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Fish and Foliage

If you're looking for an interesting way to display your houseplants, take a look at this. The latest rage in the pet and plant world is the combination of your houseplants, like this peace lily and a very particular type of tropical fish known as a beta or Siamese fighting fish. These are selling in stores for 30 - 40 dollars. I'll show you how you can make one for a fraction of that price.

First of all let's understand what is going on. This is a perfect example of a symbiotic relationship. In other word, the plant benefits from the fish as it eats and gives off waste, that's fertilizer for the plant. And, the fish benefits from the plant because the roots act to remove waste products from the water, keeping is crystal clear.

So what do you need. First, select a plant that is durable and whose roots will live in water. Two of my favorites are pothos or devil's ivy. Both have fleshy roots that will thrive in water as long as you keep the top of the roots and base of the plant slightly above water. In other words, you cannot just toss a plant that has been growing in soil into water. The plant will have a difficult time adapting. Instead, you're going to need a clear plastic cup or saucer that fits into the neck of your container but won't drop through. It is important that it is clear because you don't want to be able to see it through the glass.

So the container needs to be narrower at the top to allow the plastic cup to sit above the water. Take a sharp knife and cut out a hole about 2/3 the width and set it in the neck of the vase. Key point: You want the bottom of the plastic container to be about � " above the level of the water.

Take the plant that you've purchased and wash the roots off. Be gentle and remove all the soil around them and gently push them through the plastic container. Make sure that their base of the plant doesn't fall through the opening. See how it is enlarged here. You want it to fit snug because it also supports the plant.

As far as the water and fish. There are a few requirements as well. First, there is a lot of chlorine and fluoride in tap water, and you need to remove it. Boiling it will work, as will anti-chlorine tablets. The easiest approach is to let it sit out for 24 hours and all of the chlorine and fluoride will dissipate as a gas.

Finally, you can't just use any fish. It has to be one that won't dirty the water and doesn't need much food. The perfect choice is a betta or Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens). They're native to Cambodia, and about 3" long. They are beautiful and the males prefer a solitary life. In fact, the worst thing you could do is put two of them in the same jar. They'd fight to the bitter end.

Fill up with water.
Place plant in container.

As far as care, keep the vase in indirect light. Direct sunlight may damage plant roots and it will encourage algae to grow. Try to keep the water temperature about 78 degrees. Remember, this fish and the plant are tropicals. They can't take cold temperatures.

The fish do not feed on the roots of the plants. They need to be fed occasionally. The operative word is occasionally. They really prefer ground up meal worms once every other week or so. Too much food will quickly cloud the water. Finally, the container ought to be cleaned out about once a month to keep every one healthy.

Kudzu Vine Wreath

Elizabeth Dean from Wilkerson Mills Gardens shows us how to make a
wreath from Kudzu vines. Find vines growing in a tree then cut lengths of approximately 10 feet. The vines should ideally be about the size of your finger. Wrap them around in a circle, then wrap other vines around the initial form. Decorate with berries such as Hollies, Winter Gold, etc. Cut the berries in small sprigs and attach with a glue gun. Another approach is to use longer sprigs and stick them into the wrapped vine. Finish with a bow and you will have a natural, beautiful addition for the upcoming holidays.

Dr. Rick Discusses The Proper Care and Storage of Your Containers For Winter

It is now time to think about your containers. When we get a hard freeze if your pots have hair line cracks moisture will get into the pot and destroy it. To tell if you have a hair line crack, turn it upside down
and strike it with a metal object, like a ring. It should sound like a
bell. If it sounds like a dull thud, its cracked. Plastic, of course,
doesn't crack. You could seal the pot to prevent moisture getting in the
pot. The best solution is to take the pot inside for the winter, turn it
upside down and let it dry. It will then be ready for the spring.

We Watch A Potter Make A Pot

Mosaic Stepping Stones

If you're looking to add a little personality to your garden, Dr. Rick
has just the plan. You will need ceramic tiles, stones from the craft
store, pre-cast pavers, weather proof glue and grout. Break the tiles,
hit them on their back to avoid marring then lay out your design. Leave
a space between pieces and leave at least 1/4 inch at the edge to bevel
the side. Glue the pieces and let them dry 24 hours. Mix the contents of
the bag of grout, add water until you have a mud pie consistency. Use
gloves and apply the grout, packing every crevice. Scrub with a wet
course nylon pad, bevel the edges of the paver, then wash the surface so the design shows. Cure for three days. Keep the stepping stone moist while curing to avoid cracking. After curing, remove any excess grout. This is the final cleaning so be through. Once dry seal with an exterior sealant, use three coats of weather proof sealant. Making stepping stones is something the whole family can do and will be a beautiful addition to your garden.

Setting Stepping Stones

You've now made the stepping stones, we'll show you how to properly
install them in the ground. If they're not supported properly all the
way around they can crack. Find a location for the stones. Outline the area around the stone. Make the outline about 1/2 inch larger than the stone and dig the hole about 1 inch deeper than the stepping stone. Add a layer of sand underneath the stone giving it a firm secure base. Use enough sand to bring the stepping stone to ground level, then fill around the stone with the excess dirt. It should be secure, last a long time and add a personal touch to your yard and garden.

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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Delilah Onofrey, Suntory Flowers
Photographs courtesy of Suntory Flowers

Planting annual beds of flowers, especially those that are bred to take the summer heat, thereby extending their glory into fall makes a lot of sense. Click here for an informative article that discusses an economical strategy along with design ideas that can provide color like - a living highlighter. To learn more click here.

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