Saturday, December 27, 2008

Where To Find Free Seed Starting Equipment For Your Garden

It's easy to find seed starting containers for your vegetables, flowers and plant cuttings, without spending any extra money. Containers of every shape and size are all around.

Here are a few I found in my kitchen:

A clear plastic lettuce container with lid, it's about a foot wide and good 8 inches across. This is deep enough to start almost anything and they can grow your sprouts in place until they are big enough to go in the garden.

A square, yet deep, chocolate container would be good for starting cuttings or a handful of seeds for one special plant. Last, we have a small round chocolate cake container from a fast food restaurant. This is small and not very deep. You could do a cutting from a small plant with this or a few large seeds wrapped in damp paper towels.  

I wound up using the smallest "seed starter" to hold onion skins for the compost pile. Since it seals tight it doesn't smell and thanks to being clear, you won't forget about it the next day.

Any container you use for starting seeds or cuttings should have a few holes in the bottom. Either use an ice pick (very 80's, I know) or a hammer and nail. You can also cut an X with a box cutter. The lid can also double as a saucer if you don't need a lid.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Floral; Flowering Aloe Vera And Pink Roses In December

I was going to do a picture of my hot pink flowering rose with a few ripening oranges in the background.

But sometimes you find the best surprises in the garden when you least expect them... in December.

As I was working on finding the best angle of the rose and the orange tree, I discovered this big aloe vera flower stalk growing up through the rose bush.

It's a secret flower stalk, I suppose.

This aloe plant is in a pot on the patio. It gets a few hours of sun in the morning and late afternoon, which seems to suit it well.

The stalk is about two feet long and has little orange bell-shaped flowers opening along the stem. Or are they trumpet shaped? It is just after Christmas after all.

Hummingbirds like the aloe flowers too.

But back to the rosebud in the winter.

This rose is called Fragrant Cloud.

I chose it to grow next to the patio mainly for the fragrant roses, but the flowers are a beautiful deep, hot pink and fairly large too! I'm glad I planted this one.

I've been working on new art for the store, so I thought I'd try an artsy version of the rose for you.

Here is a painted version of this rosebud in December.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Toyon: Red and Green California Christmas Holly

This is Toyon, also called California Christmas Berry or Christmas Holly or Heteromeles arbutifolia. These beautiful shrubs are prized for their bright red berries and deep green leaves. This is a fantabulous alternative to regular Holly (Ilex) when you need something drought-tolerant for your garden AND a little something for the birds and the bees too. These evergreen shrubs grows to about 25 feet tall and almost as wide. They make good screens for dry gardens, but you can also trim them into multi-trunked trees or standards. They have white flowers which are attractive to bees, but the show stopper comes just in time for Yule when the bright red berries ripen against the green leaves.
Toyon is native to the California coast down to Baja and into the Sierra Nevada foothills. They do well in USDA Zone 7 - 10 or Sunset Zones 5-9, 14-24.
At one point California Holly was a very, very popular table decoration and so many were cut and dug up, a law was passed to stop people from picking them in the wild. It is also the shrub that gave Hollywood its name. Some of the species native to the Channel Islands are endangered or threatened.
Did you know right now is a perfect time to get ready for spring planting? It's only a few weeks away, so get ready to take advantage of our rainy season. Many of our local California Native Plant nurseries have safely propagated endangered plants in stock, so you can brighten up your winter garden and help save a species.
However, you should also be aware that Heteromeles arbutifolia has been identified by the USDA as a host plant for Sudden Oak Death. I would not plant it near oaks and would read the USDA sheet for more info.
On a more positive note, Toyon is known by the US Forest Service to be resistant to fire mortality. Meaning it seems to survive brush fires well, and will resprout all over the plant after a fire. Read more at our pals at the USDA Forest Service.
Toyon berries have been eaten by the local Chumash, Tongva and Tataviam Native Americans either cooked, mashed and mixed with water as a beverage or dried and baked into pancakes. A tea from the leaves was also used as a stomach remedy.
This row of Toyon is in the Sepulveda Dam Basin along Woodley. Our thanks to the designers of this lovely arrangement. It makes a beautiful California greeting.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Floral; My Color Change Crassula Capitella Is Flowering

I just love this succulent plant.  I found it in a little 2 inch pot with no tag in the 'novelty succulent plant' heap at the local big box home improvement store.  

Since then I have been able to spread this plant down around the garden and over the patio in pots.  

It is named crassula capitella or Campfire Plant or Red Flames.  The most unique characteristic of crassula capitella is how it changes colors.  

Right now, in winter it is flaming red.  Sometimes it is bright apple green and other times it is green with red tips.

Today this hot little number is mostly flaming red with tall spikes of little white flowers.  

This plant has a spreading habit, but it likes to point the tips up.  

It sprouts roots from the stems sometimes before it even hits the ground.  

In containers it will drape gracefully before turning it's tips skyward.  One of my faves.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Garden Store Update; I've got Aloe Vera pups for you!

My aloe vera plant has been jumping out of it's pot, so I've got a few of my organically grown aloe vera pups up for sale this week. Aloe is great for minor skin irritations like kitchen burns, and easy to grow. Drop by my Aloe Vera page for more growing info.

I've created a Garden & Plant Section in my eCrater store with cutting from my organically grown succulent plants I write about here, pretty planters and my growing collection of handmade garden-themed jewelry. Please drop by and take a gander, I only have $800 to go to get my house out of foreclosure!

I opened my store under my MomsRetro banner, but it's still me, I promise!

Don't be a stranger. Visit my Home And Garden Section or visit my main page at:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Floral: Red Climbing Rose Flowers

I am happy to report that my climbing rose has forgiven me for last summer. It is on a south facing cinderblock wall. Normally it does fine in the heat, but this summer just got too hot.

My poor climber has a few brown, sunburned canes. At one point it even lost all its leaves after one too many 120 degree heat waves.

A few weeks ago I gave the plant a nice soaking. And we've had milder weather and even a few drops of rain.

Today I have two little roses and a few buds. The foliage hasn't all come back yet, but I think my rose will be OK. Here is a photo from happier times.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Plant Profile: Crassula Tetragona Easy Succulent Plants for Dry Gardens

Crassula tetragona are drought tolerant succulent plants that look like pine branches with fat needles sticking out the sides, or perhaps a green bottle brush flower. These unique crassula are often used in bonsai containers to look like pine trees.

In the ground, they grow up to 4 feet tall. The plants will branch at the tips and can be used as a low, informal hedge. Crassula tetragona leaves are about an inch long and about 1/4 inch thick. Leaf color can vary from green to deep, bluish green. These succulent plants can take full sun to light shade, love heat and are easy to root and grow.

Like other Crassula, tetragona grow well in dry gardens with other succulent plants and cacti. As houseplants, give them up to 6 hours a day of sun. They should also do well with bright, indirect light. These perennial plants are drought tolerant and only need water once a month or so. In summer they get wide, flat sprays of flowers that make me think of Queen Anne's Lace. Blooms are produced on the tips of their branches. Flower color can vary from white to light yellow.

Crassula are hardy to 40 degrees. In my garden they have survived heavy frost without much damage. But all that water stored in their leaves and branches will freeze if they are exposed to cold temperatures for very long. Frost damage usually shows up as brown, shriveled leaves. Cut or brush off the damaged growth and the stalk should resprout in a few weeks.

Xeriscaping with drought tolerant cactus and succulent plants has become popular here in the arid southwest. My crassula are growing in both full sun and shade, in my southern California heavy alkaline, clay soil.

They are poking up around my cactus and their fluffy branches provide a nice contrast to the flat green cactus pads. They’re pretty, carefree and always look green when everything else has fried. If you think you have a brown thumb, this is the plant for you!


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