Writer/Author/Publisher/Speaker

A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including American Express OPEN Forum, MSN Money.com, Parade.com, Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.

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San Francisco Gate

African violets popular but a bit particular - SFGate

The stunning purple blooms were sure to light up the house, but would the plant re-flower? Discovered in eastern Africa in 1892 by amateur horticulturist Baron von St. Paul-Illaire, African violets have been enjoyed by indoor gardeners ever since. Provide eight to 12 hours of sunlight or artificial light per day. A bright northern exposure window is an ideal location; otherwise protect plants with sheer curtains or adjustable blinds. The wick continually draws on the water reservoir, transporting just the right amount of water to the plant. A wick system can be found at various nurseries and mail-order plant suppliers, or you can make your own. Let tap water sit for several hours before using, so that chlorine gas can escape. Fill the humidity tray up with water to just below the surface of the pebbles and place the plant on top, making sure no water touches the bottom of the pot.

San Francisco Gate

Brighten Rooms With Flowering Houseplants - SFGate

Few things are more delightful than an indoor living bouquet. "There are a wide variety of flowering houseplants that can be kept in bloom with very little effort," says Susan Maggiora, assistant manager of Bayside Garden Center in Belvedere. Besides red, they come in pink, coral and white. The No. 1 secret to getting most houseplants to bloom is proper light, says Michael Kartuz, owner of Kartuz Greenhouses, a houseplant mail-order company in Vista (San Diego County). Southern locations may also work, though many plants must be protected from intense afternoon light by a sheer curtain or adjustable blinds. "If you need a light to read by in the middle of the day, it's too dark for flowering plants," she says. Plants that get too much light will have scorched and yellow leaves and may stop flowering. Some experts recommend feeding once a month according to package directions, while others suggest using fertilizer at one- quarter strength every week or so. Exotic plant native to the

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San Francisco Gate

Building a Rain Barrel

A rain barrel gives you the chance to play Mother Nature and collect rainwater that would otherwise run off your...

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Cultivate Plant-Grooming Skills - SFGate

For them, there's an added benefit in grooming: pinching, pruning and cleaning lead to healthier, more attractive houseplants. "Grooming not only makes plants look nicer, it gives you a chance to check them over for pests and diseases," says Robin Ahern, indoor plant buyer for Sloat Garden Center in Kentfield. Plants that are groomed are less likely to get pest and disease infestations, and they also tend to slow down their growth rate and not need to be repotted as often as plants that are left to grow unchecked. Vining plants, such as pathos, produce trailing stems that can become lanky and leggy, with long gaps between leaves. If not, use pruners or a sharp knife, because you don't want to leave any jagged edges, which can attract disease. Plants that do best with regular pinching include polka dot plant (hypoestes), iresine, vining philodendron (Philodendron scandens), pathos (epipremnum), coleus, grape ivy (cissus), wandering jew (Tradescantia and zebrina), abutilon, inch plant (callisia),

San Francisco Gate

Decorate a houseplant for the holidays - SFGate

Other houseplants that decorate well include a variety of tall floor plants such as various palms and palm-like plants, umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla), fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), rubber plant (Ficus elastica), weeping fig (Ficus benjamina), various dracaenas and ming aralia (Polyscias fruticosa). Many large houseplants don't have strong branches, so be conservative with what you hang, or you could end up with broken branches or a weighted-down, sagging tree. -- Choose lightweight, small and even miniature ornaments that won't weigh down the tree limbs. [...] make sure to choose a location for the tree that is not near a heating duct, which will dry the plant out and cause leaf drop. Leaf loss may mean the plant is too wet or too dry, or it may be a reaction to lights or other decorations.

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San Francisco Gate

DIY Compost

Compost is an organic material generally comprised of decomposed yard and kitchen wastes. Prized for its ability to enrich soil,...

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How Do I Add a Trellis to the Pot of My Philodendron?

Glossy plants whose leaves range in length from 3 inches to 3 feet, philodendrons (Philodendron spp.) vary widely in appearance. Although a few shrubby types such as the split-leaf Philodendron ......

San Francisco Gate

Make Houseplants Part of Your Interior Design - SFGate

[...] houseplants are one of those essential details, says interior designer Michaelin Reamy, owner of Natural Color and Design in Menlo Park. "If your home's design is such that you step right into your living room when you enter your house, you can make the entry less jarring with a line of houseplants," says Lapuk. A pink orchid in the entryway, for instance, can lead people into a living room seating space where there is a calathea with variegated pink and green leaves. Rather than putting short-lived cut flowers on the dining room table, try orchids, African violets, anthuriums or plants with colorful foliage. Other good spots for eye-catching plants are coffee tables, entryways, the foot or top of stairs, kitchen counters and fireplace mantels. Flank a sofa with flowering plants and on the coffee table add a plant with a similar color, and the whole space will feel cozy and comfortable. Clusters of small plants add a decorative touch to certain areas of the home such as desks, pianos, fi

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San Francisco Gate

Plants rise from your kitchen scraps / Trees, vines, indoor gardens sprout up

Plants rise from your kitchen scraps / Trees, vines, indoor gardens sprout up Looking for a fun, educational project for...

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Indoor Plants Can Battle Pollution / NASA research shows they ...

Indoor Plants Can Battle Pollution / NASA research shows they absorb chemicals Imagine how we'll combat indoor air pollution -- one of the top five public health threats -- in the next century. Houseplants can improve indoor air quality, contends Bill Wolverton, an environmental scientist and author of "How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office." For almost 20 years, Wolverton worked for NASA developing technology that would allow humans to live in a closed environment on the moon or Mars. Through this pioneering research, he says, he discovered that houseplants are the quickest and most effective filters of common, dangerous air pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, xylene and ammonia. All can cause a number of ailments, such as asthma and allergies, as well as the general condition called sick building syndrome. After some study, we've unraveled the mystery of how plants can act as the lungs and kidneys of buildings. Plants also emit water vapors that create

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Fairy gardens create tiny worlds

Nurseries now teach classes, sponsor contests and sell materials to create miniature gardens featuring fairy figurines. Bawden-Davis has written several...

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Organic Pest Control for the Garden

Using organic pest control in the garden is eco-friendly and ensures you have produce free of synthetic chemicals. Organic methods...

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Using Worms to Make Compost

Known as vermicomposting, using worms to make compost is an environmentally friendly way to turn kitchen waste into a nutrient-rich...

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Using Your Gourds / The humble squash come out of their shells ...

If you've got Martha Stewart-like creative leanings and lead a time-starved real-world life, then gourd crafts are for you. Hard-shell gourds (lagenaria) have been grown and used for thousands of years and are a staple in many cultures as storage vessels, utensils, dishes, water containers, baby bathtubs, seed containers, vases and musical instruments. [...] bowls, vases, cups, candleholders, tortilla warmers, tea cups, musical instruments, Christmas tree decorations, nativity sets, cornucopias, planters, lamp shades and even bells. Soak the gourd in warm water for up to 15 minutes, then scrub off the mold and dirt with a metal kitchen scrub pad. Most tools designed for woodworking are suitable for gourd craft as well. Stabilize the gourd on a foam pad and with a sharp kitchen knife make a hole in the gourd shell large enough to accommodate the blade of a small keyhole or hobby saw. Scrape out the pulp that is stuck on the interior of the shell with a serrated utensil, such as a grapefruit spoon. When

San Francisco Gate

Add a dab of color with lipstick plant - SFGate

Few indoor plants are as aptly named as the lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus radicans). Right before blooming, this plant has flower buds in dark purple calyxes that actually resemble lipstick emerging from its case. -- Provide humidity: Because they come from the jungle, lipstick vines require high humidity. Avoid exposing the lipstick vine to temperatures below 55 degrees, as this can cause leaf drop. A high-quality potting soil will contain pumice or perlite for drainage. [...] look for a mix with organic nutrients such as worm castings. If the leaves look unhealthy, however, examine the foliage with a 10x hand lens or magnifying glass.