July 2008

Pottery Barn Sale

by Fern on July 31, 2008

in Outdoor Decor

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Making a Coleus Topiary

by Fern on July 30, 2008

in Gardening in the Shade

Coleus is a great group of plants. They have beautiful burgandy and green foliage and like living in the shade, which makes them great for many balcony gardens, or even for use indoors if you have no gardening space outdoors (or none left!). Recently, there have even been new hybrids that tolerate full-sun.

While flipping through a copy of the Crate and Barrel catalog I spotted a pair of great looking coleus standards. I don’t know why, but I’ve really been attracted to standards lately and have plans to make a mint standard with some of the seedlings I have been growing. Perhaps its because standards need pinching and pruning and I love garden projects that require fussing over plants. I like the challenge.

Coleus Topiary Pottery Barn Catalog

I found these instructions to make a coleus standard from Garden Gate Magazine, and it looks pretty easy.

  1. You can start with any sized plant, just look for a straight central stem, called the “central leader.” Obviously, the smaller the plant, the longer it will take to grow into a standard, but at the same time, smaller plants are cheaper and its less painful when you make a mistake on a plant you only paid a few dollars for.
  2. When the plant is 8-10 inches tall, insert a bamboo stake near the base of the central leader, being careful not to damage the roots. If necessary, pot the plant in a larger container at this time. Loosely tie the central leader to the bamboo stake in several locations to help keep the central leader growing straight. Use twine, “bring[ing] the twine around the back of the stake, crossing it in an “X” between the plant and the stake. Then tie it loosely around the coleus stem.”
  3. Once the plant reaches approximately three feet tall, transfer it to a heavy, 12 inch container to help keep the plant from tipping over and give it enough root space. Don’t worry about shaping your plant or snipping off leaves that are growing directly on the central leader just yet. However, you do want to inspect your plant for branches that are growing near the bottom of your plant as you will want to cut those off before the become thick and woody.
  4. When your coleus reaches the height you want it to be (coleus can grow anywhere from 2-5 feet tall depending on which variety of coleus you have) it’s time to start the serious pruning work. A general rule of thumb for standards is 2/3 stem to 1/3 head. So if your coleus is 3 feet tall, you’ll want 24 inches of exposed trunk at the bottom and 12 inches of bushy leaves at the top. When you start getting branches at the head, keep them pruned back to the second or third node from the stem. This encourages more side branches and will help your plant fill in. Keep the secondary stems pinched back to the second or third node as well.
  5. Ta-da! You have a beautiful coleus standard.

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Easy Ways to Attract Butterflies to Your Urban Garden

July 30, 2008

The other day I stopped dead in my tracks as a beautiful orange, black and white butterfly looped and fluttered among the plants along the side of my apartment building. It was so beautiful and peaceful to watch. After a quick internet search, I learned that the butterfly I most likely saw was the relatively […]

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Vegetable and Herb Companion Planting

July 29, 2008

It’s the time of year when you should start thinking about planting your fall vegetables. Actually, we might be a week behind for some vegetables, but if your neck of the woods is anything like mine, summer came late, so hopefully we’re okay.

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Tiny Bit of Blog Maintenance

July 29, 2008

I’ve moved my RSS feed to Feedburner. If you were subscribing under the old feed, you can switch by subscribing to http://feeds.feedburner.com/lifeonthebalcony or by clicking on one of the chiclets in the far right sidebar. Thanks, The Management

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My Grandma’s Cactus

July 28, 2008

In my post last week about my Grandma I mentioned this weird cactus that she’s had for decades. When she relandscaped her yard, she put it in the garage and forgot about it, only to find in three months later, still alive! I was over at my grandparents’ house today and I snapped a photo. […]

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Deck Tiles for Balcony Dwellers

July 28, 2008

Check out these SnapDeck deck tiles featured on Apartment Therapy LA. They’re perfect for apartment dwellers who would like to upgrade their outdoor flooring without seriously annoying (or worse!) their landlord. The deck tiles literally, “snap and click into place over your existing surface.”

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How to Help Bees Do Thier Work When It’s Hot Outside

July 28, 2008

Some areas of California (where I live) have been having record breaking summer heat this year, which is only making the honey bee problem worse. My local extension office has an article explaining how honey bees are stressed by temperatures over 100 degrees. Apparently when the temps get too high, the worker bees stop foraging […]

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Garden Clippings

July 27, 2008

Here are some news articles and blog posts that I enjoyed reading this week: New York Times: In Beijing’s Ancient Alleys, Modern Comforts (definitely check out the photos) Chicago Tribune: A Perfect Portch Muddy Boot Dreams: A Garden Hint You Might Never Have Heard Of Homefront: Tomatoes Love Epsom Salt Concrete and Calendula: Beet Harvest […]

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Flickr Flower Photos

July 26, 2008

Another batch of beautiful flowers found on Flickr. They’re all basil flowers, which you really shouldn’t allow, because the plant will spend too much energy producing the flowers and the flavor of the leaves will suffer for it. But they are pretty: Photo by Chaval Brasil Photo by Javier Volcan Photo by Steve C.

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