Children and Houseplants

Does your child want a puppy, or a kitten, guinea pig, canary or snake? Perhaps you do not wish to care for one more living thing at this point? I remember swearing to care for the dog if we could just get that lab puppy. I think that promise lasted approximately two weeks.

Granted, a houseplant is not as exciting as an animal but neither is it as demanding. It can be used to teach responsibility, science and care of a living thing. It is so gratifying to see children become interested in growing plants in a garden or on their windowsill.

Sometimes the carnivorous plants (especially the Venus flytraps, which move) are the gateway plants for kids, but each child is unique and so are their plant choices. I try to guide kids, and adults, to plants that will thrive in the type of light that is available in their room/home, but that said, I’ve learned not to discourage the love of a certain plant. Even if that particular one doesn’t live for years, it is enjoyed.

Another benefit: you won’t have to hold a funeral. Just return it to the earth in the compost pile!

Here are some easy care, fun plant suggestions your children may enjoy:

Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya): Medium light

African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha): Medium light and pretty flowers.

Anthurium sp: Medium light, heart-shaped flowers.

Cactus: Bright light. Be careful when handling as their spines can injure.

Nerve Plant (Fittonia albivenis): Low light trailer.

Kiwi Dragon Tree (Dracaeana marginata ‘Kiwi’): Low light. Very tough.

Air Plant (Tillandsia sp): Medium light. They don’t require soil, just misting.

Rabbit’s Foot Fern: Medium to bright indirect light. Can get drier than other ferns. Interesting, velvety rhizomes.

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Overwintering Your Blooming Tender Treasures

It is easy to keep your flowering pots over the winter to be enjoyed year after year!
Potted Fuchsias are simple; cut back the plants to the edge of the pot and across the top of the plant to leave a woody dome of 2-3 inches. Strip off any remaining leaves, and insure that insects such as aphids and scale are not present on the stems or soil surface. Place the pots in a cool area that is protected from freezing, but not warm. A basement window could work well, but light is not necessary for 2 months. Check water a few times a month, and don’t let it completely dry out or sit in water. By mid February or the first week of March, bring the plant into warmth and bright light and begin fertilizing according to the directions on your chosen fertilizer. Feed the first few times with a fairly even number, balanced growth fertilizer such as Espoma Organic starter food, 1-2-2. As the stems grow, pinch back the tips to encourage branching for a fuller pot or basket. Bring on the blooms with a high middle number, liquid organic bloom food like Espoma Bloom, 1-3-1. Plants can usually safely be put outside by May.
Geraniums may be treated the same, but with extra consideration regarding insects. Geranium Bud Worm can overwinter in the soil, but an application of BT will kill the crawling caterpillars that might be present or hatch after winterizing. Most people cut back the top 75% of a mature plant before bringing it inside, leaving just a few leaves on each stem base. Be sure to scout for bugs. If you have a bright enough window, geraniums can be enjoyed as houseplants and do not have to have a dormancy, just be willing to cut it back again in late winter if the new growth is stringy. They can also tolerate a fairly cool environment, such as a shed that does not freeze. Geraniums don’t like as much fertilizer as some other plants, so use a light application when you feed after bringing it out in late winter.
Tuberous Begonias are fun to keep from year to year also, and the tubers can get huge over time. They can be left in a pot of soil, if you cut off the top of the plant and leave a short 2″ stub of stem with no leaves. That stub will soon wither, and can then be removed from the soil surface. If you do nothing else but protect from frost, leaving the tuber in the soil and pot, that will possibly be enough. But to get the best and most vigorous plants every year, after the stem stub dies back, gently remove the begonia tuber from the soil by dumping out the pot and crumbling away the old soil. Wrap the flattened tuber in dry paper towels, saw dust or peat moss, and store in a cool dark place that does not freeze. Be sure to label the paper sack, and avoid plastic bags. In late February or early March, plant the tuber in fresh soil at a slight angle, with the top shoulder of the tuber just barely under the soil surface This allows water to drain out of the cupped, dimpled center of the top of the bulb, preventing stem rot. At the appearance of a few first leaves, begin fertilizing with a growth formula. After 6-8 weeks in a warm bright window, you can fertilize your plant with a bloom booster formula and start watching for the buds to form. Most tuberous begonias are self-shaping plants and don’t need to be pinched or pruned to shape.
Lastly, If there is any sign of disease on the leaves in fall, it might be best to start over with fresh plants in the spring. Most of all, check on your dormant plants at least monthly, and say encouraging words to them so they wake in late winter ready to grow and delight. Some people have been known to keep their flowering plants for over 20 years by following these easy steps!

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Bringing in the Houseplants and Citrus for Winter

Summer vacation is over and it’s time for tropical plants to get back to work cleaning the air in the house! As temperatures drop in the fall (averaging less than 60 degrees, or dipping below 50 degrees) houseplants can be damaged, or outright killed if they stay outside. This is a good time to give them a thorough going-over for insects, dust and dead foliage. Trim, clean and spray (in that order) accordingly. If a plant has gotten extremely root-bound you may want to repot, but don’t go too large – best to increase pot size by just a couple of inches. Use Ferti-lome Root Stimulator to insure success. You may want to give plants one last fertilizing, then lay off as days become shorter and darker unless you provide artificial light.
Citrus will also need to come in to a large, sunny (yeah, right) window or greenhouse. They can stay out longer – down to 45 degrees or 40 degrees temporarily. What they would like best is a cool greenhouse as they are sub-tropical. Treat them to all the same steps as covered in the houseplant section. It is very common for citrus to drop leaves in the winter so be careful not to over-water.

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Creating a Beautiful and Productive Cutting Garden



Licia Guest Author

After “surviving” the wet, dark winter, I always look forward to planning out my flower garden with great enthusiasm. I’ve learned ( primarily through trial and error) some very important aspects to creating a full and complete cutting garden. It’s important to think about all the seasons and which flowers, greens and accents will be the stars of each month.

I like to plant a combination of annuals and perennials. I start many of my annuals from seed but I also buy some 6-packs and 4″ beauties from the nursery. It’s almost impossible to resist impulse buying some of these stunning specimens as they come in weekly from our growers.


Sea Holly (Eryngium)



I’ve laid out my beds like a painter’s palette. Each bed is represented by a color group, i.e
whites and cream, yellow, salmon and orange, pink and fuchsia, red and burgundy, plum and purple. I plant a combination of color (face flowers), herbs, greens and texture so that I can create beautiful and unusual bouquets throughout the seasons and for special events.
The first up in the spring are all the bulbs. These little powerhouses burst on to the scene when we need that promise of spring the most. It has helped to plant in organized color rows in order to remember where things are! Some of my other favorite spring cutting flowers are peonies, lilac, lilies, hydrangea, and rhododendron. Later in the season the dianthus, delphinium, penstemon, phlox and poppies bloom with wild abandon. For texture and interest I love sea holly (Eryngium), hypericum, oregano, celosia, sage, lavender and gomphrena. I’ve learned the great benefit of having a variety of greens for bouquet structure and balance. I like to use lambs ear (Stachys), dusty miller and artemisia for their silvery tones, weigela variegata, lonicera and salal (Gaultheria) to name a few. We are so fortunate to have so many varieties of flowers and greens to create stunning bouquets with.


Sweet Peas

Annuals are instant color gratification! I love sweet peas, snapdragons, zinnias, phlox and of course sunflowers. In addition to my cutting garden I have a “kitchen” herb garden. This is located close enough to the house so that I can always dash outside and snip fresh herbs when preparing a meal or a simple centerpiece. I love incorporating a variety of herbs into my floral arrangements. They add fragrance, beauty and have some calming properties as well.


Heathcliff Rose

I also have an ever expanding rose garden. The color, grace and fragrance of fresh cut garden roses is beyond compare.  At first I shied away from roses because I thought they were too high maintenance, but I have learned otherwise. Roses do take some attention but the payback is well worth it. We have so many knowledgeable people on staff that it has been very easy to consult with them to help identify and treat almost any issues that arise.

Some of the key elements to successful flower gardening that I’ve learned are that preparing your beds with organic amendments, ensuring proper watering/drainage, attention to sunlight requirements, pruning and pest/ disease management are all aspects that when combined lead to success and lasting pleasure in the garden!

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Houseplants for Clean Air


This article was first published in Feb/March 2017 Willamette Living Magazine.

Recently, there’s been a renewed interest in houseplants that improve air quality, with an emphasis on plants to help you sleep.  There are several reasons that plants help your indoor environment: some fragrant flowers aid in relaxation, many houseplants filter out harmful chemicals present inside homes and offices, and they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen (some of them at night).  Much of the research on air purification dates back to the NASA Clean Air Study, the results published in 1989.  The lead scientist, Dr. Bill Wolverton, followed up with a book in 1997 entitled How to Grow Fresh Air.

My husband and I have had houseplants in our home environment individually and together.  With my background, you can see why.  My husband grew up in the hippy era.  He has yet to fully explain to me his love of houseplants, but I know his grandmother worked in agriculture and loved gardening.  She endeared me to her when she tossed his pathetic fern into a lake the day before we got married.

I can easily get lost in research about which plants are best for certain situations.  I find science and nature to be endlessly fascinating.  Every study, book or blog has a different set of criteria for their selections.  After looking over the study, the book and a number of blogs on the internet, I chose easy to grow, readily available plants that do one or more of the things listed above to help youareca-palmr indoor environment.  Here are my picks.

Areca Palm: A top oxygen producer, NASA top plant and one of Wolverton’s top plant picks.  It prefers moderate light and is easy to grow.sansieveria-trifasciata

Snake Plant (Sanseiveria trifasciata) : A top nighttime oxygen producer.  Tolerates a wide range of growing conditions including low light and drought.  The internet claims it reduces headaches.  You’ll have to check that out on your own.

spathiphyllumPeace Lily (Spathiphyllum sp.):  Per NASA, it filters out all 5 of the top indoor toxins.  It likes moderate light but will live in low light.  Plus, it has interesting flowers.  It’s my personal favorite houseplant.tricolor-dracaena

Tri-color Dracena (Dracaena marginata ‘Tricolor’ ) : Top air cleaning plant, eliminating 4 of the 5 toxins.  Other species are great air purifiers as we

zeezee-plantZee Zee Plant (Zamioculcus zamiifolia):  A nighttime oxygen producer that grows well in low-moderate light.  Super cool look.aloe-vera

Aloe vera:  A medicinal succulent that produces oxygen at night.

Jasmine:  this one is on the trendy list because of its soothing scent that promotes sleep quality.  As opposed to Lavender and Rosemary, which made the most recent list as well, Jasmine grows better as an indoor plant.  I prefer jasminum_officinaleto grow my lavender outside and dry the flowers to use as a sachet near my pillow.

Recommendations for air purifying are 1 plant per 100 square feet of space.  That’s 18 plants in an average home.  They do recommend to start with a few and add slowly.  Or you can go for the gusto and create a jungle.  Whatever you do, may it be a pleasure and not a burden.  Gardening, indoor or outdoor, should be fun.  Happy Indoor gardening.

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Magnificent Trees

Article previously published in Flourish

oak1The Pacific Northwest is blessed with spectacular skylines of soaring native firs and cedars and a climate well-adapted to a wide array of trees to compliment them. Trees bring grace and beauty to our world, creating living walls and ceilings to enclose our gardens, screening out unwanted views and sheltering us and our homes with cooling shade in summer. From the first hint of emerging leaves in spring, to clouds of showy blooms, lush, leafy summer shade, fiery fall colors and the bare tracery of branches in winter, trees dazzle us all through the year. Some trees bear showy fruit that attracts the cheerful songs of birds, allowing us to watch the nature show of their comings and goings throughout the year. Perhaps most importantly, trees filter our air, taking out CO2 and giving off life-supporting oxygen in exchange.

colorfulA well-chosen tree adds value and beauty to your home. There are so many trees to choose from, varying in size, form, leaf color, fall colors, flowers and conditions in which they will thrive. The key to picking the right trees for your yard is to evaluate the conditions in which the trees will grow and to decide about how large you’d like them to grow. See if your site is sunny or mostly shaded? Does the water puddle and stay boggy all winter or does the water drain away fairly soon after heavy rains? A simple soil test kit can tell you the pH of your soil. Trees that like acidic conditions (low pH), like sourwood or pin oaks, cannot absorb nutrients and they will look chlorotic (yellowish) if the pH is too high. Will you be able to water the tree during our dry summer months or will the tree need to survive without irrigation once it’s established? If you choose trees well-adapted to the site they’re planted in they can thrive and grow beautifully for a lifetime. We have handouts for wet-tolerant, drought-tolerant and deer resistant plants so you can choose wisely. Also, our knowledgeable staff can help you pick the perfect tree for your site.

Once you know your conditions and how large you want your tree to get, the fun part is deciding what you want from your tree. Spring and summer foliage can be green, gold, burgundy or variegated. Colored or variegated foliage makes beautiful accents but should be used sparingly. Maples, redbuds, beech, and flowering plums can have burgundy or gold foliage. Maples, dogwoods and beech can have variegated leaves.

magnoliaDo you want a flowering tree? Trees can bear a stunning display of flowers in spring or summer in a variety of colors and shapes. Look at the spot you’d like to plant the tree to choose flowers, leaf colors and forms that look pleasing and don’t clash with the surrounding buildings and plants. For a dark backdrop of evergreen trees or a dark colored house, a cloud of white or pale pink flowers from a flowering cherry, flowering crabapple, dogwood, snowbell or star magnolia would show up beautifully. If your house is light colored perhaps deep purple goblets of Black Tulip magnolia, dark pink Royal Raindrops crabapple or magenta flowering redbuds would be stunning.

If your garden is full of blooming shrubs and bulbs in spring and you’d rather have blooms in summer, consider Clerodendrum, a deer resistant small tree with wonderfully fragrant white flowers in August followed by jewel-like blue fruit that the birds will love. Silk tree (or Mimosa) is a graceful spreading tree covered with puff balls of pink flowers in late summer with ferny foliage of green or burgundy (Summer Chocolate Mimosa). Sourwood is a lovely small tree with sprays of white blooms in late summer followed by dazzling red fall colored foliage.

Some trees bear showy fruit that put on quite a show until our feathered friends come to feast upon them. Crabapples like Golden Raindrops and Royal Raindrops have tiny pea-sized fruit that is always eaten by birds and so makes no mess. Also, pretty in fruit are some dogwoods, hawthorns, mountain ash and Clerodendrum.

red-mapleFall can bring spectacular colors to the foliage of many trees. For blazing reds try many Japanese maples, red maples, Autumn Blaze maple, Pacific Sunset and Crimson Sunset maples. Also consider sour gum (Nyssa), sour wood (Oxydendrum), Stewartia, Franklinia, dogwood and red or scarlet oaks. Brilliant yellows glow from ginkgos, aspen, birch and yellowwood(Cladrastus). Mixed colors of yellow orange and red are displayed on paperbark maple (Acer griseum), sugar maple, sumacs and Parrotias.

What shape do you want your tree to be? There are gracefully weeping trees in many sizes. For smaller sizes (less than 20’) there are sculptural weeping purple beech, Ruby Falls or Lavender Twist redbuds with small pinkish-purple blooms or weeping golden chain tree (Laburnum) with hanging chains of sunny yellow, wisteria-like blooms. Another interesting small weeper is the weeping pussy willow with fuzzy, fur-like silver flowers that is tolerant of very wet sites. Flowering cherries put on quite a show in double pink or Snow Fountain white flowered varieties. Camperdown Elms sporting lime green flowers in spring followed by large leaves are very striking weepers. By a pond or wet site weeping willows are the first trees to leaf out in spring, forming fast-growing, gracefully weeping giants.

Is space limited, so you need a narrow columnar tree? There are narrow forms of many trees. Try red maples like Armstrong and Bowhall, columnar hornbeams, Red Obelisk beech, Princeton Sentry ginkgo, Musachino zelkova or Persian Spire parrotia that form striking vertical accents.

If you need a very small tree for a patio, planter or other small space look at tree forms of several shrubs. Lilacs, rose of Sharon, crape myrtle, panicle hydrangeas, dappled willow, Black Lace elderberry, flowering currant and variegated redtwig dogwoods all come in tree forms, making small trees 10-15’ or less.

There’s bound to be the perfect tree for your garden waiting to be found. Let the experts at Garland Nursery help you find the right one for you.

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Figs, Fig Leaves, and the Bible


At the nursery, we’re always busy.  In the spring, it’s a whirlwind of customers and plants coming in and going out.  When the weather slows down the sales, we’re still working away getting ready for next year.  We play catch up with the office work. We deep clean.  We reorganize and redo displays for a fall and winter holiday look.  We get our reference materials ready for next spring.

Sometimes the cleaning, reorganizing, and prepping for next year yields some strange and nostalgic items.  It’s kind of like a cross between a treasure hunt prize and Throw Back Thursday social media posts.  I’d like to share the latest “find”.

First, a brief background.  I’m a hoarder and my sister is a “throw awayer” (if there is such a term).  I have recipes from when I was 16 and clothes that are over 30 years old.  About the time I get rid of something, it comes back into fashion or I want to reference it and I can’t find it, usually because I have thrown it away.

So today, my sister Erica brought me an old, type-written page  about figs.  This page, encased in a plastic sleeve, has resided in our fruit tree book for as long as I can remember.  I recognized it immediately.  Her comment and question surprised me, however.  She referred to the very last paragraph of the written page which begins “Biblical records mention the fig leaf…”  Her question was, “Who do you think wrote this?”  Now, I don’t know for sure but I have a very strong suspicion, given the biblical reference that it was our grandmother, Garland, who wrote this epistle about figs.  It sounds more like her than my mom.  I doubt my dad spent his time typing up stuff like this.  It could be a plagarized article used for sales purposes or it could be someone else who worked at the nursery way back, but my money’s on my grandmother.fig-tree

Then, Erica turned the page over.  There were 3 recipes on the second page.  She suggested I blog about it and include the recipes.  The strangest thing of all is, one of the recipes looked very familiar.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I made that recipe 25 or so years ago.  If my memory is still intact, I found a copy of some fig recipes in a file folder of hand-outs.  We had an abundance of figs on the trees in the backyard of the old homestead (Erica’s house now) that were not being eaten or preserved.


I decided to make something I could can.  The recipe calls for dark rum.  I was a teetotaler then, so I used rum extract.  The fig and walnut conserve was delicious!  I served it over ice cream and I can practically taste it even now.  fig-compoteI’m not sure I ended up canning any of it.  I really wanted to prove to myself that this was in fact the same recipe.  As I said earlier, I keep everything.  Wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t find a copy in my recipe file and stash.  (Okay, I didn’t look that deeply.  I have too much to do to spend 30 minutes trying to find a recipe I made 25 plus years ago.)  Oh well, I’m 97% sure it’s the same one.  I’m going with that.  No one can prove otherwise, anyway.

In honor of the unknown author (possibly Garland) of this history of figs, here is the text, followed by the recipe.  I have transcribed it exactly as it was typed, errors and all.  Enjoy!

Fig trees have been growing in the Northwest since 1886, mostly for shade or an ornament.  Little or no effort was made to distribute the fig in many localities in which the fig is adapted or try to learn which variety might be best suited to home use or orchard planting.

In about 1908, we took up the task where others had left off and since we have found that after growing many varieties, very few were suitable to the Northwest.  The variety must be hardy, self pollenizing, stand an unlimited amount of dampness and still ripen its fruit.  Any fig will grow here and make a fine ornamental tree, but to produce the finest fruit work had to be done.  The fig, a unique fruit in that it contains no acid, can, be eaten in quantities not permissable by other fruits.  It is rich in minerals, especially sodium chloride, a blood element, and it also contains, when fully ripe, about 42% sugar and about 3.5% protein, and it is most valuable as a dried fruit.

The fig tree lives longer, bears a crop of figs each for a continuous period of over six weeks, and requires no spraying, little trimming, or care of any kind after the fifth year, except for watering and a little fertilizer.  The fig leaves are sometimes used as poultices for the relief of rheumatism, for mellowing tobacco and the leaves contain a milky sap.

Biblical records mention the fig leaf as clothing and as medicine.  In the matter of clothing, were it “the fashion to wear em” the fig leaf would be particularly enhanced in value, a fact due to the infinite number of patterns no two leaves found on the same tree being exactly alike, thus featuring “exclusive designs.”

Fig and Walnut Conserve

In a heavy saucepan combine 3 cups sugar, 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind.  Bring the water to a simmer over low heat washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the sides of the pan until the sugar is dissolved.  Cook the syrup 5 min.  Add 2 pounds figs, halved lengthwise and sliced, 1/4 lemon slivered, and cook the conserve over low heat, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes.  Let the conserve stand for at least 12 hours.

Bring to simmer over moderate heat and cook for 20 minutes, until thick.  Stir in 1 1/3 cups chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup dark rum.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars and cap.  Let cool and tighten caps.  Yield: 2 1/2 pints.

Canning Figs

One pound of ripe figs to 1 pound of sugar.  Make a heavy syrup with the sugar, pour over the figs after they have been dipped in boiling salt brine for 2 minutes.  Now put figs in jars to simmer on stove till clear or transparent.

Brine is made with 2 ounces of table salt to 1 gallon water.  Bring to boiling point before dipping the figs.  Seal teh jars while the figs are hot.

White Fig Marmaladefigs-3-kinds is made from the white or black fig.  Use perfectly ripe, fresh fruit, peel off the thin, soft skin or leave it on, grind up the figs through your food grinder.  To every 2 pounds of figs use 1 1/2 pounds of sugar.  If you like a touch of other flavor add a little grated orange or lemon peel.

Boil all together until it is reduced to a thick, clear, smooth mass.  Do not stir too much, as this will cause the marmalade to sugar sooner after being made.  When done put into jars while hot and cover closely.  Those who like less sugar can use 1/2 pound to 1 pound of figs, and it will keep perfectly if it is boiled till very clear and smooth.



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