Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pretty picture: Bracteantha bracteata NOID

I know. It's been two days without a post. I feel bad, I do. But I have two very good excuses.

One, the plant room is officially ready for tenants, so I had to spend a lot of Thursday putting shelves together and arranging them just how I like it, and putting the various plants in just the right spots to meet their light and temperature requirements, and all that. And I did get the shelves mostly filled, and it was very pretty. Notice I said mostly -- I didn't get them all the way filled. I still had a little bit to do that I didn't get to because of the other very good excuse. So because it wasn't actually finished at the end of the day on Thursday, I didn't bother to take pictures, on the theory that pictures would be better if taken of the whole, completed arrangement, with everything just so. And then everybody would go oooh and aaah and it would be ego-boosting for me.

However. On Friday, the husband asked me to get the remaining plants out of the living room (where most of them wound up in the move from the apartment) so that he could do stuff with a wall, or something -- I'm not really all that clear on what the plan was. Sometimes I don't listen beyond the point in the sentence where I find out what task I'm supposed to perform.

So then I spent a fair chunk of Friday moving plants from the living room into the plant room, because they had to get crammed somewhere and that was the only space that was close to being big enough. Which means that now the plant room looks like crap, because it's crammed full of plants in ways that don't perfectly cater to their aesthetic and cultural needs, and things are crammed all cheek to jowl -- which is crazy, because PLANTS DON'T EVEN HAVE JOWLS -- and if any of them need to be watered anytime soon, they're going to be out of luck, because I can't even see several of them anymore, much less reach them. So I didn't take pictures again, and probably some of them will die.

But so that was one thing I did. The other thing I did was, I got embroiled in an internet drama, both as observer and (less significantly) participant, and continually monitoring that situation (I couldn't look away! The drama was dramatic!) has also eaten up a lot of my time, time which would probably in the long run have been better spent on moving plants from room to room or doing something unknown to walls.

The internet drama in question was, just for the record, at Shakesville, a lefty-liberal blog that I've learned a lot from and enjoyed reading. Although I didn't comment there much, I still considered it more or less my home away from PATSP, and it was important to me. The specifics of what went on have nothing to do with plants and are therefore mostly beyond the scope of this blog, and anyway I don't especially want to talk about it now because I've been doing almost nothing but talk about it, and move plants around, for the last two days and I do not want to have to start dealing with it here, too, for fuck's sakes, enough is enough, but yeah, so it was very dramatic and also depressing and now it appears to be over.

I see that I have written so much, so quickly, that I've left today's picture several paragraphs behind and now have to back up to talk about it. Um. It's a strawflower, Bracteantha bracteata, of some unknown yellow variety. I'm fairly certain I have the tag still, so I could look up precisely which variety it is, but I really don't think that would be a great use of my time (and I am so clearly a good judge of what is and is not a great use of my time), so I'm not gonna. I like Bracteanthas, though I think I like the buds better than the opened flowers. The flowers sometimes have screwy color sense. Like the one in the picture.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The BDSP, and other new plants

So last Monday, after my last (unless I do seasonal help at some point, or unless I'm called back for a day or two here and there in the next little bit) day (except for the part in the morning I missed because of a prior appointment) of work (though putting away a tropical order is as enjoyable as work ever got, so it's not work in the usual sense, and it wasn't exactly working for money, either), I got some new plants. I will now share pictures, as four out of the five are pretty interesting, at least to me, and I don't want the fifth to feel left out so I'll include it too. The photography herein is going to be a little meh, because I haven't quite figured out the optimal lighting situation for the new place, but you'll at least get the general idea.

So let's meet the new residents --

#1 -- Senecio macroglossus, 3", $3.95 from work

I talked myself into this one while writing the post about its flower. I was never particularly good at keeping it happy before, and I may not be all that good at keeping it happy again, but it seemed worth trying.

#2 -- Pleomele thalioides, 8", $39.95 from work

This is the one I was the most excited about getting: it photographs poorly, and I have no idea whether it will prove to be a good plant indoors: doesn't recognize anything by the name "Pleomele" except for Dracaena reflexa (which used to be Pleomele reflexa), a Garden Web search for it turned up no matches (I didn't try just "Pleomele" by itself, because I figured doing so would turn up nothing but Dracaena posts), Wikipedia has heard of the genus but not this particular species, and even Google only comes up with 189 hits, the overwhelming majority of which are either informationless lists of species names or written in languages I do not speak. So I have no idea. But we'll try it. What the hell.

#3 -- Furcraea foetida 'Medio-Picta,' 6", $10.99 from somewhere other than work

This plant is apparently known to everybody but me as a false agave. I'd never seen it or heard of it before. I wasn't all that excited about seeing it, either, because when I did a google search for it, what came up were fairly boring-looking green plants that looked just like Agaves in every particular except for being, somehow, even less interesting. What actually came in, in the order, was this:

Which, you know, OMFG. Unfortunately, OMFG also pretty accurately describes the price tag ($89.95 -- not the priciest thing on the shipment, and not particularly unreasonable, given the size and apparent age, but a higher cost than I was prepared to take on). However: a few weeks back, WCW had informed me that there were very cheap Agaves for sale in town, and I, expecting, you know, an Agave, had dutifully gone down there to check it out. What was there instead were these fleshy, twisty things that had the general shape of an Agave but were nothing like any Agave I was familiar with. In fact, they were so unlike what I was expecting that I walked past them like three times before finally asking the person at the counter if they had Agaves, and where, and when she took me to these, I was kind of befuddled.

But, so. You see where this is going. Coaxed the husband into going back to the other place, and bought a small one, since I couldn't have the big one from work:

In theory, all we need is time, and this one will turn into the other. Good luck, buddy.

#4 -- Zingiber malaysianum, "midnight ginger," 4", $9.95, from work

Most of the time around here, "ginger" means a variegated Alpinia zerumbet, a perfectly nice plant as plants go, but one I've never felt that much desire to grow. They seem to dry out quickly, and I've accepted the fact that I don't do well with plants that can't handle drying out more than they would prefer every once in a while. Plus they get big, even in containers, and I knew I didn't have that kind of room. But this -- this is something special. (I am told that WCW just about crapped her pants upon finding out that these were available again; it's apparently been five years since they were last on the availability list.)

Like the Pleomele, I have no idea whether this will be growable. But it's got awesome dark red-black leaves, and it smells nice (just barely, but enough to notice), and it gives spectacular photos by transmitted light, so we're going to give it a shot.

#5 -- The Big Damn Screw Pine (Pandanus veitchii), 8", $29.95, from work

This guy's been talking to me for a very long time: he was there when I started work, and had been there for some unknown period of time before that.

Now, I think Pandanus are amazing plants -- relatively easy to grow indoors (I've had four or five small ones for quite a while, and never any problems except when I let them get too dry. Even then, they're fairly forgiving.), fast-growing, potentially huge, etc. There's just the one problem: the leaves have sharp spines all along the margins and on the underside of the leaf, along the midrib, which are not only sharp and omnipresent, they're also hooked, so it's very hard to do anything to the plant without getting multiply stabbed, having one's clothes caught, etc. Also, on me at least, the spines leave little itchy welts that last for about a day, day and a half before going away.

Hooked spines are easily visible if the picture is opened in a new window.

But it's also like four feet tall. And for only thirty bucks, how could I say no, right?

So although I don't typically name my plants, this one is going to be the exception: he will be called the Big Damn Screw Pine, or BDSP. And shortly, I'm planning to up-pot him, which should be good for lots of swearing, after which he will be slightly taller, and then (if the ones at work are any indication) he should then begin to grow really quickly. Pandanus don't seem to mind being rootbound especially, but if they've got room to grow, they'll do so in spades.

So if I play my cards right, by winter I may be able to grow him to the point where he'll have to have his own bedroom, because we won't be able to walk around him anymore without having body parts sliced off. I don't know why this should be a goal, but it kinda is. (I told you I like the mean, stabby, poisonous ones.)

And there you have it. Comments? Anybody want to share previous experiences with, or helpful tips for, Pleomele, Zingiber, or Furcraea?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Music video pop quiz: Röyksopp "The Girl and the Robot"

Watch the following electronica video about robot-human romantic relationships, paying careful attention to any houseplant species portrayed. When finished, list as many species as you can remember seeing in the comments. There are at least four distinct and more-or-less-identifiable species of plants in the video. To pass, you need to name at least two.

Point of interest: the woman in the video, Swedish pop star Robyn, is only two degrees of separation from Mr. Subjunctive, as we both know Francis Strand in real life. Mr. Subjunctive imagines that Robyn is as proud of this as he is.

Random plant event: Senecio macroglossus flowers

I saw buds on the one lonely full-size Senecio macroglossus at work right before I "left," and then one flower opened for me right before I "came back." This is cool, because I had figured I would never get to see the flowers, which according to rumor were (quoting from the Senecio macroglossus plant profile) "big, yellow-to-white daisy-like things that you wouldn't expect from a plant that looks so much like English ivy" and had a "lemony" fragrance.

For some "reason" I'm all of a sudden really into "scare quotes." (I'll stop now.)

Reality is a little disappointing: they're not especially big, and they don't smell like lemons. In fact, as far as I could tell, they don't smell like anything at all. (But as I noted in the profile, I wasn't really expecting them to, because the same source claimed that the foliage, too, smelled like lemons, and I'd never detected anything remotely lemony about the leaves.)

The general size and shape of them reminds me more of Zinnia than anything else, specifically the 'Profusion' line of Zinnias. The Senecio flowers are slightly larger, maybe a couple inches (5 cm) across, but they're built similarly.

[pause to look things up]

Well, what do you know. Zinnia and Senecio are both in the Asteraceae. So they really should sort of resemble one another. Learn something new every day.

Glad I got to see this, because otherwise I would have wondered about it forever, and props to the plant for the timing. Almost makes me wonder if maybe I want to try growing one again. So I bought another one. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. . . .

Monday, June 8, 2009

Question for the Hive Mind: strange Dracaena 'Janet Craig Compacta' behavior

So. Back at work on Saturday, which doesn't mean I haven't quit, just that a sort of loophole has been found whereby I could help out for a couple days, which is nice for all concerned, I guess. I don't know. It was weird to be back but not back but back.

The plan is to go back again today, Monday, and work another part-day, which should be about as enjoyable as work ever gets, because it's supposed to involve helping to put away a new tropical order from Florida, an event which happens only four times a year or so and which is always way better than Christmas. (Those of you who are watching me on Twitter may recall that there's supposed to be a Pleomele thalioides in this order specifically for me. All kinds of other potential points of interest and impulse buys as well, but the Pleomele is the one I'm most interested in seeing. I don't know why: they're not especially pretty plants. I just need one.)

Anyway. So but to get to the point of the post, when I was at work on Saturday, I saw that the Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig Compacta' plants were all doing this:

The simplest way to describe it would be to say that it looks like one of the leaves, not too long ago, simply refused to uncurl as it emerged, and every leaf since has grown up into the center of this original rebellious leaf, over time becoming a tightly compacted wad of non-unfurling leaves. In every case I saw, at some point this had forced the wad to bend sharply over to the side.

The main question, then, would be: what the hell? How does something like this get started in the first place? What's keeping the original rebel leaf held together, despite the pressure from the leaves growing inside it? I didn't see any evidence of bugs or anything.

The other odd thing is that all six growing tips, on two plants, which weren't together, are doing this, and they appear to have started at more or less the same time, because the affected foliage is roughly the same-sized wad on all six. So whatever it is clearly has a cause of some kind. This isn't just an accidental forgetting to unfurl kind of thing. And it's not a mechanical damage kind of thing, because the wads are all still firmly attached to the plant.

So . . . anybody have any guesses? I can't tell you what's happened to them in the last couple weeks, because I wasn't around, but maybe someone has seen this before?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mr. Subjunctive: now on Twitter! (But why?)

I don't really understand why people use Twitter, or why I should, and it actually seems kinda impossible for me to write anything under 140 characters, but I'm going to try it anyway. I'm on as @mrsubjunctive. I don't understand why I have to put the @ first. I'm also unclear about the #s everywhere. There is much to learn. It may not even be worth it to learn. I dunno. Nevertheless, here we go.

Pretty picture: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis NOID

Before leaving work (except that it wasn't really leaving, since I went back yesterday, and may go back again tomorrow, though tomorrow, if it happens, really will be my last day unless I do seasonal help in the future, which is a possibility though not a very strong one), I did finally break down and buy a Hibiscus. At the time, I was still very taken with a solid, deep-orange one ('Caribbean Breeze:' see the Orange post for a picture) we'd had off and on recently, and when I found a plant with no flowers, but a tag indicating that it was a single orange like the one I was coveting, I went ahead and bought it.

Shortly thereafter, it bloomed, and -- not quite the plant I was looking for.

I'm not saying that it's not nice. Obviously it's nice. And it's bloomed at least three times since then, which is pretty impressive considering that I've only had it for two weeks. But it's also mostly pink, if we're being honest about it, and part of me is still disappointed that it's not orange like the tag said it was, even though this is more interesting than the orange would have been.