Central Virginia Organic Gardener

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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Tale of Three Gardens: Part I

We recently visited the Jacksonville Aboreteum and Botanical Gardens in Florida.  For some reason, the two labels below exemplify this park for me: 

The name of this park is misleading (at least in winter: it might be nicer in other seasons).  It is basically a city park, a sort of nature preserve, in an area of light industry (and the park is bisected by a power line easement). There are few labels, and seemingly few interesting plants to label.   At the entrance, you are greeted by signs warning of thefts to cars in the parking lot.  There is a pond and some lightly marked trails.  It would be a fine park in which to walk your dog, as we saw several people doing, but it is not (yet) a botanical garden.   If you are in the area during other seasons, it might be worth a quick visit.

Next time: Florida garden number two!

Happy gardening!  Get those seed catalogs out and start dreaming!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays!

For me, gardening is all about the "delight in the unexpected."  I found some leaves still clinging to the top of my apple tree  and I think they are lovely.

December 21, 2013
Photo credit SR Vrana

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Cool in the Semi-Tropics

It was hot in a Florida until I arrived today, Christmas Eve. 85 the day before, 60's today.  

I remember the first time I visited Florida.  I was excited and ran to my Dad, saying "Houseplants grow in the ground here!"  I was 10 or so and had quite a collection of houseplants already. So, here's to my childish excitement, "a houseplant growing on a tree!"

Happy Gardening and Merry Christmas!

Fern Wall

A beautiful old wall in Savannah, GA, by the River.  Lovely ferns worked into the spaces between the bricks.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What a difference a few zones make!

What a difference a zone makes!  We are here in Savannah, Ga,   USDA hardiness  zone 8b, versus my home central VA region of 7a.  Camellias, a winter flowering plant, are in bloom, as are hibiscus plants, a summer flowerer!  More reports from the road as we travel!
Happy gardening!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Muscadine and Grape Pruning

We had a little nice weather this past week, so I thought it was a good time to do a chore I had been neglecting, pruning the muscadine grapes.  All grapes can stand some significant pruning, and native grapes even more so.  My muscadines had really overgrown the fence and were reaching out for new territory!  One day my neighbor came over- he had parked his truck for a few days next to the fence and the muscadines had twined around his roof rack!

The plants are dormant now and need to be pruned before their sap begins to run in the spring.  As you can see by the photo, the background is well-pruned and the foreground remains to be done.  If you wait too long to prune your grapes, they might just exude so much sap that the vine is damaged.  How do grapes respond to dormant pruning?  Very well: muscadines at least, respond with vigorous growth.  There might be fewer grapes (I have far too many, so that would be good), but they should be larger.

One more thing: Happy Holidays from the Central VA Organic Gardener!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Do Wireless Routers Kill Plants? Probably Not....

My Christmas gift to readers is this charming article from The Guardian, on plants, the scientific method, the dangers of over-interpretation and school kids:


Happy holidays!  Over the holidays, I hope to be posting some plant and garden information from a road trip south!

And.....happy gardening!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Houseplants: Part II: Scale Insects

Sorry for the length of time between posts: Thanksgiving and end-of-semester busy-ness absorbed my time.  So, to continue on about houseplants:  sometimes I find these little brown bumpy things on my plants and you might too: in the photo above these are identified by arrows. What are they?
These are actually scale insects, sometimes just called scale, also leaf scale.  These armored bugs most often arrive to your home on newly acquired plants and slowly make their presence known. They attach to the leaves of your plant and slowly suck the juices out of the leaf.  A severe infestation, one you are unlikely to miss, unless you never look at your plants, can kill the plant. And, in juvenile form, they are tiny and mobile (adults are sessile, so stay put).
What to do? First, really, check out plants before you bring them home, looking at both sides of the leaves, stems and branches.  If you see scale, don't buy the plant and let the staff and the store know.  Next, when you do bring plants home, isolate them from other plants for a couple of weeks. I find this hard to do as my space for plants is pretty full.  If you do find scale, move the plant to a sink.  Remove all adults by hand (they are pretty easy to rub off) or you can use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove them.  Rinse away the sticky residue left by the insects. Then, to get those pesky juveniles, spray with insecticidal soap, and spray again once a week for two weeks.  Continue to monitor your plants: if scale breaks out again, repeat the process and increase your vigilance!

Happy houseplant gardening!