Detox diets are popular with a New Year’s arrival. I did one this winter. Not sure if it worked but I learned a lot about myself. You have a lot to think about on those “cleanse” days when you are just drinking liquids. Primarily how much you like Pizza. I personally think fresh air and exercise are a key factor to good health. The problem in winter is we spend a large share of our day indoors. Think about it….between home and work many people spend 80%, 90% or more of their day indoors in winter. Our houseplants are also “prisoners” indoors in winter. Dry furnace fed air with no fresh air through the windows can get things rather stale. Aside from elevating your mood or calming you, plants can also raise the humidity in a room which is good when the air is dry.
My good friend “Phil”-o-Dendron
Houseplants can also have a pulling effect on airborne toxins. Studies by NASA have found that indoor plants can eliminate some toxins in the air including formaldehyde, benzine, carbon monoxide and even act as dust collectors. I have a list of prime air cleaning plants that I have mentioned on my radio show….here’s the list!
- Areca Palm (I said “Areca” not “Eureka” which some people might exclaim when they are able to actually keep the plant alive)
- Mother-in-law-tongue (Yes that’s what they call it because most people can’t remember it’s real name Sanseveria. This plant is virtually indestructible)
- Spider Plant (Unless you have a phobia about spiders)
- The Golden Pothos (this is not an all you can eat buffet but a great easy to grow vining houseplant in many variegated variations)
- Aloe Vera (not a waitress in a bad sitcom, this plant is great to have in the kitchen for “owwies”)
- Peace Lily (not the goofy lady next door who still smokes her herbs instead of using them in her cooking)
- Dracaena (not a dance craze but a colorful “spikey” plant that comes in many variations.
- Purple Waffle (not a place you have breakfast, it’s called Purple Waffle because Hemigraphis is too tough to remember)
- Philodendron (my easy going good friend Phil O’ Dendron. There are color variations, split leaf varieties, floor plants and hanging vines)
- English Ivy (a spot of tea anyone?)
- Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica at one time it’s latex was used to make rubber)
- Money Plant (see money does grow on trees….said to bring good luck)
I have grounded friends who give me well rooted advice. I had a friend of mine tell me it’s OK to have “dirty thoughts” at this time of year if you’re a gardener. This made me laugh because I love the smell of soil. Another friend suggested to me that soil is the stomach of a plant. Early in the year many of us resolve better eating habits. What about our plants? As we shovel snow in the frozen tundra our thoughts turn to the smell of good clean dirt. When we’ve been cooped up inside all winter in dry forced air and a confined space, we discover how much the rich healing texture and smell of soil and sunshine influences how we feel.
I’m convinced that soil, fresh air and foliage are significant contributors to how we feel and our overall health. Don’t take my word for it, I’m not a doctor, just an “entre-manure”. A bag of potting soil this time of year can have big remedial effects for the winter blues. Remember as we progress toward the spring season we do know that there is a direct correlation between the health of your soil and the healthy produce, flowers and herbs you are able to grow in your garden. Studies suggest that soil can be beneficial to our health. I saw a study recently that soil teeming with a wide variety of “life” is more likely to produce nutrient-dense food.
“What we’re missing,” says my friend Justin Morgan of Dairy Doo, “is organic matter and carbon in our soils. We need a blend of carbon, minerals and biology.” Makes sense once you understand that it is the cooperation between organic matter and plants’ roots that is responsible for transferring carbon and nutrients from the soil to the plant and our dinner plates.
Stay grounded my friend
Your houseplants have had a long winter too. They have cabin fever, are tired of the dry air and whether in the office or the home have probably collected a little dust on their foliage. Lack of light is already a problem throughout winter so don’t compound the problem with dusty dirty foliage. Using some warm water and a pair of soft cotton gloves, dip your hands gloves and all in the warm water and gently using your fingers wipe (don’t pull or tug) the foliage. This is a quick gentle easy way to clean the foliage and improve photosynthesis.
I try to amuse myself in winter so I don’t dwell on the cold conditions and the remote existence from gardening activities. Thought I would share some pictures from my winter “pun”-derland with you as we mark the days off the calendar until the arrival of spring!
Oh deer….these cute little guys stopped by my backyard for a “tree”-t…..they’re just trying to have a little “fawn”
Took this picture along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Thousands of sandy ice balls form when rolls of light snow are blown form the shore into water which is at or just below freezing. The rolls of snow are then tossed about in the chilly waters and mix with sand in the churning water, where wave action eventually shapes them into balls of sandy ice!
I love foliage houseplants. Sure there is the practical side to them, from aesthetically filling space to cleaning indoor air. They are nature’s oxygen generating and filtration system for our indoor living spaces. When our windows and homes are sealed tight for the frigid winter months they improve the quality of our air as well as our visual landscape. January is a long month and if you’re not into winter sports or shoveling the driveway you’re going to be spending a lot of time indoors. You’ve got a friend in foliage. With some light and a little bit of care foliage is the gift that keeps giving year around. I like to talk to my plants. For some that might feel strange but remember the carbon dioxide from your breath can be converted into oxygen by these nature’s miracles.
Foliage Houseplants brighten a room and clean the air
An understanding is needed to successfully grow foliage in our Michigan homes in winter. First of all remember that foliage plants are native to tropical areas. That means they don’t appreciate cold drafts. No I’m not talking about beer I’m talking about drafty blustery doorways. They also do not like being near heat sources like a furnace vent. The dry indoor air is unlike their environment in the tropics. A brightly lit window in a cool part of the room will suit them just fine for the winter months. Your job is to not overwater them. Water is the number one killer of houseplants, too much or too little. Nine times out of ten it’s too much not too little. We kill them with kindness. With the lack of transpiration in the winter months, the foliage demands much less moisture supply from the roots. If you’re adding too much water to the roots without the demand of the foliage the roots rot and choke.
My good friend “Phil”-o-dendron
In addition fungus gnats develop and multiply like, well, fungus gnats. That’s no fun. Keep your soil on the dry side watering only when needed. Remember your houseplants are just trying to get through winter like you and are also experiencing cabin fever.
The fun part is picking out some new foliage for your home or office. It’s not as expensive as furniture and certainly easier to move. The choices in foliage are far greater than the typical Ficus tree with half of its foliage fallen off and lying in the pot or on the ground. Some foliage plants are just plain tough and can put up with some neglect and abuse. Plants like Chinese Evergreen, Sanseveria, Hoya, Pothos, Philodendron, Aspidistra and ZZ plant are tough and tolerant. Ideal for office environments they’ll stand the test in your home climate.
Orchids, Anthurium and Spathiphyllum can provide some long lasting blooms in your home. Moth or Phalenopsis Orchids are easy to grow and the blooms are long lived. Draceana and Crotons can provide colorful foliage.
Colorful Crotons are great for use outdoors in summer and add color indoors in winter
Some varieties of Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, Pothos and Aglaonema as examples have quite interesting and colorful foliage. If you can discipline yourself not to overwater, Succulents and Cactus thrive on neglect in a bright spot and will provide living interest in your home. If you need something very basic pick up some Catgrass seeds and sow them on some potting soil in a windowsill pot. Even if you don’t have a cat in the home, you can occasionally cut your indoor lawn with a scissors to get your green fix.
Don’t forget to talk to them. Like my friend “Phil”-odendron has told me, relax, you’re among fronds.
The landscape provides a bounty of holiday decorating opportunities with entry porch pots to welcome visitors to your home. Flowers now frozen in pots can be pulled and you can create warm welcoming containers in existing pots that I call “porch pots” for the holiday season. Hoe, Hoe, Hoe, let your landscape add to the festive look of the holidays.
Evergreen branches and decorations in a standard nursery pot with soil
Start with some containers for your deck or entry steps. I like to use ceramic pots that were used for flowering annuals during the growing season. In November before the soil freezes hard, branches cut at a 45 degree angle to create a point can be pushed into the soil to arrange your festive welcome. If you’re potting up some new containers make sure to have some bags of thawed potting soil stored for use for when you’re ready to arrange. After your arrangement is made and left outdoors the soil will freeze and hold the branches in place.
With a good pruning shears and a pleasant November day, a bountiful harvest can be had to add color to outdoor container arrangements and wreaths. The foundation of your arrangement will be evergreen boughs.
You can purchase evergreen boughs in bundles or prune your own. Here in Michigan Douglas Fir is a great choice because of their fragrance. Fraser Fir is easy to work with and provides beautiful evergreen color. Colorado Blue Spruce will add some color and interest, just make sure you’re wearing gloves when working with their prickly attitude. Scotch Pine and White Pine are also great choices. Oregon greens are available for purchase and evergreen boughs of Noble Fir and Incense Cedar as examples provide great interest.
Now that you’ve placed the foundation stems of evergreen boughs in the pot working from the center to the outside arching them over the side, the fun is just beginning.
Red Twig Dogwood adds lots of color!
Now we get creative with remnants of the landscape to add color and interest. My favorite cuttings or stems to work into my arrangements are:
• Red Twig Dogwood
• Curly Willow
• Gold Twig Dogwood
• Birch branches
• Upright Sedum
• Deciduous Holly Berry Branches
• Ninebark Branches
• Echinacea or Rudbeckia spent bloom seed heads
Use your creativity to find items in the landscape to offset the evergreen branches in both color and texture.
Finally you can add some artificial elements to the arrangement. Solid color ball ornaments can be added, some are available on sticks to poke into the soil. Plastic colored ball ornaments may be a good choice if breakage is a concern. Artificial berry stems can be purchased to add bright colors. LED lights can be added for nighttime interest and color. If a plug is not handy or extension cords would be unsightly, LED lights use little power and are available in battery operated options also.
Hoe, Hoe, Hoe, your landscape is in the spirit of the season with festive gatherings in porch pots, and a little help from you.