Saturday, November 8, 2008

PATSP Infrequently Asked Questions

This post is just to catch everybody up and just, you know, say what PATSP is all about; I don't usually get asked any of these things, hence the "infrequently." This post is also a way for me to de-clutter my sidebar, which is the sneaky practical reason for writing it. (There are almost always sneaky practical reasons.)

[This is the third edit of this page, because since I first wrote it in November 2008, various things have happened that change some of the answers.]

Aechmea fasciata.

1. What does "subjunctive" mean?

The subjunctive mood is a particular usage of verbs which is mostly, though not entirely, obsolete in English. It is used to express thoughts which are hypothetical, contingent on other action, contrary to established fact, wishes, and so forth.

2. Why don't you identify where you work by name?

Well, I don't work there anymore, so I suppose I could, if I wanted to, but at the time, the logic was that I really wanted to keep the two things as separate as possible. I didn't want blog readers to assume that everything I was saying about work was necessarily official; I didn't want my employers to have too much control over what I was allowed to say. So semi-anonymity (it's not like it would have been hard for someone to figure out where I worked: Google and a few phone calls would have revealed it to anyone who cared. It'd have been an afternoon's work to find out, if even that much.) was the best solution I could come up with.

As far as I can recall, I didn't ever reveal anything that would have been horribly damaging to the business, as far as trade secrets. I can only think of a couple things that could have qualified as damaging to the business in the first place. I did, without identifying specific people, occasionally mention that I was unhappy with co-workers, or the boss, or suppliers, or customers, and I acknowledged that we sometimes had pests, and used pesticides, and stuff like that, but I can't imagine that those things could really be that much of a surprise to anybody who's ever had a job or taken care of a plant.

I also, of course, talked about stuff I was reasonably proud of (the selection of plants we have, or can get, being the main one, but I was also pretty happy when, for example, we managed to successfully overwinter a batch of Dionaea muscipula, something which had not been done in previous years), but I couldn't have anonymity about the one thing and not about the other.

3. Do you have a favorite plant?

There are several that stand above the crowd as far as I'm concerned, but if forced to choose just one, I'd pick Yucca guatemalensis, Anthurium andraeanum, or Dracaena deremensis (variety 1, 2). Which specific one it was would totally depend on the day you asked. I did try, for my own amusement, to come up with a Top Ten Houseplants List, but my efforts there to be semi-objective kind of sabotaged the list. I've been thinking that I need to rig up some kind of tournament-style competition for all the plants I have, or have had, and see which one comes out on top. Perhaps later.

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii.'

4. Does this make me look fat?

Not at all. You look great, just like you always do.

5. Where does the name Plants are the Strangest People come from?

I answered that at some length here. The short answer is, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." (The TV show. Not the movie.)

6. What do "cv.," "cvv.," "sp.," "spp.," "var.," "x," "ssp." and "NOID" mean, in plant names?

Cv. and cvv. are abbreviations for cultivar(s). Cultivars (= "cultivated variety") are particular named varieties of plants which are usually but not always all clones of one another, specially chosen because they're very pretty, pest-resistant, long-blooming, or some other thing like that. Cultivar names are not italicized, and are put in single quotes in a botanical name. (For example: Dracaena deremensis cv. 'Lemon-Lime.') Usually, in a name, the "cv." part is left out (Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime'), and the only time you see cv. is as an abbreviation for the word cultivar.

One "v" means it's referring to a particular cultivar, and two "v"s mean I'm referring to all the cultivars of that species or cross (for example, if I want to talk about Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime,' Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckei,' Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig,' and all other Dracaena deremensis varieties simultaneously, I can just say, Dracaena deremensis cvv.).

Sp. and spp. are the same thing, but with species instead of cultivars. Both sp. and cv. sometimes mean the same as NOID, q.v.

Var. means variety, which may mean more or less the same thing as cultivar, or it may mean more or less the same thing as subspecies. I think it's closer to cultivar, in that it's more a legal term than a taxonomic one, but I see it used more often like it's a taxonomic one. So I don't know. How much do you even care?

Ssp. is short for subspecies. The idea behind the subspecies designation is hard to explain, but it basically amounts to two distinct populations of a species with slightly different characteristics. Wikipedia uses the example of a species of frog, let's call it Rana hypotheticala, that lives in a long stream. If the upstream frogs are usually white, and the downstream frogs are usually black, and the frogs in between the white and black populations are also either white or black, not gray or spotted or striped, and white frogs will interbreed with black ones freely, giving fertile offspring, given the opportunity, then the two colors of frog could be considered subspecies of the same thing, perhaps Rana hypotheticala ssp. alba and Rana hypotheticala ssp. nigra. If interbreeding results in intermediate forms, like gray, spotted, or striped, or if the two forms of frog will not willingly interbreed, then they are more accurately considered two species of the same genus instead, and one could name them Hypotheticalirana alba and H. nigra.

Presumably, if one is talking about a group of subspecies, the abbreviation sspp. might be used, but I have no idea whether it is.

"X" is used to indicate a cross between species (Hibiscus syriaca x rosa-sinensis) or cultivars, and is most often used to mean "I don't have a species name for this plant, and it's probably a cross of something so I'm just going to use 'x' here and go on." As, for example, in Chlorophytum x 'Fire Flash.' As with cv., this is usually left out of a plant name.

"NOID" is short for NO IDentification, and refers to plants one has been unable to identify, or uninterested in identifying, or only partly able to identify. Examples: Dieffenbachia NOID; Peperomia obtusifolia NOID.

Assorted Begonia rex cvv.

7. How about "q.v.," "e.g.," and "i.e.?"

Q.v. is Latin for "which see," and basically means, please also check out this other thing because I think it's relevant to what I'm saying. You can think of it as the Latin word for "hyperlink." Kinda.

E.g. is Latin again, for "exempli gratia," for example.

I.e. is also, surprisingly, Latin, and means "id est," which translates loosely as that is, or in other words, or when I'm using it, what I'm trying to say is.

8. Who is WCW?

WCW stands for Wonderful Co-Worker, the name I used on the blog (and still use, occasionally) to talk about the other person who worked in the greenhouse with me year-round (since I doubt she wanted me using her actual name). I'm still using WCW to refer to her because I'm accustomed to calling her WCW so that's her name even if it's no longer strictly accurate.

9. And she's wonderful?

Yes, at least 90% of the time. Still W, no longer CW, still WCW.

Ficus maclellandii.

10. What's your deal with windmills?

"Windmills do not work that way!" is a line from "Futurama," which I tried to explain here. (Depending on your browser, you may not land at the right spot on this page. You want footnote 6.) It basically means that I'm calling someone stupid.

11. What's a wev?

Wev (sometimes also wevs.) is a contraction of the word "whatever," used when one cares so little about the topic at hand that it's too much effort even to say the entire word "whatever." Adopted from Shakesville.

12. Please do my homework for me?


13. I have a [name of plant] that is [undesired activity]. Tell me how to fix it.

Give it the proper care, if it's at least partly healthy, and buy a new one, if it's not.

14. That doesn't help at all.

What, are your fingers broken? Use the google. Search this blog. Or try posting your question at Garden Web.

15. You seem angry.

Sometimes, yeah.

Haworthia attenuata

16. Who is Nina?

Only the best darn little brown anole (Anolis sagrei) in the whole wide world. Nina has lived with me since March 2009, and arrived in Iowa by accident, in a shipment of tropical plants from Florida. She was found in a garbage bag full of pop cans, where she had apparently been living on people's leftover droplets of soda, about three weeks after a tropical delivery, and I felt bad for her, so I caught her and brought her home and eventually wound up adopting her because she kept telling me she knew a guy who could save me all kinds of money on my car insurance, which turned out to be a lie, and also because she was adorable.

You can read the entire Nina story to date by checking the posts tagged "Nina."

17. Why the name Nina?

Because not long before that, I had been watching the "reality" show "RuPaul's Drag Race" on Bravo, and originally my impulse was to name her Rebecca, after contestant Rebecca Glasscock, who was kind of unpleasant. I thought having a lizard named for you, when you were a drag performer, was probably insulting.

However, when I announced my intentions to name the lizard Rebecca here at PATSP, my readership informed me that there was nothing inherently insulting about having a lizard named for you, and insisted that I go with Nina (for contestant Nina Flowers, who it has to be said did come off as a much nicer person, and was also a lot more interesting artistically), and so she has been Nina ever since.

18. And Sheba?

Sheba is the dog we adopted from a shelter in March 2010. She throws up a lot more than Nina, but sheds her skin a lot less often. Her ancestry is thought to be black Labrador Retriever + German Shepherd + ??????, though we're only sure about the black lab part. The posts to date about Sheba can be found here.

19. Are you a man or a woman, in real life?

Glad you asked. This seems to be a point of confusion for several people, which kind of weirds me out. I mean, my handle is "Mr. Subjunctive." Seems pretty unambiguous to me. And then there's the "author photo," which, though admittedly a cartoon and everything, is still of a male. And so on.

But then I figured out that the confusion was because I refer fairly often to my husband on the blog, and for most people, still, if someone has a husband, then that means they're female.

In this particular case, though, that's a bad assumption. I am in fact a gay man. And! The husband is an actual, legal husband, also, since June 30, 2009, which is pretty cool and makes me so proud of Iowa that it (partly) makes up for our Representative Steve King (5th district), who is such an idiot that one assumes he must be followed around at all times by a team of Capitol janitors who specialize in drool-mopping.

20. Is there a reason for all the plant anthropomorphization?

Glad you asked about this too. There is, actually. My logic here is that people are naturally psychologists: a lot of the human brain is devoted to trying to anticipate the actions and intentions of others, and we spend a lot of time thinking about other people, and what they are thinking and doing. By making each of the plants I talk about "people" in some fashion, I figure I can make the plant both more memorable and easier to understand, by activating those parts of your brain that find other people interesting. The cost of doing this is that I spend a lot of time making statements which are not, literally, true, and inviting the assumption that I believe that plants have feelings and aspirations, which I actually don't believe.

21. How do you come up with the difficulty-level numbers, in the plant profiles?

There's a secret PATSP formula, less secret now that I'm posting it on the web. I first give the plant 0 to 3 ratings on nine different aspects of care:

1) How badly does the plant require very bright light?
2) How quickly will the plant fall apart if overwatered?
3) How quickly will the plant fall apart if underwatered?
4) How attractive is the plant to pests (or, in some cases, disease)?
5) How much time does a person have to spend cleaning up this plant, or cleaning the floor around this plant, or pruning? Does it have difficult to remember seasonal expectations? Etc. (This one's basically the "fudge factor;" plants that are problematic in some way not covered by the other eight criteria score high here.)
6) Does this plant have reasonable expectations for air temperature?
7) How much does the plant require high humidity levels?
8) How easy is the plant to propagate?
9) Does the plant demand high amounts of fertilizer in order to look good, or does it need normal amounts of fertilizer but on some complicated schedule?

Then those numbers are plugged into a formula on my Excel PATSP spreadsheet:


And that number is converted to the final number by rescaling (I rescaled so that the most difficult plant in the list would get a rating of 10.0 and the easiest in the list would get a 0.0.):

(1.490196*RAW#)-1.69935 = FINAL#

Which is the number that gets posted. The spreadsheet does most of this on its own, so I don't actually have to go through these calculations by hand or anything.

The mean score in the first batch of plants I evaluated was 3.7, and the median was 3.2. So "average" difficulty is about 3.5, instead of 5.0 like you'd expect.

Numbers are subject to change, if subsequent experience leads me to believe that some of the ratings were incorrect. You may find that plants I've rated difficult are easy for you, and vice-versa: this is more or less to be expected. If you don't care about propagating your plants, then the propagation number will be meaningless; if you have no windows at all, the light number will be much more important. Etc.

Now aren't you sorry you asked?

Chlorophytum comosum

22. Not really. Can you suggest a houseplant for me that is [particular characteristic]?

Maybe, maybe not. There are some lists of plants with heart-shaped leaves, plants that are native to Mexico, plants that can be propagated from single leaves, and so forth. You can find a list of the lists here.

23. You got something wrong in one of the posts, and the error is ruining my life. What should I do?

Leave a comment saying what's wrong, what the right information is, and if possible, leave a link or two to make it easier on me to verify that you're right. I won't always change the post, but I'm more likely to do so if you can back up what you're saying with reference to credible sources of some kind. I'm fairly flexible about what counts as "credible." It also helps if you're nice. You don't have to be deferential to the point of obsequiousness: just don't be a dick.

24. Were those pictures supposed to relate to this post in some way?

No. Decorative only. Sorry for the confusion.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Pretty picture: NOID orchid

Usually, NOID orchids are NOIDs because we don't have an identification for them at all. This particular NOID is a NOID because we have more than one identification tag for it, the tags don't agree with one another, and I don't think either of the tags actually refer to the flower in question.

It's pretty anyway, though.

We got two of this same plant in yesterday's tropical order. One had a tag in it saying "Mtssa. Shelob 'Webmaster.'" The other plant had a tag saying "Odcdm. Alxra. Pacific Paradox 'Yellow Star.'"

The latter doesn't exist, according to Google Image Search, and the shorter "Alxra. Pacific Paradox 'Yellow Star' gets a "Did you mean alcra. pacific paradox 'yellow star?'"

'Yellow Star' is similar, but still different: the brown spots are more concentrated in the center of the flower. This might be the same thing, but might not. (Picture of 'Yellow Star') The search for the other tag turns up something that looks a lot like the Miltassa we've seen recently, which is not surprising since it's from the same cross.

So: I think it's the Alcra. (Alcra. = Aliceara, which is Brassia x Miltonia x Oncidium; Alxra. does actually exist, and refers to the similar but distinct Alexanderara, which is the same mix as Aliceara but with the addition of some Cochlioda genes. Confused yet?) I just don't think it's that particular one.

So I think it's clear that the moral of the story is, don't assume you know what it is just 'cause it has a tag in it. Which if you've been buying plants for any length of time at all you already knew, or at least suspected, anyway.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Wicked Witch of the West (Philodendron 'Xanadu')

Part Two of the Wizard of Oz series brings us to Philodendron 'Xanadu.' I feel a little bad about this; my only other Philodendron profile to date ('Autumn') was fairly negative, and this one's going to be as well. It's not that I don't like the genus. Quite the contrary, I think they're swell. They, however, are not thrilled with me, apparently. And unlike 'Autumn,' 'Xanadu' doesn't like me at home or at work: most plants only misbehave for me in one place or the other.

But so the question I'm sure you're dying to have answered is, what on earth could the connection be between this plant and this character?

That's right. Philodendron 'Xanadu' melts if you throw water on it. And sometimes when you don't, too.

My first encounter with this was last December. We got in a box of 'Xanadus' from our tropical supplier, and within the box, each plant was in an individual plastic sleeve. (Some growers do this: it keeps leaves from getting entangled during transit, and makes it easier to pack boxes.) When we took the sleeves off, a number of the leaves were basically liquefied, stuck to the plastic, or to one another. And there was an odor as well. Oh, holy Hostas, was there an odor. The best description I can manage is, imagine celery that's in hell and is really unhappy about it. It didn't have the ammonia edge of some rotting plants,1 which is good, I guess, but it was still profoundly unfriendly.

We did the best we could, stripped off the leaves that had fallen apart, and called it a case of cold damage, that being the only theory we really had to go on. I mean, it was December, so it was cold, and the trip up from Florida always takes at least three days. But the disintegration kept on going for quite a while after that: perfectly intact leaves would develop water-soaked patches at the edges, which would enlarge, and eventually those leaves, too, would melt. A faint angry-celery odor lingered around the plants even after they stopped shedding leaves, in the way that a paroled arsonist might linger in the paint-thinner section of Lowe's.

And amazingly, they all sold, eventually (they're pretty plants, undeniably, when they're healthy and happy), so we ordered more this summer. And it all happened all over again. Vile odors, liquefying leaves, everything exactly the same except the theory. 'Cause obviously cold damage was not the problem this time.

In the end, I concluded that it was a bacterial infection (very likely the same one that caused the Dracaena marginata referenced in footnote 1 to rot), and that they had probably shipped with the infection already fairly widespread, and the only thing to do would be to just not get any more 'Xanadus' until we could either get them from somebody else or figure out a quick and easy cure.

And then I found a specimen that I, personally, couldn't pass up.

It was a big plant, in like a two-gallon pot, for sale at Peck's, yet another garden center in Cedar Rapids, and they (mysteriously, inexplicably) only wanted $5 for it. There were a few leaves that looked damaged, in a burnt rather than melty way, and there was a bit of the angry-celery odor, but by this point I'd kind of forgotten how long and drawn out it had all been during the winter, and the summer problems had basically ended and turned into a different problem (don't worry, I'll get there), so I thought well, what the hell, $5 for a $30 plant -- I'd be a fool not to, right?

And it looked pretty good when it first got home (not that it's the best picture, but at least you can gauge overall size and fullness):

And it's been going downhill pretty steadily ever since. The rotting leaves stopped, but it's still throwing leaves. So now it looks like this:

By the time this gets posted, I will have donated the plant to work, where it will either recover, be priced, and get sold, or continue to decline until it's thrown out. I don't want it anymore, whatever the outcome.

The likely cause of the rot, by the way, is Erwinia, a bacterium which causes rot in a number of plants besides just Philodendron and Dracaena: we've had some Dieffenbachias with it too, and it works the same way: liquefying, noxious-smelling leaves, though somehow each genus produces its own individual eau de yuck, and Dieffenbachia's has a weird sort of burnt note to it that the others don't.2 Erwinia bacteria can be spread from plant to plant merely by having them touching, but it also spread if water splashes off of one plant and lands on another (I wasn't kidding about 'Xanadus' melting when you throw water on them.), or via infected hands or tools. The good news is that most of the time, removing the affected tissue, giving the plant better air circulation, allowing the plants to dry out, and separating plants further from one another will take care of the problem.3

The bad news: some plants seem to be able to hang on to their Erwinia potential even when they're properly spaced, watered, and groomed, and as best as I can tell, P. 'Xanadu' is one of those. So that kind of sucks. In fact, it may have caused the continued downhill slide of my plant: I didn't put my 'Xanadu' with the other plants, because I didn't want them to catch the infection,4 which means it was in a very un-choice spot: dark, possibly cold (it wasn't exactly in the path of an air conditioning / heat vent, but it was close enough that I had questions about it), and -- although I don't know that this is necessarily an issue -- there may also be a high ethylene concentration there too.5

LIGHT: Philodendrons will usually tolerate fairly low light for quite a while, and I'm told by our supplier that 'Xanadu' is usually a pretty good long-term low-light plant as long as you are very sparing with the water. Bright indirect light or filtered sun are probably still best, if available. I wouldn't do full sun indoors if you can help it.
WATERING: Less is definitely more, here. Our supplier said that the Erwinia problem could have been because the plants were shipped wet. (Not that anybody remembers whether they were: it's been almost a year.) Any kind of standing in water, or even heavy soil that dries slowly, is capable of causing problems. She characterized 'Xanadu' as being one of those plants that does best if neglected, and this is, like I said above, especially the case if it's in low light. That said, you are going to have to water it sometime, and although I know you expect me to know, I'm afraid I can't really tell you how to figure out when those times should be, since I've never managed to figure it out on my own plant. Sorry to disappoint. Even in the hot, bright, greenhouse, though, these seem to get by best on very little water.6
TEMPERATURE: Normal Philodendron temperatures. Keep out of drafts, don't ever let the temperature go below 50ºF (10ºC), and try to maintain a more or less constant environment between 65 and 85ºF (18-29ºC). The growers' guide says cold damage often shows up on 'Xanadu' as a reddish discoloration, though I've never seen this on the work plants. There are people on who claim that it will take cold temperatures (to 20ºF / -7ºC !?) and remain alive (though foliage will die back), and will even accept being gradually cooled down (over a period of several months) to 37ºF (3ºC) without dying back.7 I wouldn't take these kinds of risks personally, but at least you know that a chill isn't necessarily the end of the world. They actually seem not to mind extreme heat, either: we've had some in very hot, dry spots before and they didn't act like that was a problem. It might actually be helpful, if they're not drying out fast enough.
HUMIDITY: Our supplier says that this is not usually a big concern, and like I said, there have been plants in hot dry spots in the greenhouse before, without noticeable impact.

PESTS: The usual suspects: spider mites, scale, mealybugs, though none of those seem to be huge issues. (Of course, it's hard to get spider mites when your leaves are only occasionally in solid form.) Erwinia is far and away the most serious pest/disease issue with 'Xanadu,' in my experience, and the way our supplier talked, it seems like that's the major problem on the wholesale side too.
GROOMING: I would think this one would be pretty obvious from the text.
FEEDING: Philodendrons as a genus are, according to the growers' guide, relatively heavy feeders, and that is more or less confirmed by my own experience. So it should be okay to feed with every watering, possibly not at full strength.
PROPAGATION: 'Xanadu' is a patented variety, so propagation for sale is prohibited by law. Propagation for personal enjoyment is not prohibited so much as just not really possible: some Philodendron species (e.g. P. selloum) will form offsets at the plant's base, given a healthy plant, favorable conditions, and enough time, but it's not fast, and not especially likely indoors.8 I would bet that 'Xanadu' is instead propagated mainly by tissue culture, like 'Autumn,' 'Prince of Orange,' and 'Moonlight,' (also patented hybrid Philodendrons) so the only form of propagation available to most of us is division.

If you find yourself stuck with one of these plants, I suspect there are only two routes to success: one, you can observe it very very closely and see if it drops leaves after you water (in which case you're watering too much), and write things down (dates of watering, what it did afterward) until you figure out what works and what doesn't, or, two, try to ignore it completely and hope to luck into an arrangement that works.

Personally? I give up.


Photo credits: Wicked Witch photo via; "Surrender Dorothy" is from; all others are my own.

1 The all-time winner, which will hopefully never be equalled or surpassed, is a Dracaena marginata cane I smelled after it had gone rotten. It was described with words and phrases like sharp, ammoniacal, dear Jesus what is that, and I'd rather poke my eye with a sharp stick than smell that again.
2 Yeah, that's right: put me in a room with a bunch of liquefied, rotting tropical vegetation, and I can tell you what genus it's from. That, and the ability to visually identify 3-, 4-, 6-, and 8-inch pots, both standard and azalea proportions, from a distance of twenty feet, are the main superhero skills I've picked up from this job. The pot-size thing, actually, has gotten to the point where I no longer even think about it; a pot is just obviously 6 inches across, no way you could think it would be anything else, so now I get surprised, rattled, and sometimes even a little cranky (on bad days) when a customer asks me the size of something.
3 Except in the case of Dracaenas, which don't really come back under any conditions, not once rot has begun.
4 Is "infection" still the word if the victim is a plant? I know "infestation" doesn't sound right. . . .
5 Ethylene is a small molecule produced by some plants, which acts as a hormone. The particular effect varies according to the situation, but the pertinent part here is that in some genera (notably Ficus and Philodendron), ethylene can induce leaves to drop. Ethylene is also produced by some fruit, notably ripening bananas. The 'Xanadu' is on the kitchen table, where there's often a bowl of apples and bananas. So you see the theory. Even if ethylene was part of the problem, the way that the leaves dropped made me think it was still probably more of a watering, dry-air, or Erwinia issue. Might also be worth noting that if it was ethylene, it didn't seem to be present in a large enough concentration to affect any of the other plants in the area, which is another reason to think it wasn't ethylene.
6 'Xanadu' may be an exception to the general rule about watering indoor containerized plants. Ordinarily, one should always water thoroughly, making sure that the soil is completely saturated with water, then drain the excess and place the plant back in its normal location. This is the case regardless of the plant involved, whether it be cactus or Maranta. The identity of the particular plant becomes relevant when you're deciding how fast the soil should dry out, after this drenching, and for how long: cacti, obviously, will rot out quickly if they remain wet, and need a very lean, sandy/gritty soil and a porous container like a clay pot; plants that like more moisture need a richer soil, and can handle a plastic container. And then obviously plants that like to be dry should have longer intervals between waterings. This is an ongoing frustration of mine, because people seem to have the idea that giving plants frequent small sips of water is the way you're supposed to water. But with 'Xanadu,' frequent small sips might be the better way to go, since it is so intolerant of waterlogging. I haven't tried this personally, so I can't promise that it works, but if you've got a 'Xanadu' in decline, this might be something to try.
7 Of course, one of the commenters at also says that "the leaves have a refreshing aroma," which makes me really question whether we're talking about the same plant or not. Ain't nothing refreshing about angry-celery scent.
8 (I've gotten hung up on the healthy-plant requirement, unfortunately.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Scent of Gardening

Would you buy this? For anybody?

Our most emblematic fragrance. We think of this as April 10th when the plowing begins in the Northeast U.S.. The turned earth with a touch of last season's corn stalks. Beautiful. Dirt is Earth and Earth is Dirt, not all Earth and not all Dirt are created equal.

There's more at the link, including a bunch of garbage about stones being created from a particular combination of earth, air, fire and water. (People! None of those are elements! That four-element theory hasn't been plausible for hundreds of years! I am not amused by your sad attempts at lyricism!) I don't think it's a parody. Getting harder to tell, though.

Picture from Demeter Fragrance.

Can anybody think of a reason why someone would want this product? They don't really explain at the site. I mean, dirt smells nice, it's true, but it's not normally all that expensive to smell like dirt, ya know? $11.50 for a 4-oz Bath and Shower Gel that smells like dirt? Are you joking?

(Hat-tip to Molecule of the Day for drawing my attention to this.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

PATSP Crossword #1

There may not be a PATSP Crossword #2, but I thought I should plan for one anyway, just in case.

This is an actual, honest-to-God functioning crossword, solvable and everything. A number of the clues are kind of specific to PATSP, in that they refer to plant / "person" pairs or running jokes, so it helps if you're a regular reader.

For best results, open the puzzle as an image in its own window, and print it out. I have no idea how difficult this is really; I've never been a big doer of crosswords. (I tend to get frustrated too easily when I run into a block of stuff I can't figure out.) You, at least, have the advantage of being at a computer, where you can Google for a lot of this if you get stuck.

Feedback as to difficulty, comments about composition, etc. is heartily encouraged.

This puzzle was made with the demo version of Crossword Compiler, which takes the otherwise prohibitively annoying process of making a crossword puzzle and makes it only very extremely annoying.


1 Where there's a pimp, there's a ____
4 In the reimagined "Battlestar Galactica," he was President of the Twelve Colonies when the Cylon attack began
7 Evil, evil evil houseplant pest
11 Inflammation of the bone
14 Ficus religiosa common name
15 Homer Simpson exclamation
16 guatemalensis, filamentosa, recurvifolia, filifera, etc.
17 Writer of essays
19 Pier
20 Noon to midnight
21 Common name of Cordyline fruticosa
24 Milliliter (abbrev.)
26 Some Aglaonemas come from this Southeast Asian country
28 Popular genus of succulents
30 Hebrew name for girls; means "God is good."
32 Evil genius plant genus
35 This insurance company's executives went on a $444,000 retreat in California following its bailout by U.S. taxpayers
37 Spanish second-person pronoun
39 Gay slang: younger effeminate guy, or younger masculine woman
40 One of two elements involved in table salt (chemical symbol) (see 23 down)
41 English, Algerian, devil's, Swedish, grape, oakleaf, etc.
43 What one finds in the Everglades
47 Ted Lange's bartender, on "The Love Boat"
49 ______ cap mushrooms turn black and disintegrate when older
51 Erigeron spp. common name: flea_____
53 What Saddam Hussein and Sherlock Holmes have in common
54 Agriculture (abbrev.)
55 Stephanie Vanderkellen exclamation
56 Spielberg science-fiction film
57 If more plants came with these, there would be fewer NOIDs
60 Neoregelia '_________'
64 To leave out some sounds
66 Drinking and driving charge
67 Extremely famous princess, died in 1997
68 Butterfly bush genus
70 Kathy Griffin's "My Life on the ________"
71 For _______ With Love and Squalor
72 Associated Press

1 Romance novel heroine plant genus
2 Ohio State University
3 Landlord plant genus
4 Where my homies ___?
5 Sadistic plant genus
6 Don't make one of yourself
7 Alternate milk
8 Some blogs sell space for ______ on their pages, though few make any real money at it
9 Means, and is derived from, "lottery"
10 Mr_Subjunctive has been practicing adding this to the ends of his sentences, just in case the U.S. election goes badly
12 Twin Cities and Western Railroad (abbrev.)
13 The opposite of IANAL (internet slang)
14 Common name for Bambusa, Phyllostachys
18 Celebrity plant genus
22 The situation of having equal-sized gametes
23 The other of two elements involved in table salt (chemical symbol) (see 40 across)
26 Where movies come from
27 Take on them
28 False goats' beard genus
29 Oklahoma (postal abbrev.)
31 Variety of medicinal Aloe, or Vladimir Nabokov's wife
33 ________ Rinna, Taylor McBride on "Melrose Place" (a friend of mine used to call her "crazy lips")
34 http://www.blotanical.___/
36 ___ and out
38 Ultraviolet (abbrev.)
42 ____ and yang
44 Japanese horseradish
45 Love in a mist genus
46 Domain name (abbrev.)
48 Selenium (chemical symbol)
50 Singer lang
52 Website (Tagline: "The internet makes you stupid.")
54 Lying down at night (archaic?)
58 For example, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
59 You _____ as you sow, in the garden. Except for the weeds.
61 Three, to a Roman
62 Eastern Daylight Time (abbrev.)
63 Pounds (abbrev.)
65 Day, in Spanish
66 Double density floppy disks are/were coded ____
69 Delaware (postal abbrev.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pop quiz: replacing plants in trays

The following diagram represents a plastic tray, with potted plants located in the six positions containing a circle.

The question is:

You are a customer who has picked up a plant from this plastic tray. You have decided not to purchase the plant and wish to replace it in the tray, but you do not remember where it was when you picked it up. Answer the following questions about this scenario.

1. Into which position would you set the plant?
2. Into which position would most customers set the plant?
3. Where do you think the guy who works in the greenhouse would want you to set the plant?

A. A

B. B

C. C

D. D

E. E

F. one of the spaces not marked by a letter.

G. any open space is equally acceptable.

H. A or E are equally preferable.

I. B or D are equally preferable.

Highlight the space below to read the answers:

1. whatever (no right or wrong answer). 2-C, 3-I.