Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

First off, the Brady sisters have apparently fledged already: when Sheba and I went out yesterday morning, the nest was empty. The husband said he thinks he saw Marcia a couple hours after that, in the yard -- it was at least a small robin with juvenile foliage plumage, and then he was screeched at by an adult for a while -- so we're not especially worried about them, but nevertheless. They grow up so fast.

We also have a pair of barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) building a nest above our front door.

This is okay with us, as we never use the front door, though if they have to build a nest there, we do kinda wish they'd clean up after themselves a little better than this. Still, though, the intent is to leave the nest where it is, at least this year. Wikipedia says they'll reuse the same nest year after year, so next year we may have a problem.

There were still no eggs as of Wednesday --

-- but the position of the nest is such that I'm not sure I'll be able to sneak the camera in there to check, when there are eggs; they've added height to the nest walls since I took this picture, and I was barely able to squeeze the camera through to get this picture.

Not that pictures of barn swallow eggs are that exciting anyway, I realize. But I'm interested.

Meanwhile, Sheba's life is the same as usual; no new developments I can think of. She got a bath (more of a shower, I guess, technically) yesterday, from the husband, which she never likes, but that's about it. Today's photo is from a pause in some seriously intense tennis-ball chasing, earlier this week.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pretty picture: Cattleya Confetti x C. aurantiaca

Again from the orchid show last March, and again with a Cattleya. They really are terribly photogenic, and y'all know I have a thing for orange flowers.

I'm feeling kinda down on orchids lately: the Oncidium I bought last December had been doing better than any other orchid I've ever owned, until about three weeks ago, and then it started throwing leaves everywhere and won't stop. The Potinaras and Sophrolaeliocattleya aren't throwing leaves, but they're not growing, either. This is how pretty much all my orchid purchases go, as far back as I've been trying to grow orchids. I'm getting sick of it. Either I'm going to have to find better spots for them to live -- which will be difficult, since space is extremely limited, and the best spots are already occupied by more appreciative plants -- or PATSP is about to have a Summer Orchid Giveaway.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Random plant event: Hypoestes phyllostachya and Justicia scheidweileri

I noticed while watering this flat of (mostly) Gasteraloe x beguinii (Aloe aristata x Gasteria batesiana) that one of these plants was not like the others:

It's trying to blend in with the Gasteraloes, but there's a small Hypoestes phyllostachya seedling in there about 1/3 of the way from the bottom and 1/3 of the way from the left side.

This is noteworthy mostly because I haven't planted any seeds. I actually haven't even seen a Hypoestes seed yet. (They're commercially available if you Google for them; I've just never wanted any.) Obviously there's been one at some point or another, though -- the parent plant lives next to this flat of Gasteraloes, and is apparently as much of a nosy neighbor as I said it was in the profile. I'm still a little puzzled, though: the Hypoestes doesn't hang over the Gasteraloes; it's a few inches away. So it would have had to throw seeds, somehow, which I think maybe I dimly remember hearing something about that, but I couldn't confirm my suspicions with Google just now, so I may be misremembering.

Similar things have been happening in the living room: I've seen a few unidentified seedlings in one specific section of the room (couldn't find any to take a picture of, but last time I saw them, they were all too small to have any true leaves yet), which happens to be the area around the Justicia schedweileri, which: has also been blooming more or less nonstop for the past couple months.

And: there are references to Porphyrocoma/Justicia about its ability to explosively propel seeds a large distance from the parent plant.

(The actual quote is "The seed stalk or funiculus of each seed is modified into a hook shaped jaculator or retinaculum that functions in flinging out the seeds during dehiscence." I have no idea why people would think botany is a dry subject, if this is the kind of stuff botanists get to read, but I'm pretty sure this translates into non-botanist as, "the seeds have a thingie that propels them away from the plant when they're ripe.")

It just so happens that I've been spending mornings in the living room a lot lately, and while there, especially on sunny days, I'll be sitting quietly, minding my own business, when I'll hear a sudden CRACK! from the general area of the Justicia. I've never been able to pin it down to anything particular (in fact, I'd assumed it was probably the acrylic sheet the Justicia and other plants are sitting on, expanding in the warm sun), but it could be the Justicia exploding and scattering seeds around, which would explain both the noise and the randomly appearing seedlings. Once some of the seedlings get old enough to have true leaves, I'll be able to confirm that.

(UPDATE: Yep, they're Justicia scheidweileri.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wednesday morning Marcia, Jan, and Cindy picture

This isn't necessarily going to be a regular Wednesday thing, but I skipped the Saturday Sheba/Nina pictures last weekend and then everybody was all omigod what have you done with the Sheba/Nina pictures you can't do this to me, so I figured I owed y'all some animal pictures.

So, introducing Marcia, Jan and Cindy:

(L-R) Marcia, Cindy, Jan. From 20 May.

A nice robin (Turdus migratorius) couple built a nest on top of our gutter's downspout, on the northwest corner of the house, which I've taken a few pictures of, but I'm probably not going to have a lot more opportunities: Wikipedia says that chicks leave the nest two weeks after hatching, and these look pretty big already. We'll see.

(L-R) Marcia, Jan, Cindy. 23 May.

The parents (Mike and Carol, presumably) don't really approve of me taking pictures, and get really agitated when I try, but there's not much they can do to stop me. So far no actual damage has been done, though they watch Sheba and me pretty closely when we're outside.

I don't actually know that the chicks are all female; it's just funnier to call them Marcia/Jan/Cindy. For that matter, I also can't tell them apart from one another, the captions in the photos above notwithstanding. I'm mainly going according to their facial expressions and/or posture.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Random plant event: Murraya paniculata

I have a lot of ideas about things to do with the plants that never wind up coming to fruition. Either the plants are uncooperative, or I lose interest, or I make an error at a critical moment in the process and everything falls apart. (In fact, I'm considering making a post about projects like this -- not quite a Where Are They Now? sort of post so much as a How Come You Never Wrote About This Again? post.)

One of the ongoing failures has been Murraya paniculata propagation. I knew someone must be capable of doing it, 'cause otherwise how would we get more Murraya paniculatas? But I've failed, repeatedly, with cuttings and seeds both, and had kind of reached the conclusion that propagating Murraya was just not in the cards for me.

And it still might not be, of course. Many things could still happen. But last fall (last summer?), I took a cutting and stuck it in damp vermiculite in a clear plastic cup, then put another clear plastic cup on top of that, and taped them together, and then MANY MANY MONTHS happened. During that time, the cups were untaped maybe three times and more water added, and the last time I did that, I put a little fertilizer in as well. (I also knocked it over repeatedly, because the cup has a narrow base and a high center of gravity.) It's been sitting in an east window, where it gets a lot of bright artificial light and intermittent filtered sunlight, when we have sunlight.

And I just noticed, last Saturday, that the fool thing is trying to bloom:

Which worried me, initially, because I leapt to the conclusion that it was wasting energy on blooms when it hadn't even built any roots yet, and I was getting ready to give it the I'm-so-disappointed-in-you speech, but then I found a root --

-- so now I'm thinking well, maybe I've solved this problem. Still too soon to have the Murraya Propagation Party, and it's an unpleasantly slow process even if it does work, but I'm feeling hopeful.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pretty picture: Convallaria majalis flowers

When we bought the house, we also bought a couple square feet of lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) next to the garage. In the time-honored fashion of Convallaria, they have since expanded to maybe three square feet, which may or may not matter in the long run because the husband has at various times proposed moving the garage, paving over the relevant section of the lawn, and digging up everything next to the garage so as to relocate the dirt (don't ask).

In any case, however temporarily or permanently they're going to be around, and however ratty the leaves look by September, I do enjoy having them here. The smell alone makes them worth keeping around. Even if they are thugs.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Random plant event: Hemigraphis exotica

This plant doesn't belong to me; it was at the ex-job a couple weeks ago. (My own plant is not particularly happy with me -- I think it's a problem of not being able to give it as much light as it would like.) It's not a particularly pretty or even interesting picture, but I hadn't seen a Hemigraphis flower before, so I figure some of you hadn't either, and now we all have, more or less. Hooray for the internet!