Basically, this is a call to love a super cool plant.
Snake Plant, Mother-In-Law’s Tongue…… Really? Snakes are cool, Mother-in-laws are alright, so whats the deal with the negative rap on this plant? A name says a lot, but in this case, I think it short sells the awesomeness of this plant. The Sansevieria is a brutally under appreciated plant. We often hear things at Sprout Home from people about not wanting that “mall plant” or “the Doctor’s waiting room plant” in their home. Lets put the Sans outside of this box. What is so wrong about an indoor tropical plant that you only have to water once every 15-20 days? Or is it the fact that the plant does not need very much light to thrive? Yeah, these things sound so terrible don’t they? No.
These are in the Asparagaceae family. It’s rad name comes from being named after an old school Italian Prince of San Severo, the princes name was Raimondo di Sangro. Pretty cool eh? This plant has been a major useful plant for back in the day fiber and rope production in Africa, and it’s sap is also a useful antiseptic. Useful! In it’s natural world this plant is pollinated by moths, just like Matt Holiday. The flowers are not the most impressive flowers by any stretch. If your plant flowers, it’s happy, so that’s good. Once your plant flowers, it will not actually product new leaves, but don’t worry, it concentrates on producing more horizontal (under the dirt) rhizomes. This might look like new leaves, but really they are making whole new baby plants. If you have a very root bound plant, and you notice that its been flowering, you might want to think of planting it into something just a bit larger in diameter. This will provide enough room for the new little pups to develop.
The good air. Want more of this in your life? yeah, good air is good. Sansevieria are super air producers, and they also remove lots of toxins from the air. These are good things. The Sans Plant (yeah, I think we are going to start that hot new name for this plant, just keep the French Sans out of mind…) The Sans Plant releases oxygen at night, you should really have a couple large plants in your bedrooms, Oxygen treatment while you sleep. You can’t beat that.
So if you call yourself a plant killer? This plant is for you. No Bright light in your space? This plant is for you. Tired of your coworkers not taking good care of the plants at work? This plant is for you. I think you might be getting our drift. There are several variations of this plant; green and gold vertical stripes, light mint green, light green with dark green horizontal stripes, dark green with gold borders. You have to love the simple beauty of this strong sensual plant.
Go Sans it up.
Good People of Chicago…. Thank you! Time Out Chicago… Thank you! We were fortunate enough to have been selected as the Best Home Accessories Store in Time Out Chicago’s 2011 Shopping Awards. We are super happy to have the support of our city. Big ups to Post 27 for the Critics Pick! You can check out all of the winners here at Time Out Chicago.
It’s getting a bit chilly these nights, and this brings us to that time of year when we should think of our garden spaces one last time before the deep cold of winter kicks in. We are Zone 5 here in the Chicago area, so these tips are primarily for the upper portions of the country. No absolutes here, each outdoor space is different, and each plant has a particular do and don’t to it. This is just a basic cold region garden prep list kind of thing, in no particular order.
Pruning- A basic rule of fall pruning is to give your pruning shears the fall off. This is not the time of year to do a lot of pruning in terms of shaping your shrubs and trees. Pruning promotes growth. If it’s still kind of warm during the day, a freshly pruned plant will try to keep growing to replace the recently pruned areas. This time of year, the plant has been getting the hint from autumn, less light and less warmth. The plants really want to slowly go to sleep, a fresh pruning can be confusing for them. Having said that, it is a great time to remove damaged or dead growth, no need to wait until spring for that.
Think about the Spring!- This is a perfect time of year to plant spring and summer blooming bulbs, The ground is not too cold. Access your outdoor space and think about this past spring and summer. Was there an area that needed a bit more color? This is a potential spot for bulb placement. There are lots to choose from, small tight masses, tall eye catching large flowers. Think color, scents, visual texture, and how this can fit into your existing spot. You don’t have to stick to bulbs, if the space works for that special Perennial that you have been eying all summer at the garden center (for sale this time of year, 50% at Sprout Home….), you might want to drop it in.
Watering in the fall?- Yes! We know you are sporting that really nice sweater and breaking out the cute jackets and such, but some plants are still going to need that drink of water. Evergreens, Boxwoods, Rhododendrons, Holly Plants, and several other non deciduous plants are going to need to draw up enough moisture to hold their leaves or needles for the whole winter. Winter air is crazy dry, and a common mistake is to stop watering everything when you stop caring about those tired summer annuals. This is the primary reason we see so many dry looking evergreens in the middle of the winter. How long do you keep watering these plants? Pretty much right up to the close freezing ground time. If you have ever had dry looking Evergreens before, with more fall watering you will see a difference.
Vegetable Garden Prep- Have you harvested everything out of the garden? Congratulations on a healthy slow food way of bringing good herbs and food into your home. You are a smart cookie! Lets put some nice nutrients and and soil microbes to work during the next couple of months. You can do this by lightly tilling the soil, and then gently raking in some Hairy Vetch or Rye seeds. Do this about 4-5 weeks before freezing. This “winter crop” will be a nice help for the veggies next spring.
Cutting Back Perennials- Some perennials you are going to want to keep as is, plants with really cool seed heads not only look neat, but they will provide nice snack moments for birds during the winter. It’s always nice to look out for the original tweeters. You may also want to keep those nice tall ornamental grasses nice and long. These will stick out of the snow, and look very attractive. Same thing for red, yellow, and orange branched dogwoods. These also look stunning sticking out of winter snow. If you need to shape or cut back your dogwoods, just do it during late winter. Not sure what you can cut back and what you can’t cut back? Your eyes will not defy your brain, if the perennial is dying back, and looking bad with crazy wilted leaves and stems, these can be cut back. You want to create a nice clean growing area for the plant to crown out of in the spring. If you do leave the grasses high for the winter, be sure to cut them back during late winter/early spring. Grasses have a hard time sprouting out a cluttered mass of dead plant matter from the previous year. When cutting back a perennial you can take it down to about 4″ from the ground. If you have a nice established plant and would like to see more to this plant elsewhere in your space, divide it. This time of year is great for dividing a plant and putting the “other half” elsewhere in your garden. This thinning out of a plant is often a beneficial activity for some species.
What to do with those containers that are flanking your front door? The ones with the dying summer annuals in them. If you have nice containers that are visible during the winter, like in front of your home, bordering your deck, hanging horizontal planters on your fence line, or that cool planter outside your business. It’s easy to transform these planters into a hardy non growing cool winter looks that you can rock until spring. Then you can put the living life back into them. If they are ceramic planters, you want to empty them of dirt/potting mixes, and put them away for the winter. Ceramics can crack during the winter months because of the expansion and contraction of water molecules that are trapped in the soil. This is a very subtle strong pressure that can crack the thickest ceramics. Empty these, and place them in a protected area upside down. There should be no cracking if you take this step. Prep for any other type of planter is easy. Remove the root balls and plant matter from the planters, use a hand trowel to loosen up the soil. You might want to top the planter off with a little more soil or mulch, this is what you are going to stick things into. You can head to Sprout Home to buy all kinds of non growing plant matter to stick into the planters. Bright dogwood branches, curly willow branches, pine, fir, and ceder branches. There are even really fun dyed branches that can be used (Oranges, Bright Neon Greens, Reds…) We also have big love for bamboo poles and the classic white birch logs. You can even wrap lights and such into these once the holiday season comes around. These options are very sculptural and striking and well.. no watering or pruning. Once the warmth of spring is back, pull this stuff out, and plant up those annuals. You want to do this before the soil in the planters go into a super deep freeze. It can be a bit difficult to stick things into solid frozen soil. If you find that you waited to long, and your soil is frozen, just bring the planters indoors for a day or so, place a saucer under it because there will be drips from the thawing ice in the soil.
Mulching- Lets put that winter coat onto the our planting areas. Plants can always use a little help with winter. After you have cut back your perennials and are just about to be done paying any attention to your plants, we recommend this final step. Mulching! If you have some compost that is garden ready, you can evenly spread this around your plants first . This little extra kick of plant nutrients will come in handy in the spring when the plants wake up from the slumber of winter. Compost or not, heavily mulch around your plants, 4″-6″ deep. Mound the mulch right up to the plants, and even cover them slightly (about 2-3″ of mulch). We like to use a fine hardwood mulch because it holds moisture better in the hot months, and also because breaks down faster, which ends up feeding the soil. Ah, the circle of life. After you have laid the mulch, feel free to use all of the extra plant matter the fall provides. Leaves, pine needles, shredded bark, all of these will are useful thermal layers that also breakdown and feed. Just rake them into your planting beds. Gently rake away the leaves and loose matter in the spring and you will soon see the happy new growth popping out of the mulch.
Tools- Cleaning, Sharpening, and Oiling your tools in the fall is a way to be one step ahead in the spring. Tools like to be stored in a nice dry spot. Was there a particular tool that you needed this past season? Had the wrong kind of hand pruner? Could have really used that hand saw? Most garden shops will put tools on sale in the fall and winter. Good time to pick up what you needed. Did you break that crappy aluminum hand trowel? Of course you did. Buy quality tools, they last longer.
We enjoyed doing the flowers for this fabulous wedding on a Manhattan rooftop.
photos by Dove and Sparrow