Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Unfinished business: Gasteria bicolor

I realized recently that I hadn't given you any updates on the Gasteria bicolor seedlings in over a year. Considering my track record with Gasterias (in a word: poor), the reader could be forgiven for assuming that they had failed to transplant, or that they'd transplanted and then died, but in point of fact, eight seedlings survived, and seven of those are even doing reasonably well, though two of them have to share a pot with each other, and I worry a little about the plant in the lower right corner: it never seems to be able to keep more than two leaves going at a time.

Pot size: about 2.5 in / 6.3 cm in diameter.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Unfinished business: Schlumbergera seedling #49

I guess I'm going to be doing a few unfinished business posts for a while. I keep thinking of things and realizing oh yeah, I haven't said anything about that in a long time.

A reader asked me a few weeks ago if Schlumbergera seedling #49 had continued to grow strangely, which made me realize that I hadn't checked. So here it is now.


The old growth is crinkled and small and weird; the new growth looks normal. It's possible that I may need to restart this one from cuttings eventually: the base looks like it might not be strong enough to support the weight of the branches once they start to fill in a little more.

I'm not sure if I'm disappointed about this or not. On the one hand, it would have been really interesting to have a Schlumbergera that looked really different from everybody else's Schlumbergeras. On the other, if one was to have a different-looking specimen, it might have been nice to have a different-looking specimen that was in some way pleasant to look at.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Unfinished business: Clivia 'Aztec Gold' seedlings

Last summer, I started two batches of Clivia seeds from my 'Aztec Gold' plant. One batch, I put into a sealed glass jar and left them to sprout. The second batch, I just potted up in small pots full of soil like regular plants.

In the beginning, the glass jar seedlings appeared to have a substantial advantage. Not all of them germinated (I got maybe 75% doing something1), but those that did grew well. Only about 40% of the ones in pots of soil did anything, so I concluded that the glass jar was the way to go in the future, should I be fortunate enough to get Clivias blooming again.

There was one significant flaw with the glass jar plan, though, which was that I assumed that the seedlings were fine there, well after it became apparent that they were not. And, being lazy, and having many other plants to deal with, I left them in there anyway.

So then one day, I happened to glance at the jar and saw that some of the leaves were yellowing from the bottom up, and took that as a sign that I should do something quickly. Unscrewed the lid, and then spent about half an hour trying not to throw up. Seriously. It was that bad. Not that rotting vegetation ever smells like roses (not even rotting roses), but this was actually worse than Dracaena marginata with Erwinia rot, which had previously been my benchmark for unpleasant rotten-vegetation smells.2

Not wanting to give up on the two seedlings in the jar that seemed like they might still be alive, I held my breath, reached in, yanked them out, quickly screwed the lid back on, ran out of the room, took a breath, and then ran back in and potted them up in soil as fast as I could.

Alas, 'twas too late. Not only did a trace of the smell linger on the seedlings after they were potted up, but they died anyway, by the next day. So the glass jar approach ultimately resulted in no seedlings, a 0% success rate.

The seeds potted into soil lived in the kitchen all winter, in a cold south-facing window. I had them in trays along with some Salvia elegans cuttings I was rooting, which needed to be watered pretty often during the winter, so the Clivias never got watered directly, but they had chances occasionally to pull water up from the tray. I started five seeds. Two germinated pretty early and grew a leaf apiece; the other three slowly hollowed out and died. Around March, the two survivors started to make new leaves, so the overall success rate there was 40%.

The larger pot has a diameter of 2.5 inches / 6.3 cm across the top.

So. Yeah. Kind of a disappointment overall; I had hoped to have a lot more seedlings to play with than just the two. But we'll call it a learning experience -- no more glass jars! -- and move on. Maybe next year it'll work better.

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1 I don't remember the numbers precisely, but it was something like: I started eight seeds, six produced a root, four of the ones that produced a root also started growing leaves, and two of the ones that started growing leaves continued to grow leaves long enough for them to look like leaves.
2 The Dracaena / Erwinia combination had a sharp ammonia note to it that wasn't so much gross (though it was gross) as it was painful. I mean, there was rotting plant smell in there too, but the ammonia smell was what was most memorable. Rotted Clivias, on the other hand, have a much richer, more complicated bouquet, with a dominant note of sickly-sweet. Not only worse than the Dracaena, but worse than anything else I have ever smelled in my life. Smelled like if you were standing right next to Satan as he visited the part of the Hell dump where they put all the rotten fruit, and one or both of you had a suppurating skin infection, and he'd just farted.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New plants

I have about six long, talky blog posts in progress at the moment, but I'm also going through one of those spells when I'm unhappy with everything I write, so it's maybe going to be a while before any of them get published. In the meantime, I've bought two more plants, that aren't even Anthuriums, so let's look at those.

First up is a Huernia.


Two reasons for this purchase: 1) stapeliads are the best,1 and 2) it was $5.2

They had several specimens of this particular plant, one of which was flowering already. I didn't buy that one because there were aphids all over the flower. (Fortunately, there were several other specimens available.) I tried to get a flower photo anyway, but it didn't turn out well.


I'm a little hesitant about the ID; it was tagged as H. oculata, which has the most amazing flowers, but the flower doesn't match very well. In particular, that part at the center should be a lot lighter and more uniform in color. A little mottling is one thing, but that picture above is a lot more heavily patterned than I feel H. oculata ought to be.

I couldn't find any flower photos that matched any better, so it's possible that the one I took a picture of was immature, distorted by the aphids, or otherwise atypical, but in any case I'm not ready to say for certain that I have H. oculata. My plant has a few tiny flower buds on it, so we'll see what those look like.


I'll also keep an eye out for aphids. I had aphids on the Huernia zebrina last summer. They appear to be a common stapeliad problem.


The other plant I got at Reha's was Mangave 'Bloodspot.' This may or may not turn out to be a good idea; one of my two Mangave 'Macho Mocha' specimens lost a lot of leaves during the winter and is presently on the verge of death,3 and 'Macho Mocha' is, I think, the only Manfreda, Agave, or Mangave I have that hasn't had scale problems yet. So this is possibly a group of plants I should be more wary about. But you know how it is.


It was only $8, so if the purchase turns out to have been a bad idea, it was at least not a very bad idea. And I assume I'll get to enjoy it outside for a summer first.


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1 Stapeliads are Stapelia, Huernia, Orbea, and related plants. Those three are the most common in cultivation, but there are a bunch of others. Especially notable among the others is Edithcolea grandis, which gets attempted a lot because the flowers are impressive, but it's apparently difficult to grow.
I say they're "the best" because a few of them do extremely well for me. Huernia schneideriana (which I got from Liza) and Stapelia gigantea are a couple of my favorite plants. H. schneideriana bloomed all winter long even though it wasn't receiving that much light; S. gigantea has all kinds of fun textures and smells and is one of the easiest plants I grow.
2 Let's hear it for Reha's Greenhouses. They're also about $6 cheaper per bag than the ex-job on the brand of potting soil I like, which I wish I'd known before buying a bag at the ex-job.
3 The one that's doing poorly was about 8 inches from an obstructed west-facing window, and also probably stayed wetter longer because it was in a larger pot. The other one was on a south-facing windowsill, so it got a lot colder, but it also probably dried out faster and saw more sun.


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Pretty picture: Rhyncattleanthe Lily Marie Almas 'MGR'

And the photos from the 2014 orchid show begin. I said previously that I always say that I think the photos are better than the previous year's, but this year I think it might actually be true. Mostly because last year's batch was so crappy: so many blurry photos because I couldn't get close enough to the flowers and didn't want to step over the rope to get closer. This year I did step over the ropes to take pictures, once, but for the most part I didn't need to: the set-up this year was a lot more sensible.

Even when I did step over the ropes, nobody yelled at me, so it's probably not that big of a deal, but the important part is that I felt like a bad boy.


For the record, I didn't intend to follow one Rhyncattleanthe with another Rhyncattleanthe. It was accidental.

Rhyncattleanthe Lily Marie Almas 'MGR' = Rhyncattleanthe Orange Nuggett [sic] x Cattleya Jalapa (ref.)


Friday, April 4, 2014

Random plant event: Breynia disticha

I now have three Breynias in the house: the original, and two (barely) smaller plants from cuttings of the original. If they were easier to propagate from cuttings, I would have even more than that, because I like them,1 but a lot of cuttings fail. (Cutting failure is a good thing in this particular case, though, because they get big quickly, and if all the cuttings had been successful, we would probably have had to give them all their own room.)


I happened to notice a couple months ago that the original Breynia had decided to bloom. The flowers are small and inconspicuous, to the point where although I know I've seen them once before,2 I could easily believe that my plants have flowered several other times without me noticing.


This has no real practical application to anything -- I doubt I could pollinate them successfully. Nor is it particularly decorative, appealingly fragrant, or otherwise desirable. But it is news, technically, in that it is something that has happened. So make of that what you will.

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1 They're easy, except that they always seem to need water. With a lot of plants, you could just move the plant up to a larger pot and get some relief, but Breynia roots fill any additional room they get almost instantaneously. So I've learned to just check for wilting more often, and water them out of turn if they need it.
Otherwise, Breynia is a good plant for me: not overly demanding of light, not prone to bugs (so far, though there have been brief minor spider mite infestations), copes well with indoor humidity and temperature. It's not my favorite plant or anything, but I like it well enough to have three of them.
If you live in a more tropical climate, be advised that Breynia disticha will propagate itself throughout your yard/garden, as well as those of your neighbors. If you live in Florida or Hawaii, in particular, you should not be growing Breynias outdoors. Not that it's going to bring back the native ecosystems, but you can at least try not to make things worse.
As houseplants, obviously, the damage to the ecosystem was done when the house was built, so grow whatever you want, just keep it inside.
2 Those photos are better than these photos, if you care.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Early April Anthurium (and Schlumbergera) Seedling Update

I think I finally have the color-fidelity problem licked. If not, all the photos in this post were taken on the same day, in as close to the same conditions as I could manage, so if the colors are biased, they should at least all be biased in the same direction.

Everything with buds on it as of March 24:

First column, top to bottom: 088 ("Charlotte F. Babylon"), 213("Nadya Falt"), 239("Russ Teanale"), 238("Rudy Day"), 234("Ross Koz"), 247("Selma Carr").
Second column: 066("Barbara Seville"), 085("Carson Trucks"), 046("Aurora Boreanaz"), 108("Deena Sequins"), 005("Chad Michaels").
Third column: 040("Ivy Winters"), 200("Mario Speedwagon"), 031("Sylvester"), 243("Sal Monella"), 058("Betty Larsony").
Fourth column: 202("Mason Pepperspray"), 280("Jujubee"), 283("Anne Pursand"), 118("Elijah Sturdabowtit"), 231("Rhea Listick"), 063("Audrey Quest").

Aurora Boreanaz appears to have a thrips problem. I was really excited about Aurora at first, because there was a little bit of purple in its spathe, but the bud in the picture has opened since that photo was taken, and it's a dead ringer for Deena Sequins: red with a dark purple spadix. So not only does it not have a new color, but by the time the spathes open they're pretty thrips-ravaged. It's not seeming like a promising candidate for future breeding. I may have to discard the plant and recycle the name.

Mario Speedwagon has gotten darker in the last week, which is a good sign, and a new, light pink, bud has appeared. This suggests that it's going to keep getting darker until it opens, which would make for a very pretty inflorescence. Lots of potential so far. Rhea Listick is looking pretty good, in similar ways: more on her in a bit.

Chad Michaels and Alexis Mateo (#002) both produced buds at basically the same time, and they were both very, very dark red, verging on black. Alexis's bud caught on part of the plant as it developed, and wound up snapping itself off (!), so I don't know what it would have done; Chad's is staying very dark. Very dark red Anthuriums already exist, but I don't have one, so I'm kind of excited about this.

Sylvester has started to open since this photo was taken, and it has remained orange. (The previous orangish bud, Elijah Sturdabowtit / #118, took a sharp left turn to pink as the spathe opened, which was disappointing. Worse, it wasn't even a pretty pink, and was so short-lived that I didn't even manage to get a picture. I'd been hoping it would be my first orange -- the seed parent was 'Orange Hot' -- but Elijah fizzled out in every way possible.)

Pretty much every time I water the seedlings, I spot a new bud or two; so far (as of 31 March 2014), 40 of the Anthurium seedlings have at least attempted to bloom. The only bud not in the above collage is 097 ("Colin Ambulance").

I've also seen new inflorescences on the Spathiphyllum seedlings (#3, #9, #11), and a few more Schlumbergeras (#007, #022, #024, and #057).

The Spathiphyllums look like Spathiphyllums. At least one of them (#3) has scented inflorescences, which is kinda special.1

The Schlumbergeras are, unexpectedly, all pretty similar to #25 ("Clownfish"). #24 is basically exactly the same as #25. #22 hasn't fully opened yet, but looks the same as #25 so far. #57 is slightly more pink/coral; I'm pretty sure there's a difference, but you probably wouldn't notice it in a photo. #7 has a lot more white in the petals, which should be exciting but in reality just makes it look kind of washed-out and sad. I suppose it's nice to know that if something happens to #25, I have replacements ready, but I had been hoping for more variety than this.


There are 19 Anthuriums with fully-opened spathes at the moment, 7 of which are interesting enough to show you.


"Eileen Dover" (#116)


Eileen is pretty similar to 'Red Hot.' So nothing new, but I suppose she's still nice. Eileen spent several weeks pretending she was going to be orange or coral, so the sudden swerve toward red at the very end was a surprise. I don't know why all the 'Orange Hot' children lie so much. Not raised right, clearly.


"Heather Boah" (#149)


You can't tell in the photo because of how I cropped it, but the most surprising thing about Heather is how tiny the flower is. The biggest of the seedlings' spathes run about 2.5 inches (6 cm) long and wide; the average is probably about 2 inches / 5 cm; Heather's one spathe to date was just over 1 inch (2.5 cm). Not a very commercially-viable trait, but I've noticed that several of the seedlings produce larger inflorescences now than they did when they first started blooming, so maybe Heather will bulk up with time.


"Zach Religious" (#276)


Zach's spathe looks pretty trashed these days, but the berries seem to be developing normally. It's still the only one of the seedlings I'm sure has been cross-pollinated, but 271 ("Wanda Reulthemal") seems to be getting a little bumpy, so Zach may not be alone for long.


"Barbara Seville" (#066)


Barbara's here because she happened to photograph well and it's her first bloom.


"Yvette Horizon" (#275)


Also the first one for Yvette, though she didn't photograph so well.


"Ross Koz" (#234)


I am increasingly infatuated with Ross. The only thing keeping him from being basically perfect is spathe size. On everything else -- spathe color, foliage, lack of blemishes, number of blooms -- he's up toward the top of my list. One of the reasons I'm looking forward to seeing what Rhea Listick does is because there's a good chance she's from the same parents, the bud is similarly purplish, and it's already looking larger and broader than Ross's. But Ross is a good plant regardless of what Rhea does.


"Sawyer Ad" (#245)


Sawyer is another potential full sibling of Ross's,2 and also a good candidate for my favorite seedling. The color, obviously, is not that special, but the flowers are good about not cracking, large, pleasantly-shaped, and longer-lasting than most. As a bonus, the spadices are a bright, saturated yellow. I wasn't initially that impressed, but Sawyer's growing on me.

The next seedling update will probably happen once I can show you what happened with Rhea, Chad, and Mario's buds, plus a week or two to take and crop pictures. So maybe late April or early May. I will try really, really hard to write some general houseplant stuff before then.

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1 The seed parent didn't have scented inflorescences, but apparently it didn't self-pollinate like I originally thought.
The plant I think must be the pollen parent has a sort of soft, powdery, lilac / baby powder fragrance. It's nice, but it's not particularly strong, and often doesn't seem to be coming from the plant: any number of times I've gone hunting around the basement, trying to figure out where the smell was coming from.
The seedling's scent is similar: not very strong, lilac / baby powder, but when I first notice it, I often pick up a flicker of cinnamon before I notice the rest of the odor. I can't tell if that's actually part of the fragrance, or if "cinnamon" is just my brain flailing around for something to call the smell: it happens that fast.
2 The reason why I don't know is because I don't record attempted crosses, because I don't have much of a way to know if they worked or not. So far, I've just been randomly crossing things any time there are multiple flowers in bloom. The reason why I think they might be related anyway is because my notes say that they came from the same seed parent ('White Gemini') and were sown on the same day (5 May 2012). Since it's possible that not all the berries on a given spadix have the same pollen parent, and it's also possible that I took berries from more than one flower when starting the seeds, the relationship isn't really provable. But Ross may be siblings with:
Rhea Listick (#231)
Rowan DeBoate (#235)
Rudy Day (#238)
Russ Teanale (#239)
Sal Monella (#243)
Sawyer Ad (#245)
Selma Carr (#247)
and 32 other seedlings which have yet to produce flower buds. So far, Rhea is the only one to resemble it in inflorescence color, but one of the nonbloomers (#244, "Sara Problem") has similarly-shaped foliage.