Winter House Plants

How can you tell if someone is a plant person?  If they surround themselves with plants, then they are.  It doesn’t matter how much space they have;  even people in apartments with small balconies find room.  The size of the wallet doesn’t matter because other plant people will share.  And skill doesn’t matter because that can be learned.

I consider myself to be a plant person, although I wasn’t always.  It is an acquired passion.

During the cold days of winter, plants can be enjoyed inside.  These are two Poinsettias were bought last winter.

There are some complicated methods about getting Poinsettias to rebloom the next year.  Those involve putting plants into darkness for a certain length of time at specific times of the year.

But, honestly, I did not do anything special.  Last spring after the temperatures was consistently warm (about 65 degrees), the pots were placed outside under a large tree where it was shady most of the day.  Then in November when we took all plants into a shed, I repotted the Poinsettias into a larger size pot and brought them in the house.

The leaves had already started turning red and continued to do so inside with bright indirect light.

Last year I bought a couple of hybridized Kalanchoes because the flowers have more petals, which are layered, than the common Kalanchoes I had been given years ago by a relative.

Although these are gorgeous, the old plants seem to be hardier and definitely grow faster.  Each year I put the common Kalanchoes outside for the spring, summer, and fall.  This year I’ll try these outside.

This is the Kalanchoe with white flowers.  Some of them have a yellowish tint.

Plant people do have plants that die or don’t do well.  That can be due to different climates and growing conditions.  But it can also be the fault of the grower.

This poor neglected Angel Wing Begonia, a hybrid, is an example of that.  It doesn’t get the consistent moisture or temperature that it needs.  Plus, I forget to fertilize it.  It is two years old and has never bloomed.  But I keep promising myself that I will take better care of it.

I’ve been learning to propagate roses.  This is one of my successes.  I’ve tried in the past but am now using the method that is used at Antique Rose Emporium in Independence, Texas.

Take a cutting just below a spent bloom and cut the bottom at an angle.  Leave a few leaves on the stem.  Water some loose fine soil, wring it out with your hands so that it is damp but not mushy, and place in a zip lock baggie.  Put the bottom end of the cutting in rooting hormone and stick in the soil. Antique Rose Emporium uses a gel:  Rootech Cloning Gel, which can be ordered online.

Several stems can be placed into one baggie.  Zip the bag, place it on a window ledge in indirect light.  Then wait for roots to grow at the bottom.

This is some Basil that my daughter-in-law propagated for me.  Isn’t that a nice pot?

Growing plants doesn’t always mean success, but it is a rewarding hobby.

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more they will hate those who speak it.”  George Orwell

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Cooler Temps

Twenty degrees makes a world of difference.  From 95 degrees to 75 degrees recently has perked up everything.  It’s nice to have the weather match the calendar.

Also, we were blessed with six inches of rain.

coolautumn6Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a winner.  It was named a Texas Superstar by Texas A & M in 2011.  And that it is.

coolautumn7Pictures of the garden really points out flaws.  In this photo I noticed the Hackberry tree growing in the Salvia Greggi.  I have since cut it down.  Behind the salvia is hardy Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)  and several different rose bushes.

coolautumn8In front is Double Delight rose, then Tropicana rose with tall Knock-Outs in the background.

coolautumn5Purple Aster didn’t perform very well this year because it needs to be divided.  I’ve read that should be done in early spring.

coolautumn3The dead pods on the Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)  are beginning to bug me.  I was leaving them as food for birds this winter.  But I decided to cut the heads off and leave them in the flowerbed.  Then the stems can be eliminated.  That way the birds can forage on the ground, and the dead plants are not an eyesore.

The Strawberry Gomphera (Gomphrena globosa) bloomed in the spring, hot summer, and now into autumn.  Even though they are small, their bright color gives a great bang for the buck.  They also reseed generously.

coolautumnaMexican Petunias (Ruellia simplex) are still going strong.

coolautumncThey don’t bloom with a great mass, but the delicate tubular flowers on the ends of tall stalks are pretty.

coolautumndCannas have revived with some red flowers.

coolautumneBlue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum) fuzzy puffs continue to draw butterflies.

coolautumnfA few flowers remain on Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), but leaves have dropped off.

coolautumnkDuranta (Duranta erecta) is a hot weather plant but has seemed to like the cooler weather.  Love it.

coolautumnmWhat is prettier than these clusters of tiny purple flowers?

Several potted plants still look good:

coolautumnhRussian Sage, Turk’s Cap, and Kolanche in pots provide some color.

coolautumniFinally, the Bougainvilla has a few blooms.  Don’t know what the problem is, but thes are the first flowers this year.  Probably didn’t fertilize it.

coolautumnjAfrican Bulbine’s (Bulbine frutescens ‘Orange’) flowers wave in the wind.  All of these potted plants will have to go into the shed for the winter.

hibiscusHibiscus is looking good.  The wet weather is agreeing with it.

hibiscus1Love the color of the flowers.

hibiscus2This tropical Hibiscus has been in this pot for eight years.  The beautiful flowers make it worth hauling into the shed each winter.

coolautumnoIce Plant will die back during the winter.  I used to always have a start inside, but it has come back from the last two winters, so that doesn’t seem necessary.

ContainerPlants1Purple Oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) or False Shamrock has been in this pot for years.

coolautumn1Last week I was working at the Brady Master Gardener’s Butterfly Garden.  I thought that Monarchs had already passed through this area, but I was obviously wrong.

coolautumn2I love Maxamillan Sunflowers (Helianthus maximiliani) with lots of flowers on each stalk.  They grow in the bar ditches around here.

The cooler weather is great, but it also means winter will be here soon and flowers will be gone.  But winter is what makes spring so special.

“Holding a grudge is letting someone live rent free in your head.”  unknown

Lush Costa Rica

While the ice and snow were falling here, we were enjoying the weather of the tropics.  Of course, we had to face the music when we landed at DFW.  After an extra long bus trip to Abilene, we were iced in and had to spend two nights in a motel there.

We traveled to Costa Rica with Bilbrey Tours from Abilene, so our starting and ending points were there.

costarica1The grounds of our first hotel in San Jose, the capital, exhibited the lushness of a warm climate with plenty of rainfall.  I could not resist taking pictures of the beautiful landscaping.  We only over nighted here, so these were taken in early morning conditions.  Even so, the sunlight was strong and the shadows of the buildings, deep.

costarica2Begonias were used in many beds.

costarica3The tropical Ixora thrives here and certainly doesn’t need to be confined to a pot, like mine in Texas.

costarica4It was surprising to see so much Lantana because it survives so well here in dry Texas.  This is probably the New Gold Lantana.

costarica5Here Lil Miss Lantana is mixed in with another flower.  The red blooms may be another Lantana.  I’m not sure.

Many of the beds were in raised concrete that were tiled.  So pretty.

costarica7Not sure what these flowers are.

costarica6I think I should know but don’t.

costarica8Another type of lantana, maybe Lantana Camara, edged with what looks like Alyssum. costaricab

costaricacDeep red Begonias.

costaricaeThis may be Ginger?

costaricafAn open corridor leading from guest rooms to the reception area.

costaricagAgain the white looks like Alyssum and the one with the pink flowers could be Mexican Heather.

costaricahThere were lots of different species of Coleus.

costaricaiWouldn’t it nice to have gardeners who keep everything so trimmed and neat?

costaricajLove Plumbago, although it has to be grown in a container here and carried in for the winter.

costaricak

costaricalThis might be la parola del giorno Lantanta..

costaricanPalm trees with clusters of orchids growing on them.  There are 1,500 different species of orchids in Costa Rica.

costaricamEven though these orchids are growing on a tree, they are not parasites.  They are epiphytes which derives its moisture from the air, rain, and sometimes from debris around it. It does not harm the host at all.

During the trip, we saw many different examples of these.  Epiphytes can be found in the temperate zone.  Examples are mosses, liverworts, lichens, and algae.  They also live in the tropics, like Costa Rica’s environment..  These include ferns, cacti, orchids, and bromeliads.

costaricao

costaricap

costaricaqI don’t know if these small branches are part of the palm tree or are epiphytes.

costaricas

costaricar

costaricatSo delicate and lovely.

costaricau

costaricavA skylight in the reception area.

costaricawThe counter is made of onyx.  Although it looks solid, these are slabs on top of wooden cabinets.  Very nice hotel.

costaricaxAs one would expect, gorgeous arrangements of tropical plants decorate the hotel.

There will be several posts about Costa Rica in the coming days.

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”  Eleanor Roosevelt