Garden Design with Hosta

Hosta’s are beautiful. The various textures, colors of the foliage is marvelous! And hence, they are by themselves are able to provide a unique visual interest. The first hosta I grew was given to me by a colleague in Microsoft and soon it became an obsession. I have hosta’s in different part of my yards, but there is a small bed in the north side of the house which is completely dedicated to hostas. And it is a favorite spot of mine. This bed also has the first hydrangea I ever grew, a Pieris JaponicaI, a Japanese Maple and ferns. I could have done more grooming to this garden bed, but even with the weeds and dead fern leaves, this garden always brings me a lot of joy!

I will have to divide the big yellow variegated hosta since it outgrew its space. I want to put a solid colored one here so that the colors blend well together. Maybe I will add astilbe’s too. I am continuing to collect more hosta’s and adding them to the shaded west side of the house. Can’t wait for that part of the yard to take shape.


Letting the dreams blossom

Flowers that are growing in 2022

It has been a strange gardening season this year. The spring and early summer has been so mild and very very wet. Slugs and snails have been having a feast. But as always nature steps in and there are beauties to enjoy in the garden. I am so happy with the two dahlias that are currently blooming – Crazy Love and Kelsey Anne Joy. Both of them are new to my garden this year. Crazy Love is in excellent health but Kelsey Anne Joy is very slug/snail damaged. The dahlias in pots are doing a lot better than those in ground. A new learning for me is to always start new dahlias in pots to prevent slugs from decimating them. My precious Shirley Temple peony is also blooming for the first time this year. It was in a pot last year and I did not get much blooms. I planted it in ground in September 2021. It is beautiful. The two white roses (David Austin Winchester Cathedral and Iceberg) are lovely as always.

The Amaryllis – getting them to bloom again!

Happy New Year to all. Wishing everyone peace, love and a joyful 2022.

No other flower heralds the holiday season as much as the Amaryllis. I am not ashamed to admit that I have a fascination for these beauties! My day gets happier the day these blooms. But Amaryllises are expensive bulbs. It’s hard for me to discard them after they bloom and justify the cost of buying them every year. At the same time, they are so gorgeous that I can’t imagine not having Amaryllis. With a little bit of care, we can have the same bulbs bloom year after year.

I made a video earlier on how to plant the newly bought bulbs after they bloom. You can watch it here:

In the video below, I show you how these plants bloom after a period of dormancy.

Hope these videos are helpful to you. If you are growing Amaryllis and have any tips to share, please add them in the comment below.

Happy Gardening, friends!

DIY Holiday Swag

A simple piece of decor can jazz up any doors or walls and make it festive and all ready for the holidays. I usually make wreaths for the holiday season but this year I wanted to try something new. I loved how the holiday swag turned out. Let me know if which one you prefer for the season- a wreath or a swag?

July in my Simple Urban Garden

July is when the garden is in its prime. Though this is also the time when the heat of the summer soars, my lawn turns brown and I lose my patience with constantly watering the garden. PNW goes through a dry spell during the summer just when we need the rain the most.

I get most excited about the vegetables I harvest this time of the year. This year, I harvested garlic, peas, beans, lettuce, Swiss Chards and potatoes so far. I am definitely going to focus on growing more garlic. So satisfying and easy to grow them. The new (second) Plum tree bore a couple of perfect shaped yellow juicy plums this year which I harvested in July. The other plum tree which bears dark purple plums has lots of fruits which are yet to ripen. The birds have been enjoying these plums – hoping they leave a few for us to taste. I look forward to a day when the tree bears enough fruits for the birds and us to share.

I am also starting to think ahead and plan for what I want to plant for Fall. I know that this year, I will be sowing carrots and peas for some fall crop.

I captured the highlights of my July garden in the video. The audio quality is not what I expected. I hope to do better the next time. Let me know what you think. Happy Gardening!

Wandering Jew or Tradescantia Zebrina Plants

Tradescantia zebrina, also known as wandering jews or spiderworts, are beautiful vining house plants which has lovely shiny foliage with stripes of white, green, silver, and purple colors. They are very easy to care for and equally easy to propagate.

The optimum requirements for this plant to grow and flourish is minimal. Wandering Jew doesn’t like to dry out but it doesn’t like to be constantly wet either. I water my plant every 2 weeks in winter and about once a week in summer. This is because in winter the plant (like all plants) are dormant and not actively growing. I have my plant in my kitchen window which is north facing, so it doesn’t get any direct sunlight.

I have not faced any disease / issues with my plant so far but I heard that aphids might be a problem. If so, the recommendation is it snip off the affected leaves, stems if there is an aphid attack.

Which brings me to the most fun topic which is how easy they are to propagate. I got my plant as a single stem from a gardening friend who was trimming hers. I stuck it in some potting soil and off it went. In less than a month, I saw new growth which led me to believe that the “stem” has now rooted and is an established plant by itself. However, I wanted a more bushier look. So I snipped off half of the original plant and planted it in the same pot and, Voila! Another one rooted. I now have a bushier looking plant and come warmer weather, I am sure it will bulk up more with more leaves and growth.

Here is a video of me taking a cutting from my original plant for rooting:

Forcing Branches to Bloom Indoors

In the dark winter days, when it is too cold to step outside, we all crave a little color indoors. A great way to achieve this is by bringing branches and “force” them to bloom. “Forcing” is a term used in horticulture for plants to be what they are not. Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors is very common and it means months of cold stratification, planting, then watering, then growing. For branches forcing is a tad too strong a word. It just involves snipping flowering branches outdoors and bringing them in for them to bloom indoors.

The what: Any trees and shrubs that flowers in spring are good for forcing indoors. Make sure not to prune off too much, to avoid hurting the host tree or shrub and losing blooms outdoors in spring. I have had good luck forcing blooms on forsythia, plum, and lilac branches.

The when: You should take the cuttings to force in late winter, after at least 4-6 weeks of cold weather. The buds on most flowering trees and shrubs form the previous year and and breaks dormancy in warm weather. So when the branches are brought indoors, the warm indoor temperature forces them to break dormancy and bloom. I bring my cuttings indoors in late January.

The how: Cut branches using clean pruners and make the cut at the base of the stem. You will cut just at the top of the branch collar, a widened part of the branch where it joins the larger branch or trunk. Do not leave stubs (a length of branch that bears no buds) or tear the branch off. Both of these are damaging to the tree or shrub you are hoping to keep in your garden! I take the cuttings off the tress and shrubs that I want to prune for better shape and health of the plant. After taking the cuttings, make sure that they are clean (no spider webs!!), bring the cut branches into the house, put them in water, and set them in a cool, shady location so they can gradually warm up to the indoor temperatures. It may take a few weeks for them to bloom, but you will be enjoying their blooms much sooner than your garden this way.

Orchids Care and Repotting

Orchids (Orchidaceae) are a very diverse family of plants which includes approximately 20,000 different species. While orchids are grown as natives in tropical climate, here in gardening zone 8b, it is a house plant. The most commonly grown houseplant orchid is of variety “Phalaenopsis“. It is also the easiest to take care of and blooms off and on throughout the year. They come in a lot of different colors. When in bloom, they look stunning and lasts for a long time.

While the orchids are easy to care for, they have certain needs that make them thrive. The repotting topic is the broadest and varies widely.

  • Light : The primary reason Orchids don’t flower is when they don’t get sufficient light. They need bright, indirect sunlight to bloom, but direct sunlight makes their leaves scorch. I usually keep mine in a south (or east) facing window sill during winter and a north facing window sill during summer.
  • Water: When someone tells me that their orchid died, I am almost certain that there was root rot involved. The orchids must NOT sit in water or their soft tender roots will rot. I water them thoroughly once a month and that is sufficient in our humid Seattle weather. The clear indication that the orchid are healthy comes from their roots. Bright green roots tell us that the orchid has sufficient water, when the root turns brown, it is telling us that the orchid lacks moisture and when they are slimy silvery color, the root rot has set. If in doubt, it is better to under water than over water. It is very hard to recover a plant if the root has started to rot. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the reason why orchids should never be planted in a potting mix or soil is because they hold on to too much moisture and the roots will rot in a matter of weeks.
  • Feeding: I do not give any fertilizers to any of my indoor plants including Orchids and they have not complained thus far.
  • Repotting: Orchids are usually sold potted in a special orchid potting mix which is very “airy”. They usually consist of bark, charcoal, sphagnum moss and contains minerals to help the orchids grow. I only repot my orchid every 3/4 years unless they show signs of distress, if bark or potting mix has broken down, or if the plant “pushes” itself up and out of the pot. To re-pot, take the plant out of the planter, and remove all the bark/mix from around its root. This is a good time to cut off dead or diseased roots. Only keep the roots that are green and plump. Then replant the orchid with fresh orchid potting mix. One thing to remember here is to make sure that the pots have a lot f drainage hole/slats. Usually the clear plastic pots that the orchids are sold in are the best pots for growing orchids. But they can also be grown in more aesthetically pleasing glazed or terracotta pots provided they have at least a few holes/slats to allow for water to drain and light to reach the roots. The Orchid roots have chlorophyll which means the roots can also photosynthesize and add energy to the plant. The plant will still survive if the roots do not get sunlight as the leaves also adds energy by photosynthesis. Most orchids prefer shallow squat pots as their roots don’t like the moisture retained in the deep pots and they don’t need the depth anyway as the roots spread out, not down. As far as the timing of repotting goes, it can be repotted any time of the year. However, it is best to repot after a flush of bloom so that there is no loss of the prized blooms. There is also an option of skipping the entire orchid potting mix and letting the orchids grow in water. Since I have no experience growing orchids using that method, I am skipping that here. There are plenty of literature available online if you want to explore that option.

You can watch the process of repotting orchids, while I do mine.

Repotting Orchids

Winter? “Sow” be it..

Winter sowing is the technique of growing plants from seeds sown in winter to give them a head start in spring. As any gardener who has ever struggled with a self-seeding plant knows, some seeds do very well when left outdoors in the cold all winter. The seeds that does well in this technique are the ones that need to experience cold, damp conditions either because they have hard shells that are softened by the freezing and thawing or because they are triggered by the change in temperature to sprout. This is called stratification. 

So, how is “winter sowing” different than “self sowing? Winter sowing essentially provides a mini greenhouse environment to control the germination of seeds within the boundaries of the container it is sowed in. A quick internet search told me that the phrase “winter sowing” is attributed to Trudi Davidoff, a resourceful gardener who had more seeds than indoor space. Ms. Davidoff sows seeds in covered containers (she uses take-out containers with foil bottoms and plastic tops) and then moves the containers outdoors. The containers act as mini greenhouses, allowing the seeds to experience the chill of winter in a controlled environment. When the temperature warms enough, the seeds germinate and start to grow. I learnt about this technique in the last few months and wanted to give it a try. I sowed Tiger Paw Asters, Monarda (Bee Balm), and Lupine seeds. I am eagerly waiting to see if I am successful in this process. I won’t write about the step by step process I followed, instead I am linking the video here:

My first experience with winter sowing

I will provide an update on this experiment in spring. So make sure to follow me here or in my social media accounts.