Archive | November 2013

The right plants for your No Sweat garden

Some of us fall in love with plants the way we do with people.

We don’t have to be keen gardeners to have love affairs with particular plants.  We just have to be passing a garden centre or see a flamboyant flower in a magazine or somebody else’s garden to covet it for our own.

And, as with falling in love with people, out hearts tend to rule our heads and we don’t always make the right choice. But those of us who aren’t  keen gardeners, and  want a trouble-free garden that doesn’t take up too much of our precious time in establishment and maintenance, then we need to be more discriminating.

Some plants, like some people, need a lot of maintenance!

My book Great Garden – No Sweat! is about having an attractive and enjoyable garden that only takes two hours a week to maintain.  To achieve this goal requires good planning and a realistic time-budget – and it also needs the right plants.     Because what you plant now will save you precious time later. AND give you a garden to be proud of. When you buy a home you make a big investment – and surrounding that home with a good-looking garden adds substantially to that investment. So it’s important to get it right.

If you want to have a great garden for only two hours work a week then here’s what you DON’T grow:

Large, messy trees

Fiddly flowers

Fruit trees – too much spraying, pruning and picking

Vegetables – very hard work often for very modest rewards

Herb garden – high maintenance, though a few herbs in pots or around the garden are easy to look after

Rampant, sprawling shrubs – too much clipping required

And here’s what you DO grow

Small tidy trees

Shrubs

Perennial flowers and bulbs (easy-care types)

Plants in pots – a few pots in strategic places are an easy way to beautify a simple garden

Plant choice

It’s critical to choose the right plants for your garden. And this means sticking to those that are tried and true performers in your locality. NOT just your climate zone but the actual area in which you live. Of course, you’ve already thought about the main climate influences when planning your garden and now you need to think about these again when choosing plants. And a few other things besides.

Remember this!  Trying to grow unsuitable plants will mean a lot of hard work. And you’re not after a challenge. You’re after having a great garden for only two hours a week so you can devote the rest of your leisure time to other things! Factors that influence plant choice are:

Amount of rainfall

Amount of snow and frost

Minimum and maximum temperatures

Humidity or aridity

Strong winds, either hot or cold

Salt-laden sea breezes

The above is a brief extract from Great Garden – No Sweat!  You can read about the book by clicking on the My Books tab above.  To buy, or read an extract, go to:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GZBDU8C

For an investment of only $4.95 you have a manual that can change your life!

Dahlias are among the easiest flowers to grow

Dahlias are among the easiest flowers to grow

A few easy-care plants, hard surfaces such as gravel instead of lawn, and an eye-catching no-maintenance ornament come together to create a garden that requires very little work to keep looking good.

A few easy-care plants, hard surfaces such as gravel instead of lawn, and an eye-catching no-maintenance ornament come together to create a garden that requires very little work to keep looking good.

Choose plants that require little work and suit the size of your garden

These plants are not a good choice for a No Sweat garden

Oaks are too big for most gardens and shed messy leaves in Fall (Autumn).

Oaks are too big for most gardens and shed messy leaves in Fall (Autumn).

Azaleas are beautiful and popular but need a lot of care - big old Indica varieties are the easiest.

Azaleas are beautiful and popular but need a lot of care – big old Indica varieties are the easiest.

Roses are a lot of hard work...

Roses are a lot of hard work…

...and so are orchids!

…and so are orchids!

These plants are a good choice for the average suburban low-maintenance garden

Coniferous trees require no work but choose those that suit the size of your garden

Coniferous trees require no work but choose those that suit the size of your garden

Gordonia is an excellent small tree

Gordonia is an excellent small tree

Metrosideros is an easy-care shrub...

Metrosideros is an easy-care shrub…

...and so is this Calliandra

…and so is this Calliandra

...while Camellias are a great choice for just about any except the very driest and coldest climates

…while Camellias are a great choice for just about any except the very driest and coldest climates

Bulb plants like this daffodil are easier than they look, once planted

Bulb plants like this daffodil are easier than they look, once planted

...and so is this Ixia...

…and so is this Ixia…

...and this tough Oriental Lily

…and this tough Oriental Lily

When it comes to edging a bed bulb plants such as this tough Tulbaghia (Society Garlic) are a good choice...

When it comes to edging a bed bulb plants such as this tough Tulbaghia (Society Garlic) are a good choice…

...though not quite as easy and care-free as this philodendron border

…though not quite as easy and care-free as this philodendron border

Look for more “good” and “bad” plant for your No Sweat garden in future postings on this site.

 

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The Top Ten

The new book

The new book

I’ve just published the latest GardenEzi book, this time on the Ten Best plants for indoor growing.

Why did I choose these plants, from all the many available?

Well, first of all, I chose those that have proved themselves the most reliable performers under all sorts of conditions.  The plants that you just can’t kill unless you actually poison them!

I also selected for good looks, with emphasis on patterned leaves or colourful spathes (the big, beautiful leaf-like structures that surround the small flowers in some plants).

I concentrated on foliage rather than flowers because flowers always require more work and more demanding light requirements.

I avoided ferns because they are generally a bit more difficult to grow than the foliage plants from (mostly) the aroid group that feature in the Top Ten – and anyway it’s hard to pick one fern over another for inclusion in so short a list and ferns really deserve a Top Ten book of their own; I’ll probably do it one day.

And then I focused on those that were readily available in most garden centres/nurseries in most countries.

Of course, picking just ten plants is not easy, even when you stick to the above criteria.  There are just so many other little beauties out there, especially among the aroids.  So I hope people will use this book as the guide to a basic collection, adding others – peperomias, fittonias, alocasias and colocasias come to mind – as they gain confidence or want something different.

You can read more about Ten Best Indoor Plants by clicking on the My Books tab.  To buy, go to the gardening book section on Amazon and look for  Ten Best Indoor Plants and Julie Lake, or else just put this info into your browser and that will take you there.

Because a good display of colour photos is not easy with e-books, I’m putting the photos of the Top Ten right here, so those who buy the book can have a better look. Here they are:

Aglaonema - these plants come in a range of subtly-patterned leaves, mostly in greens and silvery-greys

Aglaonema – these plants come in a range of subtly-patterned leaves, mostly in greens and silvery-greys

Anthuriums come with large spathes in bright lipstick hues of pink, red and peach

Anthuriums come with large spathes in bright lipstick hues of pink, red and peach

This is a very young aspidistra in a pot - it will grow into a handsome plant like the one below...

This is a very young aspidistra in a pot – it will grow into a handsome plant like the one below…

This aspidistra is groing outdoors - but it does just as well indoors in low light conditions.

This aspidistra is groing outdoors – but it does just as well indoors in low light conditions.

Calatheas have leaves with fascinating patterns...

Calatheas have leaves with fascinating patterns…

Calathead

Dieffenbachias are tough performers - but the leaves are toxic (though not palatable!)

Dieffenbachias are tough performers – but the leaves are toxic (though not palatable!)

Dracaena (the Dracaena marginata varieties are prettiest) is as good indoors as out, if given bright light

Dracaena (the Dracaena marginata varieties are prettiest) is as good indoors as out, if given bright light

The elegant Lady Palm (Rhapis exelsa) - always a favourite indoors.

The elegant Lady Palm (Rhapis exelsa) – always a favourite indoors.

The white spathes of the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) seem to glow in low light

The white spathes of the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) seem to glow in low light

Lilies of the field

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I love lilies! I mean why would you not – they are as easy to grow as they are gorgeous. I especially love the tall, stately, so-called Oriental lilies which every late spring and early summer offer such a fine reward for so little effort.

Have a look at this splendid specimen in my own garden, which right now is putting on a show that distracts the eye from the sorry state of our pond. We have had no significant rain for four months now so the pond is rather low – much to the delight of the herons that fish there daily for frogs. The poor old frogs are not nearly so enthusiastic though and must be desperate for rain not only so they can start breeding but also to put more water in the pond so they have somewhere to hide from the predatory birds.

Anyway, back to the lily. In its first year after the bulb was planted it produced one fine flower. In the next year it was taller and produced a couple more. Last year it put on a better show and we had the pleasure of it for several weeks. This year it is, as you can see, a wonder to the eye. Not just by day but at night too, because it glows in the dark even when there is no moon, and can be easily seen from the sitting room window.

Oriental Lily1 - Copy

The “Oriental” lilies sold in garden centres or available from bulb suppliers today are highly-bred hybrids of several species of (mostly) Asian origin. They are similar to, but not quite the same, as those commonly called “Asiatic” lilies, just to make things confusing! The latter, however, are generally less tall and stately. They often have colour-contrast centres and are better in pots than the Orientals.

Both Asiatic and Oriental lilies are easy to grow but the latter are REALLY tough. Conventional horticultural wisdom says they do best in good, loamy soil, in part shade, with either well-distributed rainfall (especially in summer) or regular watering. Plus a couple of doses of fertilizer a year.

Well, my beauty gets none of those things! It is growing in the most horrible, hard, stony soil you could imagine. It gets sun for most of the day and water only when I remember, which isn’t often. Sure, it gets deluged for a couple of months in high summer but we’ve just had four months with only a couple of inches of rain (about 45 mm) many weeks apart and only twice have I remembered to give my tall and splendid darling a drink! And I never feed it at all! Nor mulch it, though there is a fair bit of leaf litter around its base.

Yet there it is, flourishing wonderfully. In this past year it has withstood both deluge and drought, strong wind and fierce sun. The older I get, and the more years I study and write about horticulture, the more I realise that plants are like children – they grow best and sturdiest if they are not too spoiled and protected and over-indulged.

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I don’t even know my lily’s exact name and nobody has yet been able to tell it to me. It looks a bit like the variety ‘Santander’ and a bit like ‘Rialto’ too, though it is too greenish in hue to be either. Perhaps it is an old variety and the name has been lost as new varieties come along. It looks like some sort of cross between L. auratum and L. speciosum, as most of these types of lilies are, probably with a couple of other species in the mix as well. Never mind, what’s in a name! All I do know is that I plan to get a few more of these lovely lilies when bulb-buying time comes around again.