Saturday, April 26, 2008

Random plant event: Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Super Beefsteak' flower

I'm not fond of unprocessed tomatoes. I eat a lot of pasta and pizza, so I do actually eat a lot of tomatoes, but I don't especially like them. (I'm also not a big fan of cheese, as a rule, but somehow tomatoes, which I don't like, and cheese, which I don't like, are both just fine in lasagna and pizza.) I'm not really a huge fan of tomato plants, either, though I don't mind them too bad. Opinions at work differ on whether the plants' smell is pleasant or unpleasant; I kind of like it, personally.

This was one of the first plants to flower; a lot of the plants in gallon pots are flowering now, though.

Although my sense of smell has recently been a little confused, because of my cold (which is still working its way through the co-workers: so far, A's daughter brought it home from school and gave it to A, who gave it to the boss, who gave it to B, who gave it to me, who gave it to C, and I may be missing a step or two in there), this is a very olfactorily confusing time in the greenhouse.

We've gotten some jasmine in, and some gardenias; the flower shop still frequently has hyacinths available, though they don't tend to stick around; the marigolds are blooming now, there's a table and a half devoted to tomato plants, I've caught the occasional whiff of strawberry (there have already been a few red fruits, though they tend not to stay: either the pot is purchased, or someone pulls the fruit off and eats it, or it gets damaged and rots and has to be extracted from the pot), the geraniums have a whole greenhouse to themselves to stink up, plus being the bulk of another, and then there are the petunias, all the wet-earth smells, smells wafting in from outside (delivery truck exhaust, e.g.), plant-waste smells, and the standing-water smells. I'm not saying you could blindfold me and plug my ears and I'd still be able to find my way around by smell, but I'm not saying I couldn't, either. It'd be an interesting experiment to try.

Friday, April 25, 2008


The tropical plants at work are actually hanging in there pretty well, considering that they're not getting anywhere near the usual amount of care while we're preoccupied with the annuals and seedlings and so forth. But we do miss a few. Can't really be helped.

Previous LOLSpaths here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pretty picture: Portulaca 'Tequila Mix'

I assume I'd seen these before this spring, but I didn't remember them, so it's been nice to be more formally introduced. Pictures of individual flowers like these maybe don't quite get the idea across - they look very nice in groups, blooming in various colors at once - but this way you can see the details in the flowers a lot better, and they're surprisingly detailed. (You can click the pictures to get even larger views of the flowers.)

I don't think I have any use for them myself (there's one planter that sort of came with the apartment, which I'm going to plant up, but that's all the outdoor space I've got, or want), but someday, perhaps. But then, I'm sort of constantly being intrigued by outdoor plants now. I start mentally putting planters together, and then it dawns on me that not only do I not have space or money for the planter I'm envisioning, but I don't even necessarily want more stuff to take care of in the first place. Summer's going to be dangerous enough, from a heat-exhaustion standpoint, as it is.

So in the end, I've got two long, narrow rectangular planters that kind of came with the apartment. Last summer, the south one was planted in nothing but Tradescantia pallida, and that worked just fine for me. This summer, I was thinking about adding a couple Synadenium grantii cuttings, because I've got them already, and then maybe something else, if I can figure out what third thing I could add. I want a coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides), but I don't know whether the variety I want to use (either 'Fishnet Stockings' or 'Quarterback') can handle that much sun and heat. So I continue to look.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Milestone: #s 399 and 400

I don't know if anybody bothers to watch the running plant population number in my profile in the sidebar or not, but yesterday the husband and I went to Cedar Rapids, and stopped at three plant places, and bought plants #399 and 400, below, for a grand total of like $14 and change.

(L-R) Dieffenbachia 'Tiki,' Podocarpus macrophyllus

I don't need this, obviously. Nobody really ever needs more than about 350 plants. (Maybe 375, if you really like plants.) It already takes way too much time to water everything, and that's especially problematic now that I'm starting to spend increasing amounts of time watering at work, too.

But the prices on both plants were very good, and I'm in the process of working on the Dieffenbachia profile now, which I have the unfortunate habit, when I'm writing a profile, of buying every new variety I see of whatever plant I'm writing about.1 (God help me when we get to Phalaenopsis.) So, 400. They're not all going to stay around indefinitely, or at least that's the plan, but for right now . . . well, for right now, I need to be watering things.


1 For what it's worth, the Dieffenbachia post is shaping up to be crazysexyeducational, probably a two-parter like Sansevieria trifasciata (Part I; Part II) and almost certainly in my personal three favorite plant profiles. Plus I'm getting very, very fast at typing the word "Dieffenbachia."
I don't, on the other hand, have any idea when it might be posted, or how readable people will find it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Work-related: specificity

This turned into more of a rant than I intended, but it's still worth saying.

"Tree, with white flowers, that's all over the place," is not going to be enough of a description to go on if you're asking me to identify a particular tree you're looking for.

"Tall, with ovalish green leaves," is not going to help me find the houseplant you claim you're trying to replace.

A tall green houseplant with ovalish leaves that we had last year.

"That plant with daisylike yellow flowers:" yes. We have many of those for sale. Thanks for calling.

"Tiny little bugs on my Ficus," tells me basically nothing at all. (As opposed to what? Raccoon-sized bugs on your Ficus?)

Also, just so you know: once you've told me something, I will usually remember what you said. Like, a good 85% of the time, at least. So it's not really going to help me figure out what you're talking about if you keep repeating the same information over and over again, and this is especially the case if it's information which could apply to about 50% of the thousands of plants we carry. "Tall and green" is not going to cut it (and yes, I had a customer whose entire description, during a conversation about fifteen minutes long, consisted of "tall, green, with ovalish leaves," repeated over and over in various sequences and with varying emphasis.). Please dig a little deeper.

A tall green houseplant with ovalish leaves that we had last year. Photo used by permission of anonymous donor.

Oh, and: it really doesn't help me if you say that we had it last year. I wasn't here last year. I don't know what we had. It really doesn't matter if we had it last year or not anyway -- I mean, are you expecting me to say, oh, well if we had it last year, then I'll get in the time machine, go back to last year, and bring you one? And, hell, it wouldn't even narrow things down if I did have a comprehensive knowledge of everything we had last year. We get a lot of things over and over, every year. You may as well tell me it's tall and green.

I'm not saying everybody should have to know the botanical terms for leaf shape and arrangement (spatulate, cordate, ovate, etc.), or be able to provide me with Pantone reference numbers, but holy Hostas, you might at least try. There are shapes, there are textures, there are colors and scents and time and indoor/outdoor distinctions. Give me something, please. Don't make me drag every little thing out of you: it will make me crazy. Like for example:

Fluffy, pointy, half an inch long, sickly sweet, four-petaled, waxy, flared, spiraled, divided, twice my height, vining, shrubby, chartreuse, cream, polka-dotted, glossy, Christmastime, foul-smelling, messy, willowy, musty, gold, banded, like a tiny Hibiscus, powdery, dusty, pimply, boxy, fishtailed, heart-shaped, glassy, strappy, serrated, spring, thorny, variegated, blotchy, worm-like, bleached, mushy, burgundy, wet-looking, ribbed, trumpet-shaped, fire engine red, August, almost invisible, chocolatey, lightweight, bouncy, pornographic, fuzzy, crescent-shaped, eighteen inches, sparkly, clustering, pleated, etc.

A tall green houseplant with ovalish leaves that we had last year.

I wonder about some of these customers' home lives. I picture conversations like,


HIM: Honey, where's my thing?
HER: What? I can't hear you, I'm in the room.
HIM: Where are you?
HER: The room. I'm coming. [pause] Okay, what?
HIM: I said, have you seen the thing?
HER: Which thing?
HIM: You know, the thing, with the handle.
HER: I don't know. Did you ask her?
HIM: Who?
HER: Her.
HIM: I don't know. Where is she?
HER: Where's who?
HIM: Her.
HER: You think she has the thing?
HIM: I don't know. She had it last year.
HER: Well did you ask her?
HIM: Who?
HER: The woman. With the hair?
HIM: No, I didn't ask her. She's too far away.
HER: Oh? Where's she?
HIM: In that state.
HER: And you think she has the thing with the handle there?
HIM: No. You thought she did.
HER: Oh. Was I right?
HIM: I don't remember.

And who knows. Maybe those are the kinds of conversations people are having. I don't know if I would be surprised or not.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Question for the Hive Mind: NOID succulents

Looking for identification on two plants today, plus there's an early result in the GASP project:

Succulent NOID #1:

NOID #1 has been around for at least a couple years; presumably it's looked better than this before. I'm assuming it's a succulent, even though it doesn't look much like one, because WCW says it's been grouped with the succulents since it arrived. She's never known what it is, and neither of us have seen anything like it before.

There's been talk of cutting it back and letting it, you know, get more normal-looking, but WCW and I don't want to do that until we know what it is. I did have a piece break off spontaneously, which I managed to root for a little while, though I think the cutting in question has been lost to rot already. Not sure. In any case, this has been bothering me for quite a while, so I'd be grateful if somebody had any ideas.

UPDATE: A reader has proposed Plectranthus ecklonii by e-mail, which seems to be in the right general neighborhood as far as leaf, leaf margin, and leaf arrangement, though the stem color and shape don't work, and it'd take a very unusual Plectranthus to grow so slowly and never flower in greenhouse conditions. P. ecklonii is also supposed to be a caudex-former, which we never saw in the two years or so that the plant was around, but there were a number of other cauduciform plants around, that had also been in the store since before I started working there, and our supplier did often do stuff like send boxes of "assorted" unidentified plants. It's plausible to me that this could have been in a box of "assorted cauduciforms," and that would explain why nobody knew what it was. (Explaining why a cauduciform plant didn't have a caudex is more complicated, though.) So I'm inclined to say that it's probably not P. ecklonii, but that P. ecklonii could be in the right neighborhood as far as genus or family.

(Close-up of leaves for NOID #1)

Succulent NOID #2:

NOID #2 actually does look a little familiar, but I can't place it. It's been in the same 6-inch hanging basket since I started working in August, and it was rootbound enough that you couldn't really water it: the water would run around the rootball right away without ever penetrating the soil. The plant didn't seem to mind this terribly, but I've felt bad about it, so yesterday I moved it up to the 8-inch pot in the picture. It has white, annoyingly sticky sap. The leaves turn slightly pinkish in full sun, and are tough but not very thick.

UPDATE: Was identified as Dischidia ruscifolia in the comments.

(Close-up of leaves for NOID #2)

Finally, the very first thing to happen with the GASP project is underway: I noticed this tiny, tiny sprout of Echinopsis peruviana (=Trichocereus peruvianus) yesterday. It doesn't look like much of anything in the picture, which is totally accurate: it doesn't look like much of anything in person, either. But it's still a sprout, so we're guardedly happy.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Random plant event: Tagetes patula 'Little Devil Fire' flowers

Things happen so fast this time of year. It didn't seem like I was out sick for all that long, but I come back yesterday and there's all kinds of new stuff going on. These flats of marigolds were all green when I left them Monday, and now almost every single one has a flower on it.

People are funny about marigolds. I've already had one co-worker give me a little rant about how much she hates them (apparently mostly because of the smell, and because they're so common, both of which I can understand). I don't have any strong feelings either way, so far, but that will probably change. I kind of like the foliage, though.