Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday morning Nina picture

Shots like this make me appreciate the wisdom of Daffodil Planter's comment from Halloween: Nina is cute because she's so much SMALLER than we are. Imagine if she were eyeing you this way -- and the size of a smallish motorcycle.

Suddenly way less adorable, right?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Question for the Hive Mind: NOID Gesneriad

You know that feeling you get when you spend all day on the 17th working on your blog post for the 21st, and then you realize at 10 PM that you don't have a post ready to go up on the 18th?

Oh. Yeah, me neither. Totally never happens.

But so yeah. Um. Look! It's a NOID gesneriad!

Pretty, right? This picture would probably have gone up several days sooner than this if I had been able to figure out what it was. I actually feel quite strongly that I know what this is, and that the answer is somewhere in one of the dustier corners of my brain, perhaps in a box labeled "surge suppressors & extension cords" instead of "gesneriad IDs." But the ideas I had didn't result in any matching Google image search results, so I'm stumped. I'm sure someone out there must know.

For the record, I don't have any ID at all on it; nobody told me it was a gesneriad. I am oddly positive that it is, but it wouldn't, like, ruin my entire day if it turned out not to be.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Random plant event: Cyanotis kewensis flower buds

This is a really terrible picture of a really interesting event, for me. First the terrible-picture part: I took 25 different shots of this same plant, and this was the one that was best in-focus. I probably should have tried with the flash, I realize as I write this (the blur almost always comes from me not being able to hold the camera steady, not any inherent defect in the camera's auto-focusing; a shorter exposure time gives my hands less time to move around), but I didn't think of it at the time.

As far as it being an interesting event, well, it had never occurred to me that Cyanotis bloomed. I mean, if I'd stopped to think about it, I would have realized that yes, it's a plant, obviously it blooms, but I never stopped to think about it. And even then, it wouldn't probably have occurred to me that it might bloom for me. So this is interesting. I'll post a picture -- a true-color, in-focus picture -- when I see some flowers open.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Walkaways Part 5, plus, Plant Room Panic

Life here has been more chaotic than usual lately, because of the blizzard last week. It all seemed to be going pretty well: I was disappointed with the amount of snow we got, but there were substantial winds, as promised, and I enjoy having weather. Then I noticed that the plant room, which ordinarily contains about a third of my plant population, was down to 60F/16C, and this was around 5 PM: the forecast was for it to continue to get colder for the next twelve hours or so.

And I panicked, as I sometimes do, and took a lot of the more temperature-sensitive plants out of the plant room and stuck them in the basement, and then I ran out of room in the basement so I started putting them in the kitchen. I subsequently ran out of room in the kitchen, living room, and my office before the migration was complete, and this is stack-on-any-open-surface running out of room, not place-in-designated-plant-areas running out of room like I always am.

Part of the reason for the panic was because, in the process, I found two plants that were dead: an Astrophytum myriostigma and a Gasteria NOID. I don't know for sure what happened to either of them: the Astrophytum in particular had had sort of a rough life (it was kind of top-heavy, and then got knocked out of its pot about every six weeks since we moved to the house), and the Gasteria was near the floor where the temperature was the coldest, plus both of them had been watered semi-recently. Maybe they were dormant and didn't like that. So there's circumstantial evidence that both of them were actually my fault, not the weather, but in the heat of the moment, this was evidence that they were ALL GOING TO DIE if I didn't move them out of the plant room immediately.

The husband, meanwhile, was stapling (?) blankets over the windows. We found fans to blow warmer air into the plant room. Everything got turned upside down, and the plants that stayed in the plant room more or less had to do without light for a couple days, though blankets and fans got the temperature back up around 72F/22C more or less immediately. Which made moving everything seem kind of unnecessary, but whatever.

The husband then spent a couple days in the plant room, installing some heavy curtains, which in theory can be drawn the next time the plant room gets too cold. It's not a perfect system, as the curtains are probably going to catch on plants and pull them over the next time the curtains have to be drawn, but knocking over a couple plants is still better than panicking.


I suppose it depends on which plants.

All of the above is to explain why, last Sunday, I went back to visit my old job. I really needed to get out of the house; I'd just posted the Cactus Blindness post and felt, as one does, an urgent need to photograph more cacti; and a couple spots had just opened up in the plant room, which needed to be filled. . . .

But here's what I didn't buy.

Anthurium x 'Marie.' The file name says 'Maria' because I was briefly confused, but 'Marie' is correct.

This wasn't a particularly serious contender: it looks an awful lot like my Anthurium "hookeri," though the dark purple/black leaves are kind of interesting. They only turned color, I'm told, once they arrived in Iowa and started getting direct sun, though, so the odds of keeping the color in the house were pretty slim. Plus, if I'm going to spend $25 on an Anthurium, I'm still holding out for a Anthurium podophyllum.

Still, makes 'Marie' sound pretty interesting: apparently its chromosomes are kind of a mess, so individual plants are prone to do odd things (double spadices on the flowers, weird branching, etc.: you can see a picture of a deformed 'Marie' spadix here, and other Anthurium nervous breakdowns, plus those of a few other aroids, are here), and I do kind of find that appealing. We'll see.

Episcia NOID.

This Episcia, on the other hand, didn't tempt me at all. I'm this close to renouncing gesneriads and all of their works (only 6 left, 2/3 of which are Nematanthus). But I appreciate seeing them in the garden center. I mean, they're pretty and everything. I just don't want to bring one home to kill.

Cactus NOID; my best guess is Ferocactus gracilis, but this is fairly likely to be at least half-wrong.

Might come back for this guy, though. As I've mentioned before, I seem to be very focused on buying cacti lately. Some of the reason for going to the garden center in the first place was because the Stenocereus thurberi in the cactus blindness post had been calling me from afar. I also bought what I really hope is a Myrtillocactus geometrizans; previous attempts have been foiled by erroneous labeling and my inability to tell the difference.

So what haven't you bought recently? (Please say poinsettias. Except you, water roots. I already know about you and the poinsettia, and I'm very disappointed. Now go to your room and think about what you've done.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

List: Plants With a "Fountainy" Habit

You know what I mean. Lots of long and thin, or at least long and strappy, leaves, all going upward and then out and down in a graceful curve. I've never been able to figure out whether I have a particular attraction to this particular habit, or whether there are only a limited number of ways to build a plant and this is one of them so inevitably I would end up with lots of plants that look like this. I lean toward the latter, but it seems significant that a lot of my most favorite plants (Yucca guatemalensis, Pandanus veitchii, Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime,' etc.) fall into this category.

Also relevant here is that certain entire genera (Dracaena, except for D. surculosa) and families (Bromeliaceae), are basically all like this, so it's potentially a long list. I tried to pick a set of ten diverse plants.

Asplenium antiquum. (Japanese bird's-nest fern)

Beaucarnea recurvata, variegated. (ponytail palm)

Chlorophytum comosum. (spider plant, airplane plant, mala madre)

Clivia miniata 'Aztec Gold,' without flower.

Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime.'

Dracaena reflexa 'Riki.'

Neoregelia NOID. May be 'Purple Star.'

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Niger.' (black mondo grass)

Pandanus veitchii, variegated. (screw pine)

Yucca guatemalensis, plain green. (spineless yucca)

I pretty well covered my favorites in the introduction: Yucca guatemalensis, Pandanus veitchii, Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime.' In truth, though, I'm also very fond of most of the others, and it would probably be easier to talk about the three I don't like, and why.

Asplenium antiquum doesn't do well for me; it doesn't cope well with missed waterings, and humidity may also be an issue. Typically, when I buy an Asplenium, I have about six good months and then it falls into an irreversible decline.

Beaucarnea recurvata is pretty easy to take care of, and it does fairly well for me, but I don't especially like it. Part of this is because it steadily dropped leaves for a long time after I first got it, and stopped only after I gave it more soil and covered its base up a little more (which may or may not have been the reason it stopped). Also it's slightly annoying because the length of the leaves make it inconvenient to move around. I'm warming up to it, though, at least a little.

Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Niger' is also pretty easy, but I'm not a huge fan. It's also very slow-growing indoors, or at least it's been slow for me so far. Not sure if this is natural, or a cultural issue.

Not pictured:
Aechmea 'Del Mar'
Aechmea fasciata (silver vase plant)
Agapanthus spp.
Many Agave spp. (attenuata, geminiflora), at least in a way
Quite a few Aloe spp., particularly those with long leaves (maculata, greatheadii)
Ananas comosus (pineapple)
Callisia fragrans, sort of
Cryptanthus cvv. (some cvv., anyway)
Cymbidium cvv. (plus a fair number of other orchids)
Dracaena deremensis cvv. ('Art,' 'Janet Craig,' 'Janet Craig Compacta,' 'Limelight,' 'Warneckei,' etc.)
Dracaena fragrans cvv. ('Massangeana,' 'Sol') (corn plant)
Dracaena marginata cvv. ('Bicolor,' 'Colorama,' 'Magenta,' 'Tarzan') (Madagascar dragon tree)
Dracaena sanderiana cvv. (lucky bamboo, ribbon dracaena)
Furcraea foetida and F. f. cv. 'Medio-Picta' (false agave)
Guzmania cvv.
Hippeastrum cvv. (amaryllis)
Other Neoregelia cvv. (incl. 'Ardie,' 'Fireball,' 'Gazpacho,' 'Medium Rare,' 'Nuance,' 'Perfection,' 'Victoria,' 'Yang')
Sansevieria trifasciata cvv., sometimes, at least to a first approximation (snake plant, mother-in-law tongue)
Tillandsia cyanea (pink quill)
Other Tillandsia spp. (air plant)
Vriesea imperialis (aka Alcantarea imperialis, giant bromeliad)
Vriesea ospinae var. gruberi
Vriesea splendens (flaming sword)

I know I have to be missing hundreds of plants here, so throw 'em out there as they occur to you. If you want to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Unfinished business: Pelargonium x hortorum 'Vancouver Centennial'

A couple weeks ago, I posted about (among other things) flower buds on my Pelargonium. Those buds have now opened, so I figured I owed y'all a follow-up.

This doesn't capture the color very well, but there's something about my camera, or maybe something about Pelargonium flowers, that keeps pictures from producing very true-to-life color. It's in the ballpark, though.

The flowers are basically a really bright orange, quite a bit less red than they appear here. There's sometimes a slight hint of coral, depending on the light. It's a pleasant enough color as far as I'm concerned: I've got nothing against orange. Not particularly big and showy, but, you know, whatever. I kind of don't like the big snowballs of flowers the regular varieties produce anyway, and it's not like the plant owes me flowers in the first place, given the leaves it makes. So I'm satisfied.

The plant itself appears to be falling apart a bit: whether this is because the flowers are taking too much energy to produce, or whether I let it go a little too long between waterings, I'm not sure, but if it's the latter, the plant really ought to try to get itself used to that.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Random plant event: Hatiora salicornioides flower bud

This is funny, because somebody just asked me if I'd ever had my Hatiora salicornioides bloom, and I answered no, it's never bloomed, and then a week or two later, bam! We have flower buds.

It doesn't look like much yet (dead center in the photo, if you're having trouble seeing it), and it's my understanding that the flowers aren't amazing either. Plus I only have two buds, so far. But still. I've only ever seen pictures, so I'm excited about the possibility of getting to see the flowers in person. I'll do my best to get pictures, but the reader is warned that I had a hell of a time getting my camera to focus on the buds (I've taken at least fifty photos, trying to get something in focus, and even though this picture is more or less in focus, it doesn't show what's going on well.), so we may or may not manage to document this properly.