Saturday, January 1, 2011

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

Since Sheba's been getting all the photos lately. I don't have much to say about this one, though. It's hard to get pictures of Nina doing anything new, and, sadly, for the time being it looks like she's not going to get a change of scenery either.

I am yet again, or still, discouraged about the new-terrarium thing. It turns out that the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser actually scratches the glass, and that was the last thing I was going to try before giving up, I'd said. I guess I didn't mean this, because I'm not ruling out baking soda, lemon juice, Bon Ami, Bartender's Friend, steel wool, strong acids, strong bases, and the various other things that have been suggested at some point, but optimism is feeling less and less justified.

Also the Adiantum has died, or if it isn't actually dead, it's significantly less pretty. They do love their water, Adiantums do.


In other news, I was apparently looking extra hard at things on Christmas Day, because my glasses broke around 7 PM. The bridge was constructed weirdly, and it just kind of . . . pulled apart, in such a way that it couldn't be put back together. And then three hours after that, my computer monitor made a funny little *pop* sound and all the pictures went away.

Both these problems have since been at least partly resolved: I got new glasses on Monday, and we had a spare computer monitor, which we'd been using in conjunction with the spare computer to watch Hulu, so now we watch Hulu on the husband's laptop instead. But still. I was scared to open my eyes for a while last week, lest I kill again. First I can control the weather, now I'm destroying things with my eyes --

HOLY CRAP I'M TURNING INTO THE X-MEN. All of them. Simultaneously. Yikes. (Maybe teleportation comes next? I wonder if there's an X-Man who's special power is glass-cleaning. . . .)

Friday, December 31, 2010

Random plant event: Stapelia gigantea flower, again

As promised yesterday, today we have the "evil" flower. It's not actually evil, of course, but . . . well, you wouldn't know that from the smell. Especially by contrast with yesterday's Eucharis.

By the time I noticed the bud, it was already pretty well-developed. (I've seen a lot of buds get started but then drop off before developing fully, so it's possible I'd seen it earlier but just assumed nothing was going to happen.) This was taken on 22 December:

And by 25 December, it had opened. (Technically, I didn't notice until 26 December, but it certainly could have been 25 December, because I didn't check, and it's in a spot where I can't see the flower without going a bit out of my way to try. Plus, it's a lot more poetic to say that the fourth Eucharis bloom and the Stapelia both opened on the same day. One looks like the Star of Bethlehem, the other smells like a manger -- I guess I should be looking for a wooly, sheep-like flower to stand in for the shepherds, for next year. Can't actually think of one right now, but I know there must be some somewhere.)

This isn't really the ideal time for a Stapelia bloom, obviously, because they smell like dog shit and we can't open the windows. Fortunately, it's only the one flower, and the smell isn't that strong: I have to be pretty close in order to detect it, so it's not really a big deal. It's also unlikely to last very long: I think the previous flower from last April (which had better pictures, by the way) was only around for about a week. So I'm not unhappy about this.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pretty picture: Eucharis grandiflora bloom

We had sort of a good flower / evil flower thing going on here on Christmas Day. The good flower was, of course, Eucharis grandiflora, which I first noticed was blooming around the beginning of December. It eventually produced a scape (flowering stem) with four buds on it. The first of those opened on 20 December, and the fourth one opened on Christmas. (The evil flower is the subject of tomorrow's post; I'm not going to spoil the surprise.) Which as far as it goes, the buds are fairly ornamental in their own right:

The smell changes with the time of day, which might be the flowers and might be me. I'm not sure. But at least some of the time, the scent reminds me of a Gardenia, sitting on a table, which has just been dusted with Lemon Pledge: mostly a gardenia smell, but with a bit of something sharper and more citrusy. It's possibly the very best scent in the entire world. At other moments, Eucharis has a heavier, more perfumey smell, which I don't like so much.

One good and bad thing: the scape wasn't really strong enough to hold the flowers upright. It was good because the plant's on a high shelf already, and having the flowers standing straight up would have put them out of smellable range, but it was bad because the photos of the whole plant looked goofy. Eventually I had to tie the scape to a bamboo rod in order to get a whole-plant picture:

Unfortunately, particular flowers don't last very long: the one that opened on 20 December had begun to wither by 26 December, so it's a brief show. I still can't complain about the plant, though: it's been remarkably easy to take care of so far (and I've had mine since January 2009, almost two years), and I really like it as a foliage plant even when it isn't blooming. Plus, even if the show is brief, it could happen again in a few months, if I can figure out how to make it happen again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Re: Ads

Decision time on the ads. I didn't reach the amount I'd been hoping to reach, but 1) I only barely missed it, and 2) it has occurred to me that December is absolutely the worst possible month in which to be making traffic-dependent decisions, since traffic all but disappears for the last two or three weeks of December. So it's close enough.

Random plant event: Episcia 'Coco' leaf sprouting

Back when I did the list about plants that can be propagated from single leaves, I included Episcia in theory, because it's related to a lot of plants that can produce new plants from leaves, but I'd never seen it actually happen, and James Missier said he'd tried it but it hadn't worked, so I wasn't sure whether it was possible or not.

It turns out that it can happen, though:

This is a tiny plantlet from a leaf off of Episcia 'Coco' that Kenneth Moore sent me last summer; a few leaves fell off during transit or during the repot (don't remember which) and I threw them in a plastic container with vermiculite in it to see what would happen. They grew roots quickly, but showed no signs of sprouting new plants until earlier this month. So now I know that it's possible, at least. Whether it's a particularly good idea, I don't know: that's a long time to wait, and stem cuttings are much faster and give you full-sized plants as soon as they root. But at least it's not theoretical anymore.

The next obstacle is, will it transplant to real soil okay, or is it going to be traumatized? Check back in a few months and we'll find out.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

List: Houseplants Which are Also Epiphytes

It's a lot easier to define the word epiphyte than it is to provide examples. The reason is that epiphyte is less a type of plant than it is a lifestyle, and with lifestyles, one can dabble, or one can commit. The line between regular plants and epiphytes, therefore, is kind of fuzzy.

But first things second. What epiphytes actually are, are plants that grow on other plants, generally trees. (Epi - on or above; phyte - plant) They're not parasites: they don't steal nutrients or directly harm the plant they grow on. They may get large enough to break branches off, but that's an accident, and doesn't serve the epiphyte's needs any more than it serves the host. There are a few sinister epiphytes that begin development growing on branches or trunks but eventually outgrow, overwhelm, and kill their host, notably the "strangler figs" like Ficus aurea.

A lot of the aroid epiphytes (Anthurium, Monstera, Philodendron) can either begin life on a tree branch and eventually drop roots down to the ground (primary epiphytes) or begin life on the ground and crawl until they find a tree to climb (secondary epiphytes). Either type of plant is sometimes called a hemiepiphyte. (hemi - half, partial) Some other plants can grow either terrestrially (in the ground) or as epiphytes, depending on where they find themselves, but any individual plant picks one or the other spot and sticks with it. On the other hand, some epiphytes are unable to live terrestrially, and either find themselves a branch as a seedling or they die.

Epiphytes are over-represented in the houseplant world. I suspect the main explanation for this is that epiphytes are naturally adapted to shade, so they adjust better to the lower light levels found in the home. The most common groups of epiphytic houseplants are found in the aroid, bromeliad, cactus, and orchid families.

The list that follows is far from exhaustive; I was kind of in a hurry. (This post is partly so I can be eligible for an epiphyte-centric plant giveaway Steve Asbell is doing; details on how to enter are at his post here.) I'll certainly add other plants if anybody wants to suggest some.

Aechmea fasciata.

Anthurium x 'Marie.'

Dischidia ruscifolia.

Guzmania NOID.

Hylocereus sp.

Oncidium Tsiku Marguerite 'NN #1.'

Platycerium sp.

Schlumbergera NOID.

Selenicereus chrysocardium.

Tillandsia xerographica.

I haven't grown some of the plants in this list (Anthurium, Tillandsia), and one I haven't had for very long (Oncidium), so I'm not sure the recommendations and anti-recommendations are going to be all that useful, but we'll try.

I'm a big fan of Schlumbergeras. They have slightly quirky needs, but they're less complicated than I'd been led to believe, the flowers are really pretty, and the plants can last forever.

Dischidia ruscifolia doesn't do a whole lot, but as far as I can tell, they're easy to keep happy.

Aechmea fasciata should be available a lot more often than it is, because it's a very nice plant, even when it's not flowering. I find them very easy to care for, too, which helps.

(I also suspect that I would probably like Tillandsia xerographica if I got to know it, but they're rarely available here, and when they are available, they're really expensive. So I don't have one yet.)

For the anti-recommend, I'd have to go with Anthurium x 'Marie,' even though I haven't actually grown it, because I've grown a couple other foliage Anthuriums and it hasn't worked out. They're not hard to keep alive, but they need a lot more light than I can provide: without it, the leaves get either enormous and thin (A. "hookeri") or small and twisted (A. podophyllum), and neither one looks particularly good. (I haven't had a good time with my Platycerium either, but I'm not sure which of us is more to blame for that, so they might work out fine for other people and I won't discourage you from trying one.)

All epiphytic plants have certain expectations for what kind of material they're going to find around their roots, and sometimes if you have trouble with an epiphyte, the soil is the problem, not you or the plant. I've recently started adding coarse, unchopped sphagnum moss to the potting mix I usually use, in about a 1:1 ratio, for my Anthurium andraeanums and bromeliads, and it seems to have made a world of difference there. (This may be why the Platycerium hasn't worked out: for it, I used the straight potting mix, with no modification, which is possibly too heavy.) Orchids are typically grown in mixed chunky pieces of bark but are sometimes also grown in 100% coarse sphagnum. For a lot of the epiphytic cacti, my regular potting mix seems to be okay with no modification most of the time.

Not pictured:

Most other Aechmea spp. (epiphytic or terrestrial)
some Aeschynanthus spp. (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Anthurium andraeanum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Anthurium crystallinum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Anthurium podophyllum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
some Begonia spp.
most Billbergia spp.
Cattleya and Cattleya alliance orchids like Potinara, Brassolaeliocattleya, Sophrolaeliocattleya, etc.
some (?) Cryptanthus cvv. (?) (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Cymbidium spp.
most (?) Dendrobium spp.
Dischidia spp. including D. nummularia 'Pebble Beach'
Epiphyllum spp.
Ficus benjamina (not a lot of information about it being a strangler fig out there, but it comes up often enough that I think it must be occasionally)
Hatiora salicornioides and other Hatiora spp.
a few Hippeastrum spp.
some Hoya spp., including H. carnosa (?) (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Lepismium spp.
Monstera deliciosa (hemiepiphyte)
Myrmecophilia spp.
Nepenthes spp.
some Neoregelia spp. (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Oncidium and Oncidium alliance orchids like Miltoniopsis, Beallara, Odontoglossum, Vuylstekeara, Wilsonara, etc.
some Paphiopedilum spp.
Phalaenopsis spp.
Philodendron bipennifolium (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron bipinnatifidum (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron hastatum (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron hederaceum (hemiepiphyte)
Philodendron martianum (epiphytic or terrestrial)
Philodendron mexicanum (hemiepiphyte)
Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa
most (all?) Rhipsalis spp.
Schomburgkia spp.
Syngonium podophyllum (hemiepiphyte)
Many but not all Tillandsia spp. ("air plants")
Vanilla spp. (hemiepiphyte)
Vireya spp.
some Vriesea spp., including V. splendens
Worsleya rayneri

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pretty picture: Buddha

We have a couple prisms in the kitchen windows, and a number of Buddhas around the house; both are the husband's deal, but I like the prisms and don't object to the Buddhas, so whatever. The above is what happens when one of the little rainbows from the prisms happens to land perfectly across one of the little bronze Buddhas. Without a regular-light photo to compare to, this is maybe not that impressive: the reader could be forgiven for assuming it was painted. But in normal light, this is mostly bronze, with black hair and accents.

The angle of the sun is now such that this can't happen again for a while, and I'm not in the kitchen that much during the morning to begin with, so getting this picture was mostly the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

How to Deal With Plants Which Have Been Chilled

I occasionally get e-mails from people who want to know what to do for plants that have been accidentally exposed to too-cold temperatures. Maybe they've picked up a plant that was abandoned next to a dumpster in a snowstorm, maybe they forgot to bring it in off the porch in the fall, that sort of thing. And it's occurred to me that I didn't already have a post about this, so maybe it would be worth writing one, since whenever I'm asked I wind up having to write a whole big thing from scratch.

The problem is, there's very little to say about this situation. There is no special fertilizer you can apply to reverse cold damage, and keeping the plant extra-warm for a while isn't going to help either. You pretty much just have to give the plant whatever care it would ordinarily prefer (or maybe slightly drier than it would usually prefer, if you think there may be root damage) and wait to see what it does. Sometimes plants will surprise you: I had a jade plant (Crassula ovata) once that was accidentally left outside, in Iowa, through I think mid- to late December. It was covered in snow when I saw it and brought it in, but it recovered and went on for several more years anyway.

I didn't have any plant photos of plants being exposed to cold, but I did have a photo of a dog being exposed to cold. I figure since there was no Sheba/Nina picture on Saturday because of hiatus, probably nobody would mind a late one.

Even in situations where it's clear the plant has been badly damaged, cold usually harms the extremities -- the tips of branches, the topmost leaves -- most severely. So, one can often just cut branches back to undamaged tissue and the plant will sprout new growth. (The resultant plant won't be as big and pretty as it was, but given enough time, it can come back.) Also anything that's obviously dead (black, crispy, mushy) can be cut off: whether it's an aesthetic improvement or not, those parts weren't going to spring back to life anyway, so you might as well.

Aside from those few things, though, mostly you just have to wait and see how bad it's going to be. And, obviously, not do it again. Within two or three months (probably sooner), whatever is going to happen will have happened, and you can decide what to do from there.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pretty picture: Vuylstekeara Melissa Brianne 'Shady Lady'

Boxing Day, at long last. In reality, there are a couple more weeks of Christmas-related events and music, but in my mind, Boxing Day is when stores and advertisements stop playing Christmas music, and the poinsettias get thrown out, and the Schlumbergeras get put on clearance if they're going to be, and the whole world just returns to normal after three months of force-feeding me red-and-green glittery holiday cheer. So Boxing Day is, like, the most wonderful day of the year to me. Hope everyone else is enjoying it too.

Oh! Speaking of force-fed glitter -- you know those spray-painted poinsettias, that have blue bracts, or purple, or whatever, usually liberally sprinkled with glitter besides? I saw green ones this year. Seriously. Someone went to the trouble of growing up a bunch of poinsettias, kept them under darkness for the prescribed number of hours per day so they would flower and their bracts would turn red (or possibly white: it's hard to tell for sure), and then spray-painted the bracts green. The color they would have been anyway.

This is a terrible picture; I was trying to get a couple photos and then get away as quickly as possible, because it was crowded and busy and I felt really self-conscious. In reality, the spray-paint was a slightly bluish, deep emerald green, which the color settings on the camera completely failed to capture properly: the photo makes the coloration look a little more realistic than was actually the case.

A line of some sort has been crossed, here.

But anyway. None of this is the point of the post; there is an orchid to be looked at. I don't have a lot to say about it, but I like the color. Comment or don't.

Meanwhile, all kinds of things have happened over the last week -- lots of random blooming going on, just like last year (also, also, also). Winter is a curiously eventful season for indoor gardening.1 So I spent a lot of the hiatus writing posts in advance, and therefore haven't really had a winter break yet, but I will, eventually.


1 (Especially by comparison to outdoor. At least in Iowa it is.)