Houseplants 101

by Tracey Pestian, Morning Sun Manager

Do you crave green as much as I do? Here at Morning Sun, we do our best to uphold a beautiful and natural environment that is pleasing to the eyes of our customers, as well as to our own. One is literally surrounded here by lush, green foliage, carefully placed in, on and around the various distinctive vintage tables, cupboards, cabinets, etc., that Darla brings into her shop. We all need nature, so bringing the outdoors into your home will certainly aid in getting your daily dose of happy! Houseplants are ideal for creating ambiance in every room of your home, and as a bonus, you will breathe cleaner air and have reduced blood pressure. Who of us does not want a home that is cozy, quixotic and warm?

A beautiful trio: Ming Aralia, Bird's Nest Fern, and a Button Fern... Grouped together in containers made of the same material, these different textures of foliage are a feast for the eyes! 

A huge topic of conversation with our customers is houseplants – which plants to purchase, how to take care of them, how much water to give them and how often, how much light do they require, why do I keep killing them, what am I doing wrong and so forth. We have all been frustrated, when after a short period of time of bringing a lovely houseplant home; we find the plant withered, brown or bright yellow and have to toss it into the garbage can. So, here are 10 basic tips to help to ensure the long life of your own houseplants:

1)  Light: All houseplants require light, but amounts vary depending on your plant and where it has been placed in your home. So, the light in your home should be considered before purchasing a new houseplant. Ensure that the place you have chosen in your home receives some filtered sunlight every day. For instance, succulents need more sunlight than your average houseplant and do well in a west or south facing light, whereas ferns will do well in an east or northeast facing light. Flowering plants require very bright light conditions in order to bloom. In winter, when sunlight is sparse, a west-facing window offers a good light for many plants, even if it is temporary until spring returns.

According to a NASA Clean Air Study, Sansevieria is capable of purifying air by removing toxins.  It can also survive in VERY low light, and only needs to be watered once or twice a month! Wow!  Is this the perfect plant???

 

2)  Water: I know that at times, watering your houseplants feels like a real chore and you feel like skipping it.  Be diligent though, and use lukewarm water (except for ivies - these love a cold shower). The amount of watering needed will depend on the type of plant and your home environment, such as brightness, weather, etc. In winter when your furnace is in high gear, you will need to water more often. As typical rule of thumb, do not let your plants sit in standing water to prevent them from rotting.  ...and when I water my seemly millions of plants at home, I talk to them and sometimes sing to them. I think they enjoy me…! :)

**Note: Using soft-water for watering your houseplants is not recommended as most cannot tolerate high amounts of salt.

3)  Soil: Most houseplants will do well in an all-purpose potting soil as it generally has all nutrients required. However, succulents like a mixture of sand and potting soil, whereas orchids and bromeliads prefer fir bark. I like to use organic soil for my houseplants. You can find both at your local garden center.

Orchids paired with trailing grape leaf ivies will transform any room into an oasis.  Find a large water-proof container (or add your own plastic liners to the bottom).  Add an orchid or two or three or four ;) and then nestle in as many ivies as will fit around the orchids to achieve this stunning look! Make sure to keep the orchids and ivies in their own growers' pots, as they will need to be watered separately.

4)  Temperature & Humidity: Houseplants will normally adjust to average household temperatures of 70 degrees or higher during the daytime and 60 degrees and above at night. Heat sources, such as hot air vents or wood-burning stoves cause low humidity. Using a humidifier or placing plants together on a tray filled with pebbles and water may be necessary. Just grouping plants together will increase the humidity around them.

5)  Fertilizer: Organic fertilizers are best, as plants enjoy good health just like humans do. Fish emulsion is really good for plants, and yes, for a minute you may think you are at the ocean due to the fishy aroma, but your houseplants will love you for it. There is no need to fertilize in the winter months, but the rest of the year, fertilizing every 3-4 weeks is recommended to keep your plants looking lovely. Always dilute according to package instructions. You may find products at your local garden center. Follow the instructions on the package.

6)  Repotting: If you find that you are watering a certain plant way more than normal, and it looks a bit wilted, look at the bottom of the pot to see if the roots have become bound in the pot. If so, it will need a larger pot – preferably only the next size up. Don’t over-pot! When repotting into a new pot, place some soil in the bottom of the pot. Take the root ball of the plant and sort of squeeze the roots to loosen them up a bit. Place it into the new pot, ensuring that the root ball is about an inch from the top of the pot; then fill in the sides with more soil, packing it in. Water the plant and you are good to go.

7)  Pruning: If your plant begins to look a bit leggy, don’t be afraid to prune as cutting the stems will actually encourage them to grow.

8)  Grooming: I check my plants as I water them for brown or blemished leaves and if I find some, I remove them to keep my plants looking beautiful.

9)  Pests: Healthy houseplants are rarely affected by pests. Insects attack when plants are in their weakest moment. When buying plants from any plant shop, inspect them closely for pests. Just to be safe, keeping it away from your other plants for a week or two after bringing home a new one isn’t a bad idea. If you do have to use an insecticide, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the label. Spider mites are a common pest and form webs on the underside of the leaves. Spider mites do not like cold water, so a real cold shower will work splendidly to rid them.

10)  Diseases: Keeping your plants clean does wonders! Remove any leaves that do not look right. Soggy plants are prone to disease. Look at the roots to make sure they are healthy too. Brown roots are a sign of trouble.

Plants are people too!

 

 

 

I hope that you find this information very helpful! Plants are so beneficial to us all. I love waking up every morning and seeing green all over my home – it really makes me smile. With a little effort on your part, your own houseplants can make you happy too. They need us to help them to look great! So instead of looking at the care of plants as a chore, think about how happy you are making them by taking such good care of their needs. Because we are bringing them in our homes and out of their natural environment, of course they need us.

Happy House-planting!!

tea tree

Tea 1.jpg

tea tree

by Morning Sun's Jack Stafford

I was told that I could share a topic that I hold dear to my heart here on the Morning Sun Blog, and for my first blog post: tea!

Out of all the beverages in the world, tea is the most iconic.  With many different flavors and combinations it is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.  In fact, Americans alone consumed a total of 3.8 billion gallons in 2016.   The origin of tea dates back to the 3rd century A.D during the Shang dynasty where it was used medicinally.  After that, it was introduced to England during the 16th century where it became very popular among every social class, including the colonies in America. 

Camellia Sinensis, otherwise known as tea tree, is used for many different types of tea.  From one variety of plant, tea farmers can make black, white, green, and oolong tea.  It all has to do with the harvest and processing of the leaves.  If the leaves dry quickly either in the hot sun or in a frying pan, black tea is made.  If the tea is dried more slowly, less oxidation occurs and the tea holds less caffeine. This method creates a lighter tea, such as green or white.  Furthermore, the amount of sun the plant receives before harvest also affects taste and caffeine content. 

Now let’s begin discussing how to grow your own tea!  It is best grown in zones 7-9, but can be grown indoors or in a greenhouse:

  1. Soak the seeds in water for 24-36 hours: the seeds that sink are more likely to be viable.

  2. After soaking, allow the seeds to dry slowly by misting occasionally, and once cracked they are ready to be planted.

  3. Plant the seeds an inch deep in medium organic potting soil.

  4. Place them in a shady place, and the seeds will take about a month to germinate.

  5. Keep the soil damp, but not soaked!

  6. After the seeds sprout, slowly move them into the sunlight. 

Tea starts to produce enough leaves for harvest in about three years.  Although they may take awhile to grow, the process of growing tea can be meditative and rewarding.   I highly suggest you try growing this historical and delicious plant for yourself.

And remember

“For all the times your heart is weary and your bones are aching, there will always be a cup of tea to melt your pain away”

shinrin-yoku

by Sherri Gilmore, Morning Sun Designer

Photography by Jenny Davis, Morning Sun Designer

Forest Bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, originated in Japan in 1982 when studies revealed that walking through a forest had health benefits.  People were finding an enhanced sense of wellbeing and happiness, decreased stress levels, and strengthened immunities.  Those (with non-insulin dependent) diabetes even had lowered blood glucose levels!

It is believed that the benefits of taking a walk in the forest are due to breathing in the volatile substances, or wood essential oils derived from trees.  Also by engaging the other senses, using sight, sound, and touch while leisurely walking through a forest have therapeutic benefits including lowered blood pressure and increased concentration.

A quick perusal of the website http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/ encourages you to take a walk in the woods to support your well-being, and healing through sensory immersion.  There you will also find more information about different Shinrin-yoku programs, blogs, handbooks, and free starter kits!

Happy bathing!!!

Iceland

I recently took a trip to Iceland with hopes of seeing the aurora borealis, and for some needed rejuvenation before beginning the many preparations for our annual Spring Open House here at Morning Sun.

A record breaking snowfall hit the day after we landed in Reykjavik.  The locals hadn't seen this much snow since 1937.

Iceland 4.jpg
Iceland 3.jpg

Everything about Iceland was enchanting.  The landscape, the abundance of natural hot springs, and the awe-inspiring northern lights that I was lucky enough to have seen.

Iceland 2.JPG
(This photo of the northern lights was taken by my friend Tai who happened to be in Iceland at the same time)

(This photo of the northern lights was taken by my friend Tai who happened to be in Iceland at the same time)

What surprised me about Iceland was the delicious food and the gracious hospitality of the people.  I was so impressed by their love and care for their land; this beautiful, rugged, yet fragile environment. 

I left filled with a sense of peace (and longing to plan my next trip back already). 

 

the incredible “dancing ladies” orchid

by Tracey Pestian, Morning Sun Manager

Since I have been employed here at Morning Sun, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with orchids. We normally carry several beautiful varieties here at the shop, and before I worked here I would dream of them being in my own home.  I used to let them intimidate me into not buying them (for fear that I would most likely slowly kill them).  I now have seven of them in my home office.   And they are all doing very well!  For those of you who also feel intimidated by orchids, I am here to let you know that if I can keep these beauties alive, so can you.

This particular variety of orchid is called “Dancing Ladies” and it is of the oncidium species.  Most oncidiums produce dozens of small flowers at the same time, giving you a spectacular show that lasts for several weeks. You can see by the shape of the bloom that it really does look like a beautiful lady in a pretty yellow gown happily dancing her little heart out.

Orchids need plenty of light, but never place them in direct sun.  If you do not have a proper spot in a window of your home, then artificial lighting works well.  Even fluorescent bulbs are efficient (use one warm white tube and one cool white tube under a reflector and place the orchid about six inches beneath the light for 14-16 hours per day).  They do require darkness at night.

Repotting your orchids will be necessary every couple of years. The best time to repot is when you see that new growth begins, shortly after blooming.  Fir bark medium is used and you may purchase this at any local garden center.

Orchids need slightly cooler nighttime temperatures for them to bloom.  Oncidiums tolerate temperatures from 55 degrees at night and up to 75 degrees during the day.  Some orchids will even bloom more than once per year.  Keep the bark medium lightly moist during the growing season and be careful not to overwater (yellowing leaves is a good sign that you are overwatering).  You may feed your orchid during the active growth period every three weeks with an organic orchid fertilizer that can also be purchased at any local garden center.

With good care, you may expect your orchids to bloom for you year after year. I am very much enjoying my new-found beauties and hope that you will too!

caring for maidenhair ferns

by Tracey Pestian, Morning Sun Manager

Did you know that Maidenhair Ferns (Adiantum) are not so difficult to maintain as indoor houseplants? Here are our secrets to taking care of these elegant, evergreen foliage plants with the beautiful lacy fronds:

  1. Place them in a draft-free area with bright, indirect light or filtered sunlight. Nighttime temperatures should be 55 – 60 degrees.

  2. They must have high humidity and consistently moist soil to thrive in your home. They work very well in a terrarium environment due to the humid conditions. If you do not have a terrarium, then you may provide additional humidity by placing the planter on a tray filled with pebbles that you can keep moistened, or place fresh sphagnum moss around your Maidenhair. Keep the soil evenly moist, although cutting back slightly on watering during the winter months. Ensure that her roots never dry out and do not let her sit in water for more than an hour or so.  

  3. Feeding monthly from spring through mid-summer (half-strength is fine) will keep her healthy and allow her to resist pests.

  4. Always remove dead fronds by cutting back the stem to the base of your Maidenhair.

  5. When she becomes root-bound in her pot, gently re-pot her into the next larger size pot using a rich, well-draining potting mix. The planter should have plenty of drain-holes.

Once you have the care routine down, you will enjoy your lovely Maidenhair in all seasons!

new year's eve recipe

by Tracey Pestian, Morning Sun Manager

As our year 2016 is coming to an end and a new beginning is upon us, I reflect on the experiences that have been presented before me over the last 12 months – some truly wonderful and some not so wonderful, but it is in our own perspective of each as to the hidden meaning that we must learn from them. One of the best experiences presented to me this year was becoming a member of the Morning Sun staff in March. To work in this environment each day which is truly like an Oasis, as one of you described it when you were in one day; I am reminded each day of Life, Newness and Beauty. There is so much of it in this world but sometimes we choose not to see it. I will choose to see it in 2017 and beyond. I just LOVE it when you, our dear customers, come in our door and I hear our little bells on the door jingling, only to see you take it all in, in your breath, your eyes, and your heart. I love it when you tell us that you just came in for ‘therapy’ or just to ‘breathe’.  I get that. You are all so precious to us.

Another wonderful experience has been my introduction to Juliska! After living in Europe some years ago, this inspiring and soulful artisanal line of stoneware ceramics and mouth-blown glass takes me back there each time I use them. One of my favorites is the Graham Rocks Glass - 8 ounces of gorgeous glass that makes my Old Fashioned taste so much better! Since New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, I am sharing my recipe for a great Old Fashioned with you: 

Place a few ice cubes into the Juliska Graham Rocks Glass. You don’t want so much ice that it waters it down or too little ice that it is not cold enough. Then take one Silver Dollar size piece of a Naval Orange rind and twist it over the ice and place it inside the glass the side of the ice cube. Add 2 ounces of good Bourbon (my favorites are Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace or Woodford Reserve) to the glass. Add 1-2 teaspoons of Simple Syrup (I make my own using unrefined sugar, but store-bought will do) to the glass. Then add about 4 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Add 2 Luxardo cherries (if you have not experienced Luxardo cherries, you must do so! I buy them at Arrow Wine), ensuring that you get some of the cherry syrup when spooning them out of the jar.

Then, last but not least, using a cocktail stir-stick, gently whirl the drink around in the glass for a minute before you take your first sip. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your cocktail, letting all your cares float away….with my very best wishes to you and yours…Happy New Year!

 

Old Fashioneds in Juliska's Graham Rocks Glasses - Yum!

bringing the plants in

As we lose the light earlier and the nights get cooler, it is time to spend a little more time inside.  I find myself pulling in the plants that have summered on the porch and patio to now take their places back in the windows, creating a renewed feeling of home. 

I nestle my favorite chair, throw my favorite wool blanket over the back, making the perfect place to read, or just rest and reflect.

I nestle my favorite chair, throw my favorite wool blanket over the back, making the perfect place to read, or just rest and reflect.

Surrounding ourselves with plants makes a house a home.  Not only are the plants visually pleasing, but they are working for us to provide oxygen, cleansing the air and neutralizing orders naturally.