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Garden Ramblings, Issue #045
May 15, 2008


May 2008

Monthly Musings on the Garden Scene


If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend.

If you are reading the text version you will need to go online to see the videos.


In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Chelsea Physic Garden
- Solanum rantonnetii - A Worthy Substitute For Bougainvillea
- How Do I Replant and Take Care of my Orchid?
- Hanging Baskets that Last All Year Round
- Special Offers
- Tailpiece



Welcome to the May issue of Garden Ramblings. As usual there are two articles by guest authors this month, but I have added a short extra article in between.

I have included articles by Jonathan Yaakobi on several occasions both because of his writing style and the subjects covered. This month he is suggesting an alternative shrub for anyone who enjoys the bougainvillea's color but wants to avoid its thorns.

Our second guest author is Carol Freyer who has some novel ideas for your hanging baskets. Follow her suggestions and you will have a hanging display for all four seasons.

In between the bouganvilleas and the hanging baskets I have added orchids. Jeremy Sleigh has some tips on re-potting and general care of these delicate plants.

As usual there is a Special Offers section with all the bargains that I've managed to find this month.

We start with a video of the Chelsea Physic Garden. It's just two minutes long but covers a lot of ground.

Enjoy the issue.






Chelsea Physic Garden

*********************************************************** Solanum rantonnetii - A Worthy Substitute For Bougainvillea
by Jonathan Yaakobi

If you are one of those people who would love a Bougainvillea in your garden, but are put off by its thorns, mess, and untidiness, then you may wish to consider planting Solanum rantonnetii as a replacement. Solanum rantonnetii is a medium to large shrub that has either white or deep purple flowers. While there are a number of Bougainvillea varieties, whose *flower* color include different hues of red and orange, purple is still the color most popularly associated with the plant.

Like Bougainvillea, Solanum rantonnetii flowers more or less continuously through the summer, but unlike its more illustrious associate, is far easier to handle and maintain. Many a small backyard garden has been ruined by a Bougainvillea taking over the space, while its viscous thorns threaten the family and visitors alike. By comparison, growing a Solanum bush while not completely easy, is definitely more manageable.

It reaches about 4 meters in height (12ft) and 3 meters (6ft) in width, but can be kept much smaller with pruning. The shrubs require regular clipping and pinching in order to keep them bushy and compact. With skillful attention, it can be topiaried into a spherical shape, without losing the bulk of its blooms. Therefore as a shrub, Solanum rantonnetii is far more suitable than Bougainvillea in small gardens.

There is of course little to compare to the vine-like Bougainvillea smothering a whitewashed wall or a tall fence. Yet Solanum can easily be trained as an espalier to perform a similar function, but without the need to be scratched and stabbed by the Bougainvillea's thorns. While Solanum rantonnetii is far from litter-free, the mess it produces is insignificant compared to that of Bougainvillea.

The two plants require similar growing conditions to be at their best. Both thrive and bloom in hot weather, and while hardy to about -2c, are best grown in frost-free areas. While originating from tropical and sub-tropical America, both are hardy to some drought, and actually bloom more profusely when deprived of constant moisture.

The flower shape of Solanum rantonnetii is very distinctive, and unsurprisingly, typical of the botanical family (Solanaceae) to which it belongs. Some of the herbaceous plants in the flowerbed can therefore be chosen from the same family, in order to create unity in the garden composition. An excellent example of this would be the low-growing perennial, Nierembergia caeurlea, whose small cup-shaped, purple flowers are virtually identical to those of the Solanum. Similarly, some species of Morning Glory, such as Convolvulus sabatius, have flowers whose shape and size closely resemble the Solanum's.

Solanum is a genus containing many species, the most famous of which include potato, tomato, and eggplant. The family as a whole is popularly known as the "deadly nightshade" family. Remember that many non-edible plants from the family are highly poisonous or allergenic.

*Take note: What are commonly called Bougainvillea flowers, are not actually flowers, but papery bracts that surround the true flowers.*




About the Author
My name is Jonathan Ya'akobi. I've been gardening in a professional capacity since 1984. I am the former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, but now concentrate on building gardens for private home owners. I also teach horticulture to students on training courses. I'd love to help you get the very best from your garden, so you're welcome to visit me on or contact me at [email protected]


How Do I Replant and Take Care of my Orchid?
by Jeremy Sleigh

The first thing to remember when asking yourself 'How do I replant my orchid?' is that orchids definitely need to be re potted every 18 - 24 months. This is one of the most important aspects of orchid care. This of course can depend on your plant and size of the current pot but regardless of this I would never wait more than 2 years to replant your orchid. This will ensure you are giving it maximum care and making it as healthy as possible. The main purpose of replanting your orchid is to provide fresh media (soil/bark etc.). This will give your plant new media to grow in and ensure that it keeps flourishing. Doing this will mean that the orchid has fresh food and will continue to flower and mature, which is when they are at their most beautiful.

The type of pot isn't so important as orchids can be potted in either plastic, clay or decorator pots. The type of pot the plant is in can effect how often you will need to water, so keep an eye on this the first few times. Make sure you always use pots with drainage holes, orchid roots should never be sitting in still water because they may rot and die. Not Good!

Some people will replant their orchids on whim. This is not a good idea. Orchids are delicate flowers and should not be replanted without a compelling reason. This is the most important tip I can give you about How to replant and care for your orchid. The old mantra of, 'if it ain't broken don't fix it' definitely applies here.

Orchids like to be very snug. A small plant in a big pot means that all the orchids effort is taken up in trying to build a larger root system and it will not flower properly. Make the pot snug, but not too snug.



About the Author
Of course, this article is just the beginning. There is much much more to learn about how to take care of orchids. A good start is to head over to and grab your free report on orchid care. You can find out all about it by clicking here


Hanging Baskets that Last All Year Round
by Carol Freyer

You know spring has arrived when the stores put out their display of colorful hanging baskets. Why wait til spring, wouldn't it be great to celebrate the seasons all year round? You can do this by creating an all season hanging planter that changes with each of the four seasons. Start by buying a strong, attractive hanging basket holder that will last. Try to avoid those cheap, white plastic, disposable containers, and go for a more durable planter made from cedar or wrought iron. If you're using a solid container, pour gravel in the bottom for drainage. If you prefer a wire frame planter, try lining it with coco fiber or sphagnum moss. Fill the container with lightweight potting soil, or make your own using equal parts of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite.

Now, depending on the season, the fun begins! Here are some four seasons planting suggestions:


Keep in mind that whatever you choose has to be compatible with the amount of sunlight your planter will be exposed to. For the biggest most consistent blooms, fertilize once an week, and never let your soil dry out. On some of those super hot summer days, you may have to water twice a day.

Use a combination of tall and trailing plants with varied leaf color. Use taller plants or decorative grass in the center and surround with a combination of trailing blooms and vines.

Try designing a hanging basket with a specific color scheme such as red and purple or red and white. Alternately, choose one strong bloomer such as calibrachoa (million bells) and load up your container.

A basket with soft pastel colors can be equally dramatic by using a combination of lavender Verbena, rose colored Wax begonia, and Browallia speciosa.


Once the weather begins to cool down and your blooms start to wither, it's time to start thinking about an autumn basket. Fall mums make a colorful display of rich blooms that last right into the colder weather, or try some unusual plants such as decorative kale or giant hens and chickens. For a maintenance-free planter, make a display using fruits from the autumn harvest such as baby pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and decorate with small scarecrows.


Now is the time to combine your hanging basket with your holiday decorating. Start by getting trimmings from spruce or cedar trees to create a layer of greenery. Add sticks of red dogwood branches in the center, or spray paint branches white or gold. Accent with silk poinsettias and large pinecones. For a night time display, add tiny lights or bright red Christmas balls.


This is probably the most anticipated basket transformation and nothing says spring like spring bulbs. This is something you can do prior to decorating your Fall basket. Once your summer plants are removed, stuff your basket with various spring bulbs using a combination of early and late bloomers.

If you haven't planned in advance, that's ok, buy potted bulbs or use some that you have already forced indoors and transplant into your planter. Crocuses, daffodils and tulips shout "spring" as they poke through the dirt. Depending on your location, bright colorful primulas are available in February and will bloom well into late spring.



About the Author
PorchLight Real Estate Group is proud of its professional Denver real estate agents and their expert services. For more information on Montclair real estate or to search Denver homes for sale, visit us online at


Special Offers

With one exception it's still too early in the year to find sales of gardening products or special bargains so there is little to report this month.

Gardener's Supply Company still have a few items in their Outlet section, but as you see from the banner, the basic discount is now just 10% when you spend $75.


Gardener's Supply Company


The one exception is Dutch Gardens who are having a Spring Clearance Sale where you can save up to 70% on all spring-shipped bulbs and perennials. And you can still save $25 when you spend $50 or more. Click the banner.


Dutch Gardens, Inc.




Shop at for your vegetable and flower seeds!





This month Nature Hills Nursery are offering discounts of 15% on all their fruit trees. There is also a selection of half price products, mostly trees but one or two other items as well.







How to sweeten the garden with scented perennials.


********************************************************* Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to: [email protected]

That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog Garden Supplies News

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