|After the huge number of photos last week, I have only five to offer this week. Above, a short row of ‘Smaragd’ cedars (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) that have typically been attacked by deer here on Vancouver Island. One of the treatments that can help to stop the chewing is regular application of Blood Meal through the winter! Below, four shots of various Cast Iron plants (Aspidistra elatior) including A.e. ‘Variegata’ and A.e. ‘Milky Way’. Author photos. |
Donna Dawson had an interesting note from Sandy Hayes two weeks ago, and suggested that she write directly to me which she did on February 16th. “Appreciate all your garden advice via 'I can Garden' and other places. Donna suggested I contact you - plus states you wrote a book on balcony gardening. One can only hope it contains more info than the one I unfortunately bought--Highrise Horticulture by, well it doesn't matter who it was by--the book has over 3/4 of its information on indoor plants. This is not what I wanted/needed--can't tell a book by its cover!
“Would you please tell me what to feed and when to feed and in general the proper care of smarg cedars in pots that are 20" in diameter and a little over 1' in height--think they are 'five gal.' size. These pots with cedars, approx. 4' tall, are a privacy screen between our neighbours. We are on the second floor--quite protected from the wind, facing south. We get the sun from late AM to about 3 or 4 PM. I purchased the shrubs last year and have faithfully watered--until water be-gins to come out the drainage holes. I do not keep them in saucers, so that they do not stand in water, they look healthy and I would like to keep them that way. Please provide me with the name of your book and any other suggestions you may have re looking after my cedars. Thank you Art.”
Well, I’ll certainly not spend much time telling you about my book Gardening Off The Ground, because it is virtually sold out. As I write this I see I have three copies left here plus a couple of damaged copies and I don’t believe any of the retail outlets have any number of copies either. The price is $32.05 (including packing, postage and GST) and I’ll be pleased to send you one if you e-mail me your snail mail address. I’ll include an invoice.
The feeding of all arborvitae (or eastern white cedars)--including ‘Smaragd’--is best accomplished using two products. The first is a soluble product such as Evergreen and Cedar Feeder (30-10-10) which should be applied about every three weeks from early May to the middle of August. The second is Blood Meal (13-1-0). Now, please note, not Blood & Bone Meal. I would apply the Blood Meal at least a couple of times--in early spring and early summer. Blood Meal may present a problem with its odour, especially on your balcony/deck. But I think you should at least try it. Those two products can work miracles for any and all cedars.
Mike Litzinger of Erie, Pennsylvania wrote on February 22nd: “On a program several weeks ago, you told about a very popular plant that adorned North American porches in the early 1900s, but lost favor in the 20s. I was in my car and reception was not especially good, but I thought you referred to the flower as a "Cast Iron Plant." I told the story to my mother, and while she had not heard of the variety, she was fascinated by the tale. I have tried on several occasions to buy one for her, but with no success. Does the plant have another name or did I not listen well? Are they currently avail-able? I would appreciate any help you might offer. Thanks for taking the time to read this.”
Here is what I said about the plant: “Perhaps the best known advertisement or promo for the Cast Iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) was the singers Gracie Fields and Vera Lynn belting out “The biggest Aspidistra in the World” around the time of World War One. Coincidentally, it was also about that time that the plant’s popularity began to decline from what it was in the early 19th century where it adorned virtually every Victorian household. The reason for its popularity way back then were its attributes of being particularly tolerant of low-light conditions, easy to care for in that it didn’t suffer even if watering was sparse, and insect and disease resistance. Those attributes from the 19th century are the same that now make the plant attractive once again to indoor plant enthusiasts. The problem is its availability is still not nearly as plentiful as say the ubiquitous Areca palms that come to us from Florida on a regular basis. Some indoor gardeners may consider that the Aspidistra’s slow growth is a disadvantage but that may well be pleasing to others as it does not need to be repotted or divided frequently. While it does flower occasionally, these appear at the soil level and can easily go un-noticed! They should not be over-watered, and if they are kept in very hot indoor environments they, like many indoor plants, will attract spider mites but these may be controlled through the use of a Doktor Doom insecticide and occasional cold showers in the bath tub.”
As I said in that script, availability is the problem, but it is not as bad now. For example, the major plant supplier Monrovia (from California and Oregon) do grow and sell it to garden centres all around the USA. On their Website ( http://www.monrovia.com/PlantInf.nsf/18d0f654c0a0c3f38825691b007c85ef/cebb804357c53fc48825684d00705713!OpenDocument ) they offer a click feature based on your Zip code to identify retailers who may have it. You should try that.