Economical & Ecological Tips to Aid Nature

Originally posted Summer 2011.

As we begin to enter Stage 2 of mandatory water conservation in my area, it got me to thinking about ways we can both help ourselves (economically) and the environment (ecologically) during this drought season. In addition to water-related ideas, I thought of a few other recycling-related tips I’d like to share with you as well. Some are quite specific, such as those concerning fish tanks and shaggy dog haircuts, and then there are those related to actions that we all partake in, such as drinking water and bathing.

Furthermore, if you run a company then there are some additional recycling measures that you can take to go above and beyond the call of duty! For example, a friend of mine works in a large warehouse and he told me that they use a baler machine to take care of their excess plastic waste. Apparently, baling plastic packaging waste like shrink wrap, film, PET bottles, and farm materials is an effective and low cost method of recycling plastics. You can find more plastic recycling solutions for businesses by checking out some of the Baler machinery for hire or purchase from

Anyway, I certainly hope you find your household can benefit from a few of the below suggestions!

1. If you have a fish bowl or better yet, a large fish tank, when changing water, make a point to toss the old water into your veggie garden, flower beds and/or potted plants outdoors. This “fertilized” water provides excellent nutrients, is all-natural, and may assist in repelling detrimental insects. (Garden pests tend to dislike fish and/or seaweed concoctions.)

2. If the nectar in your hummingbird feeder becomes old – and it will do so very fast in the hot summer – do not throw it away or dispose of it in your yard indiscriminately. Drizzle the sugar water around wilted plants that may need an extra boost. I learned this trick by accident when my feeder fell and broke open into a clump of ferns. Those were the greenest ferns I ever had due to the extra boost from the nectar! A word of warning – this is one of those tips where a plant can get too much of a good thing. Sugar will eventually interfere with a plant’s growth and water uptake, so don’t sprinkle the nectar on the same plant each and every time – spread the wealth. As I said above, my feeder fell only once and that one time did the trick! P.S. Those little packets you get along with your purchased cut flowers essentially contain of form of sugar – simple fast food to keep your cut flowers prettier a little longer!

3. During the early spring when birds are building nests, toss out your dryer lint for our feathered friends to enjoy. If they don’t partake, it’s easy enough to retrieve and dispose of later.

4. Same with hair clippings from your dog. I usually give my dog a little trim now and then out in the backyard. I leave the hair in the yard for the birds to use to line their nests. Again, there isn’t much to worry with if the birds don’t notice the fluffy stuff. I just pick it up within the next day or two. (You’d be surprised how well they will notice it, though! I had a sparrow once come back for every tiny piece of my dog, Buzz’, soft hair one day after I clipped him. Those sparrow nestlings probably didn’t want to leave such a comfy abode!) For a short, funny video on this subject, see:

5. I’ve mentioned this one before. Instead of disposing of old or expired bread, crackers, cereal, popcorn and/or fruit, set it out in a platform bird feeder or a large plate on your patio. The birds, especially during drought times, will be ever so grateful to you – even if the food isn’t top quality! (Note: Place out only that which will be eaten in a day, otherwise you will attract critters you prefer not to have around such as rats.)

6. Collect rain water to water your indoor plants at least, and, your outdoor ones if you have an ample amount. You can invest in or create a rain barrel device or simply set out a large container to collect the rain. I use one of those large plastic bowls with handles – the kind you use to ice down sodas for a party. Think it cost me less than $5 at Wal-Mart. (This is another item you do not wish to place out for long periods of time as you will attract mosquito larva. Be sure to use the rain water within a few days.)

7. In addition to the above idea, I leave my large plastic bowl out all year on my patio to collect water from my sprinkler system that hits the concrete. I usually collect enough to water a few potted plants that the sprinklers don’t reach.

8. After your family meals, gather up your water glasses and ice cubes (from non-alcoholic beverages) and pour the excess into one large pitcher and take out to your bird bath. Your bird bath will be freshened up and cooled down at the same time, an especially nice treat for the birds during the hot summer.

9. When waiting for your bath or shower water to warm up, catch some of the initial cool water in a pitcher or two, set aside for later, and use for watering your plants indoors and out. Hint: If you allow the water to sit for 48 hours, most of the chlorine will have had time to dissipate and the water will be all the more healthier for your plants.

10. You’ve probably heard this one before. Mix in used coffee grounds around your acid-loving plants such as roses, azaleas, gardenias, hydrangeas and rhododendrons for better growth. This is another one that you don’t want to overdo, however. A little coffee goes a long way.

11. Recycle plastic 2 liter soda bottles as scoops for bird seed, mulch and potting soil. Simply cut the bottle in half and use the end with the nozzle as the handle (don’t forget to keep the cap on.) I love this idea since the extra-large scoop saves me footsteps too!

12. Use newspaper as a weed deterrent and to keep moisture in your flower and vegetable beds. (Personally, I’d avoid the colored inked pages just because there is a still a little controversy about the chemicals found in the ink, although through my research I read that the ink used today is virtually non toxic and actually contains carbon – which is a beneficial element for plants.) Layer 6 – 10 sheets thick of black and white print and keep moist. For a nicer appearance, you can add straw or wood mulch on top. The paper weed block will last only about one season, but it works well while it lasts. Best of all, it is porous enough to allow water and nutrients to pass through and a bonus is that it naturally degrades.

13. Dreaming of cooler weather . . . if you purchase a real Christmas tree, be sure to take part in your community’s after holiday recycling efforts. Cities typically shred the trees and use the mulch in community flower beds, parks, medians and along hike and bike trails.

Would you be willing to share one or two of your beneficial ecological and economical recycling tips with us?

Until then –

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Heat and Drought Tolerant Plants for Summer

Posted August 2011

I’ve got a few interesting blog posts I’m holding on the back burner for now, but I thought I’d keep them there until the heat wave subsides and instead write about something more timely. Actually, as hot and dry as it is, the plants I’ll mention here may indeed not be at their best, however, the most important thing I’ve observed about them is their amazing ability to remain green and survive these 100 degree temps over the past 5 weeks.

The plants I’ll mention here are not in pots, they are planted in the ground. Those you’d like to save that are in pots and baskets should be moved to full shade or indoors, as I mentioned last week.

While the below plants are not at their optimum, it is good to make note of them for when you consider next summer’s plantings. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we will not repeat this year’s 100 degree temperature streak for a long, long time. Nonetheless, it is always good to invest in landscape plants that haven proven to be tough and will have the best chance of survival.

  • One of my former blog posts speaks about annuals that will bloom all summer, and indeed Moss Rose and Purslane are doing quite well compared to most ornamentals these days.
  • Dwarf Mexican Petunia (perennial) is holding up extremely well in my back yard. It receives part shade, however.
  • To my surprise, Caladiums (annual, but bulbs can be overwintered) are doing well, too! Again, they are receiving part shade, but if you look closely at my pic below, you’ll see the Shasta Daisies behind them are not blooming and are quite cripsy comparatively.
  • Turk’s Cap (perennial) is hanging in there and still blooming.

Dwarf Mexican Petunia, Caladiums, Shasta Daisies, Turk’s Cap

  • As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, Tropicanna Cannas (perennial) are also hanging in there and blooming.
  • Lantana (tender perennial) is doing well in full sun, but blooming much more infrequently. It will step up as the temps decrease, however.
  • I do not have Pentas (tender perennial – annual in climates cooler than zone 9) in my landscape personally, but I saw a mass planting the other day at a nearby shopping center. Their foliage looked good and about half of the plants were blooming. It is the best shopping center planting I’ve seen in a while. Most shopping center beds are very stark due to their proximity to a lot of hot, hot asphalt.
  • As far as vines go, unfortunately my Moonflowers aren’t doing well at all and even my old time Hall’s Honeysuckle is struggling. The Honeysuckle will return next year in better condition. I would like to mention that Wisteria (perennial) is currently not showing signs of heat or drought stress. It s green and still sending out feelers.
  • Crape Myrtles (blooming trees) are incredible this year. Their vibrant red, pink and purple hues are the saving grace of North Texas landscapes when most everything else is brown and yellow in the midst of summer.
Crape Myrtle

Well, I want to keep today’s post short and sweet. I simply wish to bring to your attention my observations regarding landscape plants that are holding up to the drought and extreme heat in my area. As I point out, most of the above are planted in part shade conditions, so do keep this in mind. However, also keep in mind these plants – especially the perennials – may be well worth a second look when you decide to invest in your summer landscapes next year. Perhaps there is a slightly positive reason for this season – to give us faith there are indeed a few wonderfully resilient plants.

Until next time – stay cool!


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Pet Products that May Make Life Easier

I am a declared pet lover and if I encounter an issue with one of mine, I strive to find the best method to solve the problem for both me and my pet. I’d like to share a few products with you that in my opinion can make life a lot easier for a household with animals. The use of a couple of these fine products may sound a tad questionable – but they’re safe and I have found they work. Actually, I find it is far better to discover ways to quickly deter or prevent pets from unwanted behavior than to have them suffer through constant scolding and owner frustration. Not everything that you do for your pet should necessarily be all about their behavior; sometimes it’s good to focus on making them comfortable and giving them what they need to enjoy life in your home. If you have a bird, for example, something as simple as a java wood perch in their enclosure can help to give them a natural element so that they feel more at home – it can also bring a sense of security to your pet.

I must provide a disclaimer here. You know your pet better than I. This post is written based on experiences with my pets. If you have an elderly, sick or extra sensitive pet, or have any reservations about the below products, do not participate in the recommendations.

First of all, probably the very best thing I’ve done for my pets is install doggie doors.

Yes, there are a few negatives to doggie doors – such as the fact undomesticated creatures may venture inside your house (this rarely happens since most non-pet creatures are deterred by your pets’ odors) or your pets may willingly bring these creatures in (I must admit I have found mice, moles and mockingbirds inside my house, see .) Another thing to keep in mind regarding doggie doors is that if you are at work and a downpour occurs, you can count on muddy tracks in your house when you arrive home (may be better than urine puddles, though!) And, lastly, if you have small pets such as cats, or dogs under 15 pounds, and bobcats and coyotes are prevalent in your area, I recommend you forego installing a doggie door or, if you do, at least keep it closed off when you are not at home.

On to the positives – The very obvious positive to installing doggie doors is your animals can take care of bathroom business outdoors at any time the need arises. No more crossing your fingers that your poor puppy dog can hold it for 12 hours as you work overtime or get caught in traffic! You may have noticed I said I have doggie doors – as in more than one. At one time I lived in a household with three cats and three dogs. Yes, I was in violation of my suburban pet limit. I can admit this now because I am down to one of each. Well, in a multiple pet household, dogs do not respect the difference between their food and that of the cats’ – plus some dogs tend to take a liking to the cat box (yes, I know, this is gross, but true.) Thus, I had to develop a system where I could easily feed both species and provide bathroom privacy for the cats. The solution came by installing two doggie doors. The larger one is installed in my back door which goes from my home directly into the backyard and is for the convenience of the dogs. (Note: Some indoor cats may see this door as a means to escape. Fortunately, mine did not. Yes, they would occasionally sun themselves on the patio, but they always returned indoors when their nap was done.) The other doggie door in my home is tiny – and actually is a “cat door.” It is installed in the door that leads from the garage into my house. The cat’s food and litter box reside in the garage in an area safe from car traffic. Use your judgement on this, but most cats will skidaddle back into your house when a car starts up or the garage door is activated. Now, a caveat – this system will only work if your dog is too large to squeeze through the tiny cat door. My dogs were large, but if you’ve read my blog posts of the past, you are aware my current dog, Buzz, is a contortionist and at times succeeds at (or gets stuck) going through the cat door. See . Still, the system works 99% of the time and a couple of very big bonuses – no cat food or litter box odors in the house!

For those of you with dogs and cats that prefer to drink running water, there are various drinking fountain water bowls available. Most are electric, so you need to place them near an outlet where your pet cannot trip over the cord. These devices include a filter system to ensure your pet’s water stays clear and fresh. Other benefits of a constant flow of water is that it is oxygenated and stays cool for your pet. Although most have a reservoir for water, you must refill the device regularly. The one I purchased is placed up against the wall in the garage for my cat, as my dog is A-OK with regular water bowls. My cat, Biscuit, on the other hand, was literally driving me crazy as every time I turned on a faucet in the house, for example, to brush my teeth or cook, she’d jump in front of me and attempt to lap the water! Since I made this small purchase, we are both much happier – and so are my dinner guests, by the way!

Hmmmm . . . has your dog or cat found an area in your home that they enjoy marking? Do you prefer your cats stay off counters? Would you like your pets to keep off the furniture?

Well, whether you have a doggie door or a litter box, sometimes pets just hone in on a corner of the house or a piece of furniture to mark. I once had one of those cheap vinyl bean bag chairs. It was THE PLACE for my cat to urinate. I finally had to toss it. Here’s a tip – in my experience, for some strange reason, cats are particularly attracted to vinyl – this includes the vinyl backing of some throw rugs, unfortunately. Just be sure and check twice in those areas and wash them (in cold water) often if you can. In addition to marking, sometimes our pets hone in on a piece of furniture or a spot on the counter where they simply like to lie. Not always the best of spots, especially if you are entertaining. Thankfully, there are a few products that can help keep pets away from undesired areas.

The first suggestion for these issues are expandable pet gates. For those of you that have toddlers, you probably recognize these devices as “baby gates.” They are merely temporary expandable barricades that you securely place between doorways or hallways to keep your pet confined to a designated area of your home. You can find these gates in just about any type of material and size and they even have one that has a mini-cat door at the bottom so your cat can pass through when your dog needs to remain temporarily confined!

However, sometimes it isn’t convenient to confine your animal to a back room, especially if your doggie door is located in another part of the house. For animals that need more aggressive deterrents to keep them off furniture and counters, you may wish to consider Ssscat Cat repellant and/orthe Scat Mat.

Ssscat Cat repellant is simply an air-filled aerosol spray can with a battery-operated motion detector device attached. Some versions allow a setting where the motion detector will emit a shrill audible warning prior to the spray of air. You simply place the can (about the size of a shaving cream can) in the area of the house you wish to keep the cat or dog away from. Of course, your cat will totally freak out the first couple of times the can spits air (this is the point) but it will not hurt him or her. Your dog may be more puzzled than scared, quite frankly, but he or she will not spend enough time in the area to mark it! Mission accomplished! I have also found that when the air is depleted of the Ssscat Cat, the audible alarm continues to deter your pet until the battery goes dead. And a bonus is, after your first purchase, you can simply order refills of canned air at a very reasonable price. This harmless behavior modification technique usually works fairly quickly.

As a side note, I have a greenhouse in my backyard and last spring some unknown critter was entering through a crack in the structure and eating my seedlings. I had no idea what type of creature was doing this, but it could certainly climb as it was able to devour plants on the top shelves as well as on the bottom. At any rate, I didn’t wish to hurt the poor thing but I did want it to stop eating my produce. I finally placed a couple of the Ssscat Cat aerosol cans inside the greenhouse and ta-da – no more half-eaten seedlings!

OK, right up front, I wish to tell you this next product will indeed emit a small, benign shock to your pet – similar to that which is produced by static electricity. Faced with a dog that, on a daily basis, decided to tinkle on my pool table’s legs several years ago, I had to resort to something a little more serious. The Scat Mat is a battery-operated or electric, plastic mat that you spread out over the area you’d like to deter your pet from, such as your couch, a specific area of your carpet, kitchen counters, etc. When your pet steps or jumps on the Scat Mat, it will provide them just enough of a shock to make them uncomfortable and they will retreat. This product works very well with stubborn pets, covers relatively large areas, and can be adjusted in strength to accommodate cats and small dogs.

Lastly – an extremely simple, but very kind gesture you can do for your pet that also benefits you is to comb their hair with a brush that has massaging bristles. Not only will this largely alleviate shedding issues in your home, it will bond and establish trust between you and your pet. Some of these brushes are formed to fit like a glove, allowing you to mimic the petting motion. Believe me, there is nothing sweeter than hearing your cat purr or your dog moaning in pleasure of having their hair combed and body massaged. Try this and I promise you, they’ll be your friends for life!

Well, the above pet items have certainly made my life easier over the years and I must say, they have also greatly benefited my adorable pets as well. If you have an interest in learning more about these items, click on any Amazon product in the right sidebar and perform a search where you’ll surely find more detailed information. Good Luck!

Until next time,

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The Great White Buffalo

Originally posted 2011.

For the past month or so I have been seeing an unusual, brownish-rust colored bird at my feeder. I’d only been able to view it from a distance or through my window screen, but determined its size and shape was that of an immature grackle and it also appeared to have yellow eyes. In fact, it hangs out with the grackles and is just as aggressive. I emailed an expert at the National Audubon Society about this bird and was told it may indeed be a grackle, but one with leucism – a condition in which a bird’s normal coloring is quite faded or splotchy. A black grackle with leucism would possibly appear rust and could also have splotches on its breast. For more information about these interesting conditions see

Well, upon closer look this weekend, I determined my mystery bird is not a leucistic grackle, after all. I saw it in flight and noticed it had distinct white bars on its wings and was able to ascertain its splotchy breast was in fact, naturally spotted. In fact, it looked more like a rusty mockingbird upon closer inspection. After searching through my bird book page by page, I finally identified my mystery bird as a Brown Thrasher. I’ve never seen a Brown Thrasher in my area, although North Texas is within its range according to my reference book. Incidentally, it is the state bird of Georgia.

Mystery solved, the topics of leucism and albinism got me to thinking about the birth earlier this year of a white buffalo calf, not far from me, in Greenville, Texas. As you know, some animals are light in color by nature and it isn’t at all unusual they are born white. However, other animal species are very rarely born white. Not all of these rare white animals are considered albinos, however. The little calf born in Greenville is deemed a “non-albino”, as it has brown eyes, a brown nose and a spot on its tail. It is possible its coat may eventually turn brown as it ages. Nonetheless, the birth of a white buffalo is indeed a rare sight, estimated at one in a million or so, and a very sacred one to Native Americans, especially the Lakota Sioux.

To the Lakota, the birth of a white buffalo brings messages of hope, re-birth, harmony, unity and peace. It is a spiritual sign of the eventual return of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, a prophet of supernatural origin that is of great importance to Lakota religion; a prophet who is sometimes compared to the Virgin Mary.

Lightning Medicine Cloud was born on May 12, 2011 on a ranch in Greenville, Texas during a thunderstorm. On June 29th, an official Native American Naming Ceremony was held on the ranch. The ceremony attracted over a thousand attendees and was complete with Native American prayers, songs, dances and pipe smoking in honor of the sacred white calf.

The herd circles around to protect Lightning Medicine Cloud as strangers approach.

An interesting side note: You may think, as did I, that the white buffalo calf may have to receive extra human attention and protection from other bison and predators since it is indeed quite different in appearance – you know, as in extra protection according to the laws of evolution and the survival of the fittest theories. Not so . . . the others in the herd also sense Lightning Medicine Cloud is special and surround him when there are perceived predators or strangers in the area.

Wow! The herd protects and helps him because he is different!

Couldn’t we all benefit from the valuable messages brought by this Great White Buffalo?

Until next time,

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Collecting Seed

Gerbera Daisy Seeds

Several years ago, when I first begun taking horticulture classes, I was assigned a research project that included the task of collecting about 70 different seeds. I recall I was asked to collect around 20 seeds from ornamentals, 15 – 20 from trees and shrubs, 15 – 20 from vegetables and herbs, and 15 – 20 from grasses. Although I was a mature student in my mid-40’s, I’m sure I acted like a pampered 18-year-old freshman when I whined to my professor that I thought it was impossible to collect that many varieties of seed, let alone that many from grasses! I went on to tell her that I lived in the suburbs and I doubted there were that many types of grasses even available to me. I asked for a reduction in number of seeds required on the assignment.

Thankfully, my professor didn’t coddle me. She matter-of -factly stated that indeed there were more than enough varieties of plants in my part of the world in which to collect seed and I was well expected to do so. However, prior to my going out into the field to perform the assignment, she offered me one very valuable bit of advice – always look for seed at the exact locations where the flowers of a plant were previously blooming. And yes, folks, grass blooms too! It is just that the blooms are usually so very tiny or inconspicuous that we don’t pay attention to them.

Needless to say, I learned a lot from this one particular course and its professor. In the end, I was ever so grateful that my professor held firm and didn’t cut me any slack on the amount of seeds required for the assignment – after all, that wouldn’t have been fair anyway. (I had a period of adjustment to endure when I went back to school in my 40’s. I learned it really wasn’t a factor that I was working full time AND going to school – the assignments still held all the same. And rightly so!)

Well on to the topic at hand – seed collecting. Now (late fall) is the time to collect seed from your spent summertime plants. This includes annuals, perennials, vines, trees, shrubs, vegetables and, don’t forget, grasses. Most seeds are enclosed in some sort of pod and in the case of fruits and vegetables, the seeds are in the fruit. Again, to look for seed of any type of plant, you should look closely in the area of the plant where the flowers had been blooming.

Purple Coneflower Seeds

Sometimes, the spent flower heads dry out on the plant in pretty much the same form as the flower. The dried, shriveled petals become a part of the seed, or its “wind sail”, if you will. These types of seeds are easy to find, are usually very numerous, and are effortless to collect (that is, before they go wind sailing!) Think of the Dandelion, for example. Gerbera Daisy and Clematis are other examples. Maple tree seeds actually twirl through the air similar to helicopters! Another way seed is dispersed by wind, although indirectly you might say, is through tumbleweeds! I must admit I never thought of a tumbleweed being a form of wind hitchhiking for seeds!

Fuzzy Clematis Seeds

Instead of seeds embedded in dried flower heads, other plants form pods in which one or more seeds are encapsulated. Again, you will find these pods at the point where the former flower dropped off the plant. Most times, seeds drop straight down from these types of plants (once the pod becomes dry and brittle) and they germinate nearby the mother plant. Think of Morning Glory, Moonflower, and Cardinal Climber. These seeds are relatively easy to collect by simply gathering the pods just prior to them dropping from the plant. You can also look directly below the mother plant and gather seed from the ground as well.

Morning Glory Pods/Seeds

With other plants, the seed pods eventually become so brittle they shrink, separate with force and actually pop interior seeds in the air, dispersing them outward from the mother plant. Think about Dwarf Mexican Petunia. These types of seeds can be somewhat challenging to collect unless you happen across a dried pod just prior to it popping!

Dwarf Mexican Petunia Seed Pods
(Center of Plant)

As we know, seeds of vegetables reside inside the mature fruit of the plants. And where on the plant are vegetables harvested? For the fourth time – at the point of a former flower! Think of Tomato, Pepper, Squash, Cucumber, and Pomegranate plants, for example. In nature, the pulp (or fruit) around the seeds serves as the ultimate fertilizer should the fruit drop or be left to rot on the ground. I can attest to this as one lazy winter I left pumpkins out to rot behind my greenhouse in my backyard after using them for Thanksgiving decorations. Come spring, I literally had hundreds of little pumpkin plants sprouting alongside my greenhouse! As you can imagine I got such a surprise! I had mainly been using my greenhouse to store all of my heat shrink plastic wrappings so at first, I could not understand where the pumpkin plants had come from. As you can imagine, after my discovery, I decided to put my greenhouse plastic to good use and got to work replanting the pumpkin seedlings. Leaving the fruit pulp among the seed greatly enhanced the success of germination. However, I do not recommend this method for many reasons – you’d probably prefer to eat the fruit if possible; it is too smelly and messy to plant an entire pumpkin, cantaloupe, etc.; and, of course, there are superb soil and fertilizer alternatives!

Well, if you had a prized plant or two or three in your garden this summer and would like the opportunity to grow additional ones from seed next year, take the time in the next week or so to look closely at the former flowering areas of your plants. You will most likely find seeds or seed pods in abundance at this time of year. However, let me provide you a few tips regarding harvesting the seeds:

  • Keep in mind the size of a seed can vary greatly and may not correspond with the size of the plant necessarily. Some seed are so tiny you can barely see them with the naked eye and others are hard to miss. Moss Rose, Alyssum and some grasses have minute seeds. Among those plants with large seeds are the Avocado and Peach trees.
  • Unless it is a fruit or vegetable plant, wait until the seed or seed pod is dried (brown and crunchy) before harvesting. I have never had success harvesting immature or green seeds. This means you will need to allow your prized plants to dry up and “go to seed” versus tidying up for fall. Think of Dill for example.
  • If your seeds are inside a fruit/vegetable – after de-seeding the fruit, wash the seed and spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet or paper towel and let dry on the counter for several days.
  • Remove as much chaff as possible and store seed in a cool, dry area or container until planting time comes next spring. I usually store seed in sealed plastic ware or used coffee cans and place in my garage or pantry.
  • Lastly, after all this talk about collecting seed I must let you know not all plants produce seed that is “true.” What this means is, if you purchased an amazingly beautiful, unusually-colored Moss Rose hanging basket this year and wanted to duplicate it via seed next year, unfortunately its seed may not produce the exact colored flowers or it might not even produce flowers at all. This is because the genetics and cross breeding involved with creating the unusual “hybrid” plant may have rendered it unable to reproduce “true.” If you are aware a plant is a hybrid, just keep in mind its seed may not produce an exact replica of the mother plant.

Well, after the last point I must redeem the virtues of seed collecting! Even if you don’t wish to capture seed for planting next spring, it is still an incredible experience to get up close and personal with plants and educate yourself, your kids or others about their amazing life cycle. To this day, I remain ever so grateful for the horticulture professor that one fall semester who made me stick out the search for 70 seeds!

Happy Hunting!

Until next time,

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When we see Poinsettias most of us naturally think of the Christmas holidays. A single potted Poinsettia has the ability to make any room festive – from a messy college dorm to an austere auto body reception area. Multiple pots of red, pink and/or white Poinsettias create instant holiday decor for bank lobbies, government offices, museums and other public buildings. I usually purchase one or two every winter to admire and enjoy in my home. (A common myth is Poinsettias are poisonous. While their milky sap may cause skin irritation in some allergic persons and accidental consumption of the plant may cause an upset stomach in kids and pets, exposure is typically not serious.)

I personally prefer the traditional deep red Poinsettias, but I believe the white, pink and new marbled varieties look amazing in certain settings. White poinsettias look classy in a neutral room or a room filled with predominately gold Christmas decorations. The pink and marbled varieties compliment rooms adorned in pastel hues or blue and silver toned decor. And, most recently the stores have offered Poinsettias sprayed with glitter – adding a little extra bling to the season.

Of course, I normally wouldn’t recommend spraying glitter or anything toxic onto a beautiful plant, but Poinsettias are plentiful, relatively inexpensive and have been hybridized to the point they may or may not return in following years with the same vibrant color. Thus, I treat them as “annuals” or “seasonal” interior plants.

As such, below are a few tips to keep your seasonal plants happy:

·  Place your potted Poinsettias in bright or sunny areas if possible.

·  Indoor temperature around 70°F is ideal for long plant life.

·  Avoid severe temperature fluctuations and warm or cold drafts.

·  Water only when the soil is dry.

·  Do not fertilize when the Poinsettia is in bloom.

If you are up to retaining your Poinsettias after the holiday season, you should certainly give it a try! First of all, remember that due to hybridization, your subsequent plants may not “bloom” quite as vibrantly as before. Also of importance is the fact that what we consider as the blooms of Poinsettias are actually their modified leaves, also known as bracts. The true flowers of the Poinsettia are the small yellow centers of the red (or otherwise colored) bracts. As such, Poinsettias make attractive, GREEN, potted plants that can be placed outdoors in temperate zones after the last frost of spring. They enjoy sun, but should be placed where they will receive afternoon shade during the summer months. As fall approaches, the plants should be moved back inside. Secondly regarding blooms, Poinsettias are perennial tropical natives to Mexico and, like the Christmas Cactus, are photoperiodic. This means their blooming (or leaf-turning) is dependent upon them receiving just the right amount, or lack, of light. Eight weeks prior to blooming season, Poinsettias require 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness per night. You can accomplish this by moving the plant to a dark room or closet to mimic their light requirements, however be careful to treat with “kid gloves” for again, like the Christmas Cactus, Poinsettias can be finicky when it comes to their environment.

I have to admit when you enter my home, you are met with at least 25 -30 live plants throughout my abode. Off the top of my head, I have a Ficus Tree, numerous Philodendrons, English Ivy, Coleus, Sansevieria, Dieffenbachia, several varieties of Dracaenas, and a Gerbera Daisy In addition, I have one deep red Poinsettia as the centerpiece on my dining room table.

I admit, I simply am not a fake flower or fake plant person . . . until it comes to Poinsettias, that is. I love to decorate my Christmas Tree with them!

In years’ past, I would place Poinsettia stems strategically on my Christmas Tree after having adorned it with ornaments. I focused not only on balancing the decor of the tree, but on filling in the bare spots that allowed a person to look through to the trunk. Red is my favorite color, so I fell in love with this practice. This year, having tired of my usual tree topper, I decided to go easy on placing Poinsettias in the body of the tree and instead, I created a bouquet of Poinsettias as my topper. Needless to say, I am very pleased and next year, I may spring for a few more Poinsettia stems to make it even more full!

Well, I hope that no matter your religious persuasion, you choose to brighten your home and/or workplace during this gray winter season by adorning it with a colorful Poinsettia or two. After all, December 12th is National Poinsettia Day! -And if you are up for the challenge, I wish you much success in keeping them around for many more National Poinsettia Days to come.

In my research for this post, I came across a wonderful and very comprehensive site from the University of Illinois. For more detailed information about the beautiful Poinsettia and its history, see

Until next time –

Originally published 2012

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