Friday, September 7, 2012

Hits and Misses from Last Winter's Greenhouse

As soon as the weather warmed last Spring, I made a list of what successfully made it through the winter and those that would not likely be joining us inside this fall.

Last Spring's observations with late summer comments:

Hit: Begonias were steady bloomers.
Fibrous wax-leaf begonias in red, pink and white were a dependable show. If they get dry, the leaf edges turn crispy.
Need to take cuttings soon.

Miss: White Shrimp Plant which had winter blooms in previous years just sat there until the weather warmed. Then they grew tall but nary a blossom.
Justicias will get another chance. The years they do bloom they are a novelty. Cuttings soon.

Miss: Brugmansias dropped most of their leaves in the winter. When the weather outside warmed, they put on new leaves. The brugs outside here in zone 8b grew new foliage at the base of the old, dead stems. I might not keep over anything but small cuttings next winter. They may have fared better if the mist fogger had been in place earlier. That big one took up much room for not much effect.
Almost time for cuttings, very small cuttings.
Plants grow very quickly in summer, spectacular in bloom.

It does not seem to matter whether cuttings or old plants from the roots, they eventually put on those huge pink Angel trumpets.

Hits: Gingers stayed green and gave a tropical effect. I potted up Shell gingers, both solid green and variegated Alpinias. I'm hoping the solid green Shell ginger will have blooms when I put it outside.
No blooms from old gingers nor those overwintered. The greenhouse gingers are not as dark green as those that stayed in the ground all winter and came back from roots.
Pots of cardamon ginger stayed green as well. The gingers that naturally rest like hedychium and curcuma are useless as greenhouse plants, they'll die back when the days grow short.
Gingers may be the last to move inside because I need to see just how much room can be spared when all the cuttings and more tender plants move in.

Hit: Bird of Paradise is a great greenhouse plant even if it never blooms. It gives height and the broad leaves stayed green. A new leaf is forming now. I hope to see a bloom one day.
The Bird and the ferns around its ankles only need the pot pulled from the ground to be ready to go inside. I despair of ever seeing a blossom, summer or winter, but it is a favorite tropical plant.

Hit: I have enough cuttings of Alternanthera both red and chartreuse to plant some huge swaths.
Most of the alternanthera did get planted out. I'll take more cuttings, just because they are so easy to keep as cuttings in water and it is impossible to have too many to make edgings. The red and chartreuse are very well behaved. There are purple seedlings everywhere in the green house floor.

Hit: Pentas were the big show.
I potted some plants and they bloomed all winter. I put cuttings in both soil and water to root with mixed results. I read that only 10% of Pentas cutting root. I certainly had a better outcome than that, more like 80%.
Three dozen cuttings are now in soil. I wish there were more. Butterflies just flock to them. It takes at least five of one color to make a garden show that attracts insects well.

Hit: I trimmed off the ugly leaves with spots and/or poor color from the pots of Epiphyllum oxypetalum and moved them out to a partly shaded spot.
 Night Blooming Cereus is an ugly plant with spectacular fragrant blooms. October is the latest it blooms, so the greenhouse is graced with blossoms at least once. I rooted two new plants from pieces that broke off.
These big awkward plants demand space somewhere. The rooted pieces grew quickly.

Hit: The potted gardenia has moved outside and will be going in the ground.
That florist's gardenia has not flourished outside. Somehow, some cuttings of the regular old August Beauty got themselves into a jar of water and a bud on the kitchen windowsill left its leaves and stem to root as well. I'll be nursing little Gardenias again this winter.

Hit: A seedling Pride of Barbados that I dug and brought in last fall fared well with a small lamp burning beside it on the coldest nights. Come February it began to put on new growth.
That seedling grew no better than new seedlings started in the winter. None of the seedlings bloomed this summer but they put on significant growth. I'll leave them outside hopeful that they will return from roots and bloom next summer. Meanwhile, there are seeds to gather before they pop open for another planting just to see the little legume leaves grow and have more plants. Butterflies do enjoy the mature blooming plants.

Hit: Duranta cuttings bloomed all winter.

Porterweed cuttings that I started in water and then put in soil had little bloom spikes starting. Porterweed cuttings rooted in soil sat there all winter without growing.
Cuttings of Duranta and Porterweed are a must. Duranta blooms while still tiny and makes a huge shrub when planted out. The ones outside do return from the roots. Porterweeds will be fine as a tall bouquet in a big jar of water, and can be potted in late winter.  

Hit: Purple Heart and Persian Shield, two of my favorite purples and can grow in the same large pot. Persian Shield will bloom in February and March in the greenhouse. The little blue cone-shaped blooms would be spectacular on a plain green plant; hardly compete with the purples and silvers of Strobilanthes. Setcreasea is a more subdued color in shade, dark purple in sun. I had a pot that I couldn't see that still got watered from plants above. When I moved the bromeliad that hid it, I was awed by its blue-green color.
Must have these purples.
Misses: Brazilian Ruellia and Firecracker Fern both had bright red blooms the winter before. This year the ruellia sulked and firecracker fern managed long arching stems and maybe 2 blossoms.
Planted out, both did very well. Must bring pieces inside.

Hit: I planted seeds for container tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. Sprouting was successful. One cell of eggplant failed. I put only two seeds in each cell because I can't bear thinning and the seeds were dear anyway, not many in the package.
Veggies cut back in late summer put up new shoots very quickly. As the weather cools, some will come inside that have young fruits to see how long they bear in the greenhouse.
I'm planning some experiments with container veggies like carrots.

Without a written record I would forget my vows about bulbs for forcing  No paperwhites, they get too leggy.

Hyacinths always. No more tulips -- I will buy bouquets of tulips, a better buy with no effort.
Amaryllis, as many as my budget allows, planted in clay pots of soil. Bulbs forced in soil performed better and can be slipped into garden soil in suitable climates to bloom again in subsequent years.  

Hit: Hyacinths planted in clay pots of soil.
Planted in soil, can slip into the ground when blooms are done.

Miss: Paperwhites. Some got leggy, up to 40" tall.
Mama always forced Narcissus. They usually fell over but they were worth seeing. If she'd ever had an Amaryllis or some Hyacinths to force, she would have abandoned paperwhites just as I have.

Hit: Amaryllis from Lowe's if you don't mind if they are mislabeled sometimes.   Plant Amaryllis in soil.

Forced bulbs can be successfully done without a greenhouse or any special equipment except a window with bright light. Getting a small greenhouse just meant I reclaimed my laundry room sink and counter beneath the windows.

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