Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Love it or Hate It? (Number 2)

This is number 2 in my new occasional feature "love it or hate it?"
I saw these phalaenopsis (moth) orchids first being unloaded at the floral section of a local grocery store and had an immediate reaction (below). I took this photo at an orchid display in the conservatory at Ginter Gardens on March 15. The label has the name of the plant, then reads "color enhanced by chemicals" meaning that blue dye or a chemical that eventually turns blue was added to the plant. Moth orchids are becoming very inexpensive to buy due to cloning- most every one you get at a grocery or big box store is a tissue cultured clone. So, what do you think? Love it or hate it? My reply:
This is a definite hate it. I have never enjoyed artificially colored or enhanced flowers- nature does a great job and we just muck it up. Green carnations on St. Pat's Day, glitter poinsettias at Christmas- you can keep 'em. And keep this blue orchid too. This is one effect of cheap orchids-they are so cheap we can now make them look cheap, too.
Happy gardening!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Participate in Earth Hour

Saturday, March 26 from 8:30 to 9:30 PM is the world's largest climate change event called Earth Hour. To participate, turn out all unnecessary lighting (and any unnecessary energy-using devices) to show your commitment to sustainability.For m0ore information, go to:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Love it or Hate It? (Number 1)

With the idea of creating a new feature to the blog, I thought I would show various garden, landscaping, plant and house plant photos and ask you what you think, do you "love it or hate it?" So, here is my first entry, a tightly pruned holly. I guess the idea behind this style of pruning is to produce a holly tree that takes on the conical form of a child's image of a Christmas tree- holly, with its red berries is a botanical decoration for the holiday and has some symbolic elements that comemorate the season. Think for a moment- love it or hate it? Or feel somewhere in between? My answer:
I am big on allowing plants to have a natural form and I don't like this holly. At best, it can look cute one month a year, but after that it has a tortured look. Let the holly be a holly and a Christmas tree be a Christmas tree. This aversion goes toward all those Disney-esque sculpted trees and shrubs called topiaries- cute at Disney or an amusement park, but silly in the home landscape (though, if some one is passionate about them go for it).
Happy gardening!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Annual Tree Plea

Crape Murder
This is my annual plea to stop killing crape myrtles through destructive pruning practices (see first two photos above-the third looks like decent pruning practice). These severe pruning practices harm the tree and can kill it, plus it ruins the lovely, sculptural form of a crape myrtle. For more information and to learn how to do prune correctly, go to this Cooperative Extension flyer at:


I am happy to add that my university is now enlightened. They are going to begin proper pruning practices and will replace any trees badly damaged by the old pruning guidelines. Now, if only the local parks people would follow suit!

Happy Gardening! And keep those power tools away from Crape Murderers!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Overwintered potted plants

I overwinter a lot of plants- some in my attic under supplemental florescent light, some on a kitchen windowsill and others in my garage. These garage plants are a little sturdier than the ones I over winter inside, plus they usually cannot stand the dry conditions inside a house (I once read that to provide indoor air moisture equal to outdoors, you would have to mist inside plants a hundred times per day). Another reason to overwinter in my garage is when the plant is dormant and needs just a little extra cold-weather TLC. Potted plants are especially vulnerable to the freeze-thaw cycle (which also cracks ceramic or clay pots). The roots of potted plants are essentially above the ground and can freeze badly and dry out easily if left outdoors all winter. Going into an unheated garage or shed can provide enough added protection to allow the plant to survive.

If you overwinter pots this way you may encounter the same problem I have- the potted plant seems to break dormancy early in these sheltered conditions. This is a problem- these plants cannot adequately photosynthesize in the dark conditions in my garage nor will they come into proper bloom. I don't want to set them outside without protection: after all, they were protected from the harsh, outdoor conditions all winter. So, this is what I do- I mass the plants in pots near the house and cover them with pine straw (I tuck pine straw under, between, behind and over the top of the pots-see photo above). The house provides a wind break and some heat pools. This protects the plants and pots, allows rain and some warmth from the sun, and it conditions the plants to the outdoors. If the plant is truly early, this may slow its growth down just enough. Some people put potted plants in a cold frame- my cold frame is too small for the 15-20 large pots I have (even if it hadn't gotten loose from its rope and stake mooring in a windstorm and flew up 10 feet and broke apart!) You can also trench your potted plants- that is, put them in a trench and cover with straw, hay or leaves for a month or so, until it warms up- perch them on brick for drainage. In a month, your plants will be truly ready for spring...as will we all!

Happy gardening!