August 2007
How's Your Garden?

Too Hot Outside? Look After Houseplants

Now is a good time to take a hard look at your houseplants, where you can work in air conditioning! Get tough on scraggly plants and start over with a nice arrangement of fresh ones. Like outdoor flowerpots, you can combine houseplants in colorful floor-sized ceramic containers to catch the eye in any room. The rule for three plants is "a thriller, a filler and a spiller." The arrangement shown here features a variegated dracaena, golden pothos and variegated ivy. These are a good combo for medium light indoors. Just don’t expect houseplants to look great forever. Often they get leggy in low light or the leaf edges turn brown in low humidity indoors. Two exceptions to this are Christmas cactus, which can live for decades; and mother-in-law’s tongue (Sanseveria species), which is about as close to plastic as a real plant can get.

Make Soaker Hoses Last

Cover black soaker hoses with mulch to block the sun. Water left in the hoses can damage them when it expands. A layer of straw, pine straw or bark mulch will help hoses last several seasons. In winter, store hoses where they’re protected from freezes.


Monarch Watch

The last generation of Monarch butterflies flies hundreds of miles, including over Alabama, to their winter resting place in the mountains of central Mexico. During their fascinating journey, which is still not completely understood, the butterflies depend greatly on sources of nectar along the way to fuel their flight. You can create a Monarch way station in your yard for Monarchs this fall by planting their favorite nectar flowers, some of which can still be planted from seed if you hurry; these are cosmos, marigold, tithonia and zinnia.

The puzzle of Monarch migration inspired a national program called Monarch Watch, where volunteers around the country and Canada capture, tag and release monarchs in the fall so that if a butterfly is later recaptured, its data can be used to learn more about their habits. To learn more about Monarch Watch, which is headquartered at the University of Kansas, visit, contact them at University of Kansas, 1200 Sunnyside Ave., Lawrence, KS 66045-7534 or call (785) 864-4441.



Garden Whimsy from EPCOT

Each spring the grounds at Disney’s EPCOT are even more spectacularly planted than usual during the eight-week Flower and Garden Festival. When I visited this spring, I saw a really fun idea for recycling old tools in the Children’s Garden. The items were brightly painted and nailed to a fence. So hold on to your junk tools to add a touch of garden whimsy in your garden.

Order Suitable Bulbs

The garden catalogs for fall bulbs have been appearing in my mailbox since last month. All the beautiful tulips, daffodils and other bulbs are a great temptation, but I’ve learned that many of those just don’t make it in our warm climate. To get the bulb varieties best suited to our area, contact a local source such as your Co-op or garden center, where knowledgeable staff order from experience. Bulbs begin to appear in retail outlets next month. It’s great to try a few things out of catalogs, but test them before buying by the dozens. The first year is not a good test; wait and see how they come back the second spring to determine their worth.



Feed the Hummers as They Go South

If you haven’t already hung your hummingbird feeders, do it now to enjoy the fall migration as hummingbirds begin flying south by the hundreds soon. My late mother-in-law, a member of the Audubon Society, taught me to make syrup for the feeder by diluting one cup of sugar in four cups of hot water. Make sure the feeders are clean to start with by soaking them in bleach water.

 Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.