Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pretty picture: Phalaenopsis Purple Queen

This one was striking for the sharpness of the purple/white divide. I don't remember seeing that in any other Phalaenopsis. It's probably especially impressive when one gets a really big spike, with lots of individual flowers. There aren't a lot of phals I can imagine really wanting to own, but I wouldn't mind having one of these. (Or I-Hsin Balloon. I mean, if you want a list, I could come up with a list.)

Most years, I'm not impressed with the Phalaenopsis at the show, but I really liked most of the ones I got photos of this year. Whether this is because they're getting better, my standards are lowering, or I'm just not taking photos of the boring ones, I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, I'd guess the third option. I know there was at least one gigantic plain-white phal that I didn't bother taking a picture of.

Phalaenopsis Purple Queen = Phalaenopsis Regnier x Phalaenopsis schilleriana (Ref.)

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Schlumbergera seedling no. 056

056A has been exceptionally difficult to name. TinEye gave me 31 options, and I found problems with all of them.1 Fortunately, I have a list of emergency seedling names, which (mostly) don't come from TinEye,2 from which I selected _________ that seemed to fit this seedling well enough, and we'll try to make one of them work. The full emergency names list has 86 names on it; I brought that down to 15. Which is a lot, I know, but I'll try to make it quick.

The main distinguishing feature of 056A is that it's very severe: the color is intense, the petals are flexed back hard, the dividing line between the dark orange petals and the pale pink tube is sharp.

Torchy and Make-Out City seemed cleverer when I first put them on the list. So never mind. Rampage is a little generic, or something. Voladora (Spanish: "flying") is pleasant to say, but I'm not sure the meaning lines up properly.

Pants on Fire certainly nails the color well enough, but I don't think the seedling is dishonest enough to warrant the name. Accipiter (the name for a group of birds of prey, the sparrowhawks and goshawks) gets the shape more or less right (if you squint and tip your head slightly to the side, it could be a hawk diving at something, blurry with speed), but I don't like the sound of the word very well. Molly Ivins absolutely deserves a seedling someday, and it'd make sense for the seedling to be orange, like her hair, but Ivins' hair was never this orange, nor did she seem particularly severe.

And now we're at the point where I like all the remaining options and have to make up things to find fault with, so I can narrow the field to one winner. Meteor Storm gets the shape right, again, but I just don't like it as well as some of the remaining options. Sun and Snow gets the color right, but ditto. Gato del Sol (Spanish, "sun cat" / "cat of the sun") amuses me tremendously, but is perhaps too funny for such a serious-looking seedling.

The remaining five are all fire- or heat-related, though sometimes very loosely so:

Arcturus is a very bright orange giant star in the constellation Boötes.3 (Wikipedia link)

Demons Begone is a racehorse. Wikipedia doesn't have a page on him, but he finished last in the 1987 Kentucky Derby, due to a sudden hemorrhage from the lungs that as far as I know was never actually explained.4 I have two reasons for being interested in this as a seedling name: the first is the plain, surface-level meaning of the name, which I approve of, and then the second is that Demons Begone gets a mention in a book I really like, Jay McInerney's Story of My Life.5 Bright Lights, Big City got all the attention, but I enjoyed Story of My Life a lot more and think it's a better book.

Exothermic is the chemistry-class term for chemical reactions that release heat, and is mainly a reference to the color.

Fornax is a Southern Hemisphere constellation, previously considered and rejected for 106A "Jaws of Elmo."

Svarog may or may not be the name of a Slavic fire/blacksmithing deity.

So okay. I feel like Svarog is maybe a little too strange of a word (one should be cautious around any word that's easier to pronounce backward than forward), and Arcturus is sort of difficult to pronounce. Of the remaining three, Demons Begone has the best story attached to it, and is the only one composed of relatively familiar words. On the other hand, it also contains the word "demon," which people get weird about. Though banishing demons is something I think most people can get behind, so maybe that's a wash. Fornax is fastest to type, and has a nice science-fictiony sound to it. I can't think of anything Exothermic does better or worse than the other two.

I've noticed that when I talk about multiple names before selecting one, the one that usually wins is the one I wrote the most about. So part of me wants to go with Fornax, just to interrupt that pattern, but . . . I can't. I just like Demons Begone better; Demons Begone it is.


1 I did actually settle on one, briefly, which I won't identify because if I tell you what it was then you'll all be, oh, but [name] would be perfect, you should go with [name], and since I've already decided that I don't want to use it, and since I can't figure out exactly what I don't like about it (I just know that I'm uneasy about it for some reason), I figure there's no point in teasing you with a name that I've already decided that I don't want to use. Maybe it'll pop up again anyway.
2 Many of them are racehorse names; there are also a few famous(-ish) people who I sort of want to name seedlings after at some point or another. The remainder are TinEye names I liked but rejected for other seedlings, and names that popped into my head at random that I thought would maybe work.
You would think that band names would be a good source -- people are always noting that this or that combination of random words would make a good band name -- but I was unable to find any ideas I liked at the sites that came up in a search. (Actually, there was one -- "Traditional Desert Gentleman" -- from a bluegrass band name generator that might have been passable but for its length.)
3 (Stars aren't "on fire" in the way that wood can be on fire -- nuclear fusion is not at all the same thing as rapid oxidation -- but they are certainly very hot, and they glow, and this particular one is orange. So, close enough?)
4 Apparently this is just a thing, with racehorses? Sometimes they run really fast, sometimes they hemorrhage from the lungs? I know nothing about racehorses aside from the fact that a lot of them have goofy names.
Oh, and I should probably add that Demons Begone wasn't killed after/because of this; he survived to race again. In case you were worried.
Though he's dead now. 1987 was a long time ago, after all.
5 Chapter 9 takes place at a Kentucky Derby party; I had always assumed that Demons Begone was a name McInerney invented for dramatic fictional purposes, a horse/idea for the main character to root for, but no: there was an actual horse by that name. I'm unsure whether this makes me more impressed with McInerney, or less.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Schlumbergera seedling no. 074 (again)

074B is a really pretty coral --

-- and it needs to have a great name to go along with that, but which one to choose? TinEye gave me 31 options to start with,1 which I reduced (with difficulty) to 7. And then the slow, painful process of elimination began.

Fondant tends to be lighter, more pastel colors like this, so it seems reasonable as a name, plus I like the word itself for some reason I can't identify, but fondant could also be any other color at all, plus one of the more distinctive things about fondant is its smooth, even texture, which Schlumbergera petals don't share. (It might make a more appropriate name for an Anthurium seedling, from a texture standpoint.)

There's also nothing obviously wrong with Zenith, though my personal associations are all wrong -- the Sinclair Lewis novel Babbitt and the TV manufacturer. I like the idea of a name beginning with Z, but there are probably better Z names.

Google translates Pesche Dolci as "sweet peaches" (via Italian). Though they look more like sugared peaches in the photo. In either case, though I can see how TinEye got there, actual peaches are more orange-yellow (inside) or red-orange and orange-yellow (outside). I like the name (and it's extra classy-sounding, being in Italian and all), so I'll keep it in mind for later, but this isn't the right seedling for this name.

Minnesota somehow just seems right, but there's not a whole lot in Minnesota that is actually this color, as far as I know -- I mostly think of Minnesota as white, green, blue, or a combination thereof. This is very much the color of certain winter sunsets. Although Minnesota gets the same number of sunsets that everybody else does, it has way more winter than most, so the name is maybe color-appropriate in that way, but that's quite a stretch. I don't know. I like Minnesota as a name, and I could be satisfied with it if there were no other options, but let's keep going.

The three remaining names are Ice Castle, Sunrise From Bed, and Crone Island.

Ice Castle seems appropriate for a pastel-type bloom, and I like both the name and the mental image, and it seems like it could go with this flower fine, but that's sort of as far as it goes. Like Minnesota, I'd be happy with it if it were the only name standing, but it's not, so let's move on.

The actual title on Sunrise From Bed was "Amanecer Desde La Cama." This could also be something like "waking up in bed," I think, but since the photo shows a sunrise, and since sunrise is way more colorful, I'm going to assume Google Translate got it right. It's the only color-appropriate option remaining, and it's sort of a nice mental image. (I suppose it depends on how you feel about waking up.) It's a little long, as names go, but otherwise adequate.

Crone Island was actually tagged "islamujeres," an actual place near the northeast tip of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. The reason it didn't stay "Isla Mujeres" is because this made me think of Crone Island.

Crone Island will take some explanation.

Though there are at least two real places called Crone Island,2 the one I have in mind is a mythical island conceived in this thread about emotional labor at MetaFilter.3 Crone Island isn't an imaginary place where there is no emotional labor, and it's not necessarily a place without men either: the fantasy is that it's a place where emotional labor is noticed and reciprocated, which also happens to have margaritas and tacos. Which sounds like a good enough idea to name a seedling after.


1 I flip through TinEye until I've got at least 30 plausible names, is why there are always like 30-32 initial options.
2 (Internet searches mainly turn up the one in Alaska, a nearly-microscopic piece of land nearly in the exact center of the Aleutian Islands, but there is also one in Minnesota, east-northeast of the city of Courtland, which is about 90 minutes due southwest of Minneapolis.)
3 The thread is very, very long (2115 comments -- Firefox claims it would be 737 pages long if printed out.), and difficult to summarize well, and the concept of emotional labor alone is sort of difficult to talk about, because the term was being used differently at MetaFilter than it is elsewhere. I'll almost certainly do a bad job of explaining, but since I brought it up, I suppose I have to try anyway:
The usual meaning is occupational. Emotional labor is the work it takes to display the emotions your employer expects of you. This has more relevance to some jobs than others -- a waitress is going to devote more energy toward being pleasant to customers than a factory worker will.
At MetaFilter, the term was used differently, because the article under discussion used it differently: the article never exactly defines emotional labor, but it's described in terms of "offering advice, listening to woes, dispensing care and attention." It's the sort of thing that you'd think is just part and parcel of friendship, or parenting, or being married, but it can become a big problem if it's unevenly balanced, as it frequently is. It's an even bigger problem because so much of it is taken for granted and therefore basically invisible. If you've had a friend who is constantly wanting to talk to you for hours about problems they're having with relationships and family and so forth, things you're supposed to care about even though they don't directly affect you -- and of course you'll listen to them; they're your friend, after all -- but when you have a bad day and try to talk to them about your problems and they go, yeah actually I'm really busy right now; I'm sure you'll figure out what to do, though, welp gotta go TTYL, something about that friendship begins to feel wrong. And what's wrong about it is that the balance of emotional labor is off.
What I found so fascinating about the MetaFilter thread, though, was that the discussion pulled a lot of other activities into the "emotional labor" umbrella, things that went beyond obvious emotional support, into what I'd call "emotional management." Like, early in the thread, examples of emotional work are things like husbands asking wives to listen to blow-by-blow accounts of workplace drama repeatedly, and "taking care of someone else's emotional needs without having your needs even acknowledged." Several more comments in, though, and emotional labor has expanded to cover sending greeting cards, arranging playdates, and decorating the living room. Which aren't about being a shoulder to cry on, but are still about going out of your way to consider the feelings of others.
Like I said, I'm probably doing a terrible job of explaining this, but the discussion actually made sense of a lot of things that I'd never understood before. Greeting cards in particular had long baffled me, because I couldn't see a practical use for them. The MetaFilter discussion revealed that they're about relationship maintenance, about letting someone know that you've thought about them and remain invested in the connection you share. They're symbolic, not ends unto themselves.
Likewise, I've always thought it odd that U.S. culture is so insistent that men just aren't concerned with emotions and don't notice or care about anniversaries or having a clean house and so forth, but I never had a good counterexample until someone noted that men actually think a lot about other people's feelings during courtship, and will go way out of their way to consider feelings, buy gifts, remember anniversaries and birthdays, clean their place before someone comes over, and so forth; they stop doing so after marriage because acknowledging those things takes effort to do, and nobody expects men to because we all know that men are terrible at feelings/anniversaries/etc.
Also I was astounded at the number of grown men who don't know how to do laundry. Like, literally have no idea how laundry even works, couldn't even guess at how to do laundry. And that's not even close to the worst story. Not by a long shot.
Anyway. If this sounds interesting to you, check it out. Nobody expects you to read all 737 pages if you don't want to (I haven't gotten to the end myself.), but you don't have to read the whole thing to get the idea. If this doesn't interest you, then you've wasted a couple minutes reading this footnote, but you never have to think about it again.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Unfinished Business: the parent Schlumbergeras

So the original plan for this post was to show you pictures of, and talk about, the sixteen named varieties of Schlumbergera I have. That's not the post you're going to get, though, because:

Six of the sixteen were brand-new cuttings in October, and although a few have budded, I don't expect the buds to open. I mean, maybe, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

I didn't actually take photos of many of the rest of them this year. For one thing, the blooms mostly look the same from one year to the next, so there's not much point to re-photographing them. For another, the thing about having lots of Schlumbergeras is that they all bloom at once, which means that during the time when I could have been documenting the 2015 blooms of all the parent Schlumbergeras, I was running around trying to get all the seedlings photographed. So this will be a significantly abbreviated version of the post I intended to write, and instead of sixteen plants, you'll see six.

NOID red-pink

I actually bought a new Schlumbergera this year; I think this is the first time that's happened since 2010. It fills a gap in the rainbow of Schlumbergera colors for me, and it was only $5.1

I may have been so excited about the color that I wasn't paying attention to the condition of the stems. (The shriveled stems may be the result of the car ride home, or the plant's location in the plant room. It certainly got worse after this photo, which was taken more or less immediately after it got home, so probably it's my fault.)

I'm not worried about the long-term survival of the plant, which is full enough that I'm sure some part of it will survive regardless, but I'm a little concerned about the fruits being able to hold on long enough to ripen. It produced enough fruits that I'm sure I'll have seeds to sow, but I'm more interested in some combinations than others, and since I don't know which fruits come from which pollen parents, I want them all to ripen.

NOID yellow

The NOID yellow produced a decent number of flowers this year, but its timing sucked: most of them were over before the other plants started to bloom. Worse, most of the flowers were spent before I thought to start writing down which crosses I was attempting. My guesses, based on which plants started blooming early, are: 'Caribbean Dancer,' 018A "Nudibranch," 082A "Strawberry Madeleine," 025A "Clownfish," 099A "Dessert Room," and NOID magenta. But I'll probably never know which is which.2

I don't think the NOID yellow has been a strong spring bloomer before, but I can't remember for sure, so there's a chance that maybe I'll get to make some recorded crosses later.


The only real story with 'Stephanie' is that she's really come into her own this year: finally large enough to produce a decent number of blooms (though of course no multi-bloom or whole-plant photo. Sorry.). They were all streaky like this. The color isn't very interesting, being close to some of the 'Caribbean Dancer' seedlings (especially 022A "Sad Tomato"), but again, a deeper gene pool is a good thing.

NOID lavender-pink

Last spring, I got a cutting from Virginia Burton of a plant with lavender/pink/lilac blooms. This is her picture of the original plant (with some color-adjustment):

And this is what most of its blooms have looked like for me, this fall:

NOID lavender-pink, 22 November 2015.

It's not that there's no pink at all, but if I didn't know it was supposed to be lavender-pink, I'd call this a white bloom. I mean, my actual NOID white, which at one time truly was producing entirely-white blooms --

NOID white, January 2010.

-- has produced quite a few blooms this year with some pink on the "tubes." Not quite this pink, sure, but there's enough pink on the "white" plant that the pinkest "white" blooms look a lot like the "lavender-pink" blooms. And the last of the "lavender-pink" blooms was basically pure white:

NOID lavender-pink, 13 December 2015.

So there's enough overlap between the two to make it plausible that they're the same variety. I doubt that they are, but I can't prove that they're not.

In some ways, this sort of thing is a nice surprise. It's always interesting when a plant doesn't behave like it's supposed to, and now I have a mystery to solve. In other ways, well, I was sort of hoping for a color I didn't already have. So it winds up sort of a wash: not upset, not pleased.

NOID lavender-pink, 22 November 2015.

I've attempted to cross the NOID white and NOID lavender-pink together, so I may be able to determine whether they're the same variety within a few weeks.3 If not, what accounts for the different coloration? (I may never be able to answer this.4)

NOID lavender-pink, 22 November 2015.

The tendency of Schlumbergeras to do things they're not supposed to do, or things they've never done previously, will come up again in a little bit.

x buckleyi

X buckleyi is another one finally coming into its own; I've seen seven eight blooms from it so far this year (The previous record was two.), and I've of course attempted to pollinate all of them because it's what I do. The potential pollen parents: 021B "Birthday Dinner," 025A "Clownfish," 031A "Baby Carrots," 078A "Art Party," 083A "Psychedelic Bunny," 'Caribbean Dancer,' 'Exotic Dancer,' and NOID white. Two of those (probably from "Birthday Dinner," "Clownfish," and/or 'Exotic Dancer') have pretty definitely taken; the others were recent enough attempts that it's not yet clear whether pollination happened.

I'm a little hesitant to include x buckleyi in the breeding, for various reasons. I'm not crazy about its drooping habit -- the more upright S. truncata hybrids look nicer to my eye, and I know they're more commercially viable. I'm not that into the rounded stem segments. It's a pain to bring into bloom because it's fussy about day length.5 (At one time, I worried about breeding it with other plants because it's supposed to be a true Christmas-blooming Christmas cactus, and would therefore not usually bloom at the right time to cross, or would produce seedlings that bloomed late. It actually bloomed at more or less the same time as all the others, though, so that turns out not to be a problem.) None of these are qualities I'd be happy to see in a seedling.

At the same time, though, the flowers have a slightly different shape to them, and the colors are nice. I especially like the slight orange tinge to the petals at the back of the flower. It would be interesting to see this sort of coloration in a seedling that wasn't so picky about day length. So I'm going to experiment with it a little bit anyway. Check back in 2019.

NOID peach

I have two NOID peach plants, which may or may not be the same variety. Someday I should attempt to cross them to find out, but the newer, smaller plant has only produced one bloom in its history here, so it could be a while before I get the chance.

The older, larger plant has been my most variable parent. The blooms are typically a solid light orange, like so:

Probably 2010?

but occasionally they've been more pink than orange. (Hence calling it the "NOID salmon" or "NOID salmon-peach" for a few years before settling on "NOID peach" this year.) Lately, it's been peach, no pink, but even then, the color varies. In 2009, the flowers had an even, solid color, like in the above photo, but this year, the pigment has been concentrated near the petal margins. The petal centers have flecks of orange in them, but are otherwise white or very pale pink. And this is true for every single flower.

And again, I have no idea what this signifies. The plant doesn't appear to be in very good shape: the segments are slightly shriveled, and it's not using as much water as it used to. So it may be a stress response, because of the roots rotting or something along those lines.

Also pointing toward a stress response: the NOID peach has produced a lot of blooms all at once. This is sometimes plantspeak for "well, you've finally done it, you've killed me. You want flowers? Here, have some fucking. flowers. Have so many flowers you drown in them. Have so many flowers you choke on them. I'd rather die than let you keep treating me like this."

But lots of flowers could just mean that the plant is older and larger than it used to be, and therefore capable of producing more flowers. (Plants think they're good communicators, but they're actually very bad at it. Lucky for us, since if they ever get organized and really come for us, we're completely hosed.6)

I've seen streaky blooms before, on a number of plants (most notably 'Caribbean Dancer,' 'Exotic Dancer,' NOID magenta, NOID red-pink, 'Stephanie,' and 088 "Cyborg Unicorn"), but of those, only 'Stephanie' approaches this amount of speckling. Nor do the streak-prone plants have anything in common as far as I can tell. They don't all appear to be dying, they're not all close to the floor, they're not all exposed to a lot of direct sun, etc. Nor do all of the plants capable of streaking actually do it all of the time: NOID magenta and 'Stephanie' are always streaky; 088A "Cyborg Unicorn" and 'Caribbean Dancer' only do it occasionally, the NOID red-pink is too new for me to know what's normal, and the NOID peach has been doing it lately but didn't a few years ago. So there's another mystery to try to figure out. (Have you observed streaking on your own plants, ever? Was there anything weird about them -- did they seem stressed or anything?)


1 (Reha Greenhouses, Wellman, IA, for anyone who might be in the area. Run, don't walk.)
2 I've decided that what I've been doing with the Anthuriums -- known seed parent, unknown pollen parent -- has been working well enough that I can do the same with the Schlumbergeras.
The reasons I don't try to make deliberate crosses with the Anthuriums are: 1) doing so would mean washing the paintbrush out every time I switched to a new source of pollen. 2) I'd have fewer opportunities to attempt crosses, since any given bloom only produces pollen for a short period, and only accepts pollen for a short period, so if I try to pollinate A with B's pollen, and I'm too early and A wasn't accepting pollen yet, by the time I get around to trying to pollinate A again, B probably isn't shedding pollen anymore, and the whole bloom goes to waste. Whereas if I'm indiscriminately pollinating everything with whatever pollen I have on hand, I'm much more likely to get some berries from each bloom, even if they're not the berries I would have hoped for.
With Schlumbergeras, I don't need a paintbrush, because I can make reciprocal crosses between flowers by brushing the flowers together, so pollen purity isn't an issue. Plus, even though the pollen-shedding and pollen-receiving periods are both shorter than in Anthuriums, Schlumbergeras produce so many blooms at once that if there's a specific combination I'm interested in making, I'm much more likely to be able to attempt it. (Also, making reciprocal crosses means that even if it's too late for A to take B's pollen, it may not be too late for B to take A's pollen, so I have better odds of making a cross even when the timing isn't ideal.)
So it would be much easier for me to keep track of the pollen parents. I haven't been trying, partly because I don't want to tie even more pieces of yarn onto the seedlings, and partly because in the past it hasn't really mattered -- I'd been thinking of myself mostly as an Anthurium breeder who was dabbling in Schlumbergeras, so I wasn't that interested in the backgrounds of the Schlumbergeras. (Lately I'm thinking of myself more as a Schlumbergera breeder who dabbles in Anthuriums; I'll explain why in a later post.)
In the future, I'm probably going to try harder to keep track of which fruits come from which crosses, but this year, I only kept a list of which crosses I attempted to make, without trying to mark their locations. But my original point was that with the NOID yellow, I don't even have that much, since it was done blooming before I started recording the attempted pollinations.
3 Schlumbergera genetics prevents self-pollination, so if a cross is successful, they definitely aren't the same variety.
If a cross fails, they may be the same variety, but it's not as certain. The genes used to prevent self-pollination have a limited number of types (I think I remember reading that there were 12 or 13?), so there's always about an 8% chance that two randomly-selected but different plants will just happen to match on these genes.
(I think. I don't actually know that the 12 or 13 different versions of the compatibility gene are equally abundant in the Schlumbergera-breeding world. If one happens to be a lot more widespread than the others, then the odds of a pollination failing due to coincidence become a lot higher.)
UPDATED 20 December: they are plausibly the same variety; the fruits dropped off. This could be the result of them getting bumped or pulled accidentally, since they were still fairly large and green when they came off (when a cross fails, usually it remains attached, and the developing fruit shrinks and shrivels before dropping off). I may or may not get the chance to try again in the spring; we'll see.
4 I don't know what factors influence bloom color, aside from one: colder temperatures are supposed to produce pinker blooms. So if Ginny's plant is kept colder than mine are when buds are setting, that could explain what we're seeing. I'm not actually sure what temperatures my plants reach in the fall, though: the plant room overall gets down into the mid-60s F sometimes, for sure, and particular locations within the room probably get colder than that, but I don't know how much colder or for how long.
This can't be the whole story, though; as mentioned in the last-year's-seedlings posts (part 1, part 2), 061A "Leather Fairy" and 078A "Art Party" came up significantly pinker this year than last year, and 073A "Laurie Anderson" was less pink. And they were all in the same locations they were in last year, and are pretty close together (all within about 12 inches / 30 cm of each other). So there must be some other factors that can influence coloration. Maybe light intensity? Day temperatures? Age of plant?
5 Part of my success with it this year is because one of the side effects of redoing the basement shelves was that I had to take a light from the plant room, two shelves above x buckleyi, to use in the basement.
6 Shyamalan 2008.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pretty picture: Psychopsis Mariposa 'Twins'

The tag said 'Twin,' but the internet says it's 'Twins,' and PATSP is on the internet, so.

If this looks familiar, that's probably because it's the offspring of a previous orchid, Psychopsis Kalihi.

If it looks shitty, blame the brown background and the other orchids in the shot -- this was a bear of a photo to edit. I stopped editing not because I felt I'd gotten the best photo I was going to get, but because I was too frustrated with it to continue.

Psychopsis Mariposa 'Twins' = Psychopsis papilio x Psychopsis Kalihi (Ref.)