Monday, March 31, 2014

Perennial Power

It's time to start selecting and planting the right perennials for your landscape.  Before you go to your garden center make sure you take a few pictures of your area to show the garden center expert.  Then study what your light requirements are in each particular area.  Is it shady, semi-shady, and/or full sun.  The right light is essential in making your perennials bloom and survive the Southern heat. 

Also, chose the right perennials that will provide color for different seasons.  For example, plant Columbine for early spring color, for summer color plant yellow Rudbeckia, and then in fall plant Pineapple Sage.  

Make sure you enrich your soil with organic mix and good drainage is essential.   Also, feed your perennials at least twice during the growing season for maximum blooming power.

Everlasting Geraniums

Most of us are starving for color in our landscape and pots.  The one plant that is the most popular in early spring is the famous Geranium.  Why?  Because you can buy them in full bloom and lush plants.  I do love the plant myself but with the Southern heat they tend to burn out in the summer.  No fear, you can make your geraniums last and bloom all summer long.  How?  Place them in a semi-shady area.  They love morning sun for about 5 to 6 hours.    They are heavy feeders so remember to fertilize with any all purpose fertilizer that is high in phosphorus.  This is the blooming power in fertilizer.  If you dead head the spent flowers then they should bloom for months to come.   

For instant impact buy your geraniums in hanging baskets.  We carry them at Botanica Gardens with other seasonal flowers mixed in for overflowing color all summer long. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Kitchen Envy

Most of us spend so much time in our kitchens so why not make sure our kitchens are trendy and fashionable.  It's all about the details.  Make sure to add accessories that are not only kitchen related such as stacked cook books but other items that are trendy such as spoon art. 

Framed Spoon Art:

For a fun and whimsical project, let's frame some colorful spoons!  Using a frame of any size, create a backdrop.  We chose foam core board with a linen pattern.  Cut the foam core board to fit the inside of the frame.  Use glazier points found at your local craft store to secure backing.  You may use spoons you already own; we purchased our spoons at the dollar store.  Take any set amount of spoons to create a fun pattern.  Now it's time for the fun part...using acrylic paint of your choice, paint the rounded portion of each spoon in a variety of colors.  Hot glue each spoon onto the backing in a fun pattern.  Not only will this project become a conversation piece, but it will also provide a great pop of color in your home!


- Picture frame
- Foam core board
- Scissors/razor blade
- Glazier points
- Spoons
- Acrylic paint
- Hot glue gun/hot glue

Delicate Indoor Ferns that are Easy to Grow

Looking for a houseplant that requires little care, thrives in low-light conditions, and adds visual interest to a room?  The answer is the fern, which has foliage ranging in appearance from delicate to dramatic, depending on plant family.
Ferns do best with indirect lighting.  A north-facing window is ideal although during the winter months, when the sun is low on the horizon, an east window is fine for these plants.  Avoid south and west-facing windows, as the intense sunlight may scald the leaves or fronds of the ferns, depending on the intensity of the light.  Or they may dry out faster or scald the leaves if there is low moisture in the soil or air.

Most ferns like an average room temperature of 65 to 75 degrees F during the day, up to 10 degrees cooler at night.  If temperatures exceed 75 degrees F, you may need to water more frequently.  Below 60 degrees, add water only when the soil is dry to the touch.  Some of the more tropical ferns may grow poorly, preferring the higher temperatures.

Consistent watering, keeping the soil evenly moist, not wet, is also key to the health and well being of the plants.  Over watering causes the fronds to yellow and wilt and may eventually lead to root rot and fungal diseases, especially if the pot is allowed to sit in water.  Too little water also causes wilt.  A few varieties, such as Rabbit's Foot Fern, Brake ferns, and Holly Fern are an exception to the consistent watering rule.  For these, you may allow the soil to dry out slightly between watering's.

Ferns, many of which are native to the tropics, like high humidity, which is why they do well in bathrooms.  But you also can increase humidity around the ferns by placing the pots on a pebble-lined tray.  Add water to the pebbles, making sure the bottoms of the pots do not touch the water in the tray.  The evaporation will add extra humidity around the plants.  The best solution is to have a room humidifier adjacent to the plants.  This also benefits people indoors in dry homes as well.  Homes  often have five to 10 percent relative humidity.  Humidifiers might raise that to 30 to 50 percent, which is really minimum for ferns to do best (although they may tolerate slightly lower humidity), and in native climates often have 70 percent or higher relative humidity.

Or double pot your ferns to provide more moisture.  Place the main container into a second, larger container that you have lined with moist sphagnum moss.  Keep the moss moist or even wet.  Use plastic pots, which don't dry out as quickly as clay pots.  The latter are not recommended for many ferns indoors, unless you use the pot in pot method as described above.  A clay pot surrounded by moss then the ceramic or plastic pot on the outside is probably ideal.

In addition, misting the foliage, especially in winter, will increase the humidity.  Just be careful not to mist the furniture and outer walls.  Use room temperature water as cold water may spot the leaves. You'll know when the humidity is too low as the tips of the fronds will brown or die back.  Maidenhair, Stag horn, and Boston Fern are especially susceptible to lack of adequate humidity.

Ferns require only light feedings of fertilizer once a month from April through September unless actively growing in winter months.  Apply liquid houseplant fertilizer at about one-half the recommended rate.  Too much fertilizer will scorch the foliage.  Newly potted plants should not be fertilized for four to six months, again unless there are indications of active growth.

Plant diseases are rare in ferns grown indoors although your plants may suffer from infestations of scale insects, mealybugs, and mites.  Handpicking or spraying with water are the best options for control as pesticide sprays may injure ferns.  If you must use, choose the least toxic product for the pest and read the label carefully before applying.  Check at least weekly to catch pests early.  If ferns are infested with scales, the easiest way to control is to cut off affected fronds.  If infestation of out of control, you may need to discard the plant before the rest of your houseplants are affected.

Ferns will require re potting every few years.  Re pot in the spring, using a purchased soil-less mix that is 50 percent peat moss.  Divide overcrowded plants by removing from the pot and cutting carefully between rhizomes (fleshy roots).  Keep as many leaves as possible per division.

It is also possible to propagate new plants by spores.  In the summer plants will produce spores (brown dots) on the undersides of the leaves.  When these spores darken, remove the leaf and place in a paper bag.  As the leaf dries out, the spores will fall off.  Plant in a peat-based seed starting mix.  Water well, and place in a plastic bag.  Temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees will encourage sprouting.

When fronds are one-inch high, remove the plastic bag and transplant in groups in small pots.  At two to three inches, transplant to individual pots.  This can be tricky as it often takes quite a while for fronds to reach transplant height, and moss and algae or other growth may appear first and kill off young plants, so be forewarned if you decide to propagate your own ferns.
The following ferns can be grown as houseplants.  Or ask your local garden center for recommendations.

--Birds nest Fern (Asplenium)--one of the easiest ferns to grow; may reach 18  to 24 inches tall although in humid room like greenhouse might get to be six feet high and across; has broad, light green, leathery, undivided fronds that grow upwards, giving the plant the look of a bird's nest.  At Botanica Gardens we have so many new varieties to choose from as well.

--Boston Fern (Nephrolepis)--also known as the ladder or sword fern; has long, delicate fronds and light green foliage; grows from 10 inches to three feet, depending on cultivars; ideal for hanging baskets; fern may drop leaflets, especially if too dry, making this a "messy" plant to grow; some newer dwarf compact cultivars are an excellent choice for a houseplant. These were especially popular in Victorian times.

--Brake Ferns (Pteris)--several varieties are available, including some with variegated foliage; may be grown as a table fern or in a hanging basket; prefers diffused light and nighttime temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees F, 68 to 72 degrees F during the day.

--Button Fern (Pellaea)--good plant for small spaces as it only grows 12 to 18 inches tall; it is often dark green and has round, slightly leathery "button-like" leaves attached to slender stems.

--Holly Fern (Cyrtomium)--also known as the fishtail fern; has bright, glossy, leathery leaves; rather unfernlike in appearance; prefers cool to moderate temperatures and indirect sunlight; requires less humidity than most other ferns; ideal for lower light conditions.

--Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)--fast-growing fern that needs high humidity and consistent moisture to survive; foliage is lacy with small, fan-shaped leaves; does best in a north window. If it dries out, the foliage may die as the plant shrivels.  However, it  doesn't "unwilt" when watered as many houseplants will, but new shoots should appear.

--Rabbit's Foot or Ball Fern (Davallia)--excellent fern for hanging baskets as the furry, creeping rhizomes hang over the edge of the container, resembling a rabbit's foot; needs to be planted with rhizome above soil level instead of buried; very sensitive to salt and thus needs to be watered with soft water.

--Staghorn Fern (Platycerium)--leaves are wide, flat, down-covered, and resemble an elk's antlers; slow-growing but can reach three to four feet in height; should be grown in sphagnum moss with the shield (the brown part from which the green "antlers" emerge) wired to a piece of wood or cork bark; fern is really marginal in many interiors as it needs lots of humidity; water by taking entire wood slab or cork bark and moss off the wall or wherever it is hanging, then immerse with plant shield into a pan or tub of water.  A bath tub without soap suds works best.  Water should be lukewarm, not hot.  Allow to drain before rehanging.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Winter Flowers the Endure the Cold

I know that most of you are so tired of the cold winter.  Most of our yards, including my own, look so dull and drab.  Well winter
is not over yet so be careful what flowers you plant now.  It is too early to plant cold sensitive flowers
such as begonias and petunias.  I know, some garden centers have them already in their nurseries.  Don't be
fooled, we still have cold nights ahead, so choose wisely.  There is hope though.  There are so many different
varieties of flowers that you can plant now.  I just planted in my pots blooming dianthus, snap dragons, pansies, nemesia, alyssum,
Lenton Roses,  and even some herbs.  Most of these will burn out before the spring heat but will get you through the
next two months.  Remember these plants are heavy feeders so fertilizer with a general food and they will
bloom their little hears out.

Controlling Winter Broadleaf Weeds

It it important to maintain your turf against weed infestation. However, during the
winter months turfgrasses are not actively growing
and are therefore susceptible to the encroachment
of winter annual broadleaf weeds. Controlling
winter annual broadleaf weeds before they are able
to set seed will not only reduce the likelihood of
an outbreak the following year, but improve the

There are so many different brands of products on the market.  I like to use a
product called Weed Zone since it controls existing weeds at any temperature. 
We carry this product at Botanica Gardens.  Apply now and a second application may
be necessary.

Don't forget to also apply a pre-emergent to prevent spring and summer weeds from germinating.  Make sure to read the
directions very carefully on the label.  Some  products can not be used on certain turf types.
Apply now before it is too late.  The warm weather is right around the corner.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Winter Damage to Plants

Can we be in the Weather Garden for this One??

Extreme cold weather protection tips:

To prepare for more extreme weather, stock up on a supply of plastic, burlap, canvas or old sheets that can be used to cover less cold-hardy shrubs and plants. 
When heavy snowfall or icing is predicted, use this material to cover the plants, anchoring the cover around the base of the plant with stakes, rocks, bricks or logs so winter winds don’t blow it off.
•  Remove the cover and shake off the snow or ice off once the threat has passed.
•  Snow and ice can break limbs and twigs of more fragile multi-branched trees and shrubs.
•  Give them a little help holding up under the weight by bundling the limbs together with string or twine.
It’s fine to gently shake snow from the limbs of trees and shrubs, but let ice melt on its own to avoid breakage.

The best form of winterizing is making sure the plants you choose for the landscape are able to withstand your winter weather. 

As you buy new plants, pick ones that are suited for your growing zone and locate them in the proper spot. 
Tender plants that can’t withstand lots of cold weather should be planted in protected areas or on the west and south sides of houses and other structures. 
And if, despite all your efforts, winter seems to take a toll on your landscape plants, don’t panic.  Many will rebound when spring arrives so be patient and give them time to recover before you give up on them.

Unique Containers

Paint Stick Painter:

Paint sticks aren't just for stirring paint!  They may be used to enhance planters too!  Take a cube shaped wooden box and turn it into a planter for the spring season.  Using the paint sticks, create a design on the outside of the wooden box.  Excessive pieces of the paint sticks may be cut using a "Handi-tool" which is a hand held heavy duty cutting tool.  Hot glue each paint stick onto the wooden cube and then fill in any gaps with spackling.  Once the spackling has dried, paint or stain the paint stick design.  We chose a chevron style pattern to make an ordinary wooden box into a spectacular planter for spring!


- Cube shaped wooden box
- Paint sticks
- Handi-tool
- Spackling
- Hot glue gun/hot glue
- Paint and/or stain
- Plant material

Book Planter:

A unique way of displaying a plant in your home is inside a book!  Take any thick book and open it to where it naturally stays open.  If pages on the left side of the book are not lying down flat, use Elmer's glue to bind the pages together.  You may need to weight the pages down and allow to dry overnight.  Using an exacto knife or box cutter, cut out a rectangle within the size of the pages.  Take out the pages that have been cut and repeat this step until a rather deep "hole" has been cut out.  Line the cut out open area with waxed paper.  Fill with plant material, rocks, and moss to create a wonderful addition to your home!


- Thick book
- Exacto knife or box cutter
- Elmer's glue
- Waxed paper
- Plant material, rocks, moss

Brick Planter:

Do you have any old bricks with holes lying around?  If so, bricks make a fun display for plants or candles to display inside or out!  Simply wash off any dirt from the brick.  Insert succulents, votive candles, or small vases filled with flowers inside the holes of the brick.  This brick planter is a great accent for your spring party!


- Bricks with holes
- Succulents, votive candles, small vase with flowers

Picture This

Spring Twig Picture Frame:

It's time to frame your favorite spring photographs, so let's create the perfect frame!  You will need a picture frame of any size with a wide border, a small bird's nest, twigs, and moss.  All of our supplies came from a local craft store except for the twigs.  The unfinished wood picture frame may either be painted or rubbed with Old English wood furniture polish to create a wood like color. Find twigs from the yard, break them to size, and begin hot gluing the twigs all over the picture frame until completely covered.  Hot glue or tuck moss inside little crevices to give a nice texture and pop of color.  Hot glue the small bird's nest at any corner of the frame.  Now it's time to frame those special spring pictures!


- Unfinished wood picture frame with wide border
- Twigs
- Small bird's nest
- Moss
- Hot glue gun/ hot glue

Wine Cork Ideas for the Kitchen

Succulent Cork Magnet:

Here is a great project using corks!  You may have used corks lying around the house, if not, they may be found at your local craft store.  Using a paring knife or drill, carve out the middle section of the cork.  Carve down 3/4 of the cork.  Place a little bit of soil inside the cork, place one small succulent root inside the soil, and sprinkle with water.  Hot glue a small magnet to the backside of the cork and place on the fridge!  


- Corks
- Paring knife/drill
- Soil
- Succulents
- Small magnets
- Hot glue gun/ hot glue

Cork Trivet:

If you have several leftover wine corks, this is the project for you!  This simple project is decorative and useful!  Simply take several wine corks and create a pattern of your choice.  We hot glued a pair of wine corks vertically and then hot glued a pair of wine corks horizontally adjacent to the vertical pair.  Create at least four pairs for each row.  Repeat until there are four to six rows creating a square.  Using an embroidery hoop, you may also hot glue wine corks together in a circular pattern.  Fill the embroidery hoop first to ensure the number of wine corks needed.  Once all wine corks are glued, tighten the embroidery hoop for an unexpected feature!


- Wine corks
- Embroidery hoop
- Hot glue gun/hot glue