Saturday, October 18, 2008

Site-related: Blogiversary

This is, in fact, a single pot. We got two like this where the mound of flowers was on the order of four feet across. Why? I do not know, but they make for a hell of a picture.

PATSP is officially a year old today. In that time, we've met sixty-eight plants:

There were the groups (Horde, Fraternity), the professionals (Actor, Landlord, Community Organizer, Lawyer, Teacher, Supermodel, Secret Agent Man, Avant-Garde Artist, Athlete, Dancer, Infomercial Pitchman) the not-so professionals (Employee, Dilettante, Also-Ran), a couple real people (Greta Garbo, Amy Winehouse), a few fictional people (Auntie Entity, Goody Two-Shoes, Romance Novel Heroine, The Wandering Jew, John Q. Public), royalty (Princess, King & Queen, Celebrity), mental patients (Psychopath, Neurotic, Basket Case, Sadist, Melancholic, Paranoiac), romantic interests (Exotic Stranger, Ex-Girlfriend / Ex-Boyfriend, Hooker With a Heart of Gold, Blind Date, Femme Fatale, Mister Right), losers (Schlub, Stoner, Dork, Brain), winners (Lucky Bastard), some bad boys (Criminal, Bad Influence, Con Artist, Evil Genius, Cult Leader), some friends (Friend of a Friend, College Roommate, Pal), tragic figures (Sacrificial Virgin, Feral Orphan, Unsung Hero, Ghost) and a wide and motley assortment of others that fit into no particular category (Teenager, Kamaaina, Practical Joker, Messenger of God, Identical Cousins [1] [2], Urban Cowboy, Single Mother, Damsel in Distress, Schoolgirl of the Underworld, Samurai in a Dress, Twenty-something, Caveman).

I do occasionally wonder what happens when I run out of plants to profile, but I can think of a half-dozen uncovered plants in the Bromeliaceae alone, off the top of my head, so I think we're probably safe for another year, at least. And there's no shortage of characters to go with the plants, either.

A festive NOID Anthurium photo, because I've recently realized that I can't rely on Gazania to do all the celebratory heavy lifting around here. I mean, until next spring, I've only got just the five Gazania pictures.

What's next for PATSP? Well, there'll be some more of the same: work-related posts, profiles, pretty pictures, random plant events, all that good stuff. I would also really like to bring back the LOLplants, who I've missed, and finish the pest profile series (still to come: scale, fungus gnats, thrips, aphids).

And besides more of the same? Well, I have some ideas. I've been wanting for some time to introduce a regular weekend round-up feature where I could put up links to other blogs with noteworthy posts, sort of a just-in-case-you-missed-it post. The main obstacle to doing this so far has been that I don't always have enough time to read as many posts on other blogs as I would like, so collecting the links in the first place is kind of an obstacle. But I'm working on it. I also have a similar idea involving interviews -- but I've said too much already. There's at least one item of plant-related fiction on the way, which I have to say is not really working out that well at the moment but I'm still hopeful, and I expect to see more imaginary plants in the fictional botany series. Also, I know I've been promising to write one forever, but I really will get to a review of Amy Stewart's Flower Confidential at some point, and then at some point after that I'll start on a review of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief.

The other monster mum. There was also a maroon one, that I didn't get a picture of before it sold.

So I'll try to make it worth your time to show up. Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pretty picture: Aechmea 'Del Mar' flower

Like with Oncidium 'Sharry Baby,' Aechmea 'Del Mar' is one of those plants I've heard about but not actually been able to view in person until very recently. I bought one (we only had three to begin with, and I know already that the price isn't going to go down any), so now I get to find out what it's like to live with.

The draw is of course the flower.


There aren't a lot of tropical plants suitable for growing indoors that have flowers anything like this. Plus, it's actually a lot cooler in person: the dark cobalt blue and bright white are pretty striking.

On the other hand, the foliage is disappointingly plain, as bromeliads go:

The full view of the plant.

And then there are the spines. I was not warned about the spines. I'm accustomed to bromeliads occasionally being a little prickly, but this is actually pretty aggressively unpleasant. Had I known, would I have bought the plant anyway? Oh hell yeah. But I might have, you know, hesitated a little bit first, or something.

Close-up on the spines. If you really want to be alarmed, open the picture in its own window.

Still, if it's as easy to grow as the other bromeliads I've got (and we seem to be accumulating them in a big hurry: the spreadsheet tells me I've got 32 now: 5 Aechmea, 1 Alcantarea, 3 Cryptanthus, 9 Guzmania, 5 Neoregelia, 1 Tillandsia, 8 Vriesea), and if it offsets as easily as the others, then I suppose it'll be worth it. We'll find out. Even if it's not easy and doesn't offset, it's surely worth some money to have something like this hanging around the apartment for a few months. I've spent more money for less benefit before.

In the greenhouse.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Question for the Hive Mind: Plumeria leaf spots?

At the beginning of June, we brought in a huge (about seven-foot?) Plumeria for WCW. One of the advantages of being the one to put in the orders is that I can do stuff like this for myself, if I see something I'm interested in, and WCW doesn't get final pick but she does look over the lists, and I try to keep her happy too.

Something that helps with this is, if something is unusual enough to appeal to one of us, it's often the case that it appeals to both of us, so there are two sales lined up for whatever it is. Which is important when trying to justify these orders to the boss, who, if taken strictly at her word, would rather see the greenhouse filled with only the ten to fifteen species of standards and nothing else. (Fortunately, she doesn't quite mean that, whatever she says. She just gets nervous - and understandably so, given the state of the economy right now - about having too much money tied up in plants that aren't fairly proven sellers. The problem I have with this is, all of our competitors have the exact same plants, and usually at much better prices than we have; it behooves us to make a point of having the weird stuff, because we're the only ones who will. Sorry for the digression, but it's sometimes a sore spot.)

Anyway. So when the plant actually came in, it was doing this:

Click to enlarge. Or don't.

The new leaves would come in looking just fine, stay for a while, and then develop a bunch of small, vividly orange spots on the underside of the leaves. Shortly thereafter, the leaves would begin to go brown, curl up, and fall off. It's continued to do the same thing since she took it home. We don't think this is normal (she's had Plumeria before that didn't do this, she says), but are at sort of a loss to determine what's going on. I'm posting this in the hopes that someone in a more tropical clime, like maybe Florida (from whence the Plumeria came in the first place) might recognize the problem and have some answers. Anybody?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Random plant event: Codiaeum variegatum seedpods

We got a handful of new Codiaeum variegatums a few weeks back, because people are supposed to buy autumn-colored plants during autumn (they don't, though; it's more an article of faith than an astute market observation), and one of the plants had a couple seedpods on it.

Sadly, they disappeared after a day or two; I'd planned to try to plant them, just to see what would happen, but when I went to do so, I couldn't find them anymore. I suspect that one of the co-workers noticed them, decided they were trash, and threw them away. That kind of thing happens a lot.

The pods themselves are ribbed like pumpkins, except that they only have three ribs. They naturally break apart into three pieces, along the ribs. Beyond that, can't tell you anything.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pretty picture: Oncidium 'Sharry Baby'

You hear about these things, but never think you'll experience them for real.

Let me explain. I don't remember where I first read about 'Sharry Baby,' but the idea of an orchid that smelled like chocolate was interesting enough that I remembered the name. So when, a couple weeks ago, I saw 'Sharry Baby' on an availability list, sure, I went for it. Let's see these supposedly chocolate-smelling flowers.

Incidentally, the colors in these pictures aren't very true to life. Depending on the light, it either looks like a pleasant brick-red color or like a deep red with a hint of blue. The picture below is a little closer to reality.

The flowers aren't especially interesting to look at, except I guess insofar as all orchid flowers tend to be more interesting than your average flower. But who cares, right? We're wanting a good smell.

So I tried a few different times on Saturday. First sniff was maybe around 9 AM, and wasn't particularly interesting. Not a strong scent, and what scent there was wasn't very chocolatey.

Second shiff was about 11 AM, and it not only smelled like chocolate, it smelled like really, really good chocolate, something with lots of vanilla in it (one of the front counter people likened it to the smell of a Cadbury creme egg: I don't know about that specifically, but it smelled like commercial sweet milk chocolate, in any case.).

Third sniff was around 4 PM, and it smelled faintly, generically floral, with no particular element of chocolate as far as I could detect.

When I tried checking in on the same plant during the day on Sunday, it was fairly consistently chocolatey throughout, though the smell was still sweeter and more candy-like between about noon and 3 PM. No huge difference between days, though Saturday was hotter and sunnier. Maybe that explains something.

It's not unusual for flowers to smell different at different times of day, though usually the change is in intensity, not type: Hoya carnosa fragrance peaks around midnight, for example. There are other houseplants whose scents actually change in character over time, though: Sansevieria trifasciata is a weirder, somehow sad smell when the flowers are first open, and becomes a more generic floral as time passes.

But anyway. So remember the name. I don't know what it's like to try to grow indoors, and for that matter I don't know what it's like to try to grow in a greenhouse, either. So you may or may not want to buy. But you should totally try to find one to smell. I've had fun encouraging co-workers and customers to smell these: with customers in particular, they lean in, sort of cautiously, and then they smell the smell and their eyes light up and they smile. Pretty much every single time. It's entertaining to watch.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Work-related: It Begins

And here we go again. Got some poinsettias in last Tuesday, and more are coming at some point, though we haven't yet been told precisely when.

By the end of the Christmas season last year, I was pretty sick of poinsettias, but I actually like them when they're in this stage: not so eye-searingly red that I need welder's goggles to look at them, deep green, full, not really in demand by the customers yet, etc. Plus I like seeing them come in anyway, because it means that my long spring-and-summer nightmare is finally over and I can catch my breath for a bit. I'm sure I'll hate them again by Christmas, but for now, it's nice to have them back.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Personalish: 12 October 2002

Six years ago on this date, the husband and I had been dating for maybe five or six weeks. And I liked him enormously, but due to some bad past experiences I was trying very hard not to use the L-word (no, not "lesbian." The other L-word.), reasoning that this time, before declaring my undying affection, it might be good to get to know him a bit. So, dating. Also we had some very different upbringings and very different understandings of how the world worked: he was astrology, I was astronomy; he was born of transcendental-meditating hippies, I was born of born-again glossolaliacs; he was studying religion, I had a degree in chemistry. So there were some reservations about how well that was going to work out.

And then he won a radio call-in contest and got two free tickets to a Cowboy Junkies concert in Des Moines. Which, the Cowboy Junkies' cover of "Sweet Jane" had somehow become "our song" at some point, because I had been making a habit of bringing him white roses when I visited his place (white because, again, not wanting to be pushy, not wanting to push too far ahead of where we actually were), and the song mentions white roses, and we thought the song mentions white roses but apparently it doesn't (see comments), but even if it hadn't been a special song to us, I really liked the Cowboy Junkies (having an instinctive love of all things Canadian: Canadian citizenship committees, take note!) and would have gone anyway. So we went.

And you know, I don't actually remember the night all that well. I mean, I wrote it down in my journal: I could look it up. But I mainly remember two things. One, there was a moment before we got to the concert where I was absolutely positive that he was going to crash the car and we were both going to die. Neither of those things actually happened, but there was some abrupt braking on the interstate and that was scary. And the other thing was that after the concert, after the drive back, I realized that, whether I liked it or not, this was not all just me wanting to be in love, that I actually was in love, and I was at some point going to have to say so. Chances were going to have to be taken. I didn't say so that night; I'm not sure when it was. But I knew as of 12 October 2002 that this was going to be something.

Consequently, though we do celebrate the night we met (24 August 2002) as our "official" "anniversary," the more meaningful date to me is 12 October.