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Chinese Evergreen (aglaonema)
Snake Plant (Mother-in-law's tongue)
Anthurium
Fiddle Leaf Fig
Succulent
Monstera (Swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron)

Bring Life to Your Virtual Space, Zoom-worthy Plants

These days, video chat is the new normal and a vital tool for staying connected with family, friends, and coworkers. And whether you’re looking to up your game for working from home meetings or impress your friends at a virtual happy hour the only thing more important than your face is your zoom-room background.

Looking for ways to take you video calls to the next level? Why not add a little greenery to your virtual interior. Plants can boost your mood, increase productivity and efficiency, and add texture and color to any space. From a large, sculptural plant filling in a drab corner to charming succulents for a desktop- there's a place for plants in every home. Share your green thumb and beautify your cybernetic background and your home with some of these low maintenance, zoom-worthy plants:

PLANTS FOR LOW LIGHT

Snake Plants (Mother-in-law’s tongue) add style and modern charm to any room with their upright, sword-like foliage that can grow to four-feet in height. Snake plants are easy to care for and will even tolerate some neglect. They like bright light but will grow in everything from direct sun to shade. Allow the soil to dry before watering. Use larger snake plant varieties to fill a vacant corner or place smaller varieties on a table or desktop.

Chinese Evergreens (aglaonema) are another versatile, low light houseplant option. Adored for their big, beautiful, colorful leaves, their low-maintenance requirements and their ability to adapt to a variety of conditions makes them great for houseplant beginners. Aglaonema will tolerate a wide range of lighting scenarios from very low light to bright but not direct sunlight. A moderate drying between waterings is okay, but the soil shouldn’t dry out completely. Perfect on tabletops and desktops.

PLANTS FOR MEDIUM LIGHT

Monstera (Swiss cheese plant or split-leaf philodendron) is a tropical favorite. The foliage is deep green and lush with an intricate cut-leaf shape. As a tropical plant, it’s no surprise that monstera likes warm indoor temperatures between 68 and 86 degrees. A little humidity makes them feel right at home. Monstera prefers bright or filtered, indirect light. Water when soil becomes dry. Use larger plants on the floor by a table or sofa or to fill an empty corner.

Anthuriums are a low maintenance, flowering plant that boasts heart-shaped blooms and comes in several colors including pink, purple, red, and white. Anthuriums do best in bright, filtered light. Water enough to keep the soil lightly moist but never wet. The bright, showy flowers make a great color accent on a table, desk, bookshelf, or countertop.

PLANTS FOR HIGH LIGHT

Fiddle Leaf Figs are a wildly popular houseplant with large, heavily veined, violin-shaped leaves that grow upright on a tall plant. Fiddle leaf figs are native to the tropics, where they thrive in very warm, high light conditions. Give them a vacation outside during warmer months and bring them indoors when cold weather sets in. Fiddle leaf figs perform best in bright light. Perfect in any sunny room location.

Succulents are one of the most versatile plants on the globe. Because they have shallow roots, they can survive without a great deal of care and thrive in drought-like conditions. Succulents also come in a variety of shapes and colors. Succulents prefer bright light, the brighter the better. Water whenever the soil gets dry and pulls away from the edges of the pot. Water just enough to soak the soil evenly. Overwatering a succulent is as bad as not watering it at all, as these are drought-resistant plants designed to withstand extremely dry conditions. Succulents can be used in all sorts of ways; as table arrangements, on a desk, in a bookshelf, on a kitchen island, or in a bathroom– the skies the limit.

To read our blog on "The 5 Easiest Houseplants"click here.

To learn more about caring for houseplants click here.

A Get-Away-From-It-All, Secret Garden

Do you dream of a little spot tucked away in the back corner of the yard? A place where you can retreat and have some time to yourself. Maybe have a glass of wine and enjoy the colors and fragrances of the garden. If you’re feeling tense and irritable in quarantine with a crew, you are not alone — it’s likely a sign you may need some alone time. Even just ten minutes alone can do wonders for your psychological well-being. Well, you may want to consider a secret garden. There is no need for high brick walls or giant iron gates. The only requirement for a secret garden is that it be hidden. It doesn't need to be a large space, it simply needs to be secret, and you can do that with plants. Here are our recommendations for creating a secret spot:

CREATE THE FEELING OF ENCLOSURE
This can be accomplished with Ligustrum, Rose of Sharon, or any quick growing shrub. Screening even one corner with a hedge or placing a trellis with climbing vines can create a feeling of enclosure.

CREATE AN ENTRY FOR THE GARDEN
A flagstone path leading to the secret garden will complete the feeling that you are actually entering a separate place but to really make you feel as if you have your own special space, use a gate or a trellis at the entrance. For the trellis - or for the sides of the gate - any climbing flower will work such as Madison jasmine, honeysuckle, or mandevilla. Or, just create a little space between shrubs that allows you to slip through.

CREATE A FOCAL POINT
Consider a fountain, a peaceful resting bench, a statue, a birdbath, or even a unique planting such as a weeping cherry, or ornamental plum. Create your pathway through the entry leading right to your focal point. Plant ground covers or bright annuals around the focal point. Consider planting fragrant blooms like iris, gardenias, daphne, and daffodils that will bloom at different times during the season.

Add a couple of chairs or a wrought-iron bench, and your secret garden is ready for visitors - but only if you invite them!

Read our blog about "Living Fences" click here.

To learn more about adding structures to your garden click here.

Peppers, From Hot to Not

Whether you prefer the cool crunch of a sweet bell pepper or the feisty fire of a chili pepper, nothing beats the flavor of a freshly picked pepper. Their rich green leaves, compact form, and brightly colored fruit make them a contender for most any garden space. Nowadays, there are – literally – hundreds of varieties to choose from and deciding what to grow is half the fun!

Peppers comes in a variety of flavors, from sweet to mild to blistering hot. And when it comes to peppers, there’s one thing most pepper enthusiasts can agree on – the Scoville Scale for peppers.

What is the Scoville Scale?
Invented by American Pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, the Scoville Scale measures the capsaicin concentration in units (the chemical compound that causes spicy heat). Simply put, it is a way to tell how hot a pepper is going to be. The higher the number, the hotter the pepper. The original Scoville test involved feeding peppers to volunteers, but thanks to modern-day science, we no longer need people to volunteer to taste hot peppers. Today, in order to obtain more accurate results, scientists use a technique called High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) to determine the exact concentration of capsaicin in a pepper. The Scoville Scale remains the most widely used and respected when it comes to measuring the heat of a pepper.

Here are a few of our favorite from hot to not pepper selections (Scoville units are indicated in parenthesis for each of the peppers below):

SWEET TO MILD VARIETIES

Bell (0 unites) - Green pepper that ripens to yellow or red with a grassy flavor and super-crunchy texture. Can be eaten either raw or cooked. Often dried and powdered (paprika) and is popular for stuffing with ground meat or quinoa and veggies.

Banana (100-500 units) - Long, curved-shape yellow pepper that is mild and tangy in flavor. Perfect for pickling and tasty in salads and on sandwiches.

Poblano (1,000–1,500 units) – Ripen from dark green to rust red. Used to make chile rellenos and is often dried and ground into chile powder. Nice in salsas or when you want some heat but not too much.

HOT VARIETIES

Jalapeno (2,500-8,000 units) – Medium-sized chile pepper with a mild to moderate amount of heat. Used to flavor everything from salsas to chili to salad dressings.

Serrano (10,000-23,000 units) - Hot, pungent, candle-shaped fruits that mature from green to bright red. Good for pickling or in salsas. The pepper of choice for making Pico de Gallo.

Cayenne (50,000-100,000 units) – 6 to 7-inch long fruit, slightly hotter than jalapenos. Excellent steeped in oil or vinegar for flavorful condiments. Enjoy fresh, canned, or pickled.

Thai Chilies (50,000-100,000) - are an essential ingredient to many tasty Thai and Asian dishes. Used to complement curries, stir-fries, sauces, soups, and salads.

Habaneros (100,000-350,000) - Small orange peppers that may also come in red, yellow, brown, and green variants. Used in salsas, sauces, and any dish requiring some heat.

EXTREMELY HOT VARIETIES

Caribbean Hot Red (300,000-445,000 units) - Produces 1 ¾-inch long by 2-inch wide wrinkled, hot peppers that ripen from lime green to a brilliant red. Same distinctive taste as habanero but hotter. Excellent for use in salsas, marinades, and hot sauces.

Ghost Pepper (855,000-1,041,427 units) - Ripe peppers measure 2.5 to 3.3-inches long with a red, yellow, orange, white, purple, or chocolate color. Intense sweet chili flavor (heat does not kick in for 30 – 45 seconds). Used in hot sauces or dehydrated and ground into powders or chili flakes.

Trinidad Scorpion (1,200,000–2,000,000 units) - Wrinkled, lantern-shaped fruit ripens to a searing red orange. Take caution even when touching the leaves. Wear gloves while handling and chopping.

Carolina Reaper (1,400,000–2,200,000 units) - Has been called the hottest pepper in the world to date. 2 to 3-inch bright red pepper with a unique stinger tail that is unlike any other pepper. Insanely hot with an underlying sweet flavor with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate undertones.

Can you take the heat? There are many benefits to eating hot peppers. Capsaicin seems to have a positive effect on blood cholesterol and is an ingredient used to treat conditions from arthritis to psoriasis. Some scientists speculate that the brain releases endorphins in response to the discomfort produced by the chile pepper’s burn- often referred to as a “hot pepper high”.

To view our video "Tips for Growing Peppers" click here.

Small patio, weathered pergola, and ample seating.
Hedges for privacy and structure.
A fountain as a water feature or as a focal point.
Add color, contrast and texture.

10 Essentials of Great Gardens

When you find yourself in a sensational garden it’s difficult to say just what it is that makes it so great. And garden spaces don't have to be large to be great. This small corner of lawn—with a small patio, weathered pergola, and ample seating —is perfect for relaxing at the end of a long day.

Additionally, we all respond in various ways to different things based on our memories of past experiences. If we had a particularly pleasant garden experience in childhood (haven’t we all?), those pleasant feelings will recur when we find ourselves in similar settings.

There are, however, key characteristics of great gardens that, when combined in a skillful, artistic way, work together to create beautiful, satisfying, and even great gardens. While we sometimes call smaller areas “gardens” (rose garden, vegetable, herb and cutting gardens etc.), these are all just part of our larger gardens. Here are our 10 essential elements of a great garden.

ENCLOSURE
The best gardens have a sense of enclosure. They may not be completely surrounded, but there must be a sense of refuge, a feeling of safety and privacy. Visual boundaries don’t necessarily need to be inside your property line (“borrowed” scenery is a classic garden element), but great gardens are all verdant “spaces apart.” Enclosure can also provide a literal or psychological sound barrier for unwanted noise.

DISTINCT PERSONALITY
The very best gardens are a reflection of their creators’ and owners’ personalities. Unless you’re slavishly copying something from a book, magazine or Instagram, you can’t help but create something unique if you choose plants and garden decor you love. Never be afraid to experiment. If you like it, it works.

PLACES TO SIT
Gardens are not meant to just walk through. They’re for relaxation, conversation and solitary daydreaming. Gardens are also the best way to reconnect with nature. Make sure you have a place to rest and enjoy nature’s creatures and their activities and the beauty of all kinds of plants.

SHADE
Where summers are hot, shade in the garden is essential. You’ll want to place your seating areas where there’s protection during the hottest hours of the day. In evenings, light plays an important role. String lights are a simple and inexpensive way to invite guests to visit various parts of a garden, or you can have a professionally designed lighting plan installed.

FOCAL POINT
Everything in a garden, just like room décor indoors, can’t be of equal importance. Our eyes need a place to rest. So create one, or just a few, primary focal points and, if your garden is large, some secondary points. The objects of these points can be sculpture, a water feature, a bench, or a striking plant. Add surrounding plants and other materials that support, but not compete with these focal points.

MYSTERY
Great gardens are places of exploration, surprise and even mystery. Break up large spaces into smaller rooms by using hedges. Use gates at transition points to provide an element of surprise when opened. Create a few deep flower or shrubs beds that invite deeper inspection. Unusual and intriguing plants are yet another way to create surprise and invite exploration.

COLOR. OR NOT.
Color is usually the first thing we think about when planning a garden. But remember, green is a color, too. It’s one of the most restful, and luxuriant ones as well. And there are a zillion tones of it. Nothing wrong with a sophisticated and subtle all-green garden where texture and shape provide the pleasure.

CONTRAST
When leaf and flower size and shape are too similar, a restless, busy garden is the result. You may not be able to put your finger on why you don’t care for certain plant combinations, but it’s usually because there’s no contrast in shape or size. Extreme contrast of either creates a lot of interest and drama.

RHYTHUM
Here’s a subtle element. Rhythm is not confined to music. If you don’t repeat key colors, shapes, what you end up with is an odd collection, not a garden. Once again, they eye can’t rest. Repeat key colors, plants or textures. It will create minor resting points and unity.

WATER
Water (moving or not) provides a cooling sensation. But it can also change the character of a garden space—the sound of a fountain provides a bit of energy, whereas a still body of water is calming. The use of water in a garden can be visually and aurally subtle or grand and spectacular. Make sure your water feature fits the character you want.

To learn more about garden structures click here.