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Citrosa, Herbs & Mosquitoes

I was recently inspired by my mom, who was rubbing the leaves of a geranium plant on her skin, to plant some mosquito-repellent plants. Moms are so smart.

Mosquito Fighter!

Mosquito Fighter!

I ran to Behnke’s, our local nursery, and found this cute tag on a plant called “Citrosa.” It smells strongly of citronella and claims, with comic-book size proportion, to fight mosquitoes. Who could resist? I left the sign in the pot, to scare away the mosquitoes scarecrow-style.

Mosquito Fighter!

Mosquito Fighter!

I bought several of these “Citrosa” geraniums. Other flowers that repel mosquitoes include marigolds and ageratum too.

Next up, herbs! I planted a variegated basil and moved some regular basil out to the deck as well. The strong smell of many herbs claim to fight off mosquitoes including lemongrass, thyme, and several varieties of mint.

Variegated Basil Plant.

Variegated Basil Plant.

I gathered up pots and found a few more at the thrift store. I am going to continue to add plants to the deck until the mosquitoes stop biting me. It will be a no-bite zone and the neighborhood kids will flock to my deck for protection.

Potted Plant Corner

Potted Plant Corner

Gardening takes on a sadistic-type pleasure when it involves exiling the mosquito. I love it when beauty and function come together.

No Mosquito Zone.

No Mosquito Zone.

That is my kind of design.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Taming the Wild Kingdom

Our house sits on 1.2 acres. If you are a gardening-type of person, you might think a yard that size is amazing. I agree it is amazing, but I am completely overwhelmed.

The Wild Kingdom

The Wild Kingdom

How is it that we live 7 miles from Washington, D.C. and have a yard this big? I blame science.

More WIld Kingdom.

More Wild Kingdom.

In 1910, the USDA established the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center or BARC, and Beltsville became a hub of agricultural science and research. This area attracted botanists, plant researchers and scientists, and created a community of agriculture around the research center. There were competitions between neighbors for who had the earliest and best looking corn, and the area is full of strange plants. For example, the Thorn-less Blackberry is alive and well, right here in Beltsville.

This brings taming the Wild Kingdom to a whole new level. Which are the weeds? Which are the valuable & rare specimens belonging to Beltsville? I have been at it for a couple of weeks, with the help of an old friend, neighbors and my mother-in-law, working like field hands. I suppose you could call it a bonding experience and the yard is beginning to show some progress.

The weed-free walkway.

The weed-free walkway.

The climbing Hydrangea, or  Hydrangea anomala petiolaris, is a beautiful, low-maintenance, woody vine growing on the front of our house. This vine is safe for brick surfaces and I am happy to have inherited it.

Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing Hydrangea

You can achieve that English-ivy, hidden-castle look, guilt free, if you use a climbing Hydrangea instead of ivy. How many ivy plants have I ripped off, coupled with a dose of sad, because it is so pretty? This Hydrangea is a wonderful substitute. It likes full-sun to part-shade, and once established, requires little maintenance.

Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing Hydrangea

 Now that is my kind of plant.

© copyright 2013 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Orchid as sculpture

I do not have a green thumb, but today I am thinking about my orchid. I cannot remember what infraction my husband committed when he gave it to me, or if it was just a spontaneous romantic gesture, as he is prone to do. The amazing thing is I have managed to keep it alive for at least two years. And it has bloomed again. Like a phoenix that rises from the ashes. This bloom will last for several months.

Image

The secret: it breathes air instead of water. Orchids have air roots that attach to the bark of a tree and live exposed to the elements, just letting the rain wash over them. In my house, I water it every couple of weeks, let the water drain and set it back on the table again. It is a thing of pure beauty and it requires almost nothing to exist in this state.

Next time you walk past an orchid for sale in it’s little pot, think about it as a piece of living sculpture that you can get for as little as $12.99. This hard working plant, available in so many different species, colors, and varieties will pull it’s weight and work overtime as your latest objet d’art.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio