Lifestyle

COMPLEATE HOME GARDENER: Plants turn winter into feast of color

By Marianne Binetti

It’s mid December and houseplants are making inroads into winter gardening. Although poinsettias are the No. 1 plant for Christmas giving, new varieties of blooming potted plants have turned winter into a flowering feast of color.

If you’ve struggled with indoor plants in the past, give these room-brightening newcomers a try. Not only are these exotic bloomers easy to grow but water meters and slow release fertilizers takes the guess work out of maintenance.

Logees Tropical Plants (www.logees.com) is a mail order company known for offering unique and beautiful indoor plants. If you’re looking for a Arabica coffee plant, New Zealand tea tree or black jewel orchid, www.logees.com is a Web site to check.

You can also request a color catalog.

Water Stik

moisture meter

Drowning is the leading cause of death for indoor plants and this nifty meter is like a life preserver for houseplants. A plastic stick monitors moisture and blinks one of four warning colors. Blue means “Stop! I’m drowning” while Red signals “Water me Now!” And when the color green flashes, it lets you know all is well.

The Water Stik is 6 inches long and ideal for four- to 10-inch pots. Cost is $16.95.

If you can’t find one at your local garden center and don’t want to order online you can call Logees greenhouse at 1-888-330-8038

Beautiful indoor

begonias

It all started with the European hybrid begonia called “Escargot” named for the snail-shaped swirl of the large silver and burgundy striped leaves. The eye-popping color and form of this begonia makes it an easy-to-grow and easy-to-give houseplant but this summer I placed my potted Escargot begonia outdoors in a mixed pot of shade plants. It doubled in size and is still rewarding me for the summer break. (Bring indoors before the first frost.)

There are a lot more bodacious begonia beauties to add to your boudoir or kitchen collection. Begonia “Marmaduke” is featured by Logees greenhouse and has also been seen at local nurseries because the lime green leaves sprinkled with burgundy dots reminds one of marmalade jam – or a sunset exploding with fireworks. Look for more fancy leaf begonias at garden centers and home stores now and then take one home or give one as a gift with confidence. These begonias are easy to grow indoors or as temporary outdoor plants in the summer. If you also invest in a water meter, you’ll be spared the anguish of a houseplant with a drinking problem.

And now for a word about plastic orchids….

Once upon a time orchid plants were exotic, hard-to-grow and hard-to-find. So it was that decorators and designers used them only in the finest interiors to showcase the impeccable taste and unlimited pocketbook of their clients. Plastic, silk or otherwise fake plants were for the huddled masses that knew no better. Well, times have changed.

Orchids have undergone a growing revival as newer varieties are less fussy about sunlight and water and easy to keep blooming. The price of a potted orchid plant has now tumbled to a level that even us mass consumers can now afford. You can own a living, budded, breathing and blooming orchid plant now for less than it’s imitation in silk and unless you prefer cubic zirconium over diamonds, there’s no reason to settle for fake plants. Unlike some blooming houseplants, orchids have long-lasting blooms and will stay in flower for several months. Most need only a sunlit space and attention to water. New cattleya and phalaenopsis orchids come in miniature forms and some even perfume a room with fragrance when in flower.

If you’re looking to give a gift of luxury, especially for someone who may be homebound, likes decorating or hates to give up on gardening in the winter months, then look for potted orchids, fancy leaf begonias and other living plants at your garden center, home center store or even your local grocery store. Indoor winter color with foliage and flowers as well as fragrance can be enjoyed at bargain prices – then, when someone asks if your spectacular house plant is “real,” you can answer “yes!”

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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