Every year I’m faced with decisions about where to spend my energy. Each year that decision shifts as my available time, available focus, and available interest fluctuates. Those issues don’t present themselves in linear time. There is no steady march towards some undetermined goal. No inevitable trudge towards downsizing.
Now I’m facing another decision point, one that I face each fall. I ask myself if it’s worth it to continue my seasonal shifts of bringing the garden indoors and outdoors again next spring. Do I let nature make the decision and just buy all new plants when the season begins again? And if I do decide to harvest, what will I bring in, where will I put it, is it worth the effort this particular plant will present me with, and what is the value of each choice given my limited space?
These are some of the deck plants. There are also 8 window boxes on the railings, 3 large box planters & other assorted containers around the corner from these. What was I thinking!
When we need to “Water” ourselves we take a drink towards the top of our stem, our mouth.
This water, sooner or later is then is eliminated, as if by gravity below the point of entry.
Plants, on the other hand, take a drink at the very bottom of their structure, their roots, and then, defying gravity, eliminate the excess at the very top of their structure, their leaves.
How is this journey accomplished?
Pathway of Water Through a Plant
Water enters the plant through the root hairs.
It is then conducted upward in the stem via the xylem.
Water exits the plant through the stomata located on the leaves.
Osmosis is the process used for the water to enter the root hairs.
Cohesion-tension theory is believed to be the method that water is conducted upward via the xylem. Think of adjacent drops of water, which when their exterior barriers are broken, move & merge into one larger drop.
Transpiration is the process of water evaporating from the leaf.
Roots have microscopic root hairs to take up more water
Plectranthus and other members of the Lamiaceae family, like Coleus, are easy to propagate. These tender perennials are not hardy in my Zone 6 garden so before frost I bring in a few of my favorite plants as stock plants. If the plants are small enough I overwinter them in a pot with soil and towards the end of winter I begin propagation. If the plants are too big outside in the fall I proceed to take cuttings and begin propagation at that time.
An apical cutting of Plectranthus ciliatus ‘Zulu Wonder’
Whether I begin this process in the fall or late winter, this is how I propagate my square stemmed plectranthus and coleus. I prefer to begin the process later rather than sooner since it makes the house less cluttered.
I use my fingers rather than scissors to pinch off the leaves because that gives me more control over how close I can get to the stem
I cut sections off the host plant making sure that I have at about 5-7 leaf nodes. Then I pinch off most of the remaining leaves right to the stem taking care not to tear stips. Since the leave nodes are opposite, I leave only 2-4 nodes depending on the spacing between them on the stem.
Once I cleanly remove the excess leaves I discard them
I take off so many leaves since I want the energy of the plant to got towards root production rather than transpiration. I cut the stem to a length of 4-6 inches, making sure that I cut the stem just below my final node.
I like keeping the glass on my windowsill in the kitchen so I can enjoy watching the roots grow
I leave the stems in a glass of water on my windowsill in the kitchen for a few weeks making sure to keep the water clean and the glass full. Once there are a sizable number of white roots and root hairs visible I plant each of the stems into a pot using fresh pro-mix potting soil. I place a bit of soil at the bottom of the pot, sprinkle in a bit of timed release fertilizer and then top it off with more soil to within about a half inch toward the top of the pot.
I try to keep the water clean and high enough on the nodes to develop more and healthier roots
I make sure as I’m sprinkling the soil around the roots that they are evenly spaced and not cramped. I continue to water them without letting them dry out in their pots.
Wherever there is a leaf node submerged in water the roots will develop
This propagation process always gives me a great feeling that spring is in the air even when there’s still snow on the ground.
Repotting my meyer or foxtail asparagus fern, known in Latin as Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyeri’, is a task I do every 5 years or so. I know it is time when there is no longer any room from the top of the soil to the top of the pot to hold water.
The extensive root system of the asparagus ferns, which are not ferns by the way, include large tubers which are used to sustain the plant in harsh natural conditions where it can become an invasive pest in zones 8 & 9. Here in New York, I grow this as a houseplant but it takes a vacation by traveling to my deck each summer.
Asparagus densiflorus ‘Meyeri’ in December 2003
When it is time to repot I pull the plant out of the pot and shake loose the soil from the engorged root mass. I use quite some effort to tease apart the congested mass and straighten out the circular pattern the roots have developed.
Asparagus fern compacted root mass March 2009
Then I do one of two things.
If I want to keep the same size pot I divide the plant. This often entails a very large knife to hack apart the multiple crowns. These plants I then pot up and share with friends which is always a welcome gift.
If I want to use a larger pot and keep the plant intact I just put new soil in the base of the new larger pot, and distribute the root mass evenly.
Asparagus fern root mass teased out for repotting
In either case when potting I use the tips of my fingers, to push the soil down around the sides of the pot until the plant is firmly in place. I sprinkle long lasting fertilizer like Osmocote into the soil which I use to surround the root system. I keep the crown of the plant about 1 inch below the top rim of the pot and water with a water-soluble fertilizer.
When the crown gets pushed up to the top rim again in years to come it is time to do this all over again. What fun!
Asparagus fern repotted and returned to its perch among friends.
Brugmansia suoveolens “Pink Beauty” in full bloom.
Here is my Brugmansia suoveolens “Pink Beauty” in full bloom. So how did that white one slip in? In the morning the flowers are white but as the day moves on they turn pink. Very Cool!
Well…one of the many things I like about my Brugmansia is that when the bloom first opens it is white and during the day the color gradually floods into this sensuous pink. Over time, as the blooms ripen they darken before they dissolve and drop. So what you have is the wonderful serenade of color chords which change over the hours and days.
This plant commands attention when in bloom.
These flowers start to give off their musky fragrance in the late afternoon.
I’ve overwintered this tree for many years now in my zone 6 home. Just before frost, I cut the tall stalks back to just one or two central leaders of about 4 foot in height removing all the side branches and all the foliage. I put the pots in an unassuming corner of the house and place them behind tall tropical ferns to hide them in their dormancy.
Beginning in February I begin to offer them small sips of water and by April I begin to put them out on the deck on warmer days to acclimate them to the weather. I find that they will endure more chill in the air than any of my other tropicals so this is a plus in a rather crowded home without a greenhouse for overwintering.
I tried my unheated garage one year and lost all my specimens so I won’t be trying that again soon! I don’t let them develop any leaves indoors since I find them prone to whiteflies and scale so I keep them as a summer treat.
What a treat! In the late afternoon, the musky odor of these amazing blooms wafts through the air and sneaks in the screens filling our home with summer. Although I do know that some people liken the smell to that of some floozy with overbearing cheap perfume flouncing her way dominantly into their senses.