Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

Not really any Sheba or Nina news; things have been quiet since Sheba's bald patches cleared up.

I really like how this photo (from 29 November) turned out.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pretty picture: Rhyncholaelia digbyana



Many customers milling around in the garden center's greenhouse. The sound of approaching rapid footsteps. MR. SUBJUNCTIVE runs into the room from the left, breathless, and stops in front of a plant.

MR. SUBJUNCTIVE (shouting)
Look! An orchid!1

The CROWD OF SHOPPERS shuffles toward the indicated flower.
(murmuring) Oh my gosh, it sure is, wow how pretty, Judy will you look at that, etc.

MR. SUBJUNCTIVE looks behind himself, then resumes running and exits room to the right.

Who was that?

I didn't get a good look. Was that Mr. Subjunctive?

POLICE enter from left, running, followed by 12-year-old JIMMY, on a bicycle.

Later, of course, we found out that it didn't mean anything, that Mr. Subjunctive was just trying to jazz up the blog with a random snippet of drama because he didn't have anything interesting to say about Rhyncholaelia digbyana. But once word got around that Mrs. Carlson had just been found dead, buried under a pile of Cattleyas in her home, with spelling corrections written in black Sharpie on about half the tags,2 things didn't look good for him. No wonder he ran.


MR. SUBJUNCTIVE sits at table in room, alone, while CHIEF MARTINEZ and OFFICER SCHENKENBERG watch him through the one-way glass.

You get anything out of him?

He just said he was helping the old lady correct her plant tags day before yesterday and doesn't know anything. Then he started asking for a lawyer.

Correcting her plant tags? Does anybody actually give a shit about whether plants are identified correctly?

I don't know, Chief. Sounded fishy to me too. Should we get him his lawyer?

Ennh. Go ahead, but you don't have to hurry. Maybe we can get him to say something before the lawyer gets here.3


1 (That I blogged about previously!)
2 For the record, this plant was tagged correctly.
3 Obviously there would be more to the story than this, but let's pretend the rest of the script has been lost, 'cause I don't think I'll be able to write a complete script. And probably the story is all downhill from this point anyway. I didn't really plan anything out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cribplants, yo.

I've just become acquainted with, a site which Snoop-Doggifies Google results and/or websites. What is Snoop-Doggification? Er. It's probably easiest to just show you.

Unfortunately, a lot of the formatting gets lost in the process, so the resulting blog doesn't look much like PATSP, but I was especially tickled to see what it did to the list of houseplant books from the first Missing From Retail list:

  • Crockett, Jizzy Underwood. Crockettz Indoor Garden. Little, Brown n' Co., Boston MA / Toronto ON, 1978.
  • Kramer, Jack. Da Illustrated Guide ta Flowerin Cribplants. Peerage Books, London, 1985.
  • Powell, Charlez C. n' Dizzle M. Vining. Orthoz Complete Guide ta Successful Cribplants. Chevron Chemical Co., San Francisco CA, 1984.
  • Stuckey, Maggie. Da Cribplant Encyclopedia. Doubledizzle Direct, Inc., Garden Citizzle NY, 1993.
  • Griffith, Lynn P., Jr. Tropical Foliage Plants: A Growerz Guide. Ball Publishing, Batavia IL, 1998.

I would absolutely buy a book about cribplants.

I would also totally buy a plant named Bizzlebergia nutans, especially if I saw it described like this:
Bizzlebergia nutans (biatchz tears) be a pimped out plant, as far as I be concerned -- it grows fast, propagates easily, is hard as fuck ta kill, n' produces short-lived but straight-up horny-ass flowers up in tha late fall n' winter.
Also Gizoogle is quite a bit more honest than I am when it comes to the Musa photo from this post. My original:
I don't know what specific botanical characteristics distinguish Musa from Ensete.
The gizoogled version:
I don't give a fuck what tha fuck specific botanical characteristics distinguish Musa from Ensete.1
Mixed feelings about this overall. On the one hand, I was extremely entertained for a couple hours on Monday night, but then I felt bad, because the Snoop-Doggified2 versions were so much better than my original writing. But I got better. How did I get over this? By running other people's blogs through Gizoogle, and seeing how much improved everybody else was too.

As you might imagine, new layers of meaning would be added to any post where Carol talks about her hoe collection at May Dreams Gardens, but I prefer the garden fairy posts. (The most recent one emerges from Gizoogle signed by "Violet Chronicpea Maydreams," who is the "chizzle scribe fo' tha garden fairies n' tha garden fairy whoz ass likes ta put rocks along tha edgez of tha raised bedz up in tha Vegetable Garden Cathedral.") And I find the garden bloggers' bloom day inspirational quote much improved as well:
Our thugged-out asses can have flowers nearly every last muthafuckin month of tha year.
~ Elizabeth Lawrence

Moving on, here's Garden Rant, on the topic of which Presidents have had the best record on environmental protection issues:
A few muthafuckin years back I posted bout the ten chronicest prezs up in U.S, history, accordin ta dis crib. Back then, tha dopest recent environmental record was owned by Bizzle Clinton. It still is. Clinton created 17 freshly smoked up nationistic monumentz (4.6 mazillion acrez of preservation3), extended protections fo' wetlandz n' old-growth forests, n' banned off-shore drillin yo.

(Oh, word, Adrian?)

And I love Kylee's (Our Little Acre) account of finding a monarch caterpillar in her garden in November, mostly because I am amused by the milkweed --> milkchronic substitution:
But da most thugged-out astonishin muthafuckin thang I found was a monarch caterpillar fo' realz. A tiny one. It was so small, itz a wonder I even noticed dat shit. Da milkchronic it was on was mostly yellow n' dyin yo, but did sheezy some fresh freshly smoked up growth all up in tha top. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Still, tha cold temperatures n' latenizz of tha season have caused most of tha milkchronic ta lose they leaves n' they're left as bare stems standin sentinel up in tha garden.

By now I'm pretty sure you get it, and since it was kinda stupid in the first place, I'll stop providing examples. Investigate further on your own, if you're interested.

OBVIOUSLY, none of the people who were "quoted" for this post said anything like what Gizoogle claims they said, however amusing I find the idea that they might start. I didn't ask permission first, because I'm not clear where the line actually is here -- I'm not reproducing text from other blogs, and the whole point of the humor is the obviousness that the people "quoted" would never, ever say any of these things, so it's hard for me to imagine a scenario in which the original authors would suffer any kind of material or emotional loss. But, if you are Carol, Susan, or Kylee, and you're offended by this anyway, for whatever reason, just leave me a comment or send an e-mail and I'll take it down and replace your bit with something from Fairegarden. (And if Frances is offended, I'll keep moving on until I find three bloggers who aren't. There is no shortage of bloggers.) And I'm sorry I didn't ask first; I expected you either wouldn't care or would be amused.
FURTHERMORE, no offense was intended toward PATSP readers. (Though y'all, at least, have been warned about the language, so I'm not going to take it very seriously if you claim to have been offended.)
ADDITIONALLY, Mr. Subjunctive does not, ordinarily, condone the use of the word "bitches" or any of its derivatives in reference to female humans,4 but there's a world of difference between "make me a sandwich, you dumb bitch" and "What up, my biyatch?", and I think this is clearly much, much closer to the latter. Though I can apologize for that too, if it'd make anybody feel better.
Peace out.


1 This is not true in the very strictest sense. I care, but only to the degree that it makes it easier for me to tell which I'm looking at. If the distinctions are all in how the flowers are arranged or the shape of the cell walls or something that's not obvious to the eye, then no, I really can't care.
2 I am aware that he is trying to change his name to "Snoop Lion." Dat don't even make no mothafuckin sense though, so I ain't even hearin it.
3 (It's the "4.6 mazillion acrez of preservation" part that does it for me.)
4 (and he's even a little uncomfortable using it for female dogs, as far as that goes)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pretty picture: Laeliocattleya Christian Starr 'Aloha'

The tag said "Laeliocattleya Christian Star 'Aloha.'" Which is of course wrong, though only barely: there should be two Rs in "Starr."

As errors go, this is minor. Doesn't change the pronunciation, and it'd be just as easy to find in most alphabetical databases, so I was prepared to forgive it.

However, the tag also said "C. baud[*]bec x Lc. Memoria Robert Strait," where the [*] part is something that was either indecipherable or covered up by a leaf or something. Which is a problem, because it's not Cattleya baud[e]bec, a species; it's Cattleya Caudebec, a grex. And that is just careless.

Since spelling the cross out wasn't actually necessary, and a determined searcher could still find all this out easily enough from the information provided, though, I'll count it as only half-wrong.

Why not? Tis the season! Holiday spirit of forgiveness and everything!

wrong tags: 8.5
incomplete tags: 1
missing tags: 11

For what it's worth, I sort of like what the flower's attempting to do here, though I wish it didn't have quite as many stray spots of purple, and restricted the color to the veins a bit better. Coordinates well with the current blog background, though. I'll give it a thumbs-up. Tidings of comfort and joy, yo.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

List: Missing From Retail, Part 1 of 5

I've mentioned this phenomenon before, in the profile for Pandanus spp. The reason it's on my mind again is, I bought a used houseplant book at a consignment store a few weeks ago, and it's got a lot of plants in there I'd never even heard of, which reminded me that I'd wanted to talk about this.

Since these are all plants I've never or rarely seen before, I don't have photos for a lot of them. When I have one, I've used my own photo; otherwise, I've resorted to Wikimedia Commons or just gone without.

I am especially interested in speculation about why I don't see them for sale as houseplants, so if you see one on this list that you've grown and think you might have insight, leave a comment. (Some possible explanations: small window of attractiveness, poorly adapted to indoor conditions, low tolerance for shipping, prohibitively expensive to produce because of slow growth, replaced by a better plant with similar qualities.)

The five books I'm using are:

Crockett, James Underwood. Crockett's Indoor Garden. Little, Brown and Co., Boston MA / Toronto ON, 1978.
Kramer, Jack. The Illustrated Guide to Flowering Houseplants. Peerage Books, London, 1985.
Powell, Charles C. and Donald M. Vining. Ortho's Complete Guide to Successful Houseplants. Chevron Chemical Co., San Francisco CA, 1984.
Stuckey, Maggie. The Houseplant Encyclopedia. Doubleday Direct, Inc., Garden City NY, 1993.
Griffith, Lynn P., Jr. Tropical Foliage Plants: A Grower's Guide. Ball Publishing, Batavia IL, 1998.

This will be a five-part post, eventually. (Part 2) (Part 3) (Part 4) (Part 5)

Achimenes erecta. Photo by Andel Früh, from Wikimedia Commons.

I know there are gesneriad enthusiasts out there who grow Achimenes cvv. (Cupid's bower, hot water plant) indoors, but it appears that you can't grow them until you've grown several other gesneriads first. It seems obvious enough that people would buy them in stores if they saw them for sale, so the issue has to be one of production (not cost-effective to propagate), distribution (don't ship well), or long-term prospects (don't remain attractive long enough in stores for retailers to make any money off of them). No idea which, but I bet there are readers who'll have a guess.

Allamanda cathartica 'Williamsii.' (My picture.)

Allamanda cathartica (golden trumpet) is mentioned in a few of the books, and I've seen them for sale intermittently at the ex-job, but I'm not aware of anyone actually growing one indoors, nor have I ever tried it myself. My guess, based on the behavior of the ones at the ex-job, is that they are probably too fussy and demanding to do well outside of a greenhouse.

Anguloa clowesii. Photo by Orchi, from Wikimedia Commons.

I had never even heard of Anguloa spp. (tulip orchid) before I bought the Kramer book, but they sound fucking perfect, as orchids go. Large green leaves, fragrant blooms (not sure about A. clowesii above, but wikiposedly some or most Anguloa species have cinnamon-scented flowers), "easy to bring into bloom indoors,"1 etc. And the hybrids are, if anything, even more awesome (check the photo of Anguloa x ruckeri, here). So something must be horribly wrong with them. But what? What could be that terrible? We may never know.

Aspidistra elatior. (My photo.)

I totally get why Aspidistra elatior (cast-iron plant) isn't more widely available: I haven't been happy with mine. All the books go on and on about what an easy plant Aspidistra is, and how if you absolutely can't grow anything else at all, you can grow a cast-iron plant, but: mine has had spider mites a few times, the leaf tips have burnt back pretty severely in the last year or so (in the worst cases, about 1/3 of the leaf is dead), now it has scale, and it doesn't seem to be growing at all. Seriously, I don't know when the last time it produced a new leaf was, but it's been at least a year. And of course when I check the books to see what I've done wrong, all they do is reassure me that it's the world's easiest plant and there's no possible way it could go wrong, which is UNHELPFUL. Add to that the fact that even in good conditions, they're apparently still pretty slow, and neither the leaves nor the flowers are especially flashy, and it's clear why a tropical plant grower might not want to invest in producing them.

That said, they're nevertheless available around here, very occasionally. We had them once or twice at the ex-job, and I've seen them at a couple other places in the area, though only once for each place. We eventually stopped bringing them in at the ex-job, because they always got spider mites right away, plus they were a lot more expensive than similarly-sized plants of other genera, because of the slow growth. So it was one of those deals where it was either going to sell in the first fifteen minutes off the truck, or it was going to get spider mites and find itself shoved under a table until somebody decided it was ugly enough to discard.

Asplenium bulbiferum. Photo by Daderot, from Wikimedia Commons, and is in public domain.

Asplenium bulbiferum (hen and chicken fern, mother spleenwort) seems to have lost a lot of popularity in recent decades. I don't know anything about what it's like to grow A. bulbiferum specifically (I have a vague memory of being told once by somebody that it was difficult), but if it's anything like the other Aspleniums I've attempted,2 that's just as well.

I've never seen one for sale. A likely explanation is that it was probably never that commercially viable: plants that self-propagate easily tend to get passed from person to person through informal sales or trades, instead of being bought and sold, and A. bulbiferum produces tiny rootable plantlets at the tips of the fronds.

Aucuba japonica. Photo credit: Digigalos at Wikimedia Commons. Size-adjusted.

Aucuba japonica (gold-dust plant) is the biggest mystery on this list. Four out of the five books mention it, but I have never seen one in person, for sale or not. Nor have I seen any indication that it's an especially problematic plant, either. It's possible that it's just been made redundant by plants like Dracaena surculosa and Codiaeum variegatum 'Gold Dust,' though if that's the case, I'm actually more interested in growing it myself, because I haven't been especially happy with either of those.

Unknown bamboo species. Photo by Tom at The Midwestern Jungle; used by permission. Original photo here.

Real bamboos3 (Bambusa, Chimonobambusa, Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus, Sasaella, and others) get mentioned occasionally in books, and I know at least one blogger who has had a terrifyingly tall real bamboo in his home. That said, I've only ever actually seen one for sale, Pogonantherum paniceum, which was an unsatisfactory experience for me and the plant both. The main obstacle seems to be that they're difficult: this site says that as a group, they need high light, high humidity, and perfectly-timed water. (Certain individual species may vary from the above.) I also understand they're inclined to spider mites, though my Pogonantherum never got old enough to catch spider mites.

Billbergia nutans. (My photo.)

Billbergias seem to be showing up around here a lot more often in the last couple years. We could go to the ex-job and pick me up a Billbergia 'Hallelujah' or 'Borracho' right this second, if necessary. This is still a pretty recent development, though, and as far as I can recall, those are the only two I've seen being sold.

Billbergia nutans (queen's tears) is a great plant, as far as I'm concerned -- it grows fast, propagates easily, is difficult to kill, and produces short-lived but really interesting flowers in the late fall and winter. Unfortunately, all of those characteristics also make it a non-starter, pretty much, in retail. Growing fast and propagating easily means that anybody who has one can have as many as they want (not a particularly collectible plant, from a retail perspective); being difficult to kill means that once you have one, you're likely to continue having one (can't sell replacement plants), and the short-lived flowers means that they're only really appealing to consumers for like twenty minutes out of every year and the rest of the time they just look like a strange big coarse grass.

The other Billbergias are similar, in that they seem to be easy to grow and propagate, though they're colorful enough that we might see them more often as foliage plants in the future. If you do see one for sale: highly recommended.

Brunfelsia pauciflora. Photo by Carl E. Lewis at Wikimedia Commons. Cropped, color adjustment.

Brunfelsia pauciflora (yesterday, today, and tomorrow) is another that's constantly mentioned in the books but that I've never seen for sale. (Or, possibly, I've seen it for sale but not recognized it as such.) They do apparently get kind of big, and the plant doesn't seem especially interesting outside of the flowers, so I could see favoring production of other plants, but the flowering period is apparently long, and obviously people found them worth growing indoors at some point, if all the books keep including them. I'm probably not actually interested in growing it myself, but I would like to know why I've never had the option.

Calceolaria cv. Photo ©, used in compliance with the non-commercial use guidelines on this page.

I have only seen Calceolaria cvv. (pocketbook flower) being sold at the ex-job, and then only once or twice. The page at Top Tropicals hints at some reasons why this might be the case: they're annuals, they prefer cool temperatures, they're prone to stem rot. If this is in fact the case, then the question about Calceolaria is not, "why don't growers produce them anymore?" but instead "why did houseplant books ever include something so ill-suited to indoor culture in the first place?"

This particular topic doesn't lend itself well to recommendations, but in a perfect world, Anguloa spp. would be easy to grow. (In the actual world, Billbergia are.)

Not pictured:

  • Acalypha wilkesiana (copperleaf): sometimes available here as an outdoor annual.
  • Acorus spp. (sweet flag): sometimes available as an outdoor annual.
  • Aerides spp./cvv. (cat's tail orchid): have never seen.
  • Angraecum spp./cvv. (comet orchid): have never seen.
  • Astrophytum myriostigma (bishop's cap): seen occasionally, but when I've actually wanted to buy one, they're nowhere to be found.
  • Begonia masoniana (iron cross begonia): have seen once.
  • Buxus spp. (boxwood): I have a dim recollection of seeing these sold for outdoor use, but I've never seen one sold as a houseplant. Nor, frankly, do I know why anybody would want one as a houseplant: they're pretty plain-looking. They're in all the books anyway, though.

Are any of these widely available where you live? Can you shed any light on why I don't see them in the stores? Are there plants I chatter about at PATSP all the time that you've never seen for sale? Which ones? Etc.


1 Sure, this is almost certainly a lie, because orchids are evil and stupid.a But still, that's the claim.
aOh yeah. I went there.
2 (A. nidus and A. antiquum)
3 (The "lucky bamboo" in stores is Dracaena sanderiana, and is neither lucky nor bamboo.)