The Mighty Pumpkin

Nothing says October and Halloween more than the mighty pumpkin. Basically a squash from the Cucurbita family, its cousins are all types and shapes of squash as well as the cucumber.

pumpkin standPumpkins are prolific here in October—you’d think they had their roots in American Indian culture, but six of the seven continents grow pumpkins. Antarctica can’t grown them, but Alaska can!

Morton, Illinois is the self-proclaimed “pumpkin capital”—no doubt because Libby, a division of Carnation Company, grows their pie pumpkins on 4,000 acres in five counties in Illinois. They are grown by private farmers, then Libby sends in their own crews and equipment at harvest time during which they process 500,000 pumpkins a day from October to January. Conservatively, that’s over 42 million pumpkins!

Carving pumpkins is actually an Irish tradition! The great Irish immigration of the 1840s brought over 500,000 potato farmers to America after their crops were wiped out from a devastating fungus. With the Irish came their tradition of carving scary faces onto turnips or potatoes and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away “Stingy Jack”, a wandering evil spirit.

The Legend of Stingy Jack

Jack invited the devil to have a drink with him, but didn’t want to pay for his drink. He convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy the drink. But Stingy Jack put the coin in his pocket, preventing the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack and Devil then cut a deal: if Jack freed the Devil, the Devil wouldn’t bother Jack for a year, and should Jack die, he wouldn’t claim his soul. The next year, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While the Devil was high in the tree, Jack carved a cross into the tree’s bark to prevent the Devil from climbing down without first promising Jack that he wouldn’t bother him for ten more years. Not long afterwards, Jack died. God wouldn’t allow him to go to heaven, and the Devil had agreed not to send him to Hell. So Jack wandered into the night, lighting his way with a coal placed in a carved-out turnip — and has been roaming the world ever since.

In America, the Irish found pumpkins more plentiful and easier to carve than turnips, so their Jack-of-the-Lantern (or Jack O’Lanterns) simply became pumpkins.

Pumpkins are 90% water, fairly easy to grow, and are rich in potassium and Vitamin A. Their flowers are edible. It is believed that pumpkins originated in Mexico and Central America and explorers brought them back to their native country.

During the autumn season, the pumpkin is creatively used in interior landscaping, as well as on porches and gardens everywhere.

Living Walls of the World

When it comes to using plants on the vertical spaces of buildings to help clean the air, Taipei leads the way. One of the first green wall concepts in Asia was built by companies that specialized in sustainable waste disposal and green energy and their vertical garden helped to camouflage a landfill site. Since then, the architecture has soared! The smog-eating Tao Zhu Tower, a twisting double helix of 40 luxury condos is the latest. Its 23,000 trees and shrubs will absorb 130 tons of carbon dioxide per year.Tao Zhu Tower

Bogota has embraced the green wall concept throughout their airport, restaurants, hotels and offices. It’s said that the 8-story Santalaia in Bogota could be the second largest green wall project in the world. read more »Santalaia

Designed by a French botanist, Patrick Blanc, the Musée du Quai Branly is a must-see museum for American tourists who visit the nearby Eiffel Tower. The living wall is 650 ft. by 40 ft. and covers the entire north side of the facade. learn more »Branly Museum

In Italy, the residents living in 63 unique living spaces in the Treehouse Apartments in Turin are protected from smog and noise pollution with multiple terraces containing over 150 trees. There are 50 more trees in the court garden to help create the “perfect microclimate” inside the building. read more »HT italy urban treehouse

The living wall at the University Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City is one of our favorites. Beautifully designed free-form art pairs with a touch of whimsy—a bicycle defying gravity. learn more »Mexico City

Whether referred to as green walls or living walls, the plants and flowers that thrive in the wall systems provide benefits beyond the aesthetics:

  • Overall wellbeing and happiness
  • Natural air filtration in their walls
  • Removal of harmful volatile organic compounds
  • Air and noise pollution filters
  • Thermal regulation

Studies indicate that hospitals with living walls have faster patient recovery rates, office spaces have fewer employee complaints and fewer sick days, and homes are more peaceful and wall hospital

Living wall by Pat For ideas for your home or office, or to view more spectacular walls around the world, visit Pinterest, search term: living walls

Finally, here’s the living wall we have in our reception area at Plantique. Come visit!

The Spectacular Bromeliad

Bromeliads are similar to a beautiful woman—stunning in a red dress, perfectly formed, graceful to behold… then gone. The bromeliad is stunning while in bloom, but with the exception of few types, bloom once and then it’s over.

Bromeliads in the wild are hardy and adaptable to a variety of climates from rainforests to deserts. Pineapples are bromeliads as are Spanish moss and air plants. To successfully cultivate, grow and bloom these stunning plants year after year requires a certain human-plant relationship and knowledge about the species. However, enjoying bromeliads is easy with a Plantique plant rental program because replacement after the bloom is guaranteed.

Here are a few of our favorites:

scarlet Star

Scarlet Star (Guzmania lingulata) is one of the most popular. The Scarlet Star’s forest green foliage, bright red bracts and small white flowers is a spectacular centerpiece in any space. It’s the only plant that when its “urn” (the natural cavity in the middle of the plant) is filled with water all the time it will not rot.

blushing Bromeliad

Blushing Bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae) show off a vivid pinkish red “blush” at its center point in season while shiny green foliage keep the interest going all year with white stripes along the edges of each leaf. Some varieties show off lavender, violet and white flowers, but once they bloom, re-flowering is unlikely.

pink QuillPink Quill Bromeliads (Tillandsia cyanea) are show stoppers with their spiky green leaves and stemless “rosettes” that are actually curvy, paddle-shaped spikes or bracts. Small purple flowers pair with pink bracts to produce an exotic, tropical look. The Pink Quill blooms disappear after about 3 months, making this plant a sensible choice for Plantique’s rental program.

Aechmea fasciataPrimera Bromeliads (Aechmea Fasciata) have wide, greenish silver variegated leaves with back curling spines and long-lasting flowering bracts in all hues of pink with smaller purple flowers following. They are easy to grow and fun to propagate. The little “plantlets” produced by the Primera can be cut off and replanted in small pots singularly or in clusters.

The bromeliad family is wide and varied. From needle-thin to broad and flat leaves, symmetrical to irregular, spiky to soft, vivid to subtle, the choices are plentiful. Interested in adding bromeliads to your plantscape? Call us to arrange an onsite visit to assess your humidity, light and soil conditions. If you have questions about bromeliads, please call us at (561) 641-0124.

What Plants Teach Us

sproutDistinctive to humans, we face each day with an abundance of choices. We choose when we wake up, what we wear, when we leave the house, what we eat, what we say, even the mood we’re in. It’s all a matter a choice. Plants exist and survive instinctively. From their choice-less instincts, we can learn a few life lessons:

Plants set no limits for size. They eat what is available and grow as much as they can.
Humans choose either to overeat and become fat or diet and become skinny. We worry about our food intake and eat to regulate our weight. Books on dieting are best sellers.

Plants love struggle—it makes them stronger. A tree directly exposed to the wind and weather grows thicker roots and trunks to make them stronger and more stable than other trees growing in sheltered areas.
Humans avoid life struggles. Some take pills or drink to forget them. We avoid them whenever possible, and if unavoidable, complain.

Plants don’t needlessly suck all the resources out of the soil in which they are planted. They take what they need to grow, thrive and reproduce.
Humans are never satisfied. We farm, fish, mine, drink, and consume to depletion.

Plants track the sun with their flowers and/or leaves to make themselves a better, healthier plant.
Humans are fearful of the sun. We wear wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts to avoid a sunburn, and slather our children with lotion at the beach.

Plants change their routine to adapt. They shut down in winter, put out new growth in the spring, store food in summer, and shed leaves to conserve resources in the fall.
Humans keep the same life routine season-to-season. To adapt to changing temperatures, we just change clothes.

Plants purify the air as they breathe and some even neutralize pollutants through absorption.
Humans pollute the air with fuel exhaust and chemicals and become sick from breathing the air.

Plants in shady spots climb whatever they can find to absorb the sun’s energy. They grow their roots toward water to store it in their leaves.
Humans tend to let events or feelings prevent us from moving forward in life.

Plants focus on what they need to do to fulfill their own potential.
Humans compare themselves with others instead of focusing on our own potential.

Everything—even mountains, rivers, plants and trees—should be your teacher. —Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido, the “Great Teacher”

Aglaonemas (Chinese Evergreen)

Aglaonemas Chinese Evergreen

Aglaonemas : Chinese Evergreen

The traditional Chinese evergreen is a tough house plant that used to come in one color—green. In Asia, they were grown to bring luck to their owners. Over the years, the perennial, which is actually an herb, was cultivated and hybridized all over the world and bred and propagated into a variety of cultivars. Today their leaves aren’t just green, but a myriad of colorful patterns. They are Florida-friendly (can’t tolerate a chill).

On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains how recent developments with this plant now include striking variations from the original color and style of the plant.