25 October 2010

Just A Cheap Throw Away Plant

It was a cold and snowy December when I purchased an average size, over-fertilized holiday poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) for $4.99 at a local discount store. It lived for two months, providing some indoor color past the holidays into the winter. After it began to lose its lower leaves in February, it was placed inside the east-facing french doors. Most experts consider this as a throw away after the holidays, but it was still alive and my conscience would not let me toss out a living plant.

In April, I began to place the plant outdoors during days along with the spring seedlings that were hardening off. I remembered seeing a hedge of blooming poinsettias years ago while in Hawaii, and wondered if it would grow outdoors here in Virginia, even through I never heard of treating the plant as an outdoor annual.

In May, I decided to try getting another season's enjoyment (and of course more than my money's worth) out of a throw-away plant, and planted it in the south facing side yard garden. I was up for a challenge.

It liked its new location, and thrived through the first half of summer. Then, the castor plants took off and overshadowed the poor poinsettia, stopping its growth. But, it continued to enjoy the hot humid summer, although in shade. Now with the castor bean plants taken out by a strong wind weeks ago, the poinsettia is again prominent.

I was expecting the plant to be gone by now, done in by shade or frost, but with abnormally warm temperatures this fall, the plant is still going. In fact, the new leaves are small and light green (with slight red tinge) in color, and red veining is appearing in the older leaves. Could the plant be getting ready to bloom because of the shorter days? Could I set it in a pot and bring it indoors if it blooms again? If the fall frost stays at bay, Virginia may soon see red poinsettias like Hawaii.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil amended with peat and humus
  • Full sun
  • No major pests or disease
  • Small amount of fertilizer

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia, salvia, zinnia, rudbeckia, calendula

17 October 2010

More From Dallas

Fall has been on the warm side, with no killing frost yet as we head into the last weeks of October. This year I am getting a jump start on the fall cleanup, busy pulling out dead material, planting and moving newcomers, and preparing beds for spring. In past years, I was known to be outside in December doing this, rather than preparing for the holidays.

So without much new to show at the moment, a few more photos of items I found interesting at the Dallas Arboretum are posted. Pictured above are rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida) growing along some of the paths. Below are some of those paths prepared for halloween and the fall season.

Being used to gazebos with a Victorian or Colonial style, a northerner found the southwestern style with its clay tile roof very different and appropriate for Dallas.

The Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) was identified after I got back home and sent the photo to the arboretum for help.

How many people would stick something in the middle of this place, making you concentrate on the something? Instead, the space is the focus. A contemplative space.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, canna, nasturtium, mexican zinnia, zinnia, rudbeckia, calendula, aster
  • Harvested: 1 Anaheim pepper

03 October 2010

Discoveries at Dallas Arboretum

While in Dallas Texas last month for a convention, I took a side trip to the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. After a bicycle rental and 9+ mile (14 km) ride around nearby White Rock Lake, I spent a hot afternoon strolling through the later summer gardens. Here are some of the things I found interesting.

Tucked into the corners of the paths were Cat's Whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus). Although they can grow up to two feet high (60 cm), these were found only half that. Unfortunately, these are not a zone 7 plant, but maybe they can be considered an annual here.

Crape myrtles do not easily grow into monster trees in my town. The arboretum's crape myrtle allee was impressive for the size of the shrubs, probably due to the weather, age, and lack of heavy snowfall.

The formal allee lead to the playful frog sculpture fountain.

There were several trial gardens. Have you ever seen so many sweet potato vines in so many colors? There are eight varieties in this shot alone.

This was a trial garden for potted plants. With growing interest in small space and container gardening, I am glad someone recognizes that these tests are important. Notice the castor bean plant that refuses to conform to its neighbors.

Another plant that caught my eye was the Golden Shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea). Another one that does not grow in zone 7, but maybe I can try by treating it as an annual.

Looks like the potato vines sprouted pumpkins in time for Halloween at the cottage's 'cottage' garden.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: cosmos, canna, mexican zinnia, aster, acidanthera, rudbeckia
  • Harvested: 2 Anaheim pepper, 2 tomato