By Eileen Goldfinger, Food and home editor @Blogfinger and Paul Goldfinger, Editor @Blogfinger
Eileen usually has flowering hibiscus plants in our Ocean Grove garden, and they always have beautiful blooms. But this year we decided to bring one of those plants into the house to see if we can enjoy the flowers during the winter.
Last week Eileen brought one in and she placed it in a sunny window facing west. After about one week, two flowers appeared. We had read about how to do this, but we decided to consult with a person who lives in Ocean Grove and is a real expert regarding gardening, and, in particular , gardening at the Jersey Shore.
Pegi Ballister-Howells has just celebrated 25 years of her Sunday morning (8:00-10:00) call-in radio show “The Garden Show ” which is on WCTC -AM out of New Brunswick. It also can be heard online at WCTCam.com.
She is the author of several books on the subject including “The New Jersey Gardener’s Guide” which has a chapter on gardening at the shore. Pegi says that there are some unique differences when considering shore gardens, so we hope to learn more about that from her in the future. Her books are available online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Pegi and her husband Tom have a home on Mt. Carmel Way (it is the former location of the Ocean Grove Women’s Club) and they have a 10 acre farm in East Windsor. She was very kind to help us with our topic today regarding the hibiscus.
The hibiscus is a tropical plant which can be brought in for the winter, provided it doesn’t freeze to death before you do so. Last week we had, according to Pegi, a “hard frost” in the Grove, but many of her plants did survive including begonias and zinnias. Many homeowners who have hibiscus in their gardens simply buy new plants each spring, but that can be expensive. If you bring them into the house, you can pinch off the buds and place the plant in a cold environment such as a garage just to let it go dormant and keep it alive till spring and save money.
Or, you can bring it in to enjoy the blooms, even though that might weaken the plant for the spring. The hibiscus must be placed in a sunny window. Don’t water it too much—“keep it on the dry side.” If it is near a source of heat such as a radiator, you might have to water it more often. Pegi says, “Do not fertilize it during the winter.”
If the plant gets some yellow leaves, “pluck them off.” In the spring you can then buy new plants or cut back the winter plant, put back into the garden and fertilize.
We hope to interview Pegi subsequently about her background and her remarkable run as a talk show host for 25 years.