How to Prepare Your Houseplants to Come Back in For the Winter

My houseplants enjoy their summers outside on the porch. I feel the living room looks a bit bare when they get moved out, however, I don’t spend much time in the house during the summer either!!
When it’s time to bring everyone back into the house, there are a few things that need to be done to insure a safe, pest-free winter. Otherwise, things can go bad fast
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Here are a few tools of my trade.

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First, everyone gets a bath. I try to actually shoot across the crown, not down, as if there are bugs, eggs or god knows what up in there, it gets shot out, not into the soil. Hit both sides of the leaves. If the leaves are broad, wipe them off a bit.

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I then give everyone a dose of soap! It is best to have the plants wet before you spray the soap on as it will stay liquid longer to smother any offenders. Don’t forget the trunks. So, this is what it’s like to be a mass murderer… ;-)

Oh, a note about frugality…. I love being able to make a concoction for 10¢ instead of paying $13.99 for something… HOWever, do not use dish soap in lieu of horticultural soap. Dish soap nowadays does not have the fatty-acids that aid adhesion and they are mostly made of detergents that will be harsh on the leaves.

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I let everyone soak in the soap for about 10 minutes, then a good rinse using the same technique of overshooting the crown.

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Look over the plants for anything that may look like a pending issue.

Pruning any poor-growing branches or just to make the plant more compact to fit in the house is a good idea. I also may need to tie a few branches up for space issues.

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I then make sure the pot drains correctly and that the pot is rinsed off of dirt or any other cling-ons. This will become difficult to do if you can’t bring it outside to correct.

Some of my plants need amendments, like my orange tree prefers acid soil in this land of limestone well water. I add the garden sulfur as directed and water it in thoroughly. Again this is something you really can’t do after the plant is inside with only a reservoir under the pot. I do give some of them a bit of fertilizer, however I only give it sparingly.

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Here’s the lamp that I had and thought matched my repurposed lamp!

Gremlin Bell For Safe Travel

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Saint Christopher for my hubby’s car! He’s the saint for travelers.

Have you noticed that some motorists have a small bell hanging in their car?  Have you wondered what the purpose was? That little bell is more than just a decoration, it serves a very important purpose – it wards off gremlins, also known as evil road spirits.

You see, there are motor vehicle gremlins that LOVE speed, however they are also mischievous little devils and they cause all sorts of problems for you while you are driving.  Some say they are responsible for that old lady in the minivan cutting you off in traffic… Or, you may be having trouble shifting smoothly, your battery goes dead, your turn signal suddenly refuses to work, an oil spill appears out of nowhere, or you hit a patch of black ice – you get the idea.  Those little gremlins look for trouble and try to steer your vehicle towards it.

Do not fear for your hooptie – Place a bell somewhere it can freely ring, as it wards off these attacks from the little gremlins.  If you already have some gremlins riding with you, they become trapped in the hollow of the bell and the constant ringing drives them insane – causing them to lose their grip and fall to the roadway. And that is also where potholes come from!

If you buy a gremlin bell of your own, the power works.  If you receive the gremlin bell as a gift – the powerful magic of the bell is doubled.

** The original Gremlin Bell’s are for motorcycles, however I think a gremlin is a gremlin!

Chimera Rose – The Story of a Single Twin

A chimera (also spelled chimaera) is a single organism composed of genetically distinct cells.

According to Greek mythology, the chimera is a monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature of Lycia in Asia Minor, composed of the parts many animals. They are frequently portrayed as a female lion with the head of a goat arising from the back, sometimes including a dragon, and a tail that ends with a snake’s head. The Chimera was one of the offspring of Typhon and Echidna and a sibling of such monsters as Cerberus and the Lernaean Hydra.

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However, in real life, chimeras happen to all plants and animals, including humans.

We know that fraternal twins arise from two fertilized eggs that develop into nonidentical twins. However, sometimes these two zygotes overlap and fuse so completely as to develop into one body with two distinct sets of DNA, a phenomenon called tetragametic chimerism. Basically, Freaky Friday, but double-time the FREAKY!

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This happens well before any of the embryonic stem cells in the zygote are defined as ‘liver’, ‘leg’ or ‘skin’ (etc). So, while this special person(s) is baking in mom’s womb, the ‘together but separate’ cells start making a complete human. The interesting part is that one set of cells will develop into a part (say the heart) and other parts will be developed by the other zygote’s cells. This human will be complete in every way; however, some of their parts will have different DNA. It is possible to have a heart with one DNA and a kidney with another DNA in one person. Many times chimerism is seen physically, such as having two different colored eyes or skin markings/mosaics.

Many times people don’t even know they are a chimera unless a medical need for DNA testing becomes necessary or perhaps a question of paternity comes up. Mother’s needing an organ transplant have been told that their tested children are not theirs and there have even been parents taken to court over custody and welfare fraud because DNA of the children and parents did not match.

Chimeras in plants have been being developed before there was a clear understanding of what was happening. African Violets have been genetically played with for decades.

Here is rose that I noticed had the chimera trait. Notice how the one right next to it is one color? It can be that random.
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© Ilex – Midwestern Plants

How to Build a Large-Scale Rain Garden

We have a client that has two rain gardens (really drainage swales) installed by another company and after 3 years, it had reverted to all cattails (Typha latifolia). Not that they are the worst thing in the world, however they were a boring sight for our clients who wished for colorful blooms.

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Booooring cat tails…. Meow.

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Ooh, one spark of color!

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Colorful rain garden wishes. This is a bioswale in Wisconsin.

There are differences between bioswales, drainage swales, and rain gardens. You should know the differences before you decide to plant. Once you’re a bit educated and would like to build your own, here’s a great link to the Wisconsin Extension Natural Resources Departments “Guide to Bioswales and Rain Gardens”, one of the best I’ve scoped out. It has ‘recipes’ for rain gardens that supply all the names of plants that do well in different types of soils and light requirements.

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After we had our plan, it was time to bring in the big guns. Luckily, the entwined roots of the cat tails were easily removed like ripping up a carpet. If you know what tubers are (kind of like a potato)  This is not normal, usually this is a very difficult task. We got verrrry lucky.

We brought in a few truckloads of soil and re-graded the basin to drain towards the outlet.

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It was the fun time now! Installation of the plants. I gave the crew a general planting guide (tall in center, graduating in height to ends) which they transferred via spray paint to the beds. We used 2 1/2 inch plugs for the project. We had about 2,700 square feet (sqft.) to cover and I had purchased 2,300 plants. Most were planted at a 12″ inch center, meaning 1 per sqft., however some of the larger plants we placed at 18″ centers.

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SHORT MEDIUM TALL
ASCLEPIAS TUBEROSA ACORUS CALAMUS EUPATORIUM MACULATUM
GEUM TRIFLORUM ASTER ERICOIDES LIATRIS PYCNOSTACHYA
HEUCHERA RICHARDSONII ERYNGIUM YUCCIFOLIUM RATIBIDA PINNATA
MIMULUS RINGENS MONARDA FISTULOSA RUDBECKIA SUBTOMENTOSA
RUDBECKIA HIRTA PHYSOSTEGIA VIRGINIANA SPARGANIUM EURYCARPUM
BAPTISIA LEUCANTHA PYCNANTHEMUM VIRGINIANUM ASTER NOVAE-ANGLIAE
SAGITTARIA LATIFOLIA HIBISCUS PALUSTRIS
SOLIDAGO OHIOENSIS
VERBENA HASTATA
AMORPHA CANESCENS
CAREX VULPINOIDEA
SCIRPUS PENDULUS
HYSTRIX PATULA
ASCLEPIAS INCARNATA
LIATRIS SPICATA
LOBELIA CARDINALIS
LOBELIA SIPHILITICA
TRADESCANTIA OHIENSIS

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I was told by the homeowner, builder and my boss that these basins are never full, just a bit of water from the sump-pumps and some run-off. Although I was born at night, I was not born last night… Why would these be required by the village to be so large if the potential for filling wasn’t there??? The above photo is basically what I was told would be the extent of the water level. I did choose plants that were able to be submerged for a short period of time… HOWEVER….

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I wasn’t exactly expecting THIS!

At this point, although we had no floaters, we will all have to wait to see if everyone survived next spring!

To be CONTINUED…..

Drawing Sunflowers

I had a great idea last spring to try to better my drawing skills. Or perhaps, to find any form of drawing skill !! I am really good at drawing the extremely, symmetrical 2D shapes that are necessary in drawing landscape plans, however, throw in that last dimension and I’m lost. I figured I wanted to try drawing from a photo first, as it is already in 2D. Not sure if that helped or hurt, but these are my first few attempts.

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These were actually water-color pencils. I’ve never worked with them before. I felt like a little kid again, as I remember that newspapers sometimes used to include paint-by-numbers with ‘paint’ included on the paper. Just use a wet brush on the paint which activated it and you were able to paint your picture. These pencils work in the same manner, as you use a wet brush on them after you’ve drawn. I think it makes the drawing look smoother & I can hide all my gorilla strokes with the pencil.

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Messin’ with camera setting….

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Here’s the funny part… My husband is a double art major that attended college at an art institute… I don’t know if I really want to ask for advice. Has anyone had success in having their spouse teach them something without anyone loosing any limbs? =-D

© Ilex – Midwestern Plants

Autumn Blooming Flowers 10-21-2014

Happy Tuesday to you all!!

Click HERE to see what was blooming last year!!

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If you can figure out what I was taking a picture of here, I will send you the booby-prize!!

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Cool thistle heads.

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Helenium autumnale – Sneezeweed… Achooooo!

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Helenium autumnale – Sneezeweed

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Milkweed seeds – Blowing n the wind!

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Gentainella quinquefolia – Stiff Gentian

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I know it is an aster – never seen one with a purple center, tho.

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Solidago nemoralis – Gray goldenrod

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I loved the fall color of this, however can’t ID it. =-(

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More asters I can’t ID.

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Monarda didyma – A bit of a late riser!

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Autumn Blooming Flowers 10-20-2014

Happy Monday Again.
Does it ever become any easier to wake-up and get out of the house on a Monday??

Click HERE to see what was blooming last year.

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Autumn pot annuals

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Grass seedheads!

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Parthenocissus quinquefolia – Virginia creeper

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Aster ericoides – Heath aster

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Catmint and daylily

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Cool annual grass!

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Chasmanthium latifolium – Northern Sea oaks

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 Anemone × hybrida ‘September Charm’

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Oxalis triangularis – False Shamrock

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Ampelopsis brevipedunculata var. maximowiczii ‘Elegans’ - Porcelain Vine

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Tricyrtis formosana – Toad Lily

I love this one, so beautiful!