Wes Porter

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[i]Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.Wes can be reached at: [[email protected]][email protected][/email][/i]

Most Recent Articles by Wes Porter:

Questions We’re Often Asked: Flowering Indoor Plants

Mar 30, 2017 — Wes Porter

There are hundreds of candidates to provide colourful blooms, some even scented, for house and apartment. Unlike those grown principally for their foliage, most require a little more care to persuade them to flower. But the results and almost guaranteed admiration from visitors is worth it. ‘Bright light’ means several hours direct sun a day, while filtered light means at the back of such exposed room or perhaps near a window in an east or north room. Always use room-temperature water—cold water is almost certain to cause flower and bud drop.

Going to Pot: The Stoned Age

Mar 29, 2017 — Wes Porter

When—not if—Canada’s government legalizes recreational use of marijuana, gardeners will enter a new era.

Decades ago potted plants, usually sold for home d√©cor, became termed ‘pot plants.’ These have also been referred to as ‘houseplants,’ but with the advent of their becoming popular for offices and other commercial spaces, ‘indoor plants’ perhaps fits the bill better.

True Blue to Dye For

Mar 22, 2017 — Wes Porter

True blue blooms, as gardeners know, are hard to find. No less for our ancestors searching for such a source to dye both textiles and themselves.

A reliable blue was discovered at least 6,000 years ago, in various species of Indigofera, a genus of some 700 species of leguminous annual and perennial herbs, shrubs and small trees native to tropical and warm regions. The major natural dye source has been I. tinctoria, a deciduous subshrub with pink and blue flowers originating in southeast Asia.

Mycoheterotrophic Plants A.k.a. Fungus Flowers

Mar 22, 2017 — Wes Porter

Walkers in the northern woods can hardly failed to have wondered about them. Pale ghosts in the gloom of the understory, emerging from the leaf litter.

Formerly classed as saprophytes, feeding directly on dead and decaying matter—think famed Triffids of science fiction—they are now known to be botanically even more interesting. And make fanciers of Orchidaceae and Ericaceae take notice.

These non-photosynthesizing plants are not parasitic. They obtain their nutrients by living in a symbiotic relationship with mycorrhizal fungi. The fungi, in turn, are associated with vascular plants. There are believed to be at least 400 species of such plants that totally depend on such relationships and another 20,000 species that are partially so.

The Only Leprechaun Colony West of Ireland

Mar 15, 2017 — Wes Porter

A leprechaun colony, the world’s smallest park and some Hibernian horticulture are intertwined, blending in Portland, Oregon. It all started when Dick Fagan returned from World War II. As a journalist at the daily Oregon Journal, he was sitting at his desk alongside a second-floor window one day in the downtown Jackson Tower at Broadway and Yamhill, Portland. A circular hole in the median below caught his eye. Meant to receive a light standard which had never arrived, it was now overgrown with weeds.


Mar 8, 2017 — Wes Porter

“Nature-based solutions” might sound like it belongs on the side of a gardener’s van, as an editorial in the esteemed journal Nature observed. Nevertheless, the new buzz phrase reflects gardeners’ growing concern with the environment and climate change in particular. Hence drought and flood-proof plants will become more popular this coming season, tough plants that can stand up to extremes. Look also for more offerings in container plantings as gardens shrink in area while decks and patios increase.

Questions We’re Often Asked: Low Care Indoor Plants

Mar 1, 2017 — Wes Porter

Smaller houses, more people renting and an ironic passion for Seventies kitsch has led to a trend for indoor plants, according to The Daily Telegraph from across the pond. Nor is it greatly different this side of the Atlantic other than condo towers sprouting up like mushrooms, much to the discomfort of agrophobics.

But with busy lives, plant care becomes a concern. So, what indoor plants best fill the bill? Those blessed with a sunny situation will welcome John Lewis’s annual shopping report that says cacti will be the trend this year. Curious cats and other pets watch out!

Mighty Ash Yggdrasill

Feb 11, 2017 — Wes Porter

Norse god Odin formed the earth and its surrounding sea from parts of the evil giant Ymir he had killed. And so, the World Tree, the Mighty Ash Yggdrasill, grew up to hold earth in place. Or so the beliefs of the northern Germanic people held.

Along its branches roamed four stags—Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, and Dyrathror—constantly feeding on the foliage. The mischievous red squirrel Ratataoskr was to be found running backwards and forwards, delivering insulting messages from the hawk Ve≈ërf√∂lnir perched at the top of Yggdrasill to the evil dragon N√≠≈ëh√∂ggr, ‘Malice Striker,’ down in the three roots that supported the Tree of Life and on which it constantly gnawed.

Also, down there, in a handsome hall, dwelt the Norns, three seers who predicted ørlơg, the destinies, of men. Uror, Veroando and Skuld were also charged with watering the mighty roots of Yggdrasill. Daily they drew water from the well of Urd, the spring of Hvergelmir, and the well Mímisbrunnr to which the roots grew.

For in those for off times, neither ash blight nor emerald ash borer were to be found . . .

Angels v. Devils: Revealing Plant Names

Feb 9, 2017 — Wes Porter

Back in the 19th century, an English clergyman wondered whether the number of common names applied to plants in the name of angels exceeded those credited to the devil. His research revealed that the devil, botanically speaking, won out.

Updated delving into the subject confirms the man of the cloth’s investigation—with a few strange twists. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is known to some as Angel Flower. However, it has also been labeled both the Devil’s Nettle and the Devil’s Plaything, perhaps because it naturalizes so easily.

More understandably, Datura also appears in both lists, and several times at that. Valued for their magnificent trumpet-shaped blooms they are also known to be hallucinogenic even causing fatalities. Thus, Datura sanguinea, a fragrant shrub from southeast Brazil may carry name Angel’s Tears but Angel’s Trumpet, D. inoxia, might also be the Devil’s Trumpet. D. stramonium doubles as both the Devil’s Apple and Devil’s Weed

Perhaps we shouldn’t take these juxtapositions too seriously though. As G. K. Chesterton once pointed out, “The reason angels can fly is because they take themselves lightly.”

Practical Pollinators

Feb 7, 2017 — Wes Porter

According to the Kama Sutra, oriental book of instruction, there are some seventy ways of making love. It has been claimed that only the camel knows the last one, which is why he looks so superior.

Much later, in his celebrated Let’s Make Love in 1928, Cole Porter warbled, “And that’s why birds do it, bees do it. Even educated fleas do it . . .” So when it comes to moving pollen from male stamen to female pistil, the ways could, and indeed do, vary.

Of course, Cole failed to mention among many other animals, bats and gnats, flies and wasps, skinks and geckos, lemurs and honey possums . . .amongst others, although perhaps not fleas. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.


Feb 4, 2017 — Wes Porter

Cactophiles rejoice! Predictions are that your prickly passions are due to make a comeback this year. So say Brits, often ahead on such matters. Those eschewing genetic engineering need not be off-put by reports that bibulous botanists have crossed citrus and cactus to get spiked orange juice.

An amazing 52 percent of home owners now use houseplants to counter pollution, say market researchers Mintel. They say the interest in anti-pollution products is influenced by Chinese Feng Shui and the spectre of the Paris Climate Summit while ignoring an equal spectre—a Trumpeting Donald.

Many might be supported in macramé hangers, also making a comeback from the flower child days half a century past. Alas, most of those latter have sadly gone to seed.

A Garden of Limericks

Nov 22, 2016 — Wes Porter

A half-century has passed since Bennett Cerf, co-founder of the publisher Random House, brought forth the Lure of the Limerick and with it his ‘Fifteen Best.’ The source of such poetry dates back to the early 1800s but were not called such until 1880 in a Saint John, New Brunswick newspaper, apparently from a parlour game, ‘Won’t you come to Limerick?’

Questions We’re Often Asked: Houseplant Care

Nov 20, 2016 — Wes Porter

For those fortunate who dwell in the tropics, horticulture is a year-round outdoor affair. The rest of the gardening fraternity is not so blessed. When winter winds wail, it is time to move inside to indoor pursuits.

The Love of Amaryllis

Nov 19, 2016 — Wes Porter

The story of Amaryllis, a shepherdess in Greek mythology is both a charming one but also illustrates botanical confusion.

Once upon a time, as all good tales tell, pretty Amaryllis was picking flowers on a mountainside when she encountered the shepherd Alteo. Now Alteo was as handsome as the god Apollo and the strength of Hercules, in short a damsel’s delight.

A Town Named Weed

Nov 18, 2016 — Wes Porter

Weeds and gardening go together. And, as one wit observed, weeding and church have much on common. Both involve much time spent on the knees, only the language differs. So what to make of the town of Weed, Siskiyou County, Northern California? With a motto of ‘Weed like to welcome you,’ it is located just south of the Oregon border 10 miles (16km) west-northwest of Mt. Shasta, the second tallest volcano in the Cascade Range and boasts a population of some 3,000.