Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Veseys... 73 Years... and Still Growing

 Photograph by Vesey's Seeds Ltd. (Golden Japanese Forest Grass)
Following up to my post a few weeks ago, my mail order catalogues have started to arrive.  I think I've received close to 20 now... I continue to be impressed at what is available.  Its time to start comparing, planning, ordering, and getting excited for spring!  Believe it or not... its right around the corner!  

Photo by Vesey's Seeds Ltd.
'Empress' Clematis
One company that particularly caught my eye is Veseys.  A company from Prince Edward Island, growing since 1939.  They have a beautiful catalogue full of colourful pictures and enough information to make a good decision on buying the right plants for the right places in your garden.  Their website (listed at the bottom of this blog) is also very user friendly, and packed full of great plants.  

Photo by Vesey's Seeds Ltd. Peony 'Celebrity'
I have no doubt you will be able to find more than enough options to add a plant or 6 to your garden this year.  Take the time to look over and compare the differences in flowering time, height, colour and shape of the plants offered.  Finding plants that overlap in flowering time will ensure you have interest in your garden year round.  

They have various collections well worth checking out... including:
Photo by Vesey's Seed Ltd. Gladiolus 'Laguna'
Photo by Vesey's Seed Ltd.
(Dahlia 'Smarty')
Dahlias, Begonias, Oriental Lily, Asiatic Lily, Gladiolus, Elephant Ear, Canna, Crocosmia, Coneflowers, Butterfly Garden, Day Lily, Clematis, Peony, Hosta, Fern, Shade Garden, Rose, Climbing Vines and many more!  

Check out the Mason Bee House.  This funky bee house can attract some great pollinators to your garden or fruit trees!   

You can easily request a catalogue, order, or inquire about products on their website www.veseys.com and follow them on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Veseys
Photograph by Vesey's Seed Ltd. "Black Magic" Elephant Ear

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia Milii)

One plant I have truly grown to love is the Crown of Thorns.  The beautiful flowers that are produced from unique spiny stems make then an interesting choice for a sunny window in your home.  There are a few different varieties available, although you may have to spend some time looking for ones that are out of the ordinary.

Many garden centres offer the small red flowering variety of this plant... until a few years ago, I thought this was the only variety; as it was all I ever saw.  After poking around at a few too many greenhouses. (I'm not sure that's even possible) I discovered how misinformed I was!  There are some very beautiful variations available.  If you see one out of the ordinary... pick it up!

Related to the Poinsettia, although looking nothing like it, the crown of thorns blooms frequently, throughout the year.  I have seen red, white, pink, green, as well as mottled blooms.

The leaves of the Crown of Thorns are found on the new growth, normally at the end of the spiny branches.  The leaves are oblong and dark green, although I have seen variegated foliage as well.   Inside the branches is a white sap, that is toxic, and should be handled with care.  The spines definitely help to keep pets away from this plant.  Although it is considered toxic, I do have pets, and have never had issues.

Originating in Madagascar, this plant prefers full sun (south facing window if possible) and temperatures between 60-75 degrees f.  Water the plant well, and then allow the top of the soil to dry out, before watering again.

This plant acts like a succulent and should require less water than that of your other houseplants.   I water mine every two weeks at this time of the year, and slightly more frequently in its active growing season (Late Spring - Fall) Fertilize with Cactus fertilizer diluted at 1/2 strength bi-weekly during the growing season.

This plant will only need to be re-potted every couple of years.  When this is done, only go one size larger than the pot it is currently in.  Use a cactus potting mix to ensure success, and don't forget your gloves!

This plant can reach (depending on variety) anywhere from 2-4 feet in height, although they can be kept smaller.

Try something different... Get thorny for this plant!
All photographs on this blog by Paul Gellatly

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Houseplants to Clean the Air

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
It is common knowledge that plants can add beauty and life to any room in your home.  There are a number of plants that not only look beautiful... but also work to clean the air in your home or office.  Many of the plants that I will mention in today's blog have been mentioned in previous blogs.  I have put together a list of plants that are all known to create cleaner air and produce oxygen... in addition to being beautiful.

Photo by Paul Gellatly
NASA concluded in a 1989 NASA Clean Air Study, that it is good to have 15-18 plants in a 1800 sq/ft home, to clean the air in your home properly. Basically one plant for every 100 sq/ft.

I guess having over 200 houseplants not only keeps me busy... but also keeps me healthy!

Growing houseplants may seem like a bit of a task at times, but when they improve the air we breathe, and fill our homes with beauty..., it seems worth the effort.  People often come into my condo, look at all the plants and comment on how much work it must be.  I'm the first to admit the number of plants that I have IS a lot of work; but it is definitely worth it.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Plants are well known to absorb carbon dioxide, and release oxygen; in addition to this, they also remove significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene.  ( I have no clue what some of these are... BUT i'm glad to know I have fewer of them in the air I breathe!)

Photo by Paul Gellatly
Although I'm sure most plants clean the air to some extent, below is a list of 20+ plants that are proven to clean the air, and keep you healthy in your home.  Why spend a money on an air filter when you can do it naturally with plants?

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Boston Fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata bostoniensis)
English Ivy (Hedera Helix)
Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)
Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)
Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Photo by Paul Gellatly
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum Sp.)
Photo by Paul Gellatly
Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)
Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera Sp.)
Orchid Phalaenopsis
Schefflera (Brassaia actinophylla)
Ficus (Ficus benjamina)
Most Varieites of Palms
Bromeliad Sp.

Take this list down to a local garden centre and pick out some plants that will not only look beautiful, but also give you peace of mind and cleaner air.
Photograph by Kelly Butts

Monday, January 16, 2012

Plants and Pets... (Non-toxic houseplant options)

Being a plant lover and an animal lover don't always mix. A blog reader asked me to write about safe (non-toxic) plants that you can keep in your home without worrying about your pets health and safety.

As a pet lover, and a plant lover, I have to admit, I have many toxic plants in my home, living in perfect harmony with my 3 cats and a dog.  I have never found my pets to bother with many of my plants.

The cats occasionally chew at my spider plants or dracena when I have them down to water.  They tend to like the grassy-type leaves of these plants.  In order to keep these types of plants safe... I keep them on a shelf that the cats can't get to.

Providing cats with cat-grass (easily grown from seed) or purchased at a pet store can help to curb your cats appetite for your houseplants.

Bubba and Vader
I will do another blog shortly on toxic plants to avoid...and in the early spring, on plants to stay away from in your garden.

The following list of plants are non-toxic, and safe around pets.

African Violets (Saintpaulia)
Aralia (False and True)
Aluminum Plant (Pilea cadierei)
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Wandering Jew (Tradescantia Zebrina pendula)
All houseplant type ferns
Jade Plant (Crassula argentea)
Prayer Plant ( Maranta leuconeura)
Gynura aurantiaca
Dracena and Yucca plants
Banana Tree (Musa species)
Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii)
Norfolk Island Pine
Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus australis)
Maranta leuconeura
Air Plant (Tillandsia species)
Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera species)
Cattlaya, Phalaenopsis, and Cymbidium orchids
Gloxinia (Gloxinia slyvatica)
Goldfish Plant (Nematanthus gregarious)
Lipstick Plant (Aeschynanthus species)
Nephrolepis exaltata 'Tiger Fern'
Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
Purple Passion Plant (Gynura aurantiaca)
Living Stones (Lithops aucampiae)
Zebra Plant (Calathea zebrina)
Most Cactus

This is in no way a complete list, however it does give you a good starting point towards creating a safe environment for your pets without jeopardizing the beauty of plants in your home.

Take this list down to a local garden centre, and bring home some peace of mind...

All photos on this blog by Paul Gellatly

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Beautiful Belgian Nursery

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
During a visit with a friend in the Kitchener area we decided to go and poke around Belgian Nursery, between Kitchener and Guelph at 2615 Victoria Street N. in Breslau ON. This has long been one of my favorite places to shop in the tri-city area.  Belgian Nursery is a good sized, family owned and operated garden centre, with a beautiful water garden in the spring, summer and fall.  A decent sized cactus house, beautiful tropical plants, tasteful home decor items, and a great selection of annuals and perennials await your visit.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
The Cactus House is a great opportunity to see what some of the smaller cacti available for sale can grow into, and an opportunity to see some large cacti in bloom.  Definitely a good way to spend some time on a cold afternoon.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Another feature I really like at Belgian Nursery, is their tropical plant section.  They frequently have some unusual plants in a starter size (which keep the prices very reasonable).  I managed to escape with only 3 new plants; An Iron-Cross Oxalis, Pearl Bells Kalanchoe, and a Papaya tree.

I'm confident a trip to Belgium Nursery in any season will offer you something unique and beautiful to add to your home or garden.

To find out more information about Belgium, including location, and hours, check out the link below
Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Keep an eye out for my next blog, discussing pet friendly houseplants.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

One month later....

Photograph by Angel W.
One month ago, I started this blog, thinking a few people who know me might follow along.  Over the last month, much to my surprise... over 1100 views have come from 20 Countries... including Canada, United States, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Ukraine, Australia, France, Ireland, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Poland, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Puerto Rico, Netherlands, Brazil and Peru.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
I am so thankful for all of the support and comments I've received over the past month and look forward to continuing the blog and walking down the path of horticulture with you!  If there are any topics, or plants you would like more information on... please let me know... so I can put a blog together to answer your questions!

Horticulture is ever changing, and with those changes we all grow!  We have access to more plants and information than ever before.  A friend of mine Betty once told me... "I've been gardening for 50 years... you'd think I'd have it perfect by now...  but there's always something that needs to be done in the garden."  Gardening and the love of plants is a life long journey... so walk slowly, enjoy the path, and grow with it!
Photograph by Paul Gellatly

Photograph by Kelly Butts
Take the time to explore all the wonders the world of plants has to offer.  Visit a greenhouse, garden center, conservatory, or a botanical garden.  Buy a plant you've never tried before...Pick up a new gardening book, start planning your garden or your balcony boxes early!  Make it your goal to impress yourself this year!

Click follow, on this blog, share it with your family and friends as I have done... together we can make our homes and gardens more beautiful... one plant at a time!
Photograph by Paul Gellatly

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)

Photograph by Paul Gellatly

One of my all time favorite tropical plants has to be the Bird of Paradise.  Its a staple in any tropical flower arrangement given its beautiful unique long lasting blooms.  This plant is available at many nurseries and greenhouses, ranging in price anywhere from $15.00 to $150.00 (depending on size and variety) and should definitely be given a chance if you have a spot in your home that gets a lot of sunlight.

Given this plants natural habitat in South Africa, a south facing window suits this plant best.  It should get atleast 4 hours of direct sunlight in order to thrive.  It is a slow grower, and may take up to 10 years to bloom from a small plant. Keep in mind... buying a bigger plant may cost more... but it will bloom sooner.  Depending on the variety... this plant can reach anywhere from 4-10 feet tall!
Photograph by Paul Gellatly

When I moved into my condo, with floor to ceiling south, and west exposure windows.  Two of the first plants I bought were Bird of Paradise, the orange flowering, and the white flowering varieties.  The plants themselves are beautiful, with unique erect thick, almost leathery dark green leaves.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
Tips for success:  A bird of paradise should spend a few months outdoors in full sun during the summer months.  However, during the heat of the day, the plant should be moved to a shaded area.  Its important to watch out for water when the plant is outside.

During the spring and summer months, water the plant liberally, but allow to dry out somewhat between watering.  During the winter months, cut back on the amount of water, and allow to dry out completely before watering again.

Photograph by Paul Gellatly
The bird of paradise should never be left in a location that drops below about 55 degrees f.   The plant needs to be brought indoors during the winter months, and requires a slightly elevated humidity.  I have aquariums in my condo, which aid in increasing humidity, however, misting the leaves occasionally will also do the trick.

During the growing season, (spring and summer)  this plant can be fed a liquid based fertilizer twice monthly, in the fall and winter months, fertilize only once a month.

Re-potting this plant should be done in the early spring, for both small, and mature plants.  I would recommend using a peat based potting soil, as you will have more success.

I wouldn't say this is a plant for beginners, as it does need some special care... however... if you want to bring some tropical flare into your home,  its definitely worth it!  
Photograph by Angel W.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Time to Start Planning...

Asclepias Tuberosa

Geum Triflorum
Mid-January is the perfect time to start thinking about your garden.  This is the prime time of year to look through mail-order catalogues.  Admittedly I haven't really given much thought to mail order companies since I was a teenager, when I used to love looking through the annual catalogues, and see what was new and exciting.  I decided for the blog I would get in contact with a number of companies, and request their catalogues in order to see what was new, current, and out of the ordinary.

Hypericum Kalmianum
The response I received from most companies is that they no longer provide catalogues, in order to reduce their carbon footprints, and that their catalogues were now fully available online.  Somewhat disappointing,  but very understandable.
Iris Versicolor

One thing to keep in mind about seed/mail-order companies, is that they often will provide a much larger selection than you might find at a garden center.  Many garden centers select a limited amount of seeds, plants, shrubs etc. to sell.  If you want something out of the ordinary, a mail order company might be your best bet!

I am the first to admit, the unusual and obscure plants tend to be the ones that draw my attention the most.  To have a plant or plants... that few people have, or have even seen gives more of a wow factor than the common plants everyone and their neighbor has.

Over the next couple of blogs, I'll highlight some of the better mail order companies to look into.

Aquilegia Canadensis
Over the years I have often thought about habitat destruction.  We tear down fields, meadows, and forests to build houses, subdivisions, roads, and plazas.   The speed at which we are growing and expanding is faster than ever before in history.  What effect does this have on the natural plants and wildlife that depends on those plants?

I was thoroughly impressed with Acorus Restoration Native Plant Nursery.  The first company I am profiling on this blog.  They offer over 350 species of native plants suitable for wetland, woodland, prairie, and meadows.  Their trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are grown from seed that they collect in an ecologically responsible manner.  In addition to offering seeds, and plants, they also offer ecological restoration consultation services, that have included projects across Ontario.

Anemone Cylindrica
One of the things I really like about this company is their Garden Packages, which take the guessing out of choosing the right plants for the right places.  They have selected packages for Butterfly Gardens, Duck Ponds, Hummingbird Gardens, Water Gardens, Songbird Gardens, Ontario Meadows, Ontario Prairie Wildflowers, Ontario Prairie Grasses, Ontario Tall Grasses, and selections for an Ontario Wet Meadow.

I think its important to plant at least a few native plants in our gardens.  Attract butterflies, songbirds, and nature into your backyard...We have a lot of beautiful native plants... why not display them!

I highly recommend checking out their website at http://www.ecologyart.com/
Or the direct link to their catologue at

Cercis Canadensis
All of the photos in this blog are used with permission from the Acorus Restoration Website