Dahlia ‘Akita’: Until we Meet Again

I saw it coming. For once, I was monitoring the weather. All the houseplants were safely inside (well, most of the houseplants were already squirreled indoors). But what happens to the dahlias is beyond my control. With tubers planted in gigantic containers too large to haul in — the only way that they’re coming indoors is in a paper bag.

Unable to extend their performance, I did what any self-respecting devotee would do — I shot them. With my camera, of course. And I especially focused on the dahlia that has given me untold pleasure this summer — ‘Akita’.

I ordered ‘Akita Mixed’ from Longfield Gardens (www.Longfield-gardens.com), and every flower has been an odyssey. The only way that I can think to describe the flowers is that they’re colored like quills. What do you think? Maybe an Indian headdress with stripes of copper and yellow or stripes of magenta/purple and yellow, depending on the bulb. There’s nothing like a mixture to keep you guessing. And that’s part of the fun.

Described as a dinnerplate, ‘Akita’ is definitely plus-sized, but not unwieldy. Each flower is about 3-4 inches or so with dense petals in the center but outer petals extending like rays. In other words, it doesn’t look heavy. And in fact, mine stood up without staking — I always avoid staking if possible. Anybody else with me on this? It always seems awkward and contrived. If it’s got to happen, the best way to achieve propping up is behind the scenes. And that’s nearly impossible with a dahlia, especially a potted dahlia. Anyway, ‘Akita’s thick stem did the job — unwaveringly. And heaven knows, there were plenty of gusty days to challenge their strength.

Buds kept coming. They would have continued, but The Late Show wasn’t in the cards. So I snapped a few final photos last night, cut them down this afternoon, and tucked them somberly into the cellar until next spring. Sometime this winter, let’s all look back at these photos. Already seems surreal, doesn’t it?

Posted in Bulbs | 4 Comments

Terrain at Styer’s: See you There Sunday!

Rev your engines! This is the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The official start of Houseplant Season. Hooray! And I’ll be giving it a warm welcome at Terrain at Styer’s in Glen Mills, PA (www.shopterrain.com) on Sunday October 21, 2012 from 10:00 -11:30 AM for a Houseplant Workshop with indoor gardening demonstrations, advice, help, and hand-holding. I’ll be making very cool combo containers with Terrain’s extraordinary components. And I’ll be signing books of The Unexpected Houseplant. Come on over!

Posted in Where I'm At | 4 Comments

Neoregelia ‘Tiger Cub’

They’re back in the fold again! The houseplants, that is. And as much as I liked the convenience of hitting them with a hose (and sharing the watering duties with Mother Nature), I missed them. Now I feel whole again. The nest is never totally empty. But still, I spent last night roaming around patting the plants that don’t bite on the head. So the agaves with teeth just got a high five.

Needless to say, the family has expanded over the summer — it always does. A bunch of new goodies hitchhiked home in the car from a visit to Landcraft in Mattituck, LI. Had to enlist some new plantstands just to accommodate them all. My favorite? Neoregelia ‘Tiger Cub’. Check it out.

What’s not to like? Beyond being outrageously handsome, ‘Tiger Cub’ is low maintenance. Raving success is a no-brainer with most bromeliads. The only time I fail is when I burn them with too much light. Find them an east window and it’s Easy Street. And paired with a cool container, you’ve got something that will warm your winter months.

I keep my neoregelias (yes, I have others) moderately moist. Although they like having their vase-like leaves filled with water, that’s easier done outdoors than inside, and they don’t demand it. Basically, they like to grow in the same conditions that we favor indoors. Simple as that. And they make pups to share with lucky friends…Am I going to be popular with neoregelia wanna-haves, or what?

Posted in Houseplants | 7 Comments

Wildlings Indoors: Viola walteri

Make haste. Because summer is slipping away fast. What to do about the dilemma? Well, that’s what The Unexpected Houseplant is all about. And now that I’m back on the blog roll for the season, I’m going to give you some unexpected suggestions. For now, the blog will run back and forth between indoors and outside. When the garden is snapped shut by the frost, we’ll retreat indoors entirely. What you’ll find here is an update from the book– because gardening is about moving forward, am I right? You’ll be amazed at what you’re going to find on these windowsills.

Like Viola walteri. I got this delightful little native species from Avant Gardener at the Hollister House Study Weekend a few weeks ago. Sure, I could have plunked it into the garden and got a whole month of entertainment from it before doomsday (from a Zone 8 violet’s point of view).

Instead, I tucked it into a little pedestal urn where it’s been blithely performing ever since. Right now, it’s still outside in a shady spot. As soon as frost threatens, I’ll squirrel it indoors and give it an east or west-facing windowsill. I’m willing to bet it loves living with me. And who can beat the steel gray leaves with plum-colored accents?

Einstein thinks so, too. He did the bounce and stress testing for my book. Now in Graduate School, he’s still working hard at the job.

Hope to see you all at my book lecture on Thursday October 4 at 6:00 for The Unexpected Houseplant at the Horticultural Society of New York, 148 West 37th Street, 13th floor, New York, NY. See you there!

Posted in Houseplants | 2 Comments

Repotathon at Pergola in New Preston!

copyright Kindra Clineff from The Unexpected Houseplant

September 15, 2012, 1:00-4:00!
A Houseplant Repotathon at Pergola in New Preston, CT

Come to the launch event for my new book, The Unexpected Houseplant.

Rather than waving a fond farewell to the garden, shift focus indoors. Especially geared for everyone who sees houseplants and gets the jitters, this in-shop event is nurture-training for wannabe indoor gardeners.

Over the span of the afternoon, I’ll prove just how incredibly beautiful houseplants can be.

* There will be houseplant therapy sessions
* Tony combinations of containers and cool plants will be continuously created
* Plants of all descriptions will get major face-lifts using Pergola’s wonderful line of accessories
* There will be brown thumb hand-holding
* Books will be available for signing

Come and bring questions and get converted into an indoor gardener. You and some lucky houseplant are going to live happily ever after.

September 15, 2012 from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Pergola
7 East Shore Road
New Preston, CT
www.pergolahome.com
or call 860-868-4769

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Listen Up! Live on Martha Stewart Radio

Hey Gang! Been busier than a honeybee, bopping all around. And I promise to get a new post up soon — I’m back from my travels. But in the meantime, I wanted to let you all know that I’m LIVE on Martha Stewart Radio on Sirius Satellite this evening, August 13 from 5:00-6:00 EST with Stephen Orr for “The Gardening Hour.” We’ll be talking about Containers in the Heat. Got questions? Call in! Got success stories? Share ‘em! Got failures? We want to know!

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Hyacinthus ‘Blue Festival’

Let’s talk about fickle fashion. Let’s discuss our hunger for big and beefy. and then let’s mourn the slipping away of Hyacinth ‘Blue Festival’. Maybe I’m the only one left on earth that prefers loose, multi-stemmed hyacinths that hold their flowers neatly upright rather than the hefty, bulky, hubba-hubba hyacinths with foxtail fat flowers that don’t perennialize well and topple over due to the dead weight of their cotton candy-like flower blobs. But I suspect that the reason why the Festival series (there was white and pink as well as blue) didn’t sell well was because no one knew it existed.

So here I am, trying to drum up a fan club for a hyacinth that only seems to still be offered by White Flower Farm (www.whiteflowerfarm.com) and no one else (if you know otherwise, clue me in). Because, in the cheerleading department, I’m in the front lines. Two years ago, I installed Hyacinth ‘Blue Festival’ on a banking by the road — a berm that possesses quite possibly the world’s worst soil and driest conditions.

It is visited regularly by sanding trucks during snow storms. Your occasional drunk swerves over it. In other words, this berm boasts all the horrors of every hellstrip and then some. In fact, other hellstrips salute mine for raising the bar — it makes other hellstrips look like heaven. That’s where I stuck these hyacinths — where daffodils die and junipers fear to tread. And they’ve multiplied. No, really. They are blooming out there right now in combination with some thready vinca and they are brilliant.

Okay, so their blossom count doesn’t compare to most modern hybrids. And they have shorter stems (which means they don’t flop). But they’re multi-stemmed in the tradition of old-fashioned Roman hyacinths (you know I love old-fashioned). Then there’s the blue — it takes a piece of the sky, or the ocean, or a lap pool and brings it down to earth. [Funny how the light changes the color of these flowers for the camera when I'm not doing a close-up.] Plus, they linger longer in prime condition despite drought, weird unseasonably warm weather, and probably regular applications of dog pee. For that reason (and because I’m not keen on getting run over by a car), I haven’t done conclusive nose testing for fragrance. Brief nostril applications (wearing a neon safety vest) came up with a light aroma — which is a relief compared to the bordello-like scent of its more buxom kin. If anyone else is growing these — fill me in on the fragrance factor from your nose’s perspective.

This brings me to a favorite refrain of mine. Don’t you think that we could poke retailers into offering a plant if we demand it loud and clear? If we flex our collective consumer muscle, surely the industry will respond. Right?

Posted in Welcome | 18 Comments

Where I’m At: March/April/May 2012

Where Tovah’s Lecturing in the coming months
March 10, 2012 ~ 11:30
Philadelphia Flower Show ~ Philadelphia, PA
Lecture topic: The New Terrarium
For more information: www.theflowershow.com

March 15, 2012 ~ 12:00 noon
Bristol Garden Club ~ Bristol Public Library ~ Bristol, CT
Lecture topic: Terrariums & You with demonstration

March 17, 2012 ~ 10:45 AM
Mercer County Master Gardener Symposium ~ Princeton, NJ
Lecture topic: Trowels and Tomorrow
For more information: www.mgofmc.org/symposium/

March 31, 2012 ~ 10:00 AM
Farmington Library ~ Farmington, CT
Lecture topic: Putting Perennials through their Paces
For more information: www.farmingtonlibraries.org

April 14, 2012 ~ 10:30 AM
White Flower Farm ~ Morris, CT
Lecture topic: The New Terrarium
For more information: www.whiteflowerfarm.com

April 16, 2012 ~ 12:00 noon
The Gardeners of New Canaan ~ New Canaan, CT
Lecture topic: Gardening for the 5 Senses

April 21, 2012 ~ 2:00 PM
Lori Warner Studio ~ Chester, CT
Terrarium making workshop
for more information: www.loriwarner.com

April 23, 2012 ~ 6:30 PM
Simsbury Garden Club ~ Simsbury, CT
Lecture topic: Gardening for the 5 Senses

April 28, 2012 ~ 2:00 PM
Woodbury Library ~ Woodbury, CT
Lecture topic: Garden Stewardship

May 8, 2012 ~ 7:00 PM
Adult School of Montclair ~ Montclair, NJ
Lecture topic: Terrarium workshop
for more information: www.adultschool.org

May 9, 2012 ~ 10:30 AM
Somerset County Rutgers Cooperative Extension ~ Bridgewater, NJ
Lecture topic: Trowels & Tomorrow: Garden Stewardship
for more information: www.somerset.rce.rutgers.edu

On the Newsstand
Yankee: March/April 2012 ~ The Best Five Nurseries & Garden Centers

Victoria: March/April 2012 ~ Writer-in-Residence Spring’s True Colors

Early Homes: Spring/Summer 2012 ~ Gardens Merge Inside

Horticulture: March/April 2012 ~ Right on Target: Broken Arrow Nursery

Posted in Where I'm At | 4 Comments

Clematis alpina ‘Blue Dancer’

So it’s come to this. Any of you who have been following my Confessions of a Clematis Serial Killer will know that my compost heap consist of 99% clematis remains. Literally, if forensics were to investigate, they’d find skeletons of the clematis-kind that would make the antics in Arsenic and Old Lace seem like a tea party.(Anybody else in this pickle? Or is it just me?) Indeed, the only clematis that I haven’t managed to summarily dispatch (yet) is ‘Betty Corning’. The windowsill is my last resort.

That’s right, I’m growing clematis in my south-facing window. But before you feel too sorry for me, I’ve got to tell you — a few clematis flowers on a windowsill in February are worth a whole garden of Eden in midsummer. For a couple of weeks now — starting before Valentine’s Day, in fact — Clematis alpina ‘Blue Dancer’ began blooming. Even before that, I witnessed the intrigue of the swelling bud. I mean, I was rapt. After all, how many times have I attempted ‘Blue Dancer’ outdoors? Enough to make enough compost for the herb garden.

‘Blue Dancer’ is just the right size for containing. And as recently as 4 weeks ago, it was looking suspiciously like all the other sacrificial clematises. I was two steps away from hauling it down to the official clematis burying ground when I noticed the slightest sign of green. Snatching at straws-r-us as far as clematis is concerned. So I postponed the funeral. And I sat vigil. Sure enough, it sent out eyes and then leaves. Then it started up its mini-trellis and now the little sweetie is on its third flower. Think of it. All is forgiven!

Sure, it’s got a drinking habit that would sink a sailor. Absolutely, it’s not a shadow of the outdoor version. But can beggars be choosy? Can someone with a clematis criminal record like mine turn their luck around? This is probably as good as it gets for me. I’m reformed. I’ve got several catalogs open and the wallet is equally unplugged. This could mean trouble…Stay tuned for The Revenge of the Clematis…

Posted in Perennials | 18 Comments

Begonia sizemoreae

Everyone wants to look like a hero. We all try to leap tall buildings with a single bound. That’s one reason why I love Begonia sizemoreae. Grow this species from Vietnam, and everyone will assume you’re superhuman. They’ll take one look at this begonia and think your thumb glows green.

It looks finicky. It appears to be a problem child. Truth of the matter is = this is one of the easiest begonias to please. No sweat whatsoever. Not even a bead of perspiration broke on my forehead throughout my two year love affair with this little number.

One reason why I even gave this persnickety-looking species a try is because it’s in the rhizomatous group. I veer away from rex begonias. Avoid ‘em like the plague. I don’t need that sort of angst and neither do you. I don’t care how gorgeous they happen to be — nothing’s pretty about a plant plagued by powdery mildew.

Rhizomatous begonias are much easier to entertain in the average home (not that anything about me is normal, but still…). And the diversity of this group is outlandish. Talk about textures — rhizomatous begonias go the gamut.

So, side by side against a bunch of darn good-looking plants, B. sizemoreae happens to be one of the most handsome. Who wouldn’t fall for this lovely thing with wall-to-wall whiskers and bands in different shades of green? I found it at Lauray of Salisbury (www.lauray.com), we eloped (just kidding — our union had Judy Becker’s blessing), and it’s been slowly (very slowly, very very very slowly) adding leaves. This year, mine sent up sparkling pink flowers in midwinter. Although it looks like the sort of plant that needs warm temperatures and high humidity, not so. In fact, mine is pregnant. If I can do it, so can you.

My advice would be not to overwater. And don’t make it swim in a large container — mine wears tight shoes. Indirect sun works best, but there have been times when unbridled sunbeams fell on its windowsill with no harm done. And rather than soilless mix (don’t get me started on why soilless mix is misguided), give it a potting medium with some oomph — I grow organically in a mix with compost included. But really, what looks like Mission Impossible is really a cakewalk. However, don’t tell all your admirers that victory was a snap. Let them worship…

Posted in Houseplants | 10 Comments