Category Archives: Indoor Plants

Succulents…See Some Things We’ve Created!

succulents in the greenhouse...

succulents in the greenhouse…

air plants...

air plants…

With the spring planting season approaching, the nursery will be a plant lovers dream, filled with the best of everything we can find. These include fragrant, ornamental, and edible herbs, including the popular oregano ‘Kent’s Beauty’, sun and shade loving perennials for your garden,  bright, flowering annuals for pots and planting beds, and shrubs expressly selected for their ornamental qualities and durability in southern gardens.

Another grouping of plants we have all year around are succulents, and they are so beautiful arranged in containers for the summer or as a combination planting in the home all year around. Some shown here also incorporate tillandsias, or air plants because their care and culture is so similar.

living wreath...

living wreath…

The living wreath shown here that Molly planted was a huge hit on our Facebook page, and for good reason.  Just look at all the interesting textures and colors used, including echeverias, cryptanthus, air plants and even a tiny phalaenopsis orchid! This post on creating a living wreath give you some tips on how to make your own masterpiece. To see yet another that Jamie made, take a look HERE.

imageBecause succulents, air plants and even bromeliads (another great companion) come in so many different shapes, colors and sizes, it’s fun to come up with endless combinations. Here are more that we’ve created in the past few months.

In this long, narrow planter Lauren used a number of different plants including succulent echevarias, sedums, haworthias, and a pretty pink aloe. Meandering through this combination are pilea ‘Aquamarine.’

this will get large!

this will get large!

 

This two tier planting is going to get quite large! Flapjack kalanchoes share the space with a trailing succulent-like plant called dorotheanthus which will have charming little red flowers as the weather gets hotter. It’s also quite cold tolerant, though not completely hardy for us here. This container would be best moved in for the winter.

image

 

 

 

 

We’ve used cork bark planters to great effect in the past, and here Molly planted one with some really beautiful hen and chicks, sempervivum sp., and a couple of hardy sedums. This planting could be kept outdoors through the winter with the exception of the tiny aloes on each end, which can be repotted and moved inside during the colder months. The entire planting could also be moved into a sunny room for the winter.

one of two...

one of two…

air plants add height until the flapjack kalanchoe gets larger...

air plants add height until the flapjack kalanchoe gets larger…

The two pretty white pots shown here work together (There’s actually a third as well.) I used a tall tillandsia to add some height to this planting until the flapjack kalanchoe attained some size. The cryptanthus adds some color at the front and the pilea will contribute delicate trailing leaves to this composition.   In the second pot I added an echevaria to the planting, keeping the pinky color scheme going.

Be careful not to overwater if a container doesn't drain...

Be careful not to overwater if a container doesn’t drain…

Succulents can be planted in anything! This copper planter does not have drainage though, so the plantings need very careful attention to be sure they’re not overwatered – always be mindful of what kind of containers you’re using. Those that drain are always best. I have to confess I just really liked how this looked anyway! And, it’s been growing quite happily in the greenhouse since February.image

Succulents can be used as accents. too. Here a container is home to a tall sanseveria and  pussy willow stems with  sweet allysum tucked between for it’s dainty white blooms.

Finally, if you’re designing a container with succulents (Or anything!) remember the container you’re placing them in is part of the design as well.  This little log shaped planter is brown in color but  tinged with a touch of pink. I liked how the cryptanthus on the left picked up on that but contrasted with the other plants chosen to offset it in color and weight.image

So, with warmer weather right around the corner,  grab a pot, stop in , and find some succulents and air plants of your own to plant up – you can’t go wrong – promise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miniature Gardens As Centerpieces…

tiny cloche...

tiny cloche…

In a few short weeks Mountain Brook’s  Little Garden Club, a charter member of the Garden Club of America, will host a regional zone meeting and flower show. It will take place April, 2014, and a lot of folks are involved in planning this important event. Members of GCA clubs will be attending from the surrounding states, so there will be a lot of visitors!

Miniature Garden

 

 

 

 

Miniature Garden

I’ll be assisting with a number of others in the “passing” of the horticultural exhibits – clearing them for entry into the flower show to be judged. I was very flattered to be asked and happy to help with this event, which has been two years in the planning.

Miniature GardenWhat does all this have to do with miniature gardens, you ask? Well, these tiny gardens have been very  popular the past number of years, and the garden club organizers decided it would be a fun thing to have on some of the tables for one of their meetings. And they turned to Oak Street Garden Shop for help.

The containers we chose are metal, and they will be wrapped with aspidistra leaves to make a “Ribbon of Green”, the theme of this year’s meeting.

These pictures show how some turned out. The miniature gardens are designed to continue living as a true garden, so plant material is chosen accordingly, with only minor exceptions.

imageBecause these take a great deal of time to make, I finally gave up on waiting for new miniature garden accessories I’d ordered since my deadline to have them completed was looming…but I still had plenty of fun things to play with. If you’ve ever made one of these gardens in miniature, you’re well aware how detailed and time consuming they are.

For some of the centerpieces I chose succulents, including haworthias and sedums, which work well for tiny plantings. Pilea ‘Aquamarine’ is a low grower with a great color; it just needs clipping regularly to keep it from overrunning its neighbors.

Miniature GardenTiny pots of ordinary houseplants also work in these gardens. Little parlor palms, ferns, polka dot plants and baby podocarpus make good companions, and selaginella is a pretty groundcover.

It’s nice to have different sizes of pebbles to create paths and larger stones to create “boulders”. Can you see the turtle sitting on one?

There’s still more tweaking to do (Just like a real garden that is never “done”!), and one more not even started yet…but that story is for another post. If you’re in the Birmingham area, stop in and take a look. They’re even more fun in person!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Medinilla magnifica – Wow!

Medinilla magnifica - Malaysian OrchidA stop you in your tracks plant, this one is very new to everyone, including us. Medilla magnifica’s origin is in the mountains of the Phillipines…and this is just one of 400 species!  It’s an epiphyte in its native land, growing high in trees. What a sight that must be! Evidently the late king Boudewijn of Belgium was enamored of them, as well, growing them in his royal conservatories and using them on Belgian currency.

Here’s the scoop on how to care for your medinilla magnifica if you’d like to try this exotic beauty. This information is directly from the Medinilla magnifica website, since we have limited experience with this plant.

Ideal temperatures and light:

Medinillas prefer temperatures from the mid 60’s to mid 70’s, just like we do, and lots of light! In the winter, from about November to March, they can tolerate direct sun. The rest of the growing season, protect them from direct sun as the leaves can burn. Perhaps moving it outside, where it can enjoy the humidity of summer in a fairly cool spot out of direct sun, would be ideal.

The flowers will last longest when the nights are cool. These flowers are actually a lot of small flowers cupped in bracts and will continue to elongate to as much as 50 cm with a purple anther. Flowering should last as long as 3 months.

Medinilla magnifica & lady slipper orchids

Pretty companions…Medinilla magnifica and
lady slipper orchids…

When it looks like the flowers are spent, cut them off. A new leaf will form where the flowers were. It needs a period of cooling to cause bud formation in these new leaves, so leave it outside through fall as the temperatures drop into the 60’s. When you see buds forming that are at least an inch long,  they can be moved into a warmer spot again for the winter.

Fertilizing, Pruning and Repotting:

Medinillas can be pruned, but always leave at least one pair of leaves on a branch or it wil die. And never remove more than 50% of the leaves.  Repotting is best done in the spring, as a new growing season begins.  When it’s growing new leaves, it can be fertilized with an orchid or houseplant fertilizer every two weeks but don’t fertilize when in bloom.

Watering:

As with many plants, the medinilla magnifica prefers to go quite dry between watering. Their website mentions picking the pot up and watering when the pot feels very light. As is usual when you allow something like this to dry completely, you’ll also want to water it thoroughly when you do water. Then leave it alone again until the pot once again feels light.

The preferred method of watering a medinilla is from the bottom. This is quite easy, really. Simply fill your sink with water, put the pot in it, and let it soak up the water for about 10 minutes (When watering any plant by this method, it’s best never to allow a plant to sit in water over 30 minutes.). When you remove it from the sink, let it drain for a few minutes so there’s no chance it will be sitting in water in a cache pot or saucer.

It’s also recommended to mist your medinilla regularly to raise the humidity around it.

What an interesting plant…something new for you to try or to give as a gift!

Contained – In Cork…Indoors Now, Then Outside For the Summer!

I planted this cork planter the other day for a birthday celebration. This one has a double duty life ahead of it: First, as part of a happy get-together, then, later, outdoors, possibly in a shady nook for the rest of the growing season.

Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Nephthitis, Selaginella 'Frosty', Tooth Brake Fern, Bird's Nest FernThese pieces can be used either horizontally, planting along the top, or vertically, like I’ve designed this one, positioning the plants up the planter. Since it could be unsteady if it didn’t have something to stabilize it at the base, I placed it in a pulp planter that I’d covered with a layer of sheet moss. A plastic saucer underneath will protect the floor during its time indoors, then it can be used without the saucer out in the garden or on a patio, porch or other spot  that has some shade.

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella 'Frosty' nestled together...

nephthytis, tooth brake fern, rex begonia and selaginella ‘Frosty’ nestled together…

Because the cork has a tendency to open up as potting soil and plants are inserted, I also wrap it tightly with bark covered wire after it’s all planted and add  green sheet moss to keep everything in place. We were surprised when our first plantings gradually opened up, threatening to disgorge all the plants we’d carefully positioned, but the bark wire has been a good remedy.

Close-up Cork Bark Planter - Autumn Fern, Rex Begonia, Angelvine, Selaginella 'Frosty'This planting  has a variety of houseplants, including nephthytis, used for its lighter green and white foliage, rex begonias for a bit of color, tooth brake ferns and a bird’s nest fern, a  new selaginella with white tips called ‘Frosty’, and a large autumn fern in the top with angel vine spilling over the edge with one last, large rex begonia.

We’re getting in a new shipment of these cork bark pieces at the end of the month, so if you’d like to try your hand at planting one or you’d like us to plant one for you, stop in!

 

 

 

 

Staghorn Ferns – An Easy Fern To Grow

There are many unusual varieties of staghorn ferns, but the most common, and the one you’ll see most often, is Platycerium bifurcatum.

image

When the basal leaves completely cover the wood board, it will
be remounted on a larger piece, as it will become quite heavy.

Staghorn ferns in their natural habitat grow in trees as epiphytes, getting their nutrients from tropical rains that wash nutrients onto their growing base. They’re native to the Philippines, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Northern Australia, and Africa…and there’s one rare species in South America.

An unusual looking fern, they actually have two quite different types of leaves. The first is the basal leaf that doesn’t look much like a leaf; it’s the part of the plant that grows onto the branch or piece of wood that they’re commonly mounted on. The second  is the fertile foliar leaf, the one that looks like a staghorn, and, of course, is where the name comes from. Both types of leaves are covered with hairs that help conserve moisture and give them their silvery cast.

Because stagorn ferns can grow quite large, they are usually grown attached to wooden planks using sphagnum moss as a base for the basal leaves to attach themselves to. They can also be placed in wire baskets, also using sphagnum, and this method allows the new leaves, or pups, to grow through the basket, eventually growing into a ball. Quite the conversation piece!

A customer, who grew up in Florida, told me she remembers growing them in strawberry jars – as they got larger,  the fern would slowly encompass the jar…we’re going to try this!

Attaching a stagjhorn fern to a piece of cork wood using sphagnum moss and fishing line

Attaching a stagjhorn fern to a piece of cork wood using sphagnum moss and fishing line

Caring for your staghorn fern is quite easy. The most important thing to remember is not to overwater; allow your staghorn fern to go completely dry between watering.

If you’re not sure whether to water, leave it alone until the leaves slightly wilt. An overwatered fern will suffer and possibly die, where one that’s allowed to dry completely will quickly recover once watered well.

If a staghorn fern has been overwatered it may develop a fungus appearing as black spots on fronds, which can spread rapidly and kill the plant. Older plants, with many layers of spongy old shield fronds will be able to go drier than younger plants.

Chartreuse reindeer moss and air plants add color to this staghorn fern...

Chartreuse reindeer moss and air plants add color to this staghorn fern…

Fertilize with a 20-20-20 fertilizer once a month from spring through summer and every other month from fall through winter. Generally pest free, mealy bugs and scale can be problems, and may appear during winter months when the air is drier and the plant may be more stressed.

A bright room indoors is ideal, and, through the summer, place your staghorn fern outside under a shade tree or on a sheltered porch where they can enjoy the extra humidity outdoors.  Eventually, if it’s happy, your staghorn fern will grow to a very large size. They can be very impressive!

 

 

 

 

More Plantings In Glass – Winter Terrariums

Terrarium & Frogs

Miniature garden frogs are at home in a terrarium!

Winter is the time to plant in the greenhouse, and plan for spring. After the holidays when it’s quiet is the time we plant and plan…terrariums can be time consuming, so this is the perfect time of year to design them.

 

 

 

 

 

A tall terrarium Molly planted...

A tall terrarium Molly planted…

Terrariums can be made in any glass container, either with a lid or without. If it’s not enclosed you may need to add water a bit more often, but be very careful not to overwater. We use activated charcoal to alleviate any bacterial problems from  water that may settle  in the bottom of the container. Simply sprinkle a layer of the charcoal over the bottom layer of pebbles prior to planting.

The layering of different colored pebbles, pea gravel and stones add a decorative element to any terrarium, and are quite fun to play with. Once this bottom layer is complete, add a light potting soil and plant your terrarium.

Decorative stones and a tricolor sedum...

Decorative stones and a tricolor sedum…

 

The posts on ferns and miniature plants may help you choose which ones to use. The last step is to add any decorative moss, larger stones, miniature gardening accessories, or natural items gleaned from your yard. These might include small pinecones, pieces of lichen or whatever strikes your fancy!

 

The Greenhouse in Winter – Beautiful Foliage…

Some pictures from the greenhouse in winter…Rex begonias, agloenemas (Chinese evergreens), angel wing begonias, fronds of a neantha bella palm, variegated Algerian ivy, Sanseveria, plumosa ferns, aloe and succulents. Can you find them all?imageimageimageimageimage

Tiny Plants…Great For Terrariums Or Small Containers Too!

photo (6)If you haven’t noticed, terrarium plantings, miniature gardens and anything tiny seems to be the name of the game the past few years. Growers have taken notice and now offer a wonderful variety of plants for the smallest of indoor gardening opportunities.

Mini fittonia

fittonia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very little two-inch pots are just the right size for these starter plants. Some are quite easy to grow houseplants that are usually available in larger containers, and others are small succulents. Because of their diminutive size, it’s quite easy to incorporate them into mixed terrarium plantings or miniature gardens.

An assortment of tiny houseplants...

An assortment of
tiny houseplants…

Small ferns are perfect for terrariums....

Small ferns are
perfect for
terrariums….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rex begonias appreciate the humidity in a  terrarium....

Rex begonias appreciate
the humidity in a
terrarium….

For terrarium plantings, choose from many easy to grow moisture loving plants. These include ferns, fittonia, Rex begonia, aluminum plant, pilea, strawberry begonia (It’s a good perennial groundcover in the shade too!), creeping fig, and others that enjoy high humidity in an enclosed environment.

Hoya...

Hoya…

 

 

 

 

Small succulents and other houseplants, like jades and hoyas, are best used in open containers and miniature gardens.  They offer a wide range of colors, shapes and textures and are quite easy to take care of too. The hoya pictured here in the open glass container has been growing for months, quite happily!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January In The Greenhouse…

air plants have found a home in these colorful frames...

air plants have found a home in these colorful frames…

January in the greenhouse is a quiet time. Sure, there are folks coming in for a houseplant for a pot, or to pick up a few pansies to fill in their winter weary containers, but for the most part there’s plenty of time to work on projects of all sorts.

Molly created this herb sign with aluminum wire and old pallets...

Molly created this herb sign with aluminum wire and old pallets…

This month, Jamie, Pinkie and Molly, with the help of Lauren, have been painting up a storm, and the stage area has taken on a new look. Molly is also working on signs for the outdoor nursery, while Bert and Ben are  building new tables. it’s fun to change things up, and this is the time of year to do it!

a spring garden using lichen covered branches and spring flowers...

a spring garden using lichen covered branches and spring flowers…

Of course, arrangements take priority always, for customers who come in needing something for themselves, for a party or to give as a gift – and we enjoy this creative outlet too. Jamie brought in a lot of lichen covered branches, and has been using them beautifully as part of table top arrangements. They look wonderful mixed in with the bright primroses of winter, and the forced bulbs including narcissus, muscari, and soon, tulips and crocus.

pussy willow branches...

pussy willow branches…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter branches of pussy willow have been a staple too, and we’ve been adding them to orchid and foliage arrangements. Soon the greenhouse will be filled with even more houseplants of all sorts, and we’ll begin creating combinations of plantings that can be transferred outside when the temperatures warm, later in the spring.

January in the greenhouse  is spent doing chores that must be done, but also on things that are just plain fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bromeliads – Colorful And Easy Tropicals For Your Home…

IMG1376You’re no doubt familiar with the brightly colored bracts and strap-like leaves of bromeliads. Extremely long lasting and colorful alternatives to orchids and other flowers,  they can’t be beat for a touch of tropical beauty and their ease of care in our homes and offices.

bromeliads brighten the greenhouse...

bromeliads brighten the greenhouse…

 

 

 

 

These bright plants are distinguished by their rosettes of leaves – the most famous of the bromeliads is the pineapple. Bromeliads can be found growing in the wild from Florida and the West Indies to Mexico, through Central and South America. They’ve adapted to a wide range of growing conditions, though, from tropical rainforests to elevations as high as 11,500 feet in the Andes Mountains.

cryptanthus and succulents...

cryptanthus and succulents…

 

 

The majority of bromeliads are epiphytic, meaning they grow on trees but don’t take nutrients from the tree itself, rather from the moisture in the air – the tree is just a means of support. Another member of the bromeliad family we carry is cryptanthus.  It is a terrestrial, growing on barren, rocky soil.  Cryptanthus are found in the cloud forests of Ecuador, surviving on the moisture from the clouds that envelope them. The dark leaved and  silver/gray  bromeliad-like plant we’ve had all summer is a cryptanthus called ‘Black Mystic’, and it is beautiful and easy to grow!

bromeliads make great gifts...

bromeliads make great gifts…

 

It’s fascinating to find out the native habitat of many of the plants we use in our homes and offices – but understanding where these plants come from originally can also help us better understand how to take care of them.

 

 

 

 

bromeliads, cryptanthus and succulents in a pretty blue bowl...

bromeliads, cryptanthus and succulents in a pretty blue bowl…

 

We hose down our  bromeliads in the greenhouse when they’re very dry… if you’d like to more closely mimic the natural conditions of the bromeliad in your home (minus the hose!), let tap water sit for a few days so the chlorine and fluorine dissipate. Pour into the “cup” of the bromeliad and freshen the water periodically, allowing  the water to flow over the cup and into the soil. Now that you understand  the natural growth of  bromeliads, you can see why it’s important not to overwater them.

Allow them bright light inside or place them outside on a patio or porch through the summer to  enjoy these bright beauties!

 

More Arrangement Inspiration – What We’ve Been Creating This Summer!

photo (2)This summer’s wet, cool weather might have kept many of you out of your gardens, but we’ve managed to stay busy in the greenhouse putting together arrangements filled with orchids, succulents, houseplants, and so much more…here’s a peek at some of them. We regularly have folks who stop in just to see what we’ve been working on! All of these arrangements are composed of live plants, no cut flowers here.

Orchids add elegance to any container, and  we love working with them. Here, the beautifully patterned leaves of a calathea contrast with the dark selaginella trailing over the edge. The houseplants shown with the orchid are actually planted in the container to make the care easier – our advice is always to feel where the plant is in the arrangement and water a bit when dry. Of course, some plants will need more or less water than others. For example, orchids last longest when they’re not overwatered!

glass, pebbles, orchid and succulents...

glass, pebbles, orchid and succulents…

The terrarium arrangement shown here was presented as a going away gift and was planted using pebbles, larger stones as accents, soil  and aquarium charcoal to keep the potting soil fresh. Here the care will again be to monitor the soil moisture carefully and water when it’s completely dry. The various leaf textures and colors of the succulents in the glass container make this arrangement interesting.

Yes, that's Thai basil with the orchid...

Yes, that’s Thai basil with the orchid…

As you can see, we’ll put orchids in just about any container and with just about any plant! In fact, the next arrangement shown uses a combination of houseplants, herbs, annuals and perennials with orchids. It was one of a pair used for a wedding anniversary celebration. So the celebrants were able to continue to enjoy the arrangement even after it was taken apart. Hopefully the Thai basil went in containers or the herb garden, and the perennial miniature grass-like acorus and purple leaf trailing annual irisene found new homes in the garden as well.

photo (3)Finally, the silver container was given in  memory of someone…the longlasting and low maintenance  houseplants of trailiing pepperomia and cryptanthus make excellent companions. It’s gratifying, also, to know that whoever is on the receiving end will be able to enjoy this longer than a fresh flower arrangement could ever hope to last.

We’re looking forward now to a new season, with fall right around the corner, and a whole new world of possibilities for creative arrangements – we’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, if you’re in Birmingham, stop in – there’s always something going on in our design area!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living Wreaths – Here’s How! (The original vertical garden…)

A living wreath planted for shade using houseplant ferns, creeping fig and ivy...

A living wreath planted for shade using houseplant ferns, creeping fig and ivy…

 

This post is for all you do-it-yourselfers and those that just like to know how interesting plantings are created. Living wreaths are one of those things, or, as I like to think of them, the original vertical garden arrangement. Maybe you’ve seen them on Pinterest or at your favorite garden shop (Of course, if you’re in Birmingham, we hope that’s us!).

 

 

 

Living wreaths are not difficult to make and are really quite fun – it just takes some time and a little thought choosing plants.  The first step is deciding  where you’d like to have your living wreath. Perhaps you have a gate leading into your garden? Or maybe there’s a blank spot on that shady patio wall? They also work well placed on a flat surface such as a table.

 

Empty Living Wreath Frames - 16"

 

 

 

 

The sturdy wreath form you see here is a standard plastic coated 16″ size. You can see there are two pieces, and the smaller back piece hooks easily onto the larger one.

 

Lining the form prior to planting...

Lining the form prior to planting…

 

Many how-tos for living wreaths use moistened sphagnum moss to line the form. We plant them a bit differently, lining the form with moistened green sheet moss, then filling the cavity with potting soil and slow release fertilizer before planting. We’ve been planting hayracks, moss baskets and wreaths like this for over 20 years in this manner.

insert plants at intervals through the moss, firming in.

insert plants at intervals through the moss, firming in.

 

 

Jamie designed the wreath in this demonstration for a customer who wanted an interesting mix of foliage  for use in a bright location. Her plant material includes pilea, tillandsias, tiny pink cryptanthus, and baby tears. It’s important to understand the cultural needs of the plants being used so any special watering needs can be met. In this composition, the baby tears will need special attention as they require the most water.

As with any open wired container that is being lined, don’t skimp on the moss. It’s  the glue that’s holding everything together after all. When the form is thickly lined, add the potting soil, moistening it and firming it in, then add a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote.  Remember to always use a good quality soilless mix when planting any type of container. After the cavity is filled, add more sheet moss to the “back” of the wreath and attach the smaller piece. Now your wreath form is ready to plant!

Adding the cryptanthus...

Adding the cryptanthus…

Water your plants well, then insert them into the wreath by pushing a hole into the moss with your fingers so the soilless mix is exposed. Of course, the smaller the plant  the easier this step will be. Once the plant is firmed into place add more sheet moss if needed to keep the soil  around the root ball of the plant.

Some plants can be purchased in larger pots and pulled apart, like the pilea and baby tears shown here. It may look a little messy at first, but they will recover in no time. Many  plants that work well in living wreaths can be separated in this manner, including ivy, creeping fig, fittonia, asparagus fern, creeping jenny, dwarf mondo, some small ferns and many succulents.

Finished!

Finished!

What makes these wreaths so interesting and fun to make is the use of different foliage colors, textures and shapes. But, in addition to foliage, wreaths like those shown here can also be planted with bedding plants – in the spring begonias work well and, in the fall, violas and pansys make lovely wreaths too.

Watering requirements will vary on living wreaths, depending on the plants used. For instance,  a wreath planted with succulents will need less attention than those shown here.

a living wreath for shade with fittonia, creeping fig and pilea

a living wreath for shade with fittonia, creeping fig and pilea

 

We’ve found the easiest watering method is to lay them flat and either pour water on them or let them sit in a saucer of water until the planting is heavy. The ivy, fern and creeping fig wreath  shown at the beginning of this post lived in the greenhouse, so we were able to shower it with the hose when it needed watering, and the ivy and creeping fig was periodically pinned to the wreath with florist wire so it could root into the moss.

 

So, as you can see, it just takes time, the proper plants and the right technique to make a living wreath – try one for yourself!

 

 

 

 

Eye Candy and Inspiration…Container Gardens and Arrangements

growing out nicely...

growing out nicely…

It’s summer, the heat is on, and we’re all working overtime to keep our landscapes looking as fresh as they did in the spring…thankfully we’ve been getting rainfall to help us out!

I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the planters and arrangements we’ve done through the spring and now into summer – some are succulent designs, some will enjoy the hottest part of a landscape,  others are meant to stay inside or in a shady spot outside. And there are some just for a party or gift – but since they’re created with live plants they’ll last so much longer than cut flowers!

a gift for someone...

a gift for someone…

early spring...a centerpiece for a party....

early spring…a centerpiece for a party….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arrangements for parties or gifts using orchids, indoor flowering plants, and any other plant that catches our eye are a lot of fun to put together, and we stay very busy creating them for folks…there really is no end to the combinations that can be used for this type of arrangement. And, once the party is over, the whole thing can be taken apart and the plants used elsewhere! The copper planter shown here was used for a party – and we’re assuming the flowers and herbs were planted in a sunny garden or container and are probably still going strong!

deadheading, judicious clipping and consistent watering kept this planter beautiful all last summer...

deadheading, judicious clipping and consistent watering kept this planter beautiful all last summer…

For long term plantings, smart plant choices need to be made,  taking into consideration pot size and amount of light they’ll  receive, Last, but definitely not least, the plants need to look good together!  One of the most important aspects of container gardening is maintenance. Watering, deadheading, pinching, or, even more drastic, cutting back need to be done  consistently to keep your container gardens looking their best.

The planter at left is filled with herbs and flowers designed to handle a lot of heat and sun – just what we have in the middle of summer in Birmingham!  This combination grew out quite happily last summer in the front of the shop on the hot asphalt…and inspired many other planters just like it throughout town. Herbs and flowers just go together!

aloes, succulents and a trailing rosemary...

aloes, succulents and a trailing rosemary…

 

 

Succulents and herbs work quite well together…the trough planter shown here combines succulents, a couple of different  aloe plants, and a trailing rosemary. Whoever said you can’t mix it up wasn’t talking to us!

succulent and orchid arrangement...

succulent and orchid arrangement…

The succulents that have been available this spring and summer have really been beautiful, and we’ve been using them in all kinds of containers, on their own in long term plantings, and in gift arrangements too. Here’s one used in an orchid arrangement as an accent…they’re quite striking used in this fashion. If you’ve been keeping up with our posts on cork bark planters , you’ve seen us use the succulents in them as well.

 

houseplants in cork bark...

houseplants in cork bark…

more house plants in cork bark - this one ended up on a mantle...

more house plants in cork bark – this one ended up on a mantle…

this cork bark piece was large...

this cork bark piece was large…

Speaking of cork bark planters, here are a few pictures of some interesting things we’ve done with them…succulents aren’t the only player in this fun sandbox! A cork bark planting done using carex, ajuga, selaginella and perennial ferns ended up at a mountain home in Highlands, North Carolina. The other planting in that post also went home with a happy customer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ones shown above utilize a lot of houseplants and will be happiest either on a shady terrace or porch or inside in bright light.  Some of the plants used include episcias, pilea, angelvine, creeping charlie, dracaena, selaginella and philodendron…all good houseplants. These will work nicely in a shady spot and there are other planters we’ve done that will too. Let’s take a look…

for shade...

for shade…

Shade containers are some of the most fun plantings to do because so much depends on foliage color and form. This might not be as flashy as an entire pot of flowers, but it is very long lasting and beautiful when done well. The hayrack shown here uses maidenhair fern, caladiums, an angelwing begonia and episcias in a very pleasing combination…the ‘Sweetheart’ caladiums  seem to float above the maidenhair, and the episcia is a very subtle addition to the composition…

imageThe last planting is shown to serve as an example of how you can definitely have color in the shade using foliage in addition to flowers…the ‘Garden White’ caladium in contrast with the golden carex and sunpatien really catches the eye! The planter at the top of this post is also one for shade, and, once again, the foliage is the star.

It’s always nice to have customers walk through the nursery with the same plants in their hands as we’ve done in our display planters. We are happy to have our designs in your landscape, and know  that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

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Inside The Making Of A Massive Mossed Hanging Basket…

imageOk, this might not be the moss hanging basket for your front porch…in fact, its proportions are massive, at least 30″ across and almost as deep. This basket belongs to a customer who hangs it in in a shady garden area.

imageThis year, she wanted an all white and green foliage basket filled top to bottom with shade loving plants. What a fun project! The basket itself is a heavy duty plastic coated metal frame with openings that plants can be inserted into. Many folks use sphagnum moss or coco liner for these type of plantings, and it works well. However I prefer to use fresh green sheet moss and layer the plantings from the bottom up.

Of course deciding on the plant material came first. I chose plants for their form, leaf color and shape – and, of course, to grow in a very shady spot. I took a walk through the greenhouse and nursery looking for interesting shade plants that would also be small enough to insert into the framework of the basket.

Carex 'Evergold'

Carex ‘Evergold’

I wanted trailing and mounding plants with the exception of the very top of the basket. I started with the variegated carex ‘Evergold’, one of my favorite shade plants. I added some small tassel ferns, Polystichum polyblepharum, for their beautiful deep green color – what a great contrast to the carex! I’m off to a great start…

Of course some ivy – a pretty variegated form worked well with my first two choices. I’d already decided on blue crisp ferns for the very top, and to compliment their blue color, I chose the blue/green pilea ‘Aquamarine’ – all the different foliage colors, textures and leaf forms were looking very pretty together – and not a flower in sight! Next, I added a variegated Swedish ivy – a great addition to shade plantings. It works really nicely as a counterpoint to the carex…and some tiny leaf creeping charlie rounded out my choices. It should meander through the entire planting, adding its dark green and very textured leaves to the composition.image

Now it’s time to plant. This type of container takes time and patience – and a lot of sheet moss, fertilizer and potting soil!

I began by laying a thick layer of moss on the bottom of the basket and up the sides about 6″. Next I added a layer of potting soil, mixed in Osmocote, and started inserting the first layer of plants, alternating to highlight their differences in leaf shapes and color. The Ivy had long runners that I pinned into the moss with florist wire – it will root where pinned and then begin to trail.

Foliage textures...

Foliage textures…

 

After the first layer was inserted, I watered the plants in, pieced moss around the basket again about 6″ up, firmed the first layer of plants in place, and added more potting soil and fertilizer.

 

 

 

The basket fits in nicely with the shade garden...

The basket fits in nicely with the shade garden…

After 5 layers of plants, I was ready to plant the top! Blue crisp fern or bear’s paw fern, polypodium aureum ‘Mandianum’
is a beautiful fern whose fronds will easily reach 3′. This will definitely be a showstopper! I placed it in the center and added the remaining plants, firmed them in and watered everything one last time. Done!

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Tabletop Fountains – Just The Right Size!

We love these tabletop fountains – and they’re just the right size for a porch, patio or sunroom. The only requirements are a power source and water! The one shown  in the lower right of the picture below is designed to hold houseplants around the base, so you can have water and indoor plants at the same time!


These three are cast stone, but because of their size, they’re not prohibitively heavy to move and are really lovely. The soothing, calm sound of water is so relaxing after a stressful day. Simply add a glass of wine and a book, kick back iin your favorite chair and enjoy…


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Have We Got Some Ferns For You!

In the greenhouse, we try to always keep a good variety of ferns, and once the spring growing season is upon us we’ll also have hardy outdoor ferns as well.

Maidenhair fern - this is the southern form - hardy for us

Maidenhair fern –
this is the southern
form – hardy for us

Korean rock fern - A hardy fern as well

Korean rock fern is
another hardy fern

Autumn Fern - this one is hardy for us too!

Autumn fern – hardy
AND evergreen too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

image

Bird’s nest fern – nothing frilly here!

Meanwhile, here is a sampling of the “houseplant” ferns we have now in the greenhouse.  The selection is constantly changing , so be sure to check with us if you’re looking for something in particular. Just look at the variety of leaves here!

Florida ruffle - this is one frilly fern!

Florida ruffle –
ultra frilly!

Variegated pteris fern adds brightness

Variegated pteris
fern adds brightness

Lemon button fern adds great texture to any composition

Lemon button fern adds
nice texture in mixed plantings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We use these ferns as supporting players in mixed combination shade planters as the weather warms too – the softness  and color of the fern foliage contrast nicely with many shade plants including coleus, hostas, begonias, persian shield, and impatiens, just to name a few.

Austral gem fern

Austral gem fern

Staghorn fern

Staghorn fern

Button fern

Button fern

Pteris fern

Pteris fern

 

 

In addition we’ll begin to plant custom mixes of foliage  that will be wonderful for your porch or patio for the spring and summer – many will last well into the fall with adequate water and care.

 

Alternately, you might choose to use a grouping of pots and put one type of fern in each container. (Be sure to choose those with contrasting leaves so it’s an interesting arrangement.) Position your grouping as it pleases you for your space.

Kangaroo paw fern

Kangaroo paw fern

Asaparagus fern - very tough and can be used in mixed planters in the sun too.

Asaparagus fern – very tough and can be used in mixed planters in the sun too.

Blue Crisp Fern/Bear's Claw Fern

Blue Crisp Fern/Bear’s Claw Fern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Up! These Vertical Gardens Are Easy To Make!

These vertical gardens are fun to make!

These vertical gardens are fun to make!

Vertical gardening is hot! We have been searching for a user friendly vertical garden system for our customers to try, and think we may have found it!

These are sturdy frames with a coco liner insert. The liner has openings cut so insertion of plants is easy peasy…there are nine openings along the front and three on each side and, of course, the top is plantable as well. You can even put more than one together to make a larger vertical garden. We have the frames available for you to purchase and plants like those shown here if you’d like to give it a try! (Or, buy the frame now and save it for planting in the spring.)   We’re going to try a succulent version next – we’ll keep you posted!

Air Plants (Tillandsia) – Come In Now For A Great Selection!

Have we got a great selection of tillandsia, or air plants right now! These very cool indoor plants are the largest genus in the bromeliad family and are epiphytes, absorbing moisture and nutrients through the air.image

Like other bromeliads, their life cycle ends after blooming, but new plants, called pups, form around the base of the plant. They do not require soil to live – the roots help them to attach to a host, whether it be on a plant, tree or piece of wood. They are not parasitic, meaning they won’t harm the host plant, rather, they use it as a support, taking nutrients from the air and water you supply.
.

hanging air plants...

hanging air plants…

air plants - we think they will look great attached to the bark pieces here!

air plants – we think they will look great attached to the bark pieces here!

There are tillandsias with rather stiff, gray or faded leaves and those with softer, greener foliage. As a rule, the stiffer leaved, gray ones will need more light but less water – and those with softer, greener leaves tolerate lower light levels but appreciate more moisture.

look at the contrast in colors here!

look at the contrast in colors here!

In their native habitat, tillandsias live on trees, so they get light, but it’s diffused through the canopy. Try to emulate this in your home, giving them strong, but indirect light (not right in a window, as that could burn the foliage and cause it to dry out faster too) or place them outside through the summer, in a shady spot, or at most a location with morning sun and dappled light.

As noted, the gray leaved tillandsias need less water than the softer leaved green ones but when you water, take them to your sink and water thoroughly, shake the excess moisture off (you don’t want water ever sitting in their base) and return them to their home. If they get too dry, they’ll look shriveled – you don’t want them to get to that point!image

If you display them outside, bring them indoors for the winter when temps drop below 40 degrees. Don’t worry about fertilizing – they are susceptible to over feeding – best to leave well enough alone!

Stop in and take a look at these cool plants – we’re sure you can find somewhere to try one or two – they’re too fun not to!

 

 

Add Some Color With Rieger Begonias!

Rieger begonias add color and beauty to containers, or are wonderful on their own too!

Rieger begonias add color and beauty to containers, or are wonderful on their own too!

It’s so nice to be able to add some long lasting color to our homes during the winter months.


Rieger begonias do just that, and are long lasting houseplants as well. Give them a bright spot in your home and let them go a bit dry between watering. Get more than one and make yourself a beautiful arrangement like the one above, or come in and let us do it for you! Rieger begonias are available year around, and can be purchased in 4″ and 6″ pots.

Need Your Terrarium Planted? We Can Help!

Reindeer moss and small rocks enhance this miniature landscape in glass ~

Reindeer moss and small rocks enhance this miniature landscape in glass ~

Terrariums, gardens in glass, are everywhere these days. We’ve noticed many of our customers have them, either given to them as a gift, or purchased on a whim because they thought it would be a fun project. So…do you have one and not know what  to do with the darn thing? Well, that’s just the sort of thing we can help with!

Of course, a terrarium can be any glass container with a lid, or open at the top like the one shown here. A customer brought one in the other day that had been used as the centerpiece at her wedding in 1974 – she was thrilled to let us do the planting honors for the first time in 19 years! You want to plant one yourself you say? We can give you tips and advice to help you create a beautiful ecosystem to enjoy for years.

The terrariums shown here have a layer of pebbles mixed with aquarium charcoal, (The charcoal keeps bacteria from forming in the moist environment.) a layer of potting soil, and plants with decorative rocks and moss added for the final touch. Isn’t the 2 tier terrarium fun? What a wonderful focal point it would make in an office setting or home! Most terrariums need water rarely – if enclosed, the environment stays quite moist. Those with open tops will need water more often, but be careful not to overwater since there’s obviously no drainage. Ferns, fittonias, creeping fig, nephytis and selaginella are just some of the plants that thrive here. .

A double tier terrarium - twice the fun!

A double tier terrarium – twice the fun!

Terrariums in all shapes and sizes...

Terrariums in all shapes and sizes…