Saturday, March 9, 2013

Viola seedlings

I love the neat mounding habit of these violas that I grew from a seed packet. Though these will self sow, its always a pleasant surprise. Neat, well behaved plants are always welcome in my garden.

Passionflower "incarnata"

Does that mean "reborn"? Because that's exactly what this plant does every year. And it gets ten times as large as it was the previous year. See it growing by my window? I didn't plant it there, I planted it ten yards away. It sends out these half inch thick rope like runners that can travel at least ten to 30 feet away, depending on how strong the top growth was the year before. The top dies in the winter. Thankfully the runners grow shallow and are easy to pull.

Swallowtail larva

Found this guy (and one other sibling) munching on my parsley until there was nothing left. So I ran to the grocery store to buy organic parsley, planning to create an indoor habitat. But I came home to find them both gone :(

Blue bee, can't tell from photo

I found this iridescent blue bee sleeping in that yellow tulip. I must have woken it. It crawled onto my hands and chilled for a minute before flying off.

New year flowering peach

My mom grew this peach from seed years ago. The special thing about it is that it blooms every year exactly on the day of the lunar new year, whether it falls on January or February. So what happened to the concept of chilling hours?

The fruits are so numerous that they don't reach full size, about an inch across. if grown from seed, it flowers as early as the second or third year.  the color variation from one seedling to the next is baby pink to almost red. I know this because we have given seeds to many interested neighbors and have seen the resulting offspring.

Owari satsuma

This was taken exactly one year ago. This tree has been in the ground for six years and has not been bothered by the Houston frosts, even when temps were down in the twenties for ten days straight ( 2009). I visited this tree yesterday, lots of vegetative growth, but not a single bloom! What happened? Heavy crop last year perhaps. Still, couldn't it muster a few dozen blooms at least?

Sedum Angelina

My four yo daughter snapped this photo using my phone. Don't those look like bright green chrysanthemums?

This is how I organize my seed packets

Sometimes in the middle of winter, an image of a pretty flower on the front of a seed packet would catch my eye and I impulsively pick up the packet (and about a dozen more) and go straight to the check out line. Upon returning home, the instructions say to sow the seeds once the ground is warm. Sadly, i'm an impatient gardener, and most of the seeds I've collected over the years still sit collecting dust. Once the ground is warm, I've long forgotten about the seeds that I was so excited about.

So I decided to solve this dilemma and started organizing my seeds based on when they should be sown. I use an index card labeled for every season, and one labeled "sow anytime". I dug around for a suitable container and came up with these acrylic boxes that were used previously to contain frozen durian (yumm..). I now have an excuse to pay $6 for 6oz of durian (yikes!) because a new acrylic container would cost just as much.

I then file the packets behind the appropriate planting season. During each season, I can just look up what's ready for sowing at that time.

Foxtail fern seedlings, asparagus meyerii

Look what I found while weeding my front yard. These baby foxtails were found about four feet away from the mother plants which are now full of red berries. The tiny bulbs are adorable miniatures of the fat translucent bulbs I see everywhere when I weed around

They will stay inside with me for now.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Orchid centerpiece

I got the big magenta orchid from my mom. I bought it six months ago and she got it to rebloom. Lets see how long the blooms last this time.

She did give me an interesting piece of advice that I want to share. When a bud is almost ready to bloom, squeeze it gently to help it open. Being indoors in low humidity, sometimes the orchids have a tough time opening and may turn yellow and fall off before opening.


Peonies do not bloom in Houston, so they say.. nor do they do well in pots. It didn't stop me from trying. I will update with results as the year goes by.

Crazy citrus blooms!

Have you ever seen so many blossoms on an orange tree? about a thousand blossoms and the tree is only a little over two feet tall!  It doesn't have a name, just labeled "naval orange" but I have a feeling it is a Hamilton.

Epsom salt bath, for me and my plants!

i call this Gardener's Tea:

1 cup Epsom salt in bathwater, some green clay. steep yourself for at least one hour.

Epsom salt is an excellent source of magnesium and sulfur, which is great for your skin, and it makes your plants lush and green as well. I used a flexible bucket to carry the water to my plants after I was done. Use a light weight pitcher or other container to fill it up halfway. Otherwise its heavy!

Ready to Garden!

my hands haven't been so dehydrated as they are now. I've been pulling weeds four times a week!

1. apply lotion, any
2. on top, apply an oil, like Shea butter to seal it in. olive oil is great for skin too.
3. wear gloves! you can pull many more weeds with gloves than without. these are 1.99 at Lowes. one side grips, while the back is made of cloth for breathability. buy several pairs so you always have clean ones every day. plus you don't have to wash your hands, getting them further. throw them all in the machine when you're done.
4. ladies, don't forget sunscreen! for my face i use shiseido ultimate protection lotion, Spf 60! it feels like you have nothing on your skin, and i feel my face can withstand more heat with it on.

** for ant bites, and other skin irritations, have tea tree oil on hand. it stops the itch on contact and heals your skin.

Friday, February 15, 2013

close up of orchid bowl

you can see the orchid still in its pot. i wasn't too careful about concealing the rim. I also dug up moss growing outside and placed them on empty areas of soil. i mist them every three days, but because they grew in full sun previously, we'll see if they will last indoors.

Monday, February 11, 2013

peace lily

Here is another arrangement that i planted at the same time as the orchid in glass bowl. the peace lily I used was too big so i divided it and placed half of it into this smaller 8" glass bowl (dollar store). that was a year ago, the plant has quadrupled in size. one thing to remember about these arrangements is not to fertilize since there is no water runoff. the plants seen to get everything they need from the unfertilized soil/peat moss.

the Angelina sedum was added just a couple days ago. these were dug up from outside in full sun.

Potted Amazon lily

the Amazon lily flowers look like daffodils, the leaves look like those of the peace lily.  I planted it two weeks ago in an indoor pot (no drainage holes). i have a two inch layer of pebbles on the bottom, but i have to be very careful with watering. the lady that sold it to me says this plant prefers being outside in the shade. so i do have to carry this (heavy) pot outdoors every once in awhile, on the covered patio. The browned leaf was a victim of too much afternoon sun while it was outdoors. A couple of droopy flower stalks were propped up by weaving them around the leaves.

living centerpiece with orchid, peace lily, prayer plant, and moss

ive had this arrangement on my breakfast table for the last year. It hasn't changed much except for the orchids, which i replace every two to three months.

you need:

1. 10 -12" glass bowl, mine is from Target, ~$6. I like glass so i can see the moisture level.

2. the bottom is a one inch layer of hydroton, for drainage. expanded shale can also be used. these keep the soil from sitting in water and have an absorbent outer layer that wicks water upward.

3. next is a layer of potting soil, i used Pro-mix. any professional peat based soil mix is fine, but it needs to wick well so there are no dry spots after watering. I like miracle gro potting mix also.

4. Add plants!

your orchid stays in its pot, so place that in first. i used two mini phalaenopsis in three inch pots.

add a layer of soil to anchor the position of the orchids.

add other plants directly into the glass bowl and top off with soil.

the soil should not reach more than 1/2" below the rim of the bowl. you don't want water running off onto your nice table.

5. i water the orchids, until the Hydroton layer is full of water. in a couple of hours the entire bowl of soil is evenly moist and there is no more water standing at the bottom.

* I once had a 4" regular sized phalaenopsis in the bowl. the pot was too high, so i cut off the bottom and stuck the pot in the soil, concealing the rim with moss

*orchids grown in bark lasts much longer than ones grown in sphagnum moss.

*for the first month i added dilute organic fertilizer but the plants did not like it. since the water doesn't run off, i don't think the plants even need it. I've used no fertilizer whatsoever for the past year, yet the plants have grown and filled in well.

*these are growing near a north and west facing window. the bright afternoon sun is too much, so the blinds stay closed. yet the north window doors not provide enough light to get the orchids to rebloom. i just take them out once they are faded and give then to my mom. she gets bright indirect light which allows them to rebloom within a few months.

Monday, October 15, 2012

butterfly pea vine, double flowering

unbelievable blue flowers. the huge plant pictured was grown from seed just this past spring. if the roots are still alive, they will come back in the spring. if not, plant from seeds bc they grow quickly. they will also bloom in a container. The flowers are edible and make an awesome blue tea. i think they look like little blue roses.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stroll Through My Garden

It's been almost 100 degrees every day for the past month in Houston.  I don't worry about sunscreen, I just make sure I don't overheat. During the day, I make sure I wear a wide-brimmed hat, drink lots of water, and stay outside for frequent but short periods of time. If you haven't built up your heat tolerance like I have (any marathon runner will tell you it's a mental thing) then try to go outside after 7:30pm. The weather is actually beautiful. In my neighborhood there are people taking walks, riding their bikes, and hanging out with their kids at 7:30 until lights out, around 8:30pm. It's not much, but it's an entire hour of gorgeous weather every summer day in Houston.

Jacaranda Seedlings

Mini Arrangement. Roses Molineux, Earth Song, and Golden Princess. Cosmos Psyche White, and Evolvulus Blue Daze.

Mini Arrangement in a bed of Shasta Daisy Seedlings

Bumble Bee getting his back rubbed full of pollen. Passiflora Incarnata

The result of all the bumble bees playing around in my Passionflowers. These fruit are only 2 weeks old. There's another one that is 4 weeks old and it's the same size. I guess they grow fast in the beginning and stop to mature. Passionfruit are ripe once they begin to wrinkle.

My pumpkin patch. I've been picking pumpkin flowers almost every day for the past 3 months! It's not showing any signs of slowing down. I get a bumper crop of flowers on days that the sprinkler comes on.

A patch of Shasta Daisies: White Knight and Alaska. I sowed seeds last fall, and forgot to thin them. They look great though. I will divide them in the fall and plant them everywhere.

My self watering planters bought at for my birthday. It's filled with Pro-Mix. I stick cuttings of herbs in here and they start to take over. . I throw down seeds and they come up w/in days. Anything grows here 

Spacemaster Cucumbers from 7 year old seeds. Better late than never.

Dragon Fruit Cuttings, Is that a Flower bud?

Here are my dragon fruit plants that I grew from cuttings last year. I posted previously on these plants, White, Red, and Purple. These pictures were taken today, I had a very pleasant surprise, see last picture. I'm not sure if it's a flower bud, I've never grown dragon fruit before. But it looks different from the other new growths.

Is that what I think it is?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Avocado Dense Planting

If you look closely, you'll see I planted two small avocado trees about 18" from the center larger avocado tree. I just saw a youtube video by Dave Wilson Nursery on dense planting of fruit trees. They say that "all" fruit trees can be controlled by summer pruning. The idea is to get several varieties in a small space to increase pollination and to space out fruit harvest. All three are unknown  varieties, one by seed, and the other two from rootsock where the top branches died in the winter. Once they are older, I will try my hand at grafting named cultivars on to them. For now my job is to nurture the roots and not worry about what's growing on top.

Crepe Myrtle Centerpiece and Flowers in the House

Total noob here when it comes to flower arranging, although I've been doing it for years. I can't remember the last time I got an arrangement to look the way I want. Luckily for me, my crepe myrtle flowers are self arranging. The underappreciated, ubiquitous, and indestructible tree of the south is not commonly considered cut flower material, the flowers only last a day or two, but the centerpiece above is beautiful nonetheless. They remind me of Martha Stewart's enviable lilac arrangements. I can't grow lilacs here, at least not until they come up with a heat tolerant variety for us zone-pushers. It's probably easier to come up with a fragrant crepe myrtle. 

although the crepe myrtle flowers don't last too long, the buds will last almost forever and make great airy filler material. The above mini arrangement was made totally from stuff I gathered from my little garden. I wrote down a goal/wish several years ago that I could arrange fresh flowers for the house everyday. I didn't know then how I could afford to buy that many flowers, but the universe had it's ways of opening one's mind. Things that normally were not considered arrangement material became apparent to me. I have since used dried flower heads, herbs, grasses, shrub leaves, etc. And most of the time my arrangements are small when I don't have enough material, or my flowers had short stems (like the roses and psyche cosmos above). The above arrangement has lasted me over three months!! (I replace the faded flowers and redo the arrangement everyday). My wish came true after all.

Friday, July 1, 2011

More annonas!

I thought these were weeds, and then I remembered a Cherimoya fruit that I bought at the grocery store last year. It was decent tasting, considering it came from the grocery store, and probably born halfway around the world somewhere. I read that most grocery store Cherimoyas are probably Fino de Jete from Chile.  I had no idea the seed was even viable. And after our heavy freeze, I completely forgot about it. Yet here they are in Mid June 2011. So I potted them up. I'll figure out what to do with all these seedlings later. I also finally potted a bunch of other tropical fruit seeds, like white sapote and more cherimoyas. I planted 9 seeds to a gallon pot. Guess what I used as my potting mix this year? Soil conditioner (Nature's Way I think)  from Lowes mixed w/perlite for fun.

Makok Sapodilla Flowers in a Pot

This is a Makok Sapodilla that I bought in 2010. It's flowering very heavily, but from what I hear it may not bear any fruit this year. It's about 4 ft tall in a 16" pot. I hurried and repotted it when I first saw the flowers back in February.

If people are getting a single tree to set fruit the second year it flowers and not the first year, then Sapodilla fruit set is not a self-incompatibility issue, right? It seems that it needs to have a high level of humidity. Even though the leaves are doing fine, my flowers are on a hot westfacing patio and they are drying up and not setting fruit. I will try placing it on the garden beds around other leafy trees to see if I can get fruit set this year. 

This is my  Alano from 2010. It's in a 12" pot without holes. I planted it as a houseplant when I first got it. I placed it next to a northwest window (not that bright, but at least I don't worry about frost). It did develop scales, I noticed sticky stuff on my floors, so I brought it outside and removed them all by hand, as much as I could. After doing nothing for several months, it began putting out new growth and started growing FAST around March 2011. The growth is a bit lanky since it's been sheltered, but the leaves are beautiful. I am now trying to harden it up a bit by placing it on my porch in the shade. 

Sugar Apple, Annona Sqamosa Fruiting in a pot

picture taken June 21, 2011
 I bought this Sugar Apple (Seedling) in a 3 gal container just last year. It hasn't gotten any bigger, but it's now producing tons of flowers. The leaves turned yellow during the cold weather, but it held onto the leaves until around March 2011. The yellow leaves finally dropped in April and new leaves emerged, with tiny buds! I had to learn how to pollinate the flowers fast! It's simple really. Flowers start out female and become male as they get older. Find older, faded flowers and remove the pistils (pollen) into a small container, using a brush. Using a tiny brush, transfer the pollen to a newly opened flower. Mark the pollinated flowers by pinching off a petal. It's really that easy. If you're still confused, do a search on Youtube on how to hand pollinate a sugar apple.

Picture taken June 21, 2011
Success after the first try! I was so excited when I first saw this baby fruit. It's my first ever annona fruit!

Picture taken July 1, 2011
It has grown super fast! Now I see why some cultures call this the Buddha's Head Fruit. I now have 6 developing fruit on my tiny tree. I need to stop hand pollinating! Or maybe I should keeping doing it, it's so much fun. I'll let the tree decide if it wants to hold the fruit or not. Some people even pick their flowers, thinking  their trees won't be able to handle the fruit. I say let the tree decide, it's smarter than you think.

Jakfruit Seedlings! Amazing

Two Jakfruit seedlings I planted from a locally grown (Zone 8B) fruit. The fruit was deep yellow, almost orange, very sweet, not fibrous at all. Timeline:

seeds sprouted in October 2010
Brought indoors when temps dipped below 32F in November. Seems to be deciduous, lost all leaves.
Brought back out after the severe freeze of Jan 2011
The above pictures were taken in April of 2011. They are planted in drinking cups.

And here they are in June 2011. These are the exact two Jakfruit trees from before. I had nine but I gave them all away except these two. I potted them in 1 gallon containers just three weeks ago and they immediately started growing like crazy.

This is what they look like now! Avocado, Atemoya, P. Incarnata, June 2011

 Avocado from previous posts. It is even bigger than before!

 See the healthy atemoya leaves? My tomatoes will stop bearing soon, I hope, so I can clear them out and make room for the atemoyas. Not that I don't appreciate my Romas, they were extremely abundant and tomatoes were fantastic! But my atemoyas are very dear to me.

Remember this 4" passionfruit? It's huge now and has a flower bud on every node on all parts of the vine. Look at that cute little fruit! This picture was taken AFTER it was accidentally mowed over about a month before. I had a huge 8 ft branch w/two fast growing fruit, and then my grass guy tried to trim the weeds around it with his trimmer....... I had to keep telling myself "don't worry, this plant will grow back even stronger". But it still hurt! I learned my lesson: do the weeding myself before the grass guy gets here.