Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random plant event: Strelitzia water-rooting

Both of my Strelitzia nicolai plants have been doing a thing lately where the oldest leaves go sort of yellow and curl up. I think this is because they need new potting mix. This is bad because if your big, chunky pieces of mix become small and fine, they can settle around the roots more and more tightly, eventually getting packed around the roots so tightly that air can no longer get to the roots and then the roots die.

I haven't done anything about this yet, because it started before the move, and as far as it goes, I'm not positive that I've even got the right theory, because I haven't checked the roots on these plants, because of the aforementioned moving-related time constraints and also because there's a little bit of denial going on: whenever I do get around to doing a full soil change on these, it's going to be a big production, and soil's going to go all over, and there'll be some wrestling of large plants going on (not, like, BDSP large, but still, big), and I'd rather not. So we pretend that this is not what's going on, and that everything is fine, even as the leaves continue to yellow and curl.

Anyway. Not too long after we moved in, the smaller plant of the two, a 10-inch pot containing three individual small plants, sorta fell apart, by which I mean that one of the three individuals just kinda . . . jumped out one day. I, realizing that I didn't have time to deal with this then, washed off the roots and threw it in a glass of water, just until I had time to deal with it, just temporarily, and then forgot about it.

So the other day when I was watering, I thought, oh, I wonder if I need to add some water to that one Strelitzia, so I checked on it, and I saw this:

The old roots, which were brown when the plant fell out of the pot, are totally dead, BUT!, there are new, solid, white roots forming now. I did not know that Strelitzias would root in water. Nobody ever tells you these things. I still haven't potted the plant up, of course: I just changed the water and put it back where it was. But I'm impressed with its will to live, so I will probably try to pot it up sooner rather than later, now. And maybe I'll change the soil in the other ones sooner rather than later, too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Pretty picture: Abutilon 'Bella Mix'

Complete the SAT-style analogy:

Abutilon : ___________ :: Hibiscus : Kim Kardashian

a. Kourtney Kardashian
b. Khloe Kardashian
c. Rob Kardashian
d. Bruce Jenner
e. Khlorox Kardashian

Think about it. Take your time. If you don't know who the Kardashians are, I ENVY YOU.

Oh. But you still probably want an explanation. Okay. They're this family with a reality show ("Keeping Up With The Kardashians") 'cause they're famous for making sex tapes or something like that. And one of them is Olympic gymnast Bruce Jenner.

The reader will be relieved to learn that Bruce Jenner, now 59, does not to the best of my knowledge appear in the sex tapes.

The Kardashian-Jenner family.
Back, L-R: Rob K., Khloe K., Kris K., Bruce J., Kim K.
Front, L-R: Khlorox K., KarmaKarmaKarmaKarmaKhameleon K., Kourtney K.

I went to Wallace's Garden Center in Bettendorf, IA with the husband last weekend, and not only did they have all the annuals' prices cut, but they were inexplicably running a 20% off sale on houseplants too. So I bought a few houseplants, which will probably be fodder for future posts.

I also got an Abutilon. Lots of houseplant books include them, but I've never paid a lot of attention, because I've never seen any for sale until a few months ago. This one was relatively low-risk: only $2 (it was considered an annual), so I guess I can find out what they like by slowly bringing it to the brink of death. I believe I got the plant in this photo:

You can see the relationship to Hibiscus in the flowers, though they're smaller, more realistic-looking flowers by comparison. (Hibiscus flowers, though I like them, always seem a little bit excessive: too big, too bright, too much in some hard to define way. Abutilon is a little more down to earth, a little more relatable. Which is why my answer to the analogy above is b, Khloe Kardashian, because she's the only Kardashian who, though clearly in the 99th percentile of pretty, still looks like someone you might actually know. The judges will also accept c, Rob Kardashian, who is arguably even more plausible as an ordinary person but makes a less-obvious comparison to Kim than Khloe does. Option d, Bruce Jenner, is completely wrong, since as far as I know there are no members of the Malvaceae comparable to a man whose face is clearly trying desperately to crawl away from the skull to which it is attached.)

Anyway. If anybody has prior experience with caring for indoor Abutilons, I'd be really interested. The only houseplant book I have that mentions them mainly emphasizes that they grow fast, which is nice to know if true, though this particular series appears to be a short variety ( says the "Bellas" stay under two feet tall.), so even that information is not necessarily true. So any experience you've got, I'd like to hear.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lawn Ornament: Metal Llama

It's possible that this is not technically a lawn ornament, since it wasn't exactly in these people's yard, but "yard art" sounds too pretentious, and "driveway entrance decoration" is clunky, so we'll go with "lawn ornament."

This is located somewhere near Montpelier, IA. Or possibly Fairport, IA. Somewhere along the stretch of Highway 22 connecting Muscatine and the Quad Cities, in any case. I figured I would remember without writing it down, so I didn't write it down, and of course I don't remember.

It was very obviously one of those things we had to back up for so I could take a picture: you don't see these every day. I can't imagine how much work it must have been. For all the roughness of the design, it's pretty closely-observed: whoever made it definitely knew what a llama looked like, down to the eyelashes and the correct number of toes.

I know I'm just raising a bunch of questions and then not answering them: I don't know who made it, or why, or how much it's worth, or why it's a llama and not, like, a camel or horse or something, or who owns it, or anything. But I thought it was still something you needed to see. It's maybe not pink-and-blue Pegasus good, but still pretty awesome. And you'll notice they've got Christmas lights strung up on it, which I have to imagine adds to the effect, though we did not stay to see it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pretty picture: Lilium cvv.

Not a lot really needs to be said about these. Lilies tend to speak for themselves, and most of us have seen this first one, Lilium 'Stargazer,' already. (Readers who have read Amy Stewart's book, Flower Confidential, will also be aware that there's an interesting and somewhat bittersweet history behind this particular cultivar. See my full review of FC here.)

This second one is very similar to 'Stargazer,' but lacks the white edges and gradually deepening pink-red toward the center of the petals. Also much less freckled. I can't really decide which I like better: I suppose it'd depend on how far away you expected people to be when they looked at it. What's your vote?

Both of these pictures came from a trip to my ex-job, by the way. I mean, just so you know.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Question for the Hive Mind: Seed Storage

So I have lots of Portulaca grandiflora (moss rose) around, and I LOVE it. Seriously. I mean, I knew I liked it before, but very few of my outdoor plants are doing what they're supposed to be doing, and Portulaca is one of them. It doesn't hurt that the green metallic bees, which I also like, are fond of Portulaca.

So naturally, when I have a lot of something that's working out well, I want to jump to the next level, which is having too much of it. So I've been collecting seeds, and now I have this many:

I figure I probably can't do anything with them this year, right? Or can I? And if I have to store them, what's the best way to do that? I tried storing some Chlorophytum 'Fire Flash' seeds in an empty prescription bottle a while back (more than a year ago), and they turned moldy really quickly, so that doesn't seem like a great idea.

As long as I'm asking, I also have some Nicotiana seeds too. Less impressed with Nicotiana as a plant, but they're nice enough, and I'm willing to have more if they're willing to show up.

So, where do I keep them? I wouldn't be asking if I hadn't already had a bad experience with the mold on the Chlorophytums.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Picture: Pylon Family

Two things:

1) I always thought power line support pylons were kind of cool, in a big, man-shaped-robot-stomping-through-the-countryside sort of way. Others, including the husband as a child, found them scary. Coincidentally, this was also in a big, man-shaped-robot-stomping-through-the-countryside sort of way. I guess a lot of things depend on how one feels about large, man-shaped robots stomping through the countryside.

Anyway. So here, obviously, is a pylon family portrait.1

Near Hills, IA. Open in separate window for a larger version.

2) Looking these up to confirm that they were sometimes called "pylons" (the Australians are more imaginative, according to Wikipedia, and call them "ironmen."2) reminded me that pesticides are not named any more sensibly than car models or celebrity babies. Of the eight restricted-use pesticides we regularly used at my former job, my favorite name by far was Pylon, AKA chlorfenapyr.3 It was my favorite brand name just because it made absolutely no sense: as far as I'm concerned, it makes about as much sense as naming a pesticide Handkerchief.4

Not that Pylon was my actual favorite pesticide to use and mix; it just had the most ridiculous name. My favorite pesticide to mix and use was Azatin (azadirachtin), for reasons I will leave mysterious and tantalizing, since I might want to write about my love of Azatin someday.


1 IMPORTANT DISTINCTION: This is not the same thing as a Cylon family portrait. Although both pylons and Cylons share humanoid form and common ancestry, they differ in a number of key traits, most notably size and mobility.
2 Or perhaps they're less imaginative, given the overwhelming resemblance to men, and probable iron-based composition. I say let your feelings about Australians and/or Wikipedia be your guide.
3 Though I preferred to call it by its given name, 4-bromo-2-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(ethoxymethyl)-5-(trifluoromethyl)-1H-pyrrole-3-carbonitrile.
4 In fact, Handkerchief would be a more sensible pesticide name than Pylon, if for no other reason than that handkerchiefs actually are sometimes utilized in the killing and disposing of bugs, and pylons, at least in my personal experience, never are.

Pretty picture: Petroselinum crispum (parsley) Coriandrum sativum (cilantro) flowers

[EDITED 8 June 2011: The plant I thought was parsley, Petroselinum crispum, turns out to be coriander/cilantro, Coriandrum sativum. Which doesn't make the flowers any less pretty, but it does kind of explain the lack of swallowtail caterpillars. It's still growing in the backyard, more than ever, as of 2011, because I like the look of it and it's not like we're doing anything else with that space. Plus it's self-maintaining.]

Okay. It's time to admit that the vegetable garden is not working. The peppers have flowers here and there, but are small and yellow and clearly unhappy; the whole garden is full of couchgrass and goosefoot, and it turns out, unsurprisingly, that I really don't like weeding. (I know: mulch. But do you know how much mulch costs? Actually, if you're reading this, odds are that you do, I guess. And that's bad logic on my part, because mulching in spring is cheaper than buying corn on the cob in the summer. And weeding is cheaper than both. So I'm just stupid.) I will be surprised if we get any corn out of this at all. Bad experience all around, don't intend to repeat.


I'd planned, before we moved, to plant some parsley at the new place, because swallowtail butterflies like it, and I like swallowtail butterflies. When I actually got here and looked at the garden, there was already parsley planted here, but for some reason I forgot that I wanted it, so I pulled a bunch up, and then realized about 3/4 of the way through that, oh shit, I just pulled up stuff I was going to buy.

Fortunately, the survivors have thrived, and it appears that there were also a number of parsley seeds in there that had just not sprouted yet during the parsley holocaust, so I've gotten a healthy crop anyway. Which have all flowered. I suppose the flowering makes them inedible, or less edible, or something, but I don't like eating parsley anyway, and I'm guessing caterpillars don't care. And the flowers are pretty, and smell nice, which surprises me.

So fuck the corn and the peppers. Next year, I'll just grow parsley. And maybe milkweed. We'll have a parsley-milkweed garden. And I'll throw in some Asclepias tuberosa seeds, 'cause I like them. Just give the whole thing to the butterflies.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Random plant event: Nina's Impatiens

I posted not too long ago about an unknown plant in Nina's terrarium, that I thought had come in with the Calathea Ctenanthe burle-marxii I got for her. Then it budded, and that was exciting, though the bud made it look like the flower was going to be white, which I really didn't want it to be white for some reason.

Well, so now the flower has opened, and I'm pleased to report that it's not white:

The plant is also taking over the terrarium, kinda, which I suppose means I should cut it back or something. Not that the other plants have been complaining, yet, but it's not really where I would have wanted a plant that's this big, and I'm a little concerned. On the other hand, it's the only thing in there that's got a flower on it, and the flower is a pleasant medium pink color, and it's worked so hard to get there. So for now it stays.