Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice

Northern Flicker
Gods rest ye merry garden folk,
Let nothing you dismay.
Remember that the Sun returns
Upon this Solstice day!

The growing dark is ended now,
And Spring is on it's way.
O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O, tidings of comfort and joy.

The Winter's worst still lies ahead,
Fierce tempest, snow and rain!
Beneath the blanket on the ground,
The spark of life remains.

The Sun's warm rays caress the seeds,
To raise life's songs again!
O, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy!
O, tidings of comfort and joy.

(Looking forward to sunnier days, aren't we all?)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Poinsettia Care

Winter Rose Pink: Breeder - Ecke

I still have a few pictures from the Cabrillo College Holiday Plant Sale and Open House, so I'm going to post them with a reprint of the poinsettia care sheet that they handed out with the plants. Enjoy.

Cinnamon Candy: Breeder - Selecta

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), one of the most popular winter holiday plants, is a native to the area around Taxco, Mexico. Joel R. Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico, introduced it into the United States. In Mexico, poinsettias grow to be large woody shrubs, often reaching heights above 10 feet.

Poinsettia is a member of the spurge family and is characterized by small, inconspicuous flowers called cyathia and large, brightly colored, leaf-like bracts. Poinsettia bracts may be red, pink, white, yellow, speckled or marbled; the most popular color is red.

Poinsettias are often thought of as poisonous, but research indicates that poinsettias contain no chemicals commonly considered toxic; however, eating the plants is not recommended. (The SPCA still lists Poinsettias as poisonous to pets and pet owners should keep the plants away from their animals.) While most people are not sensitive to the milky sap, it can cause a mild skin irritation.

Christmas Time Crazy Marble: Breeder - Fischer

  • Place the plant where it will receive a maximum amount of indoor sunlight.
  • Premature leaf drop is one of the main problems in poinsettia care. The plant needs to be kept out of drafts, as rapid temperature fluctuations will cause premature leaf drop. Even to be touching a cold windowpane can cause injury to the bracts. Night temperatures should be no cooler than 60 to 65 degrees F. Day temperatures should not exceed 80 degrees F.
  • Another cause of leaf drop is wilting. The soil must be kept slightly moist but not soggy. Water thoroughly and make sure the pot has good drainage. Empty out any water that may be left in the pot saucer after watering.
  • Fertilization is typically not needed for the first month because the potting mix includes a slow release fertilizer. After the first month, fertilize once every two weeks until the plant loses its brightly colored bracts.
  • Many of the new poinsettia cultivars will keep their leaves and remain attractive even in summer. If the plant retains its leaves, treat it like any houseplant. Place it in a sunny location and apply a complete fertilizer containing trace elements once every two weeks. As soon as night temperatures reach a minimum of 60 degrees F, the plant can be set outside.

It is possible to reflower your poinsettia but we would like your continued support, plant it outside and buy new ones next year! (But of course!!)

Sonora White Glitter: Breeder - Fischer

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Annual Christmas Sacrifice

Top Left to Right: Cinnamon Star, Sonora Marble
Bottom Left to Right: Silver Star Red, Carousel Pink
Breeder - Fischer (all)

I've oftentimes thought of posting a Thursday 13 meme with thirteen of the plants that I kill regularly. I have a few friends who are amazed that I even have plants that die. They think that every plant I grow thrives because I have this supposed "green thumb". I am often given plants that are dry, leggy and dwindling with the belief that I can resurrect them to their previously green and luscious glory. Let me be the first to admit that I seriously doubt my "green thumb" abilities. I regularly have seeds that don't sprout, transplants that don't take, trees that unexpectedly die, and "fail proof" plants that drop over dead within the first week. This is the way of a gardener.

Plum Pudding: Breeder - Ecke

I have simply applied a few rules to growing plants, and I think this is the reason why people think I'm "great with plants". And I'm willing to share these rules. Rule one; compost your failures quickly and quietly. Only you will remember that you have once again killed that plant that looked so easy to grow. Fortunately, the worms will never tell your secret. Rule two; learn which plants you kill with ease and never ever bring them back into the house or garden, no matter how attractive they appear in the nursery. You know they will only be a waste of your hard earned cash. It would be better spent on a new and untried plant because that one might just be the fabulous find that is easy to grow and perpetuates the "green thumb" illusion. Rule three; stick with the plants that are winners for you. Use these as the centerpieces and if you must have a "failure prone" plant, use it as a complementary planting or filler that won't be noticed if it "disappears" to the compost pile.

Puebla: Breeder - Fischer

And I have found that every gardener has a different style of gardening. Some people love to water and therefore water loving plants thrive for them. However, their same method causes cactus and other dry loving plants to keel over dead. My advice: don't grow the cactus. Keep with plants that are jungle plants and forest dwellers. Find plants that are their relatives and love the same conditions. You can always try to grow the cactus, but realize that you are going to have to move outside of your comfort zone and do things that are optimal for the cactus and not necessarily for the gardener. Me, I'm just the opposite to someone who loves to water. I like and keep plants that can go through a dry spell and not be too phazed by the problem. I like orchids and have quickly learned which ones are content with the once a week watering schedule. I do not bother with the ones that want a constant moisture or demanding temperatures. The fun thing about plants is that there's bound to be hundreds maybe thousands that fit in with how you want to grow things. Therefore, go with your strengths and admire the other gardeners who can make the plants you kill, thrive.

Sonora White : Breeder - Fischer

One plant that I always kill is Euphorbia pulcherrima or Poinsettia. I adore the pictures of them in the magazines at this time of year. I fantasize about how I can beautify my house with some luscious pink or green hybrid, which is this year's rage. But when I go to purchase the "new fashion", the price makes me balk. Do I really want to spend $20 for a plant that will be dead by February? And I know all the ways you can make them continue to grow, but it's never worked for me. My dad, who really doesn't bother with plants and gardening, seems to keep poinsettias growing and blooming for years. I'm always flabbergasted by this, but have learned simply to admire his little collection with calm subjectivity. Moreover, I buy my poinsettias with the stark realization that they will be dead by February. The nursery industry doesn't seem to mind, in fact, they're banking on it.

So, this evening, I went to the Cabrillo College Poinsettia Sale and Open House, with a certain amount of resolve (I'm here just to look). They had an extraordinary display of many different varieties, propagated by the horticultural students. I was also impressed by the price, so, you guessed it; I have a new set of poinsettias for the season. And despite their helpful culture guide, I believe they'll last until February, perhaps March.