Friday, May 25, 2012

Add Rainbows Of Colour To Windowsills

My husband and I love to take long walks in the evening after supper whenever the weather permits. During the spring, summer and early fall - seasons that are relatively short here - we try to squeeze in as many of these strolls as possible. And we really do make an honest effort to walk regularly because despite the fair weather of the warmer seasons, we have to take into consideration other factors that restrict us from walking: rainy weather, heat waves, other commitments, occasional health ailments (flu, common cold) and so on. Not to mention the fact that entire seasons can be lost to miserable weather some years. I have experienced spring seasons that have consisted mostly of rain, and early months of the fall that have consisted of downpours combined with bitter temperatures.

Furthermore, our winters take up a good chunk of the year. And when the colder months arrive, our opportunities to walk are - most often than not - limited by miserable weather, which is typically bitter and damp. Who the heck feels like strolling along at a leisurely pace in the chilling rain - or snow - or in temperatures that plummet to bone-chilling levels of -20°C (-4°F)? The motivation to head outdoors is understandably very poor on those gloomy days.

So we know that it’s important to make an effort on the ‘good days’. And when we do get a chance to walk, we take full advantage of it. We don’t just walk a few blocks; we walk quite a few blocks – at least 6 kilometers worth per session (about 3.7 miles). These leisurely strolls, on average, take about an hour and a half, which gives us ample opportunity to chitchat and spend quality time together. And that’s a terrific way to exercise our bodies and souls – and even our relationship. So there’s no doubt that I look forward to sharing these precious moments in the evenings with my ‘other’ half - for obvious reasons.

But there are also other things that I appreciate about these escapades. Our walks, which usually follow the same pattern, take us through the quiet streets of a large residential area made up of single homes. As we saunter along, I particularly enjoy checking out the individual, and sometimes very striking, landscapes surrounding each residence. Some of these designs are so well-constructed there should be photographs of them in gardening magazines. The balance between the hardscape (walls, pathways, pools, ponds, walks, trellises, patios, decks, arbors, gates, gazebos, edging of beds and so on) and the softscape/greenscape (trees, plants, ground cover and flowers) is clearly well thought-out - and a pleasure to look at. These home owners have created beautiful displays that the neighbours and passersby can enjoy. And derive ideas from.


But what about the apartment dwellers who don’t have an outdoor space to dirty their hands in? What about those folks that rent units in duplexes, triplexes and apartment buildings? What can they display to the casual observer – like me? Well, from what I’ve gathered from my numerous walks when we end up on the streets where multiunit homes exist, these are not lost souls. The ‘gardenless’ landscapers become the ‘windowsill’ landscapers. And the eye candy in some of those windows is quite stunning – especially where bay windows are involved. I have seen some remarkably pretty flower displays indoors, and I’d like to take this time to share the plants in question. Perhaps one of them will appeal to you.


Beautiful Windowsill Candidates

Don’t limit yourself to watching your neighbours cultivating exotic bloomers in their outdoor garden just because you live in an apartment. Join in on the fun by brining the garden indoors. Below are some outstanding flowering plants that will add a splash of colour to your home’s windowsills.


Hibiscus

What could be more magnificent than the brilliant blooms of this exotic specimen? With a variety of flower colours to choose from - including red, white, yellow, orange and pink – a Hibiscus plant is sure to satisfy every palette. Remarkably easy to grow, and one of the most reliable flowering houseplants, this tropical beauty requires only a few basic needs to be met to keep it thriving and blooming.

Provide this sun lover with as much light as possible but make sure you protect it from the direct rays of the sizzling midday sun during the summer season. All through the active growing season, keep the fast-draining soil moist (not soggy) at all times, especially while it’s blooming. Keep your Hibiscus away from drafts and place it in a room where the temperature is warm and humidity is high.

Sooner or later a Hibiscus will become straggly and long-limbed, producing fewer and smaller flowers, so at the beginning of the growing season – late February or early March – give your plant a haircut. Able to withstand heavy pruning, don’t be afraid to remove about 1/3 of the plant with very sharp shears. Cutting back your Hibiscus will stimulate new growth – more branches and more flowers.

With proper warmth and enough sunlight, your lovely plant will adorn your sunny windowsill for years to come. And although each papery flower will last for only a day or two, a Hibiscus is capable of producing dramatic blooms continuously from spring to autumn, with the greatest profusion in the summertime – just in time for passersby to catch a glimpse of it.


Impatiens

Don’t just settle for gazing at the Impatiens growing outdoors. These delicate-looking, profuse bloomers make excellent houseplants. They are just as popular indoors as they are outdoors – even if not everyone is aware of this – with an array of flower colours to choose from including pink, red, orange, white, coral, violet, purple and even yellow. You can’t go wrong with this flowering champion that provides continuous blooms from spring until fall, and even throughout the year under ideal conditions.

Place your Impatiens in bright, indirect light and protect them from the sizzling rays of midday sun. In the winter when light levels are poor, let them bask in the sun or provide additional lighting through artificial means. Grow them in soil that drains well and keep it evenly moist. Never allow the compost to get bone-dry, which can cause premature bud drop. Keep humidity levels above average by placing your plants on pebble trays filled with water; this will also help discourage spider mite attacks. To avoid lankiness and keep plants compact, pinch back the stems when needed. Take stem cuttings any time to create new plants.

With so many cultivars to choose from, it’s impossible to recommend one over another. Head over to your local nursery or garden center and pick up whatever catches your eye. This is an attractive, versatile group that will enhance any windowsill.


Orchids

If you are looking for something different, try an Orchid. Very few plants can compare to the beauty of this dazzling plant that is surprisingly easy to grow. Once upon a time these queens of flowering plants were collected by the wealthy; today they are available to everyone. There is an impressive selection to choose from in a variety of colours, sizes, habits and fragrances. Don’t be intimidated by their exotic good looks; if you can grow houseplants, you can grow Orchids.

This family of plants is very large and diverse therefore it comes as no surprise that requirements for these lovely plants differ considerably. Your best bet in succeeding with these pretty bloomers is to research, learn as much as possible about their habits and growing needs, and apply those lessons accordingly. There are a few general rules that apply: average room temperatures are ideal, hot and stuffy rooms are to be avoided, good quality light is essential, protection from midday sun is a must, compost must be kept moist but never soggy, a fast-draining soil is necessary and high humidity is important.

If you are new to growing Orchids, you should consider starting with varieties that are more suitable to the growing conditions of homes until you gain some experience with them. Certain species of Paphiopedilum or the extremely popular Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid) are good choices – both of which produce very long lasting, beautiful flowers. And it’s those flowers that will make heads turn and glimpse at your indoor garden talents.


Bromeliads

Relatively easy to grow, Bromeliads make excellent indoor plants. Their ability to adapt easily to interior growing conditions, combined with their wide variation in shape and size, their beautifully-coloured foliage and colourful, long-lasting blooms makes them a unique and spectacular collection of plants. Attractive and colourful, Bromeliads have leaves that may be green, gray, maroon, striped, variegated, spotted, marbled, leathery, wiry, broad, grass-like, miniature (Tillandsias) and even several feet long.

Place your plants in southern, eastern or western exposures; protect them from hot afternoon sun. Proper drainage is essential so pot up your plants in a very porous medium that allows for sufficient air circulation and prevents water logging. Water the compost only when it dries out considerably and then water thoroughly. Keep tanks filled with water at all times, flush them periodically (every 1 – 2 months) to remove salt buildup and prevent stagnation, and refill them with fresh water.

Average room temperatures between 15°C (60°F) and 24°C (75°F) are satisfactory but plants may require temperatures of 24°C (75°F) and above to bloom. Provide healthy levels of humidity by adding a humidifier near your plants or by placing them on pebble trays. After your plants have bloomed they will – over a period of a year or two - fade away. But way before their departure, they produce offsets (pups) that can be separated and potted up to form new plants. And the mother plants stick around long enough for those babies to grow to a substantial size, able to survive on their own.

If you’re looking to add stylish plants with bold flowers to a bright windowsill, Bromeliads may be all you need.


African Violets

These cuties – one of the most popular houseplants - bloom readily year-round. With their velvety leaves and many shades of flowers, including two-toned varieties, these compact plants – that are easily propagated from leaf cuttings – are charming additions to every room in your home. Quality daylight is one of the primary ingredients for successful flowering so let there be light – but not direct sun from southern areas! Choose an east or north windowsill to show them off on. A little morning sun from an eastern location won’t hurt one bit, and your plant will love you for it.

Over-watering is the fastest way to kill an African violet so be prudent with the watering can. Always keep the soil evenly moist but not soggy. Place your African Violets on trays filled with pebbles and water to increase humidity, and keep them in rooms where the temperature is average; if you’re warm and comfortable, they are too.

Attractive, versatile, several flower colours to choose from and perfect for beginners – how can you not adore these renowned beauties? There are African violets growing happily in cozy windowsills around the globe. Why not on one of yours?


Begonia Semperflorens (Wax Begonia)

Wax Begonias, typically used as outdoor bedding plants, make excellent indoor specimens. With waxy green or reddish leaves, these potted beauties boast delicate flowers that come in shades of white, pink or red. Versatile and amazingly easy to grow, Begonias are valued for their profuse and continuous blooming habits. If properly cared for, they will shower you with flowers throughout the year.
Begonias will tolerate medium light but prefer higher levels for optimal growth and vigorous flower production. Place them on an eastern windowsill where they can enjoy the morning sun or behind a sheer curtain in southern locations. Humidity, which is not critical, can be kept at average levels. Warm temperatures during the day followed by cooler nights will keep your plant happy and encourage blooming. Use a fast-draining, porous soil and allow it to dry between thorough watering.

If you are searching for trouble-free plants with attractive foliage and beautiful flowers, there’s no need to look further than Wax Begonias. For an even greater visual impact, pot together several of these small-sized plants in a decorative container.


The flowering plants above are just a handful of choices available to you. Each one is attractive in its own special way, adding d├ęcor, style and oodles of colour to your home. Brightly lit windows are an excellent spot for most flowering plants and the perfect means to bring the garden indoors.

2 comments:

  1. I'm guessing that's actually a pic of you love birds :) My daughter has a balcony that she did up for the first time this spring with a bistro set, window box, pots etc. Very sweet - in the words of Ikea: Any space can be beautiful.

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    1. Yup, it is a photo of us, but a few years ago. I'm no longer in blonde mode. For awhile I was a brunette and now I've started getting in the reds.

      Your daughter's setup sounds really great. You should take photos of it and share it with us. I've love to see it!

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