Category Archives: Indoor Plants

Southern Living’s ‘Grumpy Gardener’ Noticed This Orchid Arrangement

Orchid ArrangementWe try to have as many orchids and other plants as possible to fill customer’s containers for parties and special events. The amount of design work we do is certainly a far cry from our start 25 years ago when we didn’t even offer orchids for sale!

This orchid arrangement, in a customer’s beautiful footed container,  was spotted by Steve Bender, Southern Living’s ‘Grumpy Gardener’. He then “stole” it and featured it on his blog with our permission  ( here’s his post ).  But happily, it’s here too!

another in a dough bowl...

another in a dough bowl…

 

For anyone who may not know, we create arrangements like this on a daily basis for folks bringing in their containers or using ours.

 

driftwood pieces with orchids and houseplants

driftwood pieces with orchids and houseplants

If you have something at home you’d like filled with living plants,  (It doesn’t have to be orchids, it could be other foliage and flowers.) simply bring your container in, or choose one of ours.  Give us some idea of where it will be placed,  and if you’ll be using it for a party or need something  long lasting.

 

Finally, give us some guidelines on color preferences if you have any, and then simply leave it for us to create something beautiful for you.

The orchid arrangement he featured had some beautiful, large air plants in it.  For more information on air plants, look HERE.

 

During the holiday season and spring  we ask at least a week’s notice (or more) so we can do the best job possible – this also allows us time to gather the plants needed for your arrangement.

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!

 

 

 

The End Of The Season…Fall Arrangements

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods...

A reindeer moss wreath, with burlap and pods…

A copper planter for a table. Jamie's colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white...

A copper planter for a table. Jamie’s colorful fall design of chartreuse, orange and white…

Autumn  passes far too quickly. As usual, when a season is nearing the end, I find myself wishing I’d made the time to take more pictures of the many arrangements that we’ve created the past few weeks. Jamie, Molly, and I looked through those we had and here are a few of them – a simple goodbye to the autumn season for another year as we set our sights ahead to the holidays.

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more...

A vignette Jamie created with an orchid, sedum, tiny pumpkins and more…

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in a dough bowl...

Pinkie used little white pumpkins, succulents, and bittersweet in this dough bowl…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and autumn Fern adding more rich color...

My simple tray became home to a gourd, mushrooms and moss, with Heuchera and Autumn Fern adding more rich color…

A dough bowl Jamie designed...

A dough bowl Jamie designed…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall is a favorite time, as the materials we work with are so interesting and organic. There’s none of the shiny, glittery, in-your-face glitz that will be here, oh, so soon enough, with the approach of Christmas. No, this time of year is quieter, as we embrace the down-to-earth beauty of mushrooms, soft green moss, natural branches, dark wiry angelvine, pods of all kinds, and interesting gourds. I enjoy the combinations that result, melded at times with the muted tones of burlap and raffia.

Molly's spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids...

Molly’s spirited fall arrangement with bright yellow Oncidium orchids…

I really enjoyed creating this "woodsy" piece...

I really enjoyed creating this “woodsy” piece…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fall flowers in pretty pots for a fall luncheon...

For a fall luncheon..

Oncidium Orchid 'Twinkle' Arrangement With Okra Pods and Pinecones

Oncidium ‘Twinkle’ in a sweet combination of Jamie’s. Okra pods and pinecones add even more texture…

My simple lady slipper orchid arrangement, watched over by pretty Tacca, our garden shop kitty…

 

 

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin, and daughter, Molly, planted it...

Dená carved this pretty blue pumpkin and daughter, Molly, planted it…

We see such interesting pieces in the fall too. Earthy dough bowls, dark metal planters and copper containers, low wooden trays just perfect for mossy vignettes, a majolica bowl the right size and shape for a woodsy arrangement. Soon enough we’ll be making quite different sorts of combinations through the holidays, with quite different materials. For now though, I’m content to enjoy these last few days of fall.

A colorful fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins...

A final fall piece Molly created using houseplants and mini pumpkins…

 

Amaryllis – Beauty In A Bulb

Amaryllis, unquestionably, are one of the most dramatic and elegant of flowers. That bold, beautiful blooms of all colors and sizes can emerge from such a drab, unassuming brown bulb is amazing. They are truly a wonder of nature!

Decorative moss and pebbles dress up this amaryllis bulb...

Decorative moss and pebbles dress up this amaryllis bulb…

Amaryllis in the greenhouse...

Amaryllis in the greenhouse…

Our final shipment of amaryllis bulbs arrived the other day and now is the perfect time to pot them up for the holidays. It’s so easy to do too.  My  friend, Nancy Wallace of Wallace Gardens  in Atlanta,  swears by soaking the bulb in Haven Brand Manure Tea, an odorless tea that we have in stock now, for an even better display.

In a shallow saucer filled with about an inch of this concentrated tea, soak the roots of the bulbs for no more than 20 minutes, then plant. From her picture I featured in the above link, she’s on the right track. I’ll be soaking mine this year!

Amaryllis arrangement...

Amaryllis arrangement…

So, you want to purchase an amaryllis bulb (or more than one) for yourself or as gifts for friends? First, you need to know that the size of the bulb corresponds to the size and amount of blooms. Their sizes range from “miniature” amaryllis bulbs to jumbo amaryllis and there are midsize bulbs as well.

Large blooms of this amaryllis offer a contrast to the fragrant jasmine...

Large blooms of this amaryllis offer a contrast to the fragrant jasmine…

Beware of gift boxes and bags already prepackaged. I’ve stopped carrying them because, inevitably, the bulb begins to grow in the box prior to purchase. Believe me, there’s nothing sadder than an amaryllis, stem bent toward the light, growing sideways out of a box. It’s just not right!

Potting them up is quite simple. First, soak your amaryllis bulb as described above so the roots rehydrate. Next, find a pot that is no more than an inch or so wider than the bulb and fill it with good quality potting soil (We use Fafard.) about half way up the pot. Next, position the bulb on the soil, pushing the roots firmly in place. The “shoulder”, or widest portion of the bulb, should be above the soil. Fill in around the bulb, push down gently, and water with some of the remaining manure tea.

Amaryllis Arrangement

The hardest part is the wait for the bud to begin to emerge. It may take just a few days in a warm, sunny room, but it can just as easily take longer. Amaryllis don’t always cooperate with our timetables. Take a look at this “Holiday Flowers” post from last year and you’ll see what I mean. When you do see new growth starting to emerge, begin to water just so the soil stays slightly moist and watch the magic happen! You can also “dress up” the top of the soil with decorative moss or pebbles. Amaryllis

In bloom amaryllis can get quite tall  and will usually benefit from some type of staking. In addition to simple bamboo stakes,  stems of red and yellow twig dogwood, birch, curly willow, or branches from your landscape can be used. Insert the staking material at the edge of the bulb and tie it with raffia or ribbon.

Amaryllis, budded, with ferns, and stems of pussywillow...

Amaryllis, budded, with ferns, and stems of pussywillow…

The pictures here show what we’ve done in the past using amaryllis. They make wonderful presents during the holiday season and simply watching the bloom stalk grow taller and the enormous buds begin to open is a gift in itself!

In addition to bulbs that are available for you to plant, we also will be receiving many amaryllis already potted up from our growers. So, if you’re in the Birmingham area, there’s  no excuse not to have one of these holiday favorites!

 

 

 

Try Some Compost Tea This Year – Haven Brand Authentic Tea Is Easy To Use!

imagePlants are like people; they need food to grow…and nutritious food for best health.  I would take that one step further and say that, not only should you feed the plant, you need to add organic amendments and nutrients to create healthy soil that your plants will  thrive in.

My friend Annie Haven of Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew created her product  with this principle in mind.  On her ranch in California (It’s been in her family since the 1800’s!), the cattle are free ranging and graze in native grass pastures, free of antibiotics, hormone-added grain, and pesticides. The manure that is produced is dehydrated, then packaged, and the tea bags are shipped out and ready for you to steep. What you make can either be used as a soil drench for roses and other plants or as a foliar spray.

Little "tea" bags, ready to brew!

Little “tea” bags, ready to brew!

At Oak Street Garden Shop we’ve carried Annie Haven’s Moo Poo Tea since last spring.  The most popular has been the Soil Conditioner Premium Manure Tea, labeled for houseplants, container plants, the vegetable garden, shade plants,  shrubs and lawns. Both are in sturdy, sewn-together “tea bags”,  ready to brew. I’ve used it at the shop and in my own garden.

They couldn’t be any easier to use; just drop each bag in a 1 gallon, or up to a 5 gallon container, fill with tap water, cover and allow to steep for one to three days.  Then use it to water any plants that need a good, rich organic boost.

steeping...

steeping…

One of my friends in Atlanta, Nancy Wallace, of Wallace Gardens,  uses Annie Haven’s tea each year on her amaryllis bulbs and reports that her blooms are easily one third larger than they were on the same size bulbs before she started using this tea. She  soaks them in it prior to planting, then waters them  with it until they bloom. I’ve seen pictures of her amaryllis, and they are truly impressive.

Wallace Gardens beautiful amaryllis..

Wallace Gardens beautiful amaryllis..

Another way she uses it is as a “Super Brew”, placing 4-6 bags in a jug to make a very concentrated mixture. Then, using a hose end sprayer, she foliar sprays all of her plants with it. Summer foliar feeding like this also seems to deter bugs!

For a quick tea, if there’s none at hand, put a bag in a bucket and fill it up with water. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then begin squeezing the bag over and over; you’ll see the tea releasing into the water. Continue doing this 20-30 times and you’ve got yourself a fast made tea.

When you’re finished with the tea bags, cut them open with a pair of scissors and add the contents to your container gardens…it’s all useable!

Pricing for individual tea bags is $4.95 or you can purchase 3 for $12.95.

 

 

 

 

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.

Orchids…Early Fall Arrangements

A lady slipper is framed by angelvine...

A lady slipper is framed by angelvine…

Orchids, succulents, dried pods and foliage are the common theme in these four arrangements. With the heat of summer receding (Thankfully!) and fresh material arriving to work with, it’s a happy time in the greenhouse. So, between new shipments of pots, plants, ribbon and more, these were a few of the pieces we created. Let’s take a look.

Orchid, succulents and dried pods Someone who worked for us many years ago called from North Carolina to order an orchid for her mother’s birthday. She likes succulents too; so a double stemmed phalaenopsis and a lady slipper orchid were paired in a container and succulents nestled at the base. The addition of  angelvine and a touch of brown ribbon complete the design.

The next two small containers both started with an orchid, then succulents, ribbon, and, in the second, Jamie selected just the right white miniature pumpkin and burlap bow…the perfect gift for someone!Fall Orchid Arrangement

No two designs are ever alike for us, though sometimes a customer will see something they particularly like and will request another version of it.  Our least favorite thing is when someone brings in a picture with the request that we copy it, though we’ll always accommodate as best we can.Fall Orchid Arrangement - Customer's Dough Bowl

Happily, this large dough bowl of a longtime customer is one we see fairly regularly and one that we have complete creative license with. This go-round I filled it with orchids and under planted it for fall with Rex begonias, a pretty ivy, and added dark, shiny pods for their color and shape. A touch of chartreuse mood moss picks up the light green veining in the begonia leaf. Some tiny cattails are placed as accents, and my design is done.

Cotton stems, dried sunflower seed heads from the garden, and fern fiddleheads were the starting point for the last piece in a pretty brown and white bowl. . I added an air plant at the base and wound angel vine up through the cotton for even more interest. Some days are so much fun in the greenhouse!

Cotton, sunflower seed heads, fern fiddle heads and an airplantThis is just a sampling of the early fall things we’ve been creating! Since we’re always searching for new ideas and ways to make our arrangements more interesting and  unique, who knows what we’ll come up with next…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crotons: Beautiful Foliage for Fall Color!

image

It’s after Labor Day, and fall is right around the corner. After going through a long, hot summer, planters and beds look, shall we say, a tad tired. Well, of course, they are.

If you planted pots at the first hint of warm weather in April, no matter how diligent you were at deadheading and cutting back, many of your annuals have had enough of the endless heat and periodic dry spells by September.

Croton 'Sloppy Paint'

So, what to do?  Well, there are certainly the ubiquitous mums, and we’ll have plenty of them in all sizes and colors for you to use. But work the pretty fall hues of yellow, orange, or red marigolds into your autumn flower planters, add a few ornamental pepper plants, and now you’ll be getting somewhere! Finally, to really take it up a notch, add some colorful foliage.

Croton 'Freckles' But “What colorful foliage?”,  you’re thinking by now. So glad you asked! What we have in mind are the brightly patterned leaves of crotons. Up to now you might have thought of them as simply a pretty houseplant for bright spots in your home.

But, luckily, these tough plants can also work beautifully outside too in combination planters or on their own.Croton 'Shoestring' Croton 'Mammy'

Some we’ve gotten in recently highlight the different sizes and patterning of the leaves. Who knew the hybridizers could come up with such variations! Even the names  – ‘Sloppy Paint‘, ‘Freckles‘, and ‘Dreadlocks‘, just to name a few –  bring a smile.

Croton 'Tamara'The best thing about crotons is that their coloration becomes more pronounced with plenty of sun, which is what the marigolds and other plants listed above prefer. Finally, surround your planting with pumpkins and gourds (or tuck a few into the base of your planting)  to create a festive tableau for fall…perfect!

Since crotons also do double duty as houseplants, bring yours inside when nighttime temperatures dip into the 40’s. Carefully remove it from your outdoor planter, and repot into a container just a bit larger than the rootball. Be sure your pot has a drainage hole. Spray the undersides and tops of the leaves with a soap spray to rid it of any insects that might try to hitch a ride indoors, and place your croton in as bright a spot as possible. Don’t overwater during the winter months, it’s best to let the soil dry completely, then water well.  During these colder periods of the year it’s growth slows, so fertilize no more than once a month with a liquid, even formula (20-20-20) fertilizer.

 

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!

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.