Day 4, Spring Garden Show 2016: Succulents, Rain Gardens and Bio-Swales

Sunday, May 01, 2016

At 2:30pm, I went to the West Elm home store to check out a seminar about succulents, which provides tips on successfully growing succulents in southern California.

Succulents collect and store water in their leaves, just like cacti. They need two hours per day of sunshine because they need the sun for growth and health. But at coastal locations, it is important that succulents are planted in shaded areas as well as they thrive in sand and rainwater.

The demonstrator displayed two repotting demos. The first one involved placing the plant in a big container, and then arranging other succulents of different colors and sizes in order to create a staged art sculpture with native plants. Then, add some soil, before topping it off with rocks for aesthetic purposes. Then, add some decorative-themed toys to create mini outdoor nature scene.

The second demonstration involves using a glass container. First, add rocks for texture, before placing the succulents inside the container. Then, add more rocks. This project requires watering via ice cubes because there is no drainage in this glass container.  The container should be placed near a window.

It is important to cut out the succulent flowers, or the plant will soon die.

One way to tell when the plant is dry and needs watering is to lightly tug on the plant to pull it out of its pot. If the plant pulls out easily, then it is an indication that this plant needs to be watered.

Day 4, Spring Garden Show 2016: Rain Gardens and Bio-Swales

The last seminar that I attended on the last day of this year’s Spring Garden Show was at the Williams Sonoma home store. They explained the importance of Rain Gardens and Bio-Swales, in which I learned something new at this seminar. A variety of plants can be used in rain gardens and bio-swales, which include begonias, carnivorous plants, roses, and succulents. Rain gardens are mostly used at residential areas, for people’s yards, while bio-swales are used at commercial businesses, such as industrial landscapes, freeways, highways, and parking lots. But these landscape features are used mainly to rid lawns and prevent storm water runoffs. Such landscapes methods also help the environment, wildlife, and nature. The invasive plants tend to force out the native plants.

The first step involves picking the right location, which needs to be a downhill slope or driveway that needs a drainage area for excessive water.

The second step involves amending the soil, which has to do with using stones, barks, and organic matter.

The third step involves figuring out the size and layout, before start to do the digging and creating the berm.

Then, the fourth step has to do with channeling water by stabilizing the entry with stones. Sometimes, an overflow pipe is used.

It is recommended to use native plants for butterfly and bird habitat. Place plants in some artistic layout and composition. Then, water your rain garden.

Rain gardens shouldn’t have any mosquito issues. These two methods help preserve soil and help build soil, which looks like mini ditches that help water drain, but this ditch has decorative native plants, wood or logs, and/or stones in the ditch for aesthetic purposes.


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Day 4, Spring Garden Show 2016: African Violets

Sunday, May 01, 2016

At 11am, I went to the Z Gallerie home store to check out a seminar on growing African Violets in Southern California. Leonard Re is with many African Violet groups, such as Tustana African Violet Society, and shared some information about successfully growing African Violets in Southern California.

African Violets is considered to be an indoor plant, but it needs light, and it is best to place the plant by north and east windows inside your house as well as at an area which has diffused light. You can also use those old fluorescent tube lights, and the bulb should be eight inches above the plant. But don’t put the plant in direct sunlight. It is originally from Tanzania, Africa.

Watering an African Violet involves using the wick watering system, which involves a strand of nylon yarn, size 8. An old panty hose also works, but it should be cut to ¼ of an inch. Don’t put an African Violent plant in direct sunlight because it will get sunburned. Once a week, pour ½ of an inch of water from the bottom plate, under the pot. If the plant is in a ceramic pot, then let it dry for a couple of days before re-watering. You are likely to overwater when using a ceramic pot, in which will prevent the plant from blooming. Southern California water is hard-water, which has chlorine, fluoride, and other substances. So, it is recommended to use distilled water. Don’t use softened water.

Fertilizer should have the Nitrogen, Potassium, and Phosphorus ratio of 10 X 10 X 10, 15 X 15 X 15, or 20 X 20 X 10, but you should use only ¼ teaspoon of the instructed amount on the package. The amount in the instructions is way too high for an African Violet. It is important to use a low amount of fertilizer at all times. Moreover, Southern California humidity is around 40% to 50%, but it often varies because southern California weather is very unpredictable, and it changes every day.

When choosing the soil, it is important to use a light mixture. The store-bought soil ingredients tend to be too heavy for an African Violet. So, mix the soil with half ratio of perlite to half ratio of soil. Also, add equal parts ration of vermiculite, plant charcoal from Home Depot, and Canadian Peet Moss. (He adds that the American Peet Moss is lousy).

Since African Violet flowers attract pests, it is necessary to use some insecticide to rid these pests. But be sure to buy the smallest quantity as well as use the smallest amount. Then, dispose the rest by spraying roses in your garden, since roses attract a lot of pests. Ticks and Mealybugs are the most common pests in Southern California. Mildew might occur when there isn’t enough space for the plant to grow when the weather changes a lot.

There are four kinds of African Violet, which includes the standard version, miniature version, semi-miniature version, and trailers.

Repotting should be done at least twice a year, but he repots every three months. Transfer the plant into a bigger pot with fresh soil. Then, start picking out the blossoms from the plant. A 4 to 4 ½ inch pot is required for a standard-size plant. Then, pull out the outer leave because these leaves are the oldest. Then, pull out the second oldest rows of leaves. Then, pull the plant out from the pot. Then, loosen the soil around the roots in order to loosen the roots.

You can buy nylon yarn at Joannes and Michaels art stores, and place a strand at the bottom of the plastic pot, which looks like a little tail. Place the plant into the new pot. The crown of the plant should be level with the pot. If it isn’t, then take out more soil from the bottom in order to make it level. Fill the pot with fresh soil, from the sides. The plant will absorb water from the yarn wick in the bottom and the bottom bowl that is filled with water.

To start a new plant, use ½ ratio of perlite and ½ ratio of vermiculite. Place plant into the pot with the yarn hanging down. Add soil around the plant, before adding the mixture on top. Then, all you need to do is just water your plant. While he was repotting the first African Violet demo, he gave out leaves that he didn’t need from the plant. Since they were still good leaves, people could reuse them to grow new plant. So, I decided to try it out, hoping to actually grow a new plant from the leaf.

Start out with your leaf, and cut off the stem to one inch. Use 50-50 ratio of perlite and vermiculite with little water. Put leaf in this mixture and cover with plastic bag. Check it every one to two weeks. It should grow into a new plant by three months. (It is late now, so I think I will try it out on Monday, after I return from yoga workout).


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