In January I wrote a column on “Weird But Lovable”. These plants are “Weird but Fun”. Last summer in my wanderings I found a plant that was new for me.  I had just gotten a new gold pot and this plant had gold blooms!! So I put them together.  The blooms look like round clusters but when you look close they are trumpet shaped tubes which spread out into four lobes at the tip.  If you don’t look close you will miss the long tubes.  My encyclopedia calls them “Flame of the Woods”, or “Jungle Geranium” (Ixora). The originals were bright red hence the name “Flame”, so my yellow one is a hybrid.  Some varieties are orange or white.  They tell me it is a woody shrub that could get eight feet tall and six feet wide. This fall I dug it up and put it in a South window but they also said it will bloom at 12 inches.  It did and it still is as I write this in early February. To keep it downsized it should be pruned right after blooming.  The soil needs to be slightly acid and I still need to know when it will stop blooming.  I intend to put it back in the gold pot in May and cut it back then.

          Flowering Maple, Parlor Maple, Indian Mallow (Abutilon) can get to 8 feet high but can also be pruned to keep at the height you want.  For years I have been trying to get a red one.  For several years I started seeds as I could find only “mixed” but every year I got orange, yellow and mostly pink. (Starting the seeds is easy.) Finally, last spring I found a tiny plant with a RED flower and this fall it came inside.  Now it is about 3 feet tall but only 18 inches wide but covered with red blossoms!!! Next spring I shall cut it back and put it in a red pot with white petunias at its feet.  At the same time I will start cuttings of the branches I cut off.

          They like a fertilizer high in phosphorous to encourage blooms in good light inside but not in direct sun outside or the leaf edges brown. They like their soil damp but not wet at all times so you need to be sure of good drainage.  They will bloom all year if happy but less during the very short days of winter.  The Maple name comes from the deep cuts in the slightly fuzzy leaves.  White flies love them! When I sprayed with pyrethrins, many of the older leaves fell off.  When I use insecticidal soap this does not happen.

          Adenium obesum, the Desert Rose, is one I mentioned last year.  It is still one of my favorites because it is so very different.  The “obesum” part comes from its stem as this is where it stores its extra water. An African native, I have seen pictures of a 5 foot tall, bottle shaped, twisted stem stark naked of leaves during the dry season. There are no spines on these bizarre stems but being from Africa and a succulent, puts up a warning flag-too much water equals root rot!! This means mine is potted in a gravely cactus mix containing a fair amount of compost.

          I have a set of two fairly large ones that measure 2 ½ feet by 2 ½ feet. They are in the same pot which is 16 inches wide and only 8 inches deep with good drainage. But this spring it will need a bigger size pot as it is pushing the soil up and out onto the rug.  The first year it decided December was the dry season and dropped its leaves and almost immediately started blooming and put on new leaves.  It has not done that the last few years and has been blooming sporadically all year.  The blooms are white with red rims and come in clusters at the tip of the stems.  Last summer I received three new pink ones only about 12 inches high, but just as weird shape and this last December I found the leaves on the floor but they are coming back on now. I stick my finger down deep into the gravel to make sure it does not stay wet!  All of them will go outside in the spring on the South side of the house.

          Several years ago someone asked me “What is a walking iris?” I had never heard of one so of course I started a hunt and now I have one.  It is not an iris but Neomarica caerulea with a blue bloom that looks somewhat like an iris. It is not hardy here (zone 10) so it is in a pot in the greenhouse.  The leaves look like an iris and it is pretty good size.  I may not be able to keep it as the book says the leaves may get 5 feet long.  When it blooms they are on a stalk that droops down and sends out roots for new plants and this goes on all summer.  A native of Brazil, it does not like full sun. Another plant for the East side of the house. If I seem to have disappeared come looking under those 5 foot leaves.

          Good gardening and look for fun things to put in your landscape!!!

Copyright 2006



by george edgar


          A man asked me if it was better to power rake in the spring or in the fall. I told him NEITHER!!! He then asked me “When should I power rake?” I told him NEVER!!!!

          Power raking is very hard on a lawn. This is especially true in the spring when new little seedlings are coming up. The power rake tears them out by the roots and leaves you with a much thinner lawn. The best thing you can do for your lawn is to core aerate in the spring and/or in the fall. Pulling out the little plugs of dirt opens up the sod and allows the thatch, if any, to decompose naturally and add organic matter to the soil so it is not so hard. .  If you have kids or pets, you definitely need to aerate twice a year to combat compaction. Leave the little cores on the lawn or break them up with y our lawn mower if you don’t like the looks.

          Another myth is that using a mulching mower on your lawn adds to thatch. Grass clippings do not add to thatch unless you cut off more than 1/3 of the blade. Grass clippings are 90% water, decompose naturally, and adds organic matter and nitrogen to the lawn. This organic matter and core aerating breaks up the hard clay soil and the compaction from kids, pets, and adults walking on the lawn. If you use a mulching mower you can eliminate one application of fertilizer per year.

          Thatch comes from the leaf sheaves and crowns that build up and do not decompose because the lawn is not aerated, is over fertilized, and/or is mowed too short. If you want to check on the thatch take a spade and remove a 6 inch by 6 inch layer of sod 6 inches deep. The thatch is the material between the soil and the grass crown. If it is over ½ inch thick then you may need to power rake. However, using a core aerator both fall and spring will, over time, help it to decompose the clippings and thatch naturally and is better for your lawn. Mow your lawn at least 2 ½ inches to 3 inches year around. Mowing too short causes stress on the grass and invites disease and insect problems. My mower is set as high as it will go.

Copyright 2006