Currently viewing the tag: "The Crazy Plant Lady"

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier

Flowers of Pride

Red (Life)

Coleus: Prefers morning sun and afternoon shade (partial shade) and moist, well-drained soil.

Caladium: Medium-bright, indirect light; water when the topmost soil is dry.

Anthurium: Bright, indirect light; moist soil.

Orange (Healing)

Marigolds: Natural pest-repellent; evenly moist, well-drained soil; full sun.

Orange Pansy: Prefers morning sun and afternoon shade (partial shade) and moist, well-drained soil.

Dahlia: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Yellow (New Ideas/Sunlight)

Lily: Keep soil moist; full sun to partial shade.

Carnations: Keep soil moist; full sun to partial shade.

Daffodil: Well drained soil; full sun.

Green (Prosperity/Nature)

Bells of Ireland: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil.

Creeping Jenny: Moist soil; partial shade.

Sorrel: Full to part sun; moist soil.

Blue (Harmony/Serenity)

Hydrangea: Moist, well-drained soil; full sun to partial shade. A deeper blue will be present with more soil acidity.

Perennial Geranium: Moist, well-drained soil; full sun to partial shade.

Morning Glory: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Purple (Spirit)

Bellflower: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Moses-in-the Cradle: Well-drained soil; full sun.

Cordyline ‘Tango’: Prefers cooler temperatures; if its leaves turn brown, an excess of fluoride may be present. Use bottled water instead and keep moist.

Black (Diversity) & Brown (Inclusivity)

Black Velvet Petunia: Full sun; well-drained, moist soil.

Black Coral Elephant Ear: Prefers warmer temperatures; full to partial sun; well-drained soil; can endure drought.

Coleus: One of the easiest plants to grow; cool, evenly moist, well-drained soil.

White/Pink (Representative of transgender community)

White Lilac: Full sun; well-drained soil.

Daisy: Full sun; moist soil; tolerant to drought.

Mosaic/Nerve Plant: Indirect light; evenly moist soil.

Bleeding Heart: Part to full shade; keep soil moist.

With these flowers, your garden will be a rainbow of inclusivity and aesthetically pleasing. Thanks for reading, and happy Pride month!

Credit to Almanac, Balcony Garden Web, Birds and Blooms, Bloomscape, Country living, Flower Glossary, Forbes, LGBTQIA Resource Center, Masterclass, Petal Republic, Plant legend, Proflowers, Sunday Gardener, The Leafy Place, The Spruce, and Verywell mind.

  by Ana Morlier

Gratitude Plants

Happy May, everyone! Finally, the time of beautiful weather and even more exquisite blooms is upon us. Not only should we appreciate the beautiful essence of nature, but also the women in our lives that support us. Show your gratitude this Mother’s Day with these plants!

Irises

Irises: Express gratitude for hard work.

Plant care: Keep in full sun, with moist, well-drained soil. Flowers bloom from late spring to early summer. Flower colors vary, and include purple, blue, white, and yellow.

Zinnias

Zinnias: Thinking fondly of a person, despite physical distance.

Plant care: Keep in full sunlight for at least six hours, with well-draining potting soil. Avoid placing near areas of extreme temperatures (such as by a vent). Zinnias prefer warmer temperatures. Water soil so that it is moist but not wet (press a finger into the soil, and if your finger is wet/soaking, the plant does not need to be watered). Zinnias bloom between late spring to late fall. Flower colors include pink, purple, yellow, orange, lavender, white, red, and green. 

Pansies

Pansies: Gratitude and fond recollection of a person.

Plant care: Keep plant in partial to full sun, with well-draining soil. Water to maintain moist (not soaking wet) soil. Pansies’ blooms come in colors such as white, yellow, purple, and blue.

Parsley

Parsley (an unlikely contender that can accent any bouquet): Gratitude for knowledge.

Plant care: Keep parsley in well-draining, moist soil. The plant requires partial shade to full sun. Foliage grows in all seasons.

Sweet Pea Flowers

Sweet Pea Flowers: Gratitude for fond memories.

Plant care: These flowers bloom from a shrub, so they should be grown outside. Plant requires partial to full sun. Plant in well-drained soil, and water about an inch daily. Try not to let it dry out, but it can withstand 1-2 days without water. Purple and pink flowers bloom from mid-summer to fall.

Daisies

Daisies: Gratitude for loyal affection.

Plant care: Grow daisies in full sun, with well-draining soil. Water regularly, especially in the evenings or mornings, to prevent soil from drying out. “Deadhead” or remove dying flowers to encourage new growth. These plants should be grown outside. Both their flowers and foliage can make for a stunning bouquet.

No matter how you express your gratitude—through plants or time together—take time to celebrate the mothers in your life. Or, if you’re a mother yourself, take time to look out for your physical and mental well-being and care for yourself! To mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and female caretakers everywhere, know that you are appreciated and are making a major difference in this world. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. You “grow,” girl!

My personal favorite flower of gratitude: Pansies.

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

A freak storm hit Frederick County and Adams County in Pennsylvania on June 18, 1996, and stalled over the region as it dumped rain. When the storm ended on June 19, it had dropped 11 inches of rain in Northern Frederick County.

“A series of storms, like boxcars, followed the same line, dumping all their rain on the same spot,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Rivers and creeks overran their banks. Water covered bridges and flooded into basements. The Frederick Post reported that residents near the Monocacy bridge at Bridgeport “woke to find their homes in the middle of an ocean.”

Farmers lost crops that were inundated in water and mud. Even some livestock in fields were floated away, often being found in neighboring farms, if found at all.

Police, fire, and ambulance units spent a busy day responding to calls. Both of Emmitsburg’s ambulances were disabled in the flooding, and one was missing for a while because the radio shorted out in the water, and the crew was unable to communicate.     

The Monocacy River reached a high-water mark of 24.45 feet, a record.

“In our nomenclature, it’s much greater than a 100-year flood,” USGS hydrologist, Bob James, said in an interview.

A Maryland State Police helicopter had to rescue one man stranded on top of his car at Flat Run. Four young women ran into a similar problem when their car stalled trying to cross over Owens Creek at Annandale Road. The helicopter was unable to reach them because of tree cover, so an air boat was sent to them. The water was 28 to 36 inches deep on the road. One firefighter was swept away during a rescue and had to be rescued himself.

“The entire town of Emmitsburg was closed to traffic for several hours Wednesday morning (June 19th) as overflow from Toms and Flat Run creeks virtually surrounded the Frederick County town,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

At least 47 basements reported flooding in Emmitsburg. Some had water as deep as five feet. Emmit Gardens, the lowest point in town, had to be evacuated.

“This place was like a little island to itself,” Art Damuth told the Gettysburg Times.

Four people died in the flood, but only one from the north county area.

The Red Cross set up at Mount St. Mary’s to provide food and shelter to displaced families.

As the water receded, people assessed the damage to their homes. The Town of Emmitsburg estimated that $100,000 to $200,000 damage had been done to municipal properties. Although the amount of damage didn’t reach a threshold for federal aid, the north county death apparently was enough for Congress to waive the threshold and offer aid to the north county area.

In the aftermath of the flood, officials from Emmitsburg and Frederick County looked at ways to mitigate future flood damage, such as dams or dredging Flat Run. In the end, the most cost effective option that helped the most people was to flood proof 20 homes in Emmitsburg by elevating the homes and building walls around them. The Frederick News reported it “is among the first and largest flood-control proposals advanced in western Maryland after three severe floods in the mountainous region this year.”

The plan also included the regular clearing of brush, fallen trees, and debris from Flat Run. The estimated cost for this plan was estimated to be around $100,000.

“Moving people out of their homes or building a dam are both impractical. This is a good plan,” Emmitsburg Mayor William Carr told the newspaper.

Teacup Planter

Set the mood for a spring tea party with this planter! You can find many floral or patterned teacups in thrift stores. This craft is, in essence, a mini-fairy garden, but with Easter-themed sentinels. 

Materials needed:

    Small to medium-sized teacup (floral or nature pattern)

    Any small plant, preferably succulents (I recommend Purple Waffle, Calico Kitten, Pink Polka Dot Plant, Pink Splash Plant, Pink Nerve Plant, Purple Shamrock, and Boat Lily)

    Dirt

    Gravel

    Easter/Spring themed figurines, such as a rabbit, gnome, or a bird

    Small decorations, such as mini Easter eggs, mini flowers, etc.

Directions: Coat the bottom of the cup with gravel, then insert the plant. Next, coat the surface with enough gravel to cover the roots, allowing at least an inch of space from the gravel to the lip of the cup. Finally, place your garden figurine on top of the gravel however you wish, as well as any additional decorations you prefer. If using a grass-like plant or a plant with many leaves, consider hiding the figure within for a more playful aesthetic.

Hoppy Bunny Planter

Materials needed:

    Washed tin can or other small-medium sized containers (that can be painted and hot glued)

    White paint

    White foam

    Pink foam

    Sharpie

Googly eyes

    Any plant (I recommend daffodils or paperwhites)

    Potting dirt

    Medium-sized stones

Directions: First, paint the exterior of the container white. Let dry. Meanwhile, cut ear shapes out of white foam and slightly smaller ear shapes with pink foam. Hot glue pink foam over the tops of the white foam. Next, create the hands and feet: cut out two white oval shapes for feet, then cut out one medium-sized pink oval and three small pink circles per foot for the paw pads. Once cut, glue the pink paw pads to the two-foot shapes. Glue the ear piece on the back of the container when dried, with the pink side facing the open mouth of the container. Next, glue the feet to the base of the can, facing you. Cut out a small white oval shape as a nose, and glue in the middle of the can, facing you. Glue eyes on top of the nose, then draw a nose on the white foam and a mouth under the nose with a sharpie. Next, pot your flower of choice: line the bottom of the container with medium-sized rocks, layer with dirt, place the plant over top, then cover roots with dirt. Your rabbit craft is complete!

Upcycled Rabbit Planter

Materials:

     2-liter soda bottle (washed)

     Paint (white, teal, pink, pastel colors)

     Crafting Scissors

     Any plant (I recommend kalanchoes, button poms, and statice)

     Potting dirt

     Sharpie

     Pencil

Directions: Sketch the outline of a rabbit’s head, including ears, on one side of the bottle, leaving the bottom three inches of the bottle free. Carefully cut the bottle around the lines drawn and cut the circumference of the bottom half of the bottle, creating two pieces: the head of the bunny (including the ears), and the planter portion of the planter, the bottom portion of the bottle. Next, paint the entire exterior of the cut-out bottle with teal or pink paint. Let dry. Sketch out the rabbit’s face, including ovals for the ears, eyes, whiskers, heart-shaped nose, and mouth. Paint the inner ears and nose pink, white or teal, or any color that contrasts with the overall color of the rabbit. Draw on whiskers, nose (when dried), and eyes with a sharpie. Let dry, then plant selected flora. Your hoppy planter is ready to celebrate the holiday!

I hope you enjoy making these crafts! Even if your house is already chock-full of Easter decorations, these planters can make great gifts for loved ones who lack Easter cheer. Who knows? Maybe your rabbit sentinels in your teacup planter will do so well at hiding an Easter egg that your egg will stay hidden until next year when candy has expired, but the festivities continue with your thriving plant. In any case, I hope you have fun with these crafts, dear reader. Have a happy Easter!

Want more photos of this article’s crafts? Look for the crazyplantladybanner profile on Instagram.

Finally, come show Catoctin High school some support by coming to see a show! This year’s theater production, State Fair, is accompanied by a miniature carnival. Bring the whole family for a grand night of fun, amusement, and singing! Performances will be held on April 8 and April 9. Can’t wait to see you there!

Credit to We Know Stuff, Flowerups, Leafy Place, Petal Republic, Good Succulents, Urban Succulents, and Crystal Allen from Hello Creative Family. Additional shout-out to my editor, Ava Morlier, and the Banner editors!

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

Happy February, everyone! Finally, a month with an exciting holiday—Valentine’s Day—is upon us. I’m sure other columns in the Banner have helped you get an idea of how you want to celebrate this holiday, from setting up the perfect meal to the perfect date! Now, it’s my turn to help you with the gifting aspect of the holiday. Here are three Valentine’s Day plant crafts. These witty and elegant crafts will have your loved ones saying, “I do (love you and your crafting skills)!”

1. Pun-y Planters

Materials needed: Paints, flower pots (small to medium size, any composition), dirt, and plants as recommended below.

Instructions: Plant your favorite succulents in small pots. Paint the exterior of the pots with cute messages (some ideas are listed below).

For succulent plants (including aloe vera, barrel cactus, crown of thorns, flaming Katy, jade plant, and the Easter cactus, to name a few):

I’m a succ-er for you!

Aloe you vera much

You had me at aloe

I love hangin’ with you!

Our love is unbe-leaf-able!

(Any prickly cacti) I’m stuck on you!

Lookin’ sharp!

You grow, girl!

Puns for moss (including moss balls, glittering wood moss, plume moss, and American tree moss, to name a few. Moss usually requires low/indirect sunlight levels and may require acidic soil. Check product information or ask employees at your local greenhouse):

You are my moss favorite person!

You are moss-some!

Creeping Jenny—I love hangin’ with you!

Any leafy plant—So very frond of you!

My love blooms for you!

2. Heart Topiary

Materials needed: Any long-vine plant varieties (such as the creeping Jenny, English ivy, string of hearts, or string of buttons), strong twine or wire (that can stand on its own), dirt, a medium-sized pot, and string.

Instructions: After planting your chosen flora in a pot, twist your twine into a heart shape. Put each end deep into the dirt, ensuring that it can stand up independently. Next, wind your plant’s tendrils around the heart shape. You may need to tie tendrils with a thin string.

Make sure to secure the tendrils tight enough to hold the vine in place but not cut off the “circulation” of the plant. Once finished, present your elegant creation to your loved one!

3. Heart-felt Mobile

Materials needed: (4) Air plants, string (preferably in pink, purple, white, or red.), foam, felt, cardstock, wooden dowel (see modification below), hot glue gun/sticks.

Extras: Photos, puns, positive affirmations, and love notes written or glued on cardstock. Foam/felt cut-out hearts.

Instructions: Cut four (or more) lengths of string (5-7 inches) for each of your air plants. Make each string a different length and try for two or more colors of string. Tie your air plants to the end of each string, securing firmly. Next, add extras mentioned above along the length of each string segment. Once added, secure each string to a long rod (a dowel rod is preferred; however, you can also glue strong cardboard strips together and cover the exterior with foam). Tie, then hot glue each string to the rod (for extra security!). Finally, tie then hot glue a long string on each end of the rod to act as a hanger for the mobile. Your mobile is ready to “hang around” and brighten the space of your amour!

I hope these crafts will bring joy to you and your loved ones! These crafts seem daunting to make at first, but when completed with patience and love, you’ll find the inner creative genius within (and impress your valentine while you’re at it).

Don’t forget to show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day. Take some time to practice self-care in addition to bonding with your loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day in advance, lovely Banner Readers!

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

The Crazy Plant Lady’s Gift-Giving Guide

Now that we’ve gotten our first taste of connecting with relatives over the Thanksgiving Day holiday, it’s time to prepare for round two! As the 25th of December draws near, we all find ourselves scrambling to find presents for those family members who can’t decide on what they want for Christmas or are hard to buy for. So, why not buy them the gift of kin? In the cold season of exterior plant decay, give them an indoor plant to keep them warm all year. ‘Tis the season of gift giving, and here is my guide to bring cheer to you and the gift recipient. Here are my top favorite plant-related gifts! Some items on my list may or may not be a subtle hint of my Christmas list for my own family.

Best Homemade Gifts

Who says garden stakes are just for the outdoors? Create your own with markers or paint; draw animals, fun designs, or even memes!

Flower pots are the best gift to personalize! Color the exterior with markers, paint, duct tape, or other mediums. Personalize it with a kind message or drawing.

Create a magical scene using succulent plants to act as shrubs or trees! Materials you may need include a large container (such as a stockpot or plastic tub), dirt, succulents (the more colorful the better), small furniture, fairies or toy figurines, gravel, pebbles, sand, and other accessories of your choosing!

My Favorite Practical Gifts

Spray bottles. A backup spray bottle is always helpful. I have a spray bottle for plants on each level of my house! Spray bottles disperse moisture much better than traditional watering cans do and present ease of use.

Plant Scissors (regular scissors will do as well). These are nifty for deadheading flowers or decayed leaves. Gardeners will be less likely to accidentally deadhead lilies with their pizza scissors!

Gloves. Everyone could use more garding/planting gloves.

Potting Soil. Potting soil is perfect for gardeners who like to buy new plants for projects or start new seedlings.

Composter. These can get pretty expensive, so shop with caution.

Hedge clippers. Every gardener’s must-have.

Self-watering planter. A self-watering planter is perfect for all gardeners, no matter their experience level. Even experienced gardeners need a break from watering their plants!

Gift cards to local nurseries. These can help support plant life and local businesses while letting gardeners purchase the new plants they want.

Plant subscription boxes. Plant subscription boxes expose gardeners to new plants that might not be common at the local plant store. Succulents Box is the best subscription for those on a budget, and The Sill provides plants and resources for budding gardeners.

My Favorite Plants…That Thrive Even In the Care of a Non-Green Thumb

Mother of Millions. Mother of Millions is a prosperous succulent that grows quickly, looks impressive, and can grow despite neglect.

Fern. Ferns are elegant plants and survive well in low-light conditions.

Calathea plants. Calathea plants prosper in low light and are unique with their striped leaves (sometimes tinged with white or pink) that look festive no matter the season.

Aloe plant. Aloe is an extremely tough plant to harm. It appears chic in any container you put it in and helps soothe burns, acne, and itchy skin.

Spider plant. Spider plants are luscious, decorative plants that produce many seedlings in a short span of time. I’ve found that they are easy to revive if neglected (just by watering normally) and survive even in the colder temperatures of one’s house.

Air plants. Air plants can be found by themselves or in whimsical containers at most gardening stores. These plants scarcely need any water or much attention and look funky in any decorative container you put them in.

Bamboo. Lucky bamboo requires only a container, rocks (as a base), distilled water, and low light to survive. They make lovely table centerpieces and ship on Amazon.

Now that you are armed with this list and a budget, I hope your gift-giving is successful! Another wonderful present to give to others is your presence. Take time to celebrate the season not just for the gifts, but for each other’s company—now that we can all appreciate it again. May your Christmas be filled with joy, kinship, and, most importantly, PLANTS!

Credit to Dacey ORR of The Spruce, Kayla Fratt of PlantSnap, and Lauren Ro of The Strategist. Thanks to the staff of The Catoctin Banner and the readers for this one-year anniversary of my first article!

A humble fairy abode is pictured surrounded by succulents.

  by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Living Centerpieces

Happy Thanksgiving month, everyone! Whether you’re hosting or attending a Thanksgiving feast, it’s important to thank others and encourage the festive Thanksgiving mood. Centerpieces fully set the tone of your Thanksgiving feast. Consider this: Would you rather display thoughtful decorations that invite your guests with cozy yet elegant vibes or decorations that will make you feel like you are sitting at the kid’s table again? Relatives will quickly regret their previous comments over the state of your garden with the stunning living centerpieces listed below. Succulents, bursting with color, will present their vibrant colors and extraordinary shapes for much longer than wilting store-bought flowers. A quick Pinterest scroll may inspire some ideas, but the picture-perfect versions are much harder, in reality, to put together. Here are three easy centerpiece ideas that will perfectly charm your guests and start your Thanksgiving out beautifully. They also make great gifts!

Pumpkin Planters

Materials:

A pumpkin (with seeds and pulp removed)

Your favorite succulents (For fall colors, use Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’, ‘Golden Sedum’ Echeveria ‘Orange Monroe’, Desert Cabbage, Stick on fire, Jellybean plant, or Red Burst)

Plant succulents (and dirt) in a container, then place the container in your pumpkin. You can hide the empty space with leaves or shrubbery you find outside. A plastic or ceramic pumpkin/turkey-shaped planter works just as well. Simply plant succulents in the planter, and you’ve got yourself a centerpiece!

Turkey Table-Toppers

Materials:

Metal tin or can (or another container that hot glue, regular glue, or tape can adhere to)

Wide Popsicle stick (It should look like a peanut, but regular popsicle sticks work too. You can also cut out a larger peanut shape from cardstock)

Large, spiky succulents that can easily fill the top of your container (such as Aloe vera, Haworthia, Echeveria, and Agave succulents) with dirt

Hot glue or tape

Markers

Googly eyes

Insert dirt and plant your succulents in your selected container. Next, hot glue your googly eyes to the popsicle stick, drawing on a beak and a gizzard underneath the eyes. Hot glue or tape this stick to the front of your container. Now you have yourself a turkey centerpiece!

Rustic Burlap Planter

Materials:

Glass jar

Twine (ribbon works just as well)

Burlap (other cloth can be used)

Dirt

Hot glue gun or tape

Red air plants and succulents such as Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick,’ Dragon’s Blood Sedum, Sempervivum ‘hens and chicks,’ Sticks on Fire euphorbia, or the jelly bean plant

Add dirt and plant your succulent in the jar. Cut burlap so that it covers the circumference of the jar. Hot glue the cut burlap to the jar. Tie on twine or ribbon. There you have it! An elegant, yet homey, fall centerpiece.

I hope these ideas will inspire you to create other homemade decorations. Your imagination is the limit! Remember to not only thank the special people in your life, but also the seedlings, growers, and workers that make your Thanksgiving meal possible. Stay warm, happy, and healthy, and thank YOU for reading my column!

From: Marcel Iseli-Plantophiles, Balcony Garden Web, Kat McCarthy-The Succulent Eclectic, Succulents Box, Jacolyn Murphy, Lindsay Hyland-Urban Organic Yield

by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Fruiting Shade Trees

Happy June, everyone! I know that I will really start celebrating the month after this crazy school year ends. Crops are thriving. Vacations are beginning. However, one drawback to this awesome month is the beginning of the HEAT. To think that I hovered near any available heat source like a mayfly only a couple of months ago makes me laugh, then sweat. I will soon cling to fans and turn the house into an arctic tundra.

Being a gardener, we can only stay in cool areas for so long—the plants need tending to! One can definitely take preventative measures against the upcoming summer heat by drinking plenty of (cold) water, taking breaks, and wearing a hat. If you have a pool to cool off with, even better! However, not all of us are lucky enough to have the right conditions for a pool (we have too much wildlife eager to destroy the watery refuge). I present to you a solution that will yield produce and give you relief from the heat: shade trees! And, not just any shade trees: FRUITING shade trees! I was pretty surprised that fruit trees could check off both requirements, which made a great combination.

Apple trees are some of the best shade trees. Ap-peal-ing options include:

Early harvest apple (as the name suggests, some yield fruit as early as June! Even if it’s not early, you can enjoy the juicy, tart apple at the end of September at the latest).

Red Delicious Apple (a pretty famous apple variety—great for applesauce; harvest in fall).

Yellow Delicious Apple (IMPORTANT to cross with other tree varieties such as red delicious or red Jonathan; great for pies!).

These apple varieties grow pretty quickly—an added bonus.

Here are some other fruits that apri-caught my eye:

Apricot trees are surprisingly tolerant of cold. They are also self-fertile, but it’s a pretty good idea to plant another variety of apricot nearby (more produce).

The early golden apricot can produce fruit as early as July or August. The fruit is great for fresh eating, baking, canning, or drying.

The Moorpark Apricot is pretty much the same, except for the fact that the fruits ripen at different times. To make up for this fact, it has beautiful white-pink flowers that bloom in spring—a little late, I know, but I couldn’t leave out this fact!

Still not pear-y happy with apricots or apples? Pear-haps you should try pears!

Bartlett pear trees are rumored to be pretty easy to grow, producing fruit in late summer. They also have blooms in spring.

The Harvest Queen pear is even more pear-fect because it yields produce earlier than that of the Bartlett pears and is resistant to blight! Another variety of pear tree is needed in order for it to produce fruit.

I hope these shady (not sketchy) trees become the apple of your eye and provide you with a cool haven with lots of tasty produce!

*Credit to Arbor Day Foundation, Specialty Produce, Davey Tree Expert Company, North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, Shari’s Berries, Punopedia, Punstoppable, Best Puns.

My own Liberty apple tree (one of two). Even though it wasn’t mentioned in the article, I wanted to illustrate how fast a young sap could grow! In the fall, it was half the size and close to death. Liberty apple is one of the best disease-resistant varieties and is great for eating fresh and baking. Liberty ripens in mid-to-late September and stores well until January.

by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Butterfly Bushes: What’s the Buzz About?

As I was researching the butterfly bush (rather excitedly), I came across a fact that stopped this article in its tracks. It turns out that the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) was imported from China. Because of this, there are no native species in the U.S. to keep its population and growth under control. In other words, it’s crazy invasive. It can be toxic to some organisms, and spreads aggressively, not allowing other plant life to grow. What incarnation? I don’t think any’bud’y saw that coming.  So, I turned my eyes toward beneficial plants that host butterflies!

As much as flowering plants can be beneficial to pollinators, most don’t “host” life, especially for butterflies. This means they don’t support the life cycle of butterflies (growth, reproduction, etc.).

I feel like the milkweed plant (asclepias) is a pretty common and well-known host plant. However, I never really knew that there were flowering varieties as beautiful as the ones listed below. Most milkweed plants are also (surprisingly) deer resistant! They are especially appealing to monarch butterflies. Other organisms, such as honey bees and hummingbirds, also flock to these plants.

Asclepias Tuberosa: Fiery orange flowers, any variety of sun. Tolerant of dry, drought-like conditions.

Asclepias Tuberosa (Clay form): Lighter orange flowers, full sun, crown-shaped flowers, any soil condition.

Asclepias Hello Yellow: Don’t you just love the name? Golden flowers, full sun.

Asclepias Incarnata Cinderella: Also known as Swamp Milkweed. Pink flowers, requires full sun, claimed to have a vanilla scent.

Asclepias Incarnata: Also known as Ice Ballet (how majestic!). Tiny, delicate white flowers. Any variety of sun. Fragrant.

Common herbs and vegetables can also host butterflies, including alfalfa, rue, parsley, fennel, dill, and sunflowers. (Known to attract painted lady and black swallowtail butterflies).

Hopefully, this article will encourage you to put the “petal” to the metal (as in your shovel), and start a new, beneficial home for butterflies!

*Credit to The Farmer’s Almanac, Butterfly Identification, Maryland Manual On-line, Finding Sea Turtles, Butterfly Lady, Punpedia.

Photo Courtesy of Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier , The Crazy Plant Lady

What feels like the last holiday, Easter, will soon be here. The last opportunity to attain candy (other than buying it yourself) is coming up. For gardeners, the chocolate Easter candy isn’t the only thing to look foreward to. Spring has sprung!

Even if you aren’t a green thumb, you too can join the excitement as everyone gears up for planting season. I’m not exactly “sowing” I’m a planting professional, but I did want to recommend an awesome and highly beneficial perennial to your garden.

Readers of The Banner, I present to you a candidate that resolves all your garden worries!

The Early Lowbush Blueberry — The All-Star Greenery

Here are a few highlights of the early lowbush blueberry:

It flowers from April through May, so not only can you catch sight of the blooms, but pollinators can get a head-start on assisting your garden;

Its (fruits) are edible;

It’s native to Maryland;

You’ll attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. In some cases, even the Maryland favorite, the Orioles, box turtles, chipmunks, and other animals, come to this bush;

It’s used for any soil condition.

I know that was a lot of excitement for what seems like a boring shrub, but when I saw that it fits this much criteria for my mediocre gardening skills, I got pretty excited. With the timing of the blooms so close to the current date, you’ll have your first view of spring beauty promptly! The flowers come in colors from white to pink, so they won’t be hard to miss. In the fall, the leaves turn a light crimson. 

Some things to watch out for:

Naturally, it actually thrives after forest fires because the factors of competition from other plants and shade from trees is eliminated. It is a good idea to expose it to as much sunlight as you have room for, and provide lots of space to grow;

As stated, this shrub attracts pollinators and animals alike, so if you want blueberries for yourself, you have to watch closely and take preventative measures. Be careful not to use any sort of pesticides or chemicals, as this can be hazardous to other beneficial species;

Prune away any dead or weakened leaves or branches;

While soil texture doesn’t matter, this is an acid-loving shrub. The Spruce recommends “A slow-release, soluble, ammonium nitrogen granular variety that is marketed for plants like rhododendrons or azaleas.”;

It produces rhizomes, which are roots that penetrate and spread out deep underground. This can provide competition for other plant life, so allot lots of space for the shrub.

If you are afraid of any harm from gardening, don’t worry (Bee happy)! Bees are perfectly friendly, as long as you leave them alone (which I find quite unbelievably adorable). If you “hive” a fear of bees, and one comes close to you, stand completely still. They won’t understand what the buzz is all about and will leave you alone. It’s usually wasps and yellow jackets that will bug you the most, and they come out more so when summer is in full swing.

The early lowbush blueberry is without thorns, spines, or prickles, so you don’t have to be too cautious when picking blueberries or just checking on the plant. When harvesting, be gentle with the young sap. Hand-picking is the easiest on the plant and, in my opinion, the most fun!

This plant is quite a delight—beautiful colors, tasty fruit, and ground cover. I hope you have a berry good planting season!

*Credit to Go Botany, University of Maryland Extension, The Spruce, Maryland Biodiversity Project, Punopedia, and the Honey Plants Calender.

by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Dear Gardening Gangster,

I have some succulents that I need advice on caring for. My house (during the winter) is warmed by a woodstove—a dry heat source. The leaves are falling off one of my succulents. The stem is still green, but the top is coming off. My other succulents still seem to be doing great and are growing new leaves. Any advice would be helpful.  ~Sincerely, Faith in the Succulents

Dear Faith in the Succulents,

Wow, it sounds like you’ve got a lot on your trowel! Luckily, there are many ways to get your succulent back to health. Just like any patient at the doctors, succulents have many symptoms that can arise from a single problem. Here are some signs and symptoms as well as their solutions!

Signs of Overwatering

Leaves falling off

Mushy leaves

Sitting water (at the bottom)

Yellow leaves

Shriveling, limp leaves

Puffy stem

Misshapen leaves

Solution: If you are overwatering your plant, stop watering it and let it sit until the topsoil layer is completely dry. Then water it once every two days or once a week. Another problem may be drainage. Integrate pebbles or rocks into the soil or drill in drainage holes. 

Signs of Underwatering

Extremely dry soil

Yellow leaves

Shriveled leaves

Solution: Water your plant as normal, every two to three days or once a week.

Other Problems

Extreme heat. For this, move your plant to party in a shady, cool location with partial sun. Humidity isn’t as much as a problem, as succulents originate from a very dry, arid climate. They will survive! If you are worried, look to my last article for easy humidifier solutions. A wet sponge is the easiest one to use. Sure, I’ve forgotten to re-wet it to a point where it is drier than succulent soil, but in a matter of minutes, it’s soaked again.

Lack of nutrients. The easiest option is just to repot it in new soil, but that isn’t any fun! When you make your own, you can save money to buy even more succulents! (Or, whatever else you want to use it for, of course.)

Coffee grounds: This will provide a tasty drink for you and nutrients for your plant. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make everything—the house, plant, and my hand—smell amazing.

Garden “teas”: I hope you were able to enjoy drinking the fruits of your labor from my previous column about teas. It’s time to pay your plants back by giving them a tea of their own.

To make this garden tea, you must soak leaves (usually of weeds) in a bucket of water for a month. Common weeds can be used, but the most effective ones include comfrey, nettle and horsetail. Put rocks over the leaves so that they sink to the bottom and properly brew. WARNING! This does not smell pleasant—with comfrey being the worst offender to the nose. Make sure you put a lid or covering over it, so it doesn’t stink and so no critters start calling it home. You could also spray pungent essential oils (mint is one of the best ones to use) on the lid to attempt to cancel out the smell. As long as the water doesn’t freeze, the temperature of the tea does not matter (iced tea may be tasty for us, but it doesn’t bode well for plants).When you are done, strain out all the leaves and bugs (if any). Serve your planty friend the tea, diluted with water, and it will thank you, even if it can’t say anything! Make sure not to over-fertilize your succulent. With too much water, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients, the plant may suffer the same symptoms as listed above. Trying to keep your plant alive is definitely a balancing act. With succulents it can be a little easier, but problems still arise, which is completely normal

“Helping You Find Plants That Work”

by Ana Morlier, The Crazy Plant Lady

Now that we’re all finally past the craziness of the holidays, we can sit back and relax, right? More often than not, our schedules get packed all over again with work and school. It seems like the stress never ends. But there is one way to help you alleviate stress, start your own creativi-tea and have fun!

Note: WARNING. LOTS OF TEA PUNS AHEAD.

Aaahhh…Sereni-tea

Tea has a slew of benefits: it aids in gut health, keeps you (deliciously) hydrated, and can improve oral health. Simply taking a moment to make tea and enjoying it is a great way to practice mindfulness and take a time-out from the business of daily life. 

You don’t need to go to a fancy tea shop for some loose-leaf teas. You can grow and make your own! It’s not impossible to grow plants during January, even though it may frost-tea. Your house keeps you—and your plants—quite toast-tea. So, let’s get to how you can get growing.

Some great tea herbs you can grow include mint, lavender, lemon verbena, fennel, lemon balm, rose hips, chamomile, rosemary, and sage, just to name a few.

There’s No Place Like Home (for your planty friends)

Before you select your plants, make sure you have well-draining soil. About half an inch to one inch of pebbles at the bottom works. Slots or holes at the bottom can also do the trick (you can drill holes at the bottom if necessary). For these, make sure you have a stand that can elevate the pot so there is space underneath, and make sure to place a paper towel underneath. Try for lighter potting soil, but regular soil is sufficient. Herbs don’t really grow too deep, so a container three to five inches deep will suffice. The container can be as wide and long as you’d like.

Most herbs require five to six hours of sunlight (a grow light can be used in place of sunlight). If you grow thyme, make sure your little buddy gets eight hours of sunlight.

Moderate indoor temperatures are required, along the range of 60-70 degrees.

Winter is also the worst time for humidity, as you may have noticed based on extremely dry hands (my family has to constantly lotion their hands. More often than not, the claim of “24-hour moisture” is a lie). You can go and get a fancy humidifier if you want. You can use it for many years for your plants and yourself, but you can also make your own for much cheaper:

Put a sponge in a bowl, let it soak up as much water as possible, and  put it in an empty bowl/plastic bag with holes in it.

If the plants are by some curtains, spray the curtains so they are damp.

Mist from the shower (leave the door open and let the steam out!)

Boiling water.

Setting a glass of hot water out by the plant(s)

Moving Right Oolong…

Mint needs to be kept in its own container. It is one of the most invasive herbs out there. Sure, it wants to give everyone a hug, but it won’t let go. I have it in my outdoor garden, and I try to cut its tendrils away from other plants, but it ALWAYS comes back.

It’s best to keep the herbs separate, but some pair better in the same container than others. Lemon balm and lemon verbena pair together nicely and boost each other for a more citrus-y scent and an enhanced tangy taste.

Thyme, rosemary, and lavender can be put together and won’t affect each individual herb’s taste all that much.

You could try to raise these herbs from seeds, but with the winter temperatures and light, growing times can be pretty unpredictable, and you’ll get only a few leaves by summer. You can wait that long, but I know I have very little patience (not great when you’re a gardener, I know). It’s best to buy a plant that has already sprouted or is further matured.    

Maintaining Quali-tea

Snip leaves regularly (more tea for you that way) to encourage growth. Never take off more than a third of the plant’s extremities. Herbs can produce beautiful flowers if left to their own devices and with time (and can make the leaves you need really bitter, which is great if you like coffee). Regular trimming (or grabbing leaves off) will prevent this.

Make it Dry for Chai

Now it’s time to dry out the herbs. Make sure you wash the leaves (I know eating insects is becoming popular, but you probably don’t want to drink them). The cheapest method of drying herbs is to use free stuff: air! Tie clumps of the herb together, hanging them with stems pointing up in a warm place. You can protect them from dust and whatnot by tying a paper bag around them. With low humidity, they’ll dry your herbs and skin out pretty quickly.  You can also dry herbs in the oven (added bonus: it warms up your house, too!). Set your oven to 135 degrees (if your oven doesn’t go that low, do the lowest setting). You may need to turn herbs over for even drying. When the herbs are dry for both methods, they should easily break away from the stem and in your hands.

Time to Par-tea!

You can grow any combination of herbs you want to make teas—there are tons of recipes out there. Just find the herbs you want for your favorite tea!  Some great herbs for reducing stress include lavender, mint, lemon balm, and rosemary. I hope you give this a chai.

You can do it. I believe in brew!

Growing parsley in a container. While it may not be a tea herb, it’s a great visual of container growing.