Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

(Doesn't know I'm famous.)

As this has been one of the more surreal weeks in recent memory for me (seriously -- y'all don't even know), I figured we could go with a strange Sheba picture. I mean, sure, a tongue at an unusual angle isn't particularly surreal, but I don't have any pictures of her melting on top of a gold watch with ants crawling on her.

'Cause none of the pictures from that turned out very well.

So we're making do with rakishly angled tongues.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pretty pictures: Episcia 'Coco' flowering

Okay, Kenneth (from whom this plant originally came) has made me an Episcia convert. I now feel bad about not trying one sooner. Not that things couldn't still go terribly wrong, I suppose -- it's only been a few months -- but still. Not nearly as scary as I'd thought.

So far, I'm keeping the plant in the basement, under pretty bright artificial light, and watering when the soil gets about halfway dry. The basement has high(-ish) humidity, and runs about 68-70F (20-21C) all the time. I don't remember whether I added fertilizer when I potted it up or not, but probably I did.

Next, obviously, I'll have to get a couple plants (I now have three) blooming at the same time and do some cross-pollinating. I bet growing Episcia from seed would be fun, especially if the crosses were significantly different from the parents.

Random plant event: Dischidia ruscifolia flowering

I bought a Dischidia ruscifolia last February, because it was there and I had money and I thought what the hell, maybe it's cooler than it looks.

The pot is 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter.

And it's settled in well. Some leaf-dropping initially, but it hasn't done that in a long time, and for most of the last eight months it's just kinda sat there. It has a similar style to Hoyas -- do nothing for a long time, then produce a new long shoot almost overnight, then do nothing again. (Hoya and Dischidia are closely related, so that's not a huge surprise.)

Anyway. So I went into the husband's office, where the Dischidia lives, earlier this week to ask him something, and glanced down and saw flowers! Not big or interesting flowers -- in fact you can barely even see them at all -- and I couldn't detect a scent, either. But still.

There are rumors of a yellow-flowering Dischidia, but as far as I've seen, rumors are all they are. Wouldn't really matter, though, would it?

In very bright light, the leaves will turn red; my own plant hasn't done that because it only gets filtered sun from an east window, but I've seen a plant at work get a little bit red, when we had it hanging close to the ceiling. That was a lot of sun, though.

D. ruscifolia is still in no danger of becoming the kind of plant I recommend to everybody, but it hasn't given me any trouble, it says please and thank-you, it washes its hands before dinner without being told, and all that good stuff. Plus now it's flowered for me too. So I can't really complain. I think the final big test will be to see how well it propagates. If it's easy to propagate, too, then I'll have to be at least a little bit fond of it, on principle.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Welcome to New York Times readers!

If you're new:

You're probably going to be most interested in the five plants I talked about in the article. These are them:

Please also keep in mind that when I was first asked to suggest plants, I wasn't told that the aim was to come up with "hard to kill" plants. Any plant is easy to kill if you're trying hard enough, and these are no exception. That said, none of them is particularly difficult, either. The Anthurium or Asplundia are probably the hardest two, and they're only a little harder than average.

Profiles of many other plants can be found in the sidebar to your right, under the heading "Plant Difficulty Levels, So Far (from most to least difficult)." The quality of the profiles is uneven; there was something of a learning curve.

If you're not new:

So yeah, the anonymity thing is over, sorta. I'm in the New York Times, under my real name, and gods help me there's even a picture. This would be the "good stress" from a week and a half ago. (Specifically: the "good stress" was the photography part; the actual interview happened in late September.)

You are encouraged to continue to call me Mr. Subjunctive.

The actual article begins here; there's also a photo slide show which begins here. My part starts on p. 8 of the slide show, which is also where the picture of me is, so if you'd like to skip directly to that so you can get a jump on the pointing and laughing, click here. Feel free to leave a comment telling me how you were imagining someone totally different.

This, by the way, is going to count as the post for Thursday morning even though it's seven hours early; the regularly-scheduled Thursday post will appear in the afternoon instead. I wanted to get something up for new visitors earlier rather than later. EDITED 11/11/10 4 PM: Actually, there are still so many people showing up from the Times that I think I'm going to leave this post up top for the rest of the day. We'll go back to normal posting tomorrow, I swear.

HASTILY EDITED TO ADD: It should be noted that none of this would have happened were it not for Mr. Brown Thumb, who recommended me to somebody who recommended me to someone else, in a long chain of events which eventually resulted in the interview. He is therefore completely forgiven for the Hothouse Flower incident.


1 Doesn't specifically address care for Pandanus amaryllifolius, because I didn't have one yet when I wrote that, but it does deal with culinary use of P. amaryllifolius. So far, treating it the same as my Pandanus veitchiis has been working fine, so the care information probably also applies.
If you're interested in buying a P. amaryllifolius, the only place I know that sells them in the U.S. is Gardino Nursery, which is where I bought mine.
2 It says "Ficus binnendijkii," but they're the same plant. UPDATE: Name is fixed. F. maclellandii is the current correct name, according to the taxonomists; it just happens not to be the name I grabbed first when I was writing the profile.
3 This is an old profile, and I'm not especially happy with it, but the care information is still valid.
4 The plant is usually sold as Carludovica 'Jungle Drum,' but I'm fairly certain that the plant is actually an Asplundia, not Carludovica.

Random plant event: Chlorophytum 'Charlotte' seed pod

Although I've seen seed pods on Chlorophytum comosum a few times, and Chlorophytum x 'Fire Flash' does it pretty reliably every January, this is the first time I've seen formation of seeds on C. 'Charlotte,' the variety I bought a long time ago (June 2008) from Asiatica Nursery. This is a long time to wait, so it's kind of exciting news.

However, I'm not sure whether this means much, in terms of me being able to get more plants out of it. C. x 'Fire Flash' seeds are almost too viable: if your plant flowers once, you can have a couple hundred baby plants, if you do everything right. On the other hand, I don't know if C. comosum seeds are ever viable at all; I've never been able to collect any and try to sprout them. I never saw any popping up under the tables at work, the way we saw with some other self-seeders (e.g. Impatiens), so there must be some obstacle to germination there.

Even if 'Charlotte' seeds are viable, I don't know that I'd wind up with 'Charlotte' seedlings, since the plant is likely a hybrid of some kind. (Of course, I believe 'Fire Flash' is a hybrid too, and the seedlings are true to the parent, so I'm not ruling anything out.) It'll be interesting to find out.

I'm also left wondering what happened to get this particular flower pollinated, since I'm pretty sure I didn't try to do it. There's actually a second pod forming on this same stalk, that I discovered after getting the above picture. So whom do I have to thank? Houseflies? Fungus gnats? Neither one of those seems terribly likely. And if the plant can pollinate itself without help, then it should have been doing so for the last two years; it didn't take long (three months) for my plant to flower once I got it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Question for the Hive Mind: Cactus in Iowa!

I was walking Sheba last week when I spotted a cactus. Outside. Planted in the ground. This isn't supposed to happen: as everybody knows, cacti belong in the Desert Southwest, not in Iowa. Still, though, there it was.

I'd heard before that every one of the Lower 48 U.S. States has at least one native cactus species, so I went to Google to find out if this is Iowa's. Google and Wikipedia combine to tell me there's only one, Opuntia humifusa, the native range of which actually covers most of the eastern U.S., from Montana south to New Mexico and then east into southern Ontario, Massachusetts, and Florida. (There's some disagreement about this, though a Canadian government site which I neglected to bookmark confirms that the plant's range extends north into Ontario, though it's endangered in Ontario.)

This plant I found isn't O. humifusa, but after a bit more Googling, I ran across a list of cacti which are supposed to be hardy in zone 5, and I'm thinking the plant in question might be Cylindropuntia imbricata. Or at least that's the only one on the list that looks remotely similar.

Since I've only seen it the one time, we don't actually know that it's hardy here, of course, but I'd assume that if it weren't hardy in zone 5, whoever got it wouldn't have planted it in the ground, or they would have dug it up before it started getting cold. Since it's still there in early November, I'm guessing it's going to stay there through the winter. If anybody can confirm the ID, or offer an alternate one -- and yes, I am aware that the pictures aren't great and the plant is maybe not an ideal specimen -- I would appreciate it.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pretty picture: Brassia Spider's Gold 'Elegant' x Ada

Well, you have to give the namers credit for honesty; it's definitely golden, and evocative of spiders. Whether or not it's elegant is subject to personal taste, I suppose, but the name works for me. And the flower does too, though the flowers with long, narrow petals like this only look good to me if there are many of them at once. Just one or two is a little sparse.

I've heard that some of these types, Brassias, Degarmoaras, Miltassias, etc., may be a little easier to grow than some of the others, but I don't actually know anybody personally who's tried them -- that impression is based off of research I did for someone a long time ago who'd received a Miltassia (I think) as a gift. True? Not true? Depends?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Question for the Hive Mind: NOID strange flower

I got an e-mail last Friday that read, in part,

. . . do you have an idea what the plant in the attached pictures might be? It was given to me by a friend, who is quite certain that the plant salesman described it as a haiacanthus, and that its Dutch name is poederdons ('powder puff'). However, a plant listening to these names (in any spelling variety) does not seem to exist in the internets.

The question was accompanied by five photos, three of which are below. They'll all blow up much larger if opened in a separate window.

As the e-mailer says, there's nothing by the name Haiacanthus on-line, nor did trying variations on the spelling help. The only similar flowers I could think of were for stuff like Acacia, Mimosa, and Calliandra, and they all have pinnate leaves, so I don't think that's the right neighborhood to be trying.

So I bring it to the readers. Does anyone know what this is, or know of any succulents or cauduciforms (it looks like a caudex-former to me, anyway) that have flowers like this? 'Cause I am completely stumped.

UPDATE: Has been identified as Haemanthus albiflos in comments. I would never have come up with that on my own in a year of Googling (though I did think at one point that maybe it could be in the Amaryllidaceae, because of the leaves, I didn't follow up on it), and now I want one. Added it to the want list in the sidebar and everything.

Thanks to Don, John de la Parra, and College Gardener!