Pamper your Plants

In social media lately a post has been circulating about the use of diapers to improve your plants. If you want to “pamper” your plants or give your houseplant a “huggie” I suppose you could consider using a diaper. You see the super absorbent material in disposable diapers is just that….”SAP” or super absorbent polymers. The “bottom-line” is it’s much easier to use “Soil Moist” granules where you can use just a few in the soil to help retain moisture. Each granule can hold 30 times or more it’s weight in moisture. Understanding OVER-watering kills many plants be careful how much you use. Want to learn more? Check out this video of a recent TV segment I did on the subject……

http://www.wzzm13.com/videos/life/home-garden/greenthumb/2015/01/30/22575631/

Diaper dandy idea for your plants

Diaper dandy idea for your plants

Plant One On Me

A libation and some fresh flowers might make her swoon, at least the flowers will love it as proven in research. The Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University found some Gin or other 40% distilled spirit in 1 part booze to 7 parts water while growing Paperwhite Narcissus helped keep them from being “floppy” while being “floriforus”. Paperwhite Narcissus are an easy to grow indoor winter flower that might brighten your spirits. Now there’s a colorful potation to warm a winter evening.

Paperwhites for forcing indoors

Paperwhites for forcing indoors

In March it will be kiss me I’m “Iris” but in February almost any kind of flower is “scent”-uous. Valentine’s Day in mid February as winter drags on is the perfect time to plant one on her with the scents of flowers and foliage we all miss since the close of summer and autumn. A gift of flowers is sure make life more colorful at least for a day or evening or two.
My friend J Schwanke author of ‘Fun with Flowers’ tells me that in surveys done for the fresh flower industry, men gravitate towards red roses but women prefer peach, pink or orange roses. What do you think ladies? Let me know at thankyouverymulch.com. J is a frequent guest on my radio show and known nationally as a motivational florist. You can find him on ubloom.com.

My friend J Schwanke on the Flowerland show

My friend J Schwanke on the Flowerland show

I agree with him that a sweet personal hand written note with the flowers is a must and believe taking the time to make a personal selection and local purchase from a florist for Valentine’s Day is great way to use your “tulips” guys to say I love you.
Fresh cut flowers in an arrangement need fresh water so if you’re gifted with some make sure to change out the water in your fresh flower vase and make sure the stems have a fresh diagonal cut on the bottom to draw water like a straw. Water is essential to life and your beautiful fresh flowers are no exception. Keep them out of a direct sunlit window and away from a heat register to keep them beautiful for as long as possible. Packets of fresh flower “food” powders are also available from your local florist with your arrangement. May the “florist” be with you.

Bon Foliage My Friend

Bon voyage as we begin our journey into a new year. The New Year provides a fresh start often accompanied by resolutions to live healthier. How about adding a natural inexpensive air purifier to your home or landscape?

Ficus Elastica

Ficus Elastica

How about something that will improve your mood and just might enhance your productivity? Well then it’s Bon “foliage” as we begin our New Year. Talk about functional decorating! Style with a purpose! You’ll find the benefits of some well placed houseplants will grow on you!

My good friend split leaf Phil O’ Dendron

Cleaner indoor air decreases stress and noise reduction enhances your productivity. In our enclosed sealed tight spaces for winter, plants create oxygen and remove CO² as well as connecting you with the outdoors improving your mood.
Who would think the Space Station would teach us the benefits of clean indoor air? It makes “scents” when you think about it. Astronauts can’t throw open a window when the air gets stale and often neither can we in the middle of winter. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration conducted the NASA Clean Air Study to demonstrate the effectiveness of particular plants to purify air. That’s one small “Schefflera” for man, one giant “leaf” for mankind. Homes are more insulated and efficient today making it easier to trap indoor air pollutants.

Breath easier....Go Foliacious!

Breath easier….Go Foliacious!

We often don’t think about indoor air pollution and the seemingly harmless nature of its many sources. Aside from the obvious Uncle Ernie and his cigars or that smoking casserole on the stove, pollutants indoors can come from things like glues and adhesives, insulation materials, carpets, chemicals in household cleaners, paint and pressed wood products.
Here are some favorite easy to grow Houseplants to clean your indoor air:
• Pothos
• Philodendron
• Peace Lily
• English Ivy
• Dracaena
• Ficus Elastica or Lyrata
• Snake Plant
• Chinese Evergreen
• Spider Plant
• Aloe Vera
• Anthurium
• Bamboo Palm
• Oakleaf Ivy

One very popular houseplant today is Ficus Lyrata better known as fiddle leaf fig.

Fiddle leaf fig or Ficus Lyrata

Fiddle leaf fig or Ficus Lyrata

Unique large leaves and relatively easy to grow…..this houseplant is trending as a must have for your interior decor.

“Lettuce” make this a good year and I say some well placed purposeful foliage can do just that. Bon “foliage” my friends!

That’s a Wrap

That’s a wrap. No more “hoe hoe hoe” and lots of “ho ho ho” as another gardening year ends and the holidays arrive. How was your year? Here’s “ho ho hoping” your tomatoes were all you thought they would be this year and your landscape brought you the “ho ho horticultural” joy you were seeking. Were you naughty or nice? Doesn’t really matter at this point with the ground frozen solid. What matters are visions of sugar plums and spring blooming dreams dancing in your head.
Provide the wild birds a holiday “tweet” with some seed and suet offerings in this season of giving. The landscape color they provide in a white and grey tundra backdrop is a welcome sight as we approach the shortest days of the year. Make sure feeders are clean and seed stays dry so your feeding station is the gift that keeps giving.

When the weather gets cold backyard birds need more than just bird seed....they need a water source and suet too!

When the weather gets cold backyard birds need more than just bird seed….they need a water source and suet too!

Make sure to keep fresh clean water in the tree stand so your live cut Christmas tree continues to draw fresh water. If not, the base of your tree trunk calluses over and then has a “drinking problem” unable to pull water into the tree similar to a straw. One way to check the water level at a glance is to float a ping pong ball or fishing bobber or other small floatation in the bowl. You can visually gauge the level versus having to crawl under the tree and use the finger method. A household pet can usually provide a good indication too based on their level of interest.
Poinsettias provide great seasonal color indoors and are quite festive and durable through the holidays provided you avoid a couple conditions. First and foremost is over watering. Most people kill the plants with kindness. Don’t commit involuntary plant slaughter by drowning your plants. Secondly avoid cold drafts. I’m not referring to a holiday draft brew, save that for yourself. I’m talking about drafty doorways sure to bring on rapid decline of the plant.

Proper care for Poinsettias...don't over water and avoid cold drafts

Proper care for Poinsettias…don’t over water and avoid cold drafts

Conversely the dry air of close proximity to a heat register is not good either. Look for a well lit area that is removed from “extremes” and you should be just fine. Today’s improved varieties of poinsettias developed by breeders for longevity and color should easily survive until April when your thoughts again return to the great outdoors and the plant is pitched into the trash.

“Snow”-vember

November is the time to put the yard to bed for a long winter’s nap and prepare for the holidays ahead. During the growing season, branches in our yards extend their leaves like hands to catch the light. Now that the work of the chloroplasts fed by sun, water, nutrients and carbon dioxide is done for a season, the spent leaves carpet the earth’s floor. Their work done, their season in the sun gives way to the dead of winter and branching hope for renewal in a next generation of leaves the following spring season. Having moved amassed sugars and carbohydrates from their manufacturing “plant” to the roots for storage, a healthy plant, in essence, saves for a rainy day. Technically if allowed to do so, the spent leaf does find a second calling as a beneficial compostable soil amendment when worked into the soil or compost pile. It is the circle of life or circle of “leaf” and natural renewal. Why not use the leaves for some composting benefit as a reward because like Neil Sedaka used to sing, “raking” up is hard to do (or something like that). The process of going into dormancy as we head into November is inevitable and non-reversible. Fall then winter is going to happen. Fortunately once dormant, dormancy is a reversible stage but we’ll “leaf” that thought and process for another article closer to spring.

Fraser Fir growing on Christmas tree hill

Fraser Fir growing on Christmas tree hill

It is the process of the growing season ending and inevitable dormancy that I believe make the aroma, the feel, the sight of evergreen branches such a welcome addition to our homes during the Christmas season. The sweet smell of Douglas Fir, the prickly personality of Spruce, the distinctive aroma of Fraser Fir or the comfortable presence of Pine makes you feel at home. You may want to keep some potting soil thawed out to use in porch or front step containers when evergreen boughs are available. One of my favorite November activities is to prune materials from the landscape and add them to evergreen boughs for a welcome arrangement at your front door.

"Spruce up" by pruning boughs from evergreens to make porch pots

“Spruce up” by pruning boughs from evergreens to make porch pots

Use the thawed soil in your containers when you’ve collected your harvest and combine with evergreen branches pressed into the soil. The moisture in the soil will soon freeze holding the arrangement in place for the holiday season. Landscape plants like red and gold twigged Dogwood or Ninebark provide wonderful colorful branches for your arrangement. Foliage and blooms from spent perennials like Ornamental Grasses, Sedum and Agastache or spent flowers of Hydrangea provide dried plumage and flowers for your arrangement. Berries from Holly, Viburnum or Rose Hips provide the color to play against the evergreen backdrop. Look around and be creative, you’ll be surprised how much there is to choose from. Just make sure to check with your neighbors and get their permission before snipping to keep everyone’s spirits bright.
Evergreens are not always ever green. You may notice a large amount of yellow needles during November at the base of your White Pine for example. An evergreen tree will carry a few years worth of needles but shed the third year’s needles as an example. These are the needles you find at the base of the tree and make a great collectible mulch to use at the base of your Rhododendrons, Hollies and Azaleas. Pine mulch is much more popular in certain parts of the country than it is in West Michigan but aside from aesthetics has a functional purpose. Broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons can also lose their green color in winter due to another reason….desiccation. November is the time to act by spraying desirable broadleaf evergreens like Rhododendrons, Boxwood, Azaleas or Hollies with anti-transpirant spray derived from the resin of Pine trees. Products like Wilt-Stop form a soft, clear, flexible film on treated plants, protecting them from moisture loss. Because evergreens retain their foliage in winter, they continue to transpire moisture loss. If the ground is frozen and the plant does not have ability to draw water from the roots, a plant can desiccate and die from exposure to wind and winter sun. You can also use a product like Wilt Stop on your Christmas greens. I have used it for years on my evergreen roping with great results. Boughs, wreaths, Christmas greenery and even your Christmas tree can have extended life from the use of an anti-tranpirant. This allows you to put up greens in November on a reasonable weather day with confidence they’ll last until Christmas. I like to joke that I’ve even used the pine resin in my hair for long lasting hold on a windy November day. Don’t do as I do because it is not recommended on the label and it makes your hair stiff as a board even though it is a natural non-toxic product.
Speaking of green, the last mowing of the lawn usually takes place in November too. During the growing season I recommend raising the deck on the lawn mower for a naturally healthy and weed resistant lawn. With the arrival of November we lower the deck and cut the grass shorter than we do during the summer months. This is done for a couple of reasons. First we want to avoid vole damage to our lawns by eliminating hiding areas and long grass. Voles are “mouse-like” creatures that can do a number on our turf, operating under the cover of snow hidden from natural predators. In addition longer grass blades will lay flat under the cover of snow matting the turf and increasing the probability of snow mold issues come spring.
You can usually find some deals on spring flowering bulbs like Tulips or Daffodils in November. You can successfully plant them in November for spring color. I’ve been known to plant them in December picking through frost crusted soil to do so with success. Maybe it’s the Dutch in my blood but I highly

Force bulbs indoors

Force bulbs indoors

recommend it. Sure beats the alternative of shoveling snow. You can also take these bulbs and “force” them into bloom by potting them up and putting them into cold storage (40 to 45 degrees) for 12 to 16 weeks and treat yourself to some late winter and early spring color indoors.
No need to slow down enjoyment in your landscape in November. It’s “Hoe, Hoe, Hoe” the holidays are here!