Sunday, September 28, 2008

Second Spring Surprises

Have you ever had an extremely gorgeous weekend that just begs you to spend time in the garden and you have to spend most of it doing errands, or worse, work? It is enough to make you cry a little. The weather has cooled dramatically in the last few days and is just wonderful. I had to stay inside and clean the house before my husband threatened to move out. The plants have really enjoined their second spring and gave me a few surprises.

This is plain ol' lantana, but I like this shot.

The butterflies have been plentiful this season, but it seems like only the dull ones stay on the flower long enough to for me to take a picture.
The purple pentas are perfect.

The elephant ears became HUGE over night.

The butterfly ginger are gearing up for round two - yeah!

And the most massive surprise of all, a completely jaw dropping one, was that a stargazer lily from last year decided it would bloom after all, sneaking up behind some salvia. It's almost October! I was so disappointed that last years bulbs didn't bloom. I suppose it was just trying to be fashionably late.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Camellias and Spiders

I have camellias! I came home from work and from across the yard I could see the flowers blooming. I also have this little buddy:

The Nursery Nazi came over not too long ago. Since she studies garden bugs for a living, she took a look at my yard. Fortunately, she said "Looks good. You have lots of banana spiders, so its good." I'm guessing it is because it they eat so many garden pests. Since she came by, I've be a bit more tolerant of the spiders, my organic pesticide.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I spent the weekend puttering around the garden and figured I do a few update photos. Above is the side of the shed.The front of the shed.

The mealy cup sage in the butterfly garden is starting to form buds.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Dwarf Mexican Petunia Cuttings

This week, I bought a Dwarf Mexican Petunia (Ruellia brittoniana )and took cuttings of the dense plant today. Regular ruellia roots like crazy - put some cuttings in a bucket and a week later you'll have thriving plants with masses of tangled roots. These plants, which typically get to about 3 to 5 feet tall, have about an inch between leaf nodes. Root buds come out from in between these nodes. As you see below, the nodes on the dwarf are much closer together. I like this plant, and I am hoping to get a lot of babies from it, but I'm not sure how it will take to rooting. Here is what I did, and what I do for almost all of my soft root cuttings:

I took several 5 inch cuttings and stripped the leaves off the bottom. I also took off flowers and flower buds to encourage the plant to focus energy in to roots.

The soil I use is a typical seed starting soil mix with perlite, peat moss and sphagnum moss. Regular potting mix, while I have certainly used it, can be too dense. Stay away from anything with fertilizers already mixed in. Some people use sand, and I might start because I happen to have a extra bag of sand, and I'd like to extend the life of my mix.

Next is a key part of most of my cuttings. While plants like coleus and sweet potato vine don't need it, more difficult to root plants must have root hormone. Basically it is a powder that encourages root growth in the cutting. You can find it wherever you find garden soil. Just dip in the some water, dip in the powder and . . .

Stick it in the soil. Pretty simple really. I know, this is all ol' hat for seasoned gardeners, but hopefully there is a newbie out there who could use a pointer or two. Besides, I always like learning what other gardeners are doing, so I hope this is useful.

Finally, I put the cuttings in a "high-humidity environment." In my case it is my propagation station, or big clear plastic tub with a lid. You can also cover it with a plastic bag or cover it with empty soda bottle, but I have found this to be the easiest. I used to skip step this in the past, but I tried it this year and I have to say that it dramatically improved my success rate. Usually I'll keep the plant in here anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. Then they go on the table above, which is in a shady spot on the north side of the house for about a week. Finally, they typically spend a week in their future home before actually being planted there. Watch your plants and check on them every few days. Some really don't like the propagation station. In my case, the vinca didn't preform well in it. Others preform beautifully and I when I take them out they wilt after an hour. They are just not ready yet. The Ruellia are in here, as well as some pentas (another experiment), some Angle Trumpet seedlings and oleander cuttings.

Anyway, here is what do. How do you like to propagate plants?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekend Weeding

Spent the weekend weeding out the butterfly garden with my daughter. This is "her" garden and she is very protective of it. Here is the before:And the after:

The garden is looking pretty lately, waking up a bit from the intense summer heat. Above are Mexican petunia blooms.
Some pink salvia in the back of the garden.
I planted a bunch of pentas in the butterfly garden. They were cheap ($.50 for a 4-inch pot) and somewhere I heard they were decent cool weather plants. The cashier said they were "hummer magnets." Yeah, yeah. I've lived in Florida for 20 years, and I've never seen a hummingbird. I've heard that they are around, but I've also heard that big foot is around these parts if you spend time in the forest. Well, damn if I didn't plant these the other night and yesterday evening we saw a hummingbird. It was small, about the size of my thumb and looked a lot like a large bug, but it was a hummingbird. Makes me think I've seen them before but didn't know what they were. I went out this morning and bought more pentas for the front garden. Now I'll be like the little old ladies with all the tacky bright red plastic hummingbird feeders, perched by the window just waiting. . .

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