Low Maintenance House Plants Are Back

Ok… I am old enough to remember the houseplant mania (usually with macrame) in the seventies, but people now are just rediscovering what we knew all along……that houseplants have been reborn and many are actually very easy to take care of. Many more varieties are available to growers now than ever before, and new ones are always hitting the plant nurseries.

House Plant Fashion Show

A nearby garden center/nursery, Valley View Farms, even put on a “fashion show” of houseplants so people could see the large variety that is out there, with lots of old stalwarts, like Philodendrons.

At a recent “fashion show” of houseplants at Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, MD-showing off products to take care of your houseplants
Valley View Farms “fashion show”
Showing off plants at Valley View Farms

And it goes without saying, low maintenance is key with our busy life styles.  For a good article, read 9 of the easiest house plants that anyone can grow. 

 

A bay window of houseplants stage at the Philadelphia Flower Show
A bay window of houseplants staged at the Philadelphia Flower Show
Old fashioned houseplants fill a window
Old fashioned houseplants fill a window

Yes, that Monstera Philodendron that you have been growing for ages is suddenly very in and on Instagram. Who would have thought? The 70’s and 80′ s mod houseplants are the social media stars of 2019 and I don’t see any end to the trend. In fact, the bigger the plant, the better. Get rid of some furniture to make some room for plants. I removed some seldom used easy chairs from my living room to make space for some large plants.

Monsteras are huge

New Varieties

But, just like those old bell bottoms that are shoved to the back of the closet, there are new iterations of the same “old”. Take Sheffelaria……. you can buy a variegated one now.

Variegated Sheffelaria
Variegated Sheffelaria

Collections of houseplants are in. Not just one, but many- like over 100 specimens decorating your house or apartment. The more, the merrier!

All kinds of houseplants, from succulents to ferns to tropicals, are decorating indoor spaces
All kinds of houseplants, from succulents to ferns to tropicals, are decorating indoor spaces

Reasons to Grow

Why grow houseplants? If you are a city dweller, the reason is simple…..to bring nature in. If you live suburban, the reason is more complex. Bringing nature in is one of them. But also, growing things that you wouldn’t normally do outside, like growing a pineapple. Yes, you can grow a pineapple in your living room! Or bring in succulents and cacti that normally wouldn’t grow for you outdoors, but with such interesting forms and shape, and ease of growth, why not? Or maybe you are fascinated with citrus….. you can easily grow limes, lemons, kumquats, or oranges. Not enough to feed you, but enough to satisfy your green thumb curiosity.

Pineapple
Pineapple

Plants elevate empty spaces and large rooms and make them alive. If you have cathedral ceilings and wondered what could fill the space…look no further. Many can tolerate fairly low light conditions which allows them to be placed near doors, stairs, and in hallways. Be sure to look at the plant requirements and try to match the correct conditions for best success.

Display your houseplants creatively

One of the huge advantages of growing plants indoors is the improvement of air quality and the removal of toxins from the environment. Most of you will be aware from school Biology that plants convert carbon dioxide into the air we breath (oxygen), so it makes sense to allow some space in the home for them to promote good health.

Houseplants can be hung, elevated, and displayed creatively to suit your space
Houseplants can be hung, elevated, and displayed creatively to suit your space

NASA created a clean air study for space stations and produced a list of house plants that do more than just turn carbon dioxide into oxygen. Removing large quantities of benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the atmosphere is the normal everyday benefits of growing houseplants.

Bat Flower (Tacca chantieri) is an exotic flower that mimics a bat in flight
Bat Flower (Tacca chantieri) is an exotic flower that mimics a bat in flight
Woven Sanseveria makes a cool plant
Woven Sanseveria makes a cool plant

For the top 10 air purifying houseplants, go to Nasa’s Clean Air Study.

I like the weird ones though. The climbing onion is bizarre and a conversation piece.

The weird climbing onion, Bowiea Volubilis, is a unique addition to my houseplants

There is a houseplant out there that will satisfy anyone, from someone who wants to really get into the minutiae of growing-like orchids, or just to have something that requires little to no care-succulents.

Adding grow lights to your house is easy with these set ups
Anyone can grow succulents
Anyone can grow succulents; just give them lots of light
Wow! Cool Philodendron!
Wow! Cool Philodendron! White Variegated Split Leaf Philodendron
Sometimes my houseplants surprise me. This is a cactus bloom that appeared!
Something blooming in the middle of winter, Streptocarpus, lifts your spirits

 

Top 10 Garden Trends for 2016

 

Packaged cauliflower
Packaged cauliflower

1. Flower Power-Cauliflower is the next Kale!

It’s time to get out my crystal ball and find out whats coming up in the gardening world for 2016. Traveling to lots of nurseryman’s and flower shows, cutting edge gardens, and keeping up with my blog, gives me a good handle on what is up and coming in the gardening world. Some of these are trends have been around and are still going strong, while others are just getting a foothold, like Cauliflower!

carrots
Different colors of carrot are popular

According to the National Garden Bureau, 2016 is the year of the Carrot. I have to defer though to the rise of cauliflower, a cruciferous vitamin packed veggie, that has a unique ability to absorb flavors from other ingredients, rather like a chameleon. From cauliflower grilled steaks to peanut butter brownies, cauliflower has landed on top of the heap for a lot of people! Look at this great video on how to make the brownies.

Luscious cauliflower brownies
Luscious cauliflower brownies: The white is white chocolate, not cauliflower!

Cauliflower Brownies

The recipe is:

2 cups steamed cauliflower florets, cooled

3/4 c dark chocolate chips, melted

1/2 c cream cheese

4 Tbs smooth peanut butter

2 eggs

½ cup sugar

½ cup flour

½ cup cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup white chocolate chips

½ cup chopped peanuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 13×13 container
  2. In a food processor, process the cauliflower until completely smooth – this is important as if it is not smooth; it will result in a grainy textured brownie
  3. Add the cream cheese, peanut butter, eggs and sugar then blend again until smooth
  4. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, vanilla and blend well
  5. Spoon ½ the mixture into the container, then scatter the chocolate chips and peanuts over the layer
  6. Spoon the remaining mixture then bake in the oven for 40 minutes, until an inserted fork is clean

I tested making these brownies and they were some of the most flavorful moist brownies that I have ever had!

From ExpressoRecipes

There is actually a shortage of cauliflower due to cold in California’s Imperial Valley and the high demand for this sought after vegetable. Last time I bought it, the price was $5 per head. I have grown it several times but it is always done in by cabbage pests before I get to harvest it. Maybe I’ll give it another whirl.

2. Kale & Other Edibles-Horticulture Tied to Wellness

kale

Just ten years ago, Kale was not on the radar of the backyard grower. There were a few varieties which people planted occasionally, but now Kale is the “in” vegetable. In fact, Kale’s growth in the seed industry is “off the charts”. Farmers can’t keep up with demand. Personally, when I go to a nursery that sells seeds, Kale is usually sold out. Full of iron, vitamin A and C, Kale is the ultimate health food. Easy to grow, even during the winter, Kale packs a powerhouse of nutrients and is also a visually beautiful vegetable. Used in containers for color and texture, kale comes out on top of all the vegetables that I grow for no bother and “forget about it”. Virtually every month of the year, I am harvesting Kale!

Kale and lettuce in my cold frame
Kale, spinach, and lettuce in my cold frame
Curly purple kale used in a container
Curly purple kale used in a container, by Leigh Barnes

The ever-increasing interest and use of edibles in containers and in the garden is still up there. Think berries, fruit, and lots of kale. Okra is another super food that is coming into its own. Go to Okra-Superfood Superstar for more information on  growing it.

Kosmic Kale, a beautiful ornamental Kale which is good to eat
Kosmic Kale, a beautiful ornamental Kale which is good to eat

A beautiful new Kale variety I saw at a recent horticultural trade show was Kosmic Kale, a unique variety that has a cream-edged margin. When I first spotted it, I thought it was a new perennial, not a vegetable. I will be looking for this variety in the spring. What we put into our mouth and bodies has become increasingly important to the a generation of gardeners.

Kosmic Kale
Kosmic Kale
All kinds of berries, goji, blueberries, raspberries, and black berries are being planted and harvested
All kinds of berries- goji, blueberries, raspberries, and black berries are being planted and harvested for healthy eating

3. Pollinators & Milkweed

Common milkweed
Common milkweed

Native pollinators as well as the honeybee are still high up on the concern list for most people, gardeners or otherwise. Monarch butterflies are topping the list with an incredible outpouring of support and interest on how to increase the numbers of these beautiful pollinators and keep them healthy. Fortunately, the efforts to help monarchs, providing more and better habitat, reducing pesticide use, and raising the public’s awareness has spilled over and helps other lesser known varieties, like many of our native bees. Monarchs and honeybees are the poster children of this movement. If you provide bett

er habitat for these canaries in the coal mines, then everyone benefits. One way to help out is to create a monarch way station to feed the monarchs on their long migration. Go to Monarch Way Station to see how to set your own up.

Monarch on Zinnia

Ordering milkweed plugs (tiny rooted plants) has become easy by going to The Milkweed Market . Order now to provide a safe haven for monarchs! Go to Got Milk….Weed? to check out the importance of growing milkweed.

Asclepias curassvica, 'Monarch Promise' a new vareigated milkweed
Asclepias curassvica, ‘Monarch Promise’ a new variegated milkweed I want to grow this year

As anyone knows, when you have monarch caterpillars munching down on your milkweed, they can run out fast especially with aphids joining in, so you never have enough of the stuff!

4. Bambi Proof

With the skyrocketing growth of deer and the distress of seeing your hard-earned cash become salad, people are demanding low maintenance deer resistant plants. More and more nurseries are setting aside areas that sell deer resistant plants to satisfy this huge market segment. Sprays and other deterrents cost money and aren’t very effective. Why not plant varieties that deer hate and forget about all those sprays?

A display of deer proof plants at a trade show
A display of deer proof plants at a trade show

 

Disney wedding 078See my Deer Combat post for strategies on planting for deer, and What is Deer Resistant, Blooms in the Winter, and is Evergreen? for the ultimate deer proof plant – Hellebores. Hellebores are a hot perennial because of their resistance and I have to say in 20 years, I have never seen a deer eat one, so these must be deer poison!

helleborus

Hellebores have been the hot ticket for hybridizers and dozens of varieties have hit the shelves just in the last 5 years. Black ones are hot!

Black Hellebore
Black Hellebore

5.  Houseplants- Bringing the Outdoors In

Air plant display at a recent trade show
Air plant display at a recent trade show

Houseplants were big in the seventies and then went out of flavor for a long time. Back in favor now but with new smaller and easy to care for varieties, air plants or tillandsias fit the bill. Anyone with an apartment or windowsill can have a thriving plant kingdom with little effort.

Air plants

 air plants

Green walls are popping up in homes, hotels and other indoor spaces, utilizing air plants and other houseplants. Providing a sanctuary of green living things and removing toxins from interior air pollutants, green walls are also a mood enhancer. Hotels have jumped on this bandwagon as providing an oasis away from home.

A living wall of herbs
A living wall of herbs
 A framed living wall
A framed living wall

6. Vintage Gardening

Anyone on Pinterest or Etsy, knows about vintage gardening. The popularity of old tools, historic seed art, and the nostalgia of old-fashioned gardening has started an industry of eBay listings selling well-used and well made tools.

Birdhouse made out of recycled itmes
Birdhouse made out of recycled items
Antique garden tools
Antique garden tools

I call it flea market gardening. Is it just me, but when I shop flea markets or goodwill, am I the only one who is looking for gardening stuff? I thought not! Vintage means less than 100 years old. Antique is 100 years or more. When I visited the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle this past February, there was an entire show area devoted to vintage gardening paraphernalia and I went crazy! See Vintage Gardening for my post. Just think- Leave It To Beaver meets Martha Stewart. Re-purposing is the name of the game.

Old chair with flowers
Old chair with flowers

vintage

 

Vintage and repurposed gardening tools
Vintage and re-purposed gardening tools
Old seed packets
Old seed packets

Seed packet art is really interesting and there are some funny ones as well as beautiful. Go to Seed Art to check out an interesting post on the history of this illustrative art form.

7. Re-Wilding-Integrating Tech Into Nature

Technology is often regarded as something that creates an artificial world, removing people from nature. To the contrary, however, technology is bringing humans into contact with wildlife and nature like never before. Wild turkeys, foxes, beaver, and coyotes, are very urban animals that have learned to live with man. Home gardeners and conservationists are working on creating wildlife habitats for creatures, inviting them in to restored nature in their backyard and parks. And we want to watch and photograph them. Gopro cameras are enormously popular and are used mostly in the outdoors. Attach one of these to a bird feeder or the dog to get unique natural outdoor views. Or attach it to your mountain biker or skier.

Beaver have become urban animals and have spread widely in the U.S.
Beaver have become urban animals and have spread widely in the U.S.

Nowadays, we carry our phones with us everywhere, even sleeping, so why not bring it into nature with a purpose? For purists who say you need to totally disconnect while in nature to enjoy, I am of two minds on this. I do love a walk with my dog with no music or any other distractions so I can enjoy a calming green experience with no distractions. But I always carry my phone with me to catch an interesting photo, like the one above of beaver activity or use it as a trail map.

If you want your kids to get out in nature, why not entice them with geo-caching? I have enjoyed this activity with my daughter where you search for a “cache” using coordinates with a GPS using your phone.  Like a scavenger hunt in nature, it’s a lot of fun and gets kids engaged in the outdoors.

Placing a broodminder into a beehive can give you important information remotely
Placing a broodminder into a beehive can give you important information remotely

Broodminder is another example of technology meeting nature. I purchased a “Broodminder” which measures temperature and humidity inside my bee hives and can be downloaded using my phone. Bee hive telemetry! Important measurements that can tell you a lot about your hive without having to leave your house and opening up a hive which can be disruptive to the colony.

8. Layered Landscapes

Instead of having acres of perennials stretching as far as the eye can see, as a landscape designer, I am designing more “layered” landscapes. Including evergreens, conifers, woody shrubs, bulbs, and annuals, in a design ensures an interesting landscape to give multi-season interest. I love perennials, but I am definitely seeing more varieties of woody shrubs and conifers at the trade shows.

Winter berries or Ilex verticilatta are definitely seeing an upswing in popularity
Winter berries or Ilex verticilatta are definitely seeing an upswing in popularity
This Dragon's Eye Pine is beautiful-Definitely a trend to plant more conifers
This Dragon’s Eye Pine is beautiful-Definitely a trend to plant more conifers

Layered means using a greater variety of plants, so you can have many things going on at once to enjoy in the garden. Multi-season interest is a over-used garden trope, but one that has instant recognition and conveys an idea with a purpose. Leaving dried and spent stems in the garden to enjoy in the winter is part of all season gardening. Underplanting small trees which are limbed up with bulbs, perennials, and annuals, mingling allium bulbs into plantings are all techniques that I use to get a layered effect.

Chanticleer Garden has wonderful layered gardens throughout
Chanticleer Garden has wonderful layered gardens throughout
Enjoying "dead" plants or plants that are done for the season is part of layering
Enjoying “dead” plants or plants that are done for the season is part of layering
Winter iinterest is part of layering a landscape
Winter interest is part of layering a landscape

 

 9. Pet Scaping and Chemicals

Dogs in the garden have to be safe with pesticide free areas
Dogs in the garden have to be safe with pesticide free areas

The statistics are bad. Half of all pet deaths over the age of ten is due to cancer according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation. Pet owners are waking up to this and using less toxic chemicals around their loved ones. New organic pesticides are becoming available to the home owner who tends to apply more pesticides per acre than farmers! A new one called Spinosad, an organic substance found in soil from an old rum distillery (no, I am not making this up!), can be used on outdoor ornamentals, lawns, vegetables and fruit. Produced by fermentation, Spinosad kills chewing insects when they ingest the chemical within one to two days. Even better, it will not persist in the environment. Spraying in the early evening hours, means that the spray will dry and won’t harm my honeybees. Organic lawn sprays and chemicals are becoming the norm, rather than the rule.

I will be spraying my spinosad on squash bugs
I will be spraying my spinosad on squash bugs

Pet Scaping is just landscape design with your pets in mind. Where to set your designer dog house or doggie ranch and what landscape specimens to plants around the dog house for shade and beautification just like your own house. How about a trickling water fountain or sprinkler next to the dog house to play in? Or a sandbox to dig in? Or straw to roll in?

Dogs like to roll in straw in my garden
Dogs like to roll in straw in my garden

10. Gardening With Purpose

pollinator garden

We are gardening with goals in mind. Planting a pollinator garden, growing hops for making beer, growing healthy heirloom vegetables, raising cut flowers, keeping the bees fed and happy are happening across the gardening world.  Instead of just planting a beautiful ornamental garden, consumers are thinking: How can I use/preserve this? Go to Plant These For the Bees to check out the best way to plant for our important pollinators.

Growing healthy food
Growing healthy food

pollinator garden

Residential landscapes are no longer just grass and trees spotted into the lawn. We want to enhance our everyday lifestyles by creating relaxation or meditation areas, or watch birds and butterflies. You can make this a reality by landscaping and gardening with specific goals in mind.

Creating a relaxation area with landscaping
Creating a relaxation area with landscaping
Observing birds is a popular pastime and people are planting bird friendly gardens
Observing birds is a popular pastime and people are planting bird friendly gardens

Next Up: Dwarf Tomatoes are in the Limelight