Plants & Praise – Job’s Tears

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. Job 19:25 (NIV)

This nondescript plant, resembling miniature corn, yields an interesting grain that makes perfect beads. Job’s Tears are a novelty item in my garden this year. I have grown it in 2.5 gallon containers in a spot that gets afternoon sun. The plant has grown well for me and I am now harvesting the colorful seeds.

Although the seeds, purchased through Baker’s Creek Heirloom Seeds, were mostly tan in color when I opened the packet, they have produced seeds/beads of many colors. I’ve harvested them when they easily pop off the plant.

Dave’s Garden has a great article on the plant and how to use the seeds to make a rosary or necklace. I’m hoping to save enough seeds for projects and also plenty to plant next year.

Plants – Coleus Week/Creating a Topiary Tree- Part II

This is my coleus topiary, in the works for two, maybe three years; I’ve lost track of time. Started from a spindly specimen, it has grown into a beauty.

Since the lush growth makes it top-heavy, I have added a whole bag of river rock to the potting soil. The extra weight keeps the plant stable in the wind that sometimes whistles through the porch screens during summer storms. In the winter I don’t have to worry so much about it toppling over, but I like the look of the stones and will leave them in place when I bring the plant indoors before cool weather begins.

The leaves of this coleus are a perfect example of how light affects the color. You can see the changes in saturation and design. There must be half a dozen variations on this one plant. I love the mosaic look of the newer leaves at the top, but also enjoy the deep pinks and maroons of the earlier leaves. It’s fun to move a coleus around from window to window, and outdoors too, to see what kind of rainbows the light will create.

Plants – Coleus Week/Creating a Topiary Tree- Part I

Creating a coleus topiary causes me to garden contrary to my usual standards. When I grow plants from seed, or from cuttings, I want them to bush out and develop branches. To grow a topiary I need them to grow tall and leggy. The best way I’ve found to accomplish this is to put the plants in a shady area where they must grow upwards to reach the brighter light.

Recently, I dug up and transplanted into potting soil several of the coleus volunteers from the front garden. Now they are growing in a shady nook of my outdoor porch, below the screened window. The coleus get enough light to live, but nothing direct, this causes them to shoot upwards toward the light. At this point their colors fade, and the growth becomes leggy, but this is exactly what I want from them.

As they grow upwards, I clip off their side shoots with small manicure scissors, leaving only a set of leaves at the top and the growing tip. The coleus will continue to grow toward the light, and I will continue to clip until each reaches a height I want. Even as small as they are I might have to begin staking to support the stem. At this point, because of their size, I would use a coffee stirrer, or another small slender support.

Plants – Coleus Week/Volunteers

It’s a hot, hot, hot day here in the Mid-Atlantic State of New Jersey. Heat-loving plants and people are doing well, those who dislike the temperature hovering near 100 degrees are not so good. If kept well-watered, coleus plants do well in July; they love high temperatures. Not only do they thrive in the heat, they also offer up volunteer sprouts in surprising nooks and crannies courtesy of last year’s seed stalks.

They are not particular about soil, many come up in between the rocks bordering the garden. It sometimes makes for crowded conditions, but it also gives me some interesting color combinations.

The plants will continue growing throughout the late fall. I have stopped pinching them, and now they will begin to bloom, sending up seed stalks for me to gather in mid-autumn. I have even dug a few up for special projects…a bit of a teaser for tomorrow’s post. Stay tuned!

Plants – Moringa Update

In early May I posted a few words about my attempts to grow a Moringa plant. Moringa is a powerhouse plant, full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
You can read my first post here: How to grow and use Moringa. A few days afterwards I posted a guest article by SusieShy on her Moringa Tree.

Here are two of my Moringa plants, started from seeds in the Spring, and planted in containers. They have thrived, and are growing at an astonishing rate. Soon I will begin to harvest and use their leaves. I can’t wait to see if they will bloom and create the drumsticks. If they do another update will be sure to follow.

The trees have branched out in every direction and send out new shoots at a steady pace.

Unfortunately, the Moringa I planted in my garden plot has not thrived. In our area the added warmth of the black containers helped the patio Moringas grow better. They are, after all, a plant of the tropics. I am hoping to continue growing the plants and will try to bring them in to the house in the Autumn.

Plants – Coleus & Betty Grable

Betty Grable 20th Century Fox.jpg
By Frank Powolny – 20th Century Fox studio promo portrait [1], Public Domain, Link

What do Betty Grable, famous pin-up for World War II enlisted men, and coleus, famous rainbow-hued plants, have in common?

Legs! Well, not really legs where the coleus are concerned, but definitely a bit of legginess can develop as my young coleus sprouts grow.

Coleus, left side, before pinching, right side, after pinching out growing stem. 

When my coleus sprouts begin to shoot up and become leggy I know it’s time to pinch out the middle top leaves. Before I do this, I make sure the plant has at least six true leaves. Using my hand as a garden tool, I carefully grasp the last set of leaves between thumb and forefinger, and pinch the topmost leaves away. This will allow the top to branch out into two separate stems. I continue pinching throughout the summer months, helping the coleus to become bushy rather than tall and leggy. On August 1st, I stop pinching and let the flowers develop. Another plus to growing coleus is helping out the pollinators who make use of their flowers; at this point bees happily cross-pollinate the plants for me.

The coleus in the foreground has already been pinched. At this stage I can judge which sprouts are going to be tall and large-leafed, and which will be small with interesting swirled, fringed leaves.

Here’s a look at a sample of my sprouts. I have between 150 and 200 growing in the house. Our weather has been very cool and I want these babies to have the best start possible. Coleus cannot tolerate cold weather.

I’m thrilled with these babies since I know they will only improve, deepen in color, begin to swirl and turn, develop scalloped edges or stay straight, as they begin to grow outdoors under the pine.

 

Plants – Moringa oleifera ( Part 2 )

I am so honored to have a guest author write a post for my blog. SusieShy45, another WordPress blogger, has been a friend of mine for years through our contact on WordPress Blogs. She has grown Moringa trees from fallen stems into large trees. She has written to me of her experience and has given her consent for me to present it here. Thanks so much Susie. You can read more about Susie and follow her posts here: Susie Shy 45.

Moringa trees are a favorite tree of Indians- particularly South Indians- it can grow in warm dry rainless climates like in the Middle Eastern desert where a large number of the population has emigrated from South India. In a storm about 5 years ago, I got the watchman of our compound to get me fallen stems from moringa trees to plant in my backyard. This was in the heart of summer. Constant watering during the summer kept the plants alive, until they established roots. And then they survived on their own through the desert summer. By winter of that year, the leaves were green and the tree had started flowering. The flowers are creamy in colour and grow in bunches. They are used for cooking too- of course after removal of the stamens and pistils. Flowers are washed thoroughly to remove insects as they are a major source of nectar. The moringa tree loves the sun and direct sunlight, explaining why they are doing so well in the Middle East. And it is classified as a drought resistant plant, so does not require much watering. The tree grows tall in order to capture the sunlight.

Later the flowers turn to the moringa fruit, which is a delicacy and is used in many curries and sautes. The pulp from inside the fruit is what is edible, though the fruit is cut into small pieces and cooked – skin and all- only the soft part inside the fruit is eaten after they are cooked.

The leaves can be eaten any time, they are a good source of iron, folic acid, vitamin C. For us,eating moringa leaves in various sautees and curries, is supposedly responsible for the long, thick, black hair of many south Indians.

Here are some more photographs of Susie’s Moringa trees.

Drumstick Fruit

The flowers are edible.

Doves and other birds live on the tree.

Thanks Susie for the article and the great photographs.

 

Plants – How to Grow and Use Moringa oleifera/Drumstick Tree

This year, as I was browsing information on heirloom seeds, my interest was piqued by an amazing plant/tree, native to India, known by the name of Moringa, or Drumstick Tree. After reading through the health benefits found in this plant, I searched out seeds and located a source. I almost felt I was in possession of Jack-in-the-Beanstalk’s magic beans when I opened the packet; large, amazing seeds lay in the palm of my hand, dark brown/black with papery wings. I was thankful for the instructions: soak in very warm water for three days, changing the water frequently. I followed the instructions and was amazed at how fast they sprouted.

Because I started several seeds, I have half a dozen sprouts, and they are plant-like already; their growth rate is phenomenal, I am able to grow them in several different conditions to see what suits them best.

I’ll grow one in the house. I’ll need to pot it up soon as I’ve read they develop a long tap root and I want it to have room to expand.

One is planted in a container on my patio. I have two more to plant in my outdoor gardens. I’m excited about growing these and the harvests of leaves and seeds I hope to gather from them.

In the meantime, I am enjoying this amazing tea. It’s delicious and it gives me double satisfaction in knowing I am doing my body good.

The video below is excellent with tips on the health benefits of the plant and how to grow them best.  Beneath the video is an excellent link with information on Moringa.

Benefits and Side Effects of Moringa

Plants – The Big Coleus Transplant – Hooray! (Tips for Etsy Seed Purchases)

I’ve been growing this year’s coleus crop in recycled chicken rotisserie containers since mid-winter. They have grown well, and it’s time to transplant them. Before I begin I gently move the larger plants aside; the coleus are already showing different colors, sizes, and leaf shapes. Years ago, and I have no idea where the advice came from, I read that often the best coleus are the last ones to sprout and grow large. I have found this to have a modicum of truth, beneath the larger coleus sprouts are often the best plants.

I transplant into small cups with a drainage hole cut into the bottom. A light potting soil is best, I add a bit of vermiculite to lighten it further, but it’s not necessary if the soil drains well.

The best method to remove the seedling from the surrounding sprouts is to use a fork. The fork lifts without cutting through the roots.

At this time I closely examine each plantlet and take note of those that have the most potential. I was impressed by this small sprout. Although it it is tiny it is loaded with color and sass. I like the spots and it reminds me a bit of a leopard.

Here’s my first tray of seedlings potted up and ready to grow on for a few weeks. Coleus cannot tolerate cold temperatures. I will grow them on in the trays until after the full moon on May 7th. At that time they can be placed in their permanent pots outside.

I love coleus. They can be sown and planted at any time throughout the year. They make an amazing houseplant. I’ve included a photograph of a coleus I’ve grown into a topiary.

The Flower Ark Etsy Shop Coleus Seeds

Phlowers – Coleus Sprouts/Leaves of Many Colors

This is a leaf from one of my favorite indoor coleus. Have I  mentioned that in late summer, I choose a few favorites, take cuttings, and then grow the rooted coleus all winter? This gives me many pots of colorful plants and a good head start on summer color. The one above is a favorite. The leaf is large enough to cover my palm. The colors are a great mix, Kelly green, lemon yellow with touches of chartreuse green, and purest pink. I enjoy the textured growth of this leaf, and also the fringed edges. The leaf has a slight downward curve, giving it a graceful swoop as it grows from a strong stem.

Twelve months ago, the large coleus looked much the same as this year’s sprouts. Perhaps a few of them are offspring of this particular plant. The sprouts are just beginning to color and even display different shapes and sizes. I see one in the front that shows promise of interesting texture and color. I planted these coleus using my small seed technique. They are well-spaced, giving each one plenty of room to grow and giving the soil adequate airflow to combat damping-off disease.

The good news is these sprouts are only beginning to develop. They will become prettier, fringed, and deeper textured with each passing day. In about six weeks they will ready to plant into their final pots to wow the borders of the yard with their colors.

 2020 Coleus Seeds available for purchase at The Flower Ark Etsy Shop.

Plant & Phlutters – The Fennel Cafeteria

The fennel survived the winter and is a cloud of softest, hazy foliage in the Square Foot Garden. I was admiring it when I spotted a contrasting strand of something black on the foliage.

Could it be? Yes! A swallowtail caterpillar snacking on the fronds. Not only one caterpillar was in the midst of the cloud of fennel, but over half a dozen. I’ve never noticed swallowtail caterpillars so early in the season. I am hoping that the density of the fennel will protect the caterpillars from predators.

 

Plants – FOTD and Mother’s Day Basket

I found this Senecio rowleyanus/String of Pearls succulent, also known as String of Beads and the Rosary Plant, at a local garden shop this year. Nestled among trays of annuals, this odd looking plant immediately drew my eye. String of Pearl plants are easy to grow, as are most succulents. A hands-off approach is usually best for succulents, with infrequent watering and good drainage a must. More information on growing String of Pearls can be found on Gardening 101.

The succulent is a perfect fit for this bright parrot planter. The planter has held several plants, but none so well suited to it as the String of Pearls and its cascade of bright green beads. I also love the flower the plant produces, a small white orb with brilliant stamens. The String of Pearls blossom is my Flower of the Day.

I also wanted to say a grateful thank you to my son for the lovely New Guinea hanging basket he gave me for Mother’s Day.

Plants – Flower of the Day and Invasive Plants

My flower of the day, part of Cee’s FOTD challenge, is this gorgeous yellow iris blooming in my garden. I love my iris plants. I also grow a deep purple and pink iris in my gardens.

Iris plants spread at a good rate, but they rarely become invasive, and are easy to dig out and share with friends when they take over too much room.

A plant I’m having trouble with this year is yarrow. I have this nice clump near the air conditioner. I appreciate its tenacity in this inhospitable dry soil. The plant spreads a bit each year, but for the most part is easy to control.

The flip side of this story is the yarrow sown last year via a pack of mixed wildflowers. These yarrow plants are not cooperative. They have returned and spread like a noxious weed. I am having a terrible time pulling the long tap roots out of the rich soil in the back yard plot. Yarrow is  a medicinal herb for muscle aches, but I certainly don’t need this much medicine, and if I keep yanking it up, it’s going to give me a backache. The moral of the tale: read the back of mixed wildflower packets and don’t plant any that contain yarrow.

I love my Rudbeckia Daisies,  but they also spread and can take over any plot they are in. Each year I end up pulling plants out of the beds and also seedlings out of the lawn. Still, I wouldn’t eradicate the Rudbecka altogether; I love the tall yellow stems of daisies they produce in mid-summer.

Plants – Leggy Tomato Seedlings? No Problem!

A few weeks ago I planted four tomato seeds in each of fourteen Solo party cups. Most sprouted and I’ve already snipped away the extras leaving only two sprouts to continue growing. Snipping makes more sense than pulling the tiny plantlets up. There’s no chance of disturbing the remaining roots if you snip the sprout off near the soil.

Today I will choose the sturdiest plant in each cup and snip off the other. I also will add more soil to the cup, topping off near the rim. Did you know that tomato plants develop more roots along the stem if you plant them deep or add more soil?

Here’s a great article in the Spruce with good tips on growing excellent tomatoes:
Growing Strong Tomatoes

Plants – Forced Tulip Update

An update on the forced tulip bulbs: the gathering of bulbs bloomed in shades of red, pink and yellow; they bring joy into the house as they herald Spring.

The bulbs grew well in water, but those in sunlight are greener than the bunch on the kitchen table

Next year I plan to grow another package of forced bulbs in water, and when they begin to bloom transfer them to vases.

I found after blooming it was very easy to take the entire plant out of  water and place in a new receptacle. You are only limited by your imagination on how many unique places you can find to place these flowering bulbs.

The forced bulbs in potting soil grew best in a deep pot. The bulbs planted in shallow soil did very poorly, as the above photo demonstrates.

Will I force tulip bulbs in the bottom of my refrigerator again? Oh Yes!

You can read more on how to force Spring-blooming bulbs here: Bargains in the Clearance Aisle.

Plants – Quick Grow!

I’m a firm believer in nicking and soaking large seeds for twenty-four hours to facilitate quicker sprouting. This year a few of my moonflower seeds, prepped by the nick/soak method, began growing while they were still soaking.

While the seeds were still in the water a small sprig of green emerged from the nicked area of the seed coat. Within a few days of soaking, the entire seed burst and a shoot emerged and began to grow.

The labels in the pot are the same makeshift markers I used last year: old window blinds snapped off into small pieces and labeled with a Sharpie marker.

Tomato seedlings are also growing fast. Today, every small hair on the stem and leaves was shiny in the brilliant sunshine. Did you know the hair on plants is called trichomes? It amused me to read that trichomes on plants are just as diverse as human hair.

“Trichomes can run the gamut in structure, appearance, and texture. Some trichomes are frail, some coarse; some are branched like tree limbs, others star-shaped; some are long and straight, others are short and curly.” Indiana Public Media

Plants – Update/Pussy Willow Catkins

The pussy willow branches, placed in water and displayed on my mantel, thrived for weeks. The lengths below the water line rooted, and the catkins grew and developed fuzzy yellow pollen. The catkins had a life of their own, dropping from the branches onto the floor, becoming toys for my cat to play with in the middle of the night.

Today I potted one branch up to plant as a tree in the backyard.

The tips are already growing leaves, and I have high hopes I won’t have to buy branches next year to force indoors, but will have a supply of my own to use.

Plants – Bargains in the Clearance Aisle

Christmas Red Tulips/Longwood Gardens Conservatory-Friday Foto Friends

What is that oddball bag lying beside my carrots in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator?

What looks like small onions or shallots is really a bag of Spring-Flowering bulbs, leftovers from my Autumn plantings.

While you’re looking for Christmas trees and poinsettias in big box stores or garden nurseries, take a moment to check if there are any leftover Autumn bulbs on clearance. Often a business will slash prices of out of season plants to the point of almost giving them away. I mimic frosty cold by storing unplanted bulbs as the Gardening-Know-How site suggests:

The highest chilling temperature is around 40 degrees F. (4 C.), so chilling bulbs in the refrigerator is ideal. Just be sure not to store them near any fruit, as the released ethylene gas reduces bloom. Store the bulbs in the refrigerator in a ventilated mesh bag.
~ Gardening Know How/How to Chill Flowering Bulbs

The article has many fine tips on how to select, chill and plant the bulbs in Spring. I have about three months to come up with good ideas for forcing these beauties. The bright flowers and colors will certainly be an antidote for the doleful greys of late-winter skies.

The glorious red tulips are part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.

Goodbye November!

Plants – Mexican Bush Sage

An easy-to-grow, drought-tolerant plant also known as velvet sage, Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) produces showy, bright purple and white flowers above attractive, grayish-green foliage from late summer to the first frost. Gardeners in frost-free climates often enjoy blooms throughout the winter. Perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11, Mexican sage is a shrubby, sprawling plant that reaches 3 to 4 feet tall. Plant Mexican bush sage in the garden after all danger of frost has passed in early spring

                                                                     ~ The Bump

This beautiful velvety purple flower is blooming in my garden now and part of Cee’s Flower of the Day.