Of Course They Come in Blue--Bring on the Spray Paint!

I'm still getting comments on the piece I wrote about a succulent that had been painted blue, apparently, to gain the attention of unsuspecting consumers who don't realize that it isn't real.

It would have been nice if the plant come with a label disclosing that it had been spray painted and eventually grow out of its color.

Advertisers have figured out what the consumer wants, which is why the term "new" is used so often. We like to try/see/taste/grow/have things no one else has tried/seen/tasted/grown/had. Other popular buzzwords are "energy-efficient," "organic," and "gluten-free." It's the consumer's perception that causes him to gravitate toward these icons and what they represent.

Anyway, we've all felt swindled or cheated at some time in our lives. My friend the horticulturist felt a bit sheepish, I'm sure, but it was very early spring and cold and gloomy outside. The plant was $10, which means she paid at least twice what the Echeveria was worth. But in the big scheme of things, it was a relatively inexpensive lesson to learn.

Should there be warnings or laws that protect us from these fraudulent claims? Warnings, perhaps. Laws, I don't think so. With laws like that in place we'd never have "glitter mums," or deep blue carnations at our local supermarkets. And why else would they be selling if somebody out there likes them.

Why else would the Martha Stewart website offer instructions for putting glitter on roses?

Dyed and spray-painted flowers (fresh is relative, I guess) also are available. Although, to me, the look created here might as well be made of paper, cloth or even plastic, somebody out there likes them. I found some information on how florists dye flowers on the ProFlowers blog.

I'm not a fan, but as my mother used to say, "It takes all kinds."

Peony Companions - Because Even the Best Flowers Need Friends

What goes with peonies? Here are a few of my favorites.

This sunny spot is home to a huge Baptisia 'Purple Smoke', which goes perfectly with any peony planted nearby. It's kind of a giant, and tends to be a leaner in a semi-shaded garden, so I prop it 
up as much as I can so it doesn't completely obliterate any neighboring peonies. 
The big-headed Allium are also good companions.

This old-fashioned peony, 'Mme Ducel' is positioned on the sunny side of a shaded bed, 
where Hakonechloa 'All Gold' brightens up the background.

One of my favorite white-on white combos is Peony 'White Wings' with Ornithogalum magnum, a hardy bulb that can be planted in the fall.

I love Siberian iris for its ease of culture and healthy foliage that offers grass-like vertical interest through the season. And there is little better for accenting almost any shade of peonies.
The more the merrier makes for a colorful combination. Peony 'Mme Ducel' holds her 
own along with self-seeded Digitalis and ornamental Amaranth, with Peony 'Clown' in 
the background at the right.

Picking flowers for bouquets is a fun way to determine what goes with what in your garden.

Scent in Your Winter World

Beginning with tulips and ending with late-blooming tropical plants, I love to have scent in my garden. I try to scent my indoor world during the winter as well. On a warm and slushy day last weekend I was drawn outdoors in boots and clippers.

I carefully snipped the leaves off stems of the Hamamelis virginica, or witch hazel. This species, with its subtle flowers that bloom as early as January, has trouble letting go of its leaves, covering up the flowers, which are hard to notice anyway.

What isn't hard to notice--outdoors in mid-winter--is the flowers' fragrance. It's not strong, but is unmistakably fresh.

I also removed some crossing branches, some of which had flowers. I brought them in and put them in a vase. The warm indoor temperatures coaxed the flowers to open, adding just a little something, a bit of je ne sais quoi to the air. When you put flowers with a subtle scent into a small room, entering is a wonderful experience as the fragrance doesn't hit you as you enter, but gently reminds you that it's there.

Plan ahead for next winter by picking up a potted citrus plant next spring. They've become more readily available at independent garden centers, and go for anywhere from $20 to $40.
January, 2013--its first winter.

I purchased a potted Clementine called Fina Mandarin in spring of 2013. It bloomed off and on during the summer in its patio location, but it had a lot of competition in that scenario.

Citrus flowers aren't very large, but their fragrance is unmistakably "orange blossom," a sweet, tangy scent that can transport you to Florida citrus groves in winter. Some citrus is perfect for pot growth, and have been designated as such.

According to a site called site called Citrus pages, by Jorma Koskinen of Finland, this clementine cultivar was imported from Algeria into Spain in 1925 and is the one from which most Spanish clementines originated.

Realistically, keeping any kind of citrus happy over several years in a pot inside your house for the winter isn't likely. Eventually they'll succumb to a host of conditions ranging from scale and spider mites to root disease.

January, 2015 - still happy in its third winter indoors.
But you can get three or four years out of them if you feed, prune and care for them outdoors before bringing them in for the winter. If they need to be repotted, do it in the spring so they have time to settle in before they're brought indoors. If they're happy and healthy, you'll have that beautiful scent in January.  I think it's wort it.