Celebrate your Space with House Plants.
As the holidays end and the decorations come down, celebrate your space with the addition of house plants. Plants are excellent air purifiers, they lower stress levels, they add softness to a space, and people feel nicer and friendlier when there are plants nearby. For an attractive presentation, use plants with a variety of growth habits. Some popular, easy-to-grow plants are discussed below:
ZZ Plant: Should dry out between watering; can go for long periods without any water at all. Tolerates low light for long periods. Can get large.
Chinese Evergreen: Drench and let dry between waterings. Bright to medium light (tolerant of low light). Can get large.
Snake Plant: Keep on the dry side. Full sun to low light. Come in a variety of sizes but generally stay on the small side.
Pothos: Drench and let dry. Bright to medium light (tolerant of low light). Fast-growing, variegated vine which creates a cascade of foliage.
LOOK OUT: Both English Ivy and various palms are attractive and readily available plants, but both are prone to destructive, hard-to-kill spider mites.
Live gently upon this earth…
If you are getting a live Christmas tree this year, think about purchasing a tree in a pot—then plant it in your garden this spring.
If you’re buying a cut tree, give your tree a second life after the holidays:
Cut off the branches and use them for winter mulch for shrubs, perennials and exposed beds of ground cover, especially English Ivy.
Prop it next to a garage where birds can easily flit into the branches. It creates an instant roosting area to shelter small birds from inclement weather, and predators.
Avoid placing natural evergreen wreaths behind an all-glass storm door; sunlight shining through the glass builds up heat, making the wreath dry out quickly.
When decorating for a special holiday meal, look to your yard for inspiration. Spray paint leaves in colors of silver and gold, and sprinkle along the center of the table. Elegant.
Holiday Gift Ideas from the Garden Club Experts
Garden Knife (Hori Hori): Has a serrated side and is pointed. Very useful for making small holes for planting, for digging up weeds, for dividing perennials and for opening plastic bags of garden soil, mulch, etc. Sold online and at garden centers.
Garden Magazines: Chicagoland Gardening, Horticulture Magazine, Fine Gardening and Garden Gate are particular favorites. Not only do they give good, practical tips, but they are inspiring and uplifting when they arrive on cold winter days.
“New” Power Ratchet Pruner: Is particularly easy on the hands. Sold online at syndicate-sales.com.
Garden Gloves: A nice pair of attractive, sturdy garden gloves, particularly leather gloves. It is a gift the gardener would not necessarily give himself/herself, but is wonderful for protecting hands. Sold online and at garden centers.
Gift Card to The Growing Place: An area favorite for a unique garden.
Ode to a Fallen Friend
It was more than just a tree, it was a member of our family. It was in our backyard when we moved in 29 years ago. As the years went on, we built a deck around it and had many meals and gatherings under it’s dappled light and protection. Our tree held flowering baskets, birds’ nests, memorial chimes, and was a jungle gym for the squirrels and the occasional raccoon. We’ll miss it.
Creating the Autumn Garden Journal
Often in the fall our thoughts are finished with the garden. We are tired of weeding, deadheading, and performing the miscellaneous tasks that keep things looking good. However, there’s a fun garden task left for you, and that’s creating a garden journal. There’s something special about a handwritten record—making drawings of a planting bed—turning the pages as you reflect.
A garden journal is a written record of your garden, and, if done thoughtfully, can also be a meditation on gardening. There are a few things a good journal should contain:
Photos of your garden
A listing of what worked in your garden and what didn’t (both design and planting materials). It helps to include your thoughts on why you feel this way.
Future changes to existing beds
Pictures of plants which you would like to include in next year’s garden
Altho it might seem superfluous now, write your thoughts on what you do and don’t enjoy about your garden and the work you do in it. Be a little poetic. You will enjoy reviewing these thoughts in the dead of winter, and may be surprised by what comes out of your pen!
Use your autumn journal as a springboard for winter reflections in preparation for the summer to come.
Reviving the Summer Garden
Your garden will look better immediately if you deadhead and cut back plants that have become overgrown, floppy or leggy.
Weeding this time of year yields a bonus. Any time you spend weeding in the fall can help reduce the number of weeds in the spring. This is a good time to apply “Preen”. It does not kill existing weeds but discourages new seeds from germinating. Do not apply Preen in areas where you will be planting seeds you wish to grow.
Be ruthless—pull annuals that are past their prime and unlikely to recover.
Fill in garden bare spots with new perennials or fall annuals. Be sure to water new plants regularly.
Use a shovel to refresh the edge of planting beds so there’s a crisp divide between the grass and the garden. In addition to looking good, this also discourages grass from growing into your planting beds.
If your mulch is looking tired, it can help to rake it over. Also a light topping of new mulch can improve it’s appearance and also help retain moisture. Now and in the spring, think about leaving some areas of your garden un-mulched. Certain types of pollinating bees nest in the soil and cannot reach it if there is a layer of mulch. Pollinating bees are not aggressive, and these little bees need all the help they can get!
Get to Know your Serviceberries: Meet, Greet and Eat
We are all aware of the health benefits of blueberries. Did you know the serviceberry plantings (Amelanchier) growing in your yard have fruit that is even healthier than blueberries?
Serviceberries have almost twice the iron of blueberries. They also contain large amounts of potassium, magnesium and phosphorous. They have as much vitamin C, A, E, B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, and antioxidants as blueberries.
Serviceberries are wonderful and popular landscape trees. They are easy to grow in shade, part sun or full sun, and are drought tolerant. The usual form is a multi-branched small tree, 8-20 feet tall and 4-20 feet wide; although there are some types that are around 4 feet tall. They are known as multi-seasonal trees because with the spring, they grow white flowers which turn into wonderful berries. This is followed by bright green or bluish green leaves which develop beautiful red and orange fall colors.
Serviceberries can be used just like blueberries in jellies, jams, pies, muffins, smoothies, and just plain eating.
How many plants do you choose for a planting area?
When planting new perennials and shrubs, it is tempting to cram many plants into an area so that it instantly looks lush, providing immediate gratification. It is preferable, however, to follow the guidelines listed on the plant markers, leaving enough space for each plant to grow into itself. It will take 3-4 years to achieve success but ultimately you will have better plants which fill their space comfortably and don’t quickly become overcrowded. When taking this preferred approach, if the planting area initially looks too sparse, lightly fill it in with annuals, taking care that they do not encroach on the perennial planting space.
Note: As a rule of thumb, when choosing plants, your garden will make a stronger, more cohesive statement if you use a larger quantity of each plant type, with fewer varieties of plants.
Check out the Morton Arboretum in Lisle to see beautiful, mature plantings and plant layouts. The Acorn Express Tram Tours run until November 6 and are an easy and informative way of seeing the grounds. You could also take your bike and enjoy the “auto-free zone” trails through August 26. Go to mortonarboretum.org for details.
The National Audubon Society would like you to be a volunteer participant on the hummingbird tracking team. Go to hummingbirdsathome.org for more information on this free & worthwhile activity.
Thoughts from a Garden
There is a certain time each Spring, when the snow is gone and the sun is starting to warm the ground and each day there is something new popping in the garden. I love to walk my yard each morning at this time of year, to watch as the garden awakens and grows from day to day. It is reassuring to see the cycle of life begin its journey once again.
Looking for a unique, organic centerpiece or home accent, try the Japanese String Garden Moss Ball, or kokedama.
Bonsai soil (available at Wannemakers, Goers Greenhouse or Amazon)
Sheet moss or sphagnum moss
Miniature ferns, succulents or other small plant
Fishing line, waxed string or wire
Also required: water, mixing bowl
Mix soil in 7:3 ratio of peat moss to bonsai soil. Wet soil until moist enough to form a ball without falling apart. Firmly press soil into round balls large enough to encase the plant roots.
Gently remove excess soil from the roots of the plant, and tuck it into the soil ball. Press soil together so it is a compact sphere.
To hold in moisture, wrap the soil ball in moss. Sheet moss will create a greener moss ball, while sphagnum is more golden. (Sphagnum is sold dry and must be reconstituted by soaking in water before use).
Wrap the moss-covered soil with fishing line in a criss-cross pattern, and tie with a knot. If you wish to hang the kokedama, tie two lengths of twine on opposite sides of the moss ball and suspend from a hook in a spot which receives indirect light. Kokedama can also be placed on a flat surface.
Water according to your plant’s needs, submerging in water until uniformly moist.
Those funky, architectural plants you see everywhere are bromeliads and have a name: “Air Plants”, officially Tillandsia!
Is air their only requirement for growth?
No. They need good air circulation, but also require water. A thorough submersion in room temperature (not distilled) water for 1-2 hours every two weeks will keep them happy. Leaves should feel stiff and full of water after a good soak. After watering, they should experience enough air circulation to dry within 4 hours. During hot, dry periods, a quick misting is OK, but cannot take the place of a good submersion. They also like a weak fertilizer included in their water every couple of waterings. Be sure to remove all water from their containers, because Tillandsia will not survive in standing water. Underwatering is indicated by flacid, wrinkled or rolled leaves.
Do they need sun?
Yes, but not direct sun, especially not hot summer sun. A bright, filtered or indirect light will keep them happy.
How to I display this unique plant?
Because they don’t rely on roots, they do not require, nor want, dirt. They can be tucked into any nook or cranny. Using a non-water soluble glue, they can be glued to any surface and displayed on the wall. As another option, special hanging glass globes are sold to display Tillandsias. It is important that any display provides good air circulation.