Good gardeners treat plants like what they are: living, growing, changeable things. Where we got the notion that plants are like green machines, performing and behaving in predictable and consistent ways, I have no idea. Plants have likes and dislikes. Plants get sick. Plants get hungry. And sometimes they’re not. But as we slough off that last bit of winter and dive into spring, plants are most definitely feeling needy. They want light. They want water. They want food. Most of all, they want to grow. So help them, with proper fertilization.
Mistake number one of the beginner houseplant gardener is never feeding your plants. Many houseplants can stay in the same pot, in the same soil, for years on end and do just fine, but most of those kinds of plants are desert plants, accustomed to torture and riding out the hard times. Mistake number two of the beginner houseplant gardener is feeding too often. On the back of every Miracle Gro container it’s written- ‘feed once weekly’. THAT’S WRONG! Plants cannot grow bigger, and bigger and bigger ad infinitum. You feed them too much and they will give up the ghost. Symptoms of overfeeding include curled, brown edged leaves and a ring of white crust around the soil’s edge.
In order to accurately assess when your plant is ready for food, listen to it. Look at it. Is it sprouting out new growth? Is it flagging, looking wan? In spring, your houseplants will respond to extended daylight, despite being kept indoors. The new flush of growth that occurs at this time of year should be bolstered by the first administering of fertilizer. But, if no new growth appears as the days lengthen and warm, feed to help your plant strengthen up. As the season progresses, you can listen to Miracle Gro. More or less. Fertilize as necessary bi-weekly until the end of the season, re-potting your plant if it is getting too big for its container. And then give your plants a rest. They’ll be getting sleepy.
Image by Clara Pregitzer
Liam Neeson looking marvelous.
Pictured: gerbera daisy (Gerbera)
In my Brooklyn backyard, there are two things taking place – lots of early blooming and lots of worrying. I’m terrified of a cold snap – a breeze of cool weather that will have the daffodils and crocus’ wilting on their stems. More importantly, I shudder to think of what one 40 degree day might do my cheerfully blooming Japanese Kerria (pictured above) shrub. This is the first plant I ever got into the ground and well, kept alive three years ago. Despite being an incredibly easy plant to grow, I’m always so surprised when the yellow blooms reappear each spring. I almost feel grateful that the plant’s thin arching stems have weathered another brutal New York winter. After all that anticipation, relief, joy, I’d hate to have these tissue thing yellow flowers disappear so early in the season.
New growers and city growers – the Japanese Kerria (japonica kerria) is for you, as it loves the shade. With that shocking LSD-yellow color, it’s also just a stunner against the back drop of a city’s greys and browns.
Juan Gris was one of the pioneers of Cubism and is also, the subject of today’s Google doodle. Generally, there’s no reason to comment on a Google doodle, but in this case, it’s worth illuminating Gris’ painting above titled, “Flowers.”
The SFMOMA website is home to a short, but interesting video video featuring curator Janet Bishop discussing Gris’s contribution to art and his patronage by the great literary lady, Gertrude Stein, through the lens of this single work, “Flowers.” Enjoy.
Ok, so the tomato isn’t so perilous. But its cousins certainly are. Closely related to the bright red symbol of summer are deadly night shade (Atropa belladonna), jimson weed (Datura stramonium), and angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia). And all three have relationships to us humans just as powerful the tomato’s.
Take a look at deadly night shade’s latin name, for example. Atropa is for Atropine, a naturally occurring alkaloid, which lowers muscle activity. Belladonna is for the beautiful ladies that used this substance to dilate their pupils making them doe-eyed, and irresistable.
Jimson weed’s uses are a touch more sinister. Although the plant has been smoked for many years, mainly for religious purposes across Southeast Asia and North America, fatal overdoses are alarmingly common. Also known as Jamestown weed, Datura stramonium was so named when several British soldiers were drugged with it by a clutch the colony’s rebellious citizens. Earlier in Britain the seeds were known as ‘knock out drops’, a kind of early rohypnol.
And the uses of angel’s trumpet are just as dark. Popular with shamans, the plant is still consumed in South America to open portals to the spirit world, aiding medicine men in their communication with the undead. Hundreds of years ago Andean tribesmen ingested the seeds prior to marching to their sacrificial death, so they would not fear what lay ahead.
Lucky for us the tomato is just so nice.
Barry Underwood’s surrealistic photographs have got my attention. From his artist statement:
“I approach my photographic work with a theatrical sensibility, much like a cinematographer or set designer would. By reading the landscape and altering the vista through lights and photographic effects, I transform everyday scenes into unique images.”
Plantasia LP (1976) is the final LP in the career of exotica/psychedelic Moog composer Mort Garson. Tracks include “Symphony for a Spider Plant”, “Ode to an African Violet”, “Concerto for Philodendron and Pothos”, “Swingin’ Spathiphyllums”, “Mellow Mood for Maidenhair” and “Music to Soothe the Savage Snake Plant”.
From the record sleeve:
“Full, warm, beautiful mood music especially composed to aid in the growing of your plants.”
“It has been proven beyond any doubt that harmonic sound waves affect the growth, flowering and seed yield of plants.” — Dr. T. C. Singh, Department of Botany, Annamalai University (India)
Submitted by Marc Alt
Necessity is the mother of invention. And with more and more city dwellers taking an interest in growing their own food, numerous ideas have emerged to conquer the limited space that plagues urban green thumbs. Enter, the potato barrel. It’s the spud’s version of a city skyscraper. Plant your taters down deep in an old whiskey barrel (Or a bucket. Or a garbage can. Or a stack of old tires) and flip the container over at season’s end to harvest. The barrel minimizes space, mess, and time spent growing and preparing your crop. An excerpt from Scott Meyer’s ‘The City Homesteader’ explains how to make your own here.
Image shot by Sandy Austin
Nancy Sinatra’s spring flowers are a fitting post to pair with the 70 degree weather in New York today.
Pictured: chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum)
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