Monday, October 21, 2013

Greenbo Fiorina Pillow Planter & Fabric Case: A Review

It seems like I've received more products for review this summer than usual and I've enjoyed putting them to the test, using them in my everyday garden experiences.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing them with you, in case they're something you may want to use or perhaps even purchase as a gift for a gardener.  The holidays will be here before you know it!

When Jenny and I were writing Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook For Houseplants, we made use of cache pots quite a bit.  A cache pot is something that you place your plant in, but you don't plant it directly in the cache pot.  It's a holder for a plant that's already potted.  This is especially nice when you don't want to disturb the potted plant and it also allows you to use unconventional items as containers.  You can easily swap out one plant for another, too.

Cache pots don't have holes for drainage, so by placing the planted pot (with drainage holes) in the cache pot, you don't have to worry about it leaking.  When it comes time to water the plants, I remove the planted pot, take it to the sink, water it, let it drain, then just put it back into the cache pot.

Greenbo makes a pillow planter that can be used as a cache pot.  There is a rigid plastic liner pot set into the pillow, which itself is pretty sturdy and made of an easy-to-clean fabric.  The circular cut-out for the liner pot is edged in a satiny fabric, giving it a nicely finished appearance, although depending on the plant you put in it, it may not even show.  The fabric is suitable for use outdoors as well, so you could use it as a tabletop centerpiece or as an accent on a bench.

I recently potted up my begonias that I'd had in the garden this summer, since frost is predicted for tonight and they'll do well as houseplants.  One, I placed in the Greenbo Fiorina pillow planter and laid it on my living room sofa.  The pink blooms go nicely with the pink shades in the sofa and artwork on the wall.  I love how it's just so unexpected to see a plant on the sofa!

The other Fiorina planter is a fabric bag, made of the same fabric as the pillow planter.  In this instance, the liner is a thick plastic bag.  I had the perfect plant to put in it and because the planter is waterproof, it prevents those accidental water rings that I've carelessly caused on some of our wood furniture.  I like the different, casual appearance of this.

What I think:  I really liked both of these products, even more than I thought I would.  They're super simple to clean and couldn't be easier to use.  They help satisfy my need to use uncommon ways to display my plants.

Both Fiorina pieces come in several different colors.  Greenbo products are available at Lowe's, Home Depot,, and other outlets listed here.

I was contacted by Greenbo to see if I would like to try their products and I happily agreed.  All opinions stated here are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate, so blog posts may contain affiliate links.  I appreciate it when you shop through those links.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Propagating This Plant Couldn't Be Easier

Though I've grown houseplants for nearly 40 years, there's always something new to learn, which is one of the big appeals that gardening in general holds for me.  I seem to have a thirst for knowledge and whether learning something by seeking it out or discovering something by accident, it keeps life from ever becoming boring.

I learned something about one of my newer houseplants this summer via accident that at first alarmed me, and then as logic took hold, it made me smile.

Tropical plants, for the most part, make great houseplants, especially for those of us that live in non-tropical climates.  Though we think of them as needing full sun to grow well, the tropics have shady areas too, so the plants which like shadier tropical spots do particularly well inside.

Cryptanthus bivittatus

Earlier this year, I acquired a Cryptanthus, more commonly known as Earth star or starfish plant.  It's a low care plant that would go in the "Easy Breezy" chart of the plant guide that Jenny and I put together for our book, Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook For Houseplants.

For the most part, I ignore it.  It's a bromeliad (so is a pineapple!) and it likes evenly moist soil, prefers some humidity, and needs bright light.  I grow this in a south window, but it doesn't get much direct sun during summer because a tree shades the window for most of the day. In the winter, when the leaves are off the tree, it does get direct sunlight, but the light is weaker because of the position of the sun. We don't have that many bright sunny days during winter anyway.

About two months ago, I noticed that it was producing offsets (often called "pups") at the top of the plant.  It had bloomed just before this and the flowers were small and non-descript.  I don't even remember what color they were.  White, maybe?

The new offsets were reddish and looked really pretty set against the green mother plant.  I just happened to bump one of them and OOPS!  It fell off. 

This offset is a new plant.

At first I was horrified, thinking I had broken it.  But it was then that I realized they're made to do this.  So, I simply got a small pot of soil and set the pup on top of it.  I made sure the soil was damp and in time, the new pup will form roots and in a couple of years, it will bloom like its mother did. A few days later, another one fell off and I added it to the new pot.

I'll pretty much ignore these, too.  Except when I'm admiring them.

The glass cloche was provided by Longfield Gardens.  Link to my book is an Amazon affiliate link.  If you click through to Amazon via that link, and make any purchases there, I receive a small percentage of the total price.  Your privacy is assured, however.  Amazon never reveals to its associates who makes purchases through links.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Those Insidious Flower Bugs

I love this time of year.  The sun is deliciously warm without making me sweat and the nights are the perfect kind of cool for sleeping with the windows open.  The fall aromas range from that organic woodsy smell to the crisp freshness of cooler air.

Here in farm country, the second we walk out the door, we can also smell the dry corn as it's being harvested. The sharper angle of the sun bathes everything in its regal golden light.  The leaves are changing colors and they're illuminated by that sun against a deep aqua sky.  We're still hearing the cicadas in the late afternoon and the birds are twittering as they flock in large numbers in the trees.

Squash soup, pumpkin pie, and apple dumplings are common fare. Thanksgiving is a short month away and frost is imminent.  Spider webs float in the air and the gardens are producing the last of their summer fruits.  What a wonderful season autumn is!

Except for those insidious flower bugs.

These days, all it takes is a few short minutes of being outside and you want to go back in again.  You feel a pinch and when you look to see what the cause is, you can't hardly believe that this itty bitty (and I do mean itty bitty) black bug is capable of delivering such a relatively big bite.  Commonly known as the insidious flower bug, the Orius insidiosus can be a really annoying pest.

Insidious Flower Bug (Orius insidiosus)
To the naked eye, they appear to be largely black, but a closer look shows
that they've got beige and silvery colors on their wings.

While it's tempting to want to take drastic measures to stop them dead in their tracks, they're actually a beneficial insect.  They dine on midges, spider mites, and the eggs of many plant pests, including aphids, corn borer, and white fly.  And though the bite is disproportionately painful to humans, and some people are hypersensitive to their bites (raises hand!), experiencing localized swelling and irritation, the insects aren't known to be carriers of any harmful diseases.

Frost will kill them but until then, insect repellents may be effective in keeping them off humans. Keeping skin covered will help avoid bites as well, but they're so small - 2 to 3mm in length - that they can enter homes through the holes in window screens, so even staying inside isn't a sure way to avoid them.

They're just so...insidious.

* Photo of Insidious Flower Bug courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Summer Insect Notes

This has been a strange one.  This past summer, I mean.  Oh, the weather is strange all the time, it seems; I don't even know what normal is anymore.  But this summer was unusual in another way that may or may not have had anything to do with weather.

One of the biggest news items in the world of entomology was the lack of monarch butterflies.  I only saw six or seven all summer and I saw fewer monarch caterpillars than that. We sort of knew that one was coming.  Last year's drought decimated the milkweed population in the southern US, where monarchs first stop for nourishment and breeding on their journey north.

An adult monarch nectars on many flowers such as this native coneflower,
but the juvenile monarch caterpillars require milkweed for food.

Mowing and the use of herbicides to kill milkweed isn't helping matters either. Their habitat disappears more every year and if they can't feed their babies, well, there won't be babies. So plant more milkweed.  Please.  It's the only thing they eat. There are several very attractive kinds of milkweed varieties available, so don't think you need to plant only the one we've all been conditioned to think of as a weed.  Every little bit helps.

And here's something else:  I didn't see one single buckeye butterfly the entire summer.  Usually, the August garden is full of them, and I look forward to seeing them, but they were nowhere to be found.  At least not in my garden anyway.

I just love those attention-getting eye spots on the buckeye butterfly!
Like I said, they're usually plentiful around here, in August mostly, as they migrate southward.  I don't remember any previous years being completely devoid of the buckeyes, but they were nowhere to be found.  Boo.

Now here's another strange thing - we didn't have a single hornworm on the tomato plants this year.  Not ONE.  That never happens.  Proof again that you should never say never.  I can't really say that I wanted the things, but I did miss them.  If chickens had good long-term memories, they would have missed them too.  Those were snacks worth fighting over.

The Japanese beetle season is over and the annual population here continues to decline.  Each year, I keep track of the number of beetles I hand pick from (mainly) the 'Morning Magic' climbing rose at the back of the property.  And each year, there are fewer of them.

This summer they were especially scant, so much so that I stopped keeping track, because frankly, I got bored with it.  Counting them was a lot more fun when they were plentiful.  I felt like I was accomplishing something.  This year, I think I could have just let them go.  But there's another yummy chicken snack.

We had oodles of hummingbird moths (sphinx and hawk moths).

White-lined sphinx moth

Clearwing hummingbird moth

And praying mantises.  Not a single day went by that I didn't see at least one.  Many days I ran into two or three.  I'm still seeing them. We've always had a lot of them here. 

As far as the other summer butterflies go, we noticed an increase in mourning cloaks, especially over by the blackberries.  The cabbage white butterflies were ever present, as usual.  The garden could do without quite so many of those, especially when we grow lots of cruciferous veggies.  They like to raise their young on those plants and sometimes it's as if we're in a contest with them to see who can eat what first.

We've seen an abundance of Eastern commas, too.  Or are they question marks?  It can be hard to tell the difference, I think.

Eastern comma (I think)

There were a lot of Eastern black swallowtails and a fair amount of zebra swallowtails, as well.

Eastern black swallowtail (female)

How were the butterflies and other insects in your garden this summer?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Garden Play

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 Garden Play

The Playmobil set was a free gift from Lechuza for visiting their booth at the IGC Show in Chicago.

Monday, October 7, 2013

RoboReel® Water Hose System: A Review

She needs eyelashes.
I'll be honest, when I first saw the information about Great Stuff, Inc.'s RoboReel® Water Hose System, I was immediately taken with all that it could do, but in the next instant, I was also very skeptical.  Some of its features defied reality, in my opinion.  It looked like it belonged in a Jetsonian world and really, it couldn't possibly do all that, could it?

I received a RoboReel® Water Hose System about a month ago to use and review.  Both my husband and I were pretty excited to put it to the test and we fully expected to run into a glitch or two as we put it through its paces.  We wanted it to work seamlessly, but we had our doubts.

Are you getting the idea that we just didn't believe its claims? Well, guess what?  It works, and it works very, very well.  More than once we stood there, astounded at just how well.  Because it does exactly what it claims to do, rather than telling you myself, I'll let you watch their promo video, explaining it all:

If I can dispute anything at all, it's that they say their hose doesn't kink.  It does.  We had it kink a couple of times on us, but it kinks less than some other hoses we've used and we didn't find it to be a major problem when using the hose.

Specifically, we liked:

  • How well the automatic winding reel worked when we were finished with the hose. Flawlessly, even.

  • All the various nozzles (five of them, including a multi-function spray nozzle with six spray patterns and a firemen's nozzle!) are stored inside the unit. There is an optional sprinkler attachment available, but it isn't stored in the unit.

  • The use of quick-connect attachments, doing away with screwing and unscrewing nozzles, making them super easy to change.

  • The automatic shut-off after an hour of unattended use. No more forgetting to turn the water off when watering trees or topping off the pool!  It rewinds itself when it shuts off, too!

  • Everything is controlled via remote right at your fingertips, including the timer.

  • It holds 150 feet of hose.  That's a LOT of hose.

There wasn't anything we really didn't like about the unit itself, but I'll have to say if we hadn't received this free of charge from the company, we would balk at the price.  It sells for $699 and that's not a small piece of change.  But technology and quality like this comes at a premium, we know.

Is it worth $699?  That's for you to decide, but the RoboReel® Water Hose System is convenient, effortless, time saving, innovative, high quality, and just plain amazing. We liked it.  We really, really liked it.


Where to purchase:

Great Stuff, Inc. (the manufacturer)
Frontgate (100-ft. version)

We received the RoboReel® Water Hose System free of charge for the purposes of testing and reviewing it.  All opinions stated here are honest and original to us and we received no other compensation other than the product itself.  No suggestions were made to us as to what to say in our review.  None of the links in this blog post are affiliate links and we do not receive any kind of compensation should you choose to purchase the RoboReel® Water Hose System through any of these links.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: For Katie

For Katie...

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