Monday, September 1, 2014

Pretty pictures: Cattlianthe Mary Elizabeth Bohn

This was one of the four "wow" orchids from the 2014 show (along with Laeliocattleya Natrisiri and two plants yet to be blogged), not so much for the shape of it (though that's nice, I guess) as for the color, which is really, really unusual as far as I've seen. (I thought I'd encountered it at an orchid show before, as, like, an accent color in some flower or another, but when I went back into the blog archives to find an example, I couldn't locate any. And part of what's cool about this particular one is that the odd color is the entire flower, not just a petal or margin or something.)

It's also possibly more impressive in person, given the tendency of digital cameras to get weird when it comes to the extreme red and violet ends of the color spectrum.

Cattlianthe Mary Elizabeth Bohn = Cattlianthe Blue Boy x Guarianthe bowringiana (Ref.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Anthurium News: The Bad News

Most of the Anthurium news in the last month or so has been disappointing. Nothing catastrophic or particularly depressing, just a lot of hope-raising, followed by disappointment.

#040 "Ivy Winters," 14 August 2014.

#040 "Ivy Winters" has now produced and aborted two separate buds (March, then August). The second one got closer to maturity than the first, which may count as progress, I suppose. It's just that I'm especially interested in seeing how it turns out -- the color on the buds has been starting out pink and then slowly turning more to coral; I'd like to see how orange it will get before opening. And, you know, after opening.

#088 "Charlotte F. Babylon," 17 June 2014.

#088 "Charlotte F. Babylon" has now tried to bloom three times (March, May, July), then thought better of it. Maybe it's broken. I don't anticipate anything dramatic and different when it does bloom -- to all appearances, it's going to be some shade of red, and it's not as if I don't have plenty of reds. But even so. I don't think any other seedling's done this three times. Maybe it's mad about the name it drew. In which case I suppose I understand.

#281 "Laganja Estranja," 17 June 2014.

#281 "Laganja Estranja" tried once, from April to June, and then aborted. (Looked like a pink.)

#124 "Fox Saik," 17 June 2014.

#124 "Fox Saik" started a bud in May, and aborted in June. Also a pink, as far as it got, though it might have been another pink-to-orange, since 'Orange Hot' was the seed parent. Fox appears to be having a number of problems -- for a while, it was building weirdly distorted leaves like this:

Though it seems to be growing out of that. The most recent leaf was normal, anyway.

#248 "Sue Casa," 24 June 2014.

In June, #248 "Sue Casa" contemplated a bud, which was potentially interesting: it started out as pink, but was sort of lavender-pink by the end. Alas, it had decided not to bother by the end of the month.

#265 "Madame LaQueer," 26 June 2014.

#265 "Madame LaQueer" worked on a bud for almost two full months (early June to late July) before dropping it. The bud looked like it was going to be red, so no big loss, but it put a lot of work into it: it was really close to opening, and I'm a little disturbed by it giving up so late.

#236 "Roxanne Debree," 14 August 2014.

#236 "Roxanne Debree" spent about three weeks on a red bud (July to August), then dropped it.

It also looks like I'm about to have the first casualties from the 4" plants. I've been starting the seeds on vermiculite in a plastic clamshell container, then potting up the stronger seeds that germinated in 3" pots, then moving the better-looking seedlings into 4" pots after about a year. Because the ones that made it to 4" pots had already had to be doing well on two separate occasions in order to get there, they've been pretty healthy, but now I'm running into problems where flats aren't drying out evenly, and some plants are staying wet longer than others.

I should probably be checking them for dryness individually, rather than watering whole flats at a time, but that would add additional time and hassle to a process which is already pretty long and involved, so the result is that some of the plants have roots rotting out, because they're too wet, which leads to more rotting, which leads to more wetness, until I have plants with basically no roots at all. Most of the seedlings have seemed unbothered by the oil, but it's possible that that added some stress on top of the root rot.

Making this worse is that so far, all three plants this is happening to are plants that have either already bloomed for me, or are in the process of making a first bloom: #247 "Selma Carr," #238 "Rudy Day," and #095 "Clarice Fullhartz." None of the three are actually gone yet, but they don't look good, and I don't have a lot of hope. Insult to injury, #247 "Selma Carr" had even been pollinated, so not only do I lose the plant, I lose all the seeds she had been working on.

The only bright side of all this, I suppose, is that I can't breed for stronger, healthier plants if I don't throw out some weaker, sickly plants along the way. And #247's bloom was, as you'll remember, a little defective-looking to begin with.

This is probably the last picture of #247 "Selma Carr" we're going to see; it's from 14 August 2014.

#238 seemed pretty healthy and was a very early bloomer, but the flowers were small, and it was just another in a long line of red spathe / yellow spadix blooms. So perhaps nothing of any real value has been lost.

Also disappointing: no seedlings have completed a first bloom since the last update a month ago. Two seedlings have started their first buds, though: #279 "Tristan Shout" and #171 "Genevieve la Difference." Neither is looking terribly exciting so far, and obviously there's a good chance that they'll abort before the buds get anywhere anyway, but it's something. First blooms are also in progress on #237 "Roxy Casbah" and #095 "Clarice Fullhartz," should Clarice get her roots back under herself and decide to complete the bloom.

Happier Anthurium news will be posted shortly.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stupid plant tricks: Lenophyllum texanum

Officially, I have not been growing any Lenophyllum texanum since New Year's Day, 2013, when I threw out the one pot that I had growing, marked it down on the spreadsheet as deceased, and went on.

The plant had other plans. In the process of disposal, some leaves fell off, which I noticed but figured weren't worth the trouble of digging out of the flat and throwing away. Sure, it's a desert plant, but how's it going to survive with no soil, brief periods of water, and little light, was the thinking.

A year and a half later, the leaves have grown into whole plants. The roots have intertwined to form a little mat, against which all the stems can brace themselves, keeping them upright even without any soil. And apparently the mat is good enough at retaining water that they can make do, and even thrive, with just the water they get from being sprayed for about 15 seconds, every couple weeks.

This is impressive, and would even be endearing if it gave the impression of having to exert itself a little. I'm happy to root for underdogs every now and again. But it's not acting like a plucky little underdog, struggling to survive against all odds; it's closer to an unstoppable Terminator type. For the moment, I'm going to keep it -- it's growing in an unused space in the flat, and it's not asking anything of me -- but at least 50% of that decision is because I'm no longer sure whether it's possible to get rid of it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pretty picture: Aerangis citrata

Not a great picture, but at least a slight improvement on the last time I tried to take a picture of A. citrata, so that's something.

Previously: 2013.

In other news: another week, another Anthurium-oiling. And yes, the soybean oil has started to go a little bad. (Not the stuff in the jug: the stuff that I've sprayed already.) It's not, like suffocating and horrible, but yes, there is a smell. So I'm giving the thrips and scale a break this week, and not oiling the plants. That has the side benefit of giving me a break too, since it takes so much longer to water and oil than it does to just water.

Also potted up another 37 Anthurium seedlings, on Sunday, and started another batch of seeds (from #273 "Wes Coast," #005 "Chad Michaels," and #239 "Russ Teanale") on Monday, so, more grandseedlings on the way.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Unfinished business: Amorphophallus

The plastic foam pipe insulation tubes sure seemed like a good idea, but the leaves on both Amorphophalluses died anyway, before the A. bulbifer could grow a replacement bulb. Which is the bad news.

The good news is that the A. bulbifer, at least, is willing to grow a replacement leaf in the same season, so I haven't lost the plant entirely after all.

The A. konjac hasn't done anything yet to indicate that it's thinking about replacing the leaf that died. I can see the top of the original tuber when I look down into the hole left by the leaf, and it's at least not dead. Which is something to cling to for the moment, I guess.

One of the A. konjac offsets also got a wind-bent leaf, which subsequently came off, but two remain. At least in theory, they should be able to hold on until the fall, and then I will have more than one konjac. Which I will put outside in a timely fashion next year even if it means I have to move them in and out a lot, because that's how excited I will be about having more than one konjac.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Pretty pictures: Doritaenopsis I-Hsin Ballor [Balloon?]

Still oiling the plants in the basement. This is going . . . okay. Both Breynia distichas have responded to the oil by dropping about 50-75% of their leaves, which is unfortunate. Though I knew there'd be some plant that had problems with it.

I had expected the Agave victoriae-reginaes to object to the oil, since they'd had problems with the neem oil two years ago. But apparently that was something specific to the neem, not oil in general, because they're fine.

All the Anthuriums have been oiled twice so far (maybe three times by the time you read this; I am supposed to spray them a third time on Monday), and I haven't seen any scale since I started. That's not necessarily due to the oil; I wasn't seeing scale regularly in the first place. It nevertheless seems like a good sign. I saw a couple thrips right after the first spraying, and I think I saw another couple after the second spraying as well. At the time, that was depressing, but considering how many I ran into before the first spraying, I'm thinking now that it's a serious improvement, if I have to search and search just to find two.

I've also updated the "plants I've tried" list, just under the header, for the first time in like seven months, and added a "cause of death" line for the many, many plants on that list that I am no longer growing. So if you've sent me a plant at some point in the past, and you're curious about whether or not it's still alive but you don't want to ask me directly because that would sound accusatory, now you can find out its fate without having to ask.

In our regularly-scheduled orchid news, we have another name problem. But the actual bloom is pleasant:

So the problem with the name is that although the orchid registry knows of lots of cultivars with "I-Hsin" somewhere in the name (these are apparently all bred by the same person, W. T. Chien), "I-Hsin Ballor" is not one of them. I-Hsin Ballerina looks very different, when you search Google for images, and I-Hsin Balloon is not exactly the same but is a lot closer to my pictures. So my guess here is that this is actually I-Hsin Balloon, and somebody in the long chain of transcriptions that runs between W. T. Chien and the Illowa Orchid Society has really bad handwriting, or needs glasses, or something.

There's still one point of confusion, though, even if we accept this as I-Hsin Balloon, which is that the orchid registry lists Doritaenopsis I-Hsin Balloon as Phalaenopsis Sogo Lisa x Phalaenopsis I-Hsin Gem (Ref.), neither of which are Doritis or Doritaenopsis, so exactly where do they get off calling the progeny of that cross a Doritaenopsis? I'm choosing to deal with this discrepancy by pretending that I didn't notice, and I encourage you to do the same.

(Actually, there's a debate about whether or not Doritis is even a real genus, so probably what's happened is that the source for the information on the parentage and the source for the grex name disagree on the Doritis question, leading to a Doritaenopsis with no Doritis ancestry. I am usually a splitter, when it comes to taxonomic issues, but on the Doritis / Phalaenopsis question I'm a lumper, because Doritis sounds to me like a skin disease that causes one's skin to form orange triangular scales with a cheese-flavored covering, and I would just as soon not have to deal with that mental image.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pretty picture: Laeliocattleya Natrisiri

This was one of the more impressive (to me) orchids from this year's show. The others were Cattleya-types as well, which is notable mostly because I'm usually more impressed with the lady-slipper (Phragmipedium and Paphiopedilum) types.

I couldn't find any results for this plant in the orchid registry or on Google, so either the name is misspelled, or this is one of those rare cases where a thing exists but has for some reason not made it to the internet yet. Considering this show's history with spelling, I'm betting on the first option.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Materials and Techniques: White Oil

As you have probably guessed, I've started spraying the "white oil" on the plants in the basement (as of August 4). This leaves me basically no time to do anything else, so I'm not doing anything else.

Points of interest about the oil-spraying process so far:

1) It is very messy. Oil and soap and water gets everywhere. I'm still doing it inside, because . . .

2) It's also very time-consuming. Watering a round of plants (bring plants to the tub, put plants in the tub, water, drain, take plants out of tub, return the plants to their original location) normally takes me about 15 minutes. Having to bring every plant to the tub means more trips, and then spraying all surfaces of every plant makes each round of watering take longer, so watering is now happening at less than half the usual speed. Taking the process outside would only serve to make a time-consuming and messy process more so: having oil, soap, and water dripping on the plant room floor is the lesser evil.

3) Emulsification is totally real, you guys. When I started the whole process, I had the oil and the dishwashing liquid in a milk jug, and I shook the jug around to mix the two together, and they mixed, but the mixture wasn't stable, so by the time I was ready to dilute and spray a new batch, the stuff in the jug had mostly separated into two layers again. When it was freshly shaken up, it poured pretty much the same as the oil -- noticeably thicker than water, but not by very much. At some point, though, I shook it up and it thickened into something very different, roughly the consistency of mayonnaise (which is also an emulsion made of about 70-80% vegetable oil, water, and an emulsifier1), yogurt, or thick shampoo. Pourable, still, but much slower, and it sticks to the measuring spoon terribly. That's gotten a little thinner over time, but it's still very different from the oil I started out with.

White oil concentrate (left) and in the spray bottle I actually use (right).

4) I'm also using roughly three or four times more of the oil/detergent mixture than the recipes I found on-line recommended (I'm using 3 Tbsp in a little less than a quart of water; they recommend 1 Tbsp in a full quart), because after a few test sprayings on a Gasteraloe, I wasn't convinced that there was enough oil in the spray to be accomplishing anything. It is possible that this will turn out to be a disastrous decision, but the plants haven't reacted badly so far, aside from the Breynia disticha, which may have been having other problems.

5) And I'm still seeing new thrips and scale, though I wasn't necessarily expecting them all to vanish like magic at the first application. Not sure I expecting them all to vanish ever, as far as that goes.2 But I am having a more difficult time locating thrips, if not scale, so maybe progress is being made.

6) Because of the slowness and messiness, posting is likely to be light for the next couple weeks, as much of my free time will be spent drunkenly sliding around on the plant room floor in a pool of soybean oil and soap,3 and/or cleaning up from same. There'll still be orchid posts every five or six days, unless I forget.


1 The emulsifier in mayonnaise is egg, not dishwashing liquid. Or at least it's not dishwashing liquid in your better brands of mayonnaise.
2 There's a post to be written, sometime, about the claims I found in a number of sites that were pushing the white oil, that because the oil wasn't a chemical, and because it works by suffocating the insects, there was no way they could evolve resistance to it. Sadly, that is not the case: 1) any atom, whether alone or in combination with other atoms, is a chemical of some kind or another. Vegetable oil is not an exception; it just happens to be one of the chemicals that we can eat large quantities of safely. 2) No, thrips are not likely to evolve beyond the need to breathe oxygen, but they can still evolve resistance to white oil. If I ever get around to writing that post, I'll describe some ways that that could happen. But don't hold your breath, no pun intended.
3 (Not that I'll actually be drunk. Though that may not be the worst idea I've ever had.)