Monday, June 29, 2015

Pretty picture: Epidendrum stamfordianum

Didn't mean to just stop posting like that, but I've been busy, and the plants aren't doing anything especially noteworthy anyway. There have been new Anthurium blooms, and lots of new Anthurium buds which will eventually become blooms, but they've all fallen into the same red/yellow, red/white, and pink/pink categories I've shown you several times before, and it's hard to feel any urgency about making a blog post to show them off. I have a few ideas for longer posts still, but never seem to find any time to work on them, so . . . probably not going to be posting a lot in the near future either.

But we'll always have the orchid-show orchids. This particular one photographed badly -- for every shot I took, the camera made a different guess about where to focus, all of them wrong -- and it might not have been that interesting even if it had photographed better. Epidendrums seem to concentrate more on quantity of flowers, rather than quality. But the colors at least coordinate well with the color scheme on the blog at the moment, and the photo looks a little better at full-size. (Which possibly means that I should have cropped it differently.)


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum sukhakulii x (Black Cherry x sukhakulii)

A lot of the orchids in this year's show were pleasant enough, but not new, or new but not all that pleasant. The more years I go, the harder I am to surprise, I guess. In any case, this was probably as close as I got to a jaw-drop moment, just 'cause it's so dark:


Which, it's not that it's so pretty, exactly. I just didn't know that paphs could do this. (Not saying it's not pretty, though. When a plant's unusual enough, though, pretty is sometimes sort of beside the point, and I think that's what's going on here.)

Paphiopedilum Black Cherry = Paphiopedilum Fremont Peak x Paphiopedilum Red Maude (Ref.)

Paphiopedilum sakhakulii is pretty colorful, but lumpy; an image search says that Black Cherry is smooth and very dark red-purple. (It's really nice, actually. Like, if I could grow paphs, Black Cherry would be a paph I would want to grow.1) This plant seems to take more after Black Cherry, despite being 3/4 P. sakhakulii.

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1 Please don't tell me oh but you can! They're really easy! -- it's been tried. It didn't go well. I can only give plants the care that I can give, and that does not currently include care suitable for paphs. Perhaps someday my circumstances will be different -- I'll have a greenhouse, or fewer plants, or something -- and then we'll be open to trying the genus again, but for right now, even though I technically could, in practical terms, at the present moment, I can't.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Question for the Hive Mind: Trifolium pratense

There's nothing new going on here at the moment -- believe me, I tried to find something better than this to talk about1 -- so I thought this might be a good moment to ask a question that's been rattling around in my head for a couple years instead.

Why do people not deliberately cultivate red clover (Trifolium pratense) in their gardens?

I mean, yeah, I get that it's weedy and would tend to take over, given enough time, but gardeners overlook that in other plants, so it doesn't seem like that would be enough to disqualify it. And rabbits like it, but again -- that doesn't stop anybody from growing lots of other stuff. And it has good points. The flowers are pleasant, and numerous,


and even mildly fragrant. Bees love them. They improve the nitrogen content of the soil. There's a medicinal use for them.2 The plants quickly reach a mature height of about two feet tall and then stop getting taller, which seems to me like it should be a good quality for an outdoor plant.

So I'm just wondering. Last year, I let a couple grow in the Portulaca bed, and that seemed to work out fine for me,3 so I'm just wondering why nobody else does it. I assume there's a reason. Or several.

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1 There have been a few new first-time Anthurium blooms (0335 "Donna Fanuday," 0346 "Lois Carmen DiNominatre," 0360 "Heidi Gosique," 0373 "Shangela Laquifa Wadley," 0597 "Raven"), but Shangela is hideous, Donna, Lois, and Raven aren't fully opened up yet and have so far photographed terribly, and Heidi is basically a repeat of 0357 "Rhea Litré." I mean, I'll get to all of them eventually, I'm sure, but as a group they're kind of underwhelming. And in any case I'll have to sort through a bunch of photos first.
2 I'm not generally that impressed by claims that a garden plant can be used medicinally, because I really kinda feel like people are better off not gambling with self-administering unproven chemicals they don't really understand, at an unknown dose, with no supervision by a medical professional, but some people consider it a point in a plant's favor if it's "useful" for something, so that seems like it should be a point in favor of deliberate cultivation.
3 Didn't this year, because they were getting so big so early that they threatened to shade out the reseeded Portulaca grandiflora before it even had a chance to germinate. And yes, that means I've had a lot of seedlings to pull up. But the Trifolium is a much easier weed problem to deal with than, say, dandelions, maple tree seedlings, Oxalis, lamb's quarters, or crabgrass. If not for the Portulaca, I would have been perfectly happy to let the clover have the bed this year.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pretty picture: Isochilus linearis

I panicked for a second yesterday morning. Oh, crap, I need to do a blog post for tomorrow and I don't think the plants are doing anything, what can I write a post about? And then I looked at the queued posts and saw that there was an orchid post scheduled, so I didn't have to come up with something, and was relieved.

And then I looked at the photos, and was concerned again.


The notes I wrote down in March say that I found this one somehow "friendly and fun-seeming" despite its odd appearance. (It must be true -- I mean, I wrote it down and everything -- but I can't say these qualities translated to the photos very well.) I went on to note that the foliage was a lot stiffer than you'd think from looking at it, which I do remember (one doesn't expect to be stabbed by an orchid), so "friendly" seems even less appropriate, but whatever.


Isochilus is a new genus for the blog; I. linearis seems to be the main species in cultivation, though I did find some I. aurantiacus (orange flowers) references around as well. I. linearis is, I think, not supposed to be as yellow as the plant in the photos, either -- most of the photos that come up in an image search show green leaves. Some of that could be my camera's fault, though I remember thinking at the show that the leaves were pretty brown, so it can't all be the camera.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Random plant event: Neofinetia falcata "Amami Furan"

It's getting to the point where I can't even say I'm unable to grow orchids anymore.

Let me first admit that Neofinetia falcata "Amami Furan" is not especially interesting to look at.


That's it. Solid white flowers, stiff dull olive-green leaves, orchid-type roots. The most interesting thing about its appearance is the long spurs on the flowers:


Which don't seem that interesting either, granted, but the way the plant suddenly grows them is sort of neat. The earliest stages of bud only have short, stubby spurs:



And then all of a sudden they start shooting out the back of the flowers. Which is interesting to watch, but not, like, beautiful.

However, Neofinetia does have one non-obvious feature that totally makes up for the plain appearance. You know it doesn't look like much, but how does it . . . sound?

(No. I'm kidding. It's fragrant, not noisy. I just wanted to surprise you for a second.)

And what a fragrance! It changes a little bit from hour to hour and day to day, but it usually smells like vanilla, a Gardenia, or something in between the two. It's not overpowering like the Hoya lacunosa:1 I can only detect it if I'm within 3 or 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) of the plant, and even then only if the air currents are exactly right. It's also only fragrant at night, after about 6 or 7 PM.


I don't know how long to expect the blooms to last; they opened up on June 3, and aren't wilting or browning as I write this on June 12, so there's nine days right there. I'd be surprised if they lasted a month, but then, I haven't had this happen before, and couldn't locate any information about bloom lifespan on-line, so for all I know, they last forever. (Don't spoil it for me if you know.)

Even if they are set to die pretty soon, the plant has produced a second spike, about 2 or 3 weeks behind the first --


-- so that'll extend the life of the scent a bit further.


I'd given up on ever growing an actual Gardenia indoors a long time ago, and had mostly given up on growing orchids since an unhappy Oncidium / Sophrolaeliocattleya / Potinara / Dendrobium experience in 2011 and 2012, so having an orchid bloom for me for the first time,2 and having it smell more or less like a Gardenia, is . . . well, "miraculous" would be a bit strong, but it's still two impossible things happening at the same time. So whatever the word is for two impossible things happening at the same time. Which I suppose may as well be "miraculous."

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1 The Hoya is not actually that bad, though when multiple peduncles are in bloom simultaneously, the smell does get pretty strong.
Recently, with the Neofinetia smelling like a gardenia in the kitchen, the Hoya smelling like a florist's display case in my office, and the Murraya paniculata smelling like musky orange blossoms in the plant room, the house has had a pretty complicated scent landscape lately. A week ago, it was even more complicated than that, as Sheba chose to roll in some fresh shit (her own? neighbor cat?) she found in the yard and got a thick streak of it on her back, which necessitated an emergency bath.
2 I ought to acknowledge here that I received this plant for free, in a plant trade in May 2012, and that I had specifically encouraged the sender not to send it to me, on the grounds that sending it would be a waste of an orchid, as I can't grow orchids. And they sent it anyway (potted in the softest, fluffiest sphagnum moss you have ever seen -- I wanted to, like, sleep in it), and here we are, three years later.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Random plant event: Hoya bella

Hoya carnosa and I technically got along, when I had them: they grew, and didn't die (until they got Sudden Hoya Death Syndrome, which is presumably my fault somehow but I have yet to see a satisfactory explanation for it1), but they also rarely bloomed.2

Hoya lacunosa and H. bella, on the other hand, are super consistent about blooming: H. lacunosa blooms sporadically during the winter, and then produces a lot of blooms starting around March or April, when the angle of the sun swings around far enough to let some direct sun hit its window;3 H. bella blooms every year from about May to June. This year is blogworthy just because there are a lot more blooms than previous years. I didn't get a photo that shows that very well, but it's a tough plant to photograph,4 so you'll just have to trust me that it's a lot.


This is a better photo of some of the actual flowers, though it's still probably not as good as the pictures from 2013:


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1 Though I have gotten a couple clues over the years: one, SHDS seems only to happen to plants which are not receiving any direct sun; two, SHDS has so far only happened to plants in plastic pots. So it's probably some variety of root rot, caused by a plant not being able to grow fast enough to take up the water in its pot, or something, in which case a different potting soil might make the difference. But I'm just guessing.
2 There was a single bloom last year, and then the plant was exposed to scale and I figured it was easier to just cut to the chase and throw it out, because by the time you see scale on a Hoya, not only is the plant riddled with them, but it's also given them to everything within six feet (1.8 m) of itself. Ask me how I know.
3 (and then proceeds to make me mildly ill every evening, beginning at about 8:30 or 9 PM, when the plant starts pumping out the fragrance. It's not that I don't like the particular scent (which is basically the scent of a florist's display case). It's just that the plant is in my office, where I spend the bulk of my time, so if it starts to be too much, I can't easily get away from it. This pretty much only happens on nights when I'm already starting to get a headache; I don't think H. lacunosa has ever actually caused any headaches.)
4 (large, floppy, lopsided, Flowers that tend to point downward, on a plant that's fairly large, with long stems, which is also very lopsided in the direction its light comes from)


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pretty picture: Rhyncholaeliocattleya Kayla's Smile 'Sunshine'

We've seen Rhyncholaeliocattleya Kayla's Smile before (2014), but the 'Sunshine' part is new. Also the 2014 photos were better, alas.


Rhyncholaeliocattleya Kayla's Smile = Cattleya Sunset Beach x Rhyncholaeliocattleya Susan Stromsland (Ref.)


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Random plant event: Polyscias fruticosa

I don't remember how long ago it was, but at some point within the last year or two, I realized that the Polyscias fruticosa I'd purchased in February 2009 had officially become Too Big for the house, and something would have to be done. So I took a piece off the top of it, stuck it in vermiculite, and when it had started to root fairly well, I moved it into its own pot. (It's always good to have a spare of plants that you really like anyway, in case of pest attack or whatever. As in computing, so in horticulture: always back up your plants.)

But anyway. So both that cutting and the original plant are blooming now.1


We've seen Polyscias blooms before, and, frankly, they haven't gotten any prettier since 2008.


I figure this is still noteworthy, if only for the fact that it happened indoors (the cutting is even being grown entirely under artificial light, if you can believe it), and I have a (slightly) better camera now than I did in 2008 so I can manage (slightly) better photos.

What dandelions?

It's also a little weird, I think, that both plants bloomed simultaneously. The original plant and the cutting get different day lengths (the cutting is on a timer and gets the same amount of light every day; the original is in a window and so gets seasonally-varying light), the temperature in both cases should be more or less steady,2 watering has been the same. Even though I don't know what it could be, this still indicates that there's some kind of time-related trigger, maybe having to do with the age of the plant,3 or the time of year.4


I don't know whether Polyscias is self-fertile or not, so I don't know whether I'm going to see fruit from this. I've made sort of a half-assed attempt at self-pollination, just kind of waving a couple flowers around close to one another, and I guess we'll see what happens. (Like I need more seeds.) The plant at the ex-job did produce berries, but nothing happened when I tried to germinate them. Of course, I may have gotten better at germinating seeds since then. Whether it works to produce new plants or doesn't, I can be pleased about the blooming. It's nice when plants show they can do things you didn't expect them to do.5

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1 (Though I did not get photos of the original plant because it's unpleasant to move around. Watering it is bad enough.)
2 Though all the lights in the basement mean that it does get warmer down there during the day, and cooler during the night. I've never tried to measure how much of a swing in temperatures this is, but it's certainly noticeable when one goes up and down the stairs a lot. The upstairs keeps a steadier temperature, though some rooms still fluctuate perceptibly.
3 Though the cutting has only been around in its present form for a year or two, sometimes cuttings seem to "think" they're as old as the original plant, or at least they'll act more mature when potted up than a seed-grown plant will -- Schlumbergera cuttings will bloom earlier than those grown from seeds, for example, even if you take cuttings and start seeds on the same day.
4 Though the cutting in the basement wouldn't have day-length cues to know what season it is, some plants seem to be able to keep track of the time of year regardless of their lighting. Probably by making tally marks on the inside surface of the pot. Marking days off on a very, very small calendar. Something like that.
5 There's actually an even better example of this coming up soon, from another plant which is neither an Anthurium nor a Schlumbergera. Yes: more than one non-Anthurium/Schlumbergera doing something -- at the same time! Doesn't seem possible, right?