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Four Great Flowering Plants to Grow in Containers
Here’s how to enjoy colorful blooming plants throughout your home
Byron and Laurelynn Martin, are the third-generation owners of Logee’s Greenhouses. Byron literally grew up in Logee’s nursery in Danielson, Connecticut (about halfway between Hartford, CT and Providence, RI), which is a destination for anyone who loves fruiting, tropical, or rare plants.
The Martins have been on TV with Martha Stewart to talk about plants, and their photo appears on page 2 of every Logee’s mailorder catalog. While Laurelynn manages the business end of things, Byron is the expert horticulturist. When Byron walks through their greenhouses, he is constantly asked for plant-growing advice.
“One of the questions I get asked the most is, ‘What are the best flowering plants for growing in containers?’” said Martin. “Container gardening continues to grow in popularity because people want to be close to blooming plants—in their homes, on their decks and on their balconies and patios.”
For all of the folks who can’t make it to Logee’s Greenhouses to ask Byron Martin’s advice, here are four of Byron Martin’s favorite flowering plants to grow in containers this year.
Hibiscus ‘Pinot Noir’
Hibiscus are flowering plants that love the growing conditions found in their native tropical climates—sun, warm weather, regular watering and rich soils. Hibiscus plants are perhaps best known for their colorful, huge dinner-plate-sized flowers. ‘Pinot Noir’ is a new variety that has exceptionally large, 8- to 9-inch flowers that are light lavender with maroon centers. The flowers have a hint of pink in the petals.
‘Pinot Noir’ is easy-to grow and forms a nice, upright bush. Like all hibiscus varieties, it grows best in full sun with plentiful water and fertilizer to optimize its blooming potential. A plant in a 4-inch pot sells for $19.95 from www.logees.com.
Brugmansia ‘Angel’s Summer Dream’
Brugmansia hybrids, also commonly known as Angels Trumpets, are favorite tropical flowering plants because of the long, trumpet-shaped flowers that hang gracefully from the plant during the summer. Brugmansia ‘Angel’s Summer Dream’ is a new hybrid that starts blooming at only 12 inches tall. This dwarf variety, created by horticulturist and Logee’s owner, Byron Martin, has prolific, fragrant blooms year-round. The full-size, 5-6” long, orange-yellow flowers have tones of deep orange when fully mature. Perhaps best of all, the flowers fill the air with a delightful nighttime scent.
Brugmansia ‘Angel’s Summer Dream’ thrives in full sun. Its lateral branching habit makes this plant perfect for containers or hanging baskets. This delightful plant won a Green Thumb Award as an outstanding flowering plant for container growing. This is a tropical plant that is only cold hardy in deep southern parts of the USA, so it needs to be brought inside during the colder months. A plant in a 4-inch pot sells for $24.95 exclusively from www.logees.com.
Hummingbird Flower ‘Ruby Red’
The brightly colored flowers of Bouvardia hybrids are commonly known as Hummingbird Flower because the blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Hummingbird Flower ‘Ruby Red’ is another Logee’s hybrid and boasts fragrant clusters of brilliant red, tubular blooms with pink throats that rise up on the upright-growing shrub throughout the year. A hybrid between B. longiflora and B. ternifoila, this variety carries the fragrance of the former and the color and vigor of the latter. The fragrance, which is sweet and inviting, is most pronounced at night. ‘Ruby Red’ is an outstanding flower for a cut flower arrangement, so feel free to cut the flowers for displaying in a vase because the plant quickly produces more blooms.
As a container plant, Bouvardia ‘Ruby Red’ can be maintained at 2-3’ in height, and it takes pruning with ease. ‘Ruby Red’ is cold hardy to USDA zone 10, so it must be brought inside during colder seasons in most climates. Grow this plant in full sun for best results. A plant in a 2.5-inch pot sells for $14.95 from www.logees.com.
Coral Tree (Erythrina x bidwillii) is grown as a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub. It has gorgeous, long sprays of brilliant red flowers. Coral Tree blooms freely from spring through summer after a winter resting period when the leaves can drop.
A cross between E. herbacea and E. crista-galli, it is an outstanding container plant that can be maintained at 3-4’ tall. Coral Tree makes a wonderful patio or summer garden plant and can take temperatures down to 35°F. A plant in a 4-inch pot sells for $19.95 from www.logees.com.
The Top Five Fruit Trees for Backyard Growing
Turn your yard into a tasty orchard with these top-producing fruiting trees
There’s nothing like a fruit tree in the landscape to delight the eyes and nose with a show of springtime blossoms—and delight the taste buds with a summer harvest of fruit. Selecting the right kind of fruit tree to grow in a landscape comes down to two main factors: the varieties of trees that grow well in your area and your own personal taste.
According to Ed Laivo, fruit tree specialist for Natural Hills Nursery (www.naturehills.com), some fruit tree varieties have proven to be dependable growers in the widest range of climates and are better than others when it comes to consistent fruit production and flavor of the fruit. Here are five of Laivo’s recommendations for backyard fruit trees that will produce bushels of delicious fruit, year after year.
Honeycrisp Apple Tree
What’s better than biting into a Honeycrisp apple from a local market? Well, biting into a fresh apple picked from your own Honeycrisp Apple tree! The thought of that tangy sweetness and solid crunch is probably enough to make your mouth water right now.
A Honeycrisp apple is one of the best-selling fruits in food stores, and a Honeycrisp apple tree is a wise investment in your family’s health—and a great addition to any property. A flurry of pink blossoms covers the tree in early spring. Then yellowish green apples cover the tree in late summer and ripen with a red blush in September. But the fruits don’t immediately drop when ripe, so you can take your time in picking them.
This variety needs full sun and well-drained soil for optimal growth. To maximize fruit production, plant another apple tree close by to aid in pollination (such as Gala, Granny Smith, Empire, McIntosh or Red Delicious). This semi-dwarf tree reaches 15-20 feet tall, but it can easily be held to any size with pruning so it can fit comfortably into virtually any yard. A Honeycrisp Apple Tree grows well in USDA Zones 4-9. A 4-5-foot bareroot tree sells for $59.95 from www.naturehills.com.
Lapin’s Cherry Tree
A Lapin’s Cherry is one of the largest and juiciest of the sweet cherries, which makes a Lapin’s Cherry tree a great choice for backyard growing. In addition, a Lapin’s Cherry tree provides multi-seasonal interest in the landscape. In April, the tree is covered with brilliant white blossoms. When the blossoms fade, the fruit that follows in July is sweet, large, and dark-red to purple with light red flesh. Finally, in the autumn the Lapin’s Cherry tree will delight yet again with beautiful autumn color as the green leaves turn orange, yellow and red.
Lapin’s Cherry trees are self-fruitful and do not require a pollinator to set fruit in most regions. (A great universal pollinator, a Lapin’s tree is the perfect selection for those who need a pollinator for other cherry tree varieties.) The large cherries are 1” across, and the flexible skin resists splitting. The flavor is divine (often referred to a Bing-like) and is both incredibly juicy and sweet. The fruits are delicious right off the tree and wonderful for baking, juicing or drying.
The Lapin’s Cherry tree (which is a cross between a Van Cherry and a Stella Cherry) is cold hardy to -20 degrees F. It is also well adapted to warmer coastal climates. Choose a location with full sun and soil that holds moisture without becoming soggy. The tree grows to 20’ feet tall but can be pruned to fit smaller spaces. A 4-5-foot bareroot tree sells for $59.95 from www.naturehills.com.
Harken Peach Tree
The Harken Peach tree is best known for the superior quality of mid-season peaches it produces. Harken bears a regular crop of top-rated freestone peaches suitable for fresh eating, canning and baking. Each delightfully fuzzy, large peach has bright red and yellow-mottled skin. The flesh is yellow, very sweet and resistant to browning. For optimal storage, pick the fruit just before it is table ripe.
The Harken Peach Tree is admired almost as much for its beauty and fragrant blossoms as it is for its fruit. The delicate peach blossoms appear in late winter or early spring along the subtle grey branches, even before the leaves emerge.
Harken Peach is an extremely vigorous tree, attaining a mature size of about 18 feet with an equal spread. It is noted for its fruit production in areas with lots of spring rain, and the tree is adapted to USDA zones 5-9. Harken is self-fruitful, so you can start with just one tree if you like. Harken Peach is an outstanding choice for a lovely fruit tree that produces exceptionally delicious peaches. A 4-5-foot bareroot tree sells for $59.95 from www.naturehills.com.
Warren Pear Tree
It’s not very often you get a fruit that is praised by the likes of Alice Waters, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey as the most delicious pear in the world. Celebrity testimonials are just one reason the Warren Pear is so highly sought after. Warren Pear is an outstanding semi-dwarf pear tree that brings a late summer harvest of sweet, juicy fruit even in areas where pears are traditionally difficult to grow.
Originally found in a neglected orchard in Mississippi (not a state usually associated with pear growing), these hardy trees are resistant to fire-blight and other diseases that so often plague pears in warm winter areas. The medium sized, yellow fruit has a lively green tint and an occasional red blush. The pears are beautiful dangling amid the sturdy upright branches of a mature Warren Pear tree. This is one of the finest-flavored pears available for home growing. Warren Pear grows in USDA zones 5-10. A 4-5-foot bareroot tree sells for $59.95 from www.naturehills.com.
Santa Rosa Plum Tree
Santa Rosa Plum tree is one of the most widely planted plum varieties. Quite simply, it has become the “plum standard” by which all other plums are judged. Plant one in the front yard where your friends and neighbors can share in the beauty of its blooms and the abundance of fruit. Lovely pink and white blossoms set the stage in springtime for the Santa Rosa Plum tree’s delectable harvest in late July or August. The red-hued, purple skin of these lovely plums conceals a layer of red blush, then sweet, yellow flesh surrounding the center pit.
The medium-large slightly firm plums are perfect for canning, freezing, cooking, drying—or eating right off the tree. Santa Rosa’s flavor is sweet with a slight tangy edge, perfect for a variety of uses.
Santa Rosa Plum Tree grows 15-25 feet in height, but it can be held to any size with simple pruning. It’s a relatively hardy tree and is particularly adapted to areas with hot summer temperatures. It’s self-fruitful, so there’s no need to plant another plum tree to enjoy a healthy harvest. Santa Rosa is quite often the recommended pollinizer for many popular plum varieties. A 4-5-foot bareroot tree sells for $59.95 from www.naturehills.com.
For more information about the wide variety of fruit trees, shade trees and shrubs available for growing in the USA, visit www.NatureHills.com.
Natural Fungus Gnat Control
BTI and organic horticultural oil control pesky fungus gnats
Anyone who has grown houseplants has probably dealt with fungus gnats. Adult fungus gnats are tiny flying pests that can swarm like an annoying black cloud whenever an infested houseplant or outdoor potted plant is moved.
Fungus gnats (Bradysia species) are small, mosquito-like insects that commonly infest the growing medium in which houseplants and outdoor potted plants grow. Often, when outdoor plants are brought indoors for the colder months, fungus gnats harbored in the potting mix are brought indoors, where they can quickly infest the soil of other houseplants.
Fungus gnats can be difficult to control. They thrive in moist potting soil, where they lay their eggs. After the eggs hatch, fungus gnat larvae live in the top two to three inches of the potting soil. In the larval stage, the fungus gnat maggots can cause plant damage by eating plant roots. After about two or three weeks, the fungus gnat maggots pupate in the potting soil to become the tiny black adult gnats that fly erratically when a potted plant is moved.
Letting the potting soil dry out between watering helps control fungus gnats. But sometimes more aggressive measures are needed to control the pests. Fortunately, there are now natural, non-chemical solutions that kill fungus gnat infestations.
Kill fungus gnat larvae with BTI
Because fungus gnats are closely related to mosquitoes, fungus gnat larvae are effectively killed by BTI—the naturally occurring bacterium that is deadly to mosquito larvae. BTI, short for Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, is deadly to mosquito larvae and fungus gnat larvae but harmless to other living things. The bacterium is nature’s way of keeping fungus gnat and mosquito populations down, but it has no effect on other insects (such as bees and butterflies)—nor does it harm animals, fish, birds, plants, pets or people.
BTI is the active ingredient in top-selling Mosquito Bits®, which is approved for the control of fungus gnats. To kill fungus gnat larvae, simply shake the granular Mosquito Bits® onto the potting soil in houseplants and other container-grown plants—including vegetables and herbs. Mosquito Bits® can also be mixed with potting soil prior to planting. When the plants are watered, the BTI in the Mosquito Bits® will be released. After subsequent watering, the BTI is washed below the soil surface. Fungus gnat larvae feed on the BTI and die.
Kill adult fungus gnats with horticultural oil
There is also an environmentally friendly, organic way to kill infestations of adult fungus gnats. Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil is a light-weight horticultural oil that effectively controls a wide variety of insect pests including fungus gnats. Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil is OMRI Listed® by the Organic Materials Review Institute and approved for use in certified organic production, and it’s perfect for indoor use.
Unlike many other pesticides that kill insects with toxic chemicals, Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil literally smothers insects to death. The oil spray blocks an insect’s breathing holes (called spiracles), causing insects to die from asphyxiation.
Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil can be used any time during the year because it won’t harm plant buds, shoots or leaves. This lightweight oil has no odor, and it will effectively control pests on even sensitive plants such as tropical houseplants, roses, impatiens, citrus trees, and ferns. Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil kills fungus gnats plus a wide variety of insect pests including aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, mealybugs, scale, thrips, lace bugs and more.
Because of its low toxicity, organic Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil can be used on garden plants and fruit trees right up to the day of harvest. Unlike chemical pesticides which can become less effective after repeated use, there is no known build-up of insect resistance to horticultural oil sprays.
Mosquito Bits® and Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil are made by Summit Responsible Solutions®, which also makes Mosquito Dunks®. Mosquito Bits® are available in an eight-ounce shaker bottle and a large 30-ounce package. Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil concentrate is available in one pint and one quart bottles, and a handy one-quart ready-to-use spray bottle is also available.
Mosquito Bits® and Summit® Year-Round® Spray Oil are available at home centers, hardware stores, garden centers and at www.SummitResponsibleSolutions.com.
Mosquito Bits, Summit Year-Round Spray Oil, Mosquito Dunks, Summit Responsible Solutions and “Kills Mosquitoes Before They’re Old Enough to Bite” are registered trademarks of Summit Chemical Company.