Saturday, October 22, 2011

Are all orchids hard to grow? ~ Not reallly ! !

It's true that some orchids can challenge the most skillful gardener, but a number of orchids are simple to grow. My favorite in the simple to grow category is the phalaenopsis or moth orchid.

Phalaenopsis flowers are borne on stalks above large waxy leaves. Flowers are about 2 inches across and are shaped like a moth. My phalaenopsis orchids begin blooming about November, and the flowers can last until May. Stalks can hold 15 or more blooms, but seven or eight is more likely. Colors range from pure white through pink and deep lavender.

I grow phalaenopsis orchids in a bark medium (chunks of bark), which takes a little getting used to. It makes you want to water frequently, because it is hard to understand how the plants can absorb enough water and nutrients from it. The advantage of bark is that it drains well, so you can hardly over water.

Dendrobium, cattleyas and oncidium orchids also are fairly easy to grow. Apply these tips listed below from the Alamo Orchid Society for growing those varieties and phalaenopsis.

Light: Bright light from an east- or south-facing window is ideal. Avoid midday sun. Too much direct sunlight will burn an orchid; too little results in weak, dark green leaves and no flowers.

Temperature: Orchids are comfortable when you are. Perfect temperatures are 55-65 degrees at night and 70-85 degrees during the day.

Water: Water when the growing medium is nearly dry.

Humidity: Many orchids are native to tropical and subtropical areas with high humidity. To simulate those conditions, place the pot on a saucer full of moistened pebbles. Do not allow the bottom of the container to sit in water.

Fertilize: Orchids experts say, "Fertilize weakly weekly." Apply a diluted (¼ strength) balanced fertilizer such as a 20-20-20 after each watering (don't fertilize dry medium). Water without fertilizer once a month to leach accumulated salts.

Grooming: Cut spent flowers at the stem with clean, sharp scissors. Remove flower stems when they've dried up.

Repotting: Orchids grow better when their roots are pot-bound, but repot when plants have obviously outgrown the container. Repot when the growing medium breaks down. Do not repot while plants are in bloom.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Starting early spring gardens now

Spring almost requires that gardeners have a few blooming bulbs in front door flower beds, in outdoor pots and on windowsills.

Now that cooler weather and soil are settling in, it is a perfect time to get going on bulb projects. In our area we can plant garlic, allium, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, fritillaria, crocus, squill, snowdrops and others, as long as the ground has not yet frozen.

The prettiest displays are planted in groups rather than in rows. To plant an entire bed, the bulbs can be tossed and planted where they land so there will be clusters of flowers with spaces in between.

Plant bulbs twice their length. For example a 1.5-inch tall bulb is planted in a 3-inch deep hole.

Plant Oriental and Asiatic lilies three times their depth because they root along the stems. Madonna lily is planted with the top of the bulb at the top of the hole.

Be sure that the fat end of the bulb is actually sitting on soil. A planting hole dug with a trowel or shovel can have an empty place at the bottom. Water can accumulate there and rot the bulb over the winter.

Interplant bulbs with biennials, perennials or creeping plants that will cover the fading stems after the flowers fade in the late spring.

Plant bulbs practically touching when you plant layers of them in pots or tubs. Put a few inches of soil in the bottom of the container and top with bulbs. Add 2 inches of soil and more bulbs. If you want the entire pot to bloom at once plant all one bulb type.

A 6-inch pot will hold six tulips and three hyacinths. Some gardeners plant pansies or grass seed on the top of the pot to hold the soil and add to the spring display.

Plant bulbs you plan to move in plastic trays or crates buried in the ground. If moles and voles are a problem, plant bulbs in plastic berry baskets, wrap each bulb in plastic mesh or surround the bed with gravel. Entire pots can be sunk into the ground. Moth balls help keep the squirrels away for a few weeks. Scattered pine cones will keep cats out of the beds and pots.

Bulbs planted this year do not need fertilizer. Try to remember to fertilize them in the spring.

Gladiolus bloom later than daffodils and tulips but are planted at around the same time. Tall varieties may need support if they are in a windy spot so put stakes in place as you plant.

Their cut-flower blooming season can be extended if you plant them in groups a few weeks apart.

Bulbs should be weeded by hand since hoes and cultivators can damage them.

If you plan to force bulbs such as hyacinths and daffodils in the house, add a piece of horticultural (not barbecue) charcoal to the water to keep the water sweet. The charcoal will help prevent gnats and bulb rot.

Garlic planted now can be tucked in any flower or vegetable bed where the soil can be kept evenly moist. Buy planting garlic rather than the treated grocery store garlic. Plant the largest cloves to get the largest heads next summer.

Shade-loving Spanish bluebells grow to a foot tall with an abundance of blue flowers in the spring. Plant bulbs 3 inches deep. They will return for years if they are kept dry enough over the summer.

Snowdrops, Leucojum aestivum, grow 15 inches tall with a white, bell-shaped flower. This is a favorite in many gardens, as they can survive clay and shade as well as sand and sun.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How to say it with flowers

Duchess Kate Middleton's custom wedding bouquet had symbolic significance to the Royal family, and was in keeping with tradition.

You may not be royalty, but that should not stop you from emulating the royal family. Go ahead and take the lead from the Victorians who used flowers to express their feelings. Here's a list of different flowers and what they can mean. I say 'can' mean because if you hunt around on the internet you can find a thousand different meanings for the exact same flower. However we continue to get many questions about the meanings of flowers so I blog about it from time to time.

A quick peek at some flowers:

- Carnation implies affection. It's meant to be given to one's lover or partner.

- Chamomile means patience and attracts wealth.

- Chrysanthemum means cheerfulness and says that you're a wonderful friend.

- Daffodil means respect.

- Daisy is associated with innocence and carefree beauty.

- Forget-me-not stands for true love and lasting memories.

- Geranium (scented) implies a degree of preference.

- The Hibiscus flower signifies delicate and elegant beauty.

- Honeysuckle is all about generous and devoted affection.

- Hyacinth is associated with games, sports and rashness. You would be surprised to know that this flower is dedicated to Apollo.

- Iris is a flower that signifies faith, hope, wisdom and valor.

- Jasmine is a flower about amiability and it attracts wealth.

- Lily is a flower that helps keep unwanted visitors away.

- Marigold is a flower that comforts the heart and gives solace.

- Orchid is a symbol of love, beauty and refinement. Ideal to gift to a beautiful lady, it is also the Chinese symbol for many children.

- Poinsettias symbolize a degree of good cheer and great success Also known as the Christmas Star, it is said that this winter flower's association with Christmas comes from a Mexican legend.

- Red roses symbolize love So try gifting a bunch of red roses before you say those three words. However, some girls happen to find them boring.

White roses imply beauty.

In a nutshell

- Do not gift red roses to a family member like your cousin Sally

- Daffodils are the perfect bouquet for your mother,

- A bunch of daisies are the perfect flowers for your sister.

- Scented geraniums are ideal for the girl you have a crush on

- Marigolds are the perfect condolence flowers. Gift them to someone who has recently suffered an accident, illness or tragedy

- Chrysanthemums are the perfect flowers for a female friend when there are no romantic feelings involved

- Chamomile, jasmine and poinsettia attract success and wealth

- Barring the traditional (and cliché) red roses, other flowers that communicate LOVE are carnations, honeysuckle, and orchids.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A helpful little plant

The French Marigold flower is one of the more amazing ‘beneficial’ garden companions that will help a number of your garden plants to thrive with it’s potent pesticide-producing root system while also offering a rather strong aroma to confuse other pests.

I believe there may be some confusion out there (I know I was initially confused) about which Marigold to purchase or to grow from seed, in order to be the ‘right’ one to classify as a ‘French Marigold’ so as to be the most effective in the garden for it’s beneficial companion properties to certain plants. First don't look for the words ‘French Marigold’ to be included on the tag along with the name. Once you let that go you will be surprised to discover that there are allot of varieties that are French Marigold’s!

There are two basic types of Marigold’s, American and French, that make up most of the huge variety that is available out there. The French Marigold varieties are bushier, generally do not grow as tall and do not have really full flowered heads like the American varieties, but they do offer the most potent affect on repelling and eliminating underground nematodes while also confusing and repelling white flies and other insects with their strong odor.

Plant Marigolds everywhere in your garden. They will flower throughout the Summer and Fall, and maybe later if it doesn’t get too cold. They are particularly helpful to tomatoes, squash, broccoli, potatoes, and peppers. Apparently you should not plant Marigold’s along with beans. Unfortunately the Marigold is an annual, requiring re-seeding each year, although the affect of their root system is said to last for a few years afterward.

List of French Marigold varieties

Aurora Series

Bonanza Series


Boy O Boy Series

Brocade Mixed


Disco Series

Durango Series

Dwarf Bonanza Blend

French Brocade

Golden Gate Series

Golden Guardian

Ground Control

Gypsy Sunshine



Hero Series


Jacket Orange, Yellow

Janie Series

Jolly Jester

La Bamba

Lemon Drop

Little Hero Series



Mr. Majestic

Naughty Marietta


Pesche’s Gold

Petite Series

Queen Sophia

Red Marietta

Safari Series

Scarlet Sophie


Spanish Brocade

Sparky Mix

Striped Marvel

Spice Series


Yellow Boy

Happy Marigold-ing!