of sun, at least 4-6 hours per day. Help your child create a simple plan, using kid-friendly plants, such as large colorful flowers, tasty vegetables, and interesting plants that grow quickly. Great beginner plants include morning glories, zinnias, sunflowers, sugar snap peas, pumpkins, corn and tomatoes.

While buying pre-finished plants will the job easier, consider starting the garden from seed. Winter is the perfect time for planning the garden and for selecting and planting the seeds.

In early spring, help your child prepare the garden bed. Children will appreciate the process if they understand a very basic concept: The soil is the seedling’s lunch box. This is where the plant will get all the food, water and nutrients it needs for proper growth. Preparing the soil will teach your child an important lesson in the rewards of hard work.

Keep it Fun!

The Potato Volcano is a great gardening and recycling project to try. Or, if your child likes private hideaways, you can help him or her create a pole-bean teepee or a sunflower clubhouse. Whatever project your child chooses, be sure to keep things fun. Let gardening open a whole new world for your child-one filled with earthworms and flowers, sunshine and showers!

10 Romantic Flowers and their Meanings

A bouquet of flowers is the perfect gift for a loved one, friend or family member.

Asides from being aesthetically pleasing, each flower has a different symbolic meaning.

So if you’re considering buying some flowers as a romantic gesture, what do you need to know before you purchase?

 

1. Yellow Daffodil

The Yellow Daffodil represents new beginnings. It is also referred to as a lucky symbol of future success.

If you’d like to wish someone good luck, this is an ideal gift to give.

romantic flowers and their meaning

 

2. Blue Violet

These beautiful, hot-hued blooms are said to represent trustworthiness.

The Blue Violet flower symbolises faith, affection, intuition and love. If you’re looking for romantic flowers, blue violets make a wonderful gift.

romantic flowers

3. Blue Salvia

The Blue Salvia plant is connected to healing. This flower specie represents wisdom, a long life and good health.

It’s common for those recovering from an ailment to receive this plant.

romantic flowers

4. White Lilac

This beautiful flower is an elegant option for a bouquet and boasts an appealing fragrance.

The lilac’s colour represents the meaning of the flower – purity and youthful innocence.

romantic flowers

 

5. Gardenia

These romantic flowers are generally gifted to those experiencing a secret love.

Present them to someone close to you who you truly care about.

romantic flowers

6. Forget-Me-Not

Forget-Me-Nots are an ideal option to gift to a loved one.

These plants imply true love, and just as the name implies, they are given in the hope they (or the sender) will never be forgotten. Many believe this plant to signify an authentic love brimming with memories.

romantic flowers

 

7. Sweet Alyssum

This enjoyable bloom boasts a fragrant scent and a serene, spiritual energy, which is said to provide an emotional balance in the home or office.

Asides from symbolising beauty, the Sweet Alyssum is said to protect an individual from heated encounters.

A great option for those who are a little down in the dumps and require an instant pick-me-up.

romantic flowers

8. White Clover

The clover flower suggests feelings of vitality, and it is conventionally given to those who need a little good luck.

romantic flowers

9. Cherry Blossom

These picture-perfect flowers signify spirituality and boast cultural roots in both Japan and China.

In the latter, this particular bloom portrays femininity and in Japan, the nature of life.

romantic flowers

10. Azalea

These aesthetically pleasing flowers are a great addition to any bouquet, especially if you’re searching for romantic flowers. These beautiful blooms depict femininity and are often gifted to a partner or loved one.

romantic flowers

 

If you’re considering making a romantic gesture with flowers anytime soon, we’d love to hear about which blooms you go for, and the reaction you get.

https://www.serenataflowers.com/pollennation/15-romantic-flowers-meanings/

How to Attract Birds

Overview of the Four Requirements for Attracting Backyard Birds

Wild birds require four things to be attracted to a backyard: food, water, shelter and nesting sites. If you make each of these four things available, you will be amazed at how many different species of birds become regular backyard guests.

Food

A good food source is the most important thing you need to attract birds. Food sources can be naturally occurring or supplemental sources such as feeders. Offering several different foods will attract a greater variety of birds.

Popular foods to attract birds include:

  • Seeds
  • Nectar
  • Fruits
  • Insects
  • Scraps
  • Nuts
  • Suet

Not all foods will attract the same birds. For the best results, learn which birds are present in your local area and choose foods to attract them to your yard. Once your yard is a popular feeding site, more unusual species will become curious and you can offer them treats as well.

Water

Water is critical to birds’ survival and adding water to your backyard will quickly attract birds. Types of water features that are attractive to birds are:

  • Bird baths
  • Misters
  • Ponds
  • Waterfalls
  • Streams

Moving or flowing water will attract the most birds because it is more visible and they can hear it from a great distance. Water should be kept fresh and clean, but no chemicals should be used to purify water because they can be harmful to birds.

Birds also need water in the winter. A heated bird bath will provide drinkable water that birds do not have to use body heat to melt first. Heaters can be added to regular bird baths or special heated baths can be used.

Shelter

Birds will not stay in a location where they do not feel safe, and adding backyard features that can offer them shelter will help attract them to your yard and keep them there once they have found it. Common bird shelters include:

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Scrub brush piles
  • Overgrown grassy areas

Provide shelter at different levels for birds that prefer both high and low shelters. More dense plant growth is popular with small and medium bird species, while larger birds prefer perches where they can scan nearby areas for predators and other dangers. Shelter near feeders is especially popular since birds can quickly retreat if they feel threatened while feeding.

Many plants can also serve as food sources for birds, so choosing plantings wisely can not only provide shelter but will also entice birds with a natural food source.

Nesting Sites

For permanent guests, it is necessary to provide nesting sites for backyard birds. Many birds prefer to nest in natural locations, but manmade sites can also be attractive and may be easier for birders to enjoy. Nesting sites can include:

  • Trees and shrubs for natural nesting sites
  • Simple nesting boxes
  • Functional or decorative birdhouses
  • A brush pile for ground nesters

Different birds build different types of nests, from twig piles to dangling cups. For the best results, learn what types of nests your regular backyard birds prefer and offer nesting sites that are suitable for their needs.

By providing food, water, shelter and nesting sites, you can attract birds to your yard and invite them to take up residence.

http://birding.about.com/od/attractingbirds/a/attractoverview.htm

Growing flowering plants from seed: Easier than you think!

Do you envision your garden to be a lush haven with an abundance of healthy plants and colorful flowers, with a constant show of hardy perennials and cheery annuals? Or do you see your dream garden filled with an abundance of vegetables and herbs, including some of the popular heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers or eggplant? Whatever your dreams and plans for your outdoor space, you can get started with a simple, fun and inexpensive method – grow your own

Starting plants from seeds simply requires a little forethought and planning. You need to lay out a timetable, working back from the last expected frost date in your area. The individual seed packets you choose will give detailed instructions, including how many weeks ahead of the last frost to plant, planting depth, how long the seeds take to germinate and when the new shoots will be hardy enough to be planted outdoors.

Your local garden center or nursery is sure to carry a broad selection of seeds from reputable companies, as well as everything else you need to get going.

You will need:

  1. Planting containers or trays with individual “cells” or cups to hold the planting medium and seeds, with something to cover them once planted. Some come with covers, or you can just use sheets of plastic.
  1. Planting medium. Use a soiless planting mix. It should be sterilized, have good water retention and be lightweight enough for tender sprouts to push their way through the surface, all characteristics not found in average garden soil.
  1. Seeds. Obtain the best seeds possible. The choices today are limitless and each year more and more organic and heirloom seeds are available.
  1. Labels to identify the seeds in each tray. Strips of plastic written with permanent markers work well.
  1. Water. The planting medium needs to stay moist – don’t overwater or allowing seeds to dry out. This is probably the most critical aspect of the germination process but can be learned easily with a little practice.
  1. Light. Natural or artificial light is vital, but you needn’t have to rig up expensive grow lights. A bright south-facing window is perfect.
  1. Warmth. Most seeds need a constant temperature of 65-70º F to properly germinate. 

Be sure to follow the directions on the packet carefully, for each type of seed. Check on them each day to control moisture, light and temperature. Before long, you will experience the thrill of spotting the first signs of germination – tiny sprouts rising through the planting medium!

Once the seeds have germinated and the plants have started to leaf out, you can harden them off by taking them outdoors for a few hours each day. After four or five days getting acclimated in this manner, they can be planted in their rightful place and begin beautifying your garden! And you will have gained a new and rewarding skill. But watch out – pouring over those enticing seed catalogues can be addictive!

10 Houseplants That Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

January 10th is “Houseplant Appreciation Day”. In honor of this little-known holiday, we wanted to take a closer look at the top ten houseplants that have the ability to naturally improve the air quality in your home.

All of these indoor houseplants were analyzed by NASA in 1989. They found that each had a unique way to naturally cleanse the air of toxins that have a negative effect to your health. To read the full report from NASA, please visit this link. In case you didn’t want to read through NASA’s paper, we’ve summarized the top ten houseplants that act as natural air purifiers.

If you don’t have an air purifier in your home, or just want to take extra precautions, we would recommend adding a few of these houseplants to the most important areas of your home. It’s a great first step to improving the air quality inside your home.

Spathiphyllum - Peace Lily

1. Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)

Often referred to as a Peace Lily, this beautiful evergreen plant is widely regarded to be easy to care for, even for those that don’t have a green thumb. They require very little light or water to remain healthy, which is one of the main reasons why they’re one of the most popular plants to keep in your home. In fact, Spathiphyllum should never be put in direct sun light, as the rays of sun may lead to leaf burn. While they are great to have inside your home, they also work remarkably well as a groundcover around your home, especially in areas where grass is hard to grow because of the shade.

NASA’s analysis of indoor houseplants revealed that the Peace Lily was the most efficient at removing airborne Volatile Organic Compounds, including formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and benzene. Simply put it in a dark corner, give it water once a week and this little plant will help purify the air around that general area.

The major downside of Spathiphyllum, however, is that it is mildly toxic to both humans and pets. If you ingest any part of this plant, you may start to feel nauseous, experience difficulty when swallowing, or feel a burning sensation in your mouth or skin. If you start to feel any of these symptoms as a result of ingesting Spathiphyllum then it would be wise to seek medical help immediately.


Chrysanthemum Morifolium

2. Chrysanthemum morifolium (Florist’s Chrysanthemum)

Sometimes called Florist’s daisy or Hardy Garden Mum, this houseplant is another popular perennial plant that people like to have in their home. Unlike the Peace Lily, this houseplant loves direct sunlight and a medium amount of water.

With the proper care and right type of soil, the Chrysanthemum morifolium will start to produce lots of beautiful blooms of various colors. These blooms not only help brighten the room, they also help cleanse the air of many chemicals that are common in homes. These include formaldehyde, xylene, ammonia, benzene, toluene, and trichloroethylene.

Words of caution on this houseplant. While they are beautiful to have around, they are also poisonous to animals. If your dog or cat has ingested any part of this plant, they will likely experience diarrhea, dermatitis, vomiting and a lack of coordination. If your pet has consumed this plant, please call your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Epipremnum aureum

3. Epipremnum aureum (Devil’s Ivy)

Often called Devil’s Ivy or Golden Pothos, this popular houseplant is native to the Soloman Islands, but is can be found growing all over the world. With evergreen vines and small green heart-shaped leaves marbled with yellowish-white hues, this houseplant is commonly sold in decorative hanging baskets. It is best to keep Epipremnum aureum near a window, without direct sunlight shining down on it. The soil should be peaty with lots of moisture.

It’s one of the most popular houseplants not only because it looks good in your home, but also because it’s extremely easy to care for. The most important benefit of Epipremnum aureum is that it is quite efficient at cleansing the air of pollutants, such as benzene, trichloroethylene, xylene and formaldehyde.

However, this is another plant that can be toxic when ingested, especially for your pets. If you think your dog or cat has ingested part of this plant, they will likely experience vomiting, irritation and difficulty swallowing. Seek the advice of your veterinarian if you believe your pet has consumed this plant.


Dracaena reflexa

4. Dracaena reflexa (Red-Edged Dracaena)

Often called Red-Edged Dracaena or Pleomele, Dracaena reflexa is an upright evergreen shrub that produces narrow green, yellow or cream-colored leaves. Once the plant starts to mature, you may notice small white flowers start to bloom, shortly followed by small red-orange berries.

This low-maintenance plant is extremely popular in America not just because it looks cool, but also because it takes little work to keep it alive. All you need to do to keep this plant alive, is keep it in an area with indirect sunlight and keep the soil slightly moist.

According to the NASA Clean Air Study, Dracaena reflexa is one of the most efficient plants at removing formaldehyde from the air in your home, as well as other VOCs, including benzene, trichloroethylene, and xylene. However, keep your pets away from this plant, as it can be toxic to animals when ingested.


Sansevieria trifasciata

5. Sansevieria trifasciata (Snake Plant)

Often referred to as Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, this evergreen perennial plant is another houseplant that is known to improve your indoor air quality. According to NASA, it is one of the best houseplants for absorbing airborne toxins, including formaldehyde, nitrogen oxide, benzene, xylene and trichloroethylene.

Even though it is native to Western Africa, Sansevieria trifasciatahas risen in popularity over the last few decades and is now widely grown all over the world. It’s a great plant to have indoors, as it can endure low amounts of light at long durations. However, it prefers to have plenty of bright light. Just make sure you don’t overwater this plant, as it is likely to rot if the soil is too moist for too long.

If you have no houseplants around your home, then Sansevieria trifasciata is one of the best for you to start off with. They grow well both inside and out, and they require very little maintenance. Just be careful if you have pets, as this plant may be toxic when it is ingested.


Rhapis excelsa

6. Rhapis excelsa (Lady Palm)

Most commonly called the Lady Palm or Broadleaf Lady Palm, Rhapis excelsais another houseplant that would be beneficial to have around your home.

With a maximum height of approximately six feet, Rhapis excelsa is the perfect fan palm to have in a dark corner of your home. They are able to tolerate low-levels of light, high amounts of water and a wide range of temperatures. While this houseplant does prefer to live in moist soil, it does need to have the proper drainage available to avoid root rot.

Native to Asia, this evergreen perennial small palm can thrive in both indoor and outdoor environments. The best part, is that the NASA Clean Air Study discovered Rhapis excelsa to be one of the best houseplants at cleansing the air of formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene and toluene.


Anthurium andraeanum

7. Anthurium andraeanum (Flamingo Lily)

Most commonly called a Flamingo Lily or Laceleaf, Anthurium andraeanum is a beautiful evergreen plant that is most known for its gorgeous flowers. According to the NASA Clean Air Study, the Flamingo Lily was incredibly effective at removing airborne formaldehyde, ammonia, toluene and xylene in your home or office.

Unfortunately, Anthurium andraeanum isn’t the easiest plant to grow indoors. It is definitely not for those that don’t have a green thumb. If you decide to grow this houseplant, be sure you give it plenty of indirect light. The blooms love to soak in the rays, and you’ll be rewarded for weeks with their beauty. The hard part about this houseplant, is that it prefers high-humidity environments. If relative humidity falls below 50%, your plant may start to die. Having a humidifier in your home is the easiest way to avoid this. You also want to make sure the soil stays moist at all times.

Please note, Anthurium andraeanum is poisonous to both humans and animals. Caution must be taken with small children and pets. If they ingest any part of this plant, they will immediately start to have difficulty swallowing, horseness and blistering in their mouth and throat. If you experience any of these symptoms, please seek medical help immediately.


Hedera helix - English Ivy

8. Hedera helix (English Ivy)

Often called English Ivy or European Ivy, Hedera helix is another popular houseplant that helps filter airborne toxins inside your home. According to NASA’s Clean Air Study, English Ivy is effective at cleansing benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air. Additionally, other studies have indicated that English Ivy also helps reduce mold in your home.

This evergreen climbing vine is extremely popular in outdoor landscaping. You may have seen it used as ground-cover in areas where grass doesn’t grow, or perhaps climbing up the side of a wall or tree trunk. Because of its “carefree” nature, it has grown in popularity over the years. However due to it spreading aggressively, horticulturists say you should be hesitant in using it outside and should only keep it as an indoor plant. This prevents it from invading other plants around your home, and has the added benefit of purifying the air in your home.

Caring for Hedera helix is relatively easy. Keep it at a constant temperature, give it plenty of direct sunlight and water generously with well-drained soil. If you can do these three things, English Ivy will return the love with cleaner air in your home.


Gerbera jamesonii - Barberton Daisy

9. Gerbera jamesonii (Barberton Daisy)

Most commonly known as a Barberton Daisy, Gerbera jamesonii is a beautiful flowering plant that is native to Eastern Africa. While it is intended and mainly used for outdoor use, it is becoming more popular to put them in containers for indoor use. This may be a wise decision for your indoor air quality, as NASA’s Clean Air Study found that Gerbera jamesonii is effective at cleansing the air of formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene.

Barberton daisy’s prefer full sun, plenty of water and well-drained soil. If you try to use this as an indoor houseplant, make sure you have it in an area that has plenty of natural light. It also thrives in moist soil. Be sure to keep the soil moist as often as possible, without over-watering it. Gerbera jamesonii is able to withstand a wide range of temperatures, so you don’t need to be concerned with keep your home at a specific temp.


Ficus benjamina - Weeping Fig

10. Ficus benjamina (Weeping Fig)

Most commonly known as a Weeping Fig or Ficus tree, Ficus benjamina is popular houseplant that is also very effective at purifying the air in your home. According to NASA’s Clean Air Study, Ficus benjamina was effective at cleansing airborne formaldehyde, xylene and toluene.

This low-maintenance, evergreen plant grows well both inside and out. If you use it as a houseplant, place it in an area that has plenty of bright indirect natural light. If you place it directly in the sun, it’s possible that the leaves will burn. Water it frequently, but to avoid root rot allow the soil to dry before adding more water. Ficus benjamina grows the best in higher temperatures, much like you would have in your home, as well as relative humidity levels above 50%.

Please note: this plant is poisonous to animals. If you have pets, especially dogs and cats, you may want to take extra precautions to make sure they do not ingest any part of this plant. If they do ingest Ficus benjamina, they will likely experience the following symptoms: vomiting, salivation, and oral irritation. Seek help from your veterinarian immediately.

Article sourced from: https://learn.allergyandair.com/houseplants-indoor-air-quality/

How to Make Your Own Terrarium

Terrariums are a beautiful addition to desks, dining room tables, and other well-lit spots. Check out our easy step-by-step instructions to learn how to plant a terrarium.

Perk Up Your Indoor Space

Add a little green to your indoor space with an eye-catching terrarium! Not only are they a great oxygen booster, terrariums are easy to create and can be made in a variety of sizes. Change up the container to fit into any décor.

10 Tasks to Keep Your Garden Growing this Winter

Winter is certainly the time to dream, plan and prepare for next year’s garden, but there are a number of tasks you can do out in the garden to keep it growing well through the winter months. Let’s take a look at ten ways to maintain your green thumb through the coldest time of year.

1. Dream, scheme and plan for next season.
Winter is the time of year when we reflect on how our gardens grew and hunt for ideas on what to do differently next year. Look through the garden photos and notes you’ve taken, then make a list of plants that need to be moved, divided or replaced. Search for solutions about how to improve your soil, how to combat the Japanese beetles that turned your roses into swiss cheese, and any other issues that have popped up in the garden. Make a list of the new plants you’d like to try. Once spring hits you’ll want to get out into the garden, so take care of these things now.

2. Pre-order seeds, bulbs and plants for spring.
Plant catalogs for gardeners are what the Toys “R” Us catalog is to children. Grab your highlighter and start marking your must-haves for next spring, or go online to pre-order plants, seeds and bulbs. Organize your new orders and the seed packets you have left over from last year so you’ll know exactly what you have to add to the garden in spring.

3. Design a new garden bed, path or feature.
You don’t have to be an artist to roughly sketch out a new feature you’d like to add to your garden next season. But if drawing isn’t your thing, try gathering pictures from Pinterest or Houzz that illustrate what you want to accomplish. Maybe you’d like to add a raised bed or portable garden near your patio, or grow a mailbox garden. Now is the time to start looking for a landscape contractor who can help you accomplish these goals. Get on their list now or risk being at the back of the line come spring.

4. Organize your shed or garage.

If it’s not too cold where you live, winter can be a great time to haul all of your gardening supplies out and organize them. Clean out the dirt you’ve brought in with your shovels all season and take down all the spiderwebs. Evaluate each item before moving it back in; make a “keep” and “donate or sell” pile and stick to it. Add more shelving and hooks for tools if it will help to keep you more organized.

5. Sharpen and oil your tools.
While you have all your tools hauled out of storage, take the time to sharpen and oil your pruners, hedge shears, loppers, shovels, mower blades, and anything else that might require maintenance. Use steel wool to remove the rust from the blades and hinges, and oil them well to prevent future rust from developing. When it’s time to head back out into the garden in spring, you’ll be happy to have nice, sharp tools to work with.

6. Check stored bulbs and tubers for mold and moisture.
If you are storing any dormant bulbs or tubers like canna lilies, elephant ears, or tuberous begonias, open the container once per month to make sure no mold has developed and they are staying adequately moist. Discard any moldy roots immediately so they don’t affect the others, and mist any desiccated roots with water before returning them to storage.

7. Water any containerized plants you are overwintering outdoors under cover.

As with bulbs and tubers, it’s important to keep the roots of any plants you are overwintering in containers outdoors under cover adequately moist. If the soil isn’t frozen, water them lightly or add a layer of snow on top about once per month. Even though the plants are not actively growing, you don’t want their roots to become desiccated to the point where they can no longer absorb moisture and nutrients.

8. Reapply mulch or lay evergreen boughs over sensitive plants in the garden.
Newly planted perennials, young broadleaf evergreens like azaleas, or plants that are borderline hardy in your zonebenefit greatly from winter mulch. By insulating the plants’ roots and shielding their foliage from winter winds, you increase the likelihood they will survive the winter and won’t heave out of the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. Be sure to remove this winter mulch in early spring so the plants can start to grow again.

Photo courtesy of Curtis Adams.

9. Reapply animal repellents, if necessary.
Once the leafy green foliage and fall fruits are gone, deer, rabbits and other garden pests turn to woody plants and roots for food. After all, they need to eat in winter too. Pay close attention to the bark and base of young trees and low-branched shrubs, and evergreen plants of all kinds, inspecting for signs of damage. Reapply animal repellent to prevent further damage through the winter months.

10. Maintain heated water features and bird baths.
If you’ve installed a heater in your pond or bird bath to provide a fresh water source for birds over the winter, keep an eye on it to make sure it isn’t icing over. Heaters are notorious for going out in the coldest months, and you want to keep your prize koi fish safe and the birds hydrated. If ice does form across the pond, gently make a hole or pour hot water over an area to break it up so that oxygen can continue to flow.

Article courtesy Proven Winners®

Poinsettia Care

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) remain one of the most popular holiday flowers. Hybridizers have expanded the range of colors from the familiar red to pastel yellow and vibrant bi-colors. One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia so that it will bloom again next Christmas?”. While this can be done, it’s a very fussy, exacting process and since the plants are not that expensive, you might just choose to start fresh next year.
For those of you who are undaunted, the process for saving your poinsettia and getting it to rebloom begins with the care you give it the first season. Continue reading Poinsettia Care

December Garden Tips

Get Ready For Winter

  • Clean, oil and store tools for the winter.
  • Prepare snow-blower for winter use. Consider a tune-up and servicing.
  • Apply winter fertilizer on lawn after the last mowing. This can be done around the same time as your lime application.
  • Consolidate all your garden notes for the year-favorite varieties, successful new plants.

For The Holidays & After

  • This is a great time to make gifts from your garden. Wreaths, herb bouquets, herbal vinegars, pressed flowers are just a few ideas.
  • Keep that bird feeder well stocked for the winter. Your birds depend on you.
  • Have a happy holiday season!

For Your Flower Bed

  • Shred and compost freshly collected leaves. Alternate layers with the last of the grass clippings from your lawn.
  • Apply a final mulch to foundation beds, perennials and roses. Make sure ground is frozen. This additional mulch layer prevents heaving during periodic thaws in January and February.
  • Apply boughs from spent Christmas trees and wreaths as a mulch layer for perennial beds. Wait until ground freezes.

For Your Trees and Shrubs

  • Apply WiltPruf, an anti-dessicant, to protect broad-leaf evergreens as well as your holiday greens, wreaths, even your fresh cut Christmas tree. See our staff, or visit the WiltPruf website, for details and further instruction. Now is the time to apply it to your evergreens, including hollies. It acts as a “chap-stick” for your plants, protecting them from moisture loss due to drying winter winds.
  • Pre-dig hole if you’re planning on purchasing a live Christmas tree.

Merry Wreaths

Sleigh bells jingling; children caroling; the warm, sweet scent of treats fresh from the oven: The winter holidays are a magical time filled with goodwill and the good company of family and friends. Such a special time of year deserves to be celebrated with special decorations. So this season, why not move beyond the old balsam wreath with the large red bow and create some holiday sparkle all your own? Just look around your yard and home and you’re sure to find the markings for the very merriest of wreaths. Continue reading Merry Wreaths