Saturday, March 26, 2011

Music Video: DJ Fox "Come See About Down" (Supremes / Jay Sean)

I really like the way these go together musically and thematically.

Less fond of the video, but if I were to put together a mix tape of mash-ups I like, this would probably be on it.

Not that people still make mix tapes. But you know what I mean.

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

I stuck a bunch of Salvia elegans cuttings in a plug tray last Wednesday. Being pretty much out of room in the house, I stuck the tray in the best available spot I could find, on a very low shelf in the southwest corner of the plant room, then went on to dealing with the other thing I wanted to put in the plug tray, Canna seeds. (Which have been soaking in water for a couple days now, and aren't showing any roots yet; I suspect I may have overdone the filing-down-the-seed-coat step.)

Thursday morning, I went to take Sheba out, and saw this on the floor in front of the door:

I'm only out three cuttings, of about 22, so this is no big deal unless it happens again, and at least it wasn't something poisonous. But still. Frustrating.

She's also eaten a chocolate chip muffin this week, last Sunday, which was somewhat alarming until I found this site and did some math. No problems related to the muffin as far as I'm aware, but I was prepared for diarrhea and/or vomiting, at the very least. But no, she saves the vomiting for three days later.

Which makes me wonder when she's planning the diarrhea. It's really not the sort of thing you want taking you by surprise.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Unfinished business: Quercus seedling

A couple months ago, I reported a very small oak tree growing in the pot of one of my Cordylines. I was excited about this, because having an oak tree in the yard that I'd started myself, and under such unusual circumstances, seemed like it would be neat. So I very carefully removed it from the pot,

and planted it in its own pot.

Whereupon it shriveled and died. Within a month.

So I guess that's not how one raises baby oak trees. I'm not surprised, but I'm not sure what I could have done wrong in such a short time, either. Easy come, easy go.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

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

Ugh. The Schefflera profile is not going well. I suspect the problem is that I'm trying too hard to work in all the information I found, much of which doesn't actually interest me. Sometimes I have to start the profiles several times before I get any kind of flow going; this may be one of those times. *sigh* (UPDATE: Done!)

As for this post, we have more dead leaves than usual. Some months ago, I went through all the transmitted light photos and rearranged them, rather than wind up with four oak pictures in the same set, so this batch includes some autumn leaves from last fall.

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

Plectranthus verticillatus.

Platanus occidentalis (sycamore), autumn. This one is much better full size.

Aglaonema 'Diamond Bay.'

Kalanchoe marmorata.

Magnolia sp., autumn. Not sure what it is, but something about this one really appeals to me. Something about the way the veins are curvy. Might be my favorite from the set, though.

Helleborus 'Painted Strain.' Striking, but almost a little too much.

Eucharis x grandiflora, dead leaf.

Quercus sp., autumn.

Dieffenbachia 'Camouflage.'

Alocasia amazonica 'Polly.' I don't think any of the pictures of 'Polly' turned out very well, but it's still striking.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Other: Dodo (Raphus cucullatus)

Angry dodo! (Pic taken by Mr. Subjunctive, in the University of Iowa Natural History Museum.)

Unfinished business: Schlumbergera 'Caribbean Dancer' fruit

'Caribbean Dancer' still has two fruits on it; the yellow NOID Schlumbergera has one. For reasons I don't understand, only the above fruit looks ripe; the second fruit is also reddish-purple, but it's a much duller shade. They've both been like this for a long time, too, and were formed at approximately the same time, so there's no excuse for them being at different levels of ripeness.

I don't want to try getting seeds now; for one thing, there's a lot of space being taken up by plants I'm propagating already, and I don't have the room. For another, if they're not ready yet, then I'd blow my chances of getting seedlings, and I very badly want to get seedlings. From the research I did for the Schlumbergera profile, I know the fruit will stay attached to the plant for a long time once it's ripe, so there's no harm in leaving it there longer. I just thought you might be interested in seeing what a possibly-ripe holiday cactus fruit looks like.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum Love Potion x Nulight

I spent pretty much all day yesterday trying to sort out a schedule for posting the orchid photos from the show at Wallace's a week ago, so that I wouldn't find myself at the end of the run with nothing but pictures of orange Cattleyas, or something like that. The good news is that I succeeded. The bad news is that it left me very little time to come up with a comment on the picture. The other good news is that commenting on the picture is pretty unnecessary: I think it does a fine job of speaking for itself.

I took a lot more photos of slipper-type orchids (Paphiopedilum and Phragmipedium) this year than last year. I don't know whether this is because there were more of them this year than last year, or if I just found them more interesting. Possibly some of both. In any case, fans of paphs and phrags will be pleased.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Random plant event: Musa x 'Cheeka' offsetting

This is another one of those things that's not objectively a big thing, but it's big to me.

My Musa x 'Cheeka' had a couple offsets on it when I bought it, but they withered away fairly soon after it got here, and it didn't grow any to replace them. Since that time, 'Cheeka' has been growing progressively smaller leaves, which are all bunched up together at the top of the plant, and the petioles keep stacking up on top of one another, too, making the trunk V-shaped.

It's supposed to be a compact variety anyway, but you can see that when I bought it, the new leaves were bigger than the preceding ones, and there was a healthy distance between them:

(Pot: 6"/15 cm diameter)

Now, though, they're wadded up at the top:

(Pot: 8"/20 cm diameter)

There are signs that this may be turning around; the last couple leaves have been larger again, and there are suckers too. I'm sort of ashamed to say what I think made the difference: fertilizer.

Not that I haven't been feeding the plant all along, pretty abundantly in fact. But I've been using the N-P-K-only Osmocote, not anything with trace elements in it. With a substantial number of my plants, that hasn't seemed to make a difference -- the Yuccas, Dracaenas and Anthuriums have all been just fine. Hell, the Dracaenas usually don't get any Osmocote, even. But, I had a plastic container of plant food that the husband bought many years ago -- some Miracle Gro product with trace elements;1 the original packaging was gone -- that was taking up space in the plant room, and I kept having to move it out of the way, or else make a special point of opening it up when I wanted to use it for some plant or another. At some point this winter, that got annoying, and I thought, well hell, let's use this up and get it out of the way.

So for the last three or four watering cycles, I've been using it on everything. At first, I only put it on a few plants. I just sprinkled a small amount of the fertilizer directly on the soil without mixing it in water first like you're supposed to (though I emphasize it was a small amount). After a while, I decided that I should use it on all of them, so I started mixing up multiple gallons at a time in milk jugs.

This is when I was only mixing five gallons at a time (the fifth was mixed directly in the watering can); I'm up to eight-gallon batches now.

Now, granted, the plants would be starting to do stuff now whether I was feeding them special food with trace elements or not: it's spring, the days are longer, that's what plants do in the spring. But things are happening that have never happened for me before:

  • The Musa x 'Cheeka' is re-suckering and may be growing bigger leaves again;
  • the Tradescantia spathacea is blooming (hasn't happened in three years);
  • the Coffea arabica grew, I shit you not, like six inches in a month, after a long period of slow, weak growth;
  • the Cereus peruvianus started to grow after staying the same size for at least two years;
  • the Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa cutting has started to grow after being the same size for at least two years;
  • the Schlumbergera 'Caribbean Dancer' is on a third round of blooming for the year;
  • the Euphorbia tortilis is growing again, after remaining the same size for almost two years;
  • the Cissus rotundifolia had stopped growing for a while, turned yellowish, and a couple growing tips died, but is now producing rampant new growth;
  • the husband's old Dracaena sanderiana that was about 60% dead is now producing new growing tips from its base;
  • all the Ficus microcarpas have started to put on serious height, after a pretty slow last year;
  • the Heliconia psittacorum 'Bright Lights' still looks kind of pitiful, but it's gotten greener and is poking up new shoots;
  • the Phalaenopsis is producing more roots than I've ever seen it grow before;
  • the Phlebodium aureum 'Mandianum' has HUGE blue-green fronds, instead of smallish yellow ones.
  • the Rhapis excelsa is also suckering abundantly;
  • the Platycerium stopped dropping fronds and is now growing new ones; and
Not all of those are necessarily because of the fertilizer, but that's a lot of unprecedented stuff happening all at once.

So I guess I've learned a valuable lesson about the importance of trace elements, and now so have you. Except you probably knew already. Or you suspected, at least.

I've been meaning to write a post about fertilizer for a long, long time, but a lot of the information I've seen about it is either the same thing everybody parrots ("Feed with a standard houseplant fertilizer every three months, or diluted with every watering.") or advice for people growing mass quantities of plants outdoors in a Florida shade house to sell wholesale, talking about parts per million of this and parts per million of that and Ca:Mg ratios and all that stuff. So this may be as close as I get to writing a fertilizer post.


1 I know it contains trace elements because it's that pretty green-blue color of copper compounds; I know it's Miracle Gro because the plastic bags of fertilizer had Miracle Gro written on them. The missing part is the original box or whatever that they came in, which would have the full list of components and concentrations. In general, though, if copper is in there, then everything else will be too. I mean, there are exceptions, but I'd be surprised if Miracle Gro made a product that had copper but not iron.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Pretty pictures: Freesia NOIDs

I've learned, as of Friday, that I am unable to smell Freesias. This is not unheard of, though it's kinda sad, because everybody goes on and on about how wonderful the smell is. To me, it smells like cut grass, with a little bit of generic floral smell, but very far away. And it's not that I happened to catch them during a period of low fragrance output (which the link above says does happen), because Younger Former Co-Worker was right there, gushing about the wonderfulness of the smell, when I tried.


These are, I think, the first Freesias I've seen. The ex-job never had them when I worked there; I don't remember seeing them anywhere else.

(This one is my favorite.)

Those of you who can smell them, tell me -- what do they smell like? Does anybody grow them, indoors or out? How's that going? I'm curious.