Wordless Wednesday–Made in the Shade


This combination of containers holds house plants, perennials, tender perennials and annuals. All of them are shade lovers and they are staged on an old set of back porch steps under a dogwood tree that throws some pretty dense shade.

Behind them, planted in the bed, you can see hosta, euonymous, ajuga and hellbores.

Who says that shade plants can’t be colorful?

Wordless Wednesday–Wabi-sabi Wednesday

I am not sure how long I have owned my little chipped bird. He was a “freebie.”  I brought it home from the garden center where I worked over a decade ago  ( with their blessing of course) because it was obviously not saleable.

I have a similar small bird on my desk, with just a chipped beak. It’s painted. I call it the blue bird of happiness.

Many folks couldn’t stand such “imperfections” in their lives or their gardens. For me, I find that small imperfections are what life is all about.

Wordless Wednesday–The Promise of Summer


I bought this plant in flower in February 2016. It was spectacular.

But as with any tropical plant– and my less than tropical-like home–I always wonder if I will be able to recreate the conditions it needs to re-bloom.

Happily in the case of this medinilla magnifica, I did manage to do something right. By summer,  this is what the flower should look like. 20160827_081202

Let’s hope this works!

Wordless Wednesday


Do you grow this plant?  You might be right in asking “which one?” because there are a jumble of plants in this photo.

I mean the one with the trifolate leaves and the tiny white flowers. It’s oxalis–but it’s not a pest like the tiny, clover-like weed with the little yellow flowers that grows in your lawns and flower beds.

This is a pretty ornamental.  They sell it this time of year as the “Shamrock Plant.”  It’s really a bulb.

But if you have the weedy type,  don’t be afraid to try this plant.  It is completely different.

House Plants That Clean the Air of Ammonia

Now this seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Many of you are saying, “But I don’t clean with ammonia, or use ammonia, so why do I need this?”

And I pray you need never know. But ammonia is not just a cleaning product, of course. It is also a by product of pet waste and human waste. And as someone who knows that pets are forever, I have had my share of sweet elderly dogs and can tell you first hand about how ammonia is a by-product of that.

So how to freshen the air after you have cleaned up the accidents that the poor pets (or elderly humans) can’t help? With plants, of course. (Just make sure to check out this chart, here, if you have pets that are likely to chew on plants so that you use the non-toxic ones!)

There are not a lot of plants that clean the air of ammonia–surprisingly, lilyturf grass (liriope spicata) is one that would be a non-toxic choice for pet owners (or those with young children). It is also a choice for low light situations.

Another good choice for low light situations is the Lady Palm (rhapsis excelsa). This one is going to be a little more finicky about humidity, however.

If toxicity is not a problem, our old friend the Peace Lily is a great choice and is tough as nails for low to intermediate light situations.

And if you have a sunny window, anthurium, often known as flame flower, is a great choice–but it too is toxic so be cautioned about that. They are often sold at the holidays and Valentine’s day because of their heart shaped red, pink or white flowers.

This concludes my series on house plants that clean the air. Next, let’s look at some garden trends for 2017!

Wordless Wednesday–Plants that Clean the Air and Need Medium Light

Last Wednesday, I talked about plants for low light situations that were good air cleaners. Today I’ll talk about plants for “medium” light situations–so filtered sun, or an east or west window, generally. Sometimes even a south window will do if that window is shaded by trees. You’ll know your light and your plants after awhile.

Although I don’t have any photos, all of the dracenas–which I seem to talk about incessantly–fit into this category. Dracenas don’t like my water, which is “hard” water, and I don’t have time to mess with leaving out a special container or watering with special water for them. But they are usually fairly easy care plants.

while orchid

Another good choice for these windows, although generally at my house I grow these plants in east windows are the phalaenopsis, or moth orchids. These generally grow and bloom just beautifully in an east window–and they are often in bloom most of the winter, which is a great thing!

Red Stem Aglaonema

The final plant that is a great plant for medium light situations is the Chinese evergreen.  I have photos of a red-leafed variety on the blog just about every Christmas season. I call it the “anti-poinsettia.” It makes a great house plant and it’s nice to know that it cleans the air as well.

House Plants that Clean the Air of Xylene and Toluene

On Friday, we finished the survey that NASA did of house plants that clean the air. But that’s not the end of the story. Other scientists have since expanded on that study and added other chemicals that they wanted to study, bringing to the final number 6 chemicals that house plants remove from the air.

This later group was studied BC and JD Wolverton. BC Wolverton was one of the principal investigators in the 1989 NASA study. You can find a great chart showing a list of all the plants studied, the chemicals they remediate, and whether they are toxic to pets, summarized here.

Why would you have xylene or toluene in your home or work space? These chemicals are primarily found in copiers, printers and beauty products–so most of us come in common with them in daily life.

And while I do not have a microgram comparison for these plants, some of the best plants for removing these chemicals (which appear to have been studied together) are as follows:

Spider plant, peace lily, Chinese evergreen, bamboo palm, dracena marginata, snake plant, florist mum–in other words, most of our old friends from our other studies. Interestingly enough, dendrobium and moth (phalaenopsis) orchids also seem to work well for this purpose.

So once again, there is a plant for just about everyone in this list if you are concerned about removing these very common chemicals from your home, work space–or home office!