In the Garden
Get down and dirty in the garden


Adding Compost to Your Yard Before Winter

Caring for your lawn before winter arrives is an essential and necessary way to support the future of your lawn growth. Lawns need to be nourished well to last through the dormant winter season. Compost is a great option that provides natural benefits as well as plenty of energy to better support the lawn through the winter. Learn more about how to add compost to your yard before winter arrives.

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What Is Compost?

Simply put, compost is decomposed organic matter. Leaves and plant scraps comprise a compost base that has broken down to become a rich soil-like consistency. Compost is frequently referred to as “Black Gold” as the dark color and nutrient levels provide an abundant energy source for other plants. Compost also includes the presence of beneficial life forms, like bacteria, that have helped break down the sources into usable energy. These little additions help aid the natural growth levels of other plants as well.

Common Compost Sources

Many gardeners choose to create their compost in the backyard. Compost piles are simple to maintain but can take a long time to build the creamy consistency to use in the yard. Compost piles are usually made up of grass clippings, dead leaves, and fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. Add in a healthy dose of worms, hot temperatures, and a little bit of luck to create rich compost for the garden.

Compost can also be purchased from local garden centers in large bags. Make sure to check the label of the bags to ensure that you are buying compost that includes items that you prefer.

How Is Compost Different from Fertilizer?

While both compost and fertilizer provide energy, they both give power to different parts of the yard. Compost adds strength to the soil while fertilizer adds energy to the grassroots. It also acts a beneficial additive to certain soil types that have trouble retaining moisture, including sand-based soil. Making sure that your yard has both energy sources for the entire yard environment is essential in providing a healthy lawn come spring. Organic fertilizers are a good choice in working with compost to treat the yard as a whole.

Compost Usage

Most gardeners choose to apply one-half inch of compost to their yards to provide energy to the soil. Measure your yard to figure out how much space you have as well as how much compost you will need. Mulch calculators online will help in figuring out how many bags of compost you will need to purchase or how many scoops of compost to use from your pile.

Spread the compost before the first frost arrives in your area. Make sure to mow the lawn to a height of 1 inch to provide enough space for the compost to reach the soil. Shovel your compost on to the lawn or pour a line of bagged compost across the yard. Use a rake to spread the fertilizer into an even layer to provide the same amount of energy to the lawn overall.

Choosing to add compost to your yard before winter arrives is an eco-friendly lawn care solution that helps to build up the energy of the soil. Not only will adding compost support the soil of the lawn but it will also become a breeding ground for essential microorganisms that help support the grass as well. Adding compost to your yard before winter is a critical part in creating a strong and healthy lawn.

How to Grow Microgreens Efficiently Indoors

If you haven’t heard of microgreens…you’re in for a surprise! These plants are nutritional powerhouses and can be grown anywhere, even if you’re living in the smallest of apartments!

But first…what are microgreens? It’s actually pretty simple: Microgreens are normal plants that are harvested at the 8-21 day range, depending on the variety. They’re even smaller than baby greens, typically only grow to their first set of true leaves.

I love growing microgreens for their nutrient density. They make an excellent addition to a morning green smoothie or a quick and easy salad. Better yet, even brown-thumbed gardeners can grow them with ease!

buckwheat microgreens
Photo by Kevin Espiritu

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Microgreen seeds
  • Potting soil
  • 1020 propagation trays
  • Spray bottle

You can use normal seed packets if you want, but microgreens are seeded much denser than a normal crop. I typically buy my seeds in bulk from a few different online suppliers. When starting out, I recommend growing simple leafy greens like arugula, radish, lettuce mixes, or kale. These are all harvested in under ten days and produce a large yield of microgreens.

Fill a 1020 propagation tray with 2 cups of water. Then, add your potting soil, about 1/2-inch below the brim. Leaving this space makes it easier to harvest your crop without pulling up a lot of dirt. We add the water first to make it easier to fully soak your soil, instead of top watering and potentially creating a soggy mess.

Make sure your soil is level in the tray, then measure out about 1-2 ounces of microgreen seeds. As a rule of thumb, the larger the seed, the more you’ll need to plant by weight. For example, arugula can be seeded at 1 ounce per tray, whereas larger radish seeds require around 3 ounces per tray.

Surface sow your seeds, then give them a light misting with your spray bottle. Next, take your other 1020 propagation tray and flip it upside down on top of the first tray. This tray acts as a “blackout dome” that will simulate burying your seeds below the surface of the soil.

trays of microgreens on growing rack
Photo by Kevin Espiritu

At this point, the hard work is done. It’s time to let your seeds germinate. Most varieties take 2-4 days to germinate. Every day during the “blackout” phase, take the top tray off and check on your seeds. You’ll want to look for a few things:

  • Is there enough moisture? If not, give the tray a spray with your spray bottle
  • Is there any mold or fungus on the surface? If so, remove the blackout dome early to try and lower humidity
  • Are your seeds beginning to germinate?

After five days, your seeds will have germinated and begun reaching for the light…only there is no light! It’s time to remove the blackout dome and expose them to the sun. They’ll be yellow and a bit spindly looking, which is completely normal. They haven’t been able to photosynthesize yet. In a day or two of sun exposure they’ll green up and start growing.

At this point, it’s up to you when you want to harvest. The cotyledons, or seed leaves, are the first set of leaves that appear. After that, the first set of “true” leaves appear. This is a fantastic time to harvest, as the microgreens are still young and nutrient-dense. Any longer and you’re crossing over into the baby green territory.

When harvesting, use a sharp, sterile pair of scissors and cut about 1/2-inch above the surface of the soil. Take care not to pull up any dirt or seed hulls — this makes cleaning your microgreens a pain. Washing microgreens can be done, but it’s unnecessary if you’ve harvested in a clean fashion. Washing typically reduces the shelf life of refrigerated microgreens by about 25 percent, so avoid it if you can.

Microgreens are one of the simplest and easiest plants you can grow, and as we go into winter there’s no better edible to experiment with. You can grow them on a tiny little shelf in your bedroom, on the back patio, or in a kitchen windowsill. Experiment with a few different varieties and methods until you settle upon your favorite microgreens for salads, soups, smoothies, and more!

Must-See Gardens Across the US: The Midwest

Make sure to check out Part 1 (The Southeast) Part 2 (The Northeast) of this 5-part series at the bottom of this article.

 Instead of pulling over to see the world’s 5th most genuine alien space ship during your vacation, try something a little more worthwhile. This could be your only vacation of the year, so “fill your eyes with wonder” as the travel bloggers say and visit some unforgettable places. All over the U.S., there are publicly and privately funded, breathtaking gardens that can redefine your definition of horticulture. From pristine botanical memorials to fascinating plant sculptures, you will find your imagination running wild with your own backyard botanical ideas.

Plus, these gardens are prime for great pictures that are guaranteed to make your Instagram pop and may even inspire you to start a succulent garden, raised garden, its close relative—square foot garden, or ‘living’ sculpture garden of your own! So, if you are journeying through the northeastern U.S., carve out some time to visit one or more of these amazing garden experiences.

South Dakota

MrCrory Gardens – Brookings, South Dakota

Featuring over 70 acres of gardens, displays, an arboretum, and activities, the McCrory Gardens is a must-do if you are in South Dakota. They are operated and maintained by South Dakota State University and offer guests a chance to discover beautiful gardens, trees, and dazzling displays. Along with rose gardens, hummingbird gardens, and a maze, they also feature a raised bed sensory garden. It appeals to all five senses, making it a wonderful garden for kids and those exploring sensory integration.

Their President’s Garden is a favorite spot for weddings, meetings, and other events, overlooking their many flora offerings. Recently, they developed an app that helps guests traverse the park while further educating them on the plant-life.

South Dakota MrCrory Gardens

Iowa

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – Des Moines, Iowa

This horticultural wonder is progressive, beautiful, and dedicated to education and inspiration. The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden features art and sculptures, rose and water gardens, and a huge conservatory. Standing at 80 feet tall and 150 feet wide, the conservatory is made of Plexiglas and aluminum that houses a tropical atmosphere.

They recently had a first, for all of Iowa at these gardens – flowering an Amorphophallus titanium. Better known as a corpse flower, it emits a rotten stench when it blooms... which surprisingly attracts people instead of turning them away... Most likely due to its rarity. In addition, the garden plays host to exhibits, concerts, fundraisers, weddings, meetings, and learning workshops.

Greater Des Moines Botanical Iowa

Michigan

Matthaei Botanical Gardens – University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Eleven outdoor garden spaces featuring bonsai, native and medicinal plants, perennials, and more blooming seasonally from spring to first frost. Take a walk along nearly three miles of trails and natural areas. Or visit the year-round indoor conservatory filled with plants from around the world. Begin your exploration at the visitor center, where you’ll find visitor guides, restrooms, water and snacks and the Garden Store. 

Matthaei Botanical Gardens

Illinois

Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe, Illinois

Over 40 years old and an example of a successful private-public partnership, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers a variety of horticultural experiences and learning opportunities to its visitors. They can enjoy 27 gardens and 4 natural areas including: a well-known Bonsai garden, a model railroad, greenhouses, aquatic gardens, a science center, and waterfall gardens. For visitors who are hungry for more information, they can use a free mobile app that features and interactive map and walking tours of the botanic gardens.

For visitors with an even larger appetite for education, the Chicago Botanic Garden offers adult workshops, school programs, graduate internships, and a specialized horticultural therapy program. If you’re just a tourist trying to enjoy the scenery, they have thought of you too. Flower shows are a frequent occurrence, and dining options are available as well.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Ohio

Cleveland Botanical Garden – Cleveland, Ohio

The Cleveland Botanical Garden transports guests to exotic places thanks to its 10 acres of gardens and 18,000-square-foot Glasshouse. Founded in 1930, this garden is visited by 150,000 guests annually who look forward to its unique offerings. Along with Children's, Japanese, Rose and Herb gardens, guests can enjoy one of the extra opportunities to celebrate seasons such as Orchid Mania, the Annual Egg Hunt, Gourmets in the Garden, RIPE!, and more.

The Glasshouse is comprised of 3,400 pieces of glass, 738,000 pounds of steels, and 20 tons of soil—an impressive structure. Inside, it houses the Costa Rican rainforest and the spiny desert of Madagascar for guests to wonder and behold. Of course the garden also features workshops, classes, and hosts private events.

 Cleveland Botanical Garden

So, if traveling the Midwest U.S. definitely add these amazing stops to your itinerary for some added tranquility and exploration!

Also, if you're traveling to the Southeast or the Northeast, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this 5-part series!

Must-See Gardens Across the US: The Northeast

In Part 1 of our 5-part series, we covered the best gardens to see across the southeast. From the Disney Flower & Garden Festival to The Elizabethan Gardens in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Instead of pulling over to see the world’s 4th most complete Bigfoot footprint, try something a little more worthwhile. This could be your only vacation of the year, so “fill your eyes with wonder” (as the travel bloggers say) and visit some unforgettable places! All over the U.S., there are publicly and privately funded, breathtaking gardens that can redefine your definition of horticulture. From pristine botanical memorials to fascinating plant sculptures, you will find your imagination running wild with your own backyard botanical ideas.

Plus, these gardens are prime for great pictures that are guaranteed to make your Instagram pop and may even inspire you to start a succulent garden, fruit garden, square foot garden, or ‘living’ sculpture garden of your own! So, if you are journeying through the northeastern U.S., carve out time in some of our nation’s most historic states to visit one or more of these amazing garden experiences!

Maine

Coastal Maine Gardens

Founded by grassroots organization passionate about horticulture and environmental education in Boothbay, Maine, this botanical garden covers 295 acres of tidal shore land. They offer a schedule of educational events, art exhibits, and sculptures that tourists and annual members can appreciate. The gardens also partake in substantial botanical research to propagate unique cultivars in New England.

They are only open from April through October, but visitors will be wowed by the variety of beautiful gardens throughout the compound.

 GIM Best Gardens Coast Maine Gardens_1_1_1
(Source: http://www.mainegardens.org/garden/gardens-map/)

Asticou Azalea Garden

In Northeast Harbor, Maine, the Asticou Azalea Garden feels both organized and natural. Pathways wind through colorful and aromatic gardens and forests with benches throughout for those who want to rest and enjoy the environment.

GIM Best Gardens Asticou Maine_1
(Source: https://acadiamagic.com/asticou/index.html)

New York

Brooklyn Botanical Garden

Along with the standard beautiful horticultural offerings, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden offers educational opportunities for schools, families, children, and adults. Butterfly walks, yoga classes, Medicinal lectures, certificates in horticulture, and internships are only part of the many opportunities they provide.

Their gardens are comprised of a variety of flowers that are seasonally changed, and the site blog offers frequent insights into their flora and fauna.

GIM Best Gardens Brooklyn Botanical_1
(Source: https://www.nycgo.com/museums-galleries/brooklyn-botanic-garden)

New York Botanical Garden

Similar to its cousin in Brooklyn, the New York Botanical Garden is known for offering a myriad of classes, horticultural opportunities, special collections, and educational experiences. Besides those, the gardens themselves are breathtaking.

Visitors can enjoy the Azalea, Daylilies, Native Plant, Perennial, Water Lilies and Lotus gardens as well as some fun musical weekends. They do provide membership opportunities for those who can’t get enough of this beautiful botanical garden.

GIM Best Gardens New York Botanical_1
(Source: https://www.nybg.org/garden/native-plant-garden/)

Pennsylvania

Phipps Conservatory

Located in Pittsburgh, this conservatory is dedicated to researching sustainable landscapes, offer seasonal children camps, school tours, and how-to adult gardening classes. Additionally, they are known for being a picturesque location for weddings or corporate events.

They offer year-round and seasonal experiences including butterfly forests, interactive soundscapes, their green power drive, and a fascinating exhibit called, “Tropical Forest Cuba”. The Phipps Conservatory is dedicated to innovation and can’t be missed.

GIM Best Gardens Penn Phipps Conservatory_1
(Source: https://www.phipps.conservatory.org/green-innovation/at-phipps/center-for-sustainable-landscapes-greenest-building-museum-garden-in-the-world)

Longwood Gardens

One of the most diverse garden experiences, the Longwood gardens offer more than beautiful flora. Visitors can look forward to dining options, a beer garden, musical performances, and a spectacular illuminated fountain show set in the Main Fountain Garden.

They also offer educational opportunities for those interested in horticulture and art. For those just visiting, there are greenhouses, a breathtaking waterlily display, and a manicured Italian water garden.

 GIM Best Gardens Penn Longwood Gardens_1
(Source: https://www.deviantart.com/dseomn/art/Longwood-Gardens-Water-Garden-303302380)

Washington, DC

U.S. National Arboretum

Established in 1972 by Congress, this 446-acre property is run by the US Department of Agriculture’s Research Service. Their mission is to “enhance the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of ornamental and landscape plants through long-term, multi-disciplinary research, conservation of genetic resources, and interpretative gardens and exhibits.”

Boasting over seven flora collections in addition to a Bonsai museum and the national capitol columns, people passionate about America will love the Arboretum.

GIM Best Gardens DC National Arboretum_2_1
(Source: https://www.fona.org/about-the-arboretum/)

So, if travelling the northeast U.S. add these amazing stops to your itinerary for some tranquility and exploration.

Which gardens do you want to see and which have you been to? Do you prefer the gardens of the southeast featured in part 1 of our series? Tell us in the comments below!
Also, keep your eyes open for part 3 of this 5-part series as we explore the rest of the must-see gardens across the U.S.!

Prepping For Fall Gardening

Many first time gardeners may believe that the growing season is done by August but there are plenty of fall crops that you can produce in the cooling temperatures. Fall gardening can produce some of the best fresh produce for your family and is worth the time and energy. Check out these ways to prepare for a successful garden during the fall.

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Harvest Fall Crops

Gardening isn’t over just because summer is. There is still plenty of time for fall crops to mature and produce well through the colder season. Fall is the prime time to harvest leafy greens and squash like pumpkins, zucchini, yellow and butternut squash. It is also very possible that melons will still be producing at this time including watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew. If you have certain plants in your garden that are still going strong by September continue to care for them until they choose to be done. You could easily get a bumper crop depending on the weather and your location as well.

Re-Use Old Beds

You will most likely have a few garden beds that will be done producing by the time fall arrives. Clear away these plants and any dead brush in order to use that bed for some fall planting. Produce like lettuce, radishes, kale, and broccoli can easily be grown in just a few short weeks throughout the fall. Consider staggering lettuce planting to give you fresh garden lettuce up until the first frost in your area. If you live in a southern part of the country that sees mild winter temperatures experiment with planting varieties that take longer to germinate to see how they do over the winter.

Plant for Spring

There are many different plants that you can put into the ground during the fall in order to have them ready for spring. Garlic is a great example that needs to be planted in the fall in order to mature and grow for an early summer harvest. Other examples include bulbs in a flowerbed or around the house for those first glimpses of spring once the ground thaws next year. Get out your shovel and get your hands dirty doing some fall planting that you will be proud of come early next year.

Add Trees and Shrubs

Fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs around your garden and in your yard. Trees do best when planted in the fall as they can take root during the cooling temperatures and then take a long nap through the winter. Make sure to adequately water any new trees in order to make sure that they establish well. Consider planting a windbreak off to the side of your garden in order to provide important wind coverage for young plants in your garden.

Add Mulch

With the abundance of falling leaves, adding dead leaves to your garden beds is a great way to mulch and create nutrients. Clear off garden beds that you won’t be using for fall planting and spread a layer of mulch overall. The leaves will help to insulate the soil during the winter and will break down to create added nutrients to the soil. You can also use excess grass clippings from your fall lawn care routine just the same to add nutrients to your flowerbed. This will make the garden bed rich and ready for spring planting once winter subsides.

Fall is a great time to get in some extra planting as well as harvest those summer varieties that needed a little bit more time in the garden. Consider reusing summer beds for easy fall planting as well as mulch those that you won’t be using. Adding trees and shrubs to the garden is another fall gardening activity that will pay off as well as planting bulbs for early spring color. Consider all of these tips when preparing for fall gardening this year.

Seed Saving Made Easy

Saving seeds is an integral part of sustainable gardening. It’s also a great way to save money and ensure that you’re growing what you think you’re growing and not some genetically-modified version. Learning the finer points of seed saving is easy, once you understand a few basics of how seeds are formed.

Seed Basics

Depending on the plant, its seeds are formed and mature in different ways. Some seeds are formed on the inside of fruit like squash while others are formed in the flowers of a plant like carrots and broccoli. To a botanist, a “fruit” is the structure that bears the seeds of a plant. It is formed in the plant's flower. Remember, squash form from the flower of the plant. In nature, seeds are at the heart of reproduction which serves as a plant’s entire focus. In essence, a plant’s job is to propagate its species.

sugar_snap_pea_varying stages

Lost? No worries! All you need to know is that once you plant a seed, it germinates into a beautiful seedling that captures the sunlight using the process of photosynthesis and grows into a lush bounty—one you can harvest and consume. 

Harvesting Seeds from Fruits

For seed collection, it’s crucial we know where to look for the seeds we want to save. Examples of seeds found inside the fruit include squash, cucumbers, watermelons, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, legumes, and the like. Seeds harvested from the flower include carrots, broccoli, lettuce, and the like. In a home vegetable garden, it’s interesting to note that in some cases, we’re actually eating the seeds, as is the case with beans. Other times, we’re eating the leaves or roots of the plant, as in lettuce and carrots. And then there are those situations where we’re eating the “stem” of the plant as in celery and potatoes.

Collecting legume seeds is easy. They’re of good size and you can easily pluck them from a mature pod. Allow them to dry and you’re done. The key here is a “mature pod.” If you try to save seeds from a bean or pea pod that hasn’t fully matured, your seeds won’t be viable. A good rule of thumb is to allow them to turn brown and dried on the plant, then collect them for your very own.

Pepper seeds work the same way, though you can remove them from the plant before they turn brown but after they fully ripen. For example, harvest a jalapeno pepper when it turns red, one stage after its familiar green stage of maturity. Next, you slice your pepper in half, scoop out the seeds and set them on a plate layered with a paper towel. Allow them to dry to the point where they are no longer flexible but will break easily; a process that may take a few days. 

tomato_seeds_in_jar_by_sunny_window

Tomatoes are a bit different in that you can save them via the above means, but fermentation produces better results and can reduce seed-borne diseases. To ferment, cut a ripe tomato open and squeeze the pulp, seeds, and juice into a glass container. You may add some water, then close lid and allow the jar to sit undisturbed for about three days. I like a glass container, so I can see the action taking place inside the jar. Seal closed with lid or sealing paper and set by a sunny window. When a white mold begins to form over the seeds, scoop it out and any seeds that go with it.  The seeds left on the bottom of your glass are the ones you want—floating seeds are duds. Drain water from glass through a fine sieve so you don’t lose any of the precious gems, then rinse your seeds with cold water. Like peppers, you’ll now place them on a paper towel and allow to dry completely.

Harvesting Seeds from Flowers

Broccoli, lettuce, and carrot seeds form in the flowers that grow once the plant “bolts,” or turns to flower. You’ll have to allow the flowers to fully mature, drying up on the stem and forming seed pods before you harvest the seeds. Because these seeds are so tiny, you’ll want to take caution when removing the brown blooms, else you lose all your seeds! Carefully cut the flower head off and place in a paper bag. Shake to separate the seeds from blooms, then slowly empty them out onto a white piece of paper. Working on a tray will help reduce loss to the “scatter” effect.

broccoli_seed_pod

Caveat: harvesting carrot, beet and onion seeds takes longer because they are biennials and will not produce seed until their second year. Otherwise, you’ll follow the same process.

But what about potatoes? Have you ever purchased potato seeds from a store? I haven’t. Potatoes produce flowers and produce berries (with seeds inside them), but most home gardeners will purchase the potato “seeds,” which are actually potatoes, and cut them into two-inch pieces. Each piece should contain an “eye” from which a sprout will grow and form a new potato plant. 

sweet_potato_slips_have_sprouted

Sweet potatoes differ in that they are usually rooted in water like cuttings, then planted in the garden once roots and leaves emerge.

Heirloom versus Hybrid

An important distinction when it comes to saving seeds is heirloom vs. hybrid. Heirlooms are considered plants in their natural state, saved for their desirable characteristics, then passed on from generation to generation with no scientific meddling involved. Because they are open-pollinated, cross-pollination can occur.

Billy Bob red-okra

Hybrids are intentionally crossed between varieties to produce high yielding, disease and/or pest resistant plants. When it comes to seed-saving, the key difference is their offspring. For example, collecting seeds from a hybrid tomato plant harvest will not reproduce the original fruit which forces the gardener to continually purchase new seeds to replicate original results. Heirloom varieties will remain more consistent with the original plant, allowing for sustainable gardening practices.

Whichever seeds you’re saving, be sure to label them by variety and date harvested. Store seeds in an airtight container in a cool place—refrigerators work well—and they’ll remain viable for years to come. Happy gardening!


Award-winning author and blogger D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside and get digging.

Hoya Flowers Especially For You

Hoya is in the family of the milkweed that is a famous food of the monarch butterfly caterpillars. They belong to the same family Apocynaceae. Hoyas are normally growing wildly in tropical forests of Southeast Asia, Asia, and Papua New Guinea. It got famous only lately from a group of hobbyist collectors from temperate countries. Today they are found mostly in collector gardens of temperate countries like Europe, USA, Canada, and Australia. The Philippines alone has, more or less, 150 hoya species and more waiting to be named. Countries like Thailand, Indonesia, and Borneo also have their shares pursued much by collectors and hobbyists.

I will be presenting here some Philippine Hoya species that you will surely love to have in your own gardens. I just warn you, hoya collection is addictive and it is also contagious. Do not blame me later that I did not warn you!

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Flower and Plant Description

Hoyas are normally epiphytes, or plants growing on trunks and branches of trees. There are also a few called lithophytic hoyas that thrive on rocks. Most hoyas are vines and a few species are erect and bushy, and have milky sap just like the milkweed. Moreover, even without the flowers yet, the leaves alone are already aesthetically beautiful. In the wild they get nutrients from decomposing organic debris in their habitat. So, in domestic and garden cultivation they are provided with whatever nutrients and conditions they need to simulate the original habitat they are found in. Successful cold country growers make provisions like rooms with controlled temperatures, humidity, aerators, and artificial lights to grow them. But here in the tropics they are growing in our open gardens with our normal environmental conditions.

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Hoya flowers are lumped in circular bunches of small flowers technically called umbels. The petal-like structures are corolla and the star-shaped parts at the center are corona. Nectar normally oozes out from the bottom of those coronas, and some species become very colorful due to the nectar. Every species also has a distinctive scent, from slightly sweet to extremely fragrant, that probably entices special insect pollinators. However, no studies have yet been done on this aspect. Another special characteristic of hoya is its flower opening later in the afternoon until early evening, concomitant with simultaneous scent emission. Its scent is so powerful that you immediately know a hoya is blooming in your garden as soon as it opens.

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Present Industry System

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Most of the older identified hoya species were directly collected from the wild decades ago by individual private collectors from temperate countries. Nurseries in those countries supply hobbyists in their areas. A system of hoya industry and export market is also thriving well in Thailand. More and more nurseries are being developed, and most of the international hoya collectors go there to get newly collected species. On the other hand, Thai growers come here, to the Philippines, to collect more species from small collectors and growers. Hoya industry here in the country is not yet as good as other country counterparts, and sometimes getting specimen locally is not anymore possible. We realized its importance only just very recently, when existence in the wild is already dwindling or sometimes gone! Our only option is to source them from foreign collectors who have previously collected them. It is just sad that we do not have a developed hoya export market here in the country, where plenty of the species come from.

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Andrea B. Agillon, PhD,  is a Horticulturist/Plant Physiologist who has almost a hundred hoya species among her other collections of ornamentals like hippeastrum and crinum.







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