Forrest Gump famously said, “Life is like a box of chocolates.”
Well, so are seasonal flowering plants. Which ones are your favourites? This is our interpretation of the theme.
Chocolate vanilla cream. Everyone likes them, the taste lingers on the palette. Orchids are not hard to grow (one myth dispelled!). In fact, we find many people, who are good at ignoring their plants, grow orchids very well. The most common orchids are epiphytic and lipophilic-type cymbidium orchids, which means they grow in trees or on rocks in tropical climates. In their natural environment, they derive their nutrients from the trees and rocks on which they grow, as well as rain water. It is best to let the roots get dry between water applications and to soak the roots by leaving the pot in the kitchen sink over night when you do water.
They prefer indirect light and cool, but not cold, temperatures. 17 to 24oC is best. A cool, bright window works well. Fertilize once a month with an orchid fertilizer. Sweet finish!
Maraschino Cherry Bomb. An explosion of colour and a sugary coating that lingers, enrobed in chocolate, as a cyclamen enrobes its foliage in knock-out colour.
Cyclamen is Mark’s favourite for brilliant, long lasting colour. Easy to grow, cyclamen don’t demand much attention. Like orchids, they enjoy cool temperatures and indirect but bright light. Fertilize with 20-20-20 once a month. Available in pink, red, white and a variety of lipstick-bright colours. Can continue to bloom for up to four months.
Solid chocolate. Who doesn’t like chocolate? Straight, clean, original.
The #1 seasonal flowering plant this time of year. Originally from the desert of Mexico, this tells you that they like to be dry between watering applications. They do not like drafts from open doors and mostly they enjoy the brightest natural light you can offer. Note that the bright red “flowers” are not flowers at all, but coloured leaves. The flowers are smallish and yellow, appearing in the middle of a leaf cluster on the top of the plant. When you buy a poinsettia, look for one that is not in “flower” to ensure the longest possible bloom time. Solid.
Chewy caramel. Takes a while to get it down, but it is worth the effort. You may buy amaryllis as a bulb or a flowering plant depending on the time of year. Right now, both are available at most garden retailers. The bulbs are fun and very easy to grow. Plant the amaryllis bulb in a pot about 2 cm wider than the bulb, using quality, well drained potting mix. Place in a bright room near a sunny window. Warm temperatures hasten blooming. When it does bloom, usually about 6 to 8 weeks after you pot the bulb up, pull the plant back from bright light to prolong the blossom time.
Don’t lose patience if it takes its time to push up a stem and bloom. Sometimes they are just a bit lazy.
Remember to look for a quality bulb: the larger the bulb the greater the number of flowers and flower stems. Make sure that it is firm, like a good onion. A long, sweet journey.
Like chocolates, there are mass produced plants that you find at the grocery store and elsewhere and there are purveyors of fine plants, often grown locally by a small grower. The difference can be subtle, and you might pay a bit more for the locally grown varieties, but we doubt that you will regret the investment. Kind of like the chocolatier who really knows their stuff.
Chocolates and flowering plants have a few things in common: they make great gifts, everyone loves them, they don’t last forever (though plants last longer) and they are both an affordable indulgence that give you a lift.
Where do plants have it all over chocolates? No calories.
Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster, tree advocate and Member of the Order of Canada. His son Ben is a fourth-generation urban gardener and graduate of University of Guelph and Dalhousie University in Halifax. Follow them at markcullen.com, @markcullengardening, on Facebook and bi-weekly on Global TV’s National Morning Show.