On Valentine's Day, the husband and I went to Cedar Rapids. The decision was complicated, but in essence, boiled down to: Nina needed crickets and wouldn't be able to wait a week for them, we were going to have contractors in the house all week (turned out not to be the case, but that's what I thought at the time), and so we had to get her crickets on Sunday. And as long as we're going out anyway, why not Cedar Rapids?
We went five different places (Pierson's, Lowe's, Frontier, Home Depot, and Earl May, in that order). Earl May didn't even have enough plants to sneer at,1 and Home Depot had tons but they were all buggy, half-dead, or buggy-or-half-dead-adjacent, so I wasn't tempted there. (Seriously, Home Depot: when the plants are so buggy that they're brown, shriveled, and sticky to the touch, give up. They're not going to sell. Please get this right or stop trying.) So this post is about what I found at the other three places.
Pierson's is making me sad lately. I understand if they don't want to focus on the tropicals right now, because none of the other independent garden centers are either. Late winter and early spring are about propagating, starting seeds, bringing in plugs. That sort of thing. Plus it was Valentines Day, which requires a certain period of preparation beforehand. So maybe they hadn't had time lately.
However, it seems like Pierson's has been ignoring their tropicals and houseplants for a lot longer than just the last couple months. Everything looks . . . scruffy. Unkempt. And the tropical selection was terrible, just as it has been the last two or three times I've visited. I know they're capable of better.
Nevertheless, I was tempted by one plant, sort of on Nina's behalf:
There's no way I could grow this in the house (inadequate humidity), but I thought maybe Nina would be interested, as a replacement for some of the plants that have failed in the terrarium. She has been saying she wanted me to put in carpet. (Also a hot tub. And something about a formal dining area with a "built-in, stainless steel cricket warmer," whatever that is. Save your allowance, I tell her.)
However, I didn't buy it for her because it was right next to some 3/4-dead-looking Selaginella specimens, and I didn't know if this was actually in good shape (as it appeared) or in bad shape and just not showing it yet. Plus, I haven't yet decided whether Nina's getting a new place. If she is, then I should probably wait and buy the new plants and the new terrarium at more or less the same time.
From Pierson's, we went to Lowe's, which had apparently just gotten in new stuff. I got two hanging baskets of semi-unusual plants there.
I've seen Dischidia ruscifolia around here and there and not really known what to make of it. We had one for a while where I used to work, and it didn't ever give me any trouble, but it also didn't stand out: I'd worked with it for eight months before I even noticed it was there. Lowe's had 6-inch hanging baskets for $9-something, which was cheap enough to take the gamble. So go ahead, Dischidia, wow me.
(Thus far, since getting home, all that's happened is that it's dropped a few leaves.)
The second plant from Lowe's is Hoya polyneura, which was also $9-something for a 6-inch pot. I'd seen one of these a while ago, where I used to work (it wasn't for sale: WCW brings a few plants into the greenhouse to overwinter every year, and it was hers), though I didn't have a name for it at the time.
WCW had offered me cuttings, but I didn't take her up on it (more a matter of timing, I think, than not wanting one: when I thought of it, she wasn't there, and when she was there, I wasn't thinking of it). Clearly the universe wants me to have one anyway, though. So okay. Twist my arm.
Then to Frontier, where I saw an odd Philodendron.
No ID on it, and when I asked, they said they didn't have a name for it either, just some hybrid Philodendron. It's not that it's particularly beautiful, but it's something I've never seen before. It kinda looks like 'Imperial Red,' and kinda looks like 'Autumn,' and kinda looks like 'Congo Red,' but the color is wrong for 'Autumn,' and the overall shape and size are wrong for the other two. I suppose it could be a young 'Imperial Red,' possibly. I dunno. Any ideas?
Frontier also had a kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), which I've been wanting for a while, and it was even more or less reasonably-priced ($60, for maybe a three- or five-gallon pot)2 and about five feet (1.5 m) tall. Unfortunately, it also looked like it had a light spider mite infestation, and for $60, not only do I expect that there will be no bugs coming with the plant, but I expect the plant to actively roam the house seeking out and destroying bugs. Like a Roomba. So that was something of a heartbreaker.
But the real heartbreaker, the one I'm still thinking about more than a week later, was Calathea zebrina:
I'd never seen one of these in person before, much less see one for sale. Much less see one for sale for about $11.
If not for previous experiences, I would have grabbed the plant off the table, clutched it tightly to my chest, and ran to the parking lot with it as fast as I could, chittering happily like a squirrel all the while.
And then at some point I would have realized that I hadn't paid for the plant, and I would have gone back in the store and done so.
But it's a Calathea. I don't think bringing it home with me would have been fair to either of us. I'm not over the Calathea ornata experience yet, it would seem.
1 If you're in or near Cedar Rapids: the Edgewood Road one has been pretty good for me for houseplants on occasion: it's where I got my Astrophytum ornatum. The one on Northland Avenue, though, has been just pitiful every time I've been there.
2 Again, for folks in or near Cedar Rapids:
Frontier is always very reasonably priced. A hypothetical Dracaena that would cost $20 where I used to work would be $23 at Pierson's, $20-30 at Earl May, $25-30 at Peck's, three-quarters-dead and sticky at Home Depot, $9 at Lowe's, and $10-15 at Frontier depending on whether or not they were on sale (they are almost always having 30%-off sales). More expensive than Lowe's, true. But it's an independent, locally-owned business, the owner is nice, they don't follow you around constantly asking if they can help you, and it surpassed Pierson's some time ago as my favorite place to shop for plants in Cedar Rapids, mostly because Pierson's got worse, not that Frontier got better.
The down sides to Frontier: 1) don't go with your heart set on getting a particular plant. Turnover is pretty fast, and they have very limited display space, so if you go there intending to get something specific, they will not have it. Unless it's Cissus rhombifolia (grape ivy), which for some reason they always seem to have. 2) Check for bugs. Multiple times. Every leaf. They have better days and worse days, with the bugs. 3) They're closed Saturdays.