How often should I water my poinsettia?
The plant needs to stay moist. Check every other day or so, and when the soil starts to dry out, add water until it comes out the drainage hole.
Where should I place my poinsettia?
"Start by filling an undrained decorative bowl or dish that is at least 2 to 3 inches deep with enough pebbles, pea gravel, coarse sand or pearl chips to reach about 1 inch below the top. Add water until it is barely below the surface of the gravel. Set the bulbs on top and hold in place with enough gravel to cover the bottom quarter of each bulb. Carefully maintain that water level.
Tender Narcissus are best kept in a cool 50 to 60 F location in low light until they are well-rooted and the shoots appear, usually in about two to three weeks."I also plan to pick up a few hyacinths. For hyacinths I plant them in dirt and leave them about 12 weeks in my fridge before pulling them out.
"Pupating" Eastern Black Swallowtail
In my driveway, I later saw a Eastern Black Swallowtail who had recently emerged from the cocoon! I spotted the empty cocoon on the side of the garage. (By the way, these cocoons don't look anything like mystery cocoons I've spotted on my rose bushes ,which are probably bagworm.)
Another swallowtail cocoon- by Lenses
The butterfly was still wet-winged and struggling, so I moved it to a sunnier, safer spot. I hope it survived to flutter around like this Eastern Black Swallowtail I photographed last summer.
You may also be interested in my previous posts on butterflies and butterfly gardening:
No, this isn't a mutant daffodil from outerspace. It's part of the educational display at the United States Botanical Garden in Washington, D.C. This museum-like wing of the conservatory is the best botanical educational exhibit I've ever seen. I could have spent hours in there, but I was visiting with family. (I don't like spending hours touring battleships, so I don't expect anyone to spend hours looking at plants.)
But of course, most people come to a botanical garden looking for real plants. I really liked this orchid, and although I'm no orchid guru, I haven't seen anything like it before. The orchid room contained this plant and dozens of other orchids in full bloom. (If you are really into orchids, the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Missouri Botanical Garden have even more extensive collections.)
The conservatory is very lovely. I liked the layout, featuring several rooms with joining courtyards. The houses were recently refurbished, too, and everything is well maintained. One of my favorite rooms in any big conservatory is the "desert room." This agave is nestled among the cacti.
Photo by Not Your Real
This year, I planted Portulaca in a particularly sunny location. The weather has been horribly hot and dry recently. And this little plant is thriving and blooming. No wonder my neighbor likes it so much! While the zinnias I put in nearby containers are struggling, the moss rose seems to be a great container plant.
Photo by Callie
Yes, there are plants out there that thrive in hot, dry weather! Tune in next time for another edition of "Some Like it Hot."
A banana plant
It looks like I bumbled a bit with my post about Conversing with the Bumblebees. I actually was talking with a carpenter bee!
We recently hired a landscaper, and it's been nice to delegate some of the heavy garden chores now that I'm 5 months pregnant. They did a really nice job mulching and weeding this spring, and the lawn looks great. It was also nice not to be the one to get poison ivy while weeding the beds in the backyard.
While talking with the landscaper this week, he solved another backyard mystery- The Case of the Sawdust Piles. I'd noticed little piles of sawdust on the porch and I was fearing termites, even though we have a contract with Terminix. But come to find out, the little guys I'd mistaken for bumblebees were actually carpenter bees, which like to bore into wood to make their nests. (Bumblebees make their nests in the ground, so they don't generate sawdust.)
Bumblebees and carpenter bees look similar, so it's easy to confuse them. Here's how to tell them apart.
Bumblebees have furry abdomens that often have some yellow.
Carpenter bees have a shiny black abdomen
These two bees are also sometimes confused with honeybees. The honeybees look quite different, however, when you look closely. Check out Judith's blog to take a peek inside the bee hives.
Although I didn't get the bumblebees I'd planted for, these insects are natural pollinators and don't seem to be much of a nuisance. I haven't seen any noticeable damage yet. Also, like bumblebees, they seldom sting. In fact, the male carpenter bees don't even have stingers. The females rarely sting and will leave you alone unless you mess with them.
Despite their lack of stingers, males carpenter bees tend to be aggressive when you near their nests. So that's probably why the little bee was pestering me when I was planting my columbine.
Sources / For Further Reading:
Clemson University Media Relations- Carpenter bees take wing in warm weather
(Click on the images for photo credits.)
Yes, it may sound silly but plants do have hormones. Just like in humans, plant hormones influence the plant's growth and stage of life. Examples of the use of hormones in horticulture include:
Ethylene signals fruit ripening (It can also travel as a gas between fruits; this is why one bad apple spoils the bunch.)
Gibberellins ainvolvedled in stem elongation (Dwarf varieties of plants often have reduced levels of this hormone.)
But getting back to the Mexican Yam story- Why use plant hormones to make a human hormone ? Well plant hormones are similar to human hormones. We can't harvest people, and chemically hormones can be very difficult to create from scratch.
Before this synthesis method was developed, doctors were already realizing the potential of this hormone, progesterone, to treat medical conditions like menstrual disorders. However, it was extremely expensive. In the 1930's, progesterone sold for $80 a gram.
An American Chemist, Russell Marker, found that diosgenin, a plant hormone extracted from yams, could be cheaply converted into a human hormone, progesterone. Despite the obvious potential of this type of research, not a single American pharmaceutical company wanted to take on the project.
However, this did not deter Marker. He quit his prestigious academic job, emptied his savings account, and moved across the border to spend his days drinking tequilaulia and learning everything he could about harvesting yams.
Thanks to the work of Marker and succeeding workers at Syntex, a small biotech company in Mexico, progesterone became cheap and readily available, which lead to the eventual realization that it could be marketed as an oral contraceptive.
Today, forty years after the introduction of oral contraceptives, "the pill" is one the most common methods of birth control. Although there are even better ways to synthesize it now, about half of oral contraceptives on the market still contain this same active ingredient that was first synthesized in bulk using Mexican Yams.
For more information:
Visit the science section of the American History Museum in Washington D.C.
Yams of Fortune: The (Uncontrolled) Birth of Oral Contraceptives
However, Lamb's Ear is not the only fun and furry plant out there. At the recent Master Gardener plant sale, I discovered this treasure. According to the donor, it's a type of Salvia. It looks like a little "Audrey 2" from Little Shop of Horrors, but this monster plant is soft and cuddly.
I also found this furry plant at Home Depot, but I forgot the name. Can anyone help? I'll try to find the tag and update this post later.
Lena Delta, Asia
In honor of Earth Day, I'd like to propose an impromptu Carnival of Earth Friendly Gardening.
How do you show your concern for the Earth in how you garden?
This week, I noticed Jenn and Judith posted a notice about the environmental impact of cypress mulches. I appreciate the heads-up, since I was totally clueless about this issue. They also suggest other mulching alternatives. I'd like to point out that mulching is actually great for the environment, just choose a different kind of mulch. The environmental benefits of mulching include reduced erosion and water conservation, since the mulch holds the water and prevents runoff.
Susan continues to write about lectures on invasive plants and their impact on the environment. The basic message is grow native plants as much as possible. My recent post, Plant Spam, proposes a new name for invasives.
Amy and Andrea continue to promote their organic perspective. But isn't neccessarily all or nothing when it comes to organic gardening. Even gardeners like myself who occasionally pull out the Miracle Grow can incorporate organic practices in their gardening. In fact, you probably already do. Remember if you build a compost pile you are not only helping your garden, but also helping the environment. Did you know that one of the largest components our landfills is yard waste? Compost is also a natural mulch and fertilizer, which is better for the environment than synthetic chemicals. I recently also starting using soap sprays to deter insects instead of pesticides. Now that I'm almost 4 months pregnant, I'm starting to seriously consider how to cut down on toxins that my future child could be exposed to.
On aol they just posted an article entitled "Green Yards" describing ways to conserve when caring for your lawn. A few interesting ideas included solar powered lawn mowers and renting goats to mow your lawn! My husband's former company actually found it cost-effective to raise a herd of goats instead of mowing their lawn.
I'd like to wrap up with a quote from Susan - "I remain confused as hell but unshaken in my belief that gardening can be not only [not] harmful but actually beneficial to the environment." I second that comment! The more you read about any environmental issue, the complexity of the problem becomes apparent, and thus the more confusing it gets. But we can only do our best!
So please share your ideas and any favorite posts I missed. I'll be glad to add them. Just comment on this post or send a link to my e-mail with "Carnival of Earth Friendly Gardening" in the title.
I purchased the above two plants recently at a local hardware store. If you give them plenty of light and water, they can bloom and be happy for weeks.
The bulbs don’t last as long, but if your valentine is an avid gardener, he or she might appreciate being able to plant it outside for next year.
This post was inspired by Charlotte Bronte’s writing:
“I like to see flowers growing, but when they are gathered, they cease to please. I look on them as things rootless and perishable; their likeness to life makes me sad. I never offer flowers to those I love; I never wish to receive them from hands dear to me.” – Charlotte Bronte
This is a picture from Christmas 2003 of my plant stand and grow lights. Perfect for a graduate student with no garden to call her own. Thank goodness times have changed!
I've seen an avid gardener install several of these units in her basement to start seeds during the winter. That's a great strategy for giving some plants a head start, like tomatoes and impatiens. Most seed packets say to start the seeds 4-6 weeks before your frost date, and that time here in zone 7 is approaching soon!
If you've been watching my hydroponic plants grow under their lights, from when we planted the seeds to tending the mature plants we have now, you can see that they work well in the classroom, too. We are starting the next stage in our hydroponic experiments tomorrow, so I'll post soon with our progress.
A couple tips-
1. Mark the fluorescent tubes with the date of purchase with a permanent marker. If you are going to grow plants under them full-time, they will dim and need to be replaced after about a year.
2. Incadensent bulbs generate a lot of heat and will fry your plants.
3. A rubber mat, as pictured here, can collect accidental drips. Now I also put the pots on a plastic tray full of gravel, which also cuts down on leaks.
4. Invest in a simple 24-hour timer and set it for 12-14 hours of "daylight". If you don't want your plant lights to wake you up while you're trying to sleep in on weekends, you can buy a fancier one.
I feared at first that the tomatoes hadn't made it, but now they are poking up under the bean plants. It took them about a week to germinate, and they are probably going to be too small for our experiment this week. In the future, it looks like they would need over a month to get to a good size for experiments.
Well maybe they will do well enough under lights to produce fruits if I take them home?Finally, the radish plants. They win the prolific plant award. The packet was full of seeds, and it seems like every one germinated! The plants below were sowed by just one group, about 1/4 of a seed packet.