NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR MARCH 25, 2006
WEIRD BUT FUN
BY GLADYS JEURINK
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.
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.
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
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.
and look for fun things to put in your landscape!!!
WHEN SHOULD I POWER RAKE MY LAWN? NEVER!!!!
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
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.
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.