Saturday, September 10, 2016

National Indoor Plant Week September 18-24

Longwood Gardens displays houseplants with other seasonal plant in the conservatory

The third week in September has been designated National Indoor Plant Week. One of my favorite groups, Green Plants for Green Buildings , has long recognized the benefits of plants in the home, workplace and in classrooms and study halls. The information on their website is very detailed about the advantages of having plants in our interior spaces. According to a study done by Dr. B. C. Wolverton for NASA and later by Dr. Margaret Burchett and Dr. Ron Wood, common indoor houseplants can remove volatile organic compounds (VCO) like benzene, formaldehyde and other pollutants commonly found in interior spaces.  

This book is a go-to for finding our which VOCs can be reduced indoors
Dr, Wolverton's book, How to Grow Fresh Air, profiles 50 houseplants that purify homes and offices. A Baltimore company, Furbish, creates interior living green walls they call Biowalls that enhance the interior work space while delivering on the promise of cleaner air. Other wholesale greenhouses and "green" businesses have worked with architects and planners to incorporate green wall technology into new and revitalized buildings and interiorscapes. The largest interior green wall in the country is located just an hour and a half away. Longwood Gardens installed a phenomenal green wall in their restroom area connected to the lovely conservatory in Kennett Square, PA.
Longwood's living wall is fourteen feet high and three hundred feet long!
In our own homes, plants also play a vital role. Houseplants make us feel good, inspire creativity, relieve our stress and give us something to nurture. Plants can provide a beautiful form of shade too, by blocking some light from a sunny window. What a great, natural way to make our lives more comfortable.

Following is a list of  houseplants, some featured in Dr. Wolverton's book and available in our greenhouse now and most of the year.

Bromeliads are a group of plants that include the very colorful Guzmania, Neoregelia, Vriesea , Aechmea and Tillandsia varieties. Known for the cup-like centers, the 'flowers' (bracts) last for months before the plant sends out attached offsets or 'pups'. Bromeliads need very little water as they have tiny roots that attach themselves to trees in their native habitat.

Guzmanias and one Vriesea

Assorted Tillandsias are suitable for framing

Boston Fern, Nephrolepsis exalta, is best grown in a hanging basket or placed on a plant stand. The Boston fern is a graceful addition to the home interior. Provide plenty of water and humidity, being careful not to let the root ball get too soggy. Provide moderate sunlight. Ferns grow well in temperatures ranging from 65-75 F, and up to ten degrees cooler at night.
Boston Ferns are a covered porch's staple
Bird's Nest Ferns Asplenium nidus are one of the easier-to-care-for varieties
Peace Lily Spathiphyllum is a houseplant favorite. It features lush, dark green foliage with bright white spathes. The Peace Lily has a high transpiration rate and will thrive with regular watering. This plant does well in lower light areas.

Peace lilies are easy to grow, as long as they are regularly checked for water
The Snake Plant Sansievera is a perfect choice for someone new to houseplants. Snake plants are durable; they tolerate low light to full sun and are drought tolerant.
Great houseplant for beginners or a college dorm
White Bird of Paradise Strelitzia nicolai has become the go-to plant for interior designers, replacing Ficus lyrata as the favored large-leaved tropical.  The large gray-green leaves add an architectural flair to larger indoor spaces. It's easy to care for, requiring moderate light,  and plenty of space for the large leaves that can reach 5 feet in length.
White Bird of Paradise in our greenhouse

Gray-green leaves can be five feet long!

Strelitzia reginea is the more recognizable of the Bird of Paradise varieties

Scores of other houseplants, in pots ranging form 2 inches to 14 inches in diameter are on display in our greenhouse. Take a plant home today and enjoy all the healthy benefits houseplants have to offer.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Transitioning the Garden from Summer into Fall

This year's summer plants will move into fall with a little help from all of us who garden. High temperatures punctuated by rain brought on by summer storms have been good for my garden this season, though I was stressed at times during the dry spells. Trees, shrubs, perennials and the lawn have come through summer beautifully. Have you ever seen perennial hibiscus look as gorgeous as they did this year?
Perennial Hibiscus

Beautiful potted plants welcomed me on a recent visit to Chanticleer Gardens 
And it seems that our efforts to plant for pollinators have really paid off; Monarch and Swallowtail butterflies have rebounded in our area. The perennial Agastache 'Blue Boa' was a particularly favorite pollinator magnet. Go to our facebook page to see a quick video on this amazing plant.
Our sunflower seed giveaway helped kids enjoy pollinators like bees and butterflies

Many annuals, including petunias, calibrachoa, verbena and dusty miller, will grow in our hot summer temperatures but also do well in cooler fall weather. In fact, they will handle fall frosts quite well.
Annuals echo fall colors

Other annuals, like ornamental peppers, zinnias, coleus and fountain grasses, echo the colors of autumn, but may need to be pulled out of pots and the garden after being hit by frosts. Mums, pansies and ornamental cabbage and kale are the perfect plants to switch places as annuals succumb to heavy frost.
Glamour kale has beautiful fall color and is frost hardy

September and October are great months to add perennials, trees and shrubs to the garden. Cooler air temperatures countered by warm soil allows plants to root in quickly with little heat-induced stress.

The early fall months are also a good time to transition tropical plants and houseplant back indoors. Keep in mind that they are humidity-loving plants and add pebble trays or even a humidifier to keep the plants healthy.
Begonias and philodendron add some fall color to the indoors
 Pull up summer blooming bulbs like dahlias and cannas as the cold weather approaches. Caladiums, colocasia and other tropical bulbs can be stored in a cool, dry place until it is time to replant again in spring.
Speaking of bulbs, September is an ideal time to shop for bulbs, while the selection is good. But wait until  October and November to plant spring flowering bulbs like daffodils and tulips. Alliums, crocus, hyacinths and a host of other minor bulbs should be selected soon too, but wait until we have a couple of frosts before planting.
Art in the spring garden at Longwood

Start planning soon for incredible spring color. Plant spring flowering trees and bulbs this fall.

Fall gardening is less stressful on the plants and on us. Our love of gardening is year 'round. By easing from summer into fall, our plants will join us as we enjoy the coming cool temperatures. Hope your summer has been relaxing and fun.

Monday, July 18, 2016

How is Your Garden Doing This Summer?

Lotus are beginning to bloom
Summer arrived this year after a long, cool, wet, spring. Temperatures are up, flowers are looking beautiful and our gardens are bringing us the joy and tranquility we can escape to now and then. So, now what? To keep plants looking good, here are some tips from some of my coworkers and customers.

Use mulch as a weed barrier and a way to keep plants from drying out. Don't over do it; Jen keeps mulch at just 1-2 inches deep in her perennial/pollinator garden.
What a great garden for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds!

Combine plants in containers that have similar sunlight, water and fertilizer needs. Joann's planting of caladiums and New Guinea impatiens offers bold foliage and color for an area with part shade.
Wow! Love these caladiums!

Beware the summer storm. A surprise storm in Middle River last night wreaked havoc on Scott's garden. Today, Scott is expecting scores of people at his home for a party. A morning of clean-up is on his agenda. He is proactive and has kept trees trimmed so that leaf and limb loss was limited.
The yard was back in shape by party-time

Have a pond? My friend Jan works for a company that has a water garden at their entrance. Look at these gorgeous lotus flowers! Add plants to ponds and water features; they filter the water to keep it clear. Add koi and other fish to keep mosquito larvae under control.
Lotus blooms and the unique them!

Harvest early and often. Sheila picked her peaches and herbs earlier this week. How great it is to provide food for your own table? Herbs grow in poor soil, usually in full sun and are better when they are cut back often.
How much fresher can you get? 
Eric has a yard so filled with flowers that there isn't room for weeds to grow! The Madagascar palm in the foreground serves as a focal point to other plants in the garden.
Eric is addicted to plants like the rest of us
Jennifer is a Maryland Master Gardeners, as well as a Valley View Farms plant expert. This is her new raised bed vegetable garden. Once again, mulch serves as a weed block. Look at the various materials Jen has incorporated to have vertical growth in her garden. Vines, vegetable or ornamental, create vertical interest, and allow for better air circulation around the plants. Pallets serve as structure for compost.
That's a lot of work! It's sure to be very rewarding.
Sue, her husband Charles and twenty-six other residents all garden on the fifth floor of  the Edenwald community. By summer's end, mandevillas and other vines cover the built-in trellises. Summer color abounds with the use of petunias, vinca, calibrachoa and other favorite annuals. Charles and his helpers have all the planter boxes on irrigation, providing fertilizer and water all season.
26 of these large planter boxes are displayed on a 5th floor patio

As do several of these round planters
Hostas and a small statue create a shady respite in Joann's garden. We all preach about "right plant, right place" to keep our gardens healthy.
Foliage is fun too!

We trial many plants in our gardens; here is a new coleus and white annual daisy that I'm trying at home. New plants create excitement, but we make sure that they grow successfully before carrying them in our store.
Seems to be a good year for lantana and sun-loving coleus
Many tropical plants survive indoors in the winter, but thrive in our hot, humid conditions outside. Here are some of Jen's citrus and other tropicals on vacation out on the patio. When they transition back to indoors, give them time to acclimate and provide them with plenty of humidity.
Jen's tropical plants are enjoying life outside on the patio

To keep plants healthy and blooming:

  1. Deadhead by removing spent flowers. This encourages annuals and most perennials to keep blooming.
  2. Water at the root zone of the plant. Less evaporation of water and avoiding the leaves of most plants is key to maintaining healthy root systems and foliage.
  3. Water deeply and less often. Encourage roots to grow deeper in search of water. Frequent watering keeps roots at a shallow depth.
  4. Mulch lightly to discourage weeds, even-out moisture and provide a finished look until plants fill in.
  5. Use tree gators, watering bags specifically for trees, especially during our expected heat wave
  6. A right plant, right place approach will help to eliminate problems before they start. For example, choose plants for sun exposure, water needs, and disease and deer resistance.
  7. Prune dead or diseased trees to keep them from becoming a problem later with summer (or winter) storms.
  8. Manage the garden by walking around and taking pictures or notes of successes and challenges. Many times, insect or disease problems can be taken care of early.
  9. Be careful of standing water. Empty old pots, tires or other reservoirs. Keep water moving or keep fish in ponds. Use safe products like Mosquito Dunks in birdbaths to control mosquito larvae.
  10. Potted plants should be checked daily for water, and fed often to keep plants green and blooming.
Please feel free to share photos of your garden this summer. We look forward to a sunny days and time spent enjoying our plantings.

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Bloomin' Beautiful at Valley View Farms

The summer-blooming shrubs are on full display and absolutely gorgeous! There is the City Line series of hydrangeas, 'Paris Rapa' whose lime green lace caps become cerise-colored inflorescences.
Hydrangea 'Paris Rapa'

'Mars' deep blue and pink flowers with cream edges looks as if it's made up of dozens of blueberry and cherry tarts.
 'Abracadabra' with hot pink flowers stand atop nearly black, satiny stems. The oak leaf hydrangea 'Ruby Slippers', with subtly fragrant flowers, start out white then slowly become deep rose.
'Ruby Slippers' oakleaf hydrangea tolerates shady sites
The Endless Summer series lace cap 'Twist and Shout' and the mop head 'Bloomstruck' blooms in cool blues and soft pinks.
'Endless Summer' blooms on old and new wood

There are butterfly and beneficial insect magnets--the diminutive and graceful native Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' and 'Merlot' with translucent light green foliage providing a delightful backdrop to cascading racemes of white flowers.

Henry's Garnet Itea is a butterfly favorite
Our signs offer tons of information
And then the butterfly bushes whose powdery fragrance evokes the quintessential Baltimore summer. We have 'Black Knight', 'Miss Molly', 'Miss Ruby' and 'Adonis' to name a few.

The crape myrtles are beginning to flower now. 'Purple Magic' and 'Plum Magic' feature lavender and purple flowers, while the newer Black Diamond series, 'Crimson Red', with its chocolate foliage grows vibrant ruby in the sun, blooming raspberry colored flowers that we think would have been more aptly named raspberry truffle.

Look at those luscious blooms

A recent shipment of Knockout roses has provided us with vibrant shrubs just covered in single and double pink and red flowers.
This gentleman is looking for summer color. We think he found it!

There is Hypericum inodorum, (Saint Johns's Wort) 'Kolmapuki' whose sulfur yellow flowers turn into pale orange-colored fruit resembling miniature pumpkins; it makes beautiful cut flowers.
"Bees visit this plant every morning in the nursery" says Taylor

If you are not looking for a flowering shrub but instead want something with outstanding foliage, we've just received fabulous specimens of Salix integra 'Hakuro-nishiki' (Dappled Willow). Its arching branches of new dusty pink growth age to white and green giving it a tri-colored look. The graceful willow requires good soil moisture, ample space and some shade in the afternoon.

We know it's hot, but bring a tall, iced drink and come feast your eyes on the beauty of summer-flowering shrubs in Valley View's nursery.

In addition to Teresa Schiano, who wrote today's blog, our other nursery experts are here to help gardens grow better.
Taylor and Wyatt are ready to assist

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Magic of Vines

As a small child, I loved the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. The idea of following a vine into the clouds and finding a exciting world full of magic and adventure stimulated my imagination.
Vines grow through a pergola at Phipp's Conservatory in Pittsburgh

So it is no wonder that vines still fascinate gardeners. But we've learned to be cautious. While the iconic Wrigley Fields' ivy covered outfield walls are beautiful, they require constant maintenance to keep the ivy trimmed and in check.Were it allowed to grow, Chicago's baseball park would have been buried decades ago. English Ivy is one of several vines to be wary of, but there are other beautiful vines that should be considered around our home gardens and landscapes.

 Here are a few of our favorites.

Clematis is a perennial; most prefer at least 6 hours of sun. There are hundreds of varieties from which to choose, and many are compact, great for pots and patio planters.
The clematis Giselle, bred by Raymond Evison, is at home in a pot or in the ground
Honeysuckle has a delicious fragrance and blooms that are very attractive to hummingbirds. The perennial vine can get out of hand; steer clear of Lonicera tatarica and L. Japonica as they can be too aggressive.
Honeysuckle can be tamed in a pot
Mandevilla remains a personal favorite. A tropical vine, Mandevilla blooms all summer, thriving on full to part sun. The old-fashioned favorite, Alice du Pont, is a vigorous grower. Mandevillas  are available in pink tones, red, white and, occasionally, yellow.

Of the many mandevillas available, the tried and true Alice du Pont is exceptional

Vegetable plants in the cucurbit family include cucumbers, squash, melons and pumpkins.
Trellises help keep fruit up off the ground and allow air to move through the plant decreasing the chance for disease on the foliage. Vegetables grown along fences are a wonderful way to save space in the garden.

Vines are at home in the vegetable garden, too

Annual, tropical, or perennial, vines serve the garden well. They create vertical interest, hide service areas around the home and provide nectar for many of our pollinators. And I still maintain that they can be a magical element in any landscape. Fee, fi, fo, fum...