Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pretty picture: Scaevola 'New Wonder'

I wasn't fond of Scaevola last year at work: there never seemed to be that many flowers, the flowers that did appear were sort of odd-looking (seriously: who does fan-shaped flowers?), and the plants got long and gangly and needed to be cut back multiple times.

I've developed an appreciation for them, though, this year, with the planter I made. Scaevola 'New Wonder' is blue-violet, and I planted it with Lantana 'Rose Glow Improved,' which is pink and yellow, and on the rare occasions when both of them have been flowering at once, they looked nice together. I happened to be outside for some reason or another a couple days ago, and noticed that the Scaevola was really taking off:

The picture doesn't quite do the plant justice: I should have pulled out a little more so you could see how many blooms there are in the entire pot. But in any case. I think I like it. It seems like good people.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Question for the Hive Mind: Lies

I bought a sago palm (Cycas revoluta, I'm assuming) last Sunday, from Lowe's, and this care tag was attached to it:



Now, I've never had a sago palm before, but I'm skeptical about some of this, just based on my experiences with one at work (big huge thing, very pricey, bad-tempered, was there almost as long as I was and then sold last winter or spring). So, how many of these are lies?

1) Wants minimal attention
2) Grows virtually anywhere with minimal care
3) Low light and high light
4) Never below 40F
5) Keep soil moist but do not let the plant stand in water or let the soil dry out
6) Fertilize every two months

I'm most skeptical of 2/3/5: when the light was low at work, the new fronds (leaves?) would come in long, weak, and pale, so I don't believe for a second that this is a low-light plant. No idea on temperature. I know if we gave the big plant at work water when it didn't want water, it would drop leaves, so keeping the soil constantly moist doesn't seem quite right to me either. But greenhouse care is different from home care, so I don't know. I'm sure some members of the audience have had these before, so -- what's wrong with these instructions? And what are the right instructions?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pretty picture: Green Metallic Bee

I was initially annoyed when this insect refused to get out of the way of my shot. I wanted a picture of the Portulaca flower, not some stupid fly. But it turned out to be a lot more interesting than I gave it credit for, because it's not a fly (it's a bee) and because it's metallic green, as if it were covered in slut glitter or something.

For clearest picture of bee, open photo in a separate window.

Consultation of the Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders (I have several of the Audobon Field Guides, which I loved when I was a kid, and would save my allowance to buy) tells me that this is most likely a Virescent Green Metallic Bee (Agapostemon virescens). These can also be found in most of the Eastern U.S. and Southeastern Canada, plus, inexplicably, there is a population in the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon to British Columbia. (The Discover Life website resolves this by saying that the Pacific Northwest population is continuous with those in Eastern North America, and basically has these living everywhere in the U.S. and Canada except for a region in the south central U.S.: Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas. Other websites say no, they're totally in Texas too. So I have no idea.)

The colonies are founded by a single female, who digs branching tunnels in bare soil or vertical banks, and then provisions the end of each tunnel with a ball of nectar-dampened pollen for the young females to eat until they can start collecting food too. The entrance to the tunnels is generally guarded by a single bee, who more or less plugs the entrance with its head unless someone wants in or out. (This seems like a sucky job, since if the colony has any kind of population at all, there's always going to be somebody wanting in or out. Got to be rough on the head, over time.) The guard also has to prioritize: bees returning with pollen are given right of way over bees wanting to exit.

I can't tell if these are considered important pollinators or not; since they don't produce honey, it's hard to find people who care about them one way or the other. The Discover Life site lists various plants they're known to pollinate, and some of them are familiar: Rosa, Verbena, Gaillardia, Oenothera, Geranium, Rudbeckia, Lobelia, Solidago, etc. Whether they're important pollinators or not, I think they're cool. I mean, it takes something kinda special for a bee species to look like it belongs in Liberace's closet. [Make your own Liberace / closet jokes here.]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Random plant event: Return of the mysterious Dracaena-disfiguring agent

I went back to my ex-workplace a couple days ago because I needed to get a clay pot for the BDSP. Not looking forward to trying to repot, but it needs to be done. Perhaps I can use my Boston-fern repotting trick. Anyway. WCW was there, as was Younger Co-Worker, and I talked some to each of them but I was kind of in a hurry, and they were, you know, working, so we didn't talk a lot. However. They did direct me to this Dracaena deremensis 'Art,' one of two this size, which has done the same weird thing as the D. d. 'Janet Craig Compactas' I mentioned a while ago. They still have no idea what's going on, I still have no idea what's going on, I'm guessing that you probably still have no idea what's going on. But I thought I'd post the picture anyway.

The best theory I can come up with is that it's temperature-related, though I think WCW said maybe it could have been related to pesticides. Not that these have had pests, to the best of my recollection, but we do spray weekly in the greenhouse, and perhaps one day the sprayer (actually more of a fogger) was uncomfortably close to the Dracaenas. This doesn't really satisfy me as a theory, for a lot of reasons, but I don't have any satisfactory theories. The temperature thing doesn't really make sense either, because these plants were also around last year, and the temperatures were within the same general range both years as far as I'm aware.

Whatever it is, it's clearly got a cause of some kind. There's no way that this many Dracaenas spontaneously decided to do something none of us have ever seen before all within a two-month period. The mystery deepens.

The plant in the picture will probably be cut back and forced to sprout new growing tips, making it more or less unsellable for the next six months or so.

Not that it wasn't anyway; it was priced over $100. Though this is borderline excusable for a very large, still fairly new cultivar like 'Art,' it's unlikely that customers will be beating down the door. This was my fault; I ordered it. But I had good reasons! Namely, that we'd just sold a couple Dracaenas of similar size and price, in other varieties (one was a 'Lemon-Lime'/'Goldstar;' I forget the other but want to say it was a 'Limelight.'). It didn't seem like that big of a stretch when I brought them in.

'Course, I wasn't counting on 'Art' being a self-mutilator when I placed the order, either.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iowa City Graffiti: The Only Way

It perhaps reflects the amount of time I spend on-line that my first reaction to this was well, at least they spelled everything correctly.

This particular specimen is located in a tunnel that goes underneath some train tracks, a block or two away from a Church of Christ in Iowa City. (It's basically right where Kirkwood Ave. bends, for those of you in town.) I think it's a not-unreasonable assumption that the author probably attends the church, but even if they don't: who proselytizes through vandalism? Could this possibly be effective? Or is it some kind of sneaky reverse-psychology anti-proselytization?

Looking back, I mainly regret not adding something to this to make it funny. Funnier. Whatever.

Pretty picture: Tagetes patula 'Durango Bee'

Beginning to get semi-permanent locations for the plants: all the shelves I have to set up have been set up, and the plants are slowly shuffling into positions. All the Anthuriums are in the living room, where they're hanging out with the African violets; the Dieffenbachias and Aglaonemas are in my office; the Clivias and Spathiphyllums have been banished to the basement. Unfortunately, that still leaves, you know, like four hundred more plants to deal with.

Confirmed casualties of the move so far: one coleus, one African violet, probably two, a Streptocarpus, which fucking deserved it (I am angry at the whole Streptocarpus genus right now), and a Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana.' Though there will probably be more than that when this is all over. (On the other hand, there have also been several new acquisitions since the move, because apparently I really and truly cannot help myself.)

Anyway. So picture-taking has been minimal, and I can only really take pictures of the few plants I can still get to, so: marigolds. Whee.

My past experience has been that any major life change (relocation, new job, leaving a job) takes about three months to seem normal. So I figure I've still got another eight or nine weeks of this. Do. Not. Want.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Random plant event: Caladium sprouts, finally

I have, like, no time to write this. We got a tornado warning last night, which was very exciting and all but turned out to be just one more in a long series of tornado teases. Good lightning, though. Better lightning work than I've seen in quite a while. Anyway. So because of that, and because we spent basically all afternoon shopping in Iowa City, I didn't have time to prepare a post, and this is being done at the total last minute before going to bed on Sunday night. So I'm sorry if, like, the quality isn't up to the usual standard because I thought I was going to be blown away by a gigantic sky death funnel.

The above is a fairly boring picture of a Caladium leaf sprouting. This is a big deal for me because I bought the bulbs forever ago, and then for one or another reason I couldn't plant them, and so they just sat around, being dry, for a long time before I finally said screw it, and planted them with my elephant ear (Alocasia?). I planted four, and this is the only one to come up, but that's still better than I was expecting. I'm feeling, overall, pretty bad at this whole outdoor gardening thing.

I think the variety name was 'Carolyn Wharton' or something like that. Not enough time to look it up.

Part of the aforementioned afternoon shopping was a trip to buy some actual live plants for my aquarium (something sword? Amazon sword?). I've tried live plants before, and it didn't work so well, but why fail at something once when you can fail at it more than once, right? Pictures to follow, maybe, if life ever stops being crazy. By now, it's getting kind of old, frankly.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pretty picture: Geranium 'Rozanne'

I'm really liking 'Rozanne.' In fact, I like it enough that I forgive it for getting "Roxanne" (by The Police), a song I don't especially care for, stuck in my head every time I look at it. Such a nice color, and it's actually flowering, unlike certain plants who will remain nameless but I'm looking in the general direction of the Lantana just so you know. (Seriously, Lantana, what is up with you? I thought we had an understanding.)