Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

I am displeased with the quality of winter we've been receiving so far. We've seen almost no snow (I'd guess less than an inch/2.5 cm), and the early-December temperatures have been considerably colder than they'd been in the previous few years. I was hoping for the opposite on both counts; as it is, I can barely take Sheba out in the morning without losing a finger to frostbite, and it's not even pretty out.

I'd thought that by this point in the year, I'd have a better Sheba/snow picture than this. I'm looking forward to seeing her react when we do finally get a serious snowfall: she'll have seen snow before, last year, but I haven't seen her see it yet.


I finally had a chance on Thursday to work on Nina's new place again, and, well, there is progress, but it's slow and unpleasant: turning the aquarium on its side, setting down paper towels, pouring vinegar over them, and then letting it soak in for a long time (maybe an hour? I wasn't timing it.), does seem to help. (I am indebted to NotSoAngryRedHead for the suggestion.) It's also very slow, and progress is incremental at best. After the first round, I wasn't sure anything had happened at all; the husband had to convince me that there was a noticeable improvement before I was willing to try a second time. And then after the second time, I could see a noticeable difference, so I was willing to try a third.

Even with this, there is still something up around the very top of the aquarium that is different, and doesn't come off with vinegar (nor Windex, acetone, CLR, razor blades, soap and water, "Goo Gone," rubbing alcohol, or cursing, to date). And a few isolated spots on one side of the glass don't seem to be responsive to vinegar treatment either, though they appear to be made of the same stuff, so that's weird.

In any case, this is clearly going to take a long time, which is frustrating. And we haven't even started to address the lid-and-lights situation. But I suppose the silver lining is that if/when this ever does reach a presentable point, it will be that much sweeter.

For me, I mean. Nina won't care.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Unfinished business: seedlings (Anthurium, Abutilon, Ardisia, Euphorbia)

I guess it's time to check in on the various seedlings we've got going around the house. Some of these have been here for a really long time, and have fairly complicated back-stories by now; for others, this is the first time you get to see them. I realize that plant baby pictures aren't that much more interesting than the human variety,1 but there's some horticultural value here, in that three of the four came from seeds my regular, bought-fully-grown plants produced, so maybe this might be useful if you're wanting to grow the same plants from seeds and are curious about how long that will take, or something.

First up, let's take a look at the baby Anthurium. By now, it might actually qualify as an adolescent Anthurium;2 I first posted about it (still in seed form) in September 2009, fifteen months ago. (The seeds sprouted almost immediately in damp vermiculite, began resembling plants by mid-October, had a setback last February, and began to resemble adult plants by April. I've taken some pictures since April but apparently didn't bother to make posts from them.

So here is what they look like now(-ish):

Multiple leaves per plant, enough roots to get the plant up-potted into a 4-inch (10 cm) pot, and it seems to have accepted the transition from having a plastic cover over it all the time to living out in the open just fine. I know the flowers aren't likely to be anything terribly special -- the odds favor pink, like the mother -- but I'm extremely excited to see what they look like anyway.

Next up are the Abutilon seedlings, the offspring of A. 'Bella Pink' with either 'Bella Red' or 'Bella White,' I'm pretty sure.

We don't need to spend a lot of time on them, because I've posted about them recently (less than a month ago), but still. For the sake of completeness. And they're all still looking good as far as I can tell, though I should probably do something about fertilizer. I haven't watered them, because they're under a plastic cover, in a plastic tray, so there's really not much of a way for water to get out in the first place, and the soil's stayed wet. Maybe an Osmocote ball in each cell with a seedling would slowly leach out some fertilizer. I suppose I should think on that.

Next up, the Ardisia elliptica seedlings, last seen here last August, just after being potted together:

It's not as if Ardisias are particularly valuable plants; I'm beginning to see them all over the place, often very cheap,3 so there's basically zero value to home propagation. But still, I'm pleased to see that the seedlings are behaving the way seedlings ought.

I've seen that basic idea -- people being happy that plants are doing what they're biologically programmed to do, what the garden center said they would do, what the plant was in fact doing when you bought it -- come up over and over again on blogs, my own and other people's, and it's an interesting little piece of psychology to me. Because of course the seed sprouted. They sprout in the wild all the time. Of course the plant produced a flower bud. How else would we get more plants? Of course the flower opened. Wasn't there one on it when you bought the thing? Didn't the tag have a picture of a flower?

But of course in most of our direct personal experience, these things don't happen that often. In my world, mostly what orchids do is drop their flowers and then grow leaves for two years. I know they can grow flowers, but I only rarely get to watch it happen. In my world, the main thing crotons do is get spider mites, defoliate, and then die. So yeah, it's totally expected that flowering plants will flower, that spores treated appropriately will produce ferns, that seeds will sprout and become new plants, and so forth. But if it hasn't happened before, hey. Still an event.

Anyway. Moving on.

After the September post in which I asked for help identifying an odd succulent, which turned out to be Euphorbia leuconeura, the person who'd asked for help and I traded seeds in the mail. S/He4 sent me five seeds from the E. leuconeura, and I sent some number I forget (12? 20?) of Abutilon seeds back. Unfortunately, the mail system basically wrecked both sets of seeds (even a padded envelope is not sufficient, apparently), and the Euphorbia seeds were mostly in little pieces when they arrived.

I planted them anyway, to see what would happen, and one plant did come up, but by the time it came up, I could no longer remember for sure where I'd put the Euphorbia seeds, so I wasn't sure that's what it was. It's taken a long time for any true leaves to appear, but I think that's probably what we've got here. The leaves are more or less the right shape, and the midveins on the newest pair are pretty clearly lighter in color than the rest of the leaf. So apparently one of the seeds made it through the USPS after all.

It feels like the plant's been making incredibly slow progress, but it was a while after the post before I got the seeds, and the post was only three months ago, so it's actually been pretty fast, I guess. I look forward to watching it develop.

I'm also trying Cyrtomium falcatum (holly fern) from spores again as of about nine months ago, but even with very good light and warmth and a sealed plastic container to keep moisture high, very little has happened so far. So there are no pictures of that.


1 (Of course I don't mean your baby, who is easily the most symmetrical, appropriately-proportioned, and all-around attractive baby who has ever existed on Earth, of any species or gender.)
2 I suppose I'll know when it starts telling me I just don't understand, and that it's tired of being treated like a child, and if it wants to hang out with spider mites then it's going to do it and I can't stop it.
3 They're not yet common enough for employees to know what they are or what you're supposed to do with them, but they're common enough that nearly everyone carries them.
4 I know which. The gender non-specificity is just for the sake of protecting privacy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pretty pictures: Schlumbergera cvv.

I've tried several times to come up with something meaningful or clever to say about these photos. This might be unnecessary: they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, after all. I always feel obligated to add a thousand words too, though, just to be sure. (Sure of what? I don't know.) In this particular case, though, words have failed. So I give you two NOIDs (including the just-purchased yellow one) and Schlumbergera 'Caribbean Dancer.'

(Oh! I did think of one thing to tell you! I made a point of trying to cross-pollinate some of the flowers, and I think I might have had a couple work out. The female parent in both cases was 'Caribbean Dancer;' I've tried using both the salmon and yellow plants as male parents, so if I get seeds out of it, I won't know where they came from, exactly. But oh well.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Random plant event: Eucharis grandiflora flower bud

I don't remember where I read it, but I saw somebody make the claim that amazon lilies (Eucharis grandiflora) can flower up to three times a year. This surprised me, at the time, because the one I've had here at home hadn't even thought about flowering in the not-quite-two-years I've had it, and at work, they only ever seemed to be available in the winter, which I thought sort of implied that they were winter bloomers.

But whatever they would normally do, and whatever they're capable of, my plant is finally getting a flower bud! And it's winter, so maybe they are winter bloomers.

I'm very excited about it either way; I didn't like the photos I came up with when we had some flower at work two years ago, so this is, I'm thinking, another chance to get that picture. Plus the flowers are scented, and scented stuff is almost always good.

Karen715, in the comments at the above-linked post, said that she'd been told that Eucharis will bloom if they get cool temperatures. says they're hardy to about 20F/-7C; Gardino Nursery says not to let them go below 45F/7C. Either way, a lot more cold-tolerant than they look. Which does sound like a winter-flowering plant. Garden Web commenters, on the other hand, recommend stressing it in the winter by letting it dry out.

I'm inclined to side with Garden Web on this one. It's more likely this plant got dried out than that it got cold. Only the plant room, and sometimes the basement, ever get particularly cold here, and the Eucharis has lived in the living room for at least the last year: I don't know when it would ever have gotten cold. Everything, on the other hand, gets dry from time to time here.

It's been very easy to grow, and as far as this goes, I would have been perfectly satisfied with the plant had it never flowered: the foliage is shiny and dark green, and plants eventually get quite large. I've only had trouble with it when I first brought it home from the greenhouse: it dropped a few leaves at the very beginning, but I haven't had any problems since then. (Technically, that should be "when I brought them home: at work, I divided one of the plants we got into I think five 4-inch pots, and then over time wound up buying two of the 4-inch pots from work, which I eventually wound up potting together. Both of the 4-inch plants dropped leaves and needed some time to adjust after they were purchased, though they handled their repottings and division like champs.)

A number of the commenters at also mentioned having passed plants down through multiple generations of family, which surprised me. Perhaps that's why they're not found in retail that often? If you get the opportunity, either by passalong or from retail, I do recommend the plant. It's much easier than it looks.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


We live a few houses away from a farm supply store of some kind. I've never investigated too closely what they actually have or do, but I know ammonia tanks are part of it, 'cause we see a fair number coming and going, and there's a truck scale, which I know because they shook the house for several days this summer while they put in a new one. But otherwise it's kind of a mystery.

So on Monday I was out with Sheba and saw this in the yard, which had blown over from the farm place. Fortunately, I was wearing multiple layers of protective cynicism (it was cold out: layering is important), or I would probably have died of irony poisoning right then and there.

The text reads "[logo] The Natural Resource."

A disposable styrofoam cup, that's blown into someone's yard from a business that didn't even dispose of it properly, is very possibly the worst time to be reminding anybody about natural resources and associating them with your brand, correct?

The Quad City Botanical Center, Part 2 of However Many

This is the second post about our visit to the Quad City Botanical Center (henceforth QCBC) a few weeks ago. (Part 1)

The QCBC building. Photo by Ctjf83 at Wikipedia.

The tropical plants area of the QCBC is divided up in a way that makes it feel relatively small, but the pamphlet the husband picked up says it's 6444 square feet (599 square meters), and 70 feet (21.3 m) tall at its tallest point. So there's room, and somehow they've managed to get some very big plants in there, even though their website says they've only been around since 1998. (Presumably some of the plants were of pretty good size before they were planted.)

My favorite, naturally, was the Pandanus utilis.

Pandanus utilis.

I tried to take a picture that would show the spiral arrangement of leaves, to explain the common name "screw pine," but the sun was behind the plant, and there was only so much I could do. This was the best one I got:

Seeing this one at the QCBC made me even more determined to get a Pandanus utilis of my own someday, though. Not that I needed the push.

Odds are that more visitors are impressed by the coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, than the Pandanus. It was certainly much taller, if nothing else:

Cocos nucifera.

And it did, I admit, educate me a little as to how the coconuts are attached to the plant: I always thought they were held closer to the foliage than that. (You may have to open the picture in a separate window to see the coconuts.)

Not all the big, impressive plants were unfamiliar: the QCBC also has the largest Murraya paniculata I've ever seen. I can't imagine how overpowering the smell, when it's in full bloom. The people who clean the room must hate this plant. (My own makes a mess of the husband's office on a regular basis, and it's a tiny fraction of the size of this one.)

Murraya paniculata.

They also had a big, healthy Philodendron erubescens that was trying very hard to pull down the building:

Philodendron erubescens (?).

I suspect there is a law that all botanical-garden-type places have to have at least one gigantic Alocasia or Colocasia somewhere.

Alocasia sp.? Colocasia sp.? I'm not really getting any better at telling the two apart. . . .

I was surprised to find a Duranta at all (it's not a plant I think about a lot, or expect to see anywhere), but finding a really big, chartreuse one was a pleasant surprise:

Duranta erecta 'Golden Edge.'

No flowers on the Duranta, which is too bad. I want to smell one again sometime and see whether I still think it smells like cookies.

There were pothos plants climbing, literally, the walls (you can see some of them in the background of the pictures from Part 1), but this particular one got to the ceiling by climbing a support column.

Epipremnum aureum.

I also saw a Syngonium podophyllum with mature leaves at the QCBC. I'd seen this before, but it'd been a long time:

Syngonium podophyllum.

The plant that most impressed me, though, of all the plants there, was their Caryota mitis (fishtail palm), which was not only enormous --

Caryota mitis.

-- it was also flowering. Rather a lot.

The flowers aren't pretty, but apparently they don't have to be in order to work.

And this very new flower below looked like an octopus to me, which makes me like the species way, way more. I've never had good luck with C. mitis indoors (in my experience, it's hard to find one that's not buggy), but if they can grow octopi/-puses/-pods, then I think I need to rethink my position.

They also had a few other very large plants that I'm leaving out of the post because they didn't photograph well, including a Chorisa speciosa (silk floss tree) that nearly touched the ceiling and was dropping pink flowers on everything underneath it. I'd heard the name before, but it wasn't a plant I was familiar with at all. In person, it was maybe a little too huge and a little too far away for me to relate to, but still. Always nice to meet new folks.

There were also quite a few gigantic banana plants (Musa sp.), and a very large but badly lit Breynia disticha (snowbush, also sometimes Breynia nivosa). Maybe I'll get pictures of those the next time we go.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Re: Ads

So I said I would have a decision about whether the ads would stay or not after they'd been up for a week, and that means today. I'm going to punt, though. As I write this (Saturday night), it's unclear where the total is going to be after a month, or what I could normally expect for a month's worth of ads. I had a specific dollar amount in mind that I felt would make having the ads worthwhile, and right now I'm thinking there's only a 50-50 chance of reaching that number, so there's a 50-50 chance that the ads will remain after 29 December. I probably won't announce it then. They'll either still be there on 30 December, or they won't.

Probably doesn't affect you one way or the other, unless you had really strong feelings about whether someone else's blog should have ads on it or not (and why would you?). But I said I'd let you know what the decision was, so I am. As you were.

More New Plants

These are the latest batch of plants, from the trip to Cedar Rapids last Wednesday. Mostly what impresses me about these, if anything does, is that most of them were very cheap, for what they were, especially relative to the ex-job (which is still what I weigh plant prices against, those being the prices I know best). One in particular.

In the order of purchase:

Peperomia verschaffeltii. Earl May, Iowa City, $9.

(Well, okay, this one wasn't cheap.) This is one of the two plants I bought specifically for Nina. I'd passed it up at least three times before this: though I wanted it, in part because it was the only one I'd ever seen, I've also had pretty consistent bad luck with the non-succulent Peperomias (P. caperata, P. argyreia). P. argyreia was particularly frustrating. So I only bought P. verschaffeltii because I knew I had a terrarium to put it into.

The logic seemed sound, but then we got to Cedar Rapids and I saw one at Peck's for either $5 or $6, which made me wish I'd waited.

Adiantum capillus-veneris. Peck's, Cedar Rapids, $6.

Speaking of Peck's: I hadn't been there in at least a year, I think, because the last time I was there, everything seemed really ordinary and expensive, and the time before that, everything was covered in Christmas crap and it took me like twenty minutes after I left to stop dry-heaving.

And then a month later they sent me a bill for the glass door I (allegedly!) ran through in my haste to escape the glitter and poinsettias. But, you know, if I can't go to Pierson's anymore -- and I cannot -- then it seemed like maybe I should reconsider Peck's.

And although, yes, somebody'd left a six-inch layer of Christmas on everything in the store with a cement mixer, the houseplants were more or less left alone, and the music was at a low enough volume that I could ignore it, so I bought some stuff anyway. I would never ever ever have bought an Adiantum if not for the terrarium (When I was still at the ex-job, WCW told me once that they had trouble keeping Adiantums going even with the greenhouse, never mind in the drier air of somebody's home.), but since I have one, we're going to try it. It'll be pretty if it works.

(Unfortunately, I finally tried cleaning the new terrarium yesterday, and am no longer optimistic that it's ever going to be usable. Yesterday was a fairly bad day all around, and I'm easily frustrated, so this is not the last word on anything, but let's don't go expecting miracles.)

Radermachera sinica. Peck's, Cedar Rapids, $5.

I've tried Radermachera once before, and it was underwatered to death very quickly, which put me off them for a long time. I'm going to try again, though I'm not sure I have much higher hopes for this specimen. I'd consider it in the terrarium, but I think it'd probably outgrow the terrarium so fast there'd be no point. Can anybody opine about whether that would be a good idea?

(I'm pretty sure you can: what I mean is please would you.)

Saintpaulia 'Shimmer Shake.' Frontier, Cedar Rapids, $4.

We're also being brave again about Saintpaulias. I've kept one alive for over a year (maybe two years?), so maybe I can do this. It didn't photograph particularly well, but African violets with blue or purple flowers never do, and it was nearly bloomed-out besides. If it survives long enough to flower, it'll be prettier.

Schlumbergera NOID. Frontier, Cedar Rapids, $3.50.

I was planning to wait until after Christmas to pick up Schlumbergeras, but there's so little variety out there this year that I figured I should grab a yellow one when I saw it: Frontier is the only place I've seen with yellow holiday cacti this year. (Includes: Reha's, Earl May, Peck's, Lowe's, Wallace's) Everybody's favoring the red ones really, really hard, and then most of what's left over is pink. Is it always like this?

Anyway. So I was happy. And this is a very pretty flower, too, with a little flush of pink around the center. However many thousands of seedlings had to be grown out and evaluated to get this, it was totally worth it.

Oncidium Tsiku Marguerite NN #1. Frontier, Cedar Rapids, $10.

And then there were orchids. Frontier had them the last time I was there, and I didn't have money to buy any, which sucked because they were the cheapest I'd ever seen for a non-Phalaenopsis orchid that was old enough to flower. So it was a relief to see that they still had some. This Oncidium's flowers aren't especially beautiful, but they're fragrant in a weird way -- the scent reminds me of cardboard, that vanilla/woody/chemical smell. (Another opinion, from a poster at, is that it has a "comfortable" smell, like the poster's grandmother's house. For what that's worth.)

Mainly, though, I was impressed by the number of roots. Which is perhaps a weird thing to be impressed by, but the plant's practically bursting out of the pot, and there are roots all over the place, so it seemed really healthy, if nothing else.

I assume that I should wait to repot until at least after the flowering is over, right?

Potinara Eye Candy 'Sweet Sensation.' Frontier, Cedar Rapids, $10.

More orchids. This is the one that caught my eye first, the one I knew for sure I wanted to get. No detectable scent, but the colors are particularly nice, and long, careful examination of the Wallace's Orchid Show photos led me to the conclusion that Potinaras are my favorites. (Or one of my favorites.) Can I grow them? I don't know, but I've had a Brassolaeliocattleya for two years now, which is related, so maybe. And unlike the Blc., I know that these orchids are all old enough to flower, so there's more hope of reblooming.

Potinara Eye Candy 'Mellow Yellow.' Frontier, Cedar Rapids, $10.

Orchids again. Same cross as the preceding plant, but a different clone. No scent on this one either. I'm surprised that it's colored so differently from 'Sweet Sensation,' but I suppose I shouldn't be. I don't think I've ever seen two different clones of the same cross side-by-side before.

I'm less impressed with the color of 'Mellow Yellow,' but it looks really good next to 'Sweet Sensation,' which is the main reason I got it.

Leuchtenbergia principis. Frontier, Cedar Rapids, $5!!!!

I already had a Leuchtenbergia, which I bought about a year and a half ago. It was in a 6-inch (15 cm) pot, and I paid $25 for it. It hasn't done anything very exciting, but it hasn't given me any trouble, either. So I didn't need this plant at all. But: it's rare to see it for sale, it's bigger than the first one, and it was priced about 1/8 of what it's worth. (The guy at the counter said that they'd had it for a long time and it wasn't selling, so they gave it a ridiculously low price to get rid of it.)

I don't have a good place to keep it, of course. But I'm sure something can be worked out.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pretty picture: Brassolaeliocattleya Darcy-Rose Campbell

I really thought I had more pictures of non-cattleya-alliance flowers than this in the Wallace's Orchid Show set. I mean, I don't mind if you don't mind, but I went to a certain amount of trouble to avoid repeating genera, yet they're all starting to look the same to me anyway. (The last one, Paph. delenatii 'Santa Barbara' x Sib., is a notable recent exception.)

Looking at this picture, I'm mostly struck by the difference between the (big, wide, frilly) petals and the (narrow, plain) sepals. Usually the breeders try to make them both big and frilly, don't they? Or am I misremembering?