The Root of the Matter

June 2, 2015 pots 001

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Early summer is the season when our new plant acquisitions sink their roots into the garden.

This tiny cutting from an ornamental sweet potato vine grew roots as it sat in a little vase of water by my kitchen sink.  Did you notice how the roots are curled into a spiral?

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June 2, 2015 pots 002

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You may notice that roots grow in a circular pattern around the inside of a nursery pot, as well.  When we knock a new plant out of its pot, we gently loosen these roots, growing round the outer edge of its root ball, to encourage them to grow out into the surrounding soil.   The plant grows more vigorously when its root system expands.

This tiny cutting grew these roots in a little less than two weeks.  Once started, sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, grows vigorously.  A tender perennial, the vine will grow until frost kills it back.

I enjoy ornamental sweet potato vines in summer pots, but have not grown any for the last several summers.  They are very attractive to deer, and so must be kept out of their reach.  They are also such vigorous growers that they can overwhelm other plants in a mixed planting.  They are gluttonous for food and drink, and give their best color when grown in full sun.

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I’ve purchased two sweet potato vines of different cultivars this spring, however, and am taking cuttings to add to hanging baskets and planters on our deck.  These vines create a lush, tropical look wherever they are used.

Many plants will root quickly in water during spring and early summer.  This allows us to buy one established plant, and then quickly produce many clones of it.  These new plants grow to a useable size more quickly from cuttings than from seed.

As soon as they grow a few inches of roots they can be potted up or planted in the garden.  A large number of plants of a single cultivar can be had in a matter of weeks for mass plantings, at minimal expense.

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These Coleus cuttings are rooting in their vase.  They will be ready to plant out by early next week.

These Coleus cuttings are rooting in their vase. They will be ready to plant out by early next week.

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One of my beloved blogging sisters, Eliza,  sent me a package of scented Pelargonium cuttings this past week, and they are all happily gathered around my kitchen sink tonight engaged in the business of growing their roots.  Half are in a jar of water, and the other half in a pot of damp sand.

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Pelargonium cuttings, a gift from a blogging sister, rooting in my favorite rooting jar.

Pelargonium cuttings  rooting in my favorite rooting jar.

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She prefers the damp sand method, and I am following her instructions to the letter.  I am curious to see which method will prove more effective for rooting cuttings.   Which cuttings will root soonest, and with the fewest cuttings lost to decay?

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This is Eliza's preferred method for rooting cuttings.  in clean, damp sand.  I've kept these covered with a produce bag to increase the humidity around their leaves.  The bamboo skewer holds the bag off of their leaves.

This is Eliza’s preferred method for rooting cuttings. in clean, damp sand. I’ve kept these covered with a produce bag to increase the humidity around their leaves. The bamboo skewer holds the bag off of their leaves.

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A marvelous and generous gift, I am enjoying the fragrance of these beautiful cuttings, and can’t wait to watch them grow in our garden this summer.

If you’ve not tried creating your own new plants in this way, this is a good time of the season to give it a try.

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September 4, 2014 Coleus 002~

It is an interesting way to generate a lot of free plants.  As you can see in the photos, roots will begin to grow both from the cut edge of a stem, and also from the nodes where leaves meet stem.

Most gardeners will tell you to remove all leave which would be underwater.  That is good advice, and I don’t often follow it.  The idea is that if those leaves rot, the water is contaminated and you might lose the whole cutting.  As you can see here, the leaves are still just fine, and I have a well-rooted cutting to plant in this mixed pot.

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A newly planted pot on my deck holds Rosemary, Coleus,  Carzytunia Sparky' Petunia,  Strawberry and Cream Lanai Verbena, and a voluneer seedling of ornamental pepper moved over from another pot.

A newly planted pot on my deck holds Rosemary; Coleus;
‘Carzytunia Sparky’ Petunia; Strawberry and Cream Lanai Verbena; the newly rooted sweet potato cutting; and a volunteer seedling of ornamental pepper moved over from another pot.

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We’ve had a lot of rain today, so it has proven a good day to pot up cuttings.  I am looking forward to seeing this pot fill in with lots of lush color and interesting form this summer.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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June 2, 2015 pots 011

In A Vase: Rooting

May 26, 2015 vase 037

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The flowers and foliage in today’s vase were clipped late this afternoon; mostly from pots on the deck.

So many stems cut for the Monday vases this spring rooted in place, that I chose this particular combination with that intention in mind.

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These Coleus, from the “Under the Sea” collection, were clipped from the nursery pots I bought them in on Saturday.  I took cuttings immediately to leave with my father, another Coleus devote’, and now I’ve snipped a little more for cuttings of my own.  The original plants will remain in their pots for another day at least.

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May 26, 2015 vase 039

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Coleus root quickly and easily in water.  My father simply breaks stems from a growing plant and pushes the stem into the soil in another pot.  He has great success, but I am not quite that self-confident.  I enjoy watching the little white roots form in a vase by the kitchen window before tucking the well rooted little cutting into some soil.

I’ve managed to collect three of the “Under the Sea” cultivars this spring.  So far I have C. “Lime Shrimp,” C. “Bonefish,” and C. “Gold Anemone.”  These are some of the most delicate and unusual forms of Coleus I’ve ever found, and I like them alone or in combination with annual flowers.  Have you found these at your garden center?  The “Under the Sea” Coleus is easy to grow.  It tolerates more sun than some older cultivars of Coleus, and can grow into a good sized plant over the season.

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With the Coleus is a cutting of a dusky purple Petunia I’m growing in baskets this summer.  I like this unusual color, which was the closest I could find to the wonderful gold and purple striped Petunias I grew in baskets last summer.  Sadly, the plants didn’t make it through the winter.  I hope this Petunia will root, as we enjoy it in the vase.

Our Heuchera, or Coral Bells, have bloomed in pots on the deck.  I grow them for their unusual leaves, and these delicate stems of flowers are a bonus from time to time.  The other stems of flowers were cut from Oxalis.

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May 26, 2015 vase 053

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Finally, I had to add a few little pieces of our Muscadine grape vines, which are such a beautiful shade of green when young and tender.  It is highly unlikely these will root, but I have a place ready for them if they do.  One of the vines I transplanted in early spring has not leafed out, and I cut it back today.

Our mineral today is a cluster of Aqua Aura quartz.

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May 26, 2015 vase 038

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This is actually clear quartz, which was specially treated to create this unusual blue color.  Our little moonstone turtle sits with the vase, also, as a reminder of the turtle eggs incubating now in our garden.

This is the season when there is always more to do in the garden. 

We’ve both been spending our mornings, into the early afternoon, working outside.  We love this time of year, when the garden is growing so rapidly, but it takes enormous time and energy to keep up with it all.  I stayed a bit too long today out in the hot sun, and so wanted something cool and delicate in our vase indoors.

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Please remember to visit Cathy, at Rambling in the Garden, who sponsors “In A Vase On Monday” each week.  I appreciate her tireless inspiration to cut and arrange home grown flowers, and to encourage other garden bloggers to do the same.   This week she has created a stunning arrangement she calls, “Storm in a Teacup.”  You’ll find many links to other gardeners’ blogs in her comments.

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May 26, 2015 vase 035

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And remember, you can enjoy beautiful foliage in your vase while it roots.  Just as our gardens find their structure in foliage and accents in flowers; so our arrangements may, as well.

We enjoy both the pleasure of its beauty and the gift of a new plant when we eventually take it all apart.  It is sort of like eating your cake, and having it, too .

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Woodland Gnome 2015

One Word Photo Challenge: Teal

March 4, 2015 heart 001

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An annual Impatiens plant lives on through winter in a pot in our living room.  When it bloomed again in February, I cut stems for my In A Vase on Monday post on a  cold and snowy Monday.

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March 4, 2015 Impatiens 002

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Although the flowers faded, both stems rooted.

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In fact, they have grown huge root systems in just a few weeks.  This is such a beautiful affirmation of spring stirring in the plants!

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March 4, 2015 Impatiens 007

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Since teal is on my mind this week, I found a beautiful teal pot for the rooted stems, and potted them up with a division of lady fern.

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March 4, 2015 Impatiens 008

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They can grow on together in the pot until it is warm enough to move them outside into a hanging basket or a larger pot.

Impatiens bloom non-stop all summer long. They love moist fertile soil in partial shade.

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March 4, 2015 Impatiens 010~

They will grow to nearly two feet high if planted in good, rich soil.  They are heavy feeders and appreciate good soil and regular feeding.  A single plant will fill a hanging basket.

Impatiens are so easily rooted in water that I often buy a hanging basket of double impatiens when they first appear in the spring, then take lots of cuttings while also cutting that plant back.  The original plant grows back bushier and stronger, with more blooms.  The cuttings can soon be planted out as independent plants to enjoy all summer.  This is a neat trick when you need a lot of the same cultivar of impatiens for a large planting.

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March 4, 2015 Impatiens 014

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Our over-wintered plant has long, winter stretched stems, as you might expect.  It needs a good trim before growing on this summer.  So I’m helping it along by cutting another stem for the vase.

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March 4, 2015 Impatiens 015

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At this rate, I can fill the vase indefinitely.  Would you call this re-cycling?  I think it is a beautiful way to get us through this next bout of wintery weather and continue preparations for spring!

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March 4, 2015 Impatiens 013

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With appreciation to Jennifer Nichole Wells  for her

One Word Photo Challenge:  Teal

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

Building a Terrarium

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Do you like miniature gardens and “little worlds”?  I downloaded samples of several books about miniature gardens, fairy gardens, and terrariums on Saturday looking for inspiration and fresh ideas.

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Terrariums and fairy gardens first caught my imagination in childhood.  I love that terrariums are largely closed ecological systems, mimicking the water cycle of our planet where water evaporates, condenses, and then returns to the soil.  Once constructed, a balanced terrarium can live indefinitely; or at least until the plants outgrow their vessel.

These are great little gardens for those with little space, or for those who want to bring a bit of nature into their professional environment.  There isn’t any anxiety over keeping them properly watered or making a mess, with a little garden in a bottle.

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Divisions used in this little garden include a golden creeping Sedum and a division of peacock spikemoss.

Divisions used in this little garden include a golden creeping Sedum and a division of peacock spikemoss.  I broke these off of pots I’m overwintering in the garage.

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My point in building this little terrarium, beyond the fun and beauty of it, is to demonstrate a few of the “tips and tricks” which make it an easy project.  Yes, so easy that you can pull it together in an afternoon, and then spend the evening admiring it with friends over a glass of wine

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An olive oil bottle from Trader Joes. Needs a bit more scrubbing to get the rest of that glue off!

This  olive oil bottle came from Trader Joe’s.   It needs a bit more scrubbing to get the rest of that glue off!

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My bottle came full of olive oil from Trader Joes.  The olive oil was delicious, by the way, and I just saved the bottle in the pantry because it was too pretty to throw away.

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Agates from Oregon beaches have a new home now in the terrarium. They're prettiest when wet, anyway. The scarf is one I just finished for a friend.

Agates from Oregon beaches have a new home now in the terrarium. They’re prettiest when wet, anyway.  The scarf is one I just finished for a friend.

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The stones are mostly agates picked up off beaches in Oregon.  There is a layer of reindeer moss from the craft store, left over from my moss-covered wreathes, and then another layer of glass shards from a bag of assorted glass purchased at the crafts store for other projects.

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New potting soil and bits of plant materials from the garden complete the project.  My only new investment here was a bit of time on Sunday afternoon.

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All terrariums need an inch or so of loose stones as their base layer.  Not only are they pretty and interesting to view from the glass, but they form the drainage system of the environment.  Any water you add to the terrarium, which isn’t absorbed, drains down into the stones so the soil isn’t waterlogged.

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Many builders add a little bit of aquarium charcoal to this layer of stones to help filter the water and keep it “sweet.”

The layer of moss between the stones and the soil serves as a barrier to the soil to keep it from running down into the stones.  It is purely aesthetic.  I added bits of “beach glass” around this moss layer to add to that barrier, as well as for the color.

Now, there are easier ways to do most anything.  Hold the bottle at an angle when adding the stones and glass, to direct where they fall.  I added a few stones to the center of my pile to take up space, allowing more of the agates to be visible against the glass.  Tilt the bottle when dropping in bits of beach glass to direct where you want the glass to land, then nudge it into place with a long, narrow tool.

Use whatever you have on hand to work inside the terrarium.  Many builders suggest chopsticks.  The cheap ones which come with your meal are the best.  I also like bamboo food skewers, and always have a pack lying around.  Even a pencil works just fine to nudge things into place through the narrow opening of the jar.

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The depth of soil needed depends entirely on plant choice.  Ferns and sedums need a little soil.  Moss needs very little.  I’ve used just over an inch of soil.  The roots will also grow down through the reindeer moss and into the stones below to reach the water there, eventually.

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January 11, 2015 terrarium 039

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A piece of paper, rolled into a funnel, is all you need to get soil or sand into your terrarium neatly.  Just spoon it through the opening, and nudge it into place with your long skinny tool.

Plants can be dropped through the opening, or gently rolled up into a piece of paper and then slid through the opening, before being nudged into place.

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These tiny plants have tiny roots.  It is fairly easy to work soil around the roots , pushing everything into place with your chopstick or pencil.

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I finished off by covering the soil with bits of garden moss.  Everything was frozen solid here on Saturday.  These bits were actually pried out of a pot on the deck, where I’ve been holding them since November.

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The secret to making an interesting miniature garden lies in beginning with tiny starts of things, and then allowing time for them to grow.

For example, you might plant a seed or a bulb, so long as the plant itself will fit in the space the terrarium allows.  Can you see a tiny crocus growing inside this bottle, from a bulb planted in the fall?  It would be a very temporary display, but very cool.

I’ve used another tiny division of peacock spikemoss, Selaginella uncinata, which can grow quite large, on one side of the bottle; and a tiny baby strawberry begonia, Saxifraga stolonifera, still attached to its umbilical stem, right in the middle.  My strawberry begonia plants, growing inside this winter, are making new baby plants every week!  I simply lowered this one, by its stem, into place where I want it to grow.  Its roots will take hold now in the soil, and quickly anchor it into place.

Once planted, add little stones, crystals, shells, marbles, bits of glass, or other ornaments to suit your vision.  Add tiny furniture for a fairy garden.  Lay stone paths or patios.  Add a statue if you wish.  This is your garden and you can do as you please!

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January 11, 2015 terrarium 054~

The final step of construction is watering.  I prefer to use bottled spring water so no chemicals are introduced, which might affect the growth of the plants.  And one must water very sparingly.  Little drops at a time are used to rinse away any specks of soil on the glass and to settle the roots into their new soil.

I left this bottle open for the first 36 hours to allow for some evaporation.  An opening this small could be left open all of the time.  But by replacing the stopper, this little garden won’t need additional water for months.  If the glass fogs up, I can remove the stopper for a few hours to allow the water to clear.  If the soil begins to look dry, a few drops of added water will solve the problem.

That is really all you need to know to now build your own terrarium. 

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Place your finished terrarium in bright light, but not right against a window. This one sits opposite the doors to our deck.

Place your finished terrarium in bright light, but not right against a window. This one sits opposite the doors to our deck.

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When choosing plants, select those which enjoy high humidity and which can grow without overwhelming the interior space of your garden.

Terrariums can be built to accommodate succulents.  These need openings for air circulation, and should be started off with even less water.  Air plants, which don’t require soil, make excellent terrarium specimens.  But these should be placed on wood or gravel, since contact with potting soil may lead them to rot.  The possibilities are limited mainly by your imagination and the depth of your purse!

Following are the books I reviewed this weekend.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

 

January 11, 2015 terrarium 059

“Pay It Forward” With Cuttings

September 4, 2014 Coleus 002

 

As the growing season draws to a close, I’m beginning to look around with an eye to which plants I’d like to save for next year, and which will be left to the frost.

Other years I’ve sometimes assumed that a favorite variety will be available the following spring and let a beautiful annual expire at the end of the season.  Sometimes that variety is available, and other times not.

Last year I grew several gorgeous varieties of Coleus ‘Under the Sea,’ a fairly recent introduction with intensely colored, deeply cut leaves.

Coleus, Under the Sea

Coleus, ‘Under the Sea, Gold Anemone’ in my garden last summer.  I couldn’t find this line of Coleus locally this year and have missed them.

 

This spring they never turned up at my local garden centers.

Some annuals are reasonably simple to keep indoors from one season to the next.

And if you have a favorite variety, that you want to enjoy again next summer, it may be worth the effort.

Another of last summer's Coleus varieties I never found this spring.

Another of last summer’s Coleus varieties I never found this spring.

 

While perennials are engineered to survive over many seasons, almost indefinitely; annuals are engineered to grow, flower, set seed, and then decline.

One reason for “pinching back” or “deadheading” is to keep a plant productive by preventing it from ever setting its crop of seeds.

It keeps producing flowers until it fulfills its life’s purpose with seed production.

Coleus in this year's garden.  A neighboring plant was targedted for distruction by a wayward deer.

Coleus in this year’s garden. A neighboring plant was targeted for destruction by a wayward deer.

 

That said, the annual you’ve had growing on your patio all summer might not be a good candidate for overwintering in the garage.

Even if it survives, it may not look like much the following season.

A better approach is to overwinter cuttings of a favorite plant.  The cuttings can then be grown on into beautiful plants when the weather warms in spring.

These cuttings have been rooting in water for not quite two weeks.

These cuttings have been rooting in water for not quite two weeks.

 

And this is the time to begin the process of evaluating which plants you intend to save.

I got a head start this season thanks to some deer.  The deer chose one Coleus plant out of several to disassemble over a period of about two weeks.

We would go out in the morning and find another branch or two torn away each day.  They ignored an identical Coleus a pot or two away, and kept working on one poor plant until nothing was left.

They may have actually eaten a little here and there; but mostly they just tore off branches and left them near by.

I gathered the branches as I found them, gave the ends a fresh cut, and stuck them into a jar of water in the windowsill.

These cuttings left from "pinching back" other plants were simply pressed into a pot of moist soil.  They root quickly and grow into new plants with simple care.

These cuttings left from “pinching back” other plants were simply pressed into a pot of moist soil. They root quickly and grow into new plants with simple care.

 

Coleus is ridiculously easy to root.  It roots easily in moist soil or in water.  And Coleus will grow in a simple jar of water for months.

All you need is a windowsill wide enough to hold a jar or a vase, or an area near a window where you can tend houseplants from October until early May.  Depending on your growing season, you may need to start a little earlier than we do here, or hold your annuals inside a little later.

Take cuttings that are 10″ or longer if you plan to keep them in water.

Take cuttings 10" or longer if you plan to keep them in a vase.  Remove the lower leaves which will be under water, leaving several pair to continue making food for the plant.  Keep the water clean to prevent the stems from rotting before you can plant them in soil.

Take cuttings 10″ or longer if you plan to keep them in a vase. Remove the lower leaves which will be under water, leaving several pair to continue making food for the plant. Keep the water clean to prevent the stems from rotting before you can plant them in soil.

 

If you are planting them in moist soil you can use any cutting with at least two sets of leaves.  Strip off the lower leaves, and push the cutting into the moist soil.

Keep the pot outside in the shade for a few weeks until there is resistance (roots) when you gently give it a tug.  Bring the plant inside when nights begin to dip down towards 40F, and keep it in bright light .

Pinch the growing tips from time to time to keep the plant bushy, and water when the top of the soil begins to feel a little dry.

This is one of my favorite Begonias from cuttings.  I bought one plant a decade ago, and continue to start new ones from it.  I've given cuttings from this special Begonia to many friends.

This is one of my favorite Begonias from cuttings. I bought one plant a decade ago, and continue to start new ones from it. I’ve given cuttings from this special Begonia to many friends.

 

I treat my Begonias the same way.  Many varieties of Begonia root easily in a jar of water, and will live in just water for many months.  I keep jars of cuttings in the windows over winter.  Many Begonias will root, just like Coleus, when the lowest set of leaves is removed and the cutting pushed into the soil so that lowest leaf node is buried in the soil.

Begonia "Flamingo' is another favorite "pass along plant."  I lost my original plant, but took cuttings from one shared with family.  This variety will grow very tall, bearing hundreds of tiny pink flowers.  Stems will root in moist soil.

Begonia “Flamingo’ is another favorite “pass along plant.” I lost my original plant, but  later took cuttings from one shared with family. This variety will grow very tall, bearing hundreds of tiny pink flowers. Stems will root in moist soil.

 

It’s that easy.  Dip the cutting into a little rooting hormone powder to speed the process if you want to; but many people have success without the hormone powder.

You can easily root many other annuals and herbs in water, and then pot them up once the roots are an inch or so long.

Believe it or not, Begonia "Gryphon' will root from a stem cutting.  Remove 4" or more of a stem, press into moist soil, and wait for new growth to appear after the roots establsih.

Believe it or not, Begonia “Gryphon’ will root from a stem cutting. Remove 4” or more of a stem, press into moist soil, and wait for new growth to appear after the roots establish.

 

Try Basil and mint, impatiens, scented geraniums, New Guinea impatiens, Oregano, and Petunias. 

Some of our “annuals” are actually tender perennials.  They grow year round in warmer climes, but are killed by freezing temperatures.

Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium, are tender perennials.  They sometimes survive the winter here in Zone 7, reappearing in mid-May or later.  Cuttings will root in water or moist soil.

Scented Geraniums, Pelargonium, are tender perennials. They sometimes survive the winter here in Zone 7, reappearing in mid-May or later. Cuttings will root in water or moist soil.

 

Plants like Geraniums and Caladiums can be kept from one season to the next indoors.

They will survive with  low light and minimal moisture, so long as you keep them well above freezing.

Caladium, "Gingerland" will send up new leaves in January when kept inside over the winter.

Caladium, “Gingerland” will send up new leaves in January when kept inside over the winter.  Keep the tubers in pots indoors in a heated room, and water as the soil dries.  You will be rewarded with a beautiful winter house plant.

 

Caladiums don’t even like to go below 50F.    If you have space in a basement or garage, you might be able to save these plants over the winter, bringing them back as the weather warms with more water, light, and warmth.

Our unheated garage gets enough sunlight through the windows, and enough heat from the house to serve as a shelter for many pots through the winter.

Some plants are worth keeping, others, maybe not.  

 

Begonia, "Richmondensis" isn't easy to find.  Homestead Garden Center carried it this spring, and I purchased several.  This Begonia blooms prolifically all summer and can take more sun than most.  I will definitely keep this plant over winter and root cuttings in early spring.

Begonia, “Richmondensis” isn’t easy to find. Homestead Garden Center carried it this spring, and I purchased several. This Begonia blooms prolifically all summer and can take more sun than most.  I will definitely keep this plant over winter and root cuttings in early spring.

 

But even if you don’t have space to keep a large pot of a favorite plant, you can still keep cuttings of many going in  minimal space.  Once you know how to handle cuttings you can continue to create new plants form your existing stock indefinitely.

Some of my “annuals” are now into a fourth or fifth season, started anew each year from cuttings kept in windowsills over the winter.

Basil roots easily in water and grows quickly in warm weather.  A single plant can be used to produce an "endless supply" of Basil over a summer.

Basil roots easily in water and grows quickly in warm weather. A single plant can be used to produce an “endless supply” of Basil over a summer.

And cuttings are easy to share.  Friends share with me, and I with them.

That poor Coleus, torn to pieces by the deer, has resulted in more than a dozen “cuttings,” most now gone to new homes.

I’m always happy to give cuttings to friends who will take them.

 

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And growing on gifts of cuttings fills one’s garden with love and happy memories.

 

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

 

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