Longtime followers of this blog - who are also gardeners - may recall that each March for the past four years I've posted a photo of a camellia in bloom on the east side of our house. The photo above was taken March 31, 2011.
This year after the extremely harsh winter the camellia has taken it on the chin, above. "Zone pushers," a term Ellen Barredo of Bowood Farms uses to describe plant species that were traditionally considered by horticulturalists and plantsmen to be suitable only in Southern climes, were available in nurseries in our region in recent years because of a pattern of warmer winters. Hybridizers and growers pushed sales of camellias, crape myrtle, Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo, below), and other shrubs that would have normally been appropriate only as far north as Hardiness Zone 7a into Zone 6b (our zone). Here is the U. S. Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zone map.
Upon seeing the damage this year, my first instinct was to cut the camellia back to the ground, but I was advised by expert gardener William Wells not to do anything until mid-April. "It's best to play the waiting game and see what happens," he said. In the meantime, search for signs of life by scratching the bark to see if it's green underneath and look for lateral buds, see below.
Happily I discovered additional signs of life at the base of the shrub.
Other zone pushers include Nandina, above, and dwarf varieties of azalea such as Encore. I am going to pick the dead leaves off the camellia and hope it comes back as strong as ever. You probably won't find many, if any, zone pushers in the local nurseries this Spring...the growers aren't shipping them. Lesson learned. Mother Nature pushes back.
If we weren't experiencing this welcome run of warm weather I might be suggesting that you arrange for houseplant Rx time at Bowood Farms, if only for the opportunity to breathe in the misty-moisty air in the conservatory, above. I called Bowood late last fall to ask if the nursery offered assistance revitalizing tired-looking potted plants. I had just brought my orchid collection inside for the winter, and realized they were all looking pretty sad. Ellen Barredo, above, Bowood's Horticultural Manager, said that indeed they did offer a hands-on, one-on-one workshop, and so I signed up.
By way of background, I have had what I would call dumb luck getting orchids to rebloom each year without very much knowledge on my part. Admittedly, the variety I have collected, phalaenopsis or moth orchid, is the easiest to grow. Nevertheless, word of my success led a couple of neighbors to leave their non-blooming orchids at my door, so now I was also responsible for plants I had unwittingly adopted, and my reputation was at stake!
On the appointed day I packed eight orchids into a Bowood Farms box and brought them to the conservatory. Ellen proceeded to moisten the pots so the orchids, which were tightly packed with roots, could be removed easily.
While she was cutting away dead roots and trimming yellowed leaves she poked holes in the bottom of a bag of Orchid Bark, $10.55, to which water and a small amount of "Thrive" ($12, 16 fl. oz.) was added. (Thrive is a beneficial bacteria that helps with rooting.)
Pots need to be cleaned if they are to be reused. In my case, most of the plants needed larger plastic pots, which are also available for purchase at Bowood Farms. The prepared Orchid Bark was then added to each pot to anchor the plants and give them room to grow, above.
With instructions from Ellen to water the plants weekly in the sink at home by letting water gently run through the pots twice (and to fertilize with orchid food on occasion), I was on my way.
I have been following Ellen's instructions diligently and all of the orchids are blooming again. I have returned one of the adoptees to its owner, and am ready to present the second one any day now.
If you would like to get a jump on spring, schedule an appointment with a plant expert at Bowood Farms to spruce up your potted houseplants. Cost available upon request, material costs on an as-needed basis, 4605 Olive, (314) 454-6868.
Racial Formation Symposium at Missouri History Museum Sat. Noon:"Neighborhood Change & The Delmar Divide," with CWEnder & W. U. Executive Vice-Chancellor for Admin. Hank Webber and W. U. Assistant Professor Jason Purnell; 2 p.m.:"Racial Formation & the Delmar Divide" with Michael Omi, free event, Lee Auditorium.
Shake 38 rolls out all over town! All of Shakespeare’s 38 plays are performed by 38 different groups in a variety of neighborhoods and locations. From performances on rooftops to bars to coffee shops to street corners, only one rule exists: Make the play happen any way you see fit. The performances have included work by actors, visual artists, musicians, dancers, sculptors, and even chefs!
Dining Out for Life Thurs. Many neighborhood restaurants participating (Atlas, Brasserie by Niche, Gamlin Whiskey House, Nathalie's, Pickles, SubZero, Taste, Scottish Arms). At least 25% of your check donated to St. Louis Effort for Aids.
Flora Conservancy Plant Sale Sat. 5/10 8 - 3:30, proceeds benefit not-for-profit organization that landscapes & maintains plantings in Forest Park, St. Louis City Greenhouse, 5600 Clayton Ave. (near Jewel Box bordering Hwy 40/64). To volunteer: (314) 289-5323.