December 31, 2013

A Last Look at 2013.and a Resolution

I decorated the greenhouse with old style Christmas lights from forty years ago. 

 Coming into bloom for the New Year are Kalanchoes in the white pots.

 Grouping bulbs of one color together gives a view we never considered forty years ago.

 Last of the Schlumbergeras shows up well with colored lights.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to use up things I've kept for years in new ways, starting with Christmas lights. In order to use things in new ways, we need to look at them in new ways.

Happy New Year.

December 29, 2013

Greenhouse Hits and MIsses 2013

1. Growing tomato plants from seed was a Hit. I won heirloom tomato seeds. They germinated, all of them. I planted them out timely and they did well until soil nematodes stunted some plants and turned them into a miss. VFN hybrids are a must if I expect to grow tomatoes in the ground. I did get some tomatoes off the ones I stuck in flower beds in the front yard, lol.

The previous year's container tomatoes lasted through the Winter and were pretty much a hit but I let container tomatoes go because of the space and attention they crave. Peppers in containers were a Winter hit, too.

2. Forced Hyacinths were a mid-winter Hit with the folks at my Church in 2013. I brought the little pots to Church one Sunday night and everybody got a blooming bulb. These were blue. They bloomed in time for Chinese New Year, which means good fortune, I think.

This year's Hyacinths are pink, and white. They'll be blooming before Valentine's Day 2014, I think.
Amaryllis are a hit with those friends who got one in bloom. I have bulbs not yet putting up buds. They'll be another mid-winter joy. A hit is that I won a really nice bulb from Longfield Gardens and it has the tiniest sprout. Hit.

Miss: I'm not going to discuss the bad Amaryllis bulbs I got from another vendor that were not only mislabeled but mushy. They've been replaced. Case closed.

3. Thyme cuttings were a bust. They didn't root. I'll start over with new plants in the spring.

The celery experiment is a miss, too. Celery bottom rooted easily and commenced growth but I think I kept the celery too wet after I read they liked plenty of moisture. Maybe not. I think I should try celery seeds.

4. Christmas Cactuses were a hit. I pinched everything that was rootable last winter and by summer I had more Schlumbergera than I knew what to do with. Some I potted into bigger pots of 3 for a fuller plant and some I just let grow. The blooms on Whites and Reds were mostly gone before Christmas but there are still Pinks and Oranges and Yellows.

5. Dianthus barbadus was a miss. They were lovely plants from seed but the hot sun just did them in.  Ill-timed and planted in too much sun. Those in the shade survived but I never saw a bloom from anybody, not even in late fall.

Pansies are always a hit.

6. Pansies were a hit. Violas were a miss because I bought trays of budded Violas that turned out to be fat Pansies sitting in the middle of trays of Pansies at a big box store in Tallahassee. I'll go to Alabama City to buy Violas toward the end of January hoping for the beauties I've always found there.

Violas from saved seed are always a hit with me.

7. Behind the violas are Noregelia bromeliads, another of my crazes. I am waiting to divide pups from all the Bromeliads until nearer time to let them go out for the summer. Bromeliads: big Hit.

8. New in the greenhouse were Mistletoe Cactus and Burro's Tail Sedum. Both were tiny pots and grew quickly to dividing size.

9. Planting Cycad seeds was a near bust as only one succeeded, but I thought it a triumph having one.

10. There are Parsley seedlings, seedling Alyssum, and a single Agapanthus seedling. I rooted cuttings of White Shrimp Plant, Red Alternanthera, Chartreuse Alternanthera and Pineapple Sage among other cuttings I kept bringing inside. Purple Heart and Persian Shield are together in a long container of soil. I never tire of sticking cuttings in a pot of soil or a jar of water. They are a Hit if they survive and if not, I am encouraged to try some other propagation method. 

Haven't totally decided about seeds for this Spring just yet. I make new notes almost every day.

What were your Hits and what will you plant in Spring?

December 24, 2013

Dirty Little Greenhouse Secrets

This is for Alison and the Outlaw Gardener and anybody else who is starting out with a new greenhouse or has aspirations and wonders what goes on besides growing beautiful plants and starting tiny seedlings in the spring?

Too much is never enough. When the last plant was tucked in last fall, He Who Mows said he thought I needed a bigger greenhouse. Perhaps I need to limit what I grow and bring inside.

I frequently look at Pins of Greenhouses online. Favorites of Pinners run to ancient ruins that could never be heated with obviously rotten window frames and tendrils of vines growing through gaps. Favorite accoutrements are chandeliers, upholstered chairs and tables with seating for eight. Rarely do the faves have an abundance of plants, mostly just a palm and some nice pots or even Bunny Mellon's famous greenhouse with all the trompe l'oeil. My tables for 8 are mostly for 8 big pots of something.
Last year's Kalanchoes are now 14 inches high and budded. They graduated from here to  the back shelf of the potting bench for more light. 
They are so top-heavy they'll need cachepots to keep them upright.

The primary components of a working greenhouse are damp and dirt. A dry greenhouse does not make for happy plants, so everything must be water resistant. In dry climates, some kind of mist system makes for very happy plants and helps with the tendency of a green house temperature to quickly rise to 30 degrees higher than the outside on a sunny day. Where the water from the mist settles determines placement of certain components, like a potting bench, painted items and electrical panels.

Dirt is a given. Potting soil does not stay in pots; transfer of potting medium from a bag to a container makes for dust and spills. Dead leaves and blossoms tend to fall or need removing. I can't sit and drink tea; I have to pinch dead blooms and sweep up.

I have not found it possible to store enough of daytime heat generated by the sun to keep the greenhouse warm all night, but ample thermal mass helps to mediate daytime heat and nighttime loss. Thermal mass in the form of water, concrete and brick must be carefully utilized. My water barrels support a broad shelf across the east end of the greenhouse. Sunny days mean a ventilating fan runs to try to keep temps down to 90 degrees. When we got back from Rose City this morning, it was 51º outside and the closed greenhouse was 81º -- quick, open the door!

Believing that every little bit helps, I fill 6-8 one-gallon jugs early afternoon that I use for watering the next day so they have time to absorb heat from the sun and give it up during the night. The floor is covered with a square path of concrete pavers with brick, urbanite and loose pebbles in the center, more mass and kind of decorative too.

Yeah, I do a lot of hand watering. Just directing a hose-end sprayer toward some pots doesn't work for me. I need to pull out that plastic pot and check the heft of it, note if some mean bug has gotten on a plant and see if I need to do anything else after I make sure the plastic pot drained before I put it back in the cachepot so it doesn't sit in water. Cachepots are not just for decoration, they help keep cheap plastic pots from falling over when foliage gets top-heavy.

Heaters take space. I use two electric heaters turned to low. They need floor space where they don't blow directly on plants. During a warm spell they get moved away from the electric panel and back when it is cold again .

Seasons change. Pots that were prominent at Christmas lose their blossoms and need to move to make room for late winter plants in bloom, in turn replaced with spring seedlings. It's fruit basket turn over much of the time: making room for bulbs, moving some pots to the sun or in the shade.

Frog Poop, did I mention frog poop? It's everywhere in places like bromeliad leaves. Large commercial greenhouses spray for everything. I spritz around a little soap and olive oil sometimes for white fly but mostly I depend on critters' help. Little green peeper frogs are everywhere. One usually leaps on my head when I open the door at night or early morning. Green frogs leap out of cachepots when I pull out a pot to water.

I have to watch for toads making themselves a home in moist potting soil. Critical plants have to be up high, not at floor level if they haven't room for a toad. Anoles and eastern fence lizards roam freely. Chemicals are not on my agenda. Once you start, the critters are gone and spraying has to be kept up. Rare sick plants get tossed here. I discarded a diseased Amaryllis the other day. Things like scale get rubbing alcohol swabbing.

I've seen complaints about greenhouse mice. A greenhouse cat means no mice, but the cat has to have space. Ike the cat claims part of the potting bench, which needs to be cleared anyhow and a space back behind the potting bench that is a little shadier. I leave him a clear path to get where he thinks he must go and take care to block where he just wants to climb over plants chasing anoles. We had a squirrel invasion back in the fall, taken care of by He Who Mows and Has a Shotgun. I do make one exception: I use chemicals outside in the war against fire ants to keep them out of the greenhouse.

The really odd thing in a greenhouse is that plants tend to grow. I'm always giving something a bigger pot. Pieces just will break off and I am not about to toss something that might take root, given a little pot and a bit of soil. What started as 6 different Schlumbergera were soon 24 at summer's end. It's like finding homes for puppies -- you want them to go, but to good homes.

Faced with an abundance of spider plants, begonias and foxtail fern at the beginning of fall, I jammed them in pots together.  Dozens of Alternanthera cuttings will fit into a coffee mug. Persian Shield and Purple Heart share a long planter. They'll be handy in spring when I need lots more purples and chartreuses.

Merry Christmas. I hope you get a greenhouse, a big one.
If you have a greenhouse, I wish for you accoutrements.
Be prepared for dirt and damp but it isn't really work.

December 22, 2013

Christmas Cactus Is Still a Show

Most of the reds are about done. I was going to bring a pink cactus into the house. When I took it out of the cache pot to water it, tiny green frogs started jumping out of the cache pot.

Those little green frogs are an important component of my greenhouse crew. They along with the various lizards eat insects so chemicals are not part of my process. It is startling to open the greenhouse door and have a green frog leap onto one's head or arm, but they're harmless. I should write a blog post on the realities of a greenhouse. I keep seeing so many romantic greenhouses and potting sheds on Pinterest. Nobody ever mentions the work and the creatures.

December 15, 2013

Christmas Cactuses in Orange and Yellow

The post just before was all about Pink Schlumbergera and White. This post features the Orange and Yellow.

Trudy's Red sneaked into this picture.

Orange isn't a traditional Christmas color but this sure is pretty.

None of my Christmas Cactuses have names -- I call the reds Trudy's Red, and Scarlet to distinguish the two. One I bought and one is from Miss Trudy's generous cutting last year. Pink, White, Orange and Yellow were also Trudy's cuttings.

There are at least 3 plants of every color, you can tell by the different colors of pots. I like to put a plastic pot inside a cache pot. I haven't found cache pots that fit the square plastic pots yet. The square plastic pots hold 3 cuttings each to make a fuller plant.

Christmas Cactuses in Pink and White

I took so many pics I am dividing the current Schlumbergeras into a post of Pink and White. Yellow and Orange will follow. Was it just last week they were all Trudy's Red and my Scarlet?

Orange and Yellow Christmas Cactuses follow this post.

I'm linked at May Dreams Gardens for Bloom Day

December 08, 2013

Hyacinths for Christmas

Last year I forced Blue Jacket and Gypsy Queen Hyacinths. This year the choices are White Pearl and Pink Pearl. I've never grown White Pearl.

I saw a blog in which hyacinth pots contained a succulent. 
I just happened to have a tray of Graptopetalums rooted.
I gave each Pink Pearl bulb a companion Ghost Plant. 

Leaves always get broken off Ghost Plants when they're handled. 
I tucked every little leaf into a pot. Pots need some sheet moss to cover the 
soil. I will wait until there's more growth. 

In just a day, a third of the bulbs are showing a green tip.
Most had white roots beginning to sprout in the bag before
I took them out of the refrigerator.

These are 4" pots, room for a single bulb and a companion 
Rosette or two of Graptopetalum.

There were only 21 pots so the last four are potted in a
larger pot. I saw some fine moss growing in front of the
tractor shed that I'll tuck in that pot later.

These were labeled to complete 10 weeks of chill on December 14. I took them out a week early.
There are still 25 White Pearl to be potted. I'll pot them in groups in larger pots since I used up
all the 4: pots. I need to start collecting pots earlier next year.

Wednesday I should receive 3 more Amaryllis bulbs. I've given up Paperwhites. 

Are you forcing any bulbs this winter? They're not only for Christmas. A fragrant bloom mid-January or early February is a spirit raiser. I no longer force in water. I favor soil planting.

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