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…

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. 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!

There’s also a video we’ve done on amaryllis available to watch on the Oak Street Garden Shop YouTube channel. If you enjoy it, subscribe for more! 

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!

 

 

 

 

Cyclamen – Winter Beauties For Your Home

Florist cyclamen, with their beautifully patterned leaves and pretty blooms, are one of the best flowering houseplants for winter color, and they’re usually available any time from November through late February, or until the weather warms. In nature hardy cyclamen grow naturally in cool, humid environments, and tubers gradually go through cycles of growth and dormancy.

In your home florist cyclamen prefer a bright spot with temperatures around 68 degrees during the day and preferably a bit cooler at night. If your room is very warm, or you overwater, the leaves will begin to yellow and the flowers won’t last long.

tiny buds unfurl from the center of the plant

Once you’ve found the right placement, water sparingly, but don’t let it get so dry that the leaves wilt. It’s best to water cyclamen from the bottom. Let it sit in a tray of water for about 30 minutes or until the soil is moist, then repeat when the soil begins to dry.

As flowers fade, keep them deadheaded to prolong the bloom. Usually there are tiny buds down in the very center of the plant, much like violets and another reason to water from the bottom. If your cyclamen is happy the buds will continue to offer flowers until it’s time to rest.

Eventually your cyclamen will bloom out and begin to go dormant. You’ll know this is happening because the leaves will yellow and eventually all disappear. This is normal, and hardy cyclamen in the garden do this naturally as the plant goes into a rest period through the summer months.  In your home, stop watering and place the plant in a cool dark place.

beautifully patterned leaves…

It will look like your plant is dying as the leaves turn yellow one by one.  After a period of some months of dormancy with little to no water, it will be time to bring it back into more light and begin to water again. Water it thoroughly until the soil is completely saturated, then resume normal care. You’ll begin to see leaves reappear, and buds should follow.

Cyclamen are a little more demanding in their water and light needs, but they more than reward you if you persist!

****If the buds on your cyclamen don’t open, you might have cyclamen mites. These tiny insects lay their eggs around the buds. The larva enters the bud after it hatches and suck sap from unopened petals. Unfortunately buds infested with mites won’t open and since these pests are difficult to manage its best to discard infested plants.

If you think your cyclamen has mites and you’d like to treat them, the information below is from the University of Kentucky:

“Often, it is better to discard infested plants than to attempt to control the problem with pesticides. If chemical control is attempted, isolate the infested plants to reduce potential spread of the mites. Spraying the plants with…insecticidal soap can provide effective control, especially after pruning back the growth. Three to four applications should be made at 3 to 5 day intervals with insecticidal soap.  Direct applications at both the lower and upper leaf surfaces.”

By Kris Blevons

 

Foxglove – Plant It This Fall For A Beautiful Spring Display!

Foxglove...

Foxglove…

Foxglove, Digitalis purpurea, is the quintessential English garden flower. It’s beauty has graced landscapes of great gardeners for hundreds of years, as well as those of more modest means.

Considered a biennial, foxglove is purchased as small transplants in the fall, growing through the winter and reaching their peak flowering time as the roses begin to bloom here in Birmingham.

Plant them in a partially sunny spot, ideally one that will receive some shade in the afternoon. This is especially helpful as temperature begin to rise in the spring and will help them bloom longer. Be sure your soil is loose, and add soil conditioner, shredded leaves, or compost if necessary. Mulch them with shredded pine bark or pinestraw after planting and keep them watered during dry spells.

Foxglove and roses in my early spring garden

Foxglove and roses in my early spring garden

Foxglove look particularly lovely against an evergreen backdrop or a wall of some sort. Combined with other spring annuals and roses, they are reminiscent of a classic cottage garden.

Once they’re through blooming, plants can be left standing to drop seed, (You’ll see baby plants the following summer if this happens.) but they do get a bit bedraggled looking at this point, and I prefer to pull them out, replanting each fall.

Look for a video on our YouTube channel on foxglove in October, 2022. We’ll try to have other informative videos as well, so if you like them, subscribe! 

 

By Kris Blevons

Fall Planting Tips To Creating A Great Spring Garden

Yellow snapdragons and white foxglove…

Fall Planting Tips To Create A Great Spring Garden:

  • Amend your soil. You might think since you followed our advice and added soil conditioner, PlantTone, or compost  to your beds last spring you’re done. Not so fast! High temperatures break down soil amendments quickly, and plants take up nutrients. Continue adding to your soil every season. Healthy, loose soils create healthy plants.  (Instead of putting fallen leaves to the curb, start a compost pile with them, or run over them with your lawn mower and throw them in your beds. They’ll decompose and add to your soil’s structure and health.)

 

  • After you get your plants home, be sure to keep them watered, especially if you can’t plant them right away. We water small transplants in 4″ pots and cell packs at least once a day, especially if it’s hot and sunny. Of course, less water is required in cloudy, cool conditions. Right before you plant them, be sure they’re moist.

 

  • Early in the season while the soil is still warm, you can still plant with Osmocote. However, later in the winter months, use Calcium Nitrate to feed your plants, especially if the foliage of your pansies turns a reddish color. Remember, you’re planting for spring color, though on warm days through the winter you should also have some blooms.

 

  • Water your bed thoroughly after planting, and keep it watered while your transplants are getting their feet settled in their new home. Take care not to overwater, though, especially as the temperatures cool down going into the winter months.

    Mid-December. Mulched and growing…

 

  • Mulch your beds with shredded mulch or pine straw  to keep soil temperature around the roots as warm as possible.

 

  • Deadhead your pansies and violas! I can’t stress enough how important this is. A pansy that you leave a dead bloom on will form a seed there, instead of putting that energy into more flowers. Make a practice to walk through your garden at least once a week, taking a good look at your plants and deadheading  faded blooms. If you’ve missed some, you’ll see the seed pod beginning to form. Pinch any and all off! This will go a long way toward keeping your pansies happy!

Have you seen any of the videos we’ve been posting on our FB and Instagram? If you follow us, maybe you have! If you’re not on social media though, you can also find us on our YouTube Channel. Yes, we have a YouTube channel! Just search for Oak Street Garden Shop, and subscribe if you’d like to see more!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Fall Inspiration With Pumpkins And Gourds As A New Season Begins

Succulent Pumpkin in Nursery

That’s when we look at each other and say, “We are so lucky to work outside!” We’ve been looking forward to this, and with the arrival of pumpkins, gourds, and fall decorating staples, we are willing the temperatures to fall.Hanging Pumpkin/Gourd Garden

 

 

 

The hanging “platforms” shown here a couple years ago were used to create a pumpkin/gourd garden in the air.

Hanging Pumpkin Gourd Garden

 

 

 

 

We envisioned them as an elevated centerpiece for a party, hanging on a screened-in or covered porch area, or simply set in the perfect place to spotlight the abundance of the season.Pumpkins and Gourds

There are so many varied sizes, shapes and textures of gourds and pumpkins  that can be used alone or with plants for centerpieces and gifts.Pie PumpkinsPeanut PumpkinsGourdsMini White PumpkinsPumpkinsLunch Lady Gourds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply gather those you like, being sure to get enough of a selection. With so many to choose from, it’s more than likely you’ll gather more than you need!

Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangements

 

 

We use all manner of organic materials to complement them and have a customer who brings us beautiful fallen acorns to use. We add lichen, mosses, branches, burlap, and ribbon too, depending on the container.

Our succulent topped pumpkins will be making a return for the season as well. Those shown here are some from past seasons. If you’re in the area and would like one, give us a call!

 

 

 

Stacking pumpkins is a popular way to display them in front of your house.Pumpkin Stack

P:umpkin Stack

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simply find two or three that are different colors (or the same!), stack them as is or add another element like moss between them, and, voila,  you have a beautiful entrance for the season.Pumpkin/Gourd Arrangement

 

 

 

We are just beginning to work with the small gourds that can be grouped together in containers for tablescapes, on bedside tables in guest rooms, or on coffee tables. Make a nest of angelvine or moss and position them however you like them.Gourd/Pumpkin Arrangement

 

 

 

 

 

Our pumpkin supplier comes weekly with the best assortments hand picked for us. We hope you’ll stop in if you’re in the area! Our pumpkins will be arriving soon!

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve no doubt seen the videos we’ve been doing, or we hope you have! Follow us there or you can also subscribe to our YouTube Channel – it’s under Oak Street Garden Shop. Thanks for watching!

By Kris Blevons

 

Container Planting with Whale fin sanseveria, Black Raven ZZ plant, Portulacaria and Air Plants

Whale Fin Sansevieria – In Stock Now!

Whale fin sanseveriaYou might be familiar with mother-in-law tongues, or snake plants. We love these easy to care for plants and recently received a member of the family that looks quite a bit different!

This very distinctive plant is aptly named whale, or shark fin,  snake plant. Sansevieria masoniana’s native habitat is the Congo region of Central Africa, which give us a clue as to how to take care of it. Though, to be truthful, their care  is similar to any snake plant you might have owned.

They like bright light, though they will tolerate lower levels. They are also happiest when left to go dry between watering. Too much water is never good for this family of plants and can lead to root rot. Remember, they’re from central Africa and go for long periods of time in their native habitat with little to no water.

If cared for properly they’ll grow up to about 3’ or so and their leaves will reach an impressive size. Because their leaves grow so large, it’s a great idea to wipe them off with a damp cloth to remove dust at least once a month and this keeps them looking their best too.Whale fin sanseveria

If you have any insect issues  (sometimes cottony, white mealy bugs and tiny spider mites can be a problem), using a bit of Neem oil on a cloth will eradicate them. Keep a close eye on your plant to ward off any future issues.

If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and take a look at these rare and wonderful plants. You might just have to have one for yourself!

If you follow us on Instagram or FB, you might be seeing some of the videos we’re posting. We recently posted one on the whale fin Sansevieria! If social media isn’t your thing, we also have a YouTube Channel (Really!). Subscribe if you’re so inclined. We’re doing our best to put out interesting and informative videos. 

By Kris Blevons

 

Late Summer, Early Fall Arrivals

 

August and September are usually hot and dry, but even so the transition into a new season has begun.  Many summer garden beds are tired and planters are overgrown or just plain gone. In the nursery business we look forward to October and new offerings of plants, as well as the beauty of pumpkins and gourds. Just when we need a fresh start, it arrives with new selections for the autumn plant palette, mumsmarigolds, and in October the first of the violas and pansies.

Marigolds come in all sizes, from tiny 4″ pots perfect for tucking into tired pots, to 10″ offerings big enough to fill a planter all on their own. Mums covered in buds come in 8″ and larger pots, in many colors and make a big statement where it’s needed.  Be sure to handle them gently, as bud laden stems can break easily. Mums and marigolds aren’t available for long, but they offer transitional color and still allow you to plant pansies and violas when the weather is cooler.

More herbs will fill  the nursery as well,  including rosemary that will carry on through the winter. Curly parsley is beautiful in winter beds and planters, and  soon ornamental and edible kale, and mustards will appear also. Late summer brings perennials too. Have you tried heuchera in the garden or pots? They’re beautiful in part sun or full shade. Just be certain not to over water.

The greenhouse goes through transitions too. From succulents to many types of ferns and more, the amount of plants stays constant, though the variety changes with availability. So if your plants need refreshing with the new season, come take a look!

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

By Kris Blevons

 

Air Plants (Tillandsia) – What You Need To Know To Grow Them!

Tillandsia or air plants, are very cool indoor plants and the largest genus in the bromeliad family. They’re considered epiphytes, absorbing moisture and nutrients through the air, using plants or other structures as support.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.
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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 ((roughly once a week), 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. They need to dry out between watering. If they get too dry, they’ll have curled or rolled leaves that 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!

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

 

By Kris Blevons

 

 

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!

We have a video on bromeliad care on Oak Street Garden Shop’s YouTube channel. If you enjoy it, subscribe for more! 

 

Container Gardening Design Tips

Urn Planted for SummerSpring is for planting in the garden and in pots. Flowers, herbs, perennials, shrubs, and vegetables are all players in the annual game of  “What will grow in this spot?” or “What can I plant in this pot?”.

Summer Container GardenDyron's Urn - Summer 2015

 

 

 

Now that summer is here though, the pace is slower with fewer questions as more people slowly stroll the nursery for pleasure,  picking up the odd plant here and there or gathering more varied selections for filling in garden spaces that need extra color.Summer Container Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wheelbarrow - Summer PlantingMany of them come to see the planters we’ve put together, getting ideas for extra pots or to make note of a different combination of plants they might not have thought of.Hanging Basket Combination for Sun

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoy this time too (Since we’re all pretty much plantaholics!) and look on it as our play time with plantings, a reward for making it through another hectic spring season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Herb Box with VincaSummer Container Garden

 

 

 

 

So, while our neatly lined tables are still filled with a good assortment of varied plants, you’ll also find our container plantings in various spots throughout the nursery too.

 

 

 

Summer Container Garden

 

Some find their way onto our Facebook and Instagram pages, others make their way to new homes. Wherever they end up we hope they give you as much pleasure as they’ve given us creating them.Dwarf Evergreen Planters

Dyron's Planter Tubs - May 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Container Gardening Tips:

Know your light. Plants that want sun won’t perform well in shade and vice versa.

If you want a pot filled only with flowers, choose blooms with different shapes for added interest. An example: A spiky salvia, rounded blooms of zinnias, flatter blooms of lantana.

Make it even more interesting and add a foliage for additional texture or color. Begin by choosing it, then add some flowers to compliment the color or shape of the leaves. An example: A spiky grass, a round pentas, an airy euphorbia, a trailing vinca.

Bigger planters call for bigger plants. Use at least one eye catcher or “thriller”. Add intermediate or “filler” plants, then complete the picture with a trailing or “spiller” selection. This is the tried and true Thriller, Filler, Spiller recipe. It never fails.  An example:  A black elephant ear (thriller), sunpatiens (filler), scaevola (spiller).

Think about the setting the planter is in. What color is your house? What trees and shrubs will be in bloom at various times? Do you entertain at night? What are your favorite colors? Are you there to maintain and water regularly?

No matter how small your planting starts out,  with proper care it may  grow  to enormous proportions. Be prepared to deadhead faded blooms at least weekly and clip back your planting as needed.

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

Don’t Stress If A Plant Is An Ugly Duckling – Imperfection Can Be Beautiful Too!

Oak treeI have a tiny oak tree out back that used to be on its way to attaining an impressive size – until Hurricane Ivan hit and toppled a huge hickory tree onto it, effectively topping it.

I know I should have taken it down when the tree company came to clear out the downed hickory, but I couldn’t do it. I liked that little oak, and over time it’s become my crazy tiny oak tree up in my rock outcrop – a hurricane survivor.

I was working up around that oak this morning, cutting a few dead branches out of it and wondering at its tenacity. Below it, also improbably growing in the rock outcrop, is a shrub called Thujopsis dolobrata – a prized specimen I planted years ago.Thujopsis dolobrata

Unfortunately the Thujopsis started dying one summer, a victim to the previous fall’s drought. I watched anxiously as branch after branch eventually turned brown and died.

Unbelievably, about a third rallied and is still alive. I cut out the dead and now have half a shrub under my dwarfed oak tree. What a pair of misfits in the garden!

My imperfect garden might not be to everyone’s taste; but I’d rather have a little imperfection than everything being “just so”.  A friend in the horticulture profession said it well:

Imperfect Leaf“Plants are living things like humans. They need water and sun and some need food and each grow in different ways. That yellow leaf at the bottom of the dracaena doesn’t mean that there is something wrong or that the plant is dying – it’s just a natural part of the life cycle. People need to understand that imperfect is beautiful.”

My physically imperfect tree and shrub were caused by events out of my control – a hurricane and a drought. Other imperfections are simply part of a plant’s life cycle, yellowing leaves, and damage caused by insects or animals.

While it’s important to maintain a healthy landscape, it’s also important to know when to relax and appreciate that some imperfection is normal and not always cause for immediate alarm.

With proper watering, fertilizing, pruning and general maintenance, your plants will be better prepared to weather anything nature throws at them – and you will too.

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

The Pollinator Garden Is Showing Off!

The pollinator garden is buzzing with life! We thought you’d like to see a few pictures. Remember, poppy, larkspur, bachelor button, and sometimes nigella seeds are available in the fall, and for a beautiful early summer garden sow them in November, December or even as late as January. They need cold soil to germinate well.

Enjoy!

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

One April Saturday

It was a spring Saturday in April, and the day before Easter, a steady, busy day with all sorts of customers, everyone in good spirits. There were young couples with children, husbands and wives out and about on the holiday weekend getting plants for projects, an elderly man with two relatives helping him select his purchases – he used to come in regularly, but now we see him only on holidays. We got him a chair and he sat comfortably while his family brought him plants to look at and choose from.April Easter

More and more people came and went, some with one or two things, others with many flats and pots set out by their cars, their children clamoring, wanting to know where the cats were so they could pet them.

I noticed two women, the older one in her 70’s with who I assumed was her daughter. They kept a bit to themselves, walking and looking. I asked if they were finding what they needed, and the older woman said “Yes,” and turned away, so I left them to look on their own. A while later I checked on the daughter, and she pulled out her phone to show me a picture of the area they were trying to find some plants for, saying they lived 3 hours south. She also told me her brother had passed away almost two weeks before and she thought the trip up to Birmingham to buy plants would be good for both of them.

I looked at the picture, an overhead shot from at least a third floor window onto a formal garden below. “Oh, how beautiful!” I said. “The center area used to be a pool,” the daughter explained, “and we want something for the large planter in the center where it used to be and some plants to fill in the quadrants around it.” By this time her mother had seen us chatting and joined us. She too told me that they were from a few hours south, not mentioning the loss of her son. But knowing that this was not a simple road trip to buy plants but something they’d decided to do as an antidote to their grief felt very special.

I chatted with them, helping them choose interesting and heat tolerant plants that would work in their new space. “Do you know what gomphrena is?” I asked. When I found out they didn’t, I said, “Oh, it’s a tough, tough plant, one of my absolute favorites, and we have a special one that everyone loves. It’s a carmine pink, and so beautiful! It is a bit of an ugly duckling in a pot, but once it’s planted and growing I think you’ll love it too, and it will hold up through the heat of summer.”

By the time we were finished, with their selection of plants by the car, they were both visibly more relaxed and smiling. I feel certain the daughter probably wondered why she’d told me about the recent death of her brother, but I’m so glad she did. Knowing of their grief, of their special mother daughter trip together, helped me help them.

And I hope their grief was eased, even for just a little while, at a bustling garden shop on a spring Saturday in April.

By Kris Blevons 

 

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.

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 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 little 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)

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

By Kris Blevons

 

 

 

 

Collage

Retailer Of The Year Customer Choice Contest

Greenhouse - SummerThis past spring Oak Street Garden Shop was nominated by the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce to participate in the 2021 Alabama Retailer of the Year Award.

Part of the process is a separate (And fun!) award, the Customer Choice Award, that YOU can participate in!

We are providing the link to the Alabama Retail Association, the sponsor, so that you can easily click on it and vote for us in the medium category if you are inclined!

Voting will continue through Monday, August 23rd, 2021. Click HERE to vote!

In addition to voting there you can also vote for us on Facebook by going to our Facebook page where we’ve shared the collage you see here. Simply click on the collage and “like” it to give us one vote or “heart” us for two votes! Click HERE to vote on FaceBook too!

Thank you! We know we wouldn’t be here without you!

 

Native Azaleas and Hybrid Aromi Deciduous Azaleas Add Blooms, Scent, and Structure to the Garden

Spring Garden

March garden scene…

March and April are the months in the south that finally drive winter out for good, after the usual roller coaster rides with temperatures rising then falling, and multiple cycles of freezing and thawing.

Though our last average frost isn’t until mid-April, this year the fat buds of cherry trees and crabapples, spiraea, forsythia, and many more have burst into fragrant, beautiful bloom, and neighborhoods are awash in color.

Snowball Viburnum buds

Snowball viburnums blooming in March

 

 

 

Favorite shrubs of mine that add to the spring symphony are our native deciduous azaleas and the hybrids that have come along in recent years.

We have a selection available now, and, as they’re considered by many to be some of our most beautiful flowering shrubs, you might like to add one or more to your garden this year.

 

Hummingbird Moth on Deciduous Azalea

Hummingbird moth…

Large, fragrant, honeysuckle like blooms open gradually, offering nectar to swallowtail butterflies and hummingbird moths. It’s a delight to catch these pollinators “working” the blossoms!

 

 

 

 

 

A mistake many people make when deciding where to put their deciduous azalea is placing it in too much shade.

 

They do need some sun to bloom well, so be sure to think about how much shade mature trees cast in your landscape when considering your placement.Hybrid Deciduous Azalea

Once you’ve decided on your spot, don’t make the next mistake many people do when planting a new shrub, especially deciduous azaleas which are shallow rooted, by planting too deeply. Plant the rootball slightly high, water well, and mulch with pinestraw.

 

 

 

Once your shrub is planted, don’t neglect water. Though they need a well draining soil, they also need even moisture, so be mindful of this especially through the first two summers and possible dry spells.

Though they can grow up to 12’ in height, I do very minimal pruning on my deciduous azaleas, because they’re in a rocky area and haven’t quite gotten that big.

If you wish to prune yours, it’s best to prune early blooming varieties right after they bloom, since the following year’s flower buds form in June. With judicious pruning you can achieve a smaller shrub at around 6’.

Native Azalea R. canescens bloom

 

 

 

 

Do you think you have just the right spot for at least one of these beauties? I hope you do. You’ll be creating  your own magnificent symphony of color and scent for neighbors, pollinators, (and you!) to appreciate and enjoy.

By Kris Blevons

 

Design Tips For Container Plantings Focused on Foliage

I’ve talked before about creating beautiful combinations using primarily foliage as a starting point and adding flowers to complement  leaves. Container Gardens - Green Pots

While this post is about choosing interesting plants for containers, the design concepts are used by the best garden designers for beautiful landscapes too. Plantings in pots are much less intimidating, though, and are a way to try new things just for fun.

 

 

 

Use your container as a starting point to give you hints about what will look best. Does it contribute color or texture, or is it fairly plain? The point here is that leaves in plantings add color too and sometimes last longer in a design than flowers; so think about this as you study the look and shape of your pot.

 

when the ligularia on the left and the iris aren’t in bloom, it’s the foliage contrasts that will capture your attention…

Are you looking for a container planting to be a focal point in a particular area? Some of the most dramatic plantings I’ve seen have made use of extremely large foliage plants, elephant ears being a notable example.

The photo here showing black elephant ears, fern, and ligularia in my garden is an example of a landscape design that would work in a contained planting too.  The addition of the chartreuse color of a creeping jenny to trail would add additional impact.

Conversely, smaller pots work well to showcase one striking specimen plant, and groupings of pots with one variety in each can be very beautiful.

Take a walk through a favorite greenhouse or nursery, looking for leaves that catch your eye (If the plants bloom too, consider it a bonus.) or start with some foliage plants you like and add blooming plants to accent them. Be sure to match the choices with the amount of available light, whether it’s full or part sun or shade.

The first collage shown here is a small sampling of heuchera leaves, a perennial that shows off its leaf color in the late winter and early spring. Houseplants are also very useful in plantings for shade and love the humidity our summer days and nights provide.

This planting of ferns, acorus and a rex begonia will appreciate a spot in filtered sun through the summer…

The second collage shows a few common but very beautiful houseplants. Showcasing a grouping of a few favorite and well grown rex begonias could also be a stunning tableau on any shady patio or porch.

The bottom line: Try to choose plants that play off your container’s size, color, and shape. When choosing your plants, consider your light and find those plants that have contrasting foliage shape, texture, varied sized leaves and that need the same water requirements.

 

 

All of these plants for a sunny spot will work well in a container…

Don’t be afraid to experiment with a new plant you’ve never tried before, and ask for help if you have questions. Enjoy your new plantings, and show them off to your friends!

 

All foliage…

Now that you’ve taken the time to choose just the right plants, take care of them. Start by purchasing a quality, light-weight soilless potting soil (We carry Fafard, and use it for all of our plantings.). Add a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote. 

 

Position the plants in the container, then remove the plants from their pots and set them on the soil. Do any have roots completely encircling the rootball? Loosen them gently before planting. Firm each plant into the pot, and water them well.

As your plantings grow, they will need occasional trimming and grooming. This is part of gardening, and should be looked on as a normal part of plant ownership. Don’t be afraid to clip a plant back that is overgrown and remove any yellow or discolored leaves. If you’ve added blooming plants to your combinations, be sure to deadhead, or remove old blooms, regularly.

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

By Kris Blevons

 

Cool Season Annuals…What Are They, And When Do You Plant Them?

The Birmingham area can see great fluctuations in temperatures in any given year, from sizzling summer highs in the upper 90’s to lows well below freezing in the winter complete with rain, sleet and even snow (Look HERE for a post on the blizzard of ‘93.).

Ornamental kale, trailing pansies, Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’

Winter planting of cool season kale and pansies

For gardeners this can present a quandary when trying to decide among the dizzying array of plants at the local garden center. While the last average frost date here is mid-April, the soil can still be too cold for the real heat loving plants like zinnias, impatiens, lantana, and caladiums, to name just a few, that will sail through our blistering summers but languish in cold soil.

Enter the cool season annuals. These are the plants that prefer cooler temperatures and thrive in the early fall, winter, and early spring. If you know which ones they are and when to plant them, you’ll be ahead of the gardening game.

Foxglove after days of freezing temps

A few days ago, after we experienced temperatures in the teens at night with snow and cold weather for a number of days, I checked on some of my winter grown cool season plants to see how they’d fared.

The pansies, poppies, snapdragons, and foxgloves are very hardy plants that I’d added to the garden in October and November, though if you find larger transplants they can be planted in late winter as well. They looked fine, though some that were more exposed had damage. As temperatures warm they should rebound nicely.

But, since they’re also considered cool season annuals, they’ll fade as our spring heat arrives for good in May. Then it will be time to replace them with the real heat lovers I mentioned earlier.  Remember, our last average frost is right around mid-April. We can count on things warming up quickly after this date. This is also about when everything in sight is turning yellow from the pollen falling everywhere – including covering cool season plantings and our cars!Poppy - Buds Frozen

Cool season annuals have a tough life. They might like it cool, but freezing is a bit much even for them. The picture of the poppy here shows what happened to the majority of them that were just beginning to put up fat buds when temperatures dipped into the teens for a few nights in a row.

The buds were completely frozen, but the plant itself came through fine since since mulch helped keep the plant and rootball warm. They too will be in full bloom in another month or so and are examples of what can be planted from 4″ pots in the fall.

The second picture shows (circled) seedlings of larkspur and poppies grown from seed sown  directly into the garden in December. I sow extras any time from November to January when the soil is cold enough for their liking.

Poppy and Larkspur seedlings and a SnapdragonAt any rate, you can see these tiny plants in this sunny, south facing bed weren’t fazed by the cold temperatures at all. I’m looking forward to their blooms in the late spring!

Some other cool season annuals that are more frost tender will begin to arrive in the garden shop soon. They  include sweet alyssum, geraniums, petunias, nasturtiums, bacopa, and more. Because they come out of cushy greenhouse environments you’ll want to protect them  from any late freezes.

We’ll check back on these plantings in future posts.

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

 

By Kris Blevons

 

Edgeworthia

Edgeworthia chrysantha…A Great Shrub To Grow

I can’t imagine why, after all these years, this is the first I’m writing about one of my favorite shrubs, Edgeworthia chrysantha, or paperbush.

EdgeworthiaThis wonderful plant for our area has interest in all the seasons, culminating with fragrant blooms in spring.

Its open, well branched growth habit and winter silhouette in the garden is superb, as buds that form in the fall add interest and promise through the long winter months.

After the bloom period is over, the leaves begin to emerge with silky, white hairs, with a lovely, bluish color and slight silver tint.Edgeworthia leaves

The scent is what will knock you out though. It’s slightly spicy and is one of those fragrances that you’ll get a hint of before you see the plant. Believe me, everyone will ask what it is and where you got it the first time they come across it.Edgeworthia

Edgeworthia is native to woodlands in the Himalayas and China. The inner bark can be used to make paper, hence the name paperbush. Edgeworthia is grown in Japan expressly for making paper out of the inner bark…for bank notes.

Part shade is the best place to grow your edgeworthia. They appreciate rich soil, never too dry. If you try to grow it in too much sun the color won’t be quite as pretty. Speaking of color, in the fall the leaves turn shades of yellow. Yes, it really does give all season interest!

EdgeworthiaProvide it some room wherever you decide to plant it. Its width  at maturity will be at least 7 feet wide and as high.

Mine is very wide but not at 7 feet tall yet. Here you can see it, to the left of the tree in my garden. It seems to be continuing to spread, and has suckered a bit, obviously wanting to take up some more real estate. I think I’ll let it!

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you’ve probably seen a new series of shop videos – if not, follow us and check them out! They’re also on our YouTube channel under Oak Street Garden Shop – if you’d like to see more, subscribe!

By Kris Blevons