Sharon’s Independence Gift: Community Service (Part 2)
Sharon Cain spotlights the Platycerium superbum (above, inset), commonly known as the staghorn fern.Joseph Wellington

Welcome back to my garden!

You don't have to have a large yard space to have a garden. You can have a container garden on your verandah, a small patio, at your front or back door, near a sunny window inside the house, on steps, under a tree or hanging from tree branches. There are so many options! Be creative — maximise your space and make it your own. Add your favourite garden ornaments to spark interest and whismy.

We buy plants for different reasons. Some people buy plants because they are visually stunning — they like the foliage (the shape of the leaves), the colourful blooms or anything else that would have attracted them to a particular plant. Others might have been gifted with a plant and have no idea how to care for the plant or did not follow the instructions regarding its care and the plant did not thrive. They conclude that they don't have a "green thumb" or have "black fingers". Gardening is not an overnight sensation; it's a process and you have to exercise patience and learn from your mistakes. Don't be quick to throw out a plant that appears to be dying…change the location, seek advice and continue to care for it. It may rejuvenate — don't give up on your plant(s) easily!

Multi-award-winning gardener Sharon Cain at her Independence table set against the backdrop of her gorgeous garden..

Regarding house (potted) plants:

• Do not over-or under-water; educate your housekeeper on watering schedule or

• Use the finger test by sticking your finger or a pencil a couple inches down in the soil — if moist, don't water; if dry, water

• Do not allow plant to sit in water — put gravel in saucer and sit plant on top of gravel

• Do remember to change the water in saucer every week (or as often as you can) to prevent mosquito larvae

• Do not leave them outside if you put them out when it rains — sun will burn leaves

• Do rotate them monthly — put outside in a shady or cool area

Regarding bedding (outside in garden) and container plants:

Perennials — plants that grow back on their own — always in the garden. These include but are not limited to plumbago, Joseph's coat (coleus), impatiens, verbenia and chrysanthemum

Annuals — plants that need to be replanted every year. These include but are not limited to marigold, zinnias, and some varieties of petunias

• Do identify the type of plant that is best for your space — sunny, semi-shade or shady

• Do learn about the watering cycle — daily, weekly or to be kept dry between watering

• Do use mulch (organic — grass cuttings or wood chips; inorganic — lava rocks, etc) to retain moisture in the soil

• Do group water-loving plants together

• Do group shade-loving plants together

• Do water early in the morning and water from the roots

In Part 1, I encouraged people to plant something and watch it grow. The secret to a beautiful garden or container gardening is great soil! Plants thrive when given the right combination of nutrients (nitrogen — green foliage; phosphorus — healthy robust roots and lots of blooms; K potassium — size and shape of plants and blooms). These nutrients can be inorganically obtained from the 20-20-20 fertiliser (granular and blue in colour mixed in water and applied at roots, as well as foliage — one tablespoon to a gallon of water; fish oil; and organically from manure or compost mixed into the soil — remember moderation is key! Do not over-fertilise — the rule of thumb is to fertilise "weak weekly" (no pun intended!). Over-fertilising will result in damaged roots and subsequent wilting of leaves and possibly killing of the plants. If you experience chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) you can mix chelated iron and water the roots of affected plants. Over-watering may also result in chlorosis, in which case cut back on watering. You can purchase your fertilisers and chelated iron at your nearest plant nursery or plant supplies store.

Remember, most plants also thrive in a porous soil (free draining soil — roots need to breathe), while others like clay soil. Please take pictures of your gardens and plants as they grow and evolve.

Editor's Note: Sharon Cain can be contacted @

The picturesque rock gardenJoseph Wellington
The sweet potato vine comes in a variety of colours and various forms.Joseph Wellington
The low-maintenance Joseph coat makes a bold statement in Cain's gardenJoseph Wellington
An uncommon reddish-orange bougainvilleaJoseph Wellington
Cain's courtyard houses her private collection of anthuriums.Joseph Wellington
Sharon Cain's JHS Flower Show award-winning anthuriums.
Alocasia sanderiana, commonly known as the kris plant or Sander's alocasia, is a plant in the family Araceae. It is widely grown as an ornamental plant.Joseph Wellington
The stalks of the green aglaonema retain water for the plant in periods of drought.Joseph Wellington
The Agave Blue Glow is a hybrid succulent.Joseph Wellington
Aechmea Louie's PrideJoseph Wellington
Mindista PetuniaJoseph Wellington
Platycerium superbum, commonly known as the staghorn fernSharon Cain

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