Longwood Gardens, Toastmasters and the Book I’m Writing

I really should post more often. I was at Longwood Gardens back in the spring, and I would have posted about it earlier, but I’ve been busy. I accepted two board member positions in 2016, Secretary of Smith Lake Environmental Preservation Society and Vice President of Membership for UAB Toastmasters. As VP of membership, I want to invite you to come to our next meeting. We meet the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of every month from 5:45 to 7 p.m. in room 170 of the Bevill Research Building, located at 845 19th St. South, Birmingham. It’s really fun!

I’m enjoying Toastmasters, and it’s making me a better speaker, which is why I joined, but there’s another, unexpected benefit. It’s making me a better writer. I turned my back-page article ‘Do Whatever You Want’ into a speech and in rehearsing it, I rewrote it and improved it. I’ve also learned a few tricks about how to write a speech that apply equally well to writing an article.

As you work your way through the Toastmasters’ book, each speech focuses on a different skill. I recently gave my 5th speech, which focuses on gestures. I love the speech so much that I’m doing something I rarely do, I’m not going to talk about gardening in this post except for one short caption, instead, I’m posting my speech at the end. It’s not because I didn’t like Longwood Gardens. I enjoyed them immensely. The greenhouses were especially nice. It’s just that sometimes pictures are enough. Think your own gardening thoughts in your own heads. I want to share my speech. The main story has been on this blog before, but I reworded it, and there’s new stuff before and after. Besides, it’s never too early to start promoting my new book.

Longwood Gardens, Living wall, Bathroom

My favorite part of Longwood was the conservatory, and thank goodness I had to use the bathroom or I would have missed this hallway. I’ve seen pictures of this before, but I didn’t realize these are the bathrooms in Longwood’s conservatory. How cool is that?

Longwood Gardens, Living wall

Longwood Gardens, Conservatory

Longwood Gardens, Conservatory

Longwood Gardens, Conservatory

Longwood Gardens, Conservatory

 

Longwood Gardens, Conservatory

Longwood Gardens, Fountain

Longwood Gardens, Fountain

Longwood Gardens, Topiaries

Longwood Gardens, Vegetable garden

Longwood Gardens, Vegetable garden

Longwood Gardens

The Book I’m Writing

I’m writing a book. If you know me, you probably assume it’s about gardening. It’s not. It’s a book of advice for young women, and I want to write it for three reasons. 1 – After living for 55 years, I’ve learned a thing or two, and I want to share my wisdom. 2 – Young women need my advice. Most young women are stupid. I know. I was stupid too. We were all stupid when we were young. 3 – Even after I’m dead and buried, this book will continue my good work and lecture my girls for me. That is very important.

The title is, ‘Stand up, put your hands on your hips, and…’ “Stand up” means stand tall; be proud; be strong. “Put your hands on your hips” means never be intimidated; feel your power, and be confident. The last part of the title, “and…”? Well, that depends on the situation.

The title comes from one of my favorite stories. It was July 4th weekend of 2014. My husband, Dale, and I were hosting three other couples, some of their children and the children’s boyfriends/girlfriends at our lake house. Only a few of us were on the dock to witness the first part of my story. One of the World Cup soccer games was about to start, so twenty-something-year-old Dustin told his girlfriend, Ally, “We need to go up to the house and watch the game.” As Ally was gathering her things, Dustin barked, “Hurry up!”

After they left, my friend Bill turned to me and said, “I don’t like the way he talked to her.” I’d been thinking the same thing. I heartily agreed and explained how I would have handled the situation. He told me that I should give her my advice.

As luck would have it, Ally forgot something on the dock and showed up ten minutes later without Dustin. Bill started doing the little head nod towards Ally while looking at me thing. So I said, “Ally, it’s not any of my business, but you shouldn’t let Dustin talk to you like that. Next time he uses that tone and tells you to hurry up, this is what you should do: stand up, put your hands on your hips and say, ‘I’ll come when I’m Fucking ready!’” Ally answered, “Oh Ms. Hill, I don’t think I could say that.” I replied with great conviction and emphasis, “Oh yes you can!”

The next day I came down to the dock later than everyone else. Most people were off on the boat, but Bill and my husband, Dale, were there swimming in the water. As I got closer, I saw enormous grins on their faces. I asked what happened. Bill said, “You would be so proud of Ally. Dustin yelled at her when they were leaving. She flipped him off and said, ‘Don’t talk to me like that.’”  –  I was proud.

Looking back at the whole situation, when I gave Ally my advice, I probably should have mentioned that if my approach seemed too harsh, she could have discussed Dustin’s behavior with him in private. Either way, the important thing is not to let him treat her that way. I will make that clear in the book. I’ll also emphasize that this is only an acceptable response to shitty behavior from a significant other. With other people, unless it borders on abuse when they act shitily, be the bigger person; ignore it. For instance, as a gracious hostess, if Dustin had said something rude like, “Why are you still at the lake? Shouldn’t you be cooking dinner? I’m hungry.” I would have answered sweetly, “Dinner’s going to be a while. Why don’t you run up to the house and get a snack? And if you want to speed things up, you can start peeling those potatoes on the counter.”

Yes, it’ll be a fabulous book I can almost see the cover now, ‘Stand up. Put Your Hands on Your Hips and…’ by Peggy Hill and Monica Buergler. I almost forgot to tell you that I’m coauthoring the book with my mom. She died years ago, but I still have her voice in my head, and I still have her letters. I’m talking about solid-gold advice that young women need to hear. For instance, the book includes the sage words she wrote in the months leading up to my wedding.

“Incidentally, are you going to promise to love, honor and obey? If you do, be sure to have your fingers crossed. That OBEY BUSINESS is out. I told Dad that if it was in our ceremony when we married, I wouldn’t make a fuss, but he could just forget that stuff. I hate having somebody boss me around. Enough nonsense. Oh yes, the rest is ok. Love and honor I mean.”

Who wouldn’t want to read fabulous advice like that? The book is mom’s advice to me mixed with my advice to anyone who wants to listen. The more I work on this book, the more excited I get. It’s going to be great. It might even wind up on the best seller list.

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Swing Bar

I’m not sure if I should be posting this or not. My goal is to write an article for a nationally-published magazine about my new swing bar. Fine Gardening is my first choice, but beggars can’t be choosers, so I’m open to other publications. Actually, I already pitched it to Fine Gardening. I called and emailed the second the swing bar was finished. But it was a bad pitch, done hastily with a lot of enthusiasm and little thought. They replied, “Thank you for sharing your photos with us, Peggy! May I suggest once it’s in bloom and at its peak for photos you send them to GPOD@taunton.com. We highlight a garden each day! I’m sure our readers would love to see it! Good luck and Happy Spring!”

Swing Bar

Swing bar

I’m going to pitch the article again because F YES readers are going to want to see pictures of my swing bar, but readers are also going to want to know the stories: The story of what inspired me. The story about my goals for the swing bar. The story about the mistakes I made. The story about the mistakes I didn’t make and how I avoided them. The story about how people react to the swing bar. All the F’ing stories that only I can tell.

The swing bar is fabulous enough for a national publication, and I’m hoping that my writing skills are up to the task. I am currently fingers crossed that I get a silver award in one of the two writing contests I entered through GWA, The Association for Garden Communicators, formerly known as Garden Writers Association. It will be a stronger pitch if I’m an AWARD-WINNING writer, speaker and plant ho.

I was trying to keep a lid on the swing bar in case its awesomeness goes viral, and a magazine thinks, ‘That’s old news. We’ve all seen it on the internet.’ But we live in a digital age, and if I don’t throw it onto the internet, a garden visitor will Instagram or Snapchat or Facebook or some such thing. I may as well do it myself so the pictures are watermarked, and they have a home. So, starting at the front of the swing bar and then traveling clockwise around it, this is what you see:

Swing Bar, Front

The front of the swing bar

Swing Bar left

The left side of the swing bar

Swing Bar

The back side of the swing bar

Swing Bar

The right side of the swing bar

Here are a couple more pictures:

Container gardenin

The view from the swing bar

The view from the swing bar

The same view without the swings

The same view without the swings

chandelier

Trace helped me shop for the chandelier.

Cup and saucer vine

Cup and saucer vine

The garden surrounding the swing bar still needs some work to be nationally-published-magazine worthy. I’ve got some ideas to jazz things up for the photo shoot, and my BFF Trace, The Bitter Socialite, is going to stage it for the shoot and make it over-the-top romantic.

Please wish me luck and send me good energy. I really want the swing bar in a magazine that’s published nationwide.

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My First Radio Interview + Pictures of my Garden

In my last post, I talked about how I was going to do my first radio interview on July 3rd, and you might be wondering how it went. The first half was horrible, and the second half was bad. Overall, I’d give it a 3 on a 1-10 scale. My oldest daughter, Monica, was the first person I spoke to after the interview. She told me not to feel bad. She said that I should think about it like it was my first date with Radio, and first dates are usually awkward. I love a good analogy, and this one is perfect. The last time I had a first date was in my early twenties, but I still remember the second guessing.

Why was I so nervous around Radio? I probably shouldn’t have done Radio in the first place. Radio isn’t my usual type. I’m more comfortable with Magazines.

The Plant Ho, Peggy HillWhy did I show Radio that picture of me wearing a pink shower cap? Radio probably thinks I’m weird. Did I really tell Radio that bee balm is invasive? Bee balm is a native plant, so aggressive is a better description. Radio probably thinks I’m stupid. Radio complemented my pictures of Chanticleer TWICE, and I never said thank you. Radio probably thinks I’m rude. Why didn’t I say thank you? Radio will probably never call again.

Thank God I’m not in my twenties anymore! I’m older and wiser and happier, and no happy person ever focused on their mistakes and failures. While it is true that radio may never call again, I will still be the same awesome person regardless. I don’t need Radio to make me happy. The people I love and my garden bring me all the joy I need.

The Plant Ho's Garden

The Plant Ho's Garden

Prince Tut, Cyperus, papyrus

Radio asked me about some of the plants I’m trialing this year. I answered that Proven Winners sent me a nice clump-forming bee balm (Monarda didyma) called Pardon my Cerise, and they also sent a new papyrus called Prince Tut™. I told Radio that the thing I like best about Prince Tut™ is that it gives me huge bragging rights because almost no one else can get one. It won’t be available until 2017. Radio probably thinks I’m an ass.

Prince Tut, Cyperus, papyrus, mixed container

I planted my Prince Tut™ with a Red Strip canna and a Supertunia® Vista Fuschia Improved petunia. The petunia was another one of the free plants that Proven Winners sent this year.

Radio asked if I grew any vegetables. I answered yes, and said I planted too many peppers this year.

Gypsy peppers

Gypsy peppers mature from yellow to orange to red.

Okra

I told Radio about my beautiful okra.

Radio asked me about my Pink Lemonade blueberry plant, and I talked about how I grow 3 different types of blueberries, and Pink Lemonade is the most delicious.

Pink Lemonade blueberry

Pink Lemonade blueberry

Radio asked if I collected any particular plant. I’m not entirely certain how I answered, but I think I talked about how I want ALL the plants. Radio probably thinks I’m a spoiled brat. I mentioned Carex and Lenten roses (Helleborus) specifically. Carex was on my mind because I got 3 free Carex EverColor® Everlime and 3 free Carex EverColor® Eversheen to trial this spring. They were tiny, starter plants, and they’re still small, but they’re growing well. Here’s a link to more information on the Carex EverColor® collection.

Carex EverColor Everlime

Carex EverColor Everlime

Carex EverColor Eversheen

Carex EverColor Eversheen

Following is another Carex in the same collection, but I bought this Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’ from Plant Delights Nursery. It’s my favorite.

Carex EverColor Everillo

Carex EverColor Everillo

Carex morrowii 'Silk Tassel'

Carex morrowii ‘Silk Tassel’

Carex 'Blue Zinger', Helleborus 'Mrs. Betty Ranicar'

Carex ‘Blue Zinger’ is in the lower right corner, and Helleborus ‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’ is just behind it.

One last Carex that was a trial plant sent years ago, but I don't know its name. - Sometimes I'm a bad plant ho.

One last Carex that was a trial plant given to me by Skagit gardens years ago, but I don’t know its name.

I’m a little surprised that I’m not at all upset about how bad I did on the radio. I think one of the reasons is that the more I become a writer, the more I think about my life as a story, and stories need ups and downs. Otherwise, they are boring.

Posted in Container Gardening, Delicious!!, I love this plant, Plant Ho | Leave a comment

Chanticleer Garden

I’ll tell you about Chanticleer garden in a minute, but I love this story about what happened last week.

I’m going to do a radio interview on July 3rd on the talk show Garden America. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I have exciting news, I want to share. One of the first people I called was my BFF Trace. He recently became The Bitter Socialite, and now he’s a big deal. When I wrote the article about him for the May 2016 issue of Alabama Gardener magazine, he was on one TV station. Now he’s on four stations in three cities. Trace didn’t answer the phone, so I sent him this text, “Has anyone ever asked you to do a radio interview?…….I didn’t think so.” – Like I said, Trace is my BFF, so I give him shit all the time.

Shortly after that, I was telling my daughter Monica about my radio interview and my text to Trace. She said, “You know exactly how Trace will respond. He’ll say, ‘Radio is for people who aren’t pretty enough to be on television.’” Monica knows Trace very well. That is precisely what he would say. I asked Monica what my response should be. She thought for a few seconds and said, “Radio is what people who have jobs listen to on their way to work. Morning television shows are what unemployed people watch while they shop at Walmart.”

I don’t want to insult fans of morning television, but Monica makes me laugh! Now let me tell you about Chanticleer.

Chanticleer, hanging basketChanticleer gardenMy husband Dale gave me the most wonderful birthday present this year. He took me to Pennsylvania for a long weekend, and I spent an entire day at Chanticleer garden. It was amazing!!! I have many wonderful pictures, but they don’t compare with the experience of being in the space. Every time I turned a corner, my first thought was, ‘OH MY GOD! This is unbelievable!’

Chanticleer pool

Chanticleer garden

Chanticleer

Both bathrooms had fresh flowers, cut from the garden. It’s a nice extra touch.

Chanticleer

Picked from a nearby area in the garden.

At one point in the day, I was sitting in the Teacup Garden, trying to soak in all the beauty, and I said to the lady next to me. “I think this might be the most beautiful garden I’ve ever visited. It’s either my favorite garden, or it’s tied with Lotusland.” The women replied, “I’ve seen better.” When I asked where, she answered Monet’s garden. I didn’t talk to her again. The point of the story is that if you have to bring out Monet to beat it, Chanticleer is one of the best gardens in the world.

From here to the end of this post, all the pictures were taken in the Teacup Garden. One of the nice things about Chanticleer is that although none of the plants are labeled, they have a plant list for each area. Here’s a link for the list of plants used in the Teacup Garden.

Chanticleer

The entrance to the teacup garden.

Chanticleer

I love this combination of cast iron plant and Sambucus ‘Lemony Lace’.

ChanticleerChanticleerChanticleer

Chanticleer

ChanticleerChanticleerChanticleerChanticleer gardenI posted more pictures of Chanticleer on the blog I write for Alabama Gardener magazine. Here’s a link.

A HUGE thank you to Dale for taking me there. It made me happy, and it’s going to be a hard present to beat, but if you want a suggestion, here’s a link to Monet’s garden. Hahaha!!! Another idea is to simply take me back to Chanticleer. I’m certain that it changes from year to year and season to season.

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Hollywood Hibiscus

I wanted to post sooner, but I’ve been on a mini-vacation. My husband took me to see Chanticleer and Longwood Gardens, and I’m posting about Chanticleer next time. It was amazing!!!! Before the vacation, I was busy writing for Alabama Gardener magazine.

Alabama Gardener magazineI took the picture on the June cover. It went with my article about cool shrubs, and I also had a Hot Plant article and a Garden Profile article. The shrub article is what threw me so far behind. It’s a good article, full of useful information, and I think readers will enjoy it, but writing it bored me. After having such a hard time with the article, I started wondering…Why do I even do this? The answer is free plants. I love free plants sooo much that I will suffer through any article that I think might increase my Plant-Ho abilities. Can you blame me? Look at the Hot Head Hollywood® Hibiscus that J. Berry Nursery sent me this spring.

Hot Head Hollywood Hibiscus

Hot Head Hollywood Hibiscus

I could write about how much I love this hibiscus, and describe it as velvety red on the outside and patent-leather black on the inside, but instead, I want to tell you the story of the FedEx guy, and the day he delivered the box. The FedEx guy and I are friendly strangers. I’m usually outside when he drives up, so I hang out by his truck, and we chat while he hunts for my box. And then we chat longer.

Hot Head Hollywood HibiscusThe day that the hibiscus was delivered, I happened to be working inside, but since I was expecting the hibiscus, I ran outside the moment the dogs signaled the FedEx guy’s arrival.  There he was, walking down the sidewalk with a big box. I was so excited that I started clapping my hands. Not a big clap, like after a great performance, more like the excited clap of a three-year-old kid who was just given a cupcake. Smiling, he said, “Is this another plant for your collection?” I answered, “Yes! Do you want to see it?” He waited as I tore into it. When I opened the box, and he saw the plant, he clapped his hands. I don’t think he even realized that he did it. The memory still makes me smile.

 Best Friend Hollywood Hibiscus

J. Berry also sent me two of their Best Friend Hollywood Hibiscus.

And J. Berry Nursery sent me the light brown pot in this next picture.

DSC_0629

And they sent two more pots that are perfect for a front entrance.

Welcome Home, containers

ContainerContainerThey also sent a couple of Déjá Bloom® Azaleas for me to try. So a big thank you to J. Berry Nursery and everyone else who sends me free plants!

Posted in I love this plant, Plant Ho, What's Blooming? | 2 Comments

Huntsville and Birmingham Botanical Gardens Plant Sales

It’s an exciting weekend! Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Huntsville Botanical Garden are both having their spring plant sales. And for me, the most thrilling aspect of the weekend is that I’m speaking at the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s plant sale on Friday and Saturday, April 15 & 16 at 1:00!!! My talk is ‘Hot Plants: The Rest of the Story.’ I talk about 9 of the Hot Plant articles I wrote for Alabama Gardener and give additional information: more pictures, newer cultivars, stuff that wouldn’t fit in the article, things I’ve learned since I wrote the article, etc. It’s a cute Powerpoint presentation, and I have some great pictures. I hope you can come. Here’s more info on the sales:

Huntsville Botanical Garden: April 14-17, 2016 at the Huntsville Botanical Garden. Thursday, members only, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, free public sale, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, free public sale, 2-5 p.m. Here’s a link for more information.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens: April 14-17, 2016 at Brookwood Village. Thursday, Preview Party, $50, 5-6:30 p.m., followed by members only, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Friday, free public sale, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, free public sale, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, free public sale, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Here’s a link for more information.

And if you come to the Huntsville sale, don’t leave without seeing the Bush Native Azalea Trail. I was there last weekend, and it was stunning! Take a look.

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea TrailNative azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Millie Mac

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

High Tide

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Tom Corley

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Stonewall Jackson

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Miss Dean

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Vernon Bush lead the tour, and he stood next to the sign and posed for pictures. I was late for the photo opportunity because I was off taking pictures of azaleas, but I like this pic anyway.

So if you come to the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s plant sale this weekend, don’t miss the Bush azalea trail, with over 4500 azaleas, there will still be lots in bloom. The azalea I’m going to make a point to see is this one.

Native azalea, Huntsville Botanical Gardens, Bush Azalea Trail

Smitty, who was a big breeder of azaleas, named this one ‘Patsy’s Pink’ after his wife. I’ll bet it’s gorgeous.

I hope to see you there!

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The First Day of Spring

I’m so far behind. I need to finish one more post on TPIE, one on the Nashville Lawn and Garden Show and one on the Chicago Flower and Garden show. But today is the first day of spring, and I don’t want to do any of those posts. I’ll do them later. I just want to show you pretty pictures of my garden.

Spring garden

The view into the garden from just outside my front door. The dogwood tree is just getting started.

Spring garden

Another view of the front garden.

Clematis Armandi

Clematis Armandi

Camellia japonica 'Kramer's Supreme'

Camellia japonica ‘Kramer’s Supreme’

Anna's Red Lenten Rose, Helleborus

Anna’s Red Lenten rose (Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’)

Onyx Odyssey Lenten rose (Helleborus 'Onyx Odyssey')

Onyx Odyssey Lenten rose (Helleborus ‘Onyx Odyssey’)

Pink Parasol fairy wings (Epimedium 'Pink Parasol')

Pink Parasol fairy wings (Epimedium ‘Pink Parasol’)

Mrs. Betty Ranicar Lenten rose (Helleborus 'Mrs. Betty Ranicar')

Mrs. Betty Ranicar Lenten rose (Helleborus ‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’)

Red Sapphire Lenten rose (Helleborus 'Red Sapphire')

Red Sapphire Lenten rose (Helleborus ‘Red Sapphire’)

Euphorbia 'Blackbird'

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’

Dolly Sods bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia 'Dolly Sods')

Dolly Sods bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia ‘Dolly Sods’)

Zhuzhou fringe flower, Loropetalum chinense 'Zhuzhou'

Zhuzhou fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense ‘Zhuzhou’)

Ever Red fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense 'Chang Nian Hong')

Ever Red fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense ‘Chang Nian Hong’)

There’s much more blooming in the garden, but those are my favorite pictures. I hope you’re enjoying watching your own garden come alive. Happy Spring!!

Posted in I love this plant, What's Blooming? | Leave a comment

Red pineapple, Ananas ‘Pacifico’

I talked about this plant at the end of my last post, but I didn’t tell you the entire story, and it brings up several important points.

Ananas 'Pacifico', Red pineapple

Ananas ‘Pacifico’, Red pineapple

When I was working on the last post I wanted to include the red pineapple, (Ananas ‘Pacifico’) but only if it was NOT some kind of Frankin’ Food GMO. So I called Deroose Plants, told them I was a writer and asked to speak to whoever worked their booth at the Tropical Plant Industry Exposition (TPIE), which was where I saw the plant. That’s how I got on the phone with Paul. He said it was not a GMO; it was the result of traditional breeding, which if you want to nit pick is technically a GMO, but it’s not the bad kind. It’s not genetically engineered. They didn’t do something crazy like inserting fish DNA into a tomato. I don’t want any part of that nonsense, and since we don’t have GMO labeling laws, I buy organic because I know it’s non-GMO, and I like organic.

Red pineapple, Ananas PacificoAnyway, back to Paul and the pineapple. He said that they sell it as an ornamental, but it is edible. And he wasn’t positive, but he thought the red color would only be on the outside of the pineapple, and the inside would ripen to yellow like a regular pineapple. Since he wasn’t sure about it, and inquiring minds want to know, I asked if he would send me a plant to trial; he said he would. He also gave me all this other great information that is repeated from my last blog post: Pacifico is the result of more than 10 years of traditional breeding. Besides beauty, they wanted a less dangerous pineapple plant. Pacifico is thornless, and the soft leaves bend instead of stab. Paul said to give it about 50% shade, and he suggested a potting mix of 30% finely shredded bark, 20% perlite and 50% peat moss. It’s hardy in Zone 10, but I can overwinter it in the garage.

At the end of the conversation, I thanked him for his time, and told him that I’d call him again if I ended up writing an article about the plant. This surprised him, and he said something like, “But I’m giving you a free plant. You have to write about it.” I explained to Paul that I like to grow plants myself before I write about them, so I can see how they do for me and speak from personal experience. I told him that I get free stuff all the time. It’s my favorite part of being a garden writer.

After I got off the phone, I though of the perfect analogy. – Getting free plants is exactly like when I was in college and went to the bar. Just because I flirt with you, and let you buy me drinks, that doesn’t mean you’re getting lucky. It just means I’m thirsty, and I think you’re cute.

Speaking of free stuff, look at what I brought home from TPIE. The people at Live Trends gave me this potted succulent. There’s a magnet on the back so you can put it on the refrigerator. When I first put it up, the dog kept whining at it because she wanted me to throw the ball.

succulent, container gardening

I got another potted succulent from the people at Arizona East.

Potted succulent

The nice people at Smart Pots gave me a bunch of free stuff at the 2015 Garden Writers Symposium. – Here’s a link to the blog post I wrote about that. – At TPIE, they gave me some pond pots to try.

Smart pots, pond pots

Suntory introduced their new Mandevilla at the show, Sun Parasol Apricot.

Sun Parasol Mandevilla, Apricot

Mandevilla – Sun Parasol Apricot

And they gave me sun glasses and an orange umbrella. Get it? Sun, Parasol, Apricot. Cute!

1-DSC_0001-001

The folks at Oglesby gave me a Syngonium ‘Moonshine’. I’d show you a picture of the plant, but it’s still recovering from the trip home. My purse is a scary place. Nothing looks the same when it comes out of there. This flier was in there.

Syngonium Moonshine, Oglesby

My favorite presents came from Tamara at J. Berry Nursery. Her coworker Felicia gave me one of their Black Diamond crapemyrtles in 2014, and it’s doing great. I requested Black Diamond because I like its color better than other dark crapemyrtles. Here’s a link to the blog post I wrote about my Black Diamonds. But back to what I got at TPIE, Tamara let me pick a hibiscus.

Hollywood Hibiscus

Hollywood Hibiscus Social Butterfly

I really like this Hollywood Hibiscus Social Butterfly.

Hollywood Hibiscus Hot Head

I chose this Hollywood Hibiscus Hot Head, because I love the velvety, deep red with the dark center, but that name doesn’t suit me at all.

Hollywood hibiscus Party Girl

Party Girl fits me perfect. Hollywood hibiscus Party Girl isn’t available until 2017.

Hollywood Hibiscus Best Friend

I need to see if I can change my selection because Hollywood Hibiscus Best Friend is the one I want the most. It’s on the flip side of J. Berry Nursery’s flier.

Tamara is also sending me their new Cabana Canna™ Sangria. It’s scheduled for release in 2017, and they’re in the process of building inventory now.

Canna, bronze foliage, Cabana Canna™ Sangria

Cabana Canna™ Sangria Oh MY!!! Look at those leaves. Look at that color. And it blooms orange.

And she’s sending me one of their Déjá Bloom® Azaleas, which are reblooming azaleas that they say bloom from spring to fall.

deja bloom azaleas

In conclusion, I want to sincerely thank everyone for their generous gifts. It was so nice of y’all.

And a final note to Paul: They don’t call me ‘The Plant Ho’ for nothing.

Posted in Container Gardening, I love this plant, Plant Ho | 2 Comments

Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition – Part 1

I have a good feeling about 2016. It’s already off to a great start. The new swing bar is almost finished, and it is going to be epically awesome. I’d show you pictures when it’s done, but I’m hoping to sell the story to a magazine, so this will be the last post about my swing bar until either the story goes to print or I give up on the idea. A swing bar is like a regular bar, but instead of sitting on bar stools, you swing on swings. There’s a table/bar in front of you, so you’re not going very high, just gently swaying. We were at a resort in Mexico that had a big swing bar with a bartender in the middle, and I’ve wanted one ever since. Mine seats eight and has a gas fire pit in the middle. It’s turning out just like I imagined. It commands the garden.

The reason I’m talking about it is because it’s part of the funniest thing that’s happened in months. Last Tuesday, I started my day by watching the PhanC Sisters Sing-along video from last girls’ weekend. Then I sat on the front porch, drinking coffee, enjoying the sunshine and letting my mind wander. I started thinking about what type of video we should shoot this year; then it hit me. What if we take the swings off the swing bar and do an acrobatic/dance/Cirque du Soleil thing? Then I thought, ‘Safety first. We can’t do that. It’s too dangerous.’ But then I thought, ‘Not if we wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and wear crash helmets.’ Then I wondered where we could get crash helmets, and I decided that metal bowls, duct-taped to our heads would work just as well. Next I went inside, and posted my silly thoughts on Facebook along with the final sentence, ‘Now I’m thinking that I’m a genius, and I don’t need to do any more thinking all day.’

I tagged all the girls in it. Most of them were all in, but Jennifer said she wasn’t sure about the activity, Stacey said she didn’t want anything duct-taped to her head, and my husband pointed out that metal bowls and bubble wrap wouldn’t stop us from breaking our necks. My response was that since we don’t have a safety net, we could bungee cord ourselves to the top of the swing bar. Jennifer said she was out, and I told her that was too bad because I was trying to figure out a safe way to toss her in the air at the end, like we did in the synchronized swimming video. Again, Jennifer thought it was a bad plan. But the next morning, while sitting on the front porch, the idea of throwing Jennifer in the air and the use of bungee cords gelled together and I posted, “Imagine this: We’re wrapped in bubble wrap for safety. We duct-taped belts to metal bowls and we’re wearing them as crash helmets. After our amazing trapeze performance, as the grand finale, Jennifer attaches herself to strong bungee cords and hangs five feet off the ground. The rest of us grab her by the ankles, pull her down, and when we let go, she shoots out the top.”

Did you notice how I addressed Stacey’s issue? Instead of duct-taping the bowl directly to our head, we duct-tape them to belts and then buckle them on. I’m a problem solver. I also had way too much time on my hands that morning, so I posted these pictures to illustrate the concept.

Girls' Weekend, Bungee cords

Jennifer dangles in the air, supported by bungee cords.

TA DA, Girls' weekend

I thought about ending this post here, but it needs more gardening and more pictures and a better title than ‘My Swing Bar.’ – I’m not sure how that title would effect my google ranking. – So I’ll show you pictures from the other big gardening thing that’s happened in 2016, and that’s my trip to Fort Lauderdale to the Tropical Plant Industry Exposition (TPIE).

It was a fabulous show, but I came down with a serious case of plant lust. My troubles began when I saw this new Medinilla named Dolce Vita, and it kept getting worse and worse.

Medinilla Dolce Vita

Medinilla ‘Dolce Vita’

Asplenium 'Parvati', Asplenium difforme

Asplenium ‘Parvati’ a.k.a. Asplenium difforme

Aglaonema, Pink Dalmation

Aglaonema ‘Pink Dalmation’

Here’s a link to more information on that Aglaonema.

Air plants

TPIE, Tropical Plants

Native Plants

Tropical Plants

Tropical Plants, TPIE

Song of India

Song of India

Forest bell creeper (Tecomanthe dendrophila)

Forest bell creeper (Tecomanthe dendrophila)

Fatsia, Spider's Web White Fusion, Calathea

Mystique Series, orchids, color infused

The mystique series are color infused orchids that rebloom their original color, white or purple. For more, information see silvervase.com

Ananas 'Pacifico', Red pineapple

Ananas ‘Pacifico’, Red pineapple

There’s only one cure for my plant lust. I need to buy more plants. Or I might just contact people and beg for plants. I’m certainly not above that. In fact, I just got off the phone with Paul at Deroose Plants, and he’s sending me an Ananas ‘Pacifico’. It’s the red pineapple with purple leaves in the last picture. Paul said it’s the result of more than 10 years of traditional breeding. Besides beauty, they wanted a less dangerous pineapple plant. Pacifico is thornless, and the soft leaves bend instead of stab. Paul said to give it about 50% shade, and he suggested a potting mix of 30% finely shredded bark, 20% perlite and 50% peat moss. It’s hardy in Zone 10, but I can overwinter it in the garage.

I’m feeling better already.

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Get Those Seed Orders Placed

If you want a chance to grow Nicotiana sylvestris ‘Only the Lonely’ next year, you should follow this link, and get your seed order placed. I wrote a ‘Hot Plant’ article about ‘Only the Lonely’ for the February issue of Alabama Gardener magazine, and C.L. Fornari talked about it on the radio. Other garden writers may be recommending it too, so get ’em while they last. And since one package = approximately 3000 seeds, you can start a few extra to share with friends or sell at your garden club’s spring plant sale.

Nicatiana

I grew this Nicotiana a few years ago. It’s not ‘Only the Lonely’, but it’s similar.

If you place an order, you’re probably like me, and don’t want to pay shipping for just one item. Here’s a few suggestions to bulk up your order. I haven’t tried any of these yet, but it’s what I purchased from Territorial Seed.

Territorial SeedI also ordered seed for Salvia argentea from Select Seeds. The description calls it a biennial, but it’s not. True biennials live for two years; they grow one year, flower the next and then die. My Salvia argentea flowered two years ago, and it’s still alive, so it’s more accurately described as a short-lived perennial.

Salvia argentea

Salvia argentea, also known as silver sage, was featured in the ‘Hot Plant’ article I wrote for the February 2014 issue of Alabama Gardener Magazine.

Again, if I’m placing an order, I’m getting a few other things. Here’s what I bought from Select Seeds.

Select Seeds

I restrained myself, and other than a future order with Renee’s Garden, I placed just one more seed order. In the spring of 2015, Ball Flora Plant sent me three free Tidal Wave® Red Velour Petunia plants. They were fantastic, the best petunia I’ve ever grown. Surprisingly, they’re still alive, so they may make it to spring and be a perennial for me. But in case the winter kills them, I ordered seed from Park Seed. Here’s a link.

Tidal Wave® Red Velour Petunia

Tidal Wave® Red Velour Petunia

It’s cold out there, but think warm thoughts and plan for spring. It’ll be here before we know it.

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