One of the easiest and most helpful houseplants to grow: aloe vera. It is also known as Barbados aloe because it is widely grown on that island, even thought it is believed to be native to the Mediterranean and South Africa. In warm climates, the plants grow outdoors and reach immense sizes.
The plant’s fleshy, somewhat spiny leaves contain rows of enlarged cells that are filled with a translucent yellow mucus. As early as the first century A.D., the Greek physician Dioscorides wrote of the benefit of using this substance as a healing herb for burns. The practice, which continues to this day, entails snapping off one of the spiky-looking leaves, slicing it down the middle with a fingernail, and spreading its gelatinous interior over the burned skin. [Personal story: I severely burned my lips last summer while using lip balm without SPF protection. Knowing of aloe’s properties, I used the gel on my lips. NEVER, EVER do that — it’s absolutely the worst tasting thing I’ve ever had the displeasure to encounter and it took forever to get it out of my tastebuds. I don’t even know if the healing properties worked because I was too busy trying to rid myself of the awful taste!]
This sculptural-looking, easily grown plant prefers full sun but also tolerates as much as a half day of shade. Since the plant is a succulent, designed to withstand dry conditions, watering should be on the spare side, particularly through the winter, and well-drained soil is essential. Small aloe plants are frequently available at garden shops as well as dime stores, florists, and some supermarkets.
A few years ago The Wisconsin Gardener on PBS featured the work of Jan Wos, the gifted horticulturist and then owner of Mayflower Greenhouse in Green Bay. As I watched the program I was awestruck by his knowledge of plants as well as the creative way he used the unconventional as planters like suitcases, old dressers, and an assortment of repurposed items as containers. On this particular segment I especially admired his use of picture frames as planters. Time for a visit to Mayflower! Though Jan has since passed away, you can still see his ideas and influence there today. I think gardeners delight in finding the unusual and innovative idea that will add to the beauty of his or her garden. It was picture frames for me! It was also a creative answer to bringing together my yard sale shopping and gardening interests! While at the greenhouse, my hubby studied the construction of the planter box and took some snapshots and we were out to do it ourselves. Since that time I have become the greatest admirer of hen and chicks for their versatility and easy care in picture frame plantings. Different groundcovers like ajuga are also favorites as well as moss roses which add lovely blossoms and color. Adding a touch of former home wall décor like a gold metal leaf, butterfly, or flower adds a touch of whimsy too. Every gardener can bring his or her own special touch to this artwork for a picture perfect garden spot! Plant Happy!
I was so inspired by the Miniature Garden presentation at the Garden Conference last weekend I ran home and got to work!
I had two old fish bowls collecting dust in the garage that were just perfect. I went to a local greenhouse and picked up a few succulents, a small cactus and some air plants. I also needed Cactus Mix soil, some sheet moss (both were recommended at the conference) and used rocks and beach glass I’ve been collecting for years.
As I had learned at the conference layering rocks and the sheet moss under the soil helps with drainage and keeps the plants from being too wet. Cacti and succulents can manage without too much water so you don’t want them swimming! Air plants also just need a spritz or rinse once a week so they seem like good companions for my little cactus.
Here are my creations! I’ll keep you up to date on their status and if I’m able to keep them alive. I’ve already learned that cats really like to pull little air plants out of the soil!
Inspired by the conference and my recent trip to Arizona!