Up-cycled Garden|Space Gardening

Birdcage Planter

Do you love succulents as much as we do? If so, odds are you will love this birdcage planter. This birdcage planter makes for an easy upcycle. With little more than succulents, a birdcage and soil you can add a splash of greenery to your home or garden. Find out how to make your own birdcage planter!

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Succulents are awesome plants for upcycling as they require little water and can be planted almost anywhere! Pallets, corks and bricks are just some of the succulent-based upcycles we’ve showcased. A few weeks ago we featured a birdcage planter on our Facebook page and the crowd went wild! Happy to please our upcyclers, we immediately went on the hunt for a birdcage to repurpose. We found this turquoise gem at our local flea market. It was looking a little worse for the wear with some loose metal rods. Nonetheless, we thought it would make for a spectacular birdcage planter. So we took it home and got cracking!

How to make a birdcage planter

Once you’ve found your birdcage, give it a good soapy wash with disinfectant. Next determine if you need to give any additional TLC by reinforcing any loose metal rods etc. Once sorted assemble your succulents for use. One of the best things about succulents is that they grow easily from cuttings. If you’re lucky enough to have some big succulent plants in your garden, go ahead and cut some clippings to work with. Otherwise you can pick up some plants from your local nursery.

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The next thing we did was affix our birdcage base to the metal top. We thought of numerous possibilities for this and settled upon the simple solution of plastic zip ties. Our plastic base had a couple slits on each side so it was easy to slip the zip ties in and secure through the metal rods. If your base doesn’t have any slits you might have to create some or come up with an alternative method of affixing it. We attached one side first so that we were able to plant comfortably.

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We then filled the base of our birdcage planter with soil. Because there was an open slot on one side of the plastic base we reinforced the area with a bit of landscaping fabric. This allowed our soil to stay contained. We then started filling our birdcage planter with succulents.

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Once the inside of our planter was filled we closed it up. We then secured the second side of the birdcage planter with plastic zip ties. Now working from the outside in, we started adding some accent succulents to the outer sides of the planter.

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Satisfied our birdcage planter was complete we hung it up using a ceiling hook.

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Sunflower House|Space Gardening

 

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Building a sunflower house is an easy and rewarding project. The seeds of the giant varieties, when planted in a square or circle formation, create the perfect setting for a reading nook or gathering space!And don’t forget to leave a space for a door…

Supplies:

  • A packet of sunflower seeds – choose a tall variety like Mammoth or California Greystripe
  • Stakes
  • String or twine
  • A hoe
  • Compost for fertilizer

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Note: seeds should be planted after the last frost date in your area.

  1. In early spring, locate a suitable location with good soil, flat ground, and at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight during the growing season.
  2. Decide (with the help of your child) whether the sunflower house is going to be a square or a circle. Decide the shape of your sunflower house and decide how big you want it to be.
  3. Now that you have your site picked out and the shape chosen, stake off the agreed design in the chosen location.  Tie a string to one of the stakes and stretch it around the perimeter to designate the walls of the house – remember to leave an opening for the doorway, approximately two-feet wide.
  4. Remove any rocks, grass, and weeds from inside the perimeter – have your child help!  To make the “floor” of your house weed-free, place flattened layers of cardboard inside the marked area, then cover the cardboard with seedless straw or mulch.  Later you can plant a cover crop inside the house to form a comfortable “carpet”!  Using the string around the perimeter as your guide, use a hoe to clear the perimeter area.
  5. Use a trowel to dig a small hole, 1 inch deep, every foot along your market outline.  Have your child place two seeds in each hole, following the packet instructions.  Cover the seeds with loose soil.  If birds are a problem, cover the seeds with window screening secured with rocks while they are germinating.  Water seeds thoroughly.  When they sprout, remove the window screening.
  6. Fertilize the flower as they grow: you can use a blend of liquid kelp and fish emulsion.

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Optional:

  • Plant corn interspersed with the sunflowers.  This is a great example of companion planting!  The corn drives some varieties beetles away from the sunflowers, and the sunflowers in turn protect the corn from fall armyworms.  Choose any kind of corn you like, although multi-colored looks especially festive.
  • Plant a carpet of white clover inside the house to create a soft “carpet.”  Also consider planting some herbs like spearmint and chamomile inside and around the house to give off soothing aromas.
  • Alternate the tall sunflowers with a shorter variety so the children can better examine them

Mailbox Makeover|Space Gardening

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A small garden around the base always adds curb appeal to a traditional wooden or metal post mailbox. Keep in mind that whatever you plant in your mailbox garden needs to be hardy since this area of the yard is often subjected to people walking their dogs, storm-water runoff, street salt from winter snow, traffic fumes and other less garden-friendly factors. At the same time, you don’t want to plant something sharp and spiky, like a yucca that could injure someone (like your mail carrier) or scratch car surfaces.

Vines
Flowering climbing vines can be an ideal natural decoration for the mailbox and Callahan singles out clematis as a favorite choice because it is a “super simple, easy bang-for-your-buck. The only issue is if they do well in that spot, they will require a little bit of maintenance because they grow quickly and you do need to tie them up so they don’t cover the mailbox.” ‘Albina Plena’ ,‘Blue Dancer’ and ‘Pink Flamingo’ are all good examples of winter-hardy, disease-resistant clematis.

Depending on the climate zone where you live, here are some other suggestions for flowering vines:

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  • Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium sempervirens) has evergreen leaves and produces trumpet-shaped flowers that are strongly scented and attract pollinators.

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  • The sweet pea vine (Lathyrus latifolus) produces flowers that look like tiny orchids and attracts butterflies and bees.

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  • The morning glory loves full sun, blooms all summer long and makes an ideal climber for walls, trellises and mailboxes with “Sunspots’ and ‘Heavenly Blue’ as two popular cultivars.

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  • The black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata) is a striking ornamental plant that typically produces orange flowers with dark centers and grows well in southern regions of the U.S. such as Texas and Florida.

 

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Annuals
Callahan recommends petunias “around the mailbox base if you want that constant pop of color.” Some homeowners might do a single annual color scheme for their mailbox garden, as with petunias which can make quite a pleasing visual impact in a mass planting. Other hardy, colorful annuals to consider are marigolds, vinca, portulaca, coleus and zinnias.

Perennials
The beauty of perennials, of course, is that they come back seasonally and require less maintenance than annual plantings. Callahan, who resides in the Chicago area, suggests lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantine), a dense, low-growing, drought-resistant plant with white, woolly foliage.

“A good one that is green and variegated is lilyturf,” she states. “Another favorite is called threadleaf coreopsis and it is bright yellow. That’s particularly pretty with a combination of a salvia, so you’d have the purple with the bright yellow.”

You can find some tips about choosing plants for mailbox gardening following this video.

Rooting Roses From Cutting|Space Gardening

One way to propagate roses is from rose cuttings taken from the rose bush one desires to have more of. Keep in mind that some rose bushes may still be protected under patent rights and thus, are not to be propagated by anyone other than the patent holder.

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Things You’ll Need

  1. Quart-size canning jar or mayonnaise jar
  2. Garden gloves
  3. Hormone growth powder such as Root Tone
  4. Large knitting needle
  5. Hammer
  6. One fresh 12”/ 30 centimeter (11.8 in) or longer single stem rose – or 12”/ 30 centimeter (11.8 in) cutting from an admired bush that has five or more leaves at the top
  7. Sharp gardening shears that have been sanitized with alcohol

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How to Grow Roses from Cuttings

The best time to take rose cuttings and rooting roses is in the cooler months, perhaps starting in September, as the success rate is higher for home gardeners at this time. The rose cuttings that one is going to try to root are best taken from the stems of the rose bush that have just flowered and about to be deadheaded.

The rose cutting should be 6 to 8 inches in length measuring down the stem from the base of the bloom. I recommend keeping a jar or can of water handy so that the fresh cuttings may be placed directly into the water after making the cutting. Always use sharp clean pruners to take the cuttings.

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The planting site for growing roses from cuttings should be one where they will get good exposure from the morning sun, yet shielded from the hot afternoon sun. The soil in the planting site should be well tilled, loose soil with good drainage.

To start rose bush from cuttings, once the rose cuttings have been taken and brought to the planting site, take out a single cutting and remove the lower leaves only. Make a small slit with a sharp knife on one or two sides of the lower portion of the cutting, not a deep cut but just enough to penetrate the outer layer of the cutting. Dip the lower portion of the cutting into a rooting hormone powder.

rose-bush stem cuttings in water, shown with rooting hormone #3. (In this case, Stim-Root® from the Plant Products Co. Ltd., Brampton, Ont., Canada)

 

The next step when you grow roses from cuttings is to use a pencil or metal probe push down into the planting site soil to make a hole that is deep enough to plant the cutting up to about 50 percent of its overall length. Place the cutting that has been dipped into the rooting hormone into this hole. Lightly push the soil in around the cutting to finish the planting. Do the same thing for each cutting keeping them at least eight inches apart. Label each row of rose cuttings with the name of the mother rose bush it was taken from.

Place a jar over each cutting to form a sort of miniature greenhouse for each cutting. It is extremely important that the soil moisture for the cuttings does not dry out at this rooting time. The jar will help to hold humidity in, but can be a problem if it is subjected to a lot of hot afternoon sun, as it will overheat the cutting and kill it, thus the need for shielding against the exposure to the hot afternoon sun when you root roses. Watering of the planting site every other day may be required to keep the soil moist but do not create a standing water or muddy soils situation.

Once the new roses have taken root well and have begun to grow, they may be moved to their permanent locations in your rose beds or gardens. The new rose bushes will be small but usually grow fairly quickly. The new rose bushes must be well protected against the hard winter freezes in their first year as well as extreme heat stress conditions.

Please keep in mind that many rose bushes are grafted rose bushes. This means that the bottom part is a hardier rootstock that will withstand cold and heat better than the top and more desired part of the rose bush. Starting a rose bush from cuttings places the new rose bush on its own roots, so it may not be as hardy in cold climates or in extreme heat conditions climates. Being on its own root system can cause the new rose bush to be far less hardy than its mother rose bush.

Tips

  • Keep the soil moist at all times.
  • This technique can be done with tree cuttings as well!
  • Not every cutting puts out roots. Even with your best effort, sometimes they die anyway. Keep at it and you will see results.
  • Don’t take your cutting until you are ready to plant it right away. The stem seals quickly in dry air.

Caring For Orchids|Space Gardening

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Orchids are beautiful flowers which are rapidly becoming the most popular potted houseplant, behind only poinsettias at Christmas.For many people, getting a gift orchid raises a question: What should I do with it to keep it? For many people, their first gift orchid is the beginning of a long-term love affair with these exotic flowers. But it can seem like a long way from that lovely gift orchid to a thriving collection of flowering plants.This article is designed to help you take those first steps.

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Identify Your Orchid

There are about 30,000 species of orchids in the wild, and more than 100,000 registered hybrids. Yet when it comes to gift orchids, the overwhelming majority are one of two varieties:

  • Phalaenopsis, also called moth orchids. These plants have round flowers with a pronounced lip that grow on a single tall stalk arising from a whorl of fleshy, oval leaves. Flowers are usually white, purple or pink, or some combination thereof.
  • Dendrobium. Dendrobiums are sometimes called cane orchids. They have smaller flowers that grow in rows on stalks that arise from thick canes, oftentimes with several flower clusters per plant. Flowers are typically white or purple. Dendrobium leaves are narrow and emerge from the sides of the cane.

Knowing the name of your orchid will help you later, after the bloom.

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First Things First

When you first get your orchid, it will likely be in bloom. Obviously, you want to prolong the bloom as long as possible, so whatever the tag says, here are a few tips that can help.First, most gift orchids are potted in the wrong conditions for long-term growth. They are potted in plastic and packed with moss around the roots. In fact, orchids typically grow on trees and their roots are water-gathering organs that needs loads of fresh air flow to be healthy. Orchids with wet roots are susceptible to root rot and other problems. But you never want to repot a blooming orchid, especially one that arrived in such a beautiful container. It’s too stressful on the plant and it will drop its blooms.

Instead of repotting, it’s better to hold off on the water. Don’t worry! Most people who are new to orchids think the plants needs loads of water to grow well, but it’s just not true. Unless your orchids are growing in the open air, suspended in baskets where they can completely dry out within an hour of being watered, your orchid actually needs very little water. So here’s a great piece of advice: every time you think you want to water, wait three days. Or a week. Your plant won’t suffer.

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Next, don’t place your orchid where it will experience cold drafts or exposure to direct sunlight or heating vents. Very dry air, direct heat, and chills are the enemies of your flowers. Your bloom will last longer if you can provide a mild, warm and somewhat humid environment.

Provided your orchid is happy, expect the bloom to last at least a few weeks, sometimes more.

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After the Bloom

When the bloom is over, it’s time to shift your thinking from a “gift plant” to one you want to keep around for a while. This means snipping off the old flower spike near the base (some experts keep these spikes on, hoping it’ll rebloom from the same spike, which does sometimes happen). It also means, depending on the season, repotting your orchid into a more friendly container with the right growing medium.

Small Landscaping Strategies|Space Gardening

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The traditional view of landscape design is a detailed drawing specifying the location of each shrub and flower bed. In truth, each time you bring home a plant from the nursery you are engaging in the design process, either intentionally or unintentionally.

Judging from the results I see, there are an awful lot of unintentional designers out there. Many landscapes look like a collection of randomly chosen and haphazardly placed plants. Not only do they lack cohesion, but even worse, the poorly placed plants become liabilities, requiring expensive pest treatments, frequent pruning or complete removal long before they have fulfilled their natural life spans.

Although an overall plan is a valuable tool, there’s nothing wrong with designing on the fly. Experienced gardeners do it all the time, usually with great delight. Whichever method you choose, here are a few tips for creating a landscape that stands out from the crowd and minimizes future headaches.

Plan for Equipment Access

“It’s important to anticipate future access,” advises Liz Dean of New Leaf Landscaping in Durham, N.C., “whether it be mowers or stump grinders, or future building projects such as a porch or patio.” At some point in the life of your home, you will be faced with a project or repair that requires some loud, monstrous machine to get into your backyard. Plan for it in advance, or be faced with having to tear out some of your precious plantings.

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Start With (and Maintain) the Focal Points

Stated simply, a focal point is something that “makes you look,” says Dr. Pat Lindsey, a landscape design professor at North Carolina State University. At its best, however, “it directs you visually and makes you feel surprised, moved or engaged, moving you through the garden experience.”

Although we typically think of using a specimen tree or statue as a focal point, there are many other possibilities. Lindsey says the key is to find something that is “slightly to very different from the rest of your landscape in form, texture or color.” It could be an architectural feature of your house or even a borrowed view.

The trick is to make them stand out, yet not stick out. It should be somehow connected to the rest of the landscape, either through a repeated shape or color, or a connection to the overall style of the landscape. Scale is also important. If your landscape is several acres with broad vistas, then perhaps an ancient oak would play the role quite well. In a small urban lot, an ornate garden bench or small statue might be the perfect size.

Leave Formal Landscapes to the Rich and Famous

A formal landscape is one of the most challenging to create, and the upkeep can be arduous. “Symmetry is very difficult to maintain,” notes Dean. If, for example, you have two identical evergreens at the corners of the house and one dies, it could be very difficult to find a matching replacement. “Sometimes,” she continues, “the only choice is to replace both, which adds to the expense.” One of the most common dilemmas is the hedgerow or foundation planting where one or two shrubs have succumbed to a plague. Be wary of putting all your eggs in one basket.

Keep Curves in Check

Incorporating curves will add interest to your garden, but don’t overdo it. A collection of amoeba-shaped beds would be overkill, as would a curvy path that takes you far out of the way of your destination. Long, subtle curves are often best.

Lindsey also advises gardeners to “limit the geometries so that one dominates.” If you incorporate curved lines in beds and walkways, for example, repeat those shapes in the third dimension with the shape of the plants you choose and the way you arrange them.

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Add Movement

A landscape without movement is like a painting. Paintings are fine for hanging on a wall, but a garden needs movement to add life and interest. No garden is complete without some ornamental grasses to sway in the breeze. Add flowers to attract hummingbirds and butterflies, and several berry producers for the birds.

Accent Your House

Unless your house is an architectural masterpiece, it could benefit from some thoughtful plantings to soften the edges and help it blend with the surroundings. But take care not to end up at the other extreme, a house that is hidden by overgrown shrubbery. Even the smallest starter home usually has some interesting architectural feature. The best design will highlight that feature.

Take Nothing for Granted

When you live in a place for a while, you tend to accept existing features as obstacles, sometimes without completely noticing them. Rather than designing around the overgrown shrubbery, established trees, or worn-out deck, consider removing them. You may discover new possibilities, such as a sunny spot for a vegetable garden or rose bed.

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Right Plant, Right Spot

On the outside chance that someone reading this has not heard the old adage “right plant, right spot,” I urge you to adopt it as your personal gardening mantra. The phrase should be repeated constantly during each visit to the nursery. In addition to knowing the full-grown size, Liz Dean cautions us to consider growth rate as well. Since they get large more quickly, fast-growing plants may seem like a bargain. In the end, however, time and money spent on pruning and other maintenance may outweigh the initial savings.

Dean also observes that “proper spacing allows air circulation to prevent fungal and insect problems.” But won’t the finished landscape look sparse? Easy, she counters, simply “fill in with annuals.”

Finally, keep in mind that you needn’t have a five-figure budget to achieve an exceptional landscape. Whether your landscape venture is a two-month multiphase project, or a Saturday trip to the nursery, the key is to select your plants purposefully and place them thoughtfully. The result is sure to bring you years of enjoyment.

Window Box Garden|Space Gardening

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Window boxes need no introduction. Picture the classic eye-catcher: a narrow box painted perfectly to match the house trim, abundantly spilling forth ivy geraniums, pansies, and petunias. You can come across plenty of these old-fashioned favorites embellishing gingerbread houses or jazzing up everything from a ranch-style home to a city flat.

Window boxes, of course, are just containers attached to the house. They’re easy to plant. Here are some key points to keep in mind to help you choose, plant, and care for a window box:

  • Select a style that matches your house. Treated softwood or hardwood boxes are easy to paint or stain to blend in beautifully with their surroundings. Plastic, metal, terra-cotta, or concrete boxes can work too, but are harder work with.
  • Pay attention to size. A window box looks best if its length is within a couple of inches of the size of the window, although slight differences — long or short — won’t hurt. Plants need room to grow and soil that doesn’t dry out too fast — boxes should be at least 8 inches wide to provide room for top growth and 8 inches deep for the roots.

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  • Make your own box if your window is oddly sized. Use 1-inch boards and simple joinery with waterproof glue and galvanized or brass screws to secure the pieces. Drill several drain holes along the bottom.
  • Go for a sunny exposure to please the most plants. This, though, increases your watering chores. Remember that some window boxes are protected from rains, so you need to check regularly for dryness. Don’t worry if there’s shade. Many excellent shade plants thrive in partial or full shade.

Position the box below the window by a few inches. If you happen to have a window that opens outward, you have to lower the box. Use steel brackets every 18 inches or so and fasten them into the siding or masonry with the proper screws. Rest the box on the supports and screw the bottom to the brackets. Always mount the box before you plant.

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Planting and caring for your window box

You have three options for planting your window box:

  • Plant directly in the container.
  • Drop in potted plants and fill around them with moss, bark, or another lightweight material.
  • Put plants in a plastic or metal liner that fits inside the box. With this method, you can rotate liners and add fresh plants when current plantings pass their prime.

Basically, you plant the same way you do in any container. Cover the drain holes, fill with soil mixture, and firm soil around plants, leaving at least 1 inch at the top for watering. Use routine good care on the window box, starting with regular watering, feeding with a liquid fertilizer, and grooming to remove faded flowers and leaves.

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Picking the (plant) winners

Choosing a container and a location is a fine start for window box gardening, but picking the right plants really makes the difference in your growing success. Generally, select a mixture of trailers, compactupright plants that grow tall enough to be seen without blocking the window, filler plants, and bulbs.

For a dramatic display, choose plants that contrast with the background — bright plants against light siding or wood, pale flowers against dark brick walls. Here’s a brief rundown of the top 12 plants — both annuals and permanent ones — for window box culture. But remember that this list is intended only to get you started; your plant choices are many and varied for dynamic window boxes.

Annuals

  • Sweet alyssum: Stalwart, reliable, fragrant trailer in white, cream, pink, and purple. Alyssum is exceptionally easy to grow and fills in beautifully, often reseeding itself.

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  • Lobelia: Sound familiar? Yes, we often call on this little annual with clouds of cascading color in white, sky blue, dark blue, rose, lavender, and cobalt. Simply great in window boxes.

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  • Pansies: Perfect in any box, pansies offer prolific color in many hues and quickly fill gaps between permanent plants or other annuals, offering long-lasting color.

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  • Petunias: Choose these when you want a stunning summer box that shines in the sun. Try cascading varieties, as well as multifloras, for an abundance of blooms in a wide range of colors.

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  • Impatiens: The plant for shade, and awesome in window boxes — especially valuable for continuous color in a range of hues. Use low-growing, dwarf varieties. New Guinea hybrids also offer excellent foliage.

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  • Dianthus: You get the bonus of fragrance with the gift of color. Plants are well behaved. If all goes well, a breeze blows, sending sweet scents through your open windows.

Permanent plants

  • Ivy geranium: Yep. The selfsame winner in hanging baskets, this one also works really well in window boxes, gracing us with wonderful trailing stems covered with bright flowers. In cold climates, grow it as an annual.

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  • Geraniums: Bedding geraniums are the classic window box plant — grown for clusters of brilliant flowers in colors ranging from white to crimson to apple blossom pink. Plants are easy to grow. Consider geraniums an annual in cold climates.

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  • Dwarf bulbs: Forgive us for lumping so many bulbs together, but the miniature nature of many flowering bulbs — daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinth, cyclamen — makes them ideal players in the window box.
Copyrighted Aad van Haaster

Copyrighted Aad van Haaster

  • Ground ivy: Impressive long stems spill from your window box in shimmering green or variegated tones. Ground ivy can survive through winter in milder climates.

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  • English ivy: Hardy, versatile, attractive, and useful for any box where you want trailing plants, ivy handles in sun or shade. For extra color, choose varieties with cream or yellow accents on the leaves.
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English Ivy

  • Miniature roses: You have dozens to choose from, and each one can be trusted to perform elegantly and effectively in combinations with annuals or other permanent plants. Some varieties also offer fragrance.

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