Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pretty picture: Hosta 'Grand Prize'

Perennials week continues with a Hosta picture. This is probably not the most amazing picture or plant, but a lot of the Hosta varieties we've got are not fully up yet, so this was the most striking of what I had to work with when I was taking the picture.

I like Hostas. They look tropical, but they're not. (WCW, who also has a thing for big-leaved tropicals, feels more or less the same way about Hostas.) And they must be fairly easy to grow, because everybody has them everywhere here. I admit to being a little puzzled by the sheer number of varieties: they only seem to be capable of doing just so many colors, variegations, and sizes. You'd think that everything that could be done with Hostas already had been, but I was talking to Perennial Expert the other day and she said that there are new varieties out that, instead of marginal variegation like 'Grand Prize' here, have irregular stripes of a different color in the leaves. (They're called 'Streakers,' and examples can be seen here.) Which I can see how a Hosta connoisseur might get excited about that.

And anyway, I, who have fourteen different but similar Aglaonemas at home, and fifteen varieties of Anthurium which are only distinguishable from one another when they're blooming, really don't have any room to judge Hosta fans for getting excited about subtle differences between varieties. I know what it's like.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Terrarium (and Nina) pics

I'm not entirely happy with the way the terrarium looks right now; it seems a little sparse. My reasoning is that 1) I do want to be able to see Nina, so I can't cram it full of plants, and 2) I don't want to have to replant it every couple months, so it makes sense to leave room for the plants to grow into. If nothing else, I'm pretty sure the baby toes (Pilea depressa) will spread in a hurry.

Also I'm not necessarily planning to leave the water and food dishes in there; so far neither of them serve any purpose beyond periodically almost-drowning the crickets. And as far as it goes, I'm not positive that we expect all of the plants to make it, necessarily, either.

So just bear in mind that it's a work in progress.

Here's the terrarium as a whole:

And then here's Nina on her "bed" "tree," the Podocarpus. It's apparently more comfortable than it looks?

Finally, Nina on her rock. I may need to work on the whole basking situation a little: she's got UV light now, but not necessarily heat. I mean, the apartment in general tends to be warm, but the rock is not warmer than the rest of the apartment. Does it need to be?


Also, as a side-note, it has been determined that the long-awaited houseplant toxicity posts are going to have to be delayed a little bit again. About the time I have a day off work, I wind up having to water plants all day; once the plants are all hydrated and happy, I have to spend all my time at work. So progress has been slow. The series has been tentatively rescheduled to begin April 18 and conclude on April 26, and no, it's not your imagination: it keeps getting longer.

If Time Ran Backwards for Plants

It doesn't happen all that often, but sometimes at work I luck into doing some really long, boring thing, and my brain has to entertain itself. Usually, this doesn't result in anything very interesting (in fact, usually, it means I have a song running through my head for hours at a time -- or sometimes just a couple lines from a song, if I don't know the whole thing, which is horrible), but every once in a while, something bubbles up that's odd enough to share.

So last Monday, I was transplanting plugs of Impatiens (or "fucking Impatiens," as it's more commonly known among the staff1) and the plant-related synapses in my brain (which are many) happened to be firing at the same time as the ones that were remembering a snippet from Slaughterhouse Five, and I started to think, what would it be like if time ran backwards for plants but not people?

Fucking Impatiens 'Super Elfin Lipstick.'

Now obviously time runs the direction it runs, and so any thought experiment like this winds up running into inconsistencies eventually, but I choose to ignore that. Here's what I came up with:

  • Plants are these things that people erect with axes, or random pieces of debris on the ground that assemble themselves, stand upright, and then turn green. This is especially likely to happen after a freeze. Once erected, they slowly leak carbon dioxide and pollution and consume oxygen, in an attempt to suffocate all human life. (We think.) So people are always trying to get rid of plants, by setting aside special areas of property, called gardens and lawns, to shrink them (plants are highly attracted to something in the center of the earth) until they're small enough to fit in pots. They then bring the pots to garden centers, where we pay them to take their dangerous plants, which we deflate further in the greenhouse. When they're very, very small, we shove them into flats of very tiny plugs, seal them into boxes, and send them away, so they can't hurt us any more. Sometimes we stick the tiny plants into trays and they shrink down to little rocklike structures called seeds, which don't emit carbon dioxide and are relatively safe, but we still seal these seeds up in packages to prevent them getting out.

Osteospermum 'Bronze Charmer,' the color-changing variety I mentioned a few days ago. I think the new flower is on the left and the old flower is on the right, but I'm not positive about that. In any case, these flowers are both from the same plant, whatever the sequence of events actually is.

  • This is never a permanent solution, though, because plants are always spontaneously forming themselves from rotting gunk on the ground. Occasionally, too, and especially when there's a dirty plate in front of a person, the person will vomit up pieces of plant, and then reassemble them in his/r mouth, before putting them on the plate. This is called eating. Bugs vomit up enormous quantities of plants all the time. So we never get rid of all of them at once.
  • Fertilizer is the chemical residue left behind by deflating plants. Sometimes people are organic gardeners, and the deflating plants leave behind manure as a residue instead. Manure is apparently much more dangerous, because people never leave it just lying around: they always pack it into bags and send it away for other people to place in pastures and barns, so the manure can moisten itself and eventually jump up cows' asses.

Ipomoea batatas 'Blackie.'

  • Weeding is the process of sticking certain quick-deflating plants into the soil.
  • In some special circumstances, the debris on the ground will leap onto the plant and quickly become brightly-colored, which we call flowers. Flowers will remain on the plant until visited by a pollinator like a bird or bee, which rub pollen onto and vomit nectar into the flower, at which point the flower will close up and begin to shrink into the plant.
  • Plants are also always beaming heat and light up to the sun (and to a lesser extent, lamps and candles and stuff). They have uncanny aim. This is called photosynthesis and is something of a mystery, though we think it has something to do with all the carbon dioxide they're pumping out.
  • Sometimes garbagemen will leave bags of leaves at the curb for homeowners. The homeowners then scatter the leaves all over their lawn with a rake (raking), and a while later the leaves jump onto nearby trees and change colors, eventually turning green and shrinking. Exactly where the garbagemen are getting all these leaves in the first place is unclear, but the supply appears to be inexhaustible.
  • Watering is the process of deflating plants by sucking water out of them with a hose, or watering can.

Calibrachoa 'Superbells Saffron.'

  • Once in a while, enormous clouds of smoke and flame will converge upon a charred spot and form plants. These are called wildfires, and although they create new plants, which is unfortunate, fires can be quite beneficial. Among other things, they can heal burn victims, build new houses out of rubble, and bring animals back from the dead. Wildfires appear to be particularly creative if firefighters can "water" them.
  • For unknown reasons, people in parts of Central and South America, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and much of Africa are putting a lot of effort into destroying their natural plant-free areas and erecting enormous forests instead. This probably means that they are trying to destroy the planet, or hate the United States, or something like that. Whatever it is, it must be important, because they're actually taking their houses apart and stitching trees together to be planted in these areas.

If you think of anything I've left off the list, say something in comments.


1 It's not that it's so terrible. There's just so much of it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

BREAKING: Nina eats!

The husband and I have purchased a UV light for Nina, the brown anole I recently accidentally adopted, and also picked up a dozen small crickets at the same time. She was on the crickets like . . . um, an anole on crickets. (Uh-oh. Am I getting a cold again?)

She also has a planted terrarium, which is maybe a little sparse, but I'm hoping it'll fill in over time. One small Podocarpus macrophyllus, one baby Cryptanthus that's been stubborn about not rooting, some sad Pilea depressa fragments that are best not described, a Vriesea NOID offset, a Peperomia caperata, and a Saxifraga stolonifera that came in accidentally because I had Saxifragas planted near the Pileas. There's also a rock. She seems to like the Podocarpus best of all, and usually goes to sleep perched on top of it.

Anyway. She had a quick six or seven crickets (carnage!) and then I guess got full, 'cause now she doesn't seem to notice them anymore.

Photos to follow.

Pretty pictures: Aquilegia 'Origami Mix' (pink)

When I see Aquilegia at different times, I get completely different impressions of it and can't quite explain why. By different impressions, I mean that sometimes it strikes me as a showy, loud, look-at-meeeeeeeee kind of plant, and at other times it's more of a never mind me, I'll be fine over here by myself without your attention, I'm just trying to blend sort of plant.

Either way, I think they're neat.

I don't have any idea what they're like to try to grow here. It's not something my mom or grandmothers, as far as I can remember, have ever tried. Maybe someday I'll attempt it though. They seem like they'd be cool. The kind of plant you wouldn't have to get all dressed up for, like you could just hang out just watching TV together or something. I don't know.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pretty picture: Centaurea x 'Montana' flower

Yet another perennial. I like these colors together, the black and blue and pinky-purple, but something about it looks sort of . . . unfinished? Perhaps if there were a lot of blooms going at the same time. As it is, it's B-/C+ work at best.

I think I prefer the smaller, more compact annual Centaureas. Which we do not sell. Anybody want to weigh in on this?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pretty picture: Pulsatilla vulgaris

Like yesterday, another picture of a perennial I'm not incredibly familiar with. The picture is much more impressive (or at least much more, you know, big) if opened in a new window. You can practically count the pollen grains.

Though please don't. You have better, more interesting things to do than pollen-counting.

PATSP may be a little light on text and long on perennial photos this week, because I'm working feverishly to try to get the plant-toxicity posts presentable. My goal is to make April 12-18 "Houseplant Toxicity Week." If I can't get it all together by April 12, then we may have to make it April 19-25 instead, which is probably more appropriate anyway. I feel a little weird about starting Houseplant Toxicity Week on Easter. I also want to get this done, though, finally, so if I can do it on Easter, then I will.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More on Iowa and Gay Marriage

According to a UCLA study referenced by UPI, gay marriage will bring an additional $160,000,000 into the state economy over the next three years, due to couples from neighboring states where gay marriage is not yet legal choosing to marry in Iowa. The estimate is that 55,000 couples would do this.

Assuming that Iowa doesn't panic and fuck it up somehow. Midwesterners are not, as a people, especially prone to panic, but as the late Molly Ivins observed, sex has never been known to inspire a lot of particularly clear thinking.

Random plant event: Brunnera 'Jack Frost' flowers

Owing to the way that things are set up at work, I spend most of my time with the tropicals and annuals, but we have perennials too, and occasionally I wind up getting to see them.

I don't have much to add to this picture; Brunnera is one of those plants I remember kind of liking but the name hasn't really been sticking with me. Hopefully that will change now, though. One of the nice things about having a blog turns out to be that when you're forced to stop and contemplate a particular plant for a post, it does burn the plant's identity into your brain. I think having to come up with posts for PATSP last year is probably how I learned about 40-50% of the annuals. Maybe this year we'll see more perennial pictures.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pretty picture: Osteospermum 'Bronze Charmer'

Yesterday at work, Younger Co-Worker attempted to guess my two favorite annuals based on what we had more varieties of this year compared to last year. She guessed coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) and Osteospermum cvv. She got it half right: coleus is high on the list.

This year in coleus we will have: 'Quarterback,' 'Fishnet Stockings,' 'Merlot,' 'Merlin's Magic,' 'Pink Chaos,' 'Gays Delight,' 'Saturn,' 'Kingswood Torch,' 'Dappled Apple,' 'Tilt a Whirl,' 'Electric Lime,' and 'Splish Splash.' The last four of those are new compared to last year, though 'Tilt a Whirl,' at least, had been around previously. 'Dappled Apple' was a substitution: we were supposed to have gotten more 'Gays Delight' -- which, contrary to the name, ain't all that -- but I guess they were out or something and sent us 'Dappled Apple' instead. Which 'Dappled Apple' is more similar to 'Electric Lime' than 'Gays Delight,' so I'm not sure that was the best of all possible substitutions, but whatever.

Everybody has their favorites: WCW likes 'Tilt a Whirl,' Perennial Expert has had nice things to say about 'Gays Delight,' Younger Co-Worker is terrifyingly insistent that 'Merlin's Magic' is the best one, and I . . . well, it's probably 'Kingswood Torch,' though if 'Splish Splash' ages well, I could see it winning out in the end.

So far the customers seem to be siding with WCW, and 'Tilt a Whirl' is selling the best, but it's also early.

Younger Co-Worker got wrong, though, the guess about Osteospermum. I like them, but Portulaca are better. I mean, if I were forced to choose. Which I'm not.

Osteospermum 'Bronze Charmer.' Picture is really much better opened in a new window.

We do have a couple new ones this year, though unlike with the coleus, I can't name them all off the top of my head. The picture is of 'Bronze Charmer,' which changes colors as it ages, and is variously lavender, peach, yellowish, pink, and orange. It seems very nice. We got more varieties of Osteospermum this year less because I like them a lot (though I do) than because we sold out of them pretty early last year.

Portulaca, we're just getting the same stuff as last year, no more no less. Although I really like them, I don't fool myself into thinking that everybody else in the world shares my enthusiasm. I save those kinds of delusions for Anthurium andraeanum.

UNRELATED LIZARD UPDATE: Visited a pet store yesterday to find food. No mealworms. (?)(!) Freeze-dried flies of some kind instead. Also I balked at spending $24 for a heating pad. (Baby steps!)

We have a ten-gallon aquarium for Nina (somehow the husband had obtained one before Nina entered our lives -- I'm not sure how that happened, but obviously it was kind of prescient), though for the moment she's still in her glass cookie jar. The aquarium will be planted at some point today?, I guess?, and then Nina will be packing her stuff and moving. Hopefully anoles are pretty tough: she's had to go through a lot lately. I take some comfort in the fact that she's been a very good honey-eater, when I've remembered to give it to her. (I'm kind of a bad lizard dad. Baby steps!)

I'm thinking this might be the time to buy that Fittonia I've occasionally thought about getting. It's handy that I was already thinking about plant toxicity, at least: I have some sense of what I can and cannot put in the aquarium with her. Should I try to overwater? I'm sure fungus gnats are yummy. . . .