She’s at it again…

I found some VERY deep saucers at Dunvegan a few weeks back and decided to give balcony gardening another go. This time I am reining it in at a dozen pots…give¬†or take a few. And did I mention the deep saucers? They’re deep. Very deep.

 

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The deep saucers. They are even deeper than they look in this picture.

 

The other night I arranged the containers on the balcony and was busily filling them up with potting soil…not the disastrous potentially brown-leaking-smelly-sheep manure potting soil. Just the straight up sterilized kind. A bit of peat moss, a bit of vermiculite, some pearls of perlite and such.

I also got some coir blocks, threw them in a tub and added water. The transformation was amazing. You bring home this little cube of four large book sized slabs of coir, put each slab in a Rubbermaid tote (or what have you) add a couple gallons of water and whoosh. An hour later you have a tubful of peat mossy type product.

I don’t know environmentally which is better in the end. Shipping coir in cargo ships across the ocean or depleting our peat bogs…a practice the peat manufacturers once sent me a video about to prove that claims against them being environmentally irresponsible are entirely bogus. The truth lies somewhere in the middle I suppose. I don’t know.

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And all the plastic…oh my goodness. By the time I finished filling the containers I had a plastic bag full of more plastic bags all destined for recycling. Which is whole ‘nother mess of worms.

The best solution would be to get your own bag-free ship-free bog-free product from composting your garden refuse. No bags, no shipping, no bogs, no guilt.

Anywho’s, there I was happily (albeit a bit guiltily)¬†filling my containers in their very deep saucers with plastic bagged products when a woman’s voice floated up to me from the sidewalk below.

“She’s at it again!”

I looked down and spotted a familiar looking couple on the sidewalk. They quickly turned away and kept walking.

Maybe they weren’t talking about me. Maybe they were discussing a family member who had started taking drugs again or something.¬†I fought off the urge to shout after them, “But this time I have very deep saucers!”

After they disappeared from sight, paranoia seeped in and I thought I had better give the building manager a heads up. I carefully worded an email emphasising my very deep saucers and all the safe watering practices I planned to implement. I even invited her to come and see the saucers. The deep ones.

The reply came saying she would pass the information along to a higher up and let me know. It was friendly enough, but not the solid two thumbs up I had hoped for.

We’ll see…

 

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Most of the plants you see here are destined for the community garden…they’re just on the balcony getting some tough love. Hardening off on an April afternoon. No dripping. And the long tan colored container is a self waterer…no drainage at all except for a built in reservoir in the bottom.¬†Good for the balcony, maybe not so good for the plants.¬†

 

 

 

 

Guerrilla Grafting

A lot of people are familiar with Guerrilla Gardening. The act of planting an unsightly¬†lot or space with beautiful plants without permission from the city or owner.¬†It’s been growing on for decades.

Guerilla grafting, on the other hand, is something fairly new.

Guerrilla gardening sign

The idea took root in San Francisco where city planners had lined the streets with beautiful fruit trees. Intentionally sterile beautiful fruit trees. They were concerned about the mess of ripening fruit and feared the wildlife it might attract.

A group of California citizens said Piffle! Well, I don’t really know what they said, but I do know¬†it wasn’t a remark of approval.

And then they went one step further. They started grafting branches of productive fruit trees onto the sterile ones. Without permission.

Yup, meet the Guerilla Grafters. The brain child of Tara Hui who started grafting onto the sterile fruit trees in the Bay area a few years ago. A news article about the movement can be read here.

The idea behind the rebellious action is to help feed the hungry and the homeless. Imagine a world where hungry people could simply roam the streets and byways to forage for food. An apple here, a pear there, a hatful of berries along a ravine. Sounds an awful lot like the world we were originally born to, before money madness took over. It’s intriguing to say the least.

Grafting apricot tree branches. Grafting fruit trees step by step

The art of grafting is pretty simple. Basically you sharpen a live branch and then drill a hole in the host tree and stick the adopted branch inside. You can then wrap the branch with a moisture retentive material until it takes hold, but even holding it in place with electrical tape will work.

This is how we come to have trees that will grow several kinds of different fruit on one tree. A great idea when you are shy on space but crave diversity. While it does involve some human intervention, the fruit you end up with is the same as the fruit you would find on the tree it originally came from. No messing with genetics as such.

Grafting is also commonly used in the rose industry where tender roses are grafted onto hardy root stock allowing them to grow in colder climates.

 

12 Orange Flowers and Plants That Will Grow On You

Spring has only just begun where I live, but I recently made a trip south where I saw orange in almost every flower bed and planter.¬†It was the new pink, purple, blue…well, it was the new everything.

Here is a video I took of just one of the “hedges of orange” I spotted on my travels.

 

 

One thing is for certain; if use orange in your spring containers they will make a seamless transition into fall. Or maybe the above display will be replaced with soft pink and purple for fall, just to mess with our minds. I like it. Change is good. And the color is surprisingly stunning. I say surprising because I have always leaned more towards the pink and purple spectrum when it comes to flowers, but this year, sheep that I am, I will probably be adding the color orange to at least some of my containers.

The planting in the video was built around the orange tulips and offset by primroses, pansies and coral bells with a dab of silver dusty miller. Having a color theme can simplify your shopping, but it can also make things a bit of a challenge. Especially if you try to go with all perennials.

When I was first starting out I planned an entire perennial bed in yellows and blues using a dozen different plants. It was gorgeous. In my head. The reality was less than breathtaking. It wasn’t even gasp worthy. Maybe¬†sneeze worthy. But a very small one.¬†¬†Just choo without the ah preceding it.¬†You get the idea. What happened-or didn’t happen-was that I hadn’t taken the blooming periods of each perennial¬†into consideration. I ended up with a few yellow¬†blooms launching themselves in May,¬†a couple blue ones¬†opening in July and a few more yellow ones blossoming in August and so forth. None were long lasting. Each one seemed to¬†die out before the next one began and none of them amounted to much on their own, let alone a dazzling color scheme. It can be done (visit any botanical garden) but it takes careful planning and a bit of cooperation from Mother Nature. Heavy handed use of dependable annuals for filler is always a good idea.

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In this mixture, only the tulip blooms are fleeting. The coral bells are perennial but the orange color comes from its foliage not its blooms. What a stroke of genius! Orange color without waiting or worrying for the bloom. The pansies and primroses will bloom all season long.

When the tulips finish it will be interesting to see what happens next with the display. I might have to fly back just to see!

 

12 Flowers and Foliage Picks that Come in Shades of Orange

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1.      Calendula Candyman Calendula officinalis double orange blooms on sturdy stems with edible orange petals you can sprinkle in summer salads or use to make homemade beauty products. What more can you ask for? An annual that blooms all summer long atop 12 inch (30 cm) stems. Seeds can be purchased through Veseys.

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2.¬†¬†¬†¬† Coral bells Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ Grown for its orange hued foliage this variety of Coral bells also produces spikes of reddish brown flowers in the summer. A hardy, long lasting perennial, it¬†can grow to a height of one foot (30 cm) with a spread (width) of¬†3 feet (1 meter). Does well in either full sun or part shade.

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3.     Crocosmia Prince of Orange is a fairly tender bulb that I believe is only available in North America from Veseys  If you are looking for a dash of different this could be the orange that does it for you. Very upright and flashy, it attracts hummingbirds by the dozens. Hardy from Zone 5. Blooms mid to late summer and achieves heights of 2 Р3 feet (61 cm Р1 meter).

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4.     Geranium Maverick Orange Pelargonium hortorum is a stunning annual geranium that sets gorgeous orange blooms atop deep green foliage. Grows to approximately 18 inches (46 cm) tall and blooms all season long. Seeds are available from Veseys.

Marigold flowers in a pot seedling spring

5.¬†¬†¬†¬† Marigold Tagetes You can’t talk about orange flowers without mentioning the¬†marigold. There are more marigolds sold as bedding plants in North America than any other flower. It wouldn’t be summer without¬†their dependable long lasting cheerful annual blossoms. They are beloved in flower beds but also appreciated in vegetable gardens where they both attract and deter the right sort of insects and nematodes. While they also come in yellow and white, orange is the most popular and widely available. For tall varieties choose African marigolds Tagetes erecta or for shorter displays look for French marigolds Tagetes¬†patula¬†that will provide a small but very full compact display for edging the fronts of beds and containers. If you want marigold blossoms that taste as good as they look plant a few Tagetes tenuifolia¬†for adding to salads and sandwiches.

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6.     Mexican Torch also called Mexican Sunflower Tithonia rotundifolia is a robust annual that soars to heights of 6 feet (2 meters) with a 2 foot (61 cm) spread (width) and is covered with brilliant orange flowers all summer long. Plant this heat loving plant outside when soil is warm or start indoors then transplant once all danger of frost has passed. Available from West Coast Seeds

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7.     Milkweed or Butterfly Bush Ascleipas tuberosa  A perennial with a long bloom period lasting from June to August. This is the only plant the monarch butterfly will lay its eggs on so is essential to their survival. Hardy to Zone 3. Will bloom in second year and thereafter. Reaches heights of 3 feet (one meter) with a 2 foot (61 cm) spread (width).

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8.¬†¬†¬†¬† Nasturtium Another edible flower this annual will bloom all summer long. Seeds and plants are widely available in shades of red, yellow and, of course, orange! Two or three seeds popped in a pot will absolutely fill it before season’s end. A very economical and stunning addition to containers and gardens. And salads.

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9.     Pansies Some pansy seed packets are marketed as orange but come out more yellow or red. Your safest bet is to visit a nursery and choose a shade of orange you like from the pansies being sold as bedding plants.

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10.     African Sunset Multiflora Petunia is the first orange petunia available from seed. Always a dependable annual just one petunia fills and spills a medium sized container. Available from Veseys.

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11.¬†¬†¬†¬† Swiss Chard Fantasia This is actually a vegetable not a flower but that just makes it better. The brilliant orange stalks will lend color to your containers all season long and you can eat them…leaves, stalks and all for a nutrition packed¬†boost. Available from Veseys

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12.     Irene Parrot Tulip If you are smitten with the tulips you saw in the border you will be interested in Irene Parrot Tulips available from West Coast Seeds You will need to plan ahead and plant them in the fall and be prepared to put up with some unsightly foliage for the summer and fall, or try hiding them behind a robust clump of petunias or such. Some gardeners go so far as to lift the bulbs and transfer to a pot where they can while away the summer days in an obscure corner of the yard, while storing up nutrients in for next spring. In the fall plant the bulbs back in the bed and the whole show can start again!

These are just a few of a vast array of orange blossoming or foliage plants available. A wander through your local nursery will¬†unearth lots and lots¬†of choices. And, of course,¬†Swiss Chard isn’t the only vegetable available in orange. Try adding some orange peppers or if you have lots of room even a pumpkin!

A Bug Munching Plant

Pitcher Plants includes several varieties of carnivorous plants that are cleverly designed to trap insects.

The rim of the¬†pitcher shaped leaf¬†becomes slippery with dew or nectar, causing insects to slide into¬†its tubular cavity. The waxy inside of the leaf make it impossible for the insects to climb back out and they end up drowning in the plant’s digestive fluids. Pitcher Plants¬†then obtain necessary nutrients¬†by slowly absorbing¬†the decaying bodies.

Nepenthes tropical carnivore plant

Nepenthes

 

Carnivorous plants grow in soil too poor to provide any sustenance, which is why the plants have evolved to rely on insects for food instead.

The Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea is the official flower of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.

Sarracenia. Exotic flower

Pitcher Plant Sarracenia purpurea