When To Cut Back Daffodil Foliage

Once the flowers have quit, daffodil foliage can get pretty ugly. Nevertheless, it’s critical to the health of the bulb to let the leaves yellow. Removing leaves prematurely may neaten things up, but come spring you’ll have far fewer flowers. And everyone knows daffodils look best in big numbers. Continue reading

Why Star Magnolia Deserves A Spot In Your Garden

When it comes to stunning, early-blooming trees, it’s hard to beat the star magnolia. Every March, it showers the landscape in a flush of bright white. For what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in stature. I love how the blossoms hang like fallen stars from its smooth, bare branches.

THE SMALL GARDEN’S MAGNOLIA

Now, even small gardens can have a magnolia! What’s more, star magnolia is slow-growing, so it won’t overwhelm your landscape. Topping out at a manageable 10 to 15 feet, it makes an excellent specimen tree while also providing a great backdrop to any mixed shrub border. 

Yet for all that, the tree’s most valuable asset, in most people’s view, is its early spring blossoms. Typically flowering in early March, the star magnolia is lush with blooms when most other ornamentals are scarcely starting to bud. Moreover, the flowers are fragrant. Each is composed of more than a dozen ribbon-like petals. And some varieties boast as many as 30.

And while star magnolias are typically associated with white flowers, there are also a number of pink varieties. All are magnets for pollinators, which gives your other plants an early start on the season.

FOR STAR MAGNOLIAS, THE SHOW NEVER STOPS

But, for those who think star magnolias are all about spring, think again. The little trees offer fall and winter interest as well. In autumn, the foliage turns yellow, then bronze, providing an interesting complement to other fall colors.

And star magnolia’s twiggy, many-branched shape provides great winter interest. Colored a shiny, chestnut brown, the branches contrast handsomely with the tree’s smooth gray trunk, which slowly turns silver with age. As an added plus, the buds, appearing in late winter, are fat and fuzzy, just like pussy willows. 

TOP STAR MAGNOLIA VARIETIES TO TRY

Ready to give star magnolia a try? Below are some the most popular cultivars that offer reliable, low-maintenance early spring color. Deciduous magnolias are best planted when dormant, typically in late fall.

‘Centennial’ produces fragrant, waterlily-shaped blossoms in early to mid spring. The large white flowers often have a pink tinge at the base of the petals. 

Magnolia stellata ‘Centennial’

‘Jane Platt’ produces double, scented, pale pink flowers with long, narrow petals in early to mid spring.

Magnolia stellata ‘Jane Platt’

‘Royal Star’ has pale pink buds that open in early spring to pure white flowers. In particular, this cultivar is known for its almost 5-inch (12 cm) wide flowers with up to 30 petals. ‘Royal Star’ blooms later than the species. 

Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’

‘Rosea’ is a pink-flowered variety. It has a rounded shape and dense bushy habit. This cultivar flowers a month later than the species, or in late April. 

Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’

HOW AND WHERE TO PLANT

Star magnolia flowers are vulnerable to damage by late spring frosts, so it’s best to plant the trees in a sheltered spot. While they’ll do fine in full sun, they’ll perform best in morning sun with filtered shade in the afternoon. Generally, the more exposed the location, the earlier the flowers open. Like most plants, star magnolias prefer moist, well-drained soil. 

Magnolia stellata really shines when viewed against a dark background. Site it in front of a stand of deep green arborvitae, a yew hedge or even a dark brick house and watch its flowers ‘pop.’  Daffodils with cream or white petals and yellow cups make excellent early-spring companions. Check out Narcissus ‘Sovereign’, Golden Echo’ or the orange-cupped ‘Barrett Browning’ for a dramatic effect.

Want to see more photos of my gardens, including plant lists? Check out my instagram at carole.herebydesign. I post seasonally from spring to fall.

Plant Trends 2021: What’s New for Spring

Even in the world of gardening, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. And to do so, one need look no further than Kathy Jentz. As editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, her depth of plant knowledge is incredible. Recently I attended her talk on the biggest plant trends for 2021 during which she highlighted some key things to look out for this spring. 

SIMPLIFICATION IS KEY

These days, the overriding theme is simplification. Unless you’re up for the task, who wants to buy a plant that needs weekly spraying or constant pruning to keep it in bounds? Jentz says consumers want their plants to bloom longer, have greater disease resistance and be able to stand up to drought and other factors due to climate change. And growers are rising to the challenge.

Indeed, growers are answering the call by engaging in greater hybridization to propagate desirable characteristics such as color, size and vigor. Here are four plant trends Jentz says are rocking today’s industry. 

TINY PLANT TREND

Plants are scaling down – think dwarf evergreens, smaller shrubs, and more compact and manageable perennial species. Not only are these new hybrids better suited for smaller gardens, but they also require less maintenance while flowering longer. (And for growers, they look better on the shelves.) Teeny tiny houseplants like terrariums plants and tiny succulents are also gaining in popularity.

Teeny tiny cacti getting ready for market

DAY LENGTH NEUTRAL PLANTS

Day length neutral (D/L) refers to plants that flower independent of day length. In other words, unlike short-day plants that flower in spring and long-day plants that flower in summer, these plants will flower all season long. That means that if you want to grow sunflowers in early spring or late fall when days are shorter, all you need to do is choose a day length neutral variety. 

plant trends D/L neutral sunflowers

D/L neutral sunflowers extend the growing season

ENVIRONMENTAL SUITABILITY

These days, you can’t be too sure of the environment. So growers are responding by introducing plants that exhibit higher degrees of drought tolerance and disease resistance. Some varieties have even been bred to stand up to wind, wet weather and road salt, providing more options for the home gardener.

monarda didyma

Many new monarda hybrids exhibit greater disease resistance

NEW BRANDING OF FRUITS AND VEGGIES

For those of us who dislike having to cut up an entire melon to consume only a few pieces, say hello to personal snack-able fruits and veggies. Helo Clementines and Hello Melon are two great examples of this 2021 plant trend. Personal-sized fruits and veggies make it easier for consumers to eat healthy food with less wastage. Now you really can have your melon and eat it too.

Hello Melon’s small size makes snacking easy

TEN TRENDING PLANTS FOR 2021

Ready to make your list? Here are some trending plants Jentz profiled for 2021 that I’ll be looking for at the nursery. 

Whispurr Pink Nepeta – This soft pink hybrid is a little bit taller than ‘Walker’s Low’ and it blooms all summer.

Whispurr Pink Nepeta/Photo: darwinperennials.com

Panicum virgatum ‘Purple Tears’ – An introduction from Pete Oudolf who discovered this native species in a nursery plot in the Netherlands, ‘Purple Tears’ switchgrass produces soft gray flowering spikes followed by striking purple seed heads. Narrow and upright, it grows to about 4′. Available through Hoffman Nursery of North Carolina. 

Purple Tears switchgrass/Photo: Hoffman Nursery

Begonia Lunar Lights ‘Silver Moon’  Forest green leaves flecked with silver and mint green make this perennial a stand-out in the shade garden. Available through Plants Nouveau. 

Begonia Lunar Light ‘Silver Moon’/Photo: Plants Nouveau

Swan Queen Gardenia – Bred to be hardy in our region (Zone 7), this variety with glossy evergreen leaves and double white blooms can stay outdoors all winter. It also is resistant to white fly and other diseases that usually affect this plant. Available through most area nurseries. 

Swan Queen Gardenia/Photo: monrovia.com

Brunnera ‘Alexandria’ – Not to be confused with the green and white variety ‘Alexander the Great’, ‘Alexandria’ looks like a silver mirror in the garden and has the biggest leaves yet of the species. Tiny clusters of sky-blue flowers float above the iridescent foliage in early spring. 

Brunnera ‘Alexandria’/Photo: monrovia.com

Forsythia ‘Believe it or Not’ is a one-of-a kind variety developed from a plant found at McCorkle Nurseries Inc in Dearing, Georgia. In addition to golden flowers, it has variegated gold foliage which means you can enjoy yellow color from spring until fall. A mid-sized shrub that thrives in sun to part shade from the Gardener’s Confidence Collection

Yellow leaves of Forsythia Believe It Or Not/Photo: The Gardener’s Confidence Collection

Celosia Kelos ‘Candela Pink’ – If you like things hot, this plant is for you.  The 2021 All-America Selections (AAS) Flower Winner, its bright pink blooms prompted one judge to name it the ‘Energizer Bunny.’ This selection is bred to keep its color all season long and it also makes an excellent dried flower. 

Celosia Kelos ‘Candela Pink’/Photo: all-americaselections.org

Ready-To-Grow Clematis – Clematis has a reputation for being difficult. But these new varieties introduced by Spring Hill Nursery are out to change that opinion. Their stronger root systems reduce transplant shock; they can be popped right into the ground. And they offer improved flower production. Check out ‘Chloe’, a non-vining bush-like variety with purple-blue flowers. 

Clematis ‘Chloé’ available through Spring Hill Nursery

Coleus Main Street Beale Street A spectacular new variety that holds its deep red color all season long, this coleus won’t fade or bleach over the summer. It forms a compact 2 ½’ x 3’ ball, and since its flowers don’t appear until very late in the season, there’s no need to deadhead. Available through Premier Growers Inc. 

Coleus Main Street Beale Street/Photo: premiergrowersinc.com

Petite Knock Out Rose – This variety is the first-ever miniature version of the popular Knock Out Rose series. Topping out at just 18″ tall, it exhibits the same flower power and easy care as the rest of the species.

Petite Knock Out Rose/Photo: knockoutroses.com

Marigold Big Duck Yellow Huge, double-flower balls make this semi-dwarf variety a stand-out. Also available in orange, Big Ducks spread like a carpet and are extremely heat tolerant. Available through ameriseed.net.

Big Duck Yellow/Photo: ameriseed.net

Poppy ‘Amazing Grey’ This showstopper has lavender grey tissue paper-like petals with a pinky-red center. Some flowers also have a white edge. En masse, the double and single blooms look like grey clouds hovering in the garden. Available through Wild Seed Farms.

Amazing Grey Poppy/Photo: wildseedfarms.com

Author’s note: All links to seed and plant purveyors are unpaid and reflect only my recommendations. 

Cover photo of Clematis florida Alba Plena courtesy shutterstock.com.

 

Drink To Your Health With These 10 Medicinal Teas

cover 3

Now that temperatures are dropping and we’re spending more time indoors, almost nothing beats a cup of hot tea. And aside from the warm and cozy feeling a steaming mug evokes, tea has never looked better. That’s because many ‘true’ and herbal teas contain powerful antioxidants and other substances that are great for human health. So before opening the medicine cabinet, why not explore the benefits of medicinal tea? Continue reading

Show Me The Money Tree

After this past year, we could all use a little extra luck. And happily, as gardeners, we need look no further than the Chinese New Year for inspiration. Among the many auspicious symbols for 2021 is this year’s lucky plant, the money tree, or Pachira aquatica. According to feng shui principles, it can help ensure a prosperous year ahead. Continue reading

Cyclamen Care: Four Keys To Success Indoors

For me, one of the highlights of December is the arrival in stores of all those winter-blooming cyclamen. Aside from poinsettias, they are my favorite cold-season flowers. There’s just one problem. After a couple of weeks, the plants’ stems often start to droop and the leaves may even turn yellow. But not to worry, there’s a solution! All it takes is an understanding of where cyclamen come from, and why temperature is key to their success indoors. Continue reading

The Story Of The Cornucopia: It’s All Greek To Me

Thanksgiving décor for my mother was a white tablecloth and fine crystal, but as a child I longed for something more. So as soon as I had my own household, I added the cornucopia. The sight of all those colorful fruits spilling from a basket filled my spirit with holiday joy. In my mind, the horn-shaped vessel embodied the very essence of the harvest season.

That being said, I later discovered that the origins of the cornucopia had nothing to do with a basket, nor was it meant to contain fruit. It all started with a goat named Amalthea.

AMALTHEA AND THE HORN OF PLENTY

Cornucopia, or cornu copiae, translates literally to horn (cornu) of plenty (copiae). In the English language, it also means abundance. But while the word may have Latin roots, its origins are firmly rooted in Greek mythology.

In Greek legend, the cornucopia actually refers to the horn of Amalthea, the name given to the goat who fed the infant Zeus on Crete. According to one version of the myth, Zeus broke off one of Amalthea’s horns and gave it to the nymph daughters of Melisseus. In so doing, he endowed it with the power to be filled with whatever its owners desired. 

Cretan goat

The Cretan goat known as Kri Kri/Photo: Evita Kouts

Other accounts say Amalthea was herself a nymph who fed the god with the milk of a goat. When the goat accidentally broke off one of her horns, the nymph filled it with fresh herbs and fruit and gave it to Zeus as a gift. This may explain why for centuries, the cornucopia is depicted as a real goat’s horn filled with fruits and grains.

The Childhood of Zeus by Jacob Jordaens/Louvre Museum

Whatever the reason for the horn being separated from the goat, Zeus is said to have so loved Amalthea that he placed her among the stars as the constellation Capra, (which is Latin for goat). Today we know her as Capricornus (horned goat), or Capricorn.

constellation capricorn

The constellation Capricorn

SYMBOL OF ROMAN ABUNDANCE

Still other stories associate the horn of plenty with Fortuna, the Roman goddess of luck, fate and fortune. As the giver of abundance, she is often depicted bearing a cornucopia.

Fortuna holding a cornucopia/Istanbul Archeology Museum/Photo: shutterstock.com

Through the ages, as the popularity of the cornucopia has grown, it has become synonymous with the harvest and fall’s abundance. Frequently depicted in classical art, it now figures on buildings, sculptures, paintings and coins. There are entire towns, businesses, jails and temples named after it. And here in Washington, DC, it appears five times in the U.S. Capitol

An ancient bas relief depicting a goat’s horn overflowing with fruits

Statue of Zeus with a cornucopia

Cornucopia sculpture in Greece

THE PILGRIMS PROBABLY DIDN’T HAVE A CORNUCOPIA

While it is unlikely that the Pilgrims had a cornucopia, Americans have nonetheless adopted the vessel as one of the most popular Thanksgiving decorations. As a symbol of plenty, it’s a natural fit for a lavish table. Nowadays, however, it usually takes the form of a basket rather than an actual horn (although there other materials available.) People traditionally fill it with fruits, but vegetables, nuts, flowers and leaves are also popular. 

ceramic cornucopia

A ceramic cornucopia

Still, there’s something about the story of the goat Amalthea that I find especially heart-warming. This Thanksgiving when I set the table, I’ll be thinking of her and the abundance she represents, a harvest wish for plenty to cultures throughout the ages.

.

12 Top Flowering Houseplants for Easy-Care Blooms Indoors

houseplant

Updating a home can get expensive. That said, flowering houseplants can offer an affordable alternative. I love how they perk up a room, instantly injecting color into blah indoor spaces. Changed your mind? You can swap things around or change them out completely. And houseplants last a whole lot longer than cut flowers.

I know… for some, the thought of growing plants in their home can be intimidating. But in fact, it’s easy. All you need to do is follow the three steps below. 

1. GIVE YOUR FLOWERING HOUSEPLANTS SOME SUN

No matter the species, flowering houseplants need at least some concentrated hours of bright to direct sunlight in order to produce blooms.

Plants need at least some sunlight to flower

Don’t ignore that label! Read it carefully to determine what kind of sunlight your plant prefers, then place it in the proper location. No plant will thrive in a dark corner.

2. ADHERE TO A REGULAR WATERING SCHEDULE

Consistent watering makes stronger plants. And flowering houseplants prefer a regular watering schedule. The watering cycle you choose will depend on the kind of plants you have and the level of humidity and amount of light you have in your home.
watering-can

Plants need water

Some flowering houseplants prefer to have a good soak, then dry out slightly between waterings. This allows them to properly absorb both water and nutrients. Conversely, others like to be kept consistently moist. It may take some experimenting to determine what works best in your home. Either way, good drainage holes are key.

Whatever your watering schedule, always add just enough water to the pot to allow a small amount to run out from the bottom. This will ensure the roots of your flowering houseplant are well saturated. In addition, it will help wash away salts and fertilizers that may have built up in the soil.

Good drainage is key

Most importantly, never leave your plants sitting in waterThis will lead to root rot and ultimately the death of your houseplant. Yellow leaves are an indicator that this is happening.

3. FEED REGULARLY

Unlike plants grown outdoors in soil, indoor plants are confined to the pot. That means it’s up to you to provide all their water and nutrients. Feeding your flowering houseplants not only helps them produce more blooms, but it also wards of indoor pests and diseases. I use a balanced liquid fertilizer mixed with tap water every other week. 

Plants need food to flower

Certain species such as African violets, orchids and dwarf citrus trees prefer their own special food, so check with your local plant store to see which products best meet your needs.

Following are 12 top flowering houseplants for easy-care blooms indoors.

AFRICAN VIOLET

Adaptable to just about every environment, African violets are one of the easiest flowering houseplants to grow. Moreover, there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. The fuzzy-leaved plant performs best in evenly moist soil and indirect sunlight.

african violet

Water African violets at the soil surface, taking care not to moisten the leaves. Or, allow the plant to wick up water from a saucer. However, never allow your plant to remain standing in water or the roots may be damaged. African violets grow best in smaller pots.

KALANCHOE

This beautiful succulent with orange, yellow and red flowers has long lasting flowers and attractive, oval-shaped fleshy foliage. The plant blooms naturally indoors during winter and early spring.

Kalanchoes prefer bright light, but beware – they’ll burn in full sun. Again, proper drainage is key. Use a loose potting soil containing peat moss, perlite and sand and place pebbles at the bottom of the pot to guard against standing water. And never place a kalanchoe near a draft or cold window. 

JASMINE

Jasminum polyanthum, also known as pink jasmine or white jasmine, is the most common variety of jasmine grown indoors. A fragrant plant with showy white blooms, it grows best near a south-facing window. Cool temperatures are essential to encouraging this flowering houseplant’s buds to form. Jasmine typically flowers indoors in February.

Grow jasmine in evenly moist soil and prune regularly to keep it in bounds. Repot in the spring, trimming the roots before replenishing with fresh soil.

OXALIS (Purple Clover)

Often called shamrock for its purple, shamrock-shaped leaves, oxalis is a small-sized flowering houseplant that grows to a height of just around six inches. The delicate white or soft pink flowers bloom off and on during fall, winter and spring. And the leaves fold up at night only to open again in the morning.

Oxalis grows from tiny bulbs that can be divided at any time. Water your plant when the potting soil is dry to the touch or if you observe the stems starting to droop. Look for exotic varieties for best indoor performance.

CHRISTMAS CACTUS, THE HOLIDAY HOUSEPLANT

This beautiful flowering houseplant loves holidays. There are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter varieties, some of which can be encouraged to re-bloom. The buds start forming a month before blooms and darken as they swell. And the flowers come in a wide variety of colors including, red, pink, orange, purple, orange and cream.

Christmas Cactus likes bright, indirect light and cool temperatures. But, keep it away from drafts and heat sources that can stunt growth and burn leaves. Unlike desert cacti, these tropical cacti cannot tolerate dry soil. Keep the potting soil evenly moist for best growth. And water only when the top inch of the soil has dried out.

ANTHURIUM (Flamingo Flower)

The heart-shaped ‘flower’ of anthurium is actually a modified leaf that grows from the base of a fleshy spike of flowers. The most common houseplant variety is Painter’s Palette, which features long-lasting blooms (usually red) and glossy green, arrow-shaped leaves.

Anthuriums grow best in medium to bright light (avoid direct sunlight, however.) Keep the potting soil constantly moist and for best results, use tepid water. A consistently warm temperature is key to achieving good growth.

GLOXINIA

Often thrown away after they quit flowering, gloxinias can become great houseplants with proper care. Best known for their large bell-shaped blooms, the dramatic plants come in a wide variety of colors, including varieties with bands and/or white speckles. By contrast, the oblong, fuzzy leaves are a soft gray green.

Gloxinias prefer warm temperatures, evenly moist soil and high humidity (supplement humidity with a humidifier or tray with pebbles and water). As with African violets, it’s important to keep water off of the foliage to avoid brown spot.

Unlike African violets, gloxinias require a period of rest in order to bloom again. Once flowers fade, reduce watering to about half and resume regular watering when new growth appears.

BEGONIA 

There are hundreds of varieties of this beautiful plant to choose from, most of which will produce indoor blooms all year long. Foliage varies among green, silver, variegated or maroon. And flowers come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, white and yellow. 

All begonias prefer medium to bright light and evenly moist soil. However, they can become leggy fast without proper care. To prevent this from happening, keep your plants in shape by following these simple pruning techniques. 

Angel-Wing begonia is so-named for the shape of its leaves that resemble wings. Numerous cultivars exist in different sizes with different leaf colors and red, pink or white blossoms. Angel-Wing begonias are some of the easiest flowering houseplants to grow. Pinch back tall stems to keep the plant bushy.

Rieger begonia is a winter-blooming variety with clusters of camellia-like blossoms in fiery colors of red, yellow and orange atop glossy green leaves.

The popular (outdoor) bedding plant, wax begonia, also makes a great flowering houseplant. Varieties feature red, pink or white flowers atop waxy green foliage. The plant needs good air circulation to thrive.

PHALAENOPSIS ORCHID 

Arguably the most recognizable of all the orchid varieties, the easy-to-grow Phalaenopsis produces flowers that can sometimes last up to three months. The long sprays of large blooms flourish indoors under normal light and prefer the same temperatures that humans do.

Place the plant in indirect sunlight and water once a week, making sure the soil remains moist just under the soil surface. Be careful not to overwater or the flowers will wilt and fall off. Good drainage is essential to guard against root rot. After the last flower finishes blooming, cut the stalk in half and wait to see if the plant re-blooms.

SILVER VASE PLANT (Urn Plant)

Silver vase plant is a type of bromeliad that is grown both indoors and outdoors depending on the climate. The common name comes from the structure of the plant, the center of which resembles an urn or vase. The plant produces a large pink spiky-shape flower above stiff, silver and green foliage. It lasts for months and grows to around six inches.

Low-maintenance, silver vase plant makes a great flowering houseplant. Its minimal requirements include bright light and periodic watering (every 2-3 weeks). Watering involves filling the “vase” (and not the potting soil) with water.

KAFFIR LILY (Orange Clivia Miniata)

A member of the amaryllis family, the Kaffir lily can be forced into bloom in winter or early spring indoors. It bears clusters of up to 20 reddish-orange tubular flowers with yellow centers above glossy green leaves. The plant is also available in red, peach, yellow and white varieties.

Kaffir lilies need cool and dry temperatures for 6 to 8 weeks in fall in order to bloom. Water sparingly until the bloom appears (keeping the soil on the dry side), then increase watering midwinter. Place in bright light, but keep away from direct sun.

CALAMONDIN ORANGE (For experts only)

The Calamondin Orange is actually a hybrid between a mandarin orange and kumquat. The dwarf citrus tree has woody stems covered with oval, glossy green leaves that give off a citrusy aroma. In late winter or early spring, fragrant white blossoms appear followed by fruits that may stay on the plant for many weeks. Once ripe, the fruits can be harvested and used like lemons.

For best performance indoors, plant calamondin in a small container. Plants won’t re-bloom if they are potted in a container that is too large. Make sure there are good drainage holes in the bottom of the container to protect against root rot. Place the tree in bright light, with at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. Rotate the plant a quarter turn each week to promote even growth. Fertilize with a good organic fruit tree fertilizer.

For photos of my gardens, including plant lists, check out my instagram at carole.herebydesign. I post seasonally from spring to fall.

There Are No Dead Ends In The Corn Maze

I’ve always been fascinated by mazes. And the corn maze is my number one favorite. Far less predictable than a typical hedge maze, the corn maze changes each year, adapting its complex network of passages to the whims of its creator. The corn maze challenges us to draw upon the very best of our navigational skills to face the unexpected. Not unlike daily life, I’d say. Continue reading