Author Archives: Tris

Cymbidium Orchids

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cymorchidCymbidium Orchids are a group of evergreen orchids numbering over fifty different species and are likely the most popular Orchid and one of the easiest to grow.

So easy in fact that you can take it from inside the house to outside from May to September (depending on the region you live in) and enjoy its beauty outdoors!

The Cymbidium Orchid will bring profuse blooms year after year with very little care and maintenance.

Cymbidium Orchid History

Cymbidium Orchids are generally found naturally growing in tropical and subtropical regions such as Asia and parts of Australia.

Cymbidium Orchids, also called Boat Orchids, are a common houseplant in many homes throughout the world and are often moved outdoors during the summer months once the risk of frost has passed. Cymbidium Orchids, along with many other orchid species, are used in many floral arrangements and displays including bridal bouquets and boutonnieres.

In addition to their floral uses, Cymbidium Orchids are also used by many chefs for their culinary value in various dishes including curries.

Growing Cymbidium Orchids

Growing Cymbidium Orchids as a houseplant has gained popularity over the past number of years.

Cymbidium Orchids tend to be more cold tolerant then some of the other Orchid species (the Cymbidium Orchid actually requires a period of cold in order to bloom!) and tolerates variations in temperatures from freezing nights (not to be confused with frost, frost WILL KILL a Cymbidium Orchid!) to the heat of summer, and therefore are more appealing to many houseplant enthusiasts.

Cymbidium Orchids come in a wide variety of colors as well as a variety of sizes. The spikes of waxy blooms are long lasting and big in number.  A number of miniature varieties have been recently introduced that are quite popular as they are smaller and easier to maintain than the larger species.

These particular Orchids, as previously mentioned, require a period of cooler temperatures in order to start the blooming process. As such, Cymbidium Orchids will generally bloom during the winter months producing sprays of blooms that rise above the leaves each season.

Cymbidium Orchids prefer a location with dappled light, and should never be placed in a location that receives full sun. Try an easterly facing window for best results.

You will know you have the right mix of sunlight when your leaves are a nice bright green, dark green leaves are symbolic of an orchid needing more sunlight.

Cymbidium Orchids like to be well watered, especially during the growing months. It is important to ensure that the water does not contain high levels of salt(s) however as this will contribute to “leaf tip dieback” (i.e. those with water conditioners or in areas with high levels of salt in the water should consider allowing the water to flush thoroughly before watering or using bottled water).

When the Orchid is in bloom, less water is required however the plant should never be allowed to dry out completely and the soil should always be damp. Fertilizer should be applied bimonthly using a formulation that is not overly high in nitrogen as this will cause the foliage to grow rather than the blooms to form.


Tips for Keeping Cymbidium Orchids Outdoors

If you are growing your Cymbidium Orchid outdoors, then you will want to ensure that you take the following into consideration:

a)      In a region that has temperatures that are within the 18F to 110F range

b)      That you plant your orchids under the shade of a tree, this will prevent sun scorching

c)       The soil is well drained. Raised beds work particularly well for Cymbidium Orchids when planted outdoors

d)      Adding rock or gravel under your orchids when planting can help with drainage as well as help to keep the roots cool in the winter months. This technique is used by many orchid growers

e)      Consider potting your orchids in the winter – thus making it easier to transfer them indoors if the threat of frost or a freeze arises

More Information

Two excellent resources for further information and study are: North of England Orchid Society as well as Plantdex – Cymbidium Orchid

Image(s) courtesy of: Henryr10, OutdoorPDK

Feeding our Feathered Friends in Winter

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birdinwinterWith winter upon us it’s important to feed our feathered friends. It’s not as easy for the birds that do stick around for the winter to find food as it is in the summer. In general, I recommend to my clients that they don’t prune back any perennials that have seed heads such as Coneflowers, Asters, Ornamental Grasses, etc as these become valuable food sources for the birds.

Another important thing to maintain is your bird feeders. If you have bird feeders you have our in the fair-weather months, the birds learn to rely on them and will continue to rely on them for the winter months. It is important to regularly stock your bird feeders with seed to keep the birds full, not to mention coming back to your property for some fun bird watching.

One thing we do not want to feed to the birds visiting our yards especially water fowl, is bread. While we often think that by ‘throwing bread to the birds’ as a way to dispose of our stale bread that we are helping our feathered friends we are actually doing them a disservice. Feeding bread to the birds provides the birds with food that is of no nutritional value, encourages the birds not to scavenge for their own food, encourages birds who would normally migrate to not migrate in the winter months and can actually cause death in some species. Bread, when ingested by ducks and other water fowl and then followed by water, can actually cause the bread to expand and suffocate the bird. Other alternatives to bread are halved grapes, frozen peas and bird seeds.

Here are some things to consider when selecting bird seed:

– Blue Jays will feed on full peanuts (ie: peanuts in the shell) *

– Woodpeckers will feed upside down, hanging suet cake holders upside down will encourage woodpeckers to feed there

– Cardinals like sunflower seeds and prefer to be fed at a fixed feeder at a height of 5′

– Chickadees like Safflower seeds as do some Woodpeckers. Bonus – squirrels do not!

By keeping an eye on what types of birds regularly visit your yard you can develop a “feed list” of seed to purchase to keep the birds coming to your yard.

Enjoy our feather friends!


***Keep in mind that if you have may have visitors with nut or corn allergies, especially children, you may want to avoid certain seed mixtures.


Images courtesy of: M. Bertulat


Tools for Your Garden

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gardentoolsflickrrgarrettwadeAs a gardener there are a number of tools that are important to have in your “garden shed”. These tools will help make your job in the garden a little bit easier all while making your garden look that much better!

Pruners – a pair of good bypass pruners is essential for any gardener. Bypass pruners work very much like a pair of scissors. Bypass pruners have two blades that are curved that “pass by” each other when an object is cut. Pruners are used often in the garden, from removing dead wood, to shaping shrubs to deadheading perennials – you won’t find a gardener that ventures too far into their yard without a pair of pruners in hand! Fiskars Garden Pruners are among my favorite pruners.

Tip: it is essential to keep your pruners sharp and clean. After pruning infected plants be sure to sterilize your pruners with a disinfecting wipe or in one part bleach to nine parts water. This will prevent spreading disease to other plants. As you notice your pruners getting dull (ie not making clean cuts, wood splintering, etc) sharpen your pruners as soon as possible. This will prevent damage, and potentially disease from entering your plant material. 


Rake – there are two types of rakes, a fan rake and a hard rake. You definately need a fan rake in your garden tool shed as it is essential for raking leaves. There are different styles of fan rakes from metal to plastic, to ergonomic styles to ones that fold making picking up your leaves a synch! A hard rake is a great tool in the garden. The hard prongs will slide though the garden soil loosening any old roots and picking up and debris and rocks.


Knee Pads – being in the garden for hours on end can be hard on anyone’s knees! A good pair of knee pads can save your knees especially if you find you are kneeling on ground that is anything but soft (think rock garden!)


Garden Cart – while a wheel barrow is very useful for moving soil and dumping compost, etc a garden cart can be very useful for moving other items in the garden and a bit easier on the back. A garden cart is much like a wagon and allows you to move pretty much anything, from bags of soil and mulch, to plants, to pots, to watering cans of water. It’s a great way to move your purchases from the car to the backyard or from one garden to the next (and yes, you can load it up with compost too!)


Hose – a good quality hose can be a life saver! A lightweight hose made of polyurethane will not kink or crack, and will be much asker to lug around the garden. You will also find that a hose with brass fittings will never have the fittings crushed or warped if it is accidentally stepped on or run over, which can be a common complaint of hoses without this feature. Williams Sonoma makes an excellent line of hoses that are perfect for both the professional and home gardener.


Watering Wand – watering wands are fantastic for watering your garden, containers and especially your hanging baskets. The long handle extends your reach into the basket easily saving you a whole lot of wear and tear on your body. Many rain wands also have a valve switch right on the handle so you can switch the flow of the water on and off in between containers/baskets.


Other tools that are handy to have include: a trowel, a spade and shovel, a pair of loppers and a watering can. There are many gardening tools on the market today targeted to different tasks. So while you’re not lounging around in your suntime garden furniture (unless you’re the kind that likes to lounge around outside in the cold), testing the tools out in the store before your garden blooms is the surefire way to find what works for you and get you prepared for the coming spring.


Images courtesy of: Garrett Wade

Growing Oregano

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oreganogreenAn herb of Meditranian origin, Oregano  – also known as Marjoram, is a very common and versatile herb. We see it used in a variety of dishes from soups and sauces to sorbets and it’s one of the many healthy foods which can brighten up your dish and give it a fresh flavor. Oregano is an excellent herb used fresh from the garden but is even better used dried.

Oregano is winter hardy to USDA zone 5 and can be grown as an annual in areas outside this zone in containers and pots.


Growing Oregano

Oregano is very easy to grow. It is tolerant of many soils however the main consideration is the soil should be well drained. Amending the soil with compost is beneficial as it provides the plants with much needed nutrients. Mulch is also beneficial around the base of the plants and a gravel mulch will help to keep the soil surface dry, helping prevent any leaf damage.

In areas where the soil is damp and the Oregano plants would be exposed to having “wet feet”, which ultimately leads to root rot and plant death, it would be wise to grow the herb in containers or raised beds. By growing the plants in this type of set up you can ensure that the soil drains properly and that the plants are not sitting in water.

Be careful not to overwater, however container grown plants will need more frequent watering thans those planted in the ground. Fertilizing should be done every two months during active growing season where Oregano is grown as a perennial. In cases where Oregano is grown as an annual, fertilizing should take place every 2-3 weeks.

Oregano plants should be grown in a spot with full sun. Golden varieties prefer some shade.

Oregano is thought to be a natural deterrent to aphids and therefore can be very beneficial in the vegetable garden. It is an excellent companion plant to tomatoes, peppers and many other vegetables. B


Harvesting Oregano

You can begin to harvest Oregano once the plant reaches approx 5″ in height. By cutting the stems back as far as possible you will encourage more growth on your plant. Oregano plants can grow to 30″x18″ however with regular harvesting the plant generally stay in the 12″x18″ range. To maintain the best flavor from your Oregano harvest prior to the blooms setting in.


DriedOreganoDrying Oregano

Drying Oregano is a relatively simple process. Hang groups of oregano upside down in a warm, dry space with good ventilation for one week. Once dry, separate flowers and leaves and strip stalks. Grind or “crunch” up the leaves till the desired result is obtained and then store in airtight containers


Other Uses for Oregano

Oregano can also be used in the landscape as an ornamental plant. The white and purple blooms are a striking contrast against the greens and golds of the foliage. Use it in an alpine garden, in rock gardens or in perennial borders.  The same care should be taken to pinch back the plant as it grows to avoid the plant becoming too large and too leggy. Oregano can also be grown as a houseplant.

Oregano has also long been used for its medicinal uses. Studies have shown Oregano to have anti-fungal and antibiotic properties and is often used to treat fevers, indigestion and vomiting. It is also used to treat joint pain and swelling. As with any herb, it is best to consult a doctor before using a new any new herb.


For more information on Oregano visit the Plantdex website


Images courtesy of: PeterFisken, mccormacka