SPRING IN THE SUN ROOM

I enjoy my sun room all year long (except when I slip away to the shore for the summer).  I particularly enjoy it with my first coffee and wake-up music in the morning but also frequently for lunch and sometimes even breakfast.  I enjoy being closer to the world that surrounds my town house, the bird songs and the occasional passage of some of the deer that live nearby (three in the couple of days that I composed this post).  A paramount feature, however, is my house plants which I enjoy all year long (yes, they go to the beach, too).  With longer days the plants are responding and I’m seeing more color.

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Left to right I’m enjoying a hanging basket of Torenia, shelves of a Begonia and a couple of Philodendron, a spring present of  Jasmine from my daughter, a Geranium and another Begonia.  Then there’s the light stand with such goodies as a yellow Lantana, more Begonias and Geraniums, even a Sinningia and an Episcia and a couple of African Violets.  Above them another Geranium, an aggressive Spider Plant, and a blooming Abutilon (Flowering Maple).  To the right an Elephant Ears and a final Geranium.

Pearl is no long around to enjoy the morning with me but the plants are a pleasure.  Tours welcome.

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The lighted shelves and trays.

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There’s also a miniature rose.  I’ve always enjoyed them and always watched them never bloom again.  This one gave me another shot so I’m encouraged.  So far it’s taken three treatments for aphids and one for black spider.  It’s worth waiting a little longer.

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I have only two African Violets under lights; in the old days I had three 8′ x 4′ shelves under a dozen fluorescents, nurturing gloxinias, fragrant stock, marigolds, columnea, violets and begonias.  A business partner once said that when he passed he’d like to be laid out in my basement.  It was a delight to care for and to enjoy, particularly in a cold, dark winter but I eventually lost the war to thrips and mealy bugs.  One or two are manageable, but it’s tough love, baby.  One thrip and you’re outta here.

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Let’s go outside to close.  This scene is on the wall of the garden of my long time friends, the McCallums.  Tom had planted this Clematis a while back and it was doing well.  Jeanne asked me if I could photograph it as Tom has been on our nursing floor and hasn’t been able to enjoy the season.  The showery day had left raindrops on the leaves and that added to the appeal.  Good Job, Tom.

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Click here for a full sized view.

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A CANDY STORE FOR PLANT LOVERS

Over 10,000 square feet of fruiting, rare and tropical plants, about a quarter of an acre.  That’s Logee’s Plants For Home & Garden, and that’s just the retail greenhouses.  Previously I’ve purchased plants on-line from them for my indoor garden.  On returning from a recent visit to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, however,  I realized that their Danielson, CT greenhouses were not that far off of my route home.  If I hadn’t had to continue on home to pick up Pearl from her spa I’d probably still be there.

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The nursery was founded in 1892 as a cut-flower store.   In 1900, however, the founder fell in love with a Ponderosa Lemon Tree which produced lemons averaging 5# in weight.  He purchased one of the trees from a Philadelphia supplier and that started the business on the road of fruiting and tropical plants.   Amazingly, that tree is still there and still produces fruit.

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7Lemon tree and house 2

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I had a list of four plants I needed.  As to the first on the list, the friendly store clerk advised me that it was sold out.  As to the next, a fairly new variety of Flowering Maple, she said that they had a problem with the variety.  Someone had sold all the rooted cuttings and then, somehow, sold the stock plant from which the cuttings were taken.  She had had to bring in her own plant to provide new stock which wasn’t yet ready.  So, I entered Candy Land to find the two I needed, and finally got away later with just the nine that had begged to go home with me.

There are two large greenhouses and two smaller that are open to shoppers.  There are two aisles in the larger houses edged by trays of potted-up young plants.  You can see both aisles in the above picture.  The aisles, in turn, border a central planting area for yet more plants.  When I walked into the first aisle, it was overwhelming.  For example, down the aisle near where the lady is standing there’s about twelve feet just of begonia varieties.

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I’ve been to other nurseries over the years.  Locally (Philadelphia area), Longwood Gardens is the premier destination.  While beautiful, it is an architectural showplace rather than a retail nursery.  Waterloo Gardens in Exton (now closed) used to be a good source of conventional house plants.  The exotic Edwardian greenhouse of Ott’s in Schwenksville is also good for (mostly) conventional plants.  Tinari’s in Huntington Valley is particularly good for African Violets.  Logee’s, however, is unparalleled in its inventory of varieties.  Every step brings one to some other desirable item.

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Yet another aisle, this one laden with gesneriads …. streps, columneas, nematanthus, gloxinias, achimemes, episcia.  Might have to take one of the suitcases out of the trunk.

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Well, of course, we did have to leave and return to reality … poorer, but definitely richer.  Here’s the lighted flower stand at home with its additions.  The begonias had spent the summer in my stall shower at the shore where they did well under a combination of window light and a gro-bulb.  They miss the salt air but otherwise seem to be doing well.

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For a related post about my house plant gardening over the years, click here.

Visit Logee’s at their web site.

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THE SECOND SEASON

Last fall I was ordering some houseplants from Logee’s, a supplier of a broad range of unusual varieties.   While looking at all of the goodies I wondered where I could possibly grow/display more of them in my new townhouse.  Then it hit me…..a light garden, and here it is:

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This was a reawakening of a long term interest.  I’ve always enjoyed gardening.  I began to grow summer flowers in a window box outside my room at college, and attended my first flower show while in college in 1953.  After marriage and moving in to navy housing I went nuts with gladiolus in our 2′ x 4′ plot.  Then I tried raising snapdragons from seed.  I didn’t think they looked quite right so I asked a knowledgable friend who looked at the flat and pronounced them to be healthy chickweed  seedlings. 

At our first apartment in civilian life I built shelves for a bay window and filled it with house plants.  Shortly after that we moved into our first home which featured a large back yard.  I carved it up into small gardens and set out to raise the necessary dozens of seedlings under flourescent lights.   Here’s that early setup, circa 1965

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That worked so well that I built a three-shelf-high, 4′ x 8′ planter equipped with twelve 4′ long, dual-tube flourescent light fixtures so that we could enjoy flowering plants in the winter….the second season.  I raised all manner of gesneriads, impatiens, balsam, browallia and begonias which do well under low light levels, but I also brought stock and dwarf marigolds to fragant bloom along with other summer annuals.  It was about seventy-five square feet filled with color in the harshest depths of winter.  A business partner once told his secretary that when he died he wanted to be laid out in my basement.

I moved it to the basement of our next home and kept plants going in it and then in successor wall shelves for some thirty years.  I toiled through infestations of leaf and soil mealy bugs, spider mites, scale, cyclamen mites, red spiders, root rot, and mildew but I was finally brought down by thrips.  I just couldn’t get all the plants cleaned at once so I threw in the towel except for a two shelf cabinet in the family room until I moved last year.  If any of them showed problems they were evicted.  Tough love.

So, now I’ve started up again, and it’s a joy to walk into the sun room in the morning and see all the plants, vigorous, in bloom, perhaps even purring.  What triggered this post was the Streptocarpus shown below.  From flowerless it has burgeoned with over two dozen blooms.

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Also exciting for me is this Abutilon or Flowering Maple.  I used to see it in the Park Seed Co. catalog but had never tried it as it’s a full sun plant.  But, my friend, Nancy B., has a large specimen growing in her sunroom so I thought I’d try it.  It has done well under the lights, rewarding me with a few unusual blossoms.

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This Columnea (Gesneriaceae) is another joy for me.  I had this particular variety for most of my years of light gardening, keeping it going by taking root cuttings and developing them.  But it also fell victim to the thrips and, finally, my tiring of that struggle.  Then I found it in the Logee’s catalog and invited it to come back home.  The colors make me think of candy corn, and the blooms, of some exotic dolphin leaping from the water.

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