Archive for June, 2010

A Worry-Free Vacation

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

vacationI was actually pretty hesitant about trying Vacation for plants. I mean, how many times do you buy something and it just doesn't work as advertised? And when it comes to your houseplants or your lawn and landscapingthat's quite a risk to take! But this year I took my summer vacation with my best friends, my neighbors, which meant none of us had someone we could depend upon to watch after our plants and lawns.

When I bought mine, I decided to buy one for everyone else and just hope for the best. I've always been happy with GHS products, so I took a leap of faith, and just thought positively, convincing myself and my friends that we could take a care-free vacation and not worry about our plants or lawns. I'll tell you, that was quite a leap!

In fact, we worried more than we wanted to. While traipsing through the World's Biggest Yard Sale in August, we kept a constant watch on the weather back home by way of my laptop computer. I bookmarked the Weather Channel page and checked my Yahoo weather report every chance I got. Dismally, we watched the temperatures rise and the humidity decrease. We just knew that we would return home to scorched lawns and withered bushes. We weren't as concerned about all of our houseplants, except that each of us had one favorite that we fretted over, but the thought of returning home to our houses surrounded by the same shade of ‘blah brown' became a bigger and bigger worry. We managed to still enjoy ourselves during the day while filling our trunk and a small trailer with goodies we had found, but when we sat down to lunch or dinner, the talk inevitably turned to our yards. Finally, two days before we returned home, we had a little rain. Yay! Rain! You would have thought we were farmers depending upon the rain for our livelihood! It was kind of funny, but that was one of the most positive moments on our whole tripuntil we thought, ‘This is probably too little, too late'.

Our dread became almost unbearable as we pulled back into town and then drove toward our neighborhood. What a surprise was waiting for us! Not only were the lawns perfectly green and every shrub perky and in perfect health, but because we had not had much rain while we were gone, the lawn didn't even need mowing. We had been gone for almost two weeks and we were amazed! Not only that, but our telephones were buzzing as we were all so thrilled that our houseplants had survived our absence as well.

Vacation really worked! You see, it says that it puts your lawn or plants in a state of dormancy. It gradually wears off over a two-week period, unless you get rain, in which case it dissipates and the normal growth cycle takes over. So, if we had gotten more rain, our lawns would have survived also, but we would have had to mow as soon as we got home. Because we didn't get rain, the growth cycle stopped, kind of like it does in the winter time! Wow! Now we could sort through our treasures and get our laundry caught up and just relax for a week before we had to worry about lawn work. Truly amazing!

We have already decided to do the same trip next yearwithout the unnecessary worry. Thanks to Vacation! Tim G.

Begonias All Around

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Begonias are as versatile as they are diverse.  The plants maintain a compact, polished and elegant look throughout the entire blooming season, with very little care or maintenance.

There are countless qualities that make begonias popular indoor and outdoor plants.  They have a long bloom time.  There is a wide range of flower types and colors, as well as leaf shapes, sizes and colors.  They come in a variety of growth habits, making them suitable for planting in the ground, patio containers, and hanging planters.  And, they grow well in just about any environment.

Begonias are perennials in warm climates, but they can be perennial plants in cold climates if overwintered indoors.  They acclimate to fluorescent lighting or low natural indoor sunlight in the fall after a summer season outdoors, and they require no special treatment to provide a long season of profuse flowers when returned to the outdoors after the last frost in late spring.  Just be sure to introduce them back outside gradually, so they don't get shocked by brighter sunlight and harsher temps.

Several varieties of begonias are ideal for hanging planters.  Water according to how much direct sunlight (and heat) the pots will be exposed to.  Start with a soilless potting mix, as begonias do best in well-draining mediums.  They also prefer to have their roots somewhat bound, so don't use a pot much bigger than the initial root ball.  And don't transplant your mature plants until the roots have truly outgrown their container.

Begonias will thrive with standard houseplant fertilizer.  Most begonia aficionados prefer liquid fertilizer, diluted and added with every watering.  Dry fertilizers can also be used, mixed into the plant water.

Before choosing varieties of begonias, consider the growth habit, the look of the leaves, and the bloom color, so you have blooming plants that complement your space and will adapt well to your selected site and containers.  Even when not in bloom, begonias make a beautiful houseplant, with leaves ranging from velvety to leathery to shiny, and in colors from light green to dark green to purple to variegated patterns.

Keep your begonias on the drier side, rather than evenly moist.  Allow your begonia plants to dry out completely, then water thoroughly until the water drains out of the planter and doesn't saturate the potting mix at the bottom of the pot. 

Most varieties of begonias will thrive in conditions of full sun or partial shade.  As your patio containers or hanging planters grow, keep pinching off dying leaves and dead flower heads.  Begonias are dense plants but they will become leggy if dead parts aren't removed.  Otherwise, they need very little attention to become lush, colorful additions to any environment.  And their flowers are bright, cheerful and long-lasting.  Best of all, begonias are readily available and very affordable.

What Type of Tree is This?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I was hoping to get a tree or plant identified, if possible.  I am attaching photos.  This was a voluntary plant that grew very close to my house and each summer it grows taller than the house before we cut it down.  I would like to plant one out near the woods, but I have not been successful in rooting it.  I have not ever seen flowers or seeds produced from it.  This one grows too close to my house and front door.  It is very messy in the fall when the leaves start falling. The leaves are very large (1 to 2 feet across) and they are oily to the touch (and they are slightly fuzzy?).  The main trunk is kind of hollow in the center even though, as it gets bigger, it becomes more wooden, but the center stays hollow, if that makes sense.  I would like to figure out what it is and where I can get one to plant where I want it.  It is probably some kind of fast growing weed, as I see it growing at edges of parking lots and up close against other houses.  I have even seen one growing out of a street culvert.  I have made several concrete birdbaths using the leaves from this tree or plant, and they are wonderful.  I would appreciate it if you could help me identify it or tell me the best way to transplant it to another area of my yard.  If you need more info or photos, please let me know.  Thank you, Kathy

Answer: The images you sent look like you have a Royal Paulownia tree, also called a princess tree or empress tree. It is originally from China and was introduced to this country as an ornamental. It grows quite rapidly and can reach a mature size of 50ft. x 50ft. and will bloom as soon as its second year. The tree is often planted and harvested for its close-grained, lightweight wood, which is used in Japan for everything from jewelry boxes to shipping crates. Its ability to grow in disturbed sites such as strip mines is making it popular for reclamation uses, as well. However, this naturalizing ability also makes it an invasive or “weed” species and I suggest you plant it with care.  As with most flowering and fruiting trees it can be quite messy, so do not plant it near your home or patio. 

There isn’t much information about how well they transplant. You should try to get as much of the root system as possible. It does sound like they are pretty easy to grow from seed and they are shown to be common in your area, so if your transplant doesn’t take, search around the area for another one and start from seed.

Good luck with the tree,