Saturday, February 12, 2011

Unique Valentine's Day Gift

PHAT Team member liebchen813, who is a talented Daylily breeder, is currently offering several lovely selections of her unique young stock along with a "Name Your Own" option. You get the plant, a photo, and you get to pick the name under which it will be registered. She has them in several colors and bloom characteristics, but the above plant is my favorite. Looking for a very unique gift for the gardener in your life? Pick an interesting seedling and name it something special!

Monday, June 29, 2009


EtsyPHAT member Herbfriend picked her first treasury this weekend! Did a great job too, didn't she? A few EtsyPHAT members were featured along with some other goodies.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

An introduction to Orchids as Houseplants

Frequently I hear ‘orchids are just too sensitive’ or ‘I could never…’, but honestly orchids are not always as difficult as people think. With the number of orchid species estimated at as much as 30,000 species (not a typo, see also Kew: Science and Horticulture: Orchidaceae) and native species found on every continent and climate except Antarctica, plus countless man-made hybrids, finding something right for your house is just about knowing what to look for in an orchid plant. Keeping it alive is just about being well informed (and occasional watering).

How is an orchid different? While there are many answers to this question, what really matters to the home grower is that many orchids, and certainly most of the common types grown as houseplants, are epiphytes. This is a situation where the plants use a tree branch (or occasionally rock crevice) as a condominium. They are not parasitic, just opportunistic. What this means to you as the home grower is that orchid roots are accustomed to an environment where while there might be frequent rain, there is also strong air movement. Many types can even be grown on a wood plaque with no media around the roots (see article here). Similarly, if your nicely potted plant has a root sticking out of the pot somewhere you shouldn’t be alarmed – in orchids this is not necessarily cause to repot. Some orchids just don’t really understand the concept of a pot and so throw their roots in every direction.

Good watering methods are key to root health. Watering of some houseplants is accomplished by leaving them to sit in water for hours at a time. This is not recommended with orchids (with a couple exceptions of some Phragmipedium species that live on river side rocks) as it may lead to root rot. The easiest thing to do is water the orchid by running plenty of water through the pot from the top. Once the media is well wetted, let it drain, then return it to the window.

For best results, orchids are potted in a fluffy or chunky mix that gives a nice balance of holding moisture but allowing air circulation. To maintain root health, repotting your orchids into fresh potting media every one to three years is recommended. Here is a repotting article.

Ok, so all that is great, but how to pick an orchid??

The most important piece of advice is to purchase a plant that is well established. You certainly can have success also with that $5 seedling in a two inch pot, but you will likely find it easier with more immediate gratification to buy a plant that is at least within 1-2 years of blooming for the first time. When buying a plant in person, especially at a place like the grocery store, challenge the plant by gently grabbing the leaves and lifting or moving the plant back and forth to see how well it is rooted into that pot. Good roots mean a healthy plant and more likely success.

Second is to look for a plant that matches your light conditions. For up to a few weeks at a time during blooming you can stick an orchid where it won’t get much light (say, the kitchen table) to enjoy it, but the rest of the year you will want to find a window for it to live in. Here’s a handy guide for commonly available orchid types, based on an unobstructed window, plant sitting right on the windowsill:

North facing window: Rather weak light. You might be able to grow a Paphiopedilum (Paph) there, or some Phalaenopsis (Phal). If it doesn’t bloom for you, supplement with fluorescent light.

East facing window: Great spot for Paphiopedilums and Phalaenopsis.

West facing window: Also great spot for Paphiopedilums and Phalaenopsis. Frequently this is also enough light for some Dendrobium (Den or Dend) plants or certain miniature Cattleya (Slc. or Pot.) hybrids, as well as several Oncidium types.

South facing window: This is your brightest light, excellent for Cattleya hybrids (Slc., Lc., C., Blc., Pot., Sl., Lc….), many Dendrobiums, and Oncidium intergeneric hybrids.

If you aren’t sure what category your plant-of-interest falls into, ask the grower for more details. They want you to succeed too!

I always recommend if you aren’t sure, go with a Phalaenopsis (Phal.) or Paphiopedilum (Paph.). These types are easy to grow, adaptable, and you can always make a very bright window less so by setting the plant back from the glass a little or using a sheer curtain to filter the light. Other culture details are fairly similar for the two types. You can find an article on growing phals here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Etsy Day everyone!

Happy Etsy Day everyone!

Make sure you visit today to celebrate. You can read an article about Etsy Day in The Storque by clicking here:

If you haven't already signed up for an Etsy account, today would be a great day to do so! There are SO MANY amazing artists who sell things on Etsy. I know you'll find something that you love. Maybe it will even inspire you to start your own Etsy shop!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Perfected Mint Mojito

Grow your own Mojito Mint plant on the back patio and mix this masterpiece of a beverage at your next party. An absolute MUST for this summer's weekend BBQ get-togethers. Everyone will rave about them!

Nothing is better than using your own garden veggies and herbs to whip something up in the kitchen! The Mojito Mint plant is extremely easy to care for. Simply plant it in a container of choice and set it on your back patio or deck. Make sure that the container has a drainage hole. Mint likes full sun and lots of water. If you put your mint in the shade, it will grow floppy and the flavor will not be as strong as when you grow it in the sun. Mint is hardy to zone 5 and likes almost any garden soil. It is truly a "no worries" plant!

Mojito Mint Plant available at Herb Friend's Shoppe on

Word of warning: Don't put more than one kind of mint in a pot. If you mix your different kinds of mints up in the same pot, either one mint will smother the rest or they will get so mixed up, it will be difficult to tell them apart.

Now for the perfect Mojito recipe....

The Miami Mojito (Mojito with Simple Syrup)
Somewhere between guarapo and granulated sugar, lies simple syrup. Simple syrup is essentially “sugar water” made by dissolving sugar in boiling water. Some people refer to it as mojito simple syrup, but simple syrup has many uses in cocktail making. Simple syrup also makes the mojito with the smoothest texture, as the sugar particles have already been dissolved before assembling the mojito.

1 lime, juiced (about 2 ounces)
5-6 fresh from the garden mohito mint leaves
crushed ice
2 ounces white/light rum (try Havana Club)
1 ounce simple syrup*
2 drops Angostura bitters, optional (if you would like to cut the sweetness a bit)
3 ounces Club Soda

* Simple Sugar Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Bring water and sugar to a low boil and cook for 2-3 minutes until sugar dissolves. Water will appear slightly cloudy, but will become clear as it cools. Cool to room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in a squeeze bottle or airtight container. If properly sealed, the syrup will keep up to 2 weeks. One batch of this syrup will make about 12 mojitos.

Muddle lime juice with the mint in the bottom of a long mojito glass (also called a "collins" glass) . Add light rum, simple syrup, and bitters. Fill the glass to the top with ice. Top with club soda. Cover the glass with a shaker tin or transfer the mixture to a shaker and shake for 5-6 seconds. Garnish with lime wedge and a garden fresh mint sprig!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Which Came First, the Caterpillar or the Butterfly?

Butterfly gardening can be extremely rewarding. Watching these beauties flutter about from flower to flower, breeze to breeze... There are two types of plants that butterflies need in order to survive, nectar plants and host plants. If you have both in your garden, you will be able to witness the entire life cycle of the fabulous flittering Lepidoptera.

Nectar Plants
Nectar plants are what most people think of when designing a butterfly garden. They provide the food needed for sustenance. Some common nectar plants are:

Cosmos available at Seven Acre Woods on

Some other great nectar plants for your butterfly garden include Aster, Blazing Stars, Common Milkweed, Coreopsis, Lantana, Marigold, Shasta Daisys, Sunflowers, and Zinnia.

Host Plants
Less common but as equally important are host plants. Butterflies use these for reproduction, meaning depositing eggs and feeding larvae (caterpillars). Some familiar host plants are:

Hollyhocks available at A Better Place on

Dill available at Homegrown Healthy on

Other common host plants for your butterfly garden include the Common Foxglove, Nasturtium, Milkweed, False Nettle, Rue, Silver Brocade, Snapdragon, Sunflower, Violet, Fennel, Spicebush, Passion Flower, Pipevine, Pawpaw and Sweet Bay Magnolias.

Both Nectar & Host Plants
If you don't have much space for a butterfly garden, it makes sense to use dual-purpose plants. Here are a few that serve as both nectar and host plants for your fluttering beauties:

Swamp Verbena, or Simpler's Joy, available at Infinite Gardens on

Purple Coneflower available at A Better Place on

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Time to Try Something New in the Garden?

Why not go out on the limb this year and try something new in the garden?

Grow your very own Organic Loofah (luffa) Sponge, available at Smokymist Gardens on You can eat them, but they come in more handy in the shower! Loofah sponges are extremely easy to harvest and prepare for use. Just watch them grow during the summer, pick when the loofah is ready, loosen and peel the skin back, rinse and sun dry. Voila!! A homegrown back scrubber!!!

Photo by Jerry Crimson Mann on WikiCommons.