Thursday December 12, 2013
December 12th is National Poinsettia Day. Once upon a time, the US Congress actually came to an agreement and declared this official day of recognition. I usually look at poinsettias more as decoration than as plants, but they are hard to resist at this time of year, especially with all the new colors, shades and swirls. I'm still partial to the red ones, for Christmas, but if I could grow them in my area I would definitely try growing the pastel varieties.
Poinsettias are amazing when grown as tropical plants. Susan, a reader from Hawaii, sent in some photos of her 20 year old poinsettia plants. She said they are so large, "...tourists always pull over in front of my house and take their pictures with my poinsettias as the back drop." That was a few years ago. I can only imagine them now!
Awhile back our Pool and Patio Guide visited the Paul Ecke Ranch in Ecinitas, CA, where they grow the bulk of the Poinsettias produced for worldwide distribution. I like to feature her poinsettia photo galleries as a reminder of the variety of poinsettias available and how to decorate with them. I hope you enjoy them.
Photo: pedrojperez (morgueFile)
Wednesday December 11, 2013
I'm already seeing signs of low humidity stress in my houseplants. I'm not surprised. Winter is a challenging season for indoor plants, with low light, temperature swings and almost no humidity. If only someone would invent a moisturizing lotion for leaves. Until then, here are some tips for keeping your indoor plants healthy through the cold months ahead.
And while you're caring for them, snap a few pictures and get them in for our Houseplant Photo Challenge, before it ends!
Tuesday December 10, 2013
Here's another reminder to view the finalists for our Fall Color Photo Challenge. Time is running out to vote and so far Winding Road is running away with it.
Take a good look at each submission in the photo gallery, then come back here and place your vote. You can only vote once, so be certain before you click. The poll will remain open through December 15th and we'll announce the winners on Monday, the 16th. Enjoy!
Sunday December 8, 2013
I guess a lot of you have started shopping for seeds already because I'm getting questions about the difference between open pollinated (OP) and heirloom. The difference is getting muddied, as heirloom seed catalogs start branching out in their offereings. There is no absolute definition of what an heirloom is, but many sources require it to be at least 50 years old, have some sort of story or history associated with it and it absolutely has to be open pollinated. So all heirlooms are OP, but not all OP plants have stood the test of time, to become heirlooms.
The difference between hybrid and genetically modified organism (GMO) is more pronounced. Both processes are meant to produce a "better" plant, but a hybrid plant is just a plant that results from crossing 2 different plant parents. This happens quite often in nature and it can also be done intentionally by breeders. Seed from hybrid plants do not retain their hybridization and will not grow true. The process of genetically modifying changes an organism on a molecular level. This is explained far better than I could by biotech expert Theresa Phillips, in the link below.
At this point in time, it's unlikely that a backyard gardener would be purchasing GMO seeds or plants. These products have been developed for commercially grown crops and the farmers who grow them are required to sign agreements with the companies that hold the patents. The small gardener isn't a targeted market. Of course, that could change. To assure yourself that you have not unintentionally purchased GMO seeds, check your package label for some form of "not genetically modified" phrasing or, even easier, "certified organic". Buying plants can be a bit trickier, so always buy from a grower or nursery you trust and ask them how the plants were grown.