If I had only two words to describe pothos, they would be “ridiculously forgiving.” This plant is over 20 years old and was severely pruned before our last move, then jammed into a terrible low-light situation for a couple of years, but it just kept. on. going. (“Deeply determined?”) I finally found it a spot with more sunlight and it is rewarding me with tons of new growth. If you are struggling to grow houseplants, grab yourself one of these.
And if you are looking beyond the popular golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), there are some absolutely incredible cultivars to track down for your collection. If you type the keywords “A Plethora of Pothos Varieties” into your search bar, you may find the page that pops up a bit inspirational. Seriously, get a napkin, ’cause you might catch yourself drooling.
Finally, this link might be helpful! Last year, I wrote an article about pothos and philodendron care for Farmers’ Almanac – you can find it here.
Do you grow pothos? What other houseplants do you find to be extremely low-maintenance and reliable?
Holiday cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Christmas cactus, Easter cactus, Zygocactus, Schlumbergera … whatever what the heck you call them, they’re all absolutely lovely and I’ve fielded quite a few questions about them this year. Maybe it’s time to chat about how to keep them thriving instead of subsisting, and, while we’re at it, get that whole naming problem out in the open.
First, let’s clear up the name thing. Zygocactus is a former genus name of the so-called Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti, so you won’t hear these plants called that much anymore – and if you do, it’s inaccurate. Schlumbergera is the current genus. It contains six to nine species, because taxonomists are still waffling a bit on whether or not the (former) Hatiora genus should be amalgamated into Schlumbergera. Collectively naming these plants “holiday” cactus reflects the times of the year they typically – but not always – bloom (and then we can quibble – as I’ve seen in some gardening groups on Facebook – about whether they burst forth in flower in time for the Canadian or American Thanksgiving and it all gets positively silly). What we call a Thanksgiving cactus is Schlumbergera truncata, and it features crab- or claw-like hooked appendages on its flat stems. The flowers also tend to be more erect than those of the so-called Christmas cactus. The Christmas cactus (S. x buckleyi), a hybrid of S. truncata and S. russelliana (which has super long segmented stems), has scalloped edges on the stems. And, finally, Easter cactus (S. gaertneri, formerly Hatiora gaertneri), which is somewhat impossible more challenging to acquire for purchase in this neck of the woods, has defined rounded edges on the flat stem segments. S. truncata (Thanksgiving) seem to be the most overwhelmingly available species for sale here, so if you have a friend who has a true Christmas or Easter cactus, see if they’ll give you a cutting for a box of chocolate truffles or something lovely like that.
Another ID tip? Thanksgiving cactus (S. truncata) has yellow pollen, while Christmas cactus (S. x buckleyi) has pink pollen.
Curious about that defunct old genus name, Zygocactus? It refers to the fact that the flowers of Christmas and Thanksgiving cacti are zygomorphic – that is, bilaterally symmetrical (possessing two dissimilar halves). Another common plant with zygomorphic blooms is a viola.
So … why do holiday cactus bloom when they do? It all has to do with photoperiod. The chillier temperatures and longer nights of autumn and winter trigger Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus to bloom. They need at least 6 weeks (give or take) of short days and uninterrupted 13 to 14 hour nights to make a colourful splash. Easter cactus take a bit longer – they need at least 8 to 12 weeks (give or take) of uninterrupted 13 to 14 hour nights to decide it’s time to bloom. (What do I mean by ”uninterrupted”? The plants must be in darkness for 13 to 14 hours per day for the prescribed time to bloom. Both artificial light and sunlight can disturb this period of darkness, and influence whether the plants bloom or not.) And … sometimes Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus will joyously offer up another kick at the can in late January or early February and rebloom. (This second flush of flowers isn’t usually as abundant as the earlier one, but it’s equally appreciated.)
I’ve heard some stories about people stuffing their Schlumbergera spp. into a dark closet or a basement room to get them to bloom. If you want to control the timing of the bloom period, you can put the plants in darkness for 14 hours each day for several weeks to force them into bloom. But you still need to take them out so that they get some light and holiday cactus really don’t like being moved. So unless you have the equivalent of blackout curtains for your plants and can keep them in one place, I’d recommend letting things happen naturally. To that end, see #4 above, and leave your closets to house non-plant things.
In Brazil and other parts of the southern hemisphere, most Schlumbergera spp. bloom in May or thereabouts. So there go the common names we northerners have attributed to the plants.
Schlumbergera don’t have leaves. Those beautiful green stems perform all the photosynthesis the plant needs.
Those little hooked appendages on the Thanksgiving cactus? They’re called cladophylls. Use that at your next trivia night!
Three feet is the approximate maximum stem length of a Christmas cactus (S. x buckleyi). (But, again, give or take. It all depends on how delighted the plant is with its surroundings and how much love you lavish upon it.)
There are apparently over 200 cultivars of S. x buckleyi (Christmas) cactus, which represents a staggering array of flower colours! It’s tempting to want to start a massive collection ….
Schlumbergera spp. are native to the rainforests of Brazil, which means they aren’t like other cacti, which thrill to hot, dry climates. Like many tropical plants, they prefer dappled light, and a temperature consistently hovering around 20°C (68°F).
Many Schlumbergera spp. are epiphytic, which means in their native habitat, they like to hang out in trees. Like, literally. Some species are epilithic, and they grow on rocks.
Holiday cactus don’t need a lot of water, as befitting a cactus, but they will suffer if they aren’t watered sufficiently. Don’t forget about them. Make sure you give them a glug of H20 about 3 times per month. Test the soil with your finger before watering – if the soil is damp, wait a little while. If it is bone dry, haul out the watering can. Don’t get the crown of the plant wet, as this may induce rotting. Don’t withhold water while the plants are blooming, but don’t overwater them, either.
You don’t need to fertilize your holiday cactus year-round – stick to spring and summer feedings, when the plants are actively putting out green growth. Use a balanced liquid soluble fertilizer, or fish emulsion or liquid kelp once per month.
Keep the plants out of direct, bright light in the summertime – remember that the native habitat for many of them is in the canopies of trees.
Holiday cactus like being a little pot-bound. While the average lifespan of a holiday cactus is 20 to 30 years, you’ve undoubtedly seen the photos on the ‘net of the 50-year-old plants that seem to be busting out of their pots and blooming like they haven’t a care in the world. That’s because they are happy in cramped quarters. I’ve seen recommendations to repot them every three years or so but you can usually go quite a bit longer, unless the plants give you an indication that their abode is simply no longer suitable. (You’ll know it’s time when they call your realtor and request a little ”for sale” sign. Um, no. They’ll actually start acting up – watch for behaviours like wilting, suddenly needing more water than usual and more frequently, or perhaps the stems will begin to shrivel.)
I usually just use a commercial potting mix for my holiday cactus, but a succulent or cacti mix is also suitable. Don’t forget to follow a yearly fertilizing schedule (see #14, above).
Propagating Schlumbergera is easy and fun! If your cat hasn’t already knocked the plant over and dislodged a segment or six, just neatly cut off a length of 2 segments with a clean pair of scissors or a sharp knife and set the chunk out on a piece of towel for three days or so to callous over. Then put some damp potting soil in a small container and plop the cut piece an inch or so into the medium, newly-calloused side down. Keep the soil evenly and regularly moist, and after a few weeks, the little cutting should root nicely. Why not propagate some cuttings early in the year for holiday gifts for your friends and family come Thanksgiving or Christmas? Chocolate truffles of gratitude may be in your future! 😉
Are the stems on your holiday cactus turning red? While this may look festive and pretty, it’s usually a sign that the plants are getting way too much direct light. Offer them a bit less for bliss.
Wrinkled stems? You’re either overwatering or underwatering … this is evidence of either issue. Make some small adjustments to your offerings of irrigation until the situation improves.
Bud blast is a huge problem for holiday cactus. Your plants may form flower buds on the tips of the stems, and you’ll get all happy and excited at the prospect of tons of blooms, then all of a sudden, you realize that stuff just ain’t happening. The plant has decided to sulk – maybe it just doesn’t want you to show it off on Instagram this year. There are a few reasons why bud blast occurs, but the big one is that you probably inadvertently moved the plant at some point over the past month or year or decade and it now hates your guts. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but do try not to move the plant (or even turn the pot) while it is forming buds, and you should be rewarded. Changes in temperature, moisture levels, or light can also trigger bud blast.
What if your holiday cactus doesn’t bloom at all? If you’ve just propagated some cuttings, the new plants won’t usually bloom for a year or two – they’re simply too young. Very ancient plants sometimes don’t bloom as well. Plants that have not received enough nutrients throughout the year may fail to bloom. And finally, consider if you’ve changed the obvious things, like temperature, light, or how much water the plants have been given.
Do you grow Schlumbergera spp.? Feel free to post a link to photos of your plants, if you wish!
Welcome to the fourth issue of The Guides for the Prairie Gardener Newsletter! Janet Melrose and I are keeping you up-to-date on everything related to our book series Guides for the Prairie Gardener, letting you know about what other Prairie gardening-related projects we’re working on, and throwing in some gardening trivia and newsy tidbits, just for fun! If you like what you see, please follow us on our social media and hit the subscribe button on Flowery Prose.
Book News and Events
Request for book reviews!
Do you have a copy of either of (or both of!) our books, The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases? If you do, can you please help us out and take a couple of minutes to give us a rating and review on Amazon.ca/Amazon.com? Don’t worry about leaving a lengthy review…two or three words is honestly all Amazon requires. If you’re on GoodReads, leaving a rating over there would be wonderful, as well! Thank you so much! We are so grateful for your support and encouragement and we hope you are finding the books informative, useful, and fun!
We’ve been on a podcast!
Janet and I had the pleasure and honour of being guests on Agriculture for Life’s Know Your Food podcast, for not one, but TWO episodes! We talked about growing veggies and other edibles, encouraging children to catch the gardening bug, and the connection between the coronavirus pandemic, self-sustainability, and growing your own food…and a few other topics, besides! Go to Ag for Life’s website to listen.
Congratulations to Sherryl H. and Linda H., who each won a set of The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Vegetables and The Prairie Gardener’s Go-To for Pests and Diseases by participating in a contest run here on the blog earlier this month. A huge thank you to our publisher, TouchWood Editions, for supporting the contest and providing the prizes for the winners!
Out and About
After being laid off for nearly four months, I am back to work at the library and, combined with my writing schedule and gardening and the need to eke out a few fun summer activities while there is still time, I’m a wee bit swamped. I have an ever-accumulating load of articles to write, questions to answer for curious (and occasionally desperate and fed up) gardeners, thunderstorms to dodge (my tomatoes have spent half of their lives covered up with sheets to prevent hailstones from destroying them), and So. Much. Weeding. The weed du jour (besides quackgrass, which is actually the bane of my existence): stinkweed (Thlapsi arvense). At least stinkweed is an annual, and it spreads via seeds instead of rhizomes (or seeds AND rhizomes – shudder). It’s easy to pull but there seems to be an incredible amount of it this year. Stinkweed has the glorious distinction that if it is allowed to set seed, one plant can produce 15,000 seeds. I’m pretty sure all of those germinated in my raised beds this year, alongside a zillion annual chickweed plants (Stellaria media), which are another story altogether.
A few articles that I wrote earlier in the year have made it to publication – check out “Harvesting Rain’’ in the Summer 2020 issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates and “Superb Serviceberries” in Mother Earth Gardener. Both of these are available on newsstands across Canada – and in the case of Mother Earth Gardener, you can find it anywhere in the United States, as well. (You can also read the article online here!). I also went a little farther afield than usual and wrote an article called “Opossums as Pollinators in Brazil” for the April 2020 issue of 2 Million Blossoms. As you can imagine, that one was fascinating to research! This is a beautifully-produced, brand-new publication out of Arizona, dedicated to celebrating and “protecting our pollinators.” (If interested, you can order a subscription from their website).
I also had a chance to do a story about houseplants, for a change – my article “Devil’s Ivy vs. Philodendron: Which is Which?” can be found online at Farmers’ Almanac. Check it out here! And, finally, “Using Colour in the Garden” was published in the July 4, 2020 issue of the newspaper The Calgary Herald. You can read it here.
Unlike Sheryl I have been taking a hiatus from writing and workshops since the middle of June, although my article ‘Attracting Butterflies with Annuals’ is in the Summer issue of The Gardener for Canadian Climates. It was a joy to research, write and photograph and I hope any of you that take in this magazine enjoys it too.
My Horticultural Therapy programs are all in abeyance too, except for one that is online!
So, my days have been filled with planting, sowing and weeding all the gardens that folks in the programs usually do. Plus, every so often, getting into my own garden.
One thing I haven’t had to much at all is watering, seeing as the sky has repeatedly provided ample moisture. Apparently, Alberta is experiencing La Nina like conditions in the atmosphere which have been contributing to our cooler and wetter weather lately. There is also a 50/50 chance of a full blown La Nina for this winter. Can we say cold and snowy?
I have been loving the chance to get out into the wild where the wildflowers have been stunning along with the insects and birds. Usually my days are filled in the summer months and I seldom get the chance to go out and about. If there is a silver lining to this year, it is the joy we Albertans are getting from relearning our own backyards and wild spaces!
In Our Gardens
As I already mentioned, weeds are what’s happening. We have had a lot of rain and now there are weeds everywhere. I’m a bit weird in that I don’t mind weeding: I like to relax in the sun and pull and dig them up by hand. Weeding is just a really nice opportunity to turn the ol’ brain off and listen to the birds sing and the bees buzz in the garden. More importantly, it’s a way to get really up close with your plants and see what’s going on almost at soil level. Sometimes you get in a rush and you run to the garden to grab a handful of lettuce for a supper salad, or you sprinkle some water over everything before you dash out to work in the morning and you don’t really SEE what’s going on out there. You need to sit and go slow to do that. If you take a look at our pests and diseases book, you’ll notice that we talk about Integrated Pest (Plant) Management. One of the tenets of that practice is monitoring. That’s one of the things you can be doing while you weed: monitor your cultivated crops and ensure they are healthy and stress-free. If they aren’t, maybe you can see what the problem is while you’re out there weeding.
In July and August, everything is up in the garden and you’re just taking it all in, harvesting a few crops here and there and waiting on others to get larger or to produce more. We’ve been enjoying spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, scallions, garlic scapes, kohlrabi, and various herbs – and, of course, potatoes (which are honestly the real reason I grow vegetables, LOL). And now the beans are coming along as well and the zucchini (which is seriously late for me this year).
I have been having so much fun working in my bed at Inglewood Community Garden. It is a 10’ x 4’ bed so I have taken our Victory Garden plan (which you can see here) and used it in this bed using the square foot gardening technique to control my urge to just add a bit more into it.
It is producing magnificently with my four kale plants in full production, along with lettuce and chard galore. This year with all the rain our radishes were wonderful….mild tasting, beautiful round orbs and nary a radish maggot to be found. Soon it will be the turn of the pole beans, garlic and tomatoes as they all come into their own. And I grew the best cilantro I have ever done, with it tucked in the shadow of the tomatoes and under floating row cover the entire time. A testimony to the benefits of using this ‘gardeners’ best friend’, not to mention the value it provides as hail protection!
As I love to get as much as I can from a space I have already sown more radishes where the cilantro was in the hopes that the conditions there will good enough to get a second delicious crop. While the first lettuces are being harvested using ‘crop and come again’ I have sown more seed to germinate while I munch through the first round of delicious leaves. When the garlic come out in a few weeks I have more seedlings growing in wintersowing jugs to take that space to continue the bounty!
A couple of the questions that keep cropping up (pun intended) on the Alberta Gardening group on Facebook concern the topic of growing onions. If you’re waiting on your onion bulbs to plump up and you know it’s going to be a few more weeks, what do you do if flowers suddenly show up? Do you cut them off? Do you leave them? And some gardeners stomp down the tops of their onions at this point in the growing season because they think it will promote fatter bulbs – is that something that should be done? (I’ve seen people recommend this for potatoes, as well). Let’s get down to the bottom of this!
Continuing on with the Allium family, garlic (Allium sativum) is taking centre stage now. Our late and cool start to the growing season has meant that they are only now developing the distinctive curl to the scapes, but now is the time to snip those scapes back to the first set of leaves. A gourmet delight and expensive in stores, use them just as you would the cloves for your summer cuisine. They pickle and pesto perfectly too if you have too many to use fresh!
Then watch for the leaves to turn yellow and die back in the next few weeks. Once they are about one third brown harvest one to see if the bulb is big and well formed. If it is, then harvest the lot as left too long after that the quality starts to degrade. Cure for three weeks in a dry and warm spot and we have fantastic garlic for the winter months plus using the best bulbs our stock for planting come fall when the cycle begins again!
If you love growing garlic like I do check out Ron L. Engleland’s iconic book ‘Growing Great Garlic’.
What’s growing (nothing outside – other than the snow piles):
Catgrass (I’ve planted a mix of wheatgrass and oats). I swear this stuff germinates in five minutes. If you ever feel like your green thumb’s gone bust, just plant some catgrass and your confidence will be restored almost immediately. My personal assistant Smudge is cut off after only a few good gnaws, as she has an exceedingly delicate digestive system and I hate cleaning upholstery.
Droolicious books I’ve been gawking at:
Urban Botanics: An Indoor Plant Guide for Modern Gardeners by Emma Sibley and Maaike Koster (illustrator)
Whether you’re a dab hand at growing houseplants or you’re captivated with the idea of growing them and want to know more so you can actually get started, this book is worth a gander or two. Or more: While the text offers up plenty of well-researched information and will likely lead to rushed trips to the nearest garden centre to scoop up a new Dracaena or Philodendron or an entire shopping cart full of succulents, the illustrations by Maaike Koster are absolutely glorious, pure eye candy at its most delicious.
The Embroidered Art of Chloe Giordano
A co-worker mentioned Giordano’s Instagram account to me and after just one glimpse, I was highly motivated to track down this gorgeous book. Thread-painted woodland animals – what could be more beautiful? Even if you don’t embroider, you can’t help but be amazed at Chloe Giordano’s insane talent and creativity.
Getting out and about:
One snowshoe trek is in the books! In early December, my hubby, my brother, and I earned “Braggin’ Rights” out at West Bragg Creek. Braggin’ Rights is 8.7 kilometres (5.4 miles) long, but we linked up via Snowy Owl and Old Shell Road, which added a few more K. Even though the bulk of Braggin’ Rights is in forest, the snow changed texture as we progressed from the cooler morning to the warmer afternoon, luxurious powdery crystals becoming sticky and heavy and clinging to our ‘shoes. I’m hoping we can get out several more times during the next eight months of winter*, but scheduling is a bit wonky with work, so we’ll see….
*I exaggerate, but only slightly.
(Old Shell Road)
What fun things are you doing this early in the new year?
Vodka irrigation, dapper plants with stripes, peppery baked goods, and an inspiring, marvellous book – it’s all here in this post!
Stuff about plants:
I somehow came home with paperwhite bulbs after my last trip to the garden centre. (Don’t worry – I paid for them…I just didn’t originally intend to buy them. The bulbs just looked so lovely sitting their in the bins, and they were such a good price, and I had some other stuff to buy, anyway…and well, that’s how it all starts). Then they sat in the den for a few weeks until I remembered that they existed and maybe I ought to do something about them. I haven’t forced paperwhites in years and I previously always did so in soil, but this year, I’m trying them in water, as it appears to be the more popular method. And I’m going to water them with a dribble of vodka to keep them from getting way too tall and flopping over (see here for more information).What is your preferred media for forcing paperwhites: soil or water? Or do you simply not bother with them, because you don’t like their (admittedly a tad cloying) fragrance?
I believe I’ve mentioned that the library where I work has amazing natural light due to the huge bay windows set into the east wall as well as skylights that extend up the full length of the north and east sides. One of my co-workers overwinters her geraniums in the windows, and she cultivates a variety of houseplants there all year ’round: jade plants, miniature Dieffenbachias, various cultivars of cacti, and aloe vera. A few days ago, we added to the jungle, taking in a massive collection of very large, very mature houseplants of a friend of my co-worker. The plants needed somewhere to stay for a few weeks while the owners move house, and the prospect of all that great light and good nurturing were welcomed. I am enamoured with these additions to our workspace and I suspect I will be sad to see them go when they head off to their new home. I particularly love this beautiful Dracaena fragrans (‘Warneckii’, I believe, but I welcome any corrections on that one – there are so many types of Dracaena!).
Cynthia Reyes’ Twigs in My Hair. I was absolutely thrilled to have the honour of being one of the first readers of Cynthia’s new book, a beautifully-written garden memoir. (And if you already own a copy of the book, you’ll notice a bit of what I’ve written here printed on the back cover). Twigs in My Hair is infused with the wonder and connectivity of gardens and their gardeners, of the natural world and our place within it. Cynthia gifts us with the crunch of brilliantly-coloured autumn leaves, the ethereal silence of a fresh snowfall, and the exquisite splendour of the first spring ephemerals. She invites us into her warm kitchen, with the burnished wooden table laden with canning jars filled with the harvest. We are welcomed into many beautiful gardens – some hers, some belonging to friends and family and mentors – and we delight in the rewards of labour and love, treasure the time spent with loved ones, and share the intense pain of struggle and heartache. Cynthia writes about gardening (and living!) with the wisdom and experience gained over time – and she doesn’t forget to share a few laughs along the way. Whether you are a seasoned gardener or a complete novice, you’ll see yourself somewhere in these pages, and I guarantee you’ll garner some inspiration for your own gardening life. Think about picking up this one as a holiday gift for the gardener in your life! Check out Cynthia’s website here.
Finally, I’m thinking about Christmas cookies (I won’t make them for a few weeks but the THINKING is happening). Does anyone have a tried and true recipe for Pfeffernusse? I love them but have never made them before. I found a zillion recipes online but the ingredients (and the measurements of said ingredients) vary significantly. What other cookies are your holiday favourites? Tell me about them! ♥
So, it keeps snowing here and our cat eats pretty much all my stuff, including my houseplants. (Of course, she leaves all my hubby’s possessions alone – his newspaper apparently doesn’t taste nearly as delicious as my research notes or my library books).
My solution? Grow air plants. You do this indoors so the snow doesn’t matter a whit. The air plants I can afford are tiny. They don’t need soil (soil, another thing Smudge thinks is seriously PAWsome – um, did I just write that?!). I can put them in jars and other decorative containers and hang or place them out of cat reach, which is an actual zone in the house with a fixed length and breadth that has taken me a year to get a solid grasp of.
Anyway, now I fear I may want to collect the darn things. (The air plants, not cats. Smudge is ALL the cat).* I accidentally went to the garden centre the other day (had to take two trains and walk three blocks uphill both ways in the blasting wind) and came home with yet another air plant. I would have bought the large red one as well (it was RED!) except it was priced at the equivalent of a few hours of my salary and I thought maybe my hubby might be a bit grumpy with me. So I’m saving up for it. I’ll tell him it’s cheaper than a new car, and he cannot argue with that. I just wish they would label the silly things so I would know the cultivars. Tillandsia doesn’t help me; I knew that already. 😉 And I BEG and PLEAD that the ones in some of the grocery stores would be treated with more dignity and not GLUED into their containers. They cannot be watered properly and they’ll keel over at some point from neglect. Air plants are not made of plastic. They are actually alive and need some care.
While meandering through reams of information about air plants for an article I recently wrote, I came across some fantastic titles at the library – if you are interested in this captivating genus, track down Air Plant Care and Design by Ryan and Meriel Lesseig and Zenaida Sengo’s Air Plants. The Lesseig book, in particular, is brilliant, impeccably researched and extremely detailed.
Do you grow air plants?
Do you have an indoor cat (or cats)? What creative solutions did you come up with to maintain your houseplants in the same space as your curious feline?
Just look at those pollen grains! To my delight, my zygocactus is blooming for the second time since Christmas. I recently heard someone describe the blooms as resembling graceful ballet dancers – I love that fanciful comparison!
If you’re looking to ID native wildflowers on the Canadian Prairies (specifically in Saskatchewan), this websitehas the most amazing photography I’ve ever seen on the subject. We have most of these plants here in Alberta and I know this is a resource I will use over and over again. Even if you don’t live in this part of Canada, you will hugely enjoy the beautiful images. I am floored that these are not yet compiled into book form; I would buy it in a heartbeat.
I somehow missed the name change for African violets and I can’t seem to find out when it was made official (for all I know, it was quite a while ago)…but here it is: Saintpaulia spp. are now more accurately termed Streptocarpus. This article offers a bit of explanation.
My favourite recipe so far this week: this one for Cranberry Muffins. But I didn’t have any oranges, so I didn’t use orange zest or orange juice; I substituted 1 teaspoon of pure lemon extract instead. And omitted the glaze entirely. They were wonderful. I will get some oranges and try them the way they were intended as well.
From the “Toot My Own Horn Department”: I am delighted that my article “Vibrant Viburnums” is included in the new volume of The Prairie Garden! The 2018 book is all about shade plants and was officially launched last week.
I have a feeling it’s rather hard to stick to just one when you’re considering growing cacti and succulents indoors…you might start off that way but then two years in, you stand in your living room and realize you have 300 of them (and 26 cuttings in various stages sitting on the kitchen counter) and you. want. more. They’re just so easily collectible…all those beautiful and curious textures and shapes and exotic blooms, how can you possibly resist? (Note to my hubby: this is my way of easing you into the grand concept of our future decor). Unfortunately, if you’re me, you’ve already killed two cacti in unfortunate watering mishaps, and you’re not sure if you should brave dipping that toe in again. The answer is yes, yes, I should.
John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller’s new book Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Cactuses and other Succulents (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group) is comprehensive, yet easily accessible – the ideal title for both novice and experienced growers of these marvelous plants. Not just restricted to houseplants, the book covers outdoor varieties as well, and offers tips for winterizing tender plants indoors if your climate isn’t favourable. The first part of the book focuses on practical advice for selecting, planting, care, and propagation, including troubleshooting for pests and diseases. The rest of this fantastic resource is devoted to over 100 profiles of cacti and succulents, with gorgeous photographs and detailed descriptions that will help you identify mystery plants or serve you well as you wander the nurseries hunting for that special one.
Or six or twenty or…. 😉
Do you grow cacti or succulents? Which ones are your favourites? (If you have links to any of your blog posts about them or photos, please feel free to share!).
*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Success with Succulents. As always, my opinions and thoughts are my own.
House Plants: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Growing and Caring for Indoor Plants
By Lisa Eldred Steinkopf (Cool Springs Press, 2017)
Throwing millennials and houseplants together seems to be a thing in the media these days; this (slightly tongue-in-cheek) article from The Washington Post is only one example of many that I’ve come across lately. One glance at the racks in your local garden centre will tell you that indoor gardening is indeed experiencing a resurgence – for everyone’s benefit! There are so many more plant selections available, and not just the succulents and air plants that have been trendy for the past few years. Looking after houseplants is meditative, nourishing, and just plain enjoyable, but only if you know what you’re doing.
That’s what Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book is for: to help you succeed with your growing endeavours. In House Plants, Steinkopf (thehouseplantguru.com) thoroughly and precisely covers every detail: soil, water, light, containers, siting, propagation, and troubleshooting pests and diseases. Her advice is practical and easy to understand, even for those just getting into the hobby – this is a book that will definitely inspire confidence when it comes to keeping houseplants. (The chapter on propagation particularly impressed me, with its clear directions and accompanying photography). Indoor gardeners will appreciate that she even touches briefly on bonsai, topiary, living walls, water plants, and holiday plants, as these somewhat specialty niches become more mainstream.
Of course, it’s truly the more than 125 profiles of houseplants that attracted me most to the book…I feel like I now have a goal to try them all at some point (don’t tell my hubby!). I love the fact that individual plants are categorized according to their difficulty of cultivation and maintenance (again, this gives me something to work towards!). From ferns to figs to palms, orchids, and dracaena – it’s all here and each one is beautifully photographed to aid in identification. Comprehensive, useful, and a delight to pore through, this really is the “complete guide” to houseplants!
(Full disclosure: I was given a review copy of Lisa Eldred Steinkopf’s book House Plants by Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group. All opinions are 100 percent my own. Heck, 300 percent my own).