Book review: House Plants by Lisa Eldred Steinkopf.

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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).

National Poinsettia Day.

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Apparently, it is National Poinsettia Day in the United States. I don’t have a poinsettia this year, although I love them. It’s been so cold here that transporting one from the garden centre to home might completely do it in before I even had a chance to enjoy it. Arctic air masses that lounge around for days and days on end are not fun for anyone, and especially not if you’re from the tropics, as this plant is. Which is also perhaps why it is not National Poinsettia Day here in Canada – we’ve established that temperatures in the minus mid-to-high twenties (that’s Celsius!) are not ideal for such a celebration. Really, for any celebration. Except one involving hot chocolate and Irish cream and a warm fireplace.

Even if we don’t have a special day to honour poinsettias here in the frozen north, I can still share a fascinating bit of information: did you know that the dense, multi-branching habit and stunted growth of our holiday poinsettias results from infection by a type of pathogen?  This article has more information about how it works.*  And here is another for further perusal.  Enjoy the reads – I’m off to petition the government to make National Hot Chocolate and Irish Cream and Warm Fireplace Day a reality.

Are poinsettias part of your holiday celebrations?  What colour is your favourite?  And have you ever seen a poinsettia in tree form?  (I haven’t).  

*UPDATED: I managed to track down a photo of a “wild” poinsettia, as the photo in the link isn’t accurate – take a look here.

Book Review and Giveaway – Shawna Coronado’s Grow a Living Wall!

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Shawna Coronado – Grow a Living Wall (2015, Cool Springs Press/Quarto Publishing Group USA, Quayside Publishing Group)

According to the book’s subtitle, Shawna Coronado’s Grow a Living Wall focuses on “vertical gardens with purpose” – and, boy, does it ever, with imaginative style and flair.  Featuring twenty themed designs, including walls for bees and other pollinators, veggies and herbs, and aromatherapy, I was instantly taken with the sumptuous photography and the creativity of the ideas.  There is a vertical garden here for every size and space:  fabric pocket gardens, mini gardens for instant curb appeal, and moss and fern arrangements for shady spots.  There are gardens made from old pallets and sparkling glass mason jars – and my personal favourite, a repurposed bookcase mounted on a fence (I do work at a library, after all!).  🙂 You’ll find a therapeutic herb garden, a mixologist’s dream garden, one with houseplants for the indoor office, and several plans ideal for the patio or deck or a glamourous outdoor room.  Coronado does a fantastic job of offering clear, easy to follow, step-by-step building instructions, recipes for plant selection and complete care and maintenance tips.  If you have a small space or just want to grow “up,” you’ll love the designs and ideas in Grow a Living Wall.

(The publisher generously provided copies of Grow a Living Wall for me to review, but I was not compensated for my opinion).

I have one extra copy of Shawna Coronado’s Grow a Living Wall to give away!  If you’re interested, please leave me a comment below – you can tell me what type of living wall you’d like to create (or have created!) in your garden, or just drop me a “count me in,” or “yes,” for your chance to win.  Contest closes at midnight, MST, on Friday, May 15, 2015. (And yes, it is open to everyone!).  I will announce the winner on Monday, May 18, 2015. 

Cactus wishes.

Zygocactus

I’ve had it a month and I haven’t yet exterminated my newly-acquired Christmas cactus!  I’m really enjoying the blooms of my newly-acquired Christmas cactus!

I don’t know why I have trouble keeping Zygocactus* alive…I keep hearing that they’re the “easiest plants in the world to grow,” accompanied by enthusiastic testimony about specimens twenty feet wide and three hundred years old, that bloom sixteen times a year with absolutely no input from the gardener. (Okay, I exaggerate, but only slightly).  I usually kill mine within two weeks of purchase, it’s like they come with a self-destruct button or something.  I wake up one morning and poof! – they’ve completely cratered on my windowsill.

I mean,  I’m extremely careful not to overwater.  Well, actually, it’s more “neglect” than “care” – I must admit that all my houseplants exist in a state of drought most of their lives because I get busy and forget to water them.  You’d think I couldn’t kill cacti of any kind, but I have a pretty good track record.  (Why, when I read that last sentence back, does it sound suspiciously like bragging?).

But this time…I think I’ve finally found The One!  Or maybe I’m getting too excited about our one-month anniversary, and shouldn’t put the cart before the horse and all that.  Wish us a happy ever after!   😉

Do you grow Zygocacti?

*The name Zygocactus is kinda sorta fascinating – well, to me, anyway – as it refers to the way that these plants are segmented, and is not the genus name (which is actually Schlumbergera).

New windows, garlic greens, and other things.

Sooooo…I’m waiting patiently (okay, maybe not so patiently – who am I kidding, really?) for the snow to melt here and in the meantime things are happening on my windowsill.

I mean, REALLY happening.  A couple of weeks ago, maintenance staff arrived with new windows for our apartment building.  It was definitely cause for celebration, as our previous windows were at least two decades old – probably more like three –  and we were having issues with ice building up between the panes (especially as one of them had a small hole in it).  The hardware wasn’t working smoothly anymore, either.  Of course, once the new windows were installed, I couldn’t bear the sight of the chipped windowsill, and we had some imperfections on the wall from when we had blinds put up a few years ago, so out came the filler and the paint.  I’m extremely pleased with the results – but now I think the whole place needs new paint!  UGH.

The African violets are certainly happy with the new windows and the sunshine.  These two bloom frequently, every 2 to 3 months or so.  I have a couple of others as well, but the one looks to be on its last legs and the other hasn’t bloomed in about a year.

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African violet - 11 March 2014

And there’s a leaf cutting I started a couple of months ago.  I wish I could say it is from the plant that is dying, but it’s not – I didn’t have the forethought to take a cutting and now the mother plant is so far gone I don’t think it would be useful to try.  It’s too bad – the pale pink flowers were so pretty and delicate, almost sugary-looking.

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African violet pink

I keep buying cacti – with my watering habits (“when I remember to, which is often nearly too late”), they seem to thrive.  I was all excited when I brought this Mammillaria spinosissima home, thinking I had a new-to-me species until my hubby reminded me I already had one. (My excuse is that the “red head” on my established one has long grown out).  I don’t know how he remembered this and I didn’t – I honestly thought he wasn’t paying attention.  Good thing I don’t buy designer shoes or handbags – he’d call me on them every time.  😉

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And I’ve been growing garlic greens!  I planted a LOT of garlic in my community garden bed last fall, both bulbils and bulbs, but I still had some bulbils left and I really wanted to use them up, so I popped them into a pot and voila!  Fresh greens in less than two weeks. It’s been so nice to use them in cooking.

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I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!  What home and garden projects have you been working on lately?

 

From the Foothills Orchid Society Show, 2013.

More snow and cold and the iciest sidewalks you could ever imagine here in Calgary this week (my boss asked me on Tuesday if I had perfected my triple axel jump during my “skates” to work).  Needless to say, I’m eager for some COLOUR!  I’ve been going through some of my photos and I came across the ones I took at the Foothills Orchid Society Show in May of last year.  I’ve only grown phalaenopsis (moth) orchids and don’t have any experience with the beautiful varieties that were exhibited by these enthusiastic growers and collectors, but I can certainly appreciate these amazing blooms!

Ascocenda 'Princess Mikasa'

Ascocenda ‘Princess Mikasa’

Burrageara 'Stefan Isler'

Burrageara ‘Stefan Isler’

Cattleya intermedia var. orlata

Cattleya intermedia var. orlata

Cypripedium Gisela

Cypripedium ‘Gisela’

Dendrobium harveyanum2

Dendrobium harveyanum

Rhyncholaeliocattleya 'Green Devil'

Rhyncholaeliocattleya ‘Green Devil’

'Frank'

Oncidium McKenzie Mountains ‘Frank’

Have you ever grown orchids?  Which ones are your favourites? 

Related Links –  Orchid Care for Everyone!  (Phalaenopsis)

Warm thoughts.

Wow, it’s cold here!  I read one time that it is a typically Canadian characteristic to express the temperature while taking into consideration the windchill factor –  I guess we sound even hardier and dare I say heroic if we say it’s minus 36 degrees Celsius with the windchill instead of a “mere” minus 29 without.  (That’s minus 33 and minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively).  The wind is something you definitely have to factor in, especially when you have get somewhere on foot or wait for a bus – it makes sense to give it its due.  The crazy thing about all of this, it’s even colder the further south and north you go in the province.  I saw a snippet on one of the local news broadcaster’s Facebook page this morning that said of the 15 coldest places in the world right now, 5 of them are here in Alberta.  (Should we be proud of that or what?).  By comparison, we’re actually downright balmy here in Calgary.

Unfortunately, a tropical escape is not in the works for me right now (I have all that holiday baking to do – I simply can’t leave now!).  😉  In lieu of a white sand beach and non-stop sunshine, and with the pressing need to get organized before the new year, I’ve been going through my photos from the summer, including the ones I took at the conservatory at the Devonian Botanic Gardens.  Located in Devon, Alberta, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Calgary,  the 190 acre Gardens are run by the University of Alberta.   My hubby and I hadn’t been there in years and to say we were impressed would be an understatement.

One of the plants in the greenhouse that stands out for me as I browse through the photos this morning is Jacobinia carnea (formerly Justicia, Flamingo flower, Brazilian plume), a South American native with spectacular firework-like blooms.  I made a mental note in July to do some research about this beauty – it turns out there are about 400 species of Jacobinia but only two are used in horticulture, J. carnea and J. pauciflora.  (The latter is apparently considerably less common).  In zones 8 to 11, Jacobinia is an evergreen shrub, and can actually reach a height of 215 cm (7 feet), with a spread of 90 cm (3 feet).  I read that it’s easily espaliered and is often grown that way as a backdrop for other perennials.  Here, of course, it can be a successful houseplant if given low light conditions and plenty of humidity.  If kept in a container, it supposedly gets a bit leggy after flowering, so it is advised to cut it back after the blooms have faded.  Temperature is a concern – Jacobinia does not tolerate the cold and will not perform if kept in a room hovering below 12 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit).

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The flowers come in various shades of red, yellow, orange, white and this incredible pink.  J. carnea is definitely a plant to remember if I ever get a sunroom to put one in.  Sigh…SUNroom….

Are you familiar with Jacobinia?  Do you grow any houseplants?  What are your favourites?