Aeriums & Tillandsias

Outside on January 6thWhen it looks like this outside, the inside garden provides a bit of sanctuary. Really, there is little to see outside in the garden with snow on the ground. I will go take a closer look tomorrow morning but right now, the indoor garden is providing a bit of green relief. Aerium with TillandsiaAre any of you interested in aeriums? Aeriums are like a terrarium but with no 'terra', just air. I am not sure who coined the term. Perhaps it was Flora Grubb Gardens which sells a wide variety of these interesting little worlds. If you can find the glass globes, glass teardrops, glass cubes or clear wall vases at your own local garden center you can pretty much make your own with bits and pieces of lichen covered twigs and ground lichens along with dried moss. Aerium with tillandsia-2You could use a small glass container of any sort. Tillandsias are also now easy to find at most garden centers. If you can't find them you could mail order them if necessary. Tillandsias are in the bromiliad family. Called air plants,they take their nutrients from the moisture in the air, decaying leaves and the surrounding environment of their native habitat. They are native to Central and South America, the southern United States and Mexico. TillandsiaOnce you nestle your little tillandsia inside a clear container with any bits and pieces you like, you will  need to mist it every now and then. It seems that once something is put in glass, whether it is an air plant, a garden of small plants or even inanimate objects such as those in snow globes, the object or objects become deserving of a bit more attention. Tiny little self-contained worlds are that much more interesting to look at and enjoy. These tiny, miniature gardens seem to help ward off the fatigue of winter and they require little care. Windowsill gardenI am enjoying them along with the terrariums in the indoor garden. Have you tried adding them to your plant collection? Will you?       

The Queen's Tears

IMG_6286The third Tuesday of every month from September to June is Garden Club night and this past week our Garden Club invited Rick Peckham of Peckham's Greenhouses in Little Compton, RI to speak to us about houseplants. January is a time of indoor gardening in RI since the landscape is usually frozen and white.  Rick is a fifth generation plantsman full of plant wisdom, personal experiences with plants (he said he has killed many), and he is a very nice guy. His greenhouses are packed with treasures. He brought many with him and some special, less common plants were among the group. He spoke eloquently and knowledgeably about the plants and my ears always perk up when I hear 'This plant thrives on neglect'. Billgergia nutansSo it was that I came to covet the plant whose common name, The Queen's Tears, evokes a bit of sadness. No queen should cry, after all. This plant's botanical name is Billbergia nutans and it is part of the Bromeliaceae family. Billbergia flowerThe common name refers to the fact that when the plant is in flower the flowers exude a bit of nectar which falls when the plant is moved. This plant is in flower and it does look quite regal but I have yet to see any tears. DSC_0021Native to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, Billbergia is an epiphyte attaching itself to trees and gathering moisture and nutrients from the air around it. DSC_0022There is little moisture in the air inside my home in the middle of winter but Rick assured me that this plant needs little attention. It is adapted to the light levels of a rain forest although the light levels are low here in New England in winter even in the brightest of spots. I am not sure if it was the pink bracts which attracted me or the navy blue striping on the edges of the flower petals offset by the pollen on the anthers. The flowers are small and must be seen up close to be fully appreciated. I am hoping it lives up to its reputation as a vigorous, easy to grow houseplant. As an added bonus, this plant produces many offshoots which can be passed on to other gardening enthusiasts. Only time will tell but for now, this plant is helping to stave off the winter blues.  It is a nice addition to the other plants wintering on the table by the window.  DSC_0027Do you have any plants which help you avoid the nature deficit of the winter months?


IMG_5784Gardening under glass has a mystique all its own. Intriguing micro-climates of miniature glass gardens never fail to elicit a comment or a second glance. Some terrariums can stop you in your tracks as fast as any brightly colored jewel or objet d'art to which you are drawn. Every one of us has his or her own personal passion and for gardeners, terrariums are a treat to the senses. In the midst of a New England winter, a terrarium glows on a windowsill or table with serene green growth so very absent in the outside landscape. A terrarium is, typically, an enclosed glass container for growing plants. Not all plants are suited to the rain forest atmosphere of a terrarium but many will thrive in an uncovered container where the humidity levels are more moderate. DSC_0016I made four for Christmas gifts this year. They were fun to make and the biggest problem is finding plants which are small enough for available containers. I started with three glass containers and one small cake stand.  Two had no covers and two had lids. While all of the glass containers have moss, two hold only moss and moss benefits from a bit of air circulation so a container without a cover can be a good choice for a moss garden. The cake stand was planted with all moss and instructions were provided to remove the lid occasionally. This container was shallow and really should be thought of as a temporary dish garden.  You can read more about moss gardens here. DSC_0018I cleaned the containers and added colored glass to the bottom area where water can collect. Next I added activated charcoal which serves to filter the water and help prevent fungal diseases which can occur in overly moist containers. DSC_0019I then added a good quality potting soil which is usually a soilless mix. This one was bagged by a reputable nursery and contains perlite, peat and perhaps vermiculite. It matched the soil of the plants I added. One aralia and one wide leaf fern were added to different containers. Moss was used for a ground cover and stone, pieces of moss covered wood and lichens were added for more interest. DSC_0028Nature in a bottle. The cake stand was offered at a Holiday Yankee Swap and it traveled the room until the last person to play ended up with it. Choosing a gift which moves about the group is always desirable and while this was a group of gardeners, one of the husbands was overheard to say 'Who would want that?' That made me laugh. Not everyone sees things with the same level of desire. DSC_0024If you have a bit of time on your hands, a glass container and the desire to create a living ecosystem, try making a terrarium. They can thrive in our homes which have low humidity in the winter and they can allow you to expand your palette of plants.  I did receive a new book for Christmas,  IMG_5957'The New Terrarium' by Tovah Martin.  I always enjoy reading anything by Tovah Martin. The author of several books, she is well known for her horticultural knowledge and she writes in an easy, informative and engaging style. This book contains wonderful pictures in addition to instructions for making a terrarium. It also informs the reader as to which plants will thrive in the humid atmosphere of an enclosed terrarium along with those that benefit from a bit more air circulation. My next attempt at terrarium making will be that much more informed after I digest the contents of this book from one of my favorite gardeners.  Have you made a terrarium lately? 

The indoor garden grows!

High 35 F
Low  22 F
More snow and ice arrived today but I have been busy at the desk and plan on re-potting these small treasures picked up on a recent trip to a local greenhouse.  This time of year drags incessantly on and the indoor garden provides a bit of relief from the two tone colors of the outdoor landscape.  I have to say that I do love begonias.  Angel wing begonias, Rex begonias and the other hybrid crosses with beautiful foliage and interesting flowers.  Begonia flowers are messy, one drawback but many varieties flower so prolifically that it is a small price to pay at this time of year.DSC_0003   This begonia is called 'Tea Rose' and it is in a four inch hanging pot.  The parentage includes B. nitida odorata which indicates that it should be fragrant. DSC_0005 Mine doesn't seem to have any fragrance but it does need a good haircut which will provide some cuttings for the garden containers in a couple of months. An added bonus is the glossy foliage.
 I have always wanted to try a bougainvillea and this is the one I picked up.Dsc_0006 (2)   This plant is in a tiny two inch pot and is begging for transplant.  I can only hope it thrives. I know it can  be a bug magnet for mealy bugs and white fly.  I am optimistic.  I did purchase another begonia, this Rex begonia called Looking Glass. Dsc_0007 (2) Who needs flowers when you have foliage like this one.  The last little plant acquired is this Abutilon 'Dwarf Red'. Dsc_0008 (3) I could have chosen one already in flower but this one was squat and fat with many promising buds. These plants are added to the ever growing collection.  One of my other favorite begonias is this one named 'Art Hode'. DSC_0009 It has big, textured leaves with red hairs covering the  surface and the base of the leaf.  It is an easy grower.  It does flower with a cluster of white blooms on a long stem.  They drop like confetti all over the floor.  What's a bit of petal patter on the floor?  It matches all that blond hair from Tucker!Dsc_0055 (2)  

Garden Center treasures!


I thought I would share some of the flowering plants in the Garden Centers I visited last week.  Who can't use a bit of color this time  of year?  This picture has quite a few leftover poinsettias but the block of white in the middle of the picture is Dsc_0018 Phaelenopsis orchids which were quite stunning. These are pretty easy to grow and I have one budding up right now although it is a miniature.  I hope it doesn't dry out too much while I am away!  Here is anotherDsc_0015 in a pretty orchid color and then there are the amaryllis bulbs Dsc_0022 in full bloom.  They are lush and hard toDsc_0028 resist photographing. A few other orchidsDsc_0017 were also blooming. One last little cyclamenDsc_0027 with fabulous foliage!  I wish these were all in bloom in my living room but I will have to be content with the photos and memories! I'll be posting beach pictures in the next few days!  Come back and visit!

Houseplant mania!

This past weekend I worked on re-potting, dividing, and potting up some cuttings taken from summer annuals and houseplants.

Dsc_0005Table 1

  Now what do I do?  I have all these houseplants and not enough room in the house! Dsc_0006
Table 2 with the Job Foreman once again looking bored!
I guess it is time to share!  It is no lie that my house is much smaller than my garden.  That is okay with me but the greenhouse space, which should be big enough to house many of these plants, Dsc_0007
Table 3
is the office which makes for a very nice work space but leaves little room for flora.   I am going to try to cram some in the house this weekend.   Many of these are houseplants which have spent the summer outside on the patio.  There are quite a few begonias of various types, some streptocarpus which needed dividing, a couple of scented geraniums which I took cuttings from a month or so ago along with coleus and salvia.  I do enjoy the indoor garden and will probably detail some of these as they start to thrive inside.  If they don't thrive you won't see them again and they will hit the compost pile!  Is anyone else bringing the houseplants in for the winter?