Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

It was a shallow ocean,
It was a very low sky,
They're not too wide to get around,
given the old school try,
and you must have had
nothing better to do:

I've been kissing my cigarette
wishing it was you.

True, you gave me the moon,
and the silver stars.
They float outside the window
of this tedious bar.
But just like their master,
they just drift in the blue:

I've been kissing the bottle
wishing it was you.

So Gibraltar has crumbled.
The world came to an end.
And the joke was on me,
you're not even my friend.
But with all my new lovers
(and there've been twenty-two),

I've been kissing the mirror
wishing it was you.

(The 6ths, "Kissing Things," from the album Hyacinths and Thistles)

Friday, August 6, 2010

If You Were a Houseplant, What Kind of Houseplant Would You Be?

Gentle readers:

Just for shiggles, let's ponder the title question.

Obviously human beings' needs for things like water and temperature are going to be pretty similar, and we already know which plants are compatible with regular human environments, because those are the plants we grow indoors, where we live, already. Therefore, we have to resort to metaphor for this.

So what I'm asking everybody to do (if you want) is, evaluate yourselves on a 0-3 scale, as described below, for each of the criteria, and then leave a comment, containing the numbers you come up with for yourself. I'll run your numbers through Excel, match them against the ratings for plants I've already got in the spreadsheet, and then post a list of the three plants with number sets most similar to the set you've given me.1 You may use any number between 0 and 3 (like, if you're just positive you're a 2.68 on something, the number 2.68 works as well as any other for calculating, so go ahead and tell me 2.68.). If you don't like my metaphors for which personality traits go with which plant-care categories, feel free to make up your own and give me those numbers instead.

Euphorbia grandicornis. An extrovert.

PESTS are obviously other people.
0- People are great. I love meeting new people, and get along with everybody.
1- I like most people, though occasionally I run into someone I can't get along with.
2- I don't work or play well with others, but when I have to, I have to.
3- Other people are constantly getting in my way, being stupid, or otherwise causing me problems, and I wish I didn't have to deal with them.

Pogonantherum paniceum. A hoarder.

Water is sort of raw material for doing anything, for plants. Basically "stuff." So for OVERWATERING, the question is how unsettled you are by having too much stuff, too much clutter, in your life.
0- I'm a hoarder.
1- I keep stuff a lot longer than I need to, and regularly buy stuff for which I have no immediate use.
2- Things occasionally get out of hand, but most of the time I keep my space fairly neat and organized.
3- I can't stand any kind of mess, even in space that doesn't belong to me.

Beaucarnea recurvata. A DIYer/survivalist type.

And for UNDERWATERING, it's about how big of a problem it is for you not to have the things you need.
0- I can make anything I need from scratch using only duct tape and twigs, and sometimes I don't need the twigs.
1- I can usually improvise a bad substitute from something I already have, without having to buy something new.
2- I've been known to waste time going to multiple stores, trying to find something that will work perfectly.
3- I'll drop everything and drive for an hour to get exactly the right item.

Pilosocereus pachycladus. Belongs to Overeaters Anonymous.

LIGHT is basically energy input, for plants, which I think most closely parallels food consumption in humans. So
0- I'm basically anorexic.
1- I eat sensibly, most of the time.
2- I eat more than I ought to.
3- I eat anything that isn't nailed down.

Plectranthus verticillatus. Is basically Michelle Duggar.

For PROPAGATION, you have a choice: you can either treat it pretty literally, about your chances of having actual children, and the number of children, in your lifetime (0-I want to have a house full of kids / 1-definitely want some kids / 2-I might want one kid, someday / 3-I never want to have any children ever, or I can't have any childen ever), or you can be metaphorical:
0- I'm very proud of how much stuff I've accomplished in my life, compared to others my age.
1- There have been some unproductive spells, but I think on balance I've done quite a bit of cool stuff.
2- I could definitely have accomplished more if I'd worked harder, but considering what I had to work with I think I've done a couple worthwhile things.
3- I'm not sure I've ever done anything worthwhile in my life.

Begonia rex-cultorum 'Escargot.' Voted Most Likely To Go Postal.

HUMIDITY . . . I'm going to say stress-management and ability to function under pressure, and/or ability to deal with frustration.
0- I deal exceptionally well with stress most of the time. Other people even compliment me on it and ask what my secret is. I'm thinking I should write a book.
1- I handle certain kinds of stress (like pushy co-workers or intense deadline pressure) very well, and other kinds (like disorganized workspace or lazy co-workers) not so much.
2- I work okay under moderate amounts of pressure, but fall apart when it goes on for a long time without a break/vacation or when I'm being asked to perform an exceptionally impossible task.
3- The slightest little thing will make me stress out to the point of being completely unable to function.

Homalomena 'Emerald Gem.' "I CAN'T RUSH MY PROCESS, MAN!"

TEMPERATURE is a toughie, but I'm thinking it has to do with the intensity of daily activity, kinda. Since the meaning as it applies to plants has to do with the allowable range of temperatures, this is basically a measurement of how flexible you can be.
0- Whenever and however you want it, that's when I'll get it to you.
1- It's nice to have a little advance warning about things, but basically I can work at whatever speed is necessary without getting stressed about it.
2- I need to know pretty specifically what you want and how soon you want it, and depending on your deadlines I may or may not be able to get it to you.
3- I am no good with other people's deadlines. I have to work at my own pace, which is sometimes superfast and sometimes superslow, but I can't be rushed to do things faster, and I can't wait around for someone else's input once I'm ready to go.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia. Married, 2.5 kids, lives in suburbs.

GROOMING usually works out in the plant profiles as having special circumstances or quirks of care that aren't covered under one of the other categories but make the plant more difficult. So metaphorically, if your life is unusual in some way, compared to the average person in your country, because of who you are (disabled, gay, famous, independently wealthy, mentally ill), where you live (hippie commune, military, expat), or some other way that creates challenges for you that other people don't have or appreciate (self-employed, caring for a relative with special needs, religious minority, group marriage), this is where to note that.
0- I'm painfully ordinary in every possible way.
1- My life is a little weird.
2- I'm kind of a freak.
3- My life circumstances may be entirely unique in the history of the world.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Goes skydiving on weekends.

FEEDING for plants is the input of trace elements, so for people I'm going to say it's about the need for novelty and stimulation, about how bored you get and how easily.
0- I'd be pretty happy to get on a routine that worked for me and stay in that routine until I die, with no changes at all.
1- Having a stable, routine life is definitely important to me, but it's nice to get away and do something different every once in a while.
2- I like to shake things up regularly, so I don't get into a rut.
3- I have to be doing something new constantly -- going new places, learning new things, trying new forms of physical activity -- or I get bored and cranky.

My personal numbers fall out as follows:

PESTS: 2.5

My closest match turns out to be Philodendron gloriosum.2 I'm the son of a Stromanthe sanguinea (Mom) and a Schefflera actinophylla (Dad),3 and I married a Philodendron 'Xanadu.' (So not only same-sex marriage, but same-metaphorical-genus marriage!)


The husband points out that there could be a financial opportunity in this, somewhere. Some kind of horti-horoscopes (Rhapis: your sharp tongue may get you in trouble with your boss today, unless you remember to think before you speak."), or personality tests, which could be sold to businesses or used in marriage counseling. ("Well, there's your problem: you're an Agave and he's a Dieffenbachia. What you need is to neutralize your Agave nature by buying its opposite, which is a Begonia rex-cultorum, and then your relationship will be saved.") He's probably right.

None of this, of course, actually means a damn thing, but hey. If you need to have an answer ready just in case you run into Barbara Walters,4 leave your set of numbers in comments, and I'll crunch the numbers and post your results when I get the chance. You don't necessarily have to subscribe to my interpretation of the appropriate metaphors for each criterion, either. Make up your own and give me those numbers if you like.


1 The similarity is determined by comparing each plant-rating criterion, C, against the respondent's rating, R, for each of the nine criteria as follows:
similarity = sqrt[(C1-R1)^2 + (C2-R2)^2 + (C3-R3)^2 + . . . + (C9-R9)^2]
It's not merely a matter of comparing the difficulty numbers and picking the three which are closest. Consequently, the results that come up may vary considerably in difficulty ranking, owing to differences in how difficulty-rating criteria are weighted relative to one another, and that sort of thing.
2 I ran this both with the metaphorical propagation numbers and the literal ones, and the highest-ranking plant on both lists was P. gloriosum.
3 As not all possible values are represented among the plants, one cannot necessarily figure out what the person is like by knowing what their corresponding plant is. Philodendron gloriosum, for example, is not particularly bothered by pests (I had spider mites once), even though my pest number was very high: it's just the closest fit from among the nine values, among the 300ish plants for which I have values. Dad is totally a Schefflera actinophylla, though.
4 In 1981, during an interview with Katherine Hepburn, Barbara Walters asked "If you were a tree, what kind would you be?" This was of course roundly mocked at the time, though Walters has since defended the question by pointing out that Hepburn brought up the whole tree thing first, by saying she would like to be a tree.
So even if it's not going to help you if you run into Barbara Walters in a dark alley someplace (*shudder*), you never know when it might be handy to have a quick answer ready for questions like this.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Random plant event: Aglaonema 'Diamond Bay' flowering

Around this time every year, I start seeing Aglaonema flowers, though usually, in any given summer, only one of my plants flowers. I'm not a big fan of the flowers, and cut them off. (If you don't, you run the risk of mold: it doesn't appear to hurt the plant, but it's unattractive.) It was more difficult to keep up with the plants at work, because they'd all go at the same time.

Flowering Aglaonemas will keep producing new flowers over and over for a few weeks, then resume growth as usual: they don't die back after flowering, or do anything else special. Care doesn't change during this period either, except for the flower-removal.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pretty picture: Ipomoea sp.

Very excited tonight (Tuesday), because I got an e-mail today telling me that my Pandanus amaryllifolius has been shipped from Florida. What's that, you say? You didn't know I was getting a Pandanus amaryllifolius shipped from Florida?

That's because I didn't tell you. I didn't want you to buy them all before I could get one, as I've been wanting one ever since I started working on the Pandanus profile, eight or nine months ago.

I don't necessarily vouch for the company yet, as I haven't received my plant, but here are the details: $18 for the plant, $13.35 shipping, total of $31.35 (*wince*). Supposed to be in a 5-inch (12.7 cm) pot. I bought it from Gardino Nursery, on I think Friday. I'll let you know what it's like, once it gets here. They had others as of Friday, but were limiting it to one per customer, so there may not be very many.

Anyway. Today's post is just the simple picture of a morning glory flower I saw a few months ago. I know morning glories have been done, and a lot of people don't even like them because they're weedy, but I still think they're pretty. And even if I didn't, it's very late and I have to post something and this was the first thing I saw that I thought would work.

Still working on the Schlumbergera profile. I'm thinking it might be ready Sunday. We'll see. Progress is being made, at least. (UPDATE: It was indeed posted on Sunday.)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vermiculite is Magic, Part 2

I bought a Polyscias scutellaria in late April. It was a big, gnarled cane that had been planted and shipped out as soon as it started to sprout, which is how a lot of Polyscias are sold at the moment.

When it first came home.

Polyscias canes will usually sprout from several different spots at once, and in the process of getting it situated at home, I broke off one of these sprouts. I didn't want to throw it away, so I filled a clear plastic cup halfway with vermiculite, got it wet, stuck the broken piece in there, taped a second clear plastic cup on top of it, stuck it in the basement close to a fluorescent light, and ignored it for a couple months.

A couple weeks ago, I had a spell where I suddenly felt like everything needed to be up-potted all at once. I checked the cutting, and found this:

So probably I didn't need to wait quite so long to pot it up.

The parent plant, after a slight repotting (from a 4-inch pot to a 4.5-inch pot), has gone on to produce some serious new growth -- one of the most recent leaves is four inches (10 cm) in diameter.

At the moment.

The whole genus Polyscias has been, in my experience, way more agreeable to indoor culture than its drama-queen reputation would suggest. We did sometimes have problems with spider mites on the plants at work, and they'll drop leaves if waterings are missed or excessive, but I was expecting a lot worse. As I write this, I've had a P. fruticosa 'Elegans' for almost two years, and a plain P. fruticosa for about a year and a half. No complaints.

Monday, August 2, 2010

[Exceptionally] Pretty pictures: transmitted light -- Part XXVIII

Well, so the basement carpet was pulled up on Saturday, almost entirely by the husband, who was having back problems to begin with and now has worse ones. (I did try to help, but I hit the heat-exhaustion wall very early, and also had my own stuff to deal with -- the plants don't stop needing water just because the basement floods, after all.) Nothing besides the carpet appears to have been permanently ruined so far, though we don't necessarily know the full extent of things yet, either. Could be worse, and we may yet find out that it is worse, but for right now it feels like we've dodged a bullet, at least compared to other people in town. So there may not wind up being a disruption in posting schedule, like I implied on Saturday.

As for the photos, we have some interesting variations in texture here: muddy, firey, streaky. They're not all gems -- they never are -- but I'm quite pleased with a few of these, and unlike some of these groupings, I think these work nicely together as a group, too.

(The previous transmitted light posts can be found here.)

Zamia sp. One hell of a slow-growing plant indoors (and it's my understanding that they're not speedy outdoors either), but so far I'm not complaining about mine. This picture gives me sort of a Starship-Enterprise-traveling-through-space-at-Warp-9-through-the-Lime-Jell-O-Nebula feeling.

Abutilon 'Bella Pink.' Pretty sure I could come up with something better, for Abutilon leaves. Some of the angles here are weird, but the venation doesn't show as well as it could. I'll try again.

Tradescantia spathacea. Okay, this one just didn't work. Move on, move on, nothing to see here. In fairness, it takes a lot of light to get something photographable through the leaves of T. spathacea, and I feel I should get points for trying.

Salvia elegans. Worked out nicely, I'd say. I have some plants growing outside (I did wind up planting a few in the soil outside, as I'd hoped to) that could probably give better vein than this, but they weren't around yet when I got these photos together.

Philodendron 'Moonlight.' Lovely plant, kinda meh picture.

Ficus lyrata. Always a good picture of veins, though they're also kind of always the exact same picture. (This one is new: it just looks like all the others.)

Abutilon 'Bella Pink,' petals and sepals. Another picture that, to me, evokes movement. Plus it's pink.

Scindapsus pictus. The leaves are really kind of too thick for the veins to show properly, but I think this may be the best shot of the variegation I've gotten yet.

Zingiber malaysianum. Because you've always got to have a picture of Zingiber malaysianum.

Vriesea ospinae var. gruberi. This one sort of has to be my favorite from the set, even though several of the others are also nice. The color! The pattern! Etc.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


This post would have been a much better idea if I had, one, thought of it two years ago --

-- and two, if I had any kind of graphics-manipulation skills whatsoever. (It's actually getting to be sort of a problem, lately.) But you understand what I was aiming for, at least.