Thursday, March 11, 2010

Layla Grace's Angel Trumpet

For the past month or so, I've been following the story of a sweet little 2-year-old girl from my hometown.  Layla Grace was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, a common childhood cancer.  I don't know the family, but I followed Layla's story on Facebook and had her in my prayers and thoughts everyday.  In fact, Layla managed to gather a rather large following and had a huge prayer circle formed for her.  Countless local restaurants and businesses donated portions of their sales to help her family out with the medical fund, and many people have donated on her website  

On Tuesday, it was announced that she had joined the angels in heaven, and my heart sank.  All I could think of was that I wanted to go home, hug my kids and say "I Love You!"  I know more than a few tears were shed across the city as the passing of Layla was announced.  I can't imagine the grief her parents and family are going through.  No parent should ever have to bury their child!  Her parents and family are now in my prayers as they go through the grieving process.

As I was walking the greenhouses at work, I came across this white Angel Trumpet and couldn't help but think of Layla, who must be singing and playing to her hearts content with the angels in heaven!  I've always loved this plant for its trumpet shaped blooms that hang down from a 7-8 ft canopy.  They have a sweet scent that fills the air around them that can only properly be described as heavenly.  While I can't just rename a plant, I'll always think of Layla Grace when I see this plant.  A gentle reminder to cherish every moment, love openly and freely, and to never give up hope!  

Rest in Peace sweet baby girl!  Your work here on earth is done.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's a Plant, Not a Marriage!

I've been asked (what seems like) a hundred times about certain plants here in Houston and if they are going to make it after the big freeze of 2010.  While some people in Houston got lucky and their plants made it through the cold, others were not so lucky.  Ripping out plants that you've had since seedlings or "babies" can be heartbreaking, but I say, "It's a plant, not a marriage!"  Sometimes we just have to start over! While I can't cover every plant I've been asked about, I can cover the biggies: Palms, Hibiscus and Oleander.

I will be the first to tell you that I am not an expert on all.  But I have quickly familiarized myself with the most popular ones around town:  Queen Palms, Pygmy Dates, and Sago Palms (which is really a Cycad, but let's not get too technical.) For Palms, the do-or-die moment comes down to the center crown of the plant where new growth shoots out.

Sago Palm center "cone"

 If that center "cone" is mushy, more than likely the palm is a goner.  You can spray that center part with a copper based fungicide to keep any rotten material from infecting live material, but there really is no guarantee that the plant will re-leaf out this Spring.  I DO NOT recommend tearing out any palm until mid April to be sure the new growth isn't going to surprise you later in the season.  These are expensive plants to replace, so wait and be sure before you remove them.

Pygmy Date Palm:  I did not see any sign of green on this palm, but the new growth area was still firm.

If the center "cone" is hard and intact, more than likely the palm will make it.  I've gotten the chance to visit a few of my clients homes that are in North Houston which got much colder than the Cypress area.  Their Queen Palms didn't look happy, but they weren't dead.  There was a little bit of green left on some of the fronds, which is a good sign that they should survive.

A little green left on some of the inner fronds is a good sign!

In either case, DO NOT remove any dead palm leaves until the palm has had a chance to put on a new set of leaves.  The only material that is okay to remove is anything that has already fallen away from the center growth area.

Trim fallen leaves, but leave on any upright growth until new growth appears.

So, if the leaves are still attached and upright, leave them on until you see new growth appear.  Leaving the old fronds on helps distribute the plants energy evenly, which will prevent your new growth from appearing gnarled and twisted when it finally pushes out.  Once the new growth has appeared and grown out a bit, you can then trim away any dead material from the freeze damage.

Hibiscus and Oleander
Unfortunately, I have yet to find a Hibiscus that I believe made it through the freeze.  Every one I've touched and done the scratch test on has been a mushy mess of dead material.  You can do this also, not only with Hibiscus, but with all your plants.  Scratch the stem:  If you find green, you're in business.  If you find brown, dead material, it's a goner.  

A scratch test will tell you if the plant is still alive.
This one is black inside, and the bark easily pulls away.

Every Hibiscus I've scratched has been dead down to the ground.  We may get a surprise later in the Spring with new growth from the roots, but I'm not holding my breath on that one!  Personally, I would rip them out and start over.  I've had so many people say, "But I've had that one for X amount of years." or "But, my "so and so" gave that to me!"  I simply say in return, "It's a plant, not a marriage!"

Oleanders are hit or miss.  Some are still green, but a bit frost damaged.  Others are crispy critters all the way down to the roots.  I've taken the same philosophy on these as I have on the Hibiscus.

Oleander with minor frost damage

Oleander with severe frost damage.

Scratch the stems and if you get green you can wait for them to re-leaf out.  If you get brown, either trim them all the way back and wait for new growth from the roots, or start over with new ones.  Either way, it will take awhile for the Oleanders to bounce back.  They aren't as fast growing as Hibiscus are, so it will probably be a couple of years before they look good again.  Patience is a virtue, my friend!

Microlife and Superthrive
I've mentioned these two products before on several other blog posts, but have to mention them again because I believe in their miracles whole heartedly.  I've had plants that were sticks come back for me with this combination.  Microlife is an organic, slow release fertilizer.  Superthrive is vitamins and hormones that are beneficial to stressed, diseased, or newly transplanted plants.  I recommend fertilizing everything in your yard with Microlife and then go around and water in the Superthrive on top of that.  This combination will help jump-start the life in your soil to get the plants back in shape for spring and summer.  While these two can't bring dead back to life, they can help a really stressed plant recover more quickly.  The quicker a plant recovers this spring, the better it will be able to survive the heat that will be here before we know it.

I hope I answered some of the concerns many Houstonians have had, but if you'd like to leave a comment below, I'd be more than happy to answer any more you might have!

The Fresh Scent of Geraniums

At the nursery I work at, we have a wide variety of Geraniums for sale this Spring.  The flower colors are spectacular, the leaves are intriguing, but the scent is like freshly mowed grass, a crisp breeze, rain on the horizon, and fresh earth all rolled into one.  Since I can't post a scent in a blog, here are a few of my favorite Geranium blooms this season.

Pink Mega Splash

White Mega Splash

Tricolor (I LOVE the foliage on this one!)

Americana Red

Graffiti Fire

Americana Cherry Rose

Americana Salmon

Graffiti Double Red

In Houston, Geraniums do best in a morning sun/ afternoon shade setting.  They will last through the summer as long as they get the relief from the hot sun in July and August.  Actually, I've had customers tell me they've had theirs for years until the freeze of 2010 killed them off.  They make great potted plants, hanging baskets, and add a splash of color throughout a shady bed area.  Give them a well drained soil to thrive in and they will be sure to give you joy!

These plants made my day!  How 'bout yours?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'Kristen's Pink' Abutilon

I've had my eye on this sweet Abutilon all winter as it grew in our greenhouses at work.  As February ended, this plant started blooming with soft pink, upside down, 3 inch flowers that are very appealing.  This Abutilon is evergreen in Houston and stays around 18-24 inches high, making it perfect for a low growing specimen plant, or low border in a dappled light setting.  'Kristen's Pink' also makes a great  "Thriller"  plant when used in a container.  Ever blooming throughout the year, this plant provides a great source for butterflies, birds, and bees to visit in the landscape.

I am just smitten with this plant.  I can't wait to include it in my new flower bed at my house!  This plant made my day!  How 'bout yours?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring has Sprung!

Pink MegaSplash Geranium

I've been rejoicing in the Spring sunshine we've had in Houston the past week or so.  I've managed to go outside and clean-up most of the mess that winter left.  I've trimmed everything back and fertilized my lawn, pots and bedding plants.  This past Saturday I actually got a little sunburn on my face while working at the nursery.  (I don't think I've ever been so happy about a sunburn in my life!)  I am elated that Spring is here!  This past winter has been one miserable time.  Normally, Houstonians get to garden year round, but the bitter chill kept me inside for three months.  After talking with many homeowners this past weekend, I think the consensus is that Spring is here to stay.  Trees are leafing out, the birds are here, and I even saw a Sulpher butterfly flying around on Saturday!

Shrimp Plant

I'm excited that my hobby and passion in life can get going again.  So many of my favorite things in life happen in my garden.  I love plants, but more importantly, I find that pulling weeds and trimming plants is VERY therapeutic.  My husband would agree that I've been more on edge since I haven't had my favorite way of releasing stress.  I love photographing flowers and butterflies.  I could only take so many pictures of Pansies before I got bored with them, and taking pictures of flowers in our greenhouses at work just isn't the same as taking them in a garden where they are growing in the sunshine.  I've missed blogging about my garden on a somewhat daily basis.  I am very anxious to start posting again, and I already have a few topics that I am gathering pictures for. So, I am thrilled that Spring has finally arrived!

'Ponderosa' Lemon Blossom

My Dad is coming over today or tomorrow to help me till up a vegetable garden in my back yard.  Normally we start one together at our farm, but the winter and early spring have been extremely wet.  We can't get the tractor through our plot without getting stuck.  We've decided to each start a patch at our homes instead.  I'm looking forward to tomatoes right off the vine, squash, okra, and cucumbers!  I have a 101 in 1001 goal to make my own pickles, so I'll also be growing Dill.  I also have plans of extending a flower bed in my front yard.  My husband and I moved in February to a house with lots of trees in the front yard.  This will be the first time I get to garden at my home with a shade and dappled light setting.  I am very excited about that!

Bossiaea heterophylla

So, happy Spring everyone!  I can't wait to hear what everyone else is up to in their gardens as the temps warm up across the country!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Currently in March

Current Book(s): I have started the Fablehaven series.  I'll admit it's a beautiful world the author has made up, but it's a bit too childish for my liking.  My husband roped me into reading it after he pre-read it for our boys to read. (We don't let them read anything until we approve it ourselves.)  I'll finish the series, if for nothing else but to have something to talk about with my kiddos....and the hubby.

After that series is done, I believe I've been roped into reading the Percy Jackson series.  I wish I could read the first book before we go see the movie tomorrow, but I don't see that working out for me.   My husband, good friend , and oldest son have all read (or are in the middle of reading) this series, and they all say it's really good!

Current Playlist: Country music is on the radio right now.
Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Ummm, I can't think of one.  Maybe Farmville on Facebook would be a good fit.  I can't farm in real life, so I fulfill my needs on a video game?  Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! ;o)
Current Color:  Lavender.  It's my all time favorite color!

Current Drink:  Sweet tea.
Current Food: Home cooked meals.
Current Favorite Show: I haven't had time to sit down and watch TV this month.
Current Wishlist:  For the window on the suburban to get fixed.  The motor went out while the window was down, and now it won't stay up.
Current Needs: For night time temps to stay above freezing so I can plant my spring garden!
Current Triumphs: I'm 95% unpacked in my new house!
Current Bane(s) of my Existence: See above about the window on the suburban.
Current Celebrity Crush: This one is a toughy because I haven't done much of anything but unpack this month.  Haven't had the time to crush on many celebrities. ;o)
Current Indulgence:  Chocolate Chip Cookies that I made on Friday night. ( I cheated and made the store bought dough, but they are still really good!)
Current #1 Blessing: My family is under one roof, and life is good.
Current Slang or Saying:  Hmmm, I got nothing this month on this one.  
Current Outfit: Floral print top, jeans, Ariat boots and my green North Face fleece jacket.
Current Excitement:  Have I mentioned the house yet???  And, my son Kurtis has a birthday tomorrow! AND, it's March 1st!!!!  That means it's Houston's average last frost date!  woohoo!!!  Spring gardening can start really soon, and I can start cutting everything back that froze this winter.
Current Mood: Exhausted yet happy.

Current Link: The weather channel for my local area.  I've been watching it like a hawk for signs of true Spring.  I want to plant SO bad!

Happy March!
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