Saturday, March 27, 2010

Saturday morning Nina picture

An old picture today; I haven't seen Nina do this in a very long time.

Maybe just a phase she was going through? You know how a lot of kids these days are experimenting with tail-curling.

Plans to try to add some pictures of Sheba, or whatever her name is, failed to come together fast enough, but I will try to get some for next week's Saturday morning Nina and/or Sheba picture post.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pretty picture: Murraya paniculata flowers

As with the Plectranthus x 'Mona Lavender' I wrote about on Tuesday, the Murraya paniculata flowers sporadically all the time, but has gotten really excited all of a sudden, within the last week or so. Possibly the trigger was that I moved it to the watering station and gave it a good soaking and showering a couple weeks back. It's heavy, so this is hard to do, and doesn't happen that often.

In any case. I was moved to write about this partly because the current round of blooming is so intense, and partly because James Missier posted about his plant a few days ago. In that post, he mentions rumors of the flowers' scent being poisonous, which is similar to a couple comments I had after I posted the plant profile a couple years ago -- some anonymous person showed up and promised me a "lifetime of illness" unless I got rid of the plant, and claimed that his/r children were all allergic to it. People are (as we know) sometimes allergic to things, but by the time my anonymous commenter left his/r comment, we'd already had the plant for a year, blooming sporadically throughout, and both the husband and I were fine. I'm not saying that we haven't both been sick for the last three years, just that it seems like the sort of thing I'd remember.

Unless part of the illness involves memory loss, obviously.

James said in comments on his post that he'd read an account somewhere of a woman who'd found that the flowers' scent triggered her migraines and other ailments. This is certainly plausable: in some sufferers, migraines can be set off by certain scents, and (wikiposedly), some migraine sufferers experience heightened sensitivity to smell too, as part of the aura. (The word aura refers to sensory or neurological signs that precede a migraine in about 20-30% of sufferers; most commonly visual disturbances like seeing flashing lights, blurred vision, or scintillating scotoma, but tingling feelings in the face or extremities, heightened sensitivity to odors, or olfactory hallucinations are also fairly common.) As Murraya flowers have a pretty strong odor on their own, anybody who was exceptionally sensitive to smell during a migraine's aura, or triggered into migraines by strong smells, would obviously be hit pretty hard by it.

So there may be something to this, and it's probably a good idea not to put a Murraya in a store or other public space, because one doesn't want to give other people migraines. At the same time, it's no more "poisonous" or "dangerous," as far as I can tell, than when people wear too much perfume, cologne, or aftershave, or use scented laundry detergent, or whatever. Strong smells can trigger allergies or migraines in certain people. We knew this already.

Perhaps I'm being overly defensive. But I like this plant, and don't want to see people getting scared away from it over nothing. Some people will be allergic to it, and others may find it triggering migraines, but both groups should be relatively uncommon, and if you or someone you live with fall into one group or the other, you probably already know about it and wouldn't be buying a Murraya anyway. So.

And they really do smell nice.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

BREAKING: Dog Adoption Complete

We did adopt Sheba. I don't react allergically at all to her saliva, apparently, and only slightly to her dander (which might not be her: it could be something else from the shelter), so I think this should work. Won't be able to say it's definitely worked until some time has gone by, of course, but I think there's reason to be optimistic, based on how things have gone so far.

It was a very long ride back for her, and unfortunately she does get carsick -- though we'd been driving for just over an hour before she actually threw up, and she'd had a pretty intense day already and was perhaps not at her best to begin with. So hopefully this won't be as much of a problem in the future.

I'll add a picture or two to this post as soon as I get them uploaded and sorted and everything.


This one is pre-vomit, obviously, though she looked just fine post-vomit too, once we got her out of the car.

I'm pretty sure there are better photos possible; this was just the best of what I was able to get today. Perhaps there will be others to go with this week's Nina picture.

Except for the ears, she really does look an awful lot like a scaled-down Fervor.

Have You Seen This Plant?: Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Forest'

The website for Twyford International, a tissue-culture company located in Florida, with a separate facility in Costa Rica, lists a large number of plants that are very familiar to me, that we got from Florida all the time when I worked in the garden center. Twyford produces and either holds the patent on, or has applied for a patent on: Aglaonema 'Golden Bay;' (Correction: Whatever Twyford's site may claim, they have not in fact applied for the patent on 'Golden Bay;' that belongs to Florida Foundation Seed Producers.) the Anthuriums 'Gemini,' 'Krypton,' 'Red Hot,' (Correction: Whatever Twyford's site may claim, they do not in fact hold the patent on 'Red Hot;' that belongs to Florida Foundation Seed Producers.) and 'White Gemini;' Microsorum musifolium 'Crocodyllus;' the Dieffenbachias 'Tiki,' 'Tropic Breeze,' 'Tropic Marianne,' and 'Tropic Rain;' and the 'Brasil,' 'Imperial Green,' and 'Imperial Red' Philodendron varieties.

Also Philodendron 'Xanadu,' but nobody's perfect.

I own, or have owned, all of the above plants except for Aglaonema 'Golden Bay,' and 'Golden Bay' is on my list to get at some point. So the point is that I'm generally happy with the plants Twyford puts out there, save for 'Xanadu,' which is Satan come to earth in the form of a plant,1 plus a fair number of their plants were developed by Dr. Richard Jake Henny of the Plant Daddy blog (Sadly, there's a lot less plant-daddying there lately, and a lot more cars, fishing, and complaining about the weather, but the archives are still worth checking out.2), which makes them special just because I usually don't know anything about where my plants originated, much less their creator's feelings about cold weather.3

So I have been excited for quite some time, since discovering their website, about the possibility of one day owning a Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Forest,' which looks a lot like 'Tropic Rain' in the (blurry, low-res) photo,

Dieffenbachia 'Tropic Forest.' Photo from Twyford International and used without permission; I will take it down immediately if anyone at Twyford has a problem with this and says so.

but which has a different texture to the variegation which I find more appealing.

And I have waited to see one of these show up in my area, for a couple years now, without luck. Not only have I never actually seen one, but we never had them on the availability lists from Florida. They were never even an option. So finally, I e-mailed Twyford to ask them where they were, and why they had 'Tropic Forest' on their website even though they don't appear to sell the plant.4

The answer didn't help very much; the people who wrote me back basically said that they'd never seen it before either, and didn't think they've sold 'Tropic Forest' in the last two years, and they're sorry the website is so out of date (all the news-clipping and press-release pages end in 2004, and their availability list stops last August). They did suggest some wholesalers I could check with, and I appreciate their being nice enough to answer in the first place, because they didn't have to -- I'm just some guy with a blog who might, if he finds a source, buy a plant or two of 'Tropic Forest;' they didn't really stand to gain anything by writing me back. So this was very kind of them. But at the same time, I'm no closer to the goal of having one of the plants, either.

So the report, at least for now, is: 'Tropic Forest' is a real Dieffenbachia variety, patented and everything, originally created in Australia by Edwin J. Frazer, from a cross between Dieffenbachia 'Birdsey No. 4' and D. 'Marie Selby 79-92,' sometime before January 1995, when the patent application was first filed. Nobody has seen 'Tropic Forest' since January 2007 (the date on the picture in footnote 3) and Twyford, at least, hasn't sold it in the last couple years. Nor does anyone else appear to selll it either, at least not under that name. If you sell it, if you have one you might give me cuttings of, if you've spotted it somewhere, if you know Edwin J. Frazer or are Edwin J. Frazer or think you maybe once talked to someone named Edwin at a party who had an Australian accent and did something with German-sounding plants, for the love of all that is good and holy please e-mail me.5

PATSP Profiles for:
Aglaonema cvv. including 'Golden Bay'
Anthurium andraeanum cvv., including 'Gemini,' 'Krypton,' 'Red Hot,' and 'White Gemini'
Dieffenbachia cvv., including 'Tiki,' 'Tropic Breeze,' 'Tropic Marianne,' 'Tropic Rain,' and (hypothetically) 'Tropic Forest'
Philodendron hederaceum, including the cultivar 'Brasil'
Philodendron 'Xanadu'


1 Not really. It's true that I have a problem with 'Xanadu,' but the houseplant incarnation of Satan is, I'm pretty sure, Ravenea rivularis, the majesty palm. Maybe poinsettias or Opuntia spp. 'Xanadu' maybe places somewhere in the top ten, though.
2 Also: if the reader will take a close, full-size view of this photo from Plant Daddy, s/he will see some very interesting-looking yellow-speckled experimental pothos in the foreground. There's also an odd-looking vining plant of some kind which I think is either a Philodendron hederaceum or another kind of pothos, with sort of long, narrow dark green leaves and a bright white or cream-colored center, on the far right-hand side of this photo.
3 SPOILER: He's against it. Not overly fond of birds either.
4 (Indeed, the plant doesn't even appear to exist: when I Googled for it, the only hits that came up were for the Twyford site, multiple sites referring to the patent for 'Tropic Forest,' one really good picture, and PATSP, because I mentioned 'Tropic Forest' in passing during the Dieffenbachia profile. has a page for 'Tropic Forest,' but it's just a placeholder: there are no photos or comments.)
5 (See the sidebar and follow the directions.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

BREAKING: DogQuest 2010

Informed as of about three hours ago that SHEBA IS GO. Repeat, SHEBA IS GO.

In-person allergy check is expected to be around 1-2 PM CDT tomorrow, and if that goes even remotely well, she'll be home with us by maybe about 4 PM tomorrow.

Pretty pictures: Plectranthus x 'Mona Lavender' flowers

I've had this plant for almost a year now, and it's flowered off and on in that time, but never anything terribly impressive. It wasn't a particularly big plant, either, of course, but I think the main problem was that it wasn't happy with how much light it was getting. Since we got to the new house, and the plant got one of the choice spots in the southwest corner of the plant room, though, it's going nuts with flowers. Unfortunately, I had trouble getting a usable picture of the whole plant (it's a bit gangly: low light will do that), but there are plenty of close-ups of the flowers.

As far as I can tell, the flowers don't have a scent or anything, but they're pretty anyway.

Most pictures of 'Mona Lavender' on-line have darker-purple flowers than this; the degree of purple depends on how much light the plant receives.

Flowering is triggered by short days, though you still have to have reasonably bright light during those short days; mine didn't bloom much during the winter, despite the day length.

The plant is a hybrid developed in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens; more information about that here.

In DogQuest2010 news, we may get to adopt the "perfect" dog from Fairfield that I talked about in the last post -- I spent most of the hiatus moping about the unfairness of this, but called the Fairfield shelter again yesterday around noon and left them a message saying, basically: we were there last Friday and were looking at Sheba and then somebody else applied for her right after we left and I know this is kind of a long shot and I probably sound crazy for even asking but I noticed that she's still on Petfinder so I thought maybe there was the possibility that she's still available and so could you please just call me and tell me one way or another because I'm kind of obsessing thanks bye. (Sometimes when I'm leaving phone messages, I speak without any punctuation.1)

And an hour passed, and I didn't hear anything, so I took a nap. And when I got up, there were no messages or anything either, and I was like, oh well, I guess I'll have to accept this, then, damn it all to hell, and! Then! at like 4:50 PM, I got a call from the shelter saying that the person who had applied for her was supposed to pick her up today, and didn't, and when the shelter called to ask WTF, the person said they'd decided they didn't want her after all, so she was available again.

Faxed in an application two hours after that. And we will see. I think they're likely to approve us, at least in a tentative kind of way: I admitted on the application that allergies are an issue (which they already knew, because we'd told them about Fervor when we visited before), and that we would need to check on that again in person before adopting officially. They will take her back and refund the adoption fee if allergies turn out to be a problem, though. I assume there's a time limit of some kind on that, but if there are going to be problems, allergy-wise, then they're going to show up within the first week, so I'm not too worried about that.

I mean, I'm worried. But only for myself. They were taking good care of her there, and they would be again if we had to bring her back. As with Fervor when we took him back, she'd be fine and I'd be a wreck.

And I'm trying not to get too excited about this, but she's the only dog we've looked at that we've both liked, and we agreed on her immediately, she had no obvious qualities that would pose any problems for us, and the odds have seemed so long that we'd find any dogs that worked for our situation that I was starting to despair of ever finding one.2

The evidence so far suggests that I may be allergic to her, but less so than I was to Fervor -- I reacted a lot more to Fervor's play-biting than his licking, and almost not at all to his dander.3 Sheba (we will have to do something about this name) didn't seem at all inclined to bite, though she licked a lot.

I've also heard conflicting stuff about whether or not allergies get worse with continued exposure: some people in the comments on the last post said it was possible to gradually increase exposure and eventually stop reacting entirely, but the Iowa City shelter person said that if you're having animal allergies, they will only get worse over time.4 It basically all comes down to me and my stupid immune system.

And I guess my nervous system also: I got itchy spots on my face and right arm just from thinking about my allergic history and potential, while writing this.

So I'm trying not to get too excited about Sheba.

But I'm failing, failing, failing.


1 At other times, I leave phone messages that are practically nothing but punctuation. I like to keep people guessing.
2 After having looked for a whole week and a half. What can I say, I despair easily.
3 Even though the allergenic protein is the same in all three cases. According to something I read somewhere.
4 Which fits better with my prior experiences with animal allergies, though I've been told I have relatives who developed sudden allergies around puberty and then grew out of them in their 30s. Don't know if that's necessarily true, of course.
I do fit at least the first half of that: we had dogs and cats both when I was growing up, and I was never allergic until I was 11 or 12 years old, when I was suddenly really really allergic to cats. Dogs were never a problem until about eight years ago.