Category Archives: Indoor landscape

New To Houseplants? Let Us Help!

If you’re of a certain age, you well remember when houseplants were a mainstay in most houses. The home I grew up in in the 1970’s was filled with plants.

My mother tended them, each week working her way through the house with her watering can and sometimes a sponge to wipe dusty leaves. Even now, at the age of 86, she has a house filled with plants.

I remember floor-size planters and smaller pots grouped together on end tables and beautiful green and variegated leaves of varied shapes and sizes. If you looked up, macrame hangers supported pretty pots filled with hoyas, pothos, creeping fig, and ivy, the trailing vines winding their way here and there.

Today you can Google houseplants or look on Instagram and many similar images appear. Houseplants are making a comeback. Hallelujah, it’s about time!  Whether you’re a novice  with a few small pots on a windowsill in your first apartment or live in a downtown loft and need something bigger, there really is a houseplant for everyone.

Theories abound as to why houseplants are making such a comeback. Some say it’s that younger people need something to nurture. Others say it’s cyclical, and it was just time for them to reappear. Still others say it’s because the world is in such turmoil that  people are turning to their homes for comfort. Whatever the case, plants are a warm and lovely addition to any indoor space.

Plants help purify the air too. There are lists of those that researchers have deemed the most helpful for this. They include many old favorites like spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum), snake plant (sanseveria), pothos (Epipremnum), peace lily (Spathiphyllum), ivy (Hedera), parlor palm (Chamaedorea elegans), aloe, dracaena, Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), rubber plant (ficus robusta), and nephthytis (Syngonium).

Of course this listing is just the tip of the houseplant iceberg. A few other plants pictured here include the puckered leaved peperomias, hardy Norfolk Island pines, alocasias, succulent jade plants, philodendrons, and, in the background one of our greenhouse “mascots”, a very large Monstera deliciosa, filling out its new pot. We love our plants too!

Monstera deliciosa

 

 

Some basic houseplant info: Light is important. Pay attention to how the sun moves through your home. Is your landscape outside filled with trees that block the light coming in on certain sides? Are there buildings that shade even western or south facing windows? Is your home bright and filled with windows that are unobstructed, or does it feel dark even on sunny days? Plants that don’t have enough light tend to “stretch”, leaning toward the sun and may be pale even with diligent fertilizing.

Assorted pothos

Plants that tolerate low light levels are the workhorses of the houseplant world. They’re also some of the best plants for beginners. Here are a few to try:

Pothos are virtually indestructible in low light and also prefer to be on the dry side. Don’t overwater and they’ll live happily in your home. Sanseveria thrive in bright light but also will add a lovely vertical accent in low light spots too. Philodendrons, spider plants, prayer plants, many ferns, and the indestructible ZZ plant are other good choices.

Fiddleleaf Fig Tree

If you have bright, light flooded rooms with plenty of windows, the choices widen. Peace lilies prefer this  light, though they’ll tolerate lower light levels too. Ficus, including ficus lyrata, the popular fiddle leaf fig, aralia, jade plants and other succulents, croton, ponytail palm, hoyas, grape ivy and aloe vera need the brightest light you can provide.

Anthurium

If you’re not sure you have enough light for those but want to try something other than the low-light plants above, Chinese evergreens, parlor palmsanthurium, bromeliads, ivy, creeping fig, Schefflera arboricola, fittonia, or peperomia are worth trying.

Each plant will have specific water requirements, and I remember my mom checking hers each week, watering if it was needed or simply “grooming”, removing yellow or dead leaves and clipping wayward stems.

Sanseveria

 

 

The amount and frequency of water depend on the brightness of the light, how warm or cool the room is, and the type of plant. Moisture meters can be helpful to determine the moisture in a planter, especially if they’re large. With so much information at our fingertips, researching individual plants is easy; so learn as much as you can about your new purchase to give it the proper care.

Healthy plants need food, and fertilizing should be done at least every two weeks during the growing season, spring through summer, and monthly in the winter months when growth slows.

Cissus, Grape Ivy

Even with the best conditions, indoor plants may be susceptible to insect damage.  These pests might include cottony-looking mealy bugs that hide in leaf axils or along stems, spider mites (Common  when humidity levels are low and, in advanced infestations, even showing webbing on plants.), scale (Usually seen as dark bumps on stems and the underside of leaves.), and aphids, soft bodied insects typically found on tender new growth.

If you tend your plants weekly you should spot insect problems early on when they’re more easily managed with a natural pyrethrum or soap spray. There are also systemic granular insecticides that can be sprinkled onto the soil. Always read the labels before using.

 

Houseplants not only look good and purify our indoor air, they add to our interior style, give us something to care for, and bring a littlle of the outside in. So, with the “comeback” of the houseplant, we say, “Cheers!”

Plants to use with caution around children and pets: Dieffenbachia, Easter lily (very toxic to cats), and ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamifolia)

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

The Holidays…Making Memories

Every so often the wonderful opportunity we’ve been granted to be a brief part of our customers’ lives and help create memories for their little ones becomes clear. This moment of clarity usually happens on hectic holiday afternoons when the light is waning and the greenhouse is at its most beautiful.

On those crazy, busy days we catch glimpses between our work tasks of young families with little ones gazing at the animated Santa Claus display we put up each year. Smiling, we watch the children pet the garden shop cats sleeping there (It was their favorite spot this year!) as parents or grandparents take pictures.

 

Perhaps its because I’m getting older and my childhood memories seem more distant that appreciating this opportunity occurs to me more often. This year a family with a tiny boy in tow told me he remembered our Santa from the year before. Creating memories begins very, very young…

Memories are made in other ways too, with special decorations brought out and lovingly placed, delicate heirlooms carefully unwrapped for another season, and the “best tree ever” standing proud and tall, its lights and sparkly ornaments twinkling in darkened rooms.

A few weeks ago a favorite project reappeared, a family holiday tradition that we’ve been fortunate to have become a part of. Every year this particular family bought a new tiny elf for the children and, as their children grew older and had families of their own, for grandchildren. These elves would be brought out each season, and it wasn’t Christmas without them.

One year the owner of the elf tradition spotted a garden tray filled with tiny poinsettias, cut greens and mosses, a beautiful miniature garden that she decided would be the perfect setting for her collection of family elves. She loved it so much she brought it back the following Christmas to be “reworked” for a new season.

I look forward to seeing her each year now and enjoy creating a new garden for her elves. She told me this year her grandchildren asked her where it was.

 

It’s coming, she told them. The pictures here give you some idea of what they are enjoying this year – a river, a pond with a tire swing, and lots of places for her elves to perch.

I hope another happy memory is about to be made, this one on December 25th, when a pretty miniature garden is presented to the 11 year old girl who said it’s all she really wants for Christmas.

As I finished putting the last bits of moss in and repositioned the tiny hummingbird feeder, my mind wandered as I imagined being the young girl seeing this little garden for the first time on Christmas morning.

Smiling to myself, I stood there studying each little piece, trying to see it through her eyes.

Sometimes the memories we make are our own…

By Kris Blevons

 

These Miniature Gardens are Centerpieces…

 

At the end of a path, there's a bench with a book...

At the end of a path, there’s a bench with a book…

I recently received an email letting me know of a much anticipated  visit to Birmingham of a certain Connecticut gardener, Douglas Thomas. She was coming on the invitation of a friend and member of one of the oldest garden clubs in the city, and, to celebrate her visit, a joint meeting of  two Garden Club of America groups had been arranged at the Birmingham Museum of Art.

Through an arbor...the cat wants the goldfish in that bowl!

Through an arbor…the cat wants the goldfish in that bowl!

The miniature gardens shown here were designed as centerpieces for a small gathering in a private home to honor her visit. Ms. Thomas gardens on a grand scale, so the hostess and I decided having miniature gardens as part of the tablescape was bound to

A seating area under a  Chamaecyparis "tree" and a pond, with sedum 'Ogon' as a "groundcover"...

A seating area under a Chamaecyparis “tree” and a pond, with sedum ‘Ogon’ as a “groundcover”…

be something unexpected and fun. First a little background:

A croquet set and puppy underneath a chamaecyparis "tree"...

A croquet set and puppy underneath a chamaecyparis “tree”…

A gazing ball in the distance...

A gazing ball in the distance…

Douglas Thomas is only  the third owner of Twin Maples, a beautiful 400 acre estate in Connecticut. She would be in Birmingham in early February speaking on it and of the 40 acre meadow that she and her late husband, Wilmer, created with the help of noted Pennsylvania landscape designer Larry Weaner.

On the table...

On the table…

In 2011, the Foundation for Landscape Studies awarded her their Placemaker Award. See the link HERE to read more about this award.

Delving more thoroughly to learn more before going to hear her speak,  I came across a New York Times article from 2008, which described the meadow in their headline as “The Natural Look, With Much Effort.” This phrase could certainly be applied to any garden I thought, including miniature versions!

Miniature Garden Centerpiece - 2 years earlier...

Miniature Garden Centerpiece – 2 years earlier…

These particular miniature gardens had actually  been created two years earlier for another eventful gathering, and, due to the owner’s  exceptional care,  many of the original plants were still thriving. The chamaecyparus “trees” had grown (Just as real trees do!),  and the succulent landscape around one of the ponds only needed a bit of pinching back. Still, there were areas that needed fresh “landscape” plantings.

On the table...2 years later...

On the table…2 years later…

Some of these new plants included the addition of a fresh angelvine climbing on the arbor and air plants at the entrance to the succulent garden. In another,  sedum ‘Ogon’ was added near a pond as a “groundcover”. More tiny ferns and some selaginella were added to the existing tiny leaved maidenhair fern  in the largest garden, and beyond it a strawberry begonia was planted to frame the rabbit hutch. Great care was taken to place plants with like water needs together.

The path leads to a seating area beyond the rabbit hutch...

The path leads to a seating area beyond the rabbit hutch…

With careful attention all of the “hardscape” paths and placement of small pieces were  redone for each garden, and some redesigning of certain areas was accomplished as well. This takes a good bit of time and a lot of patience, but,  above all, it’s quite a bit of fun too.

Through the arbor...

Through the arbor…

It really is exactly like laying out a real garden, with decisions of where the paths need to be, what materials they should be made from, what they lead to, and more questions  needing to be answered to make it realistic. Scale of materials is very important too and can be difficult to accomplish, but it makes all the difference!

 

 

I received a phone call from the hostess the morning after the dinner party. “Your ears should have been burning,” she said. “They were a hit! Everyone enjoyed them, and kept finding new things the more they looked at them.”  What a compliment, and how kind of her to pass it on.

Take a look HERE for another post on miniature gardens, and type in “miniature gardens” in the search field for more.

 

Our Miniature Garden Wonderland – A Year Later…Look How It’s Grown!

Sedum 'Ogon', and Hen and Chicks in the "landscape"

Sedum ‘Ogon’, and Hen and Chicks in the “landscape”

Last March, during the doldrums of spring break (Does anyone not leave town that week??!), we decided to have a little fun of our own, creating our miniature garden table.  Well, it’s been almost a full year later, and it’s still growing strong, having been tended to faithfully… like any garden should be, right?

A miniature landscape

A miniature landscape

 

Rhypsalis, sedums and hen and chicks...with a peperomia at the very top...

Rhypsalis, sedums and hen and chicks…with a peperomia at the very top…

 

 

Some features didn’t last through repeated watering and little children playing however. Many of the Skulp-It figures either disintegrated, disappeared, or, in the case of the gardener who looked suspiciously like owner, Billy Angell, somehow lost his head (Literally!) and was banished from the garden…

The peperomia and holly fern have needed some judicious clipping...

The peperomia and holly fern have needed some judicious clipping…

 

The house at the top of the hill...

The house at the top of the hill…

 

 

 

The cute treehouse at the very top  was finally replaced with another little cottage, the yoga class on their mats are taking a break, and the oversized people have been replaced with tiny gnomes, a garden table and various and assorted accessories, including a tire swing over the waterfall.

Variegated strawberry begonia, ajuga 'Chocolate Chip', ferns and pilea have been growing quite happily together...

Variegated strawberry begonia, ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip’, ferns and pilea have been growing quite happily together…

 

Lemon Button Fern, Pilea 'Aquamarine', and Kalanchoe 'Copper Spoon'

Lemon Button Fern, Pilea ‘Aquamarine’, and Kalanchoe ‘Copper Spoon’

 

 

 

And the plants!! Some, like the tiny pepperomia,  have grown to enormous proportions, requiring judicious clipping to keep in bounds. The ferns have also loved their space, spreading up and out in every direction.

Air plants have done well on the succulent side of our planting...

Air plants have done well on the succulent side of our planting…

 

 

 

 

On the other side, the succulents have settled in nicely, filling every available nook and cranny, spilling over the beach “caves” and onto the “beach” before being clipped back.

A miniature violet flower garden...

A miniature violet flower garden…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fun project  will certainly continue to evolve. Just  the other day Molly painted a backdrop of a blue sky with puffy clouds, so it will always be nothing but blue skies in our garden…

Frosty Fern…It’s Not A Fern And Not A Moss…So What Is It?? (Or, What’s In A Name?)

When talking about plants, what’s in a name, anyway? Well, I’m glad I asked, because the plant you might have seen around town in every garden shop and grocery store that has the catchy name of “frosty fern” really isn’t a fern  at all. I know most of you don’t really care much whether it’s a real fern or not, but, having grown up with my name being spelled wrong constantly (It’s Kris with a “K”, thank you very much.), I do get a little touchy about providing the correct plant name for folks that care about these things. I can just see how it all came about…some marketing guru somewhere said brightly,  “I know!!! Let’s call it “Frosty” because it looks like the tips are frosted; and everyone will think it’s a fern, so let’s run with Frosty Fern!”

The tips of the leaves do look frosted...

The tips of the leaves do look frosted…

To confuse matters even more, some knowledgeable plant people  look at it and say, “Well, of course, it’s not a fern; that’s a spike moss, or club moss.” Now, actually, this is true, but in reality a “spike moss” isn’t a true moss either. Confused yet? Yeah, I thought you might be. Hang in there, though; it will all become clear, I promise.

Now is where we get to the good part…and the reason the plant marketers felt they had to  dream up a catchier name. The correct name for this pretty little plant is Selaginella kraussiana, a name that almost rolls off the tongue…sellaahhginellaaahhh. What do you think?  No? That’s what I thought. Okay, it’s enough  for me that you are at least now aware that this plant is not a fern and not a moss. So let’s talk about what it is and how to take care of it.

This selaginella certainly could  be mistaken for a fern, with its tiny leaves and wispy appearance. But, if you look closely, the leaves are flat and look forked. Which, I suppose, is also how it comes by its other common name, spike or club moss.  The coloring of the leaf tips is natural; another selaginella, Selaginella uncinata, sometimes called peacock moss (Now it’s a moss; see how confusing this gets?), has beautiful iridescent blue-green leaves.

These plants are actually part of  an interesting group of plants called fern-allies, not actually related to ferns  but sharing the same reproductive means –  spores.

Here it's paired with a myrtle topiary and a few stems of pussy willow...

Here it’s paired with a myrtle topiary and a few stems of pussy willow…

Selaginellas have  become naturalized in parts of Portugal, Spain, and New Zealand, though they’re originally from Africa. They make quite wonderful terrarium plants since they’re happiest with good humidity and consistent moisture during the growing season. Like most plants, growth slows in  fall and winter, so be sure to cut back on the water during those months and let them dry a bit between drinks.

Try to keep the humidity up as high as possible, especially if you plan on keeping one in your home through the winter months when your furnace is running and air gets drier.  An easy way to do this is to place your selaginella on a shallow tray of pebbles filled  with water just to the bottom of it. Sit your pot on the pebbles, taking care not to sink the pot in the water. As the water evaporates it will add moisture to the air around your plant.

Selaginella kraussiana ('frosty fern)They prefer temperatures above 50 degrees, the perfect range being anywhere from 75 – 80 degrees F.  If  temperatures drop lower, the foliage can be  prone to fungal problems and the tips of their tiny leaves will turn brown. So, if you are using them in outdoor shade planters through the summer, keep this in mind as the temperatures cool in the fall.

Bright but indirect light is best, either early morning or late afternoon if inside. Too much direct sun will cause the leaves to wilt and burn. Be careful not to over feed your selaginella, as too much fertilizer can also cause  wilting and yellowing of leaves.

So, whatever you choose to call it, you now know its proper name  (And don’t we all want to be called by our correct name?), and the marketing gurus haven’t got the last word after all!

 

 

 

Myrtle Topiaries…Just In Time For The Holidays!

Myrtle topiaries in pretty pots...

Myrtle topiaries in pretty pots…

Finally, after many years absence, we have myrtle topiaries back in stock!  Many moons ago we had a small specialty grower in Georgia who supplied us with these pretty plants. When she retired, we turned to another supplier in North Carolina, who, inexplicably (To us, anyway!), stopped carrying them a number of years ago. We’ve been searching for a good wholesale supplier ever since and are so happy to have finally found a source once more . These are available in 5″ and 6″ pots – hopefully there will be other sizes in the future.

Myrtle, myrtus communis,  was an integral part of Roman gardens and is widespread in Mediterranean regions where it is cultivated as a large ornamental shrub.  The topiaries we carry are a dwarf myrtle, Myrtus communis ‘Compacta’,  and are happiest grown outside in containers  through the summer in a sunny to partly sunny spot. Kept watered regularly, the long, hot summers will bring on small flower buds that open to white blooms. With fall and cooler temperatures, it’s best to trim it for the winter and place it indoors in a bright room.  The glossy and pleasantly aromatic leaves are a beautiful shade of green, and the entire plant takes to shaping very well – simply trim it when it becomes shaggy.

myrtle has glossy, aromatic leaves...

myrtle has glossy, aromatic leaves…

Myrtle Topiary Care

Give them plenty of light – they prefer to be in sun in their native habitat, so a dark room won’t give them the light they need. If you know you don’t have enough light where you really want them (on a mantle in a dark room) you may need to swap them out periodically, placing them in a sunny spot to grow well, then moving them back and forth.

Water! It’s important not to let them dry out, but be careful they’re not sitting in water too. If  your topiary is root bound, it will need more diligent watering. Repot it in the spring if, when you pull it out of the pot, you see a mass of roots.

During the growing season, March through September, fertilize your topiaries with a 20-20-20 fertilizer every couple of weeks.  An excellent organic feed is Annie Haven’s Compost Tea. We carry it, though  if you’re not in the Birmingham area you can also order it on-line.  When you bring it in for the winter,  cut back feeding to once a month.

When you trim your topiary, it’s best not to shear the tips. Try to cut back a bit into the plant. Remember wherever you cut, two stems will grow, creating a nice full head of foliage.

Note: We get many calls from people from around the country asking us to ship our myrtle topiaries when we have them in stock. Unfortunately we are not set up to ship at this time.

More Miniature Gardens

A succulent miniature garden...

A succulent miniature garden…

The miniature gardening trend continues, and we’re sure having fun with it. From tiny gardens in glass terrariums to a saucer planted with driftwood and a place to sit along the “water”, these little gardens spark the imagination of gardeners of all ages.

Tiny temptations...

Tiny temptations…

 

 

 

 

 

Two 20-something women walked in the other day, and one of them immediately spotted the miniature garden display. “Oh, look!”, she said excitedly. “Aren’t these cute?”  Her friend was skeptical. “Uh, sure…”, she answered. “Whatever you say.”

Tending a tiny garden...

Tending a tiny garden…

 

 

 

Not swayed by her friend’s decided lack of enthusiasm, the first started looking through the miniature accessories, oohing and aahing at each tiny piece.

 

 

A cozy spot to sit...

A cozy spot to sit…

“I want to make one of these gardens!”,  she declared. Her friend walked closer and looked at the pieces she had in her hand. “You should have a bench.”, she stated. “And look at this tub with wine bottles in it. That would be really cute, wouldn’t it?”

As I listened to them, it became quite clear that the skeptical one (I was beginning to call her this in my head.) was being completely drawn into the fun of creating a tiny world with her friend.

 

A pumpkin patch under a windmill...

A pumpkin patch under a windmill…

I walked up and started talking with them, asking if they had any questions about the miniature gardens.

The first one again said she wanted to make one and asked if I would help her because she thought it would be so much fun.  “Of course.”, I said. “It’s summer and pretty slow, I think we could put something together for you today.”

On the other side of the bridge...

On the other side of the bridge…

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the garden she made with a lot of helpful suggestions from her friend, but I can tell you it turned out really well. A red Adirondack chair, the tiny tub with iced drinks, a beach along the water, some succulents planted  in strategic places, and – Voila! – a miniature garden completed.

 

 

A broken pot is home to morel mushrooms...

Little chickens…

Soon new miniature garden accessories will be arriving, including tiny gourds and white pumpkins for fall gardens…and scarecrows too.

Meanwhile, the pictures here show some we’ve planted this summer using a windmill, tiny chickens (Everyone loves chickens!), little wooden chairs, driftwood benches, morel mushrooms, and more.

Maybe it’s time to let your inner child out…or create a miniature garden with your children. You just might get caught up in the magic like my friend, the skeptical one at the start of this post!

As with any container garden, these are designed to last as a true garden. Be mindful of the amount of light your garden will receive when you choose your plants. There are many  houseplants that work well together, including fittonia, Neanthe bella palms, and many ferns. Succulents work well in higher light and will need less water. Haworthias, aloes, crassulas and sedums are just a few of the many succulents you can use. Have fun!

Terrariums – Planted for the Lilly Pulitzer Store – (We Can Plant One For You, Too!)

Succulents in terrariums...

Succulents in terrariums…

Terrarium for the Lilly Pulitzer Store

Proof that terrariums can be easy and beautiful design elements in your home or office can be seen in these that Molly designed for the new Lilly Pulitzer store at the Summit. The folks from Lilly Pulitzer brought them in, empty, for us to plant.

Terrariums for the Lilly Pulitzer StoreSince these terrariums are open at the top and the store gets plenty of light, succulents and air plants are a very good choice.  With the right light and minimal water, these plantings should thrive!

Terrarium for the Lilly Pulitzer StoreSome of the plants used include:  Rhypsalis, various Echevarias, Albuca spiralis, Cactus, Haworthia, various Tillandsias, and Portulacaria afra, sometimes called a miniature jade plant.

We’ve used succulents in other plantings , as well,  and really enjoy the variations of leaves and color so many succulents offer.

If you have a new terrarium and aren’t quite sure what to do with it or have an old one that just needs a “redo”, don’t hesitate to let us help!

Succulent Plantings…When Summer Heat Sizzles!

Cork Bark and Succulents - Echevaria, Variegated Jade, Rhypsalis, Cryptanthus, Haworthia, String of PearlsWhile parts of the country are enjoying an unusually cool summer, here in the heart of the south the temperature and humidity can still soar. Unfortunately, even nighttime temperatures rarely provide respite from the unending heat, though, thankfully, we (and our plants!) have had a couple of welcome breaks this year.

Succulents: Albuca spiralis 'Frizzle Sizzle', Rhypsalis, EchevariaWhile there are plenty of tough, heat tolerant plants that, with the proper maintenance, work very well in our landscapes, this post is going to concentrate on succulents, with examples of some recent container plantings.  Look HERE for more succulent arrangements we’ve done in the past too.

Three bright yellow pots provide a temporary home as a centerpiece trio, then these plants will move outside for the rest of the season. The curly little number here is an interesting, and new to the plant scene (at least for us), succulent-like plant (It’s actually a bulb.) called Albuca spiralis  ‘Frizzle Sizzle’. Native to South Africa, its growth actually slows during the heat of summer, and it must be kept on the dry side during this resting period.  As we move into the colder winter months, it will begin to grow again and should make a relatively easy indoor plant for a  bright room inside.

Succulents: Echevarias, Rhypsalis, Variegated Jade, Sedum and Pilea 'Aquamarine'The basket planting shows a tiny leaf blue-green succulent-like plant that is actually a Pilea called ‘Aquamarine’. It has fast become a favorite for succulent and other arrangements in containers. The tiny leaves grow quite quickly, mingling with other plants and eventually trailing, seemingly indefinitely! This mixture also has echevarias, workhorse succulents that can grow to enormous proportions.image

The square brown planter is home to a variety of succulents, including a number of Hechtia glomerata.  It’s  in the Bromeliad family and native from Texas down into Central America. Species of Hechtia are terrestrial and inhabit dry, rocky places and often seen growing  on vertical walls along rivers, where the soil drains exceptionally well. Hechtia is a plant that’s new to us this year. We’ve noticed it has  the spiny edges on leaves that some bromeliads are known for.

Tillandsia ( Air Plants), Succulents (Hechtia glomerata) and RhypsalisSucculent plants and air plants, Tillandsia, are  perfect partners, as you can see in this cork bark composition. Here’s the Hechtia again, with another plant called Rhypsalis. Rhypsalis is another fascinating plant. It’s actually in the cactus family and most are native to Brazil. Its name is derived from the Greek word rhips, which means wickerwork and refers to the slender, flexible, reed-like stems.
Rhipsalis are primarily epiphytic, meaning they live in trees, but some also grow in  the cracks of rocks. Quite a versatile little cactus! It doesn’t have spines like a conventional cactus; instead the stems seem almost flattened and branch frequently. Flowers are among the smallest of cactus flowers and usually white, though some may be tinged with yellow or red.

Succulent Planter with Hen and Chicks, Echevaria and CryptanthusThe wooden bowl shows an old favorite, sempervivum or hen and chicks, a well known succulent and widely available in many rosette colors. One thing we’ve learned about “semps” is they really do appreciate a bit of shade in the afternoon here in Birmingham. Maybe it’s our constant humidity. At any rate, a touch of shade seems to help.

Succulents and Cactus in a Marble DishAnother cactus called ‘Old Man’ and a little succulent called Haworthia are at home in a small marble container. There are no drainage holes in this piece, so careful watering must be done sparingly.

Succulents in Cork Bark - Close-Up. Rhypsalis, Variegated Jade, Echevaria, Cryptanthus, HaworthiaFinally, a long, very narrow piece of cork bark is home to a varied selection of succulents including Portulacaria afra, sometimes called miniature variegated jade plant though it’s a different species.  Its small, cream-variegated leaves on reddish stems are striking combined with the echevarias, haworthias, Cryptanthus, and  Senecio rowleyanus or string of pearls (not shown in this picture). With  bright light and a light hand with water, this planting should  flourish.

These plantings are just the tip of an amazing succulent iceberg. We’re constantly on the lookout for others to expand our design repertoire. So far we’re having a grand time!

 

Aloes…There’s More Than Just Vera Out There!

You're undoubtedly familiar with this Aloe vera...

You’re undoubtedly familiar with this Aloe vera…

A basic aloe plant - and it's soothing gel...

A basic aloe plant – and it’s soothing gel…

The succulent world is full of an amazing and beautiful variety of plants with mysterious names like Echevaria, Hechtia, Aeonium, Senecio, Crassula, Haworthia, and Graptoveria, just to name a few! Even the basic Aloe vera plant has been hybridized. It’s definitely no longer the aloe your mom had on the windowsill in the kitchen, there at the ready to soothe burns from the stove or the sun.

One of the preeminent hybridizers of aloes is a gentleman by the name of Kelly Griffin, formerly of Rancho Soledad Nursery. As is so often the case in horticulture, folks like him become interested in a particular group of plants, become educated in them,  and have the great fortune to be able to pursue their interest, traveling the world and crossing plants to create beautiful hybrids.

The link HERE  gives you a great picture of the man and his passion for aloes, agaves, and other succulents. The hybrids Mr. Griffin has produced really are very special, and many are a cross between Gasterias and Aloe to create the hybrid Gasteraloe. Pretty nifty, right? They are also commonly called “Table-Top” Aloes. Gasterias  have been in cultivation for hundreds of years and can easily be crossed with Aloes, so there are many of these hybrids available.

With the interest in all things succulent lately, it’s only natural that these aloes would cross our path, and we’ve added them  to the greenhouse collection of succulents as they become available from our suppliers.

Aloe 'Delta Lights'

Aloe ‘Delta Lights’

One of the most beautifully patterned  is the Aloe ‘Delta Lights‘, released in 2011. The parent plant, Aloe deltoideodonta, comes from southern central Madagascar, an island in the western Indian Ocean. Here in Birmingham, this, and the others mentioned here, will be a houseplant or one that can be summered outside in a container. Morning sun and occasional watering are perfect for this tough plant. Ultimately this beautifully patterned aloe can reach 18 inches tall by about 2 feet wide, with leaves on a healthy plant 3 inches wide at the base and tapering gently at the tips.

Aloe 'Green Sand'

Aloe ‘Green Sand’

If you like ‘Delta Lights‘, the next one, ‘Green Sand‘,  is even more colorful and unique and considered one of Griffin’s best. More compact, it boasts  reddish to maroon tones that  become  a very deep, rich red the more sun it is provided. The serrated, bumpy leaves add even more interest to this pretty aloe.

Gasteraloe 'Flow'

Gasteraloe ‘Flow’

 

The final Gasteraloe  is one called ‘Flow‘. It has thick, oblong leaves with white, bumpy protrusions that give it quite a wonderful texture. This fascinating plant is yet another  cross, this time using Gasteria verrucosa, a native of South Africa. If only world human populations could get along as well as these plants!

We will continue to carry these and other Table-Top aloes as they are available throughout the year. Any of them would make a wonderful gift for plant lovers in your life or an easy office or houseplant in plenty of bright light and minimal water.