Thursday, November 10, 2011

Houseplant - Crassula ovata (jade plant)

As winter approaches, I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to post about.  I can always talk about garden planning and plants I fancy, and there will be seasonal topics such as evergreens and weather to discuss.  As I was compiling a list of such topics, it hit me:

Houseplant Thursdays 

I guess it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like Wordless Wednesdays. 

These days, I have quite a few houseplants and I would like to learn more about them and share what I've learned.

First things first - is it house plant or houseplant?  Wikipedia seems to like houseplant, so that is what I'll use.  Next, should I use scientific names or common names?  For some reason, I only refer to houseplants by their common names.  I'll be looking up the scientific names and including them in each post title, but I doubt I will ever think of a jade plant as crassula ovata (or even just crassula).

Speaking of which - our first houseplant is the jade plant (or crassula ovata, or sometimes even crassula argentea).

Jade Plant (and Andy, our one-eyed cat)

One of my earliest "gardening" memories is picking leaves off my mother's jade plant and putting them in the dirt to make new plants.   It seems like we always had a jade plant when I was a kid.  They're a really easy to care for, low maintenance plant.

Mine does well in a sunny window with minimal watering and well-drained "cactus" soil.

The biggest thing to watch out for with jade plants is overwatering.  In the past, I have killed jade plants by overwatering them, mistaking their crinkled leaves as a symptom of a thirsty plant.  According to wikipedia, you should water them every 10-20 days in the summer and only every 30 days in winter.  I probably water mine every two weeks. 

Beautiful red-tinged, succulent foliage
This is my first attempt at keeping a jade plant since I had to surrender our last one to my mother-in-law for safe-keeping.  I purchased it from Home Depot in the Fall of 2010 and so far, it's done really well.  It spent the summer on the back deck and seemed to flourish.  We'll see how it survives another winter indoors.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Foliage - Weeks 3 & 4

Between home and work, life has been a little crazy lately.  The good part is I feel like I'm finally starting to catch up with things (projects, social obligations, laundry).  The downside is, I'm not spending as much time online, so I'm not posting as much.

I took these photos last Sunday, so this should really be week 3.5.

The oakleaf hydrangea (above) is starting to turn a really deep, rich, red.  Right next to it, the viburnum (below) is a deep, brownish red.

The tree I mentioned two weeks ago, with delicate yellow leaves, turned out to be a beech (above, left).  Between the yellow buckeye, the tulip poplars, and the three beech trees I found in the woods, we have yellow covered. 

The really big oak tree out front (above) still has a bunch of leaves, but they're starting to turn.  Our Japanese Maple (below, left) is starting to turn bright red and the kousa dogwood (below, right) is mostly green, but some leaves are turning almost purple.

I'll try to post more over the next few weeks as we finish up our garden prep for winter.  I'm especially looking forward to Friday -- I get the day off, my daughter is going to daycare, and I have about 250 bulbs to plant.  It will be fun.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A plant I fancy: Lobelia cardinalis

As it gets colder and rainier, I seem to be kicking into planning mode.  The plant this week is related to the two previous plants I coveted (toad lily and chelone).  All three of these, along with astilbe, some bulbs, and maybe a couple of shrubs, are the makings of my rain garden.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder
Conveniently, chelone, toad lily and lobelia (or cardinal flower) are all late summer/fall-flowering.  They will add some interest to my backyard, where there is absolutely nothing going on right now.  They all prefer slightly moist soil and cardinal flower is even recommended for stream banks.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder

Scientific name: Lobelia cardinalis
Common name(s): cardinal flower
Height x Width: 2'-4' x 1'-2'
Growth rate: Medium - can be divided and may self-seed.
Hardiness: Zones 3-9
Soil: Rich, medium to wet soil
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom Time - July - September
Reasons I like it:
  • grows well in shade
  • provides late summer/early fall blooms
  • is native to the south east
  • it's supposedly deer resistant*
Where would I put it?
  • In the backyard, in a damp spot that will become a rain garden or anywhere between the understory and the lawn (I'm starting to sound like a broken record!)
* As with the toad lily, I did actually purchase a lobelia last year.  I got Lobelia 'Monet Moment' from Bluestone Perennials.  It's planted in the general area of my future rain garden amidst the pachysandra.  A deer, or something, has really enjoyed chewing on it.  I'm hoping it will come back next year, when I'll be much more diligent about spraying tasty plants.  I'm not really a pink person (although my most recent bloom day would lead you to believe otherwise), but I think this shade would match toad lily, chelone, and astilbe (if there's any overlap) better than red would.  If it doesn't come back, I might also consider Lobelia fulgens 'Queen Victoria' -- I love that dark red foliage!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fall Foliage - Week 2

The days are getting shorter and it's usually dark by the time I get home from work.  I didn't think I'd be able to get foliage pictures this week, but I was able to snap a few pictures from my deck this morning.

On the left, you can see a yellow buckeye just starting to turn yellow.  On the right, the native dogwoods are still the highlight of my fall garden.  They seem to get even more red every day.

Most of the "filler" trees in the backyard are tulip poplar.  On the left, you can see they're starting to turn yellow.  The white pines are also losing a lot of their needles.

While I was snapping a close-up of the dogwoods, I noticed a smallish tree with delicate yellow leaves (see left).  It would have been hidden behind the juniper bushes in the spring...I'm planning on going out this weekend to try and identify it.  On the right, you can see the oaks in the backyard are still fairly green, but do have some clusters of leaves that changed.

I will try to get better pictures next week.  I think the next few weeks will be really colorful.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A plant I fancy: Tricyrtis

I recovered, completely, from my funk last week.  I was a little under the weather on Sunday so I spent the whole day in bed with gardening books and looking at all of the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts.  As a result, it's quite easy to come up with a list of plants I would like for my fact, the difficulty is deciding on just one to talk about.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Scientific name: Tricyrtis
Common name(s): Toad Lily
Height x Width: 1'-3' x 1'-2'
Growth rate: Clumps gradually increase in size, may also self-seed
Hardiness: Zones 4-9
Soil: Prefers rich, moist soil
Light: Prefers partial shade
Bloom Time - Late summer through fall 

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder
Reasons I like it:
  • grows well in shade
  • provides late summer/early fall blooms
  • supposedly deer resistant
Where would I put it?
  • In the backyard, in a damp spot that will become a rain garden or anywhere between the understory and the lawn
Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

A lot of people have tricyrtis, or Toad Lily, blooming in their gardens right now.  Technically, I should have one as well.  I bought one at the William Paca House plant sale earlier in the year, but it seems like the deer ate it.  Between the chelone I posted about last week and the toad lily this week, I've got quite a few things planned for my non-existent rain garden.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Exfoliation usually refers to the removal or loss of leaves from a plant, either as part of the plant's natural life cycle or due to some other cause (pests, disease, weather, etc.).  Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting a lot about exfoliation!

Peeling Bark

Some trees also have exfoliating bark.  These photos show my crapemyrtle, but other trees with exfoliating bark include river birch, paperbark maple, and shagbark hickory.  As these trees grow, the outer layer of their bark is split and eventually replaced with then new bark underneath.  The difference in color and the texture of the bark adds interest, especially in winter.  The process also helps the tree rid itself of scales, insects, bacteria, fungi, lichens, and mosses.

Bark Debris

As far as the bark on my crapemyrtle goes, I don't find it nearly as appealing as the exfoliating bark on a river birch.  It's, honestly, pretty messy.  You're not supposed to peel the bark off to help the tree along, so a lot of times, the bark on my crapemyrtle just hangs there.  When it comes down, it piles up in the joint of the trunks or makes a mess in the bed.  However, the patterns that are left once it comes off are really beautiful and add a lot to the already attractive multi-trunk structure.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Look what I found: Hydrangea quercifolia

The oakleaf hydrangea is probably my favorite shrub.  My parents got me one while we lived at the old house and I was hooked.  I put it in a dry, shady spot where nothing else would grow and it seemed to double in size every year.  It also provided multi-season interest: lush greenery in spring, flowers all summer, colorful foliage in fall, and exfoliating bark in winter.  I loved it so much that I got two more...and with a couple of hostas and a handful of bulbs, a problem area became an attractive and low-maintenance bed.

The oakleaf hydrangea at the new house looks more like a tree than a shrub.  It's quite tall (at least eight feet) and has a single trunk for at least three or four feet.  I'm not sure if it was pruned that way, purchased that way, or if grazing deer had some hand in the matter.  It's in the backyard, in the forest understory, between two viburnums.  The only thing growing under it right now is vinca minor and a couple of columbine plants.

I've enjoyed watching the flowers change from cream, to red, to brown and I can't wait to see what the leaves look like as they turn.

Do you have a favorite shrub?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bloom Day - October 2011

I finally got around to posting another entry for Bloom Day.  Let me tell you, it's looking pretty sad out there.  If I sound like a broken record about fall blooming plants or multi-season interest, it's because these are the ONLY things blooming in my garden right now.  I'm making a solemn vow that next fall, my garden will have a lot more going on.

Clockwise from upper left: Potted chrysanthemum,
re-blooming azaleas, volunteer chrysanthemum,
potted coleus, and volunteer impatiens.
My thanks to Carol, at May Dreams Gardens, for hosting the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day each month.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Foliage - Week 1

Today marks the six month "anniversary" of this blog.  I realize I essentially missed two of those months, but it is still pretty amazing that I have stuck with something for so long.  Hopefully, I'll be able to come up with enough garden-related stuff to talk about over the next six months.  When I started the blog, I didn't really consider what to talk about over winter!

Until winter gets here, and all of the deciduous leaves are gone, I'm going to try to document the fall foliage in my garden on a weekly basis.  This should help future garden planning.

The big oak tree out front was the first to start dropping leaves.  It seems like the leaves turn and fall in giant clumps.  The bright yellow clusters look nice on the tree, but not so nice on the lawn.

The native dogwoods (left) and the Kousa dogwood (right) are both starting to change color, although the natives are a little farther along.

The leaves on the viburnum (left) are changing to a rich, chocolaty brown.  An azalea out front (right) has a handful of bright red leaves.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bag Worm Damage

As I mentioned on Tuesday, over the weekend I finally got a chance to take care of a lot of little things that were bothering me in the garden.  I finally picked off the bag worm cases from the evergreen shrub out front (which I think is a bird's nest spruce).  There must have been 80 cases - I stopped counting at 50!

Just a few of the bag worm cases I picked off and put in a garbage bag.

At least half of the shrub is defoliated, but there are new needles coming back.

The pictures below show the difference between the affected area and the rest of the shrub.

Next year, I'm not going to waste any time in addressing any sort of insect problems.  I think I left this too long, so I'll probably have to spray for bag worms next June.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pruning Azaleas

Another busy weekend!  

On Saturday, as soon as I got home from gymnastics with my daughter, I handed her off to my husband and got out in the front yard.  A few things were really irritating me:

1. The re-blooming azaleas were getting really straggly.
2. The bag worms were still on the evergreen shrub.
3. There were quite a few volunteer trees poking up through the mugo pine.

I started by pruning the azaleas.  I did this by holding the long branch and then looking down into the bush to see where the last branching place was, and cutting there.  This takes a little more time than using a pruning chainsaw, but the effect is more natural.  Overall, there are less cuts as well, so it makes for a healthier shrub.



One day I will learn to take "Before" and "After" pictures from the same perspective, I promise.

I'm really pleased with the results.  I still can't believe these azaleas are still blooming.  Between the wonderful weather, the blooms, and the bees, it felt like spring.