}

July 9, 2011

CUCUMBER MOLDS FROM JAPAN

Grow your own heart-shaped cucumbers
Cuteness from the garden. Who wouldn't  love these heart cucumbers from their own garden?

What more can I say about these fun and cute cucumber molds from Japan that I haven't said already, except that - yes, my past posts on these molds when I first saw them in Japan 5 years ago have been kind of insanely popular on Pinterest and in social media.

Obviously, novelty raises the share ability and social media quotient! There is no denying that there are many home gardeners and mommy bloggers who adore these molds, but even though are mostly just pinning them to their boards on Pinterest or sharing old images with their followers on Twitter and Facebook, not to mention Instagram -- I did have to wonder if anybody has actually tried them?II decided to invest in a few imported from Japan (warning, they are pricey and probably not worth spending $75 dollars or more for, as surely, commercial growers will be dabbling in introducing these soon. Not deterred - as I am one whom is always up of some novelty- it's time to test these guys out.

July 7, 2011

Pricks-The Joys of Thorns

SOLANUM PYRACANTHUM HAS ATTRACTIVE GOLDEN THORNS, THIS ORNAMENTAL TOMATO RELATIVE IS AN UNUSUAL CONVERSATION STARTER FOR A SUMMER CONTAINER, IT'S FLOWERS AND FRUIT ARE EVEN MORE INTERESTING, MORE ON THIS PLANT AND OTHER ORNAMENTAL SOLANUM SPECIES IN A FUTURE POST.
People act funny around thorns. You may freak out at the thought of picking berries in a thorn-infested blackberry patch, or scream when you accidentally grab a black raspberry seedling while weeding, or even wear gauntlet gloves when pruning your favorite rose bush, but thorns on plants aren't all bad, and some thorns on plants are the specimen's most intreagueing feature, making them ornamental. 


Some of the ornamental tomato relatives known as Solanum's have amazing thorns, Solanum pyracanthum has firey toned thorns that are much more interesting than it's average purple blossoms. Many of these Solanum's are now trendy container plants, found at upscale nurseries and in designer collections, but others are being selected for not having thorns, such as the Solanum quitoense below. I much prefer the thornier variety than this new thornless one, for this is a plant that had row after row of devilish thorns both on the top of the leaf, and below. Now, it's practically a fuzzy eggplant.
NOT ALL ORNAMENTAL SOLANUM'S ARE THORNY, THIS IS A THORNLESS S. QUITOENSE, NEW TO MOST MARKETS FOR ORNAMENTAL CONTAINERS AND SUMMER PLANTINGS. (I MISS THE THORNIER SELECTION, BECAUSE THE THORNS ARE WHAT MADE THIS PLANT SO INTERESTING).

Some thorn plants, like cacti and those on other desert plants define their species, and agave are often grown for their radial form and symetrical, yet deadly, thorny leaves. I believed that I would never cut these off, and sometimes even selecting the prickliest vartieties to grow, like 'Meat Claw'. I don't really care if I get tormented by 'Meat Claw' or any Agave for that matter, that is, until you step on one by accident, or shove your hand into it without looking. But now with a puppy who likes to hunt, with eyes at thorn level, I have a different outlook on such attributes. Rather than shoving foam peanuts onto each leaf tip until the plants are relocated back into the greenhouse for the winter, I have decided to trim the very point tips off of some of the Agave. Although an eye-patch on a dog has its cool-factor, I'd rather not take that route right now. Our vet bills are just too high as it is.

AGAVE 'MEAT CLAW', APTLY NAMED.


Some thorns are just too dangerous, especially the ones found on many species of Agave. Since we keep many in our Agave collection on the steps of the deck, or on the ground in containers where the dogs wander, we have started snipping the tips off. I know that the thorns are some of the best features on Agave, and the snipping them off many equate with declawing a cat, but after seeing a dog at the Tuft's Vet Hospital with an eye patch, and after two nose incidents with our dogs ( not to mention a nasty infected long Agave thorn in Joe's middle finger joint last year), I am taking precautions and simply snipping the very tip ( not the whole thorn) off of the most dangerous Agave plants in pots.


EUPHORBIA MILII, OR CROWN OF THORNS, IS A COMMON HOUSEPLANT, BUT ALSO A LOVELY THORN PLANT TO KEEP ON A WINDOW SILL. OUR GREENHOUSE IS TOO COLD AND WET FOR THIS SPECIES IN THE WINTER, AND THEY PREFER TO GO DORMANT, OR ROT.

A YELLOW FORM OF CROWN OF THORNS, ALMOST GLOWS WHEN IN BLOOM, SINCE THE THORNS ARE GLAUCUS BLUE AND THE FLOWERS LESS OF A HORRID SHADE OF RED.



July 6, 2011

A Chinese Lantern Lily? More like, neither.

A SUMMER BLOOMING SOUTH AFRICAN BULB RARELY SEEN IN GARDENS, SANDERSONIA AURANTIACA BLOOMS IN A POT WHERE IT'S GOLDEN LANTERNS SEEM TO LIGHT UP THESE WARM AND HUMID JULY EVENINGS LIKE JAPANESE LANTERNS.
 Even we gardeners fall into ruts. Ordering the same plants and bulbs each and every year. But why not change it up? Have you ever wondered who grows all of those odd little bulbs that you see in the spring and summer catalogs? You know, Gloriosa Lilies, Tigridia, Tritonia? Well, this year I am trying new things that I have never grown before, many are those lesser bulbs that we all seem to overlook.

This week, a slightly unusual South African bulb plant is blooming in a container, Sandersonia aurantiaca. More common as a specialty cut flower,I am finding that a container with 8 roots ( which look like bulbs, but are actually thick, brittle roots) make a less than exciting in a container. I think even if you planted u a dozen, the display might still be not worth the investment.  Commonly known as the Chinese Lantern Lily or Christmas Bells, most catalogs sell the plant by its Latin name, more likely because it is a single genus, with one species. In South Africa, this plant blooms in the winter ( which is summer there), near or around Christmas time in December. In our July garden, it illuminates a mixed container nicely, but in the garden, I think it can get lost, so I am not sure that I will grow this again.

Sandersonia is related to the Gloriosa lily which naturally is not a true lily, and neither is the Sandersonia  for that matter, both are members of the Colchicaceae family, ( You know - autumn flowering Colchicum - go figure).

Order Sandersonia in the late winter or early spring, I purchased mine from Brent and Becky's Bulbs.  I would suggest buying a few, since I bought 12, only 3 grew, so I am guessing that the roots are rather fussy and may not sprout uniformly. The root stalks that you will receive in the mail are very tender, and for success, they much be planted in pure coarse sand so that they can have perfect drainage. Potting soil can then be added to the surface, which I then mulch over with gravel.
SANDERSONIA AURANTIACA SEEMS TO BE THE VICTIM OF SOME LEAF HOPPERS THAT ARE FINDING THE LANTERN FLOWERS TASTY.  THEY ARE CHEWING THE BLOSSOMS INTO TINY SHREDS.