Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

We have a very large silver maple (Acer saccharinum) toward the back of our long, narrow yard. Then the neighbors on one side have another silver maple, at the very back of their lot, and the neighbors on the other side have at least one Norway maple (Acer platanoides) in their yard, too, and . . . well, basically what I'm trying to get at is that there are maples everywhere. Our back yard abuts a cornfield, and this picture, from about two weeks ago, was originally intended to illustrate how many maple seedlings come up in it. But then Sheba jumped into the picture and --unusually for her -- sat still, looking all sober and contemplative, so this became a Sheba picture too.

For maximal impact, look at the full-size version of the photo in a separate window.

Though it's still interesting to see just how many maple seedlings there are out there. (Could there be a thousand in that picture alone? It seems like that might be a thousand.) They'll all be Rounded-Up soon, if haven't already been by the time this post goes up. It seems kind of sad in a way -- I like maple trees, even weedy maple trees like saccharinum and platanoides -- but at the same time it's also a little terrifying how many of them there are, and how quickly they all appeared.

I mean, not that I'm saying Hitchcock should have made The Maples instead of The Birds. (M. Night Shyamalan tried that, and people mostly just laughed.) But still. Sinister.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pretty picture: Epidendrum Max Valley

Yet another photo from the Illowa Orchid Society's show at Wallace's Garden Center at the end of March. (The reader should expect that these posts are going to happen every week or two; I have them planned through January.)

Unlike with some of the others, I don't have any fun trivia or strong personal feelings about this one. I think the picture is the problem, as far as strong personal feelings: the green-blue cloth and blue ribbon in the back make the colors all seem strange. I couldn't move it somewhere else to take the picture, though, unfortunately.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

List: Houseplants That Get Tall But Stay Narrow

A very long time ago, someone at Garden Web asked for suggestions for a tall, narrow plant that would stay narrow, rather than spreading out and becoming vase-shaped with time. The reason was because the person had a fairly limited amount of floor space, and wanted the plant in an entryway, so any plants that got wide would eventually take up too much space and no longer be usable in that spot. I provided a number of suggestions in the thread, which for some reason has become a really reliable source of blog hits ever since. Which is kind of weird. I mean, I wouldn't have thought that many people have this problem.

So anyway. Here's a slightly expanded list of more or less upright, narrow, columnar plants that can be kept indoors. They're not all interchangeable -- you'd still need to be able to provide the right conditions as far as light, temperature, etc. And some of them do actually get a little wider with age. But the list below is at least a place to start, when looking for plants that will become tall but not take up a lot of floor space.

Suggestions are welcome, if readers can think of any other plants that fit the category.

Beaucarnea recurvata.

Chamaedorea metallica.

Cordyline glauca, unless cut back.

Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig' (shown) and other D. deremensis varieties, unless cut back.

Euphorbia trigona.

Pachypodium lamerei (shown), P. geayi, and other spp., at least for quite a while when younger.

Pilosocereus pachycladus.

Rhapis excelsa.

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Moonglow' (shown), as well as some other S. trifasciata cvv.

Schefflera actinophylla, unless cut back. Some cvv., e.g. 'Renegade,' have more of a tendency to stay columnar than others.

Of these, my favorite three are probably Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig,' Euphorbia trigona, and Pachypodium lamerei.

Dracaena will generally be quite a bit wider than its pot, but it will tend to maintain that width for its entire life, getting maybe a little bit wider at the top with age. If cut back, they will resprout from multiple spots on the stem, making the plant a bit wider, but this takes a very long time to happen and isn't likely to be that big of a deal. They're very tolerant of low light, dry air, and other indoor conditions, but need occasional flushing of the soil with water, because they're somewhat mineral sensitive. They're also easily overwatered, so be sure to only water when the soil is very dry, and when you do water, water thoroughly. Too large of a pot can also cause them problems.

Euphorbia trigona is probably my favorite of the three: it needs very bright light and is easily overwatered, but it is otherwise very easy. As plants age, they will grow new shoots at the stems' corners, which will grow up as well, forming a tall narrow column of stems which is widest in the middle. They will generally need only as much floor space as the pot they're in. The sap is toxic, and may be dangerous to children or pets.

Pachypodium lamerei is of about average difficulty. Like the other two, it's easily overwatered, especially if injured. It needs very bright light and may go dormant during the winter, dropping its leaves and slowing water consumption (this isn't inevitable; my personal plant has never gone completely dormant, as far as I can tell, in the three winters I've had it). It's also more prone to spider mites than the other two, especially during the winter. Very old plants, or plants in very ideal conditions, will branch at the top, though this is not common in plants grown indoors year-round. Pachypodium is also both poisonous and covered in sharp, potentially harmful, spines.

I don't recommend against any of these plants especially, though I personally do poorly with Sansevieria trifasciata and don't intend to buy any more of them for that reason. I think most people have more trouble with Rhapis excelsa.

Not pictured:

Browningia hertlingiana
Carnegiea gigantea
Cereus peruvianus
Cordyline fruticosa, unless cut back
Dizygotheca elegantissima, unless cut back
Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana,' unless cut back
Dracaena marginata, some specimens, unless cut back
Dracaena reflexa 'Anita,' unless cut back
Dracaena reflexa 'Riki,' unless cut back -- is pretty wide to begin with, but doesn't get a lot wider
Dracaena sanderiana
Euphorbia ammak, kinda (they will eventually branch on their own)
Euphorbia drupifera, kinda (they tend to lean with age, has been my experience)
Euphorbia grandicornis, more or less
Isolatocereus dumortieri
Myrtillocactus geometrizans
Pachycereus marginatus
Polyscias balfouriana
Polyscias fruticosa
Schefflera arboricola, some specimens, unless cut back
Stenocereus pruinosus
Stenocereus thurberi
Yucca guatemalensis, unless cut back

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mouse and Trowel winners announced

Celebratory Gazanias.

So the winners of the Mouse and Trowel awards were announced yesterday, and PATSP won for two categories: Best Indoor Gardening Blog, and Post of the Year (for the Zombie Apocalypse post). I didn't acknowledge it yesterday because:

1) We're still dealing with some dog diarrhea issues here (she has yet to go in the house, which is very, very good, and believe me we're appreciative of our good luck on that particular count, but she's also gotten us up in the middle of the night for two nights running), and the sleep-deprivation that goes with that;
2) I did get the box of plants from the post office I mentioned in yesterday's post, and there was repotting and picture-taking to be done;
3) I didn't exactly know what to say.

The traditional Streptocarpus of Public Recognition.

But so I guess what one does in this situation is, one thanks the people involved. So.
  • A big thanks to Colleen Vanderlinden and the M&T sponsors, for setting the whole thing up in the first place. I know a lot of work goes into these things.
  • Thank-you to everyone who stopped by PATSP to see whether it was worth voting for during the last couple weeks, and a second thank-you to everybody who decided it was worth your vote.
  • I know it sounds kind of weird, but I want to acknowledge the other blogs in the Indoor Gardening category: Get in the Garden, Indoor Garden-er, Nature Assassin, and Plant Zone. If you aren't already visiting them, you really ought to be. When people said (as people did, often) that Indoor Gardening was an especially tough category in which to vote, they weren't kidding. Please, go visit them and leave them messages about how they were totally robbed. 'Cause they were.
  • Should probably also thank the husband, who makes it possible for me to spend almost all my time blogging or watering, and without whom PATSP would be literally impossible, or at least updated a lot less frequently.
  • Finally, I have to thank the zombies, whose tireless dedication and perseverance inspires us all. More brains indeed!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pretty pictures: Iris germanica cvv.

I intended to post something a bit more involved today than just some Iris pictures, but yesterday was by turns frustrating, anxiety-inducing, and miserable, so you will have to accept these as the best I can do for the moment.

What happened yesterday involves canine diarrhea and is probably best not described in detail, but I didn't get a normal amount of sleep as a result, and then had to spend most of the day on Monday watching Sheba and taking her out every couple hours, just in case. As I write, on Monday afternoon, it all appears to be over, or at least winding down, and she's never thrown up or looked like she was becoming dehydrated or anything, so I guess everything is okay. But, it's also not how I'd planned to spend my Monday, or how I'd want to spend a Monday ever again. I'm beginning to wonder if maybe we shouldn't just bring her in and have them build her a new digestive system. Maybe a gas-electric hybrid. I hear those are hot now.

On the plus side, there was no vomiting. So . . . we're making progress? I think?

I was already not feeling so hot myself (as mentioned in Sunday's post, I've been feeling really tired and creaky for no discernable reason, the last few days), which missing sleep didn't help, and then I remembered late in the afternoon that I was supposed to have a box of plants arriving in the mail today (plant trade), so I hurried to the post office to get it, and there was a card in the box like they put in there when there's a package waiting, but when I went to the window to pick it up, I was told there wasn't one, or maybe there was one but it wasn't obvious where it was, and the person who would know wasn't around, and possibly had hidden it somewhere, and of course it was also possible that there was never a box in the first place, despite the card, so just come back on Tuesday and maybe there would be a box then. Or maybe there wouldn't!

So basically the Post Office is trying to gaslight me,1 as if they're not screwing with me enough by refusing to deliver mail to my home like a normal post office would do.

Therefore, Iris pictures.

I'm really fond of that last pink-orange one, incidentally. It's ickily close to Caucasian flesh-color, which I normally really dislike in flowers, but on this particular Iris, it kind of works.


1 (Gaslight is a stunningly handy verb. Even if you're not paranoid, you'd be surprised how many times the situation comes up. The only disadvantage is that successful communication requires the listener to be familiar with the movie, or else the speaker has to have time to explain the word. I'm hoping that if I use it enough, people will become familiar enough with it that I won't have to explain or link to Wikipedia every time.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Random plant event: Hoya bella flower buds

In October 2008, I traded plants with someone from Garden Web, who gave me three sets of Hoya cuttings: Hoya bella, Hoya carnosa var. holliana, and Hoya picta. Picta only lasted four months before it basically shriveled up and died; carnosa var. holliana looks like it's going to make it, but it's only been actively growing for about six months now; and then we have bella.

Which has produced two sets of buds at some point in the last couple weeks. I wasn't expecting to see flowers on this plant anytime soon. I have twelve Hoyas total now, some of them dating back to 2006, and only lacunosa has bloomed so far. Which, granted, lacunosa has been enthusiastic enough to kind of make up for the rest of them -- it's been more or less continuously in bloom since mid-January -- but I've learned not to have high expectations. Also these are still very small plants. And yet.

I don't know what the smell will be like, or whether there will be a smell at all -- bella is apparently one of those that may or may not have a scent, depending on unknown factors. If it does, it's supposed to smell like candy (still a pretty broad description: circus peanuts? butterscotch discs? Skittles?). And of course the buds may still drop. If they stay on, though, it'll be interesting to see what it's like. I'll let you know.

As a side-note: this is the last day to vote in the Mouse and Trowel Awards. If you intend to but haven't yet, you should definitely do that nowish.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pretty pictures: Cosmos 'Cosmic Mix'

I was somehow exhausted before even waking up on Saturday, and then stayed exhausted all day. I don't feel sick exactly; it's more like I've been up for 24 hours. Except that I haven't.

In any case, this means that the little hamster on a wheel that powers my brain is sitting in the corner of his cage, giving me the finger while watching "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" and eating potato chips, so now thinking is hard, and getting harder. Probably for both of us. I've always sensed myself getting stupider whenever I've watched KUWtK. So I don't really have a comment on any of these pictures, except to note that this is probably the only plant genus named after an alcoholic beverage.

(Not really. The drink's full name is Cosmopolitan. But still.)

I will likely have beaten the hamster into submission by tomorrow, and hopefully once he's under control, the creakiness in my joints and muscles will have subsided too and things can get back to normal.