Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring in the Greenhouse

Yesterday, I shared the signs of spring out in the late February garden. Well, the plants growing in the conservatory are telling me it's spring, too.  We keep the temperature between 50-55° F during the winter, although on sunny days it can shoot up into the 70s.

While temperature is just one cue that plants use to regulate growth, day length also matters for some. And it's the lengthening days that I think is the biggest factor in the changes I see occurring out there.

  • The Queen's Tears (Bilbergia nutans) has begun sprouting new plants at the base, and I'll need to up-pot it one of these days. It's blooming now, too.  The colors and details of its blooms are exquisite.  I took a much better photo of its blooms last year, so I'm sharing those here, but this year's blooms are just as gorgeous.
Bilbergia nutans

Bilbergia nutans

  • This is the second winter that I've kept the Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Breathless Blush' in the conservatory.  It waxes and wanes all winter long, but towards the end of winter, it begins blooming. I'm not sure I'll keep it another year.  Even though this has nice burgundy coloring splashed on its deep green foliage, as well as a some pink in its blooms, I prefer the growth habit of its cousin, 'Diamond Frost' (a Proven Winners plant).
Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Breathless Blush'

  • I planted this angel wing begonia (Begonia coccinea) in its container two summers ago, along with a white petunia.  Both have bloomed off and on all winter, although the begonia has done much better than the petunia. The begonia has increased its blooming markedly, and the 'Gryphon' begonia (Begonia x hybrida) that I've overwintered for the second year is also putting up a flower stalk that will open soon.
Begonia coccinea

  • The geraniums have stepped up their blooming, including 'Vancouver Centennial', which also gets beautiful dark foliage on the side that faces the window. This plant is entering its third year here.
Pelargonium x hortorum 'Vancouver Centennial'

Besides the blooming, plants are putting on new foliage. For example, the small potted fig tree (Ficus carica 'Chicago Hardy') that was dormant and devoid of leaves for most of the winter is pushing out new ones.  The burro's tail sedum (Sedum morganianum) has new growth too, after staying pretty much the same all winter.

Even though the weather is fickle and is more winter-like at this point, the plants know -  spring is under way.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I Spy With My Little Eye...SPRING!

We had a fairly nice late winter day on Sunday, so I grabbed the pruners and headed out to the gardens.  I tend to not do a lot of clean-up in the fall for several reasons:

12 Jan 2013

  • many things provide winter interest, especially the ornamental grasses

  • birds enjoy the seed heads of things like coneflowers

  • dead perennial foliage catches the snow and leaves, which gives them extra winter protection

But now it's getting close to the time when things will begin growing again and that dead stuff needs to go.  In past years, I've been late in cutting the grasses back and new growth has gotten a good start before I got to it. Not this year!

What I found as I did my pruning was that spring is definitely on the grow. I was surprised, actually, at the level of growth I saw already.  It's still February, for goodness' sake!  Our last frost date here is just before Mother's Day and that's the date most people use for planting annuals, so we're more than two months away from that.

Here are the signs of spring I found, in addition to the daffodils being up a few inches and the Dutch iris even more than that:

Tradescantia 'Bilberry Ice'

Wall Germander
Teucrium chamaedrys
'Summer Sunshine'

St. John's Wort is leafing out!
Hypericum sp.

Hardy Geranium
Geranium sanguineum 'Blushing Turtle'

Achillea millefolium 'Peachy Seduction'

Tall Sedum
Sedum x 'Autumn Fire'

Early tulips!

 And then there are the usual green growers that you would expect to see this time of year:

Lenten Rose
Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Winter's Bliss'

Double Snowdrops
Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus 'Flore Pleno'

Lords and Ladies
Arum italicum

Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus'

Two days later, we had ice, but none of these things will be bothered much by it, thankfully.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Weekend Wisdom: What Color Are Your Eggs?

Having chickens now, I've learned some very interesting facts about them and their eggs.  For example, did you know that there are only two colors of eggs?  Knowing that, what colors would you guess they are?

Most people say brown and white, but most people would be wrong.  When a chicken  makes eggs, they come in white or blue.  Those brown eggs are "painted" by the hen just before they're laid. Only the white eggs and the blue eggs are white or blue all the way through.

Don't believe me?  Look at the inside of that brown eggshell the next time you crack it open.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

LED Mini Garden: A Review & Giveaway

In the last couple of years, I've seen several tabletop gardens at trade and garden shows, but few have really looked appealing to me until I saw the LED Mini Garden by Tucker's Pride®. For one thing, it takes up less room than most tabletop gardens that have light systems built in. (14.3″ wide, 15.4″ high, 7″ deep)

I also like that it's a complete system, you just supply the plants. The frame is made of anodized aluminum, and there's a high-quality acrylic tray for holding the pots.The LED light strip is slim, because the lights are so powerfully bright, and they use just 17 watts of power. The AC adapter is included, as well as a timer for automatic off and on. And I just think it's an attractive system - very sleek and contemporary looking.

Photo ©Tucker's Pride®

The lights are bright enough that you can grow plants from seed - both edibles and flowers - and they'll have enough light for sufficient healthy growth, in fact, the LED lights promote faster growth than natural light.  I haven't tried any seeds yet, but I have no doubt it's bright enough to do it. It puts off a very small bit of heat, which can't hurt the growth either.

I wanted live plants in the eating area of my kitchen, but up until now, I couldn't have them there.  Why?  There are no windows in that room and the only natural light comes from adjacent rooms.  It isn't nearly enough to grow anything well, not even low-light plants.

Right now, I have three African violets (Saintpaulia sp.) growing under the lights and they seem perfectly happy.  And so am I.  :-)

The violets are actually purple, but my camera is reading the
color as blue.  It may have something to do with the LED
lighting; in reality, they do look purple.

Would you like to try an LED Mini Garden for yourself?  Tucker's Pride has graciously allowed me to give one away to one of my readers!

All you have to do is this:

  • Leave a comment to this blog post and include a way for me to contact you, should you win.
  • Tell me what you'd like to grow in the LED Mini Garden if you win it.

At midnight on Sunday, March 3, 2012, I will use to randomly choose a winner from all the eligible entries.  You must live in the U.S.  and Tucker's Pride will be sending the LED Mini Garden ($129.00 value) directly to the winner.

Good luck!


Mia Graves

You're the winner of the LED Mini Garden!  An e-mail has been sent to you.
Thank you to all who entered and to Tucker's Pride® for making this giveaway possible.

Thank you to Tucker's Pride and Garden Media Group for the opportunity to try an LED Mini Garden at no charge. I was not required to blog about this product, but I like it and wanted to tell my readers about it. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thank You, Lady Bird: A Visit to the Wildflower Center in Austin

Photo: WHPO
I'm not too young to remember Lady Bird Johnson's "Beautify America" campaign (or Northerners trying to imitate her Southern accent while saying it), but I'll bet my own grown children don't know why they see wildflowers growing along our rural roads and highways. It's become such a part of the United States we know today that most of us take it for granted. But it wasn't always that way.

When Lady Bird became our nation's First Lady after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, one of her first projects was promoting green space in our nation's capitol.  She didn't like the concrete parks nearly devoid of flowers.  She went on from there to get behind the Highway Beautification Act of 1965, which limited signage along public highways.

Lady Bird became well known for her efforts, and on her 70th birthday - December 22, 1982 - she and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin, Texas. Later renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center because of her financial contributions, today the center is part of the University of Texas at Austin. The Center celebrated 30 years in December, when Lady Bird would have been 100 years old.

Author Kathi Appelt and illustrator Joy Fisher Hein collaborated to create a beautiful and charming children's book, Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America (Harper Collins Publishers, 2005), targeted for ages 7-10. Kids will learn a little bit about Lady Bird Johnson, including how she got her nickname, as well as what led her to lead the way for a more beautiful America. It's important to know the story behind Lady Bird's legacy and this book is a wonderful way to learn about it. There's even an online activity kit that coordinates with the book.

When I visited Jenny Peterson, my co-author of our upcoming book, Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants, at her home in Austin last July, we took time out to visit the Wildflower Center. It was a very warm day, with a high of 102° F, so we didn't really care that we only had a couple of hours to spend there.  It wasn't necessarily a high bloom time for the Center, but still very beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent there with my good friend. I'd like to make a return visit someday.

Here are some photos I took during my brief visit at the Wildflower Center. Enjoy!

Now THAT'S an agave!

Metal wildflower sculptures are located throughout the center,
including this native Texas Bluebonnet.

Yes, the sky really was that blue.

Kiss Me Quick (Portulaca pilosa)

Dragonfly - possibly a Neon Skimmer

I have agave envy!

Texas sotol (Dasylirion texana)

Top to bottom:
Cardinal Feather (Acalypha radians)
Silver Pony-foot (Dichondra argentea)
Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

The requisite cactus.

Halberdleaf rosemallow
(Hibiscus laevis)

Mexican primrose-willow
Ludwigia octovalvis

Jenny has a similar photo on her camera!  ;-)

Hey, I know that one!  I have one in MY yard!
Beautyberry Shrub (Callicarpa americana)

I  just hope the snakes know how to read.

I guessed this to be a Euphorbia because it reminded me a
little of a poinsettia.  It's Euphorbia cyathophora.

Gulf Fritillary butterfly

Click on photo to enlarge for easier reading.

Learn more about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center by visiting their website.

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