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Welcome to the Paul Parent Garden Club 2014 Newsletter
 

Let's begin by checking our house plants for hitchhikers. Such insects as aphids, whitefly, mealy bug, scale, and spider mites will begin to multiply with the increase of the length of the day and the heat from the house now.

Look on the tip of the plant first, as insects love new growth to feed on rather than the tough older growth .Insects on the new growth will be easy to spot, as they will make the new growth twist and become misshapen. Now, aphids are the most common problem and their skin color will be the same as the plant--great camouflage ability. You may also find them all clustered together on the tip, especially flowering plants like hibiscus and gardenias.

If plants are on a table, feel the table for a sticky feeling on the surface, or large houseplants will have a sticky floor under the plant. If you find this, clean the surface quickly or the sticky substance on the surface called "honeydew" will grow a black sooty mold that can stain carpeting and hurt wood floors. If this is the case, look on the stems of the plant for small bumps on the stem; these are scale insects, and you can usually rub them off with a soft soapy wet cloth.

If you should notice a type of webbing on the top of the plant you have spider mites. This is the toughest insect to control, so be sure to check other plants near it for possible infection. Any plant with mites should be quarantined from your other plants! Now, wash the plant with warm soapy water and soft cloth to remove webbing and as many adults as possible from the plant.

If you brush against the plant and small white flies fly from the underside of the foliage, you have white fly, an insect that can fly from plant to plant and room to room to slowly destroy your plant collection. If the day is nice, take the plant outside or in the garage briefly and try to knock off as many of the flying insects as possible. Anything that comes off will die from the cold and will not be able to continue to lay eggs on your other plants.

If you see what looks like pieces of cotton on the leaves or stems of the plant, you have an insect called mealy bug. This insect is not as common, but thrives where plants are clustered together or when you mist plants often to increase humidity around plants. If you see some on top of the plant look under the leaves and usually they will be covered. Wash off as many as possible with a soft, wet, and soapy cloth.

There is one more I forgot to mention and this one can be a real problem also. This insect is called a fungus gnat and resembles a small fruit fly, like the ones that come when you keep bananas too long on your kitchen counter. The only product that would control this insect used to be Diazinon, but it was removed from the chemical shelf several years ago. Good news--today there is a new product, just released for indoor use, from Bonide Lawn and Garden, called Bonide Eight Houseplant Insect Spray or Bonide Systemic House Plant Spray. You will have to ask your favorite garden center to order it for you if they do not carry it yet. Tell them I, Paul Parent, want them to order it for you because it is the only product that you can use indoors safely for certain insects.

After you have washed the plant with soapy water, spray all plants with Bonide All Season Oil. All Season Oil can safely be used on herbs as well as all other house plants in your home. I love All Season Oil because there are no toxic fumes for you to breath with all the windows closed at this time of the year. This oil spray is better that all the other indoor sprays on the market today because it will kill the adults, young and eggs of the insect at the same time. Most other houseplant sprays only kill the adults; some kill the young but this product also kills the eggs of the insects before they get a chance to hatch and create new problems later.

Insects are killed by suffocation as the oil plugs up all the insect's pores and they cannot breathe--there are no chemicals in this plant spray. Because the insects are suffocated, the insects cannot build up immunity to the product like they can to chemical poisons.

The oil spray will also shine up your foliage, making your plants look bright and clean. When you apply the All Season Oil spray, apply to the underside of the foliage first and the stems of the plant. Be sure to turn the plant upside down for the best coverage as insects are more numerous on the underside of foliage and in the crotches of the leaves and stems. Spray the top of the foliage last and repeat in seven days. When spraying herbs, rinse foliage with warm water before eating and the product will wash off easily. Sunshine will destroy the oil product in just 7 to 10 days, but the bugs are now dead. It's time for a quick battle now to avoid war later. Don't wait--check your plants today!

 

 


 

We all know that winter is still here, and we see that spring is coming--but not fast enough for most of us. I think you should know of a winter-flowering house plant called the pocketbook plant. This is the time of the year when you will find it at your local greenhouse or garden center. It is an annual-type flowering plant that will blossom for 4 to 6 weeks in your home. Enjoy the plant and then recycle it to compost, where it will help your outside garden plants grow better.

The "pocketbook plant" is a strange name for a plant--until you look closely at the wonderful flowers. The flowers grow in clusters on short stems from the tips of the branches. The young flower buds resemble tiny balloons. As the flowers mature, they will begin to develop a unique look that resembles an old fashioned pouch like that pocketbook that your grandmother or great grandmother once carried.

The plant grows to 12 to 15 inches tall and just as wide. The foliage is heart- shaped, deep green and very soft to touch. The leaf is also a little floppy looking, and will stack on top of other leaves. Because of this, the plant will show signs of drying out quickly. Water the plant regularly and plentifully. If your home is dry with forced hot air heat, place the plant on a tray filled with stones and add water daily to the tray to increase the humidity around the plant, and it will bloom much longer.

As the tiny balloon-like flowers mature into pocketbook-like flowers, the color of the flower will also intensify. The colors will range from bright yellow to orange and red. To complement the flower colors, tiny red or brown spots will decorate them like freckles on a child's face. The flower looks almost like a half-filled balloon and matures to 1-1.5 inches wide.

The plants will do best in bright light--but not direct sunshine. The heat of the sun will make them look wilted. Keep them in a cool room and they will flower for you longer--50-60 degrees is best. Keep them away from drafts or your foliage will get spotty. When watering the plant, use warm water and keep it off the foliage. Cold water will spot the foliage, just as it spots African violets.

When you pick out this plant, select one with many small flower buds and the blooming time will last longer. If the weather is cold outside, be sure the sales person wraps the plant well before you take it from a warm greenhouse to a cold car. No fertilizer is needed as it is a gift-type plant and will not bloom a second time. This colorful plant is telling you that spring is just around the corner. Enjoy!

 

 

 

The leaves are large, hairy, medium green, and heart-shaped; the veins on the leaves seem to be sunken into the foliage, making them very noticeable and interesting. The leaves also have a slight sheen to them--and when the plant needs water, they will almost look dull and have no sheen. This will tell you it is time to water. The plant does drink a lot of water, because of the number and the size of the leaves on the plant. Some leaves can get up to eight inches across. The plant looks clean and seldom has disease problems on the foliage.

The flowers come in many styles, depending on variety. Look for single, semi-double, and double daisy-like blooms. The flowers come in clusters on top of the foliage and form small flower clusters from side branches. The daisy-like flower will be one inch or less in diameter. The center of the daisy starts off the same color as the flower petals and as it ages will turn yellow with pollen dust.

The flowers come in many colors and include some varieties with two-tone blooms. Look for shades of pink, shades of blue, shades of purple and shades of red. The new hybrids have a white stripe on the individual petals, creating a band around the flower. Some of the flowers may even have more white color than the original flower color. Each individual flower will vary between white and color, even on the same plant.

Place the plants in a bright window or room with a lot of light. Because there is so much foliage on this plant, keep the plant on the cool side--50 to 60 degrees. Hot sunny windows will shorten the life of the flowers and the plant will not bloom as long. Water as needed to keep the plant moist most of the time; again, because of all the leaves on the plant. But never keep them wet or standing in a saucer filled with water, or the roots will rot and the plant will die. If you have a wood or coal stove, keep them away from the hot room. If you heat with forced hot air, keep them away from the heating vents, or the leaves will dry up here and there on the plant.

Drafty windows will also chill the plant--like all other plants. I like to keep one on the table in the middle of the room where I can enjoy it more. Cinerarias are wonderful plants for you or as a gift. At this time of the year, when we all need a sign that spring is coming, this plant is wonderful for your mind and soul. Let the winter weather come, because I have a cineraria in my house and I don't care about the weather outside.

Forcing bulbs to bloom inside the house is a wonderful, easy way to get through the cold gray days of winter while adding fragrance and color to your life indoors. If you plan ahead, you can have red tulips for Christmas Day, pink and white hyacinths on Valentine's Day, and the fragrance of springtime in your home all winter long.

The term "forcing" refers to inducing a plant to produce its shoots, leaves or flowers ahead of its natural schedule and out of its natural environment. To force bulbs, you need to mimic and compress the process the plant would undergo outdoors naturally in the garden.

Small-sized bulbs, such as snowdrops, scilla, muscari, chionodoxa, and crocus can be forced just as easily as larger bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth. Early blooming varieties are better suited for forcing than others. It's also important to select varieties that don't grow too tall.

Narcissus (paper whites) hyacinths, amaryllis, and lily of the valley will grow indoors in water. You can use a bulb vase or a shallow dish filled with clean pebbles or marbles to stabilize the roots and to support the bulbs above the water. Just wedge the bulbs among the pebbles, close to each other but not touching, and cover the pebbles with water. Allow air space between the top of the water and the bottom of the bulb to prevent rot.

For other bulbs, half fill a shallow container with Dr. Earth All Purpose Soil. Fill this layer, small end up, with as many bulbs as will fit in your pot without touching each other. Then add more soil between until they are completely covered. With hyacinths, amaryllis, and narcissus, allow the necks to protrude slightly.
 
After planting, place the pots in a cool, dark place, such as a cool cellar, garage, tool shed, the bulkhead stairs leading down to the basement, a barn or unheated building or refrigerator to initiate root and shoot growth. If necessary, set boxes, pots or black garbage bags over your potted bulbs to keep them dark during the cooling period. Keep the soil moist through the rooting and cooling period. After five or six weeks, the roots and growth should emerge.

 

Then move the bulbs to a cool location indoors. The bulbs should be placed in indirect lighting and should not be allowed to dry out. Forcing will take about 12 weeks for the early blooming bulbs (snowdrop, crocus, and daffodil) and about 16 weeks for tulips. The potted bulbs should be placed in indirect light and should not be allowed to dry out.

Feed weekly with a half-strength solution of a good houseplant fertilizer, such as Dr. Earth Natural and Organic Seaweed Fertilizer. Turn the pots every couple of days to help the flower stems grow straight and strong. When the foliage and buds are well developed, move the pots to a bright, sunny window in the house. Once the flowers begin to open, take the plants out of direct sunlight to prolong the bloom. Keep potted bulbs as cool as possible and they will last longer. Then sit back and enjoy the early breath of spring indoors!  

When flowers fade, cut the blooms only off the plant. Treat the plant as a potted houseplant for 6 weeks so the foliage can rebuild the energy it took the plant to make the flowers originally. Now place the pot of bulbs in the basement and stop watering so it will go dormant. Plant in your garden in the spring as you would new bulbs from the nursery. They will bloom the following spring at their normal flowering time.

 



Join The Paul Parent Garden Club for The Grand Tour Of France July 31 through August 12, 2014. With special 70th Anniversary tours of the Beaches of Normandy and Monet's Garden.

   
Featured Recipe Of The Week:
  Bitsy's Hamburger Soup

What You Will Need:

2 pounds of ground beef 85% lean or better
3 medium onions
2-28 ounce cans of flavored diced tomatoes like basil and herbs or onions and garlic, etc.
4 cans of Veg-All do not drain liquid
salt and pepper to taste
a mounded tablespoon of chopped garlic from jar
bouillon beef cubes or equivalent beef base

Preparation:

Chop the onions finely and saute in olive oil until soft. Remove the onions from the pot and brown the hamburger.  Now add the onions, tomatoes with liquid, Veg-All with liquid, and garlic.  Season to taste and bring to a boil and simmer for half an hour.  
 
This is great served with hot garlic bread on those cold nights!  It will taste even better if cooked the day before and freezes well.  I always make a double recipe and freeze it in containers for a quick meal later.
 
  
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