Rhodochiton atrosanguineum- Purple Bell Vine

Rhodochiton atrosanguineum- Purple Bell Vine

Sometimes I feel like if I put out to the universe what I am looking for then these things tend to show up. Okay, universe, you’ve been alerted, on the top of my “plant wish list” is Rhodochiton atrosanguineum, “Purple Bell Vine”.  Are you familiar with this plant? The first time I saw Rhodochiton atrosanguineum was during a garden visit as part of the Garden Writers Association conference in Buffalo, New York last summer. As I toured this homeowner’s garden taking photos I literally stopped when I saw this plant. It doesn’t happen too often that I see an entirely new plant. Well, new to me, that is. What could this be?  Where do I get one? The Purple Bells Vine was being grown on a small obelisk structure and had completely engulfed the metal frame.  The deep purple flowers were hanging from top to bottom. It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? I couldn’t help but to start researching this plant as soon as I sat down on the bus. Here’s what I’ve discovered: From Annie’s Annuals and Perennials: Introduced from Mexico way back in 1833, Rhodochiton atrosanguineum is a funky fast growing option for baskets or a shady trellis. Vines stay a compact 10’ and produce masses of bell-shaped, maroon-purple, pendant flowers that dangle like flowery ornaments on fine threadlike stems. Inspiring! Lovely 2”, heart-shaped leaves edged in purple adorn its tendrils. Best blooms occur in bright shade throughout Summer and Fall. Protect from frost in Winter or bring indoors. Rich soil and a good feedings will make for a happy vine. Part shade to full shade. From Select Seeds: This refined beauty of a vine was introduced from Mexico in 1833. The small heart-shaped toothed leaves are dark green with burgundy edges. The violet bell-shaped flowers have a maroon “clapper”, and the 2″ flowers sway from the ends of thread-like stems. Try it in containers or twining up string trellises where it will bloom until late fall freezes. Lifecycle: Annual Hardiness: Tender Annual Color: Violet Size: 6-10 ft Season: Summer to fall Sun: Full sun Soil: Rich, moist, well-drained So I think the real question at this point is: Am I ordering plants or...
Using Pinterest for easy garden design

Using Pinterest for easy garden design

Today I am writing a short article on how I use Pinterest for easy garden design tools. Yes, Pinterest can become a black hole of time spent looking endlessly at home decor, gardens, plants, pets and everything else I never even knew I wanted.  But, it can also be inspirational, insightful and help you organize your thoughts. I swear, Pinterest really can help with easy garden design and especially plant selection. Plant Selection Okay, I admit that some direction is needed. Do you have an idea in mind? One of my projects last summer was adding a new mixed perennial and shrub bed outside of our kitchen window and near our back deck. One new bed a year has been my self imposed limit!  I really appreciate gardens that are well planned and have color combinations that compliment the plants. Lyndale Park Gardens always comes to mind for me when I think of very thoughtful color design. I decided that I wanted this new bed to have a combination of purple, orange and chartreuse. Bright and vibrant, this bed will not have room for reds, pinks or yellows. One of the reasons I started my Pinterest board was to help me see the plants I was considering together and this easy garden design tool also helped me eliminate plants where the colors were just not compatible (sorry, lupines).   Below shows a screenshot of my board for this flower bed. You can see the actual Pinterest board HERE and explore the full potential plant palette. I don’t think this bed will ever include all of these plants, but it is a great visual to see what looks good together and what doesn’t. It also helps me to make sure I am only purchasing, and pinning, zone appropriate plants.   Plant Records In addition to helping me decide what I wanted to buy throughout the season, or start from seed, this board also serves as a way to record what I buy. For instance, PowWow Echinacea was on sale one afternoon so I picked up several of these. While this cultivar was not specified on my “New Flower Bed” board, I searched for an image of this to add. This will help me remember the varieties of plants far longer than I am able to keep track of the tags.   I should mention that the label for this board, “New Flower Bed,” was far from inspirational. I’ve since changed it to “Backyard Deck Bed” to help specify where these are at, and because I know there will be another new flower bed in my future! Curious what this actually looks like?  Stay tuned for an update to come....
Controlling mealybugs on succulents

Controlling mealybugs on succulents

Imagine my surprise when I came across a major mealybug infestation on my succulents. Mealybugs on succulents are not rare, however I was surprised to see just how many I (or rather my aeoniums) had to deal with!  I was cleaning up some plants and as I turned this container a half turn, bam! There they were.  How did I get mealybugs on my succulents? That’s a good question. Quite honestly, they’ve probably always been there, but just not in these numbers. Stressed plants are going to be more favorable to mealybugs, so that may be an indicator which plants need some care. Mealybugs on succulents is common and since I did bring in a lot of plants from outside this fall, I may have accidentally brought these pests indoors too. When we lived in Florida it wasn’t uncommon to have an outbreak in the landscape occasionally. Hibiscus are especially prone to this and you can see how I dealt with those HERE. What do mealybugs look like? Mealybugs look like little pieces of cotton stuck to the plant. They are often found along the stem and where leaves attach to the stem is a really good place to look. The mealybugs shown here have found a nice protected place under the canopy of the leaves on this aeonium. Outdoors it would provide them protection from the elements, in my house it provides them a place to hide where I am not likely to see them! According to California Extension, “Mealybugs suck sap from plant phloem, reducing plant vigor, and they excrete sticky honeydew and wax, which reduces plant and fruit quality, especially when black sooty mold grows on the honeydew. Large accumulations of mealybugs, their egg sacs, and wax can be unattractive. High populations feeding on foliage or stems can slow plant growth and cause leaf drop; however, healthy plants can tolerate low populations without significant damage. ”   How do I get rid of mealybugs on succulents? The supplies for this are simple: Rubbing alcohol and Q-tips. I like to pour some of the rubbing alcohol into the cap and then use the Q-tip to soak up as much as possible. Then, simply touch the wet tip to the mealybugs. Sometimes they will turn black instantly (my favorite!) and if there are a lot you can kind of wipe them up with this. This is also a good time to look for any dead or yellowing leaves that might have collections of these mealybugs on them. I just remove these and throw them in the trash in combination with the alcohol rub down. Once cleaned the plant looks great again. I will keep my eye on it for a few weeks to come back and treat any mealybugs that were missed. What a simple and easy way to treat mealybugs on succulents without introducing unwanted chemicals or pesticides into your...
Creating a hanging succulent terrarium

Creating a hanging succulent terrarium

Winter getting you down?  How about creating a hanging succulent terrarium to get you through? I have been so impressed by my collection of hanging succulent terrariums that I felt it was worth sharing this again. I see so many of these online with the wrong plants and wrong supplies that they are destined to bring failure to their new home. Have you noticed these cute hanging succulent terrariums popping up in your favorite catalogs and decorating blogs? Don’t be fooled by their sleek design and beautiful colors, these are extremely simple to put together and are a great way to add plants to even the smallest spaces. Read on to learn how I made my seven different succulent terrarium and how to maintain your plants. Creating a hanging succulent terrarium: Supplies Keep it simple. All you need is some potting soil (less than 1 cup per globe), simple top dressing like these stones, succulent cuttings and your globe. Here is a list: Well draining potting soil Glass globe- I love these from Amazon and they are 6 for $15! Succulent cuttings. I always enjoy scouring my local nurseries and garden centers, but if you can’t find any locally, here is a nice collection of haworthias which would do great. Top dressing (beach glass, stones, or sea shells all look great!) First step: Add soil I know that it is tempting to add a lot of soil but trust me on this, less is more. I add between 1/2″ and 1″ of soil flat across the bottom. On this hanging globe you can see the opening dips fairly low so it is important the soil level is below that line so water can be added without spilling out. Regular potting soil will work really well for this project. You can see here that I opted for soil that didn’t have any perlite so that the little white pieces wouldn’t stand out but that is just personal preference.     Second step: Add plants Plant selection is going to be key to the success of your hanging succulent terrarium. Even though your window may seem sunny to you, the light levels are actually much lower than outside so you want to make sure to select plants that will not get stretched out and lose their beautiful shape. Because we want these to last for several years, it also helps to make sure your plants will stay small so that they do not outgrow your globe. You can see a listing of some of the best succulent terrarium plants here. I went with Haworthia retusa, “Window Succulent,” because I already had a pot of it growing and it was easy to pull off three pups for this project. I prepped the cuttings but removing any soil and trimming the roots to about an inch in length. The few roots help to anchor the cutting and also make it very easy to stick right in the soil.  I strongly recommend using cuttings for this purpose.  You can use plants but in that case you will want to put the plants in the container and then add the soil around them– it is just more difficult.   Third and final step: Add top dressing This is the stuff that kind of covers up your soil and also holds your plants in place while they start growing new roots. I chose a mix of smooth stones and some blue clay pendants that I found. I think seashells also look very cool and the possibilities are really endless on this. Pennies, sticks, glass pebbles, moss…   Watering and care I water my hanging succulent terrarium globes by using a plastic cup that I can squeeze a little bit to pour in the opening. I water these about every two weeks but I know there are times when I’ve gone a month without watering and they are doing just fine. When watering, make sure to really saturate all of the soil.     Look at the color of the soil to determine if you need to add a little bit more water to get rid of the dry air pockets. See the darker portion on the bottom? That area is nice and wet and is how you want the entire depth to look. It is a fine balance because you don’t want to submerge your plants; if you aren’t sure stop a little early and let the water soak in to the soil for a bit.   These fabulous little hanging succulent terrariums are so easy to make that you just might find yourself getting more to share with friends. My office feels so much better with some plants hanging above my computer!...
Will my orchid bloom again?

Will my orchid bloom again?

As the last bloom falls from my orchid I find myself asking the important question, “Will my orchid bloom again?” How do you know what to look for and is there anything you can do to encourage another flower? This lovely little miniature orchid was an impulse by from a visit to Home Depot. I am a sucker for all of the things near the checkout line, so a display of small orchids for $6.99 wasn’t even worth fighting.   Large or small, you can get an orchid bloom again. I find that most orchid flowers last 3-4 months in our house if they were purchased in good condition with a several of the balloon-like blooms yet to open. What a deal these orchids are compared to cut flowers! Along the stem of the orchid you can see small white lines that circle the green stem. These are called “nodes” and it is at this point the plant is able to produce new growth or where flowers were previously attached. It is worth noting that the stem must be green for your orchid to bloom again on this stem. If it is brown go ahead and cut it off at the base and wait for the next bloom stem in 6-9 months. The arrows on this image show where the nodes are at along this stem. Some folks will recommend to cut the orchid bloom stalk in half to encourage new flowers but I don’t find that is necessary. Almost without fail, the new bloom stem will develop at the third node from the base of the plant. See the little nub on the image below?  That is where a new stem is starting to grow and new orchid blooms will develop. It will take 4-6 weeks for this to mature and flower buds begin to form, but it is worth the wait. In my experience this secondary flower stem is usually smaller than the first, but always a joy to see. At this point just continue to maintain your orchid in the same manner as before. If there is already a stake on your old orchid bloom go ahead and leave that there to help support the new flowers that are...
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