Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming


Houseplants a 2020 trend

2019-11 spring cactus

Published Nov. 17, 2019, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle: “Houseplants: a top garden trend for 2020.”

By Barb Gorges

There is a publication that comes out every fall discussing trends in gardening, written primarily for those in the green industry: nurseries, landscapers, garden centers, etc. Garden Media Group listed eight hot topics for 2020 that commercial enterprises should pay attention to (http://grow.gardenmediagroup.com/2020-Garden-Trends-Report):

  • Increasing city greenscapes
  • Circular economy–waste becoming building materials
  •  Green collar jobs available, especially horticulture
  •  Soil microorganisms and regenerative gardening
  •  Attracting amphibians to backyards
  •  Mushrooms
  •  Indigo, the color and the natural dye
  •  Houseplants

Houseplants is a category I can most easily relate to as I write this on a snowy, 10-degree day at the end of October.

Houseplants have been rediscovered by millennials who yearn for green acres but make do with apartment square footage.

2019-11 220px-Echeveria_elegans_-_1 wikipedia 2

One of 150 varieties of Echeveria. Courtesy Wikipedia.

Succulents are the most popular plant type, according to the surveys Garden Media looked at. And cactus. Echeveria is most popular. There are 150 cultivated varieties of this succulent. All are basically rosettes of thick leaves. They grow slowly, occasionally produce baby rosettes and need less watering than typical houseplants. I’ll have to try one.

Garden Media recommends the astute retailer offer Houseplant 101 classes for the members of the new indoor gardening generation to help them become “Plant Parents.”

That makes me a Plant Grandparent, I guess. I still have an azalea I bought 30 years ago that blooms a couple times a year.

While some people may buy houseplants to clean the air like an air purifier or as interior decoration like other people buy books for the color of their spines, growing and propagating plants is much more fun than that.

My mother started me out with violets when I was in junior high. It’s so easy to cut off a leaf and stick the stem in potting soil and watch for the new plant to grow.

In college it was an avocado tree grown from a pit. And jade plants reproducing from stems cut and planted. For 40 years, I’ve had spider plants that send out shoots looking for a new foothold and I give it to them, sometimes in the same pot, sometimes in a new pot, anchoring the bottom of the shoot to the soil surface with an unbent paperclip until the roots develop.

Philodendron, pothos, ivy and geraniums can all be propagated from cuttings. Sometimes I put the stems in water until I see roots form and then plant them. Sometimes I just stick the stems in the potting soil I find in the garden centers. There are also potting soil recipes online. If you are working with succulents and cactus, you want something grittier than regular types.

A broken piece of my spring cactus (remotely related to Christmas cactus) is growing quickly using the same stick-it-in-potting-soil technique. The key to the method is controlling watering, keeping the cutting midway between wilting and rotting.

Three years ago, the kids gave me a big bouquet for my birthday. As the cut flowers wilted, I pulled them out, downsizing to smaller vases until only two sprigs of greenery remained. And then I noticed they’d sprouted roots. Today they are happily potted up and identified as Buddhist pine.

This summer’s experiment was a piece of ginger root showing green nubbins. I buried it halfway in potting soil and it has sprouted a stalk over a foot tall.

The amaryllises I’ve grown from seed, from a plant from a friend, are nearly old enough to bloom this winter. One I shared with my friend Bonnie bloomed this last summer—she has better windows than me.

And that’s the thing about houseplant propagation—it gets out of hand. You share or at least trade with others, or find new homes for plants that get too big for your house.

Garden Media encourages “Pub crawls or plant swaps” and says, “Meet & Greets with plantfluencers allow people to network with their favorite Insta-celebrity or find other plant buddies.” OK, that last statement makes no sense if you aren’t on Instagram. But plant swapping often happens here in Cheyenne at Master Gardener and Prairie Garden Club meetings.

Finding homes for your plant offspring is easier than finding homes for a litter of puppies or kittens because plants only require a little light, water, soil and far less attention. Just make sure the weather is above freezing when you transport them.

It’s up to you if you end up filling your basement with grow lights and orchids, which I’ve seen happen. What a great place to hang out for the winter!

2019-11 Fantasy Orchids-Barb Gorges

Phalaenopsis is an easy type of orchid to grow. These were for sale at Fantasy Orchids in Louisville, Colorado, when I bought my first one. See my column, https://cheyennegardengossip.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/orchid-adventure/.


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What I’ve learned as a Master Gardener

2018-08Garden tour-Barb Gorges

Outside Ft. Collins, Colorado, one woman, over 20 years, has created a garden refuge. Photo by Barb Gorges.

 

 

Published Aug. 12, 2018, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and at Wyoming Network News, https://www.wyomingnetworknews.com/garden-gossip-what-ive-learned-as-a-master-gardener.

By Barb Gorges

This is my seventh season as a Laramie County Master Gardener (and Wyoming Tribune Eagle garden columnist). I know more now than when I finished the training because there’s always someone to talk to who knows more than me about any aspect of gardening.

I’ve interviewed many people, including other Master Gardeners, for previous columns which are archived at https://cheyennegardengossip.wordpress.com/. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Always evaluate gardening information. Where does that gardener garden? Is it a garden with a similar climate or microclimate, soil and growing season to mine? Will the treatment harm my soil?

There’s a difference between sticking stuff in dirt and growing plants with more mindfulness—and record-keeping.

You can grow many things in Cheyenne, but not all things. Just keep experimenting with the short-season veggies and consider building a greenhouse or high tunnel.

Cheyenne’s blooming season is longer than you think. In my garden some spring bulbs bloom in March. Some years the frost doesn’t finish the asters until the end of October.

Garden beauty is subjective but good garden design is practical:  put short plants in the front of beds, veggies by the kitchen door and don’t plant trees under power lines.

Every growing season is different. Not every year has powdery mildew, black spot or blossom end rot.

Know when to give up. Or try the plant in a different location. Or try a different variety.

Gardeners are generous. They share plant thinnings and seeds because they can’t bear to compost them.

Propagation from root divisions, cuttings and seeds is rewarding, especially when you share.

Never add lime, an alkaline substance, to Cheyenne’s already alkaline soils.

Gardeners like a challenge, even as extreme as planting acid-loving blueberries in buckets full of specially mixed acidic soil.

Soil is every gardener’s most valuable asset. Preserve its structure and microbiome by tilling and hoeing as little as possible and let mulch keep the weeds down.

Composting your discarded plant material in your own bin or pile saves you money on fertilizer and the cost of having the sanitation department haul it away.

Getting watering and mulching right is more important to plants than fertilizer.

Good pruning benefits trees and shrubs by making them look good and grow better.

Right plant in the right place—not all trees are growing in the right place.

Hail is a fact of life here. Protect tomatoes with hardware cloth screen overhead and grow skinny-leaved and skinny-petalled flowers.

Replacing your lawn with gravel is not less work in the future. It gets weedy. And gravel doesn’t shade the ground, which makes your yard hotter. You are better off with a low-growing ground cover.

Chemical pesticides are rarely necessary in the residential garden. You can pick off pests and remove diseased plant parts by hand.

Stressed plants (too much or too little water, too much fertilizer, too much or too little sun) attract disease and pests.

The sooner you pull a weed or cut it off at ground level, the less work it is later.

Always take care of weeds before they set seed.

Tending a garden is stress-reducing. Many of the gardeners I’ve interviewed have high stress jobs: lawyer, judge, law enforcement, social worker, doctor.

Gardening is good exercise. Even if you aren’t vigorously digging a new bed, just walking around pulling the occasional weed and deadheading the roses is better for you than sitting.

Gardeners see more bees, butterflies and birds—just more of nature.

Visiting botanic gardens when you travel makes for beautiful memories.

Reading to prepare for and dreaming about next year’s garden will get you through a long winter.

Want to start gardening or garden more intentionally and with more knowledge? Become a Laramie County Master Gardener. It’s not too early to find out about the next class. Call Catherine Wissner, Laramie County Extension horticulturist, 307-633-4383.

2018-08 Asters Snowy Range 7-18 Barb Gorges

Asters bloom and attract a bee in a natural rock garden July 18, 2018, in the Snowy Range in southeastern Wyoming at an elevation of 9,000 to 10,000 feet. Photo by Barb Gorges.