Saturday, July 4, 2009

Blogroll addition

Just a quick note regarding an addition to the blogroll: I have added the delightful "Nature Assassin," a blog about a young woman in Chicago and the houseplants she kills. More or less. Sometimes they live. Check it out.

I'm particularly fond of "Aced, You Cottony Fuck," though I worry that victory over the mealybugs was declared prematurely. (Victory against mealybugs always seems to be declared prematurely.) I'm also interested in "Bow chicka' bow bow . . . ," because the wall color in the pothos pictures is almost exactly the color I used to have the office in the apartment painted. Though that really doesn't have much to do with anything, in terms of plant care. Anyway. Go say hi.

Random plant event: Impatiens bud

The volunteer Impatiens I asked about a while ago has flourished in Nina's terrarium, and is now one of the five biggest plants in there. Which I guess I'm okay with?

I would have been pretty sure about the ID by this point regardless, but the plant has decided to remove all doubt by flowering. So far, it looks like the flower is plain white: I've got my fingers crossed for a little bit of some other color.

I have helpfully labeled the bud in the above picture, as well as pointing out the anole poop, just in case anybody gets those mixed up.

Happy 4th of July to everyone who's inclined to have a happy 4th of July. We're expecting heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms here. It's supposed to last more or less all day long, with a high of 71F/22C, so I expect to enjoy myself.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pretty picture: Pentas lanceolata

It is apparently true that not only will writer's block pass, given enough time, but that after it passes, you'll have more ideas than you know what to do with. All of a sudden, I have a whole mess of potential new material, when just last week I was worried I wouldn't be able to come up with anything ever again. So that's good, kinda.

Took this picture yesterday at Menards. The garden-center season is pretty close to being over, now that we're into July, but there are still plants to be had, for anybody who's interested. Annuals are 50% off now where I used to work, if I remember the e-mail newsletter properly. Probably no Pentas left, though.

Point of interest: Pentas is both plural and singular. I won't say where, but I have seen signs at a garden center in the area extolling the virtues of the "Penta," which made me die a little inside. The same place was also really pushing the "springrey" ferns (the correct version is sprengeri, meaning: named for Sprenger) which didn't make me die inside but did make the baby Jesus cry. The first step in pretending to be a garden center is being able to write down the names of the plants you're selling, y'all. (Or at least it oughta be the first step. Yes I know I am being a pedantic jerk.)

We didn't have Pentas where I used to work in 2008, but we did get some in for 2009. They were . . . okay. I never quite figured out the appeal -- big balls of flowers (Pentas, Hydrangea, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) don't usually get me excited. I hear butterflies like Pentas, and I'm happy for the butterflies, though.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

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

I know I just did one of these, but I've burned most of my free time over the last two days working on something that looks like it's going to turn into a series of posts. I'm very pleased with the title -- it may in fact be my best title ever -- but the text is proving to be kind of difficult. It's one of those situations where I'm having trouble organizing my thoughts and figuring out what I want to say. My hope is that this was mostly caused by the relentless sawing and hammering coming from the living room over the same time period (the husband and his stepfather were doing carpentry-type stuff which I sort of understand now but couldn't explain concisely), which is distracting, even with earplugs. It might also just be that this is a complicated thing to write about. Time will tell.

And I could do a pretty picture of a flower or something, but I've pretty well taken pictures of everything I've got blooming at the moment (which was always fairly limited in the first place: I should go back to visit my ex-job for the blog fodder, except that we know I'd wind up buying plants, too), so we're left with another round of transmitted light photos. Which is fine with me. I just worry that it's tedious for y'all. In any case:

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

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana NOID. As usual with the thick leaves, even if you can get light to shine through, it doesn't necessarily show off any interesting structure. But sometimes the blurry, cloudy pictures are okay too.

Pilea nummulariifolia. This one was hard to get, but it turned out okay eventually. There are a few plants that I like to give sunny windows less because they require sun than because they're pretty by transmitted light: this is one of them.

Ficus 'Green Island.' This plant and I have gone through some tough times back at the apartment, but boy has it taken off and done well since the move. I've been impressed. If I'd known how appreciative the Ficuses would be, I would have tried harder to get them sun before.

Ardisia crenata. The other plants tease it about its freckles.

Impatiens x hawkeri NOID. I should have waited until the variegated New Guinea impatiens at work grew bigger leaves: would have made for a better picture. But you go to war with the Impatiens you have, not the Impatiens you wish you had, am I right, Rumsfeld?

Chlorophytum 'Charlotte.' The plant itself is still just barely hanging in there; it gets too dry a lot, I think. I should probably repot. The leaf picture is better than I remembered it being.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Peter Wonder.' I'm fairly certain the plant is capable of better photos than this. Will keep trying.

Brunnera cv. 'Emerald Mist.' My favorite from this batch by a mile.

Caladium 'Gingerland.' I'm pretty sure I could do better on this one, too, though really this picture only needs to be lightened a little, maybe up the contrast slightly. Oh well. The things you decide too late.

Codiaeum variegatum NOID. Including crotons kind of feels like cheating. Dunno why.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Personal-ish: Not everybody uses Twitter

I have realized that not everybody uses Twitter. You wouldn't think this would be something that could slip my mind, since I myself have only been on Twitter for about three weeks, but I have apparently acclimated quickly and thoroughly enough that I think if I announce something on Twitter then that means everybody knows.

Totally unrelated picture of Geranium 'Rozanne' for decorative purposes. I'm really becoming fond of 'Rozanne:' she photographs so well.

So, first of all, Happy Canada Day to everybody. (Yes, including you non-Canadians. You have to enjoy it too.) I hope Canada Claus brought everybody just what they wanted (though I understand demand for Ryan Reynoldses far exceeded the supply), and everybody got to spend quality time with their families, gathered around the Canada tree, singing Canada carols and drinking iced chocolate and stuff. The husband and I have already exchanged gifts: we gave one another traditional Canadian goods: Margaret Atwood novels, loons, and health care. Now I have to figure out what one feeds a loon. Grain of some kind? Fish? Also, is there a way to make them quieter?

Second, one of my Twitters yesterday was:
Back from Iowa City. Bought an art photo, got legally same-sex married in the state of Iowa, rented Sawzall. Came home, let dog-in-law out.
So now you know.

Memorial Day

Well, the move has been a done deal for a month now, and I think we've got a handle on how many plants survived. The current census lists the plant population here at 568. It looks like we lost seven from the move, and only one of those hurts, as the others were either duplicated many times over, or not doing terribly well before the move and already kind of mentally written off. I thought it would be only appropriate to take a moment to honor the memories of the fallen, before we go on. Readers with delicate constitutions may wish to look away:

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana.' January 2008 to June 2009. Cause of death unclear.

Streptocarpus 'Purple Martin.' March 2009 to June 2009. Cause of death believed to be repeated drought.

Saintpaulia ionantha cv. "the Dieffenbachia-leafed one." June 2008 to June 2009. Cause of death: drought. Survived by three clones.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Quarterback.' April 2008 to June 2009. Cause of death: extended drought.

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Bantel's Sensation.' February 2007 to June 2009. Cause of death: fall repotting combined with winter overwatering, rot, root loss. Survived by four leaf-section cuttings, none of which look likely to last more than a month themselves.

Saintpaulia ionantha NOID. November 2007 to June 2009. Cause of death: drought. Survived by three clones.

Not pictured: Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Electric Lime.' May 2009 to June 2009. Cause of death unknown.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Question for the Hive Mind: It Smelled Like Cookies

I predict I'm going to feel stupid for asking this soon, but I must know what this is:

(Flowers, some foliage. Color is approximately true.)

(Fruits. Degree of ripeness unknown.)

Piersons had them in Cedar Rapids when we visited. My sense of smell is fairly sensitive but not particularly well-calibrated (I smell odd, random things that nobody else can smell, or that others can smell but don't think they smell like what I think they smell like, fairly regularly), so I don't know how many people would share my impression, but to me, the flowers smelled considerably like freshly-baked sugar cookies. Which I think we can agree is a strange thing for flowers to smell like.

I had the husband check it out too, and he said, "anise?" Which, I dunno, maybe. (The husband's nose is, he claims, of low sensitivity and unknown accuracy.) I'm not particularly clear on what anise smells like.

I probably should have just asked at Piersons, but I'd already asked a Brugmansia question that occupied the entire staff for a good fifteen minutes or so, and it didn't seem right to get everybody running all over again. (I only wanted to know whether the smallish, flowerless $10 Brugmansias they had were the same variety as the larger, more expensive one with gorgeous pink-orange blooms they had at the door. Nobody knew for sure, though they told me yes, probably, to try to make the sale anyway. The husband talked me out of buying one. Or, more accurately, I think I talked him into talking me out of buying one, and then resented him for doing so, if you follow me. So now I have acute Brugmansia envy.)

But back to the plant at hand: I'm fairly certain we never had this where I worked, and it doesn't seem like an indoor kind of plant, but that's as much as I know. Anybody?

UPDATE: Savannah, by e-mail, suggests Duranta erecta 'Geisha Girl' (which may or may not be the same as 'Sweet Memories'). Not positive about the cultivar, but the profile for 'Sweet Memories' includes a comment that it smells like chocolate, the profile for 'Geisha Girl' includes a description of the fragrance as vanilla, and the profile for the (also blue) 'Sapphire Showers' says "flowers have a light candy-like fragrance." So we're definitely in an edible-smelling neighborhood, and I'm fairly certain this is the right species, whatever the variety.

Also, as best as I can tell, they're not at all indoor plants, and are sometimes problematic plants outdoors too. Which I'd suspected.

Thanks, Savannah!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Picture: new Haworthia

As I mentioned yesterday, I got a new plant on Saturday, which was tagged as Haworthia coarctata but was actually something different. (Point of interest: the sticker saying H. coarctata was on top of another sticker, which said Sempervivum arachnoides. So props to whoever tried to fix the tag, 'cause you at least got the genus right.)

After perusing the search results for "Haworthia" at, I have located a picture of H. limifolia var. ubomboensis, which looks enough like my plant that I'm willing to say that's what I have (though other websites list plants by that name, or as H. ubomboensis, which do not resemble my plant, so it's still somewhat uncertain).

My plant:

I do hope that H. l. var. ubomboensis is the right ID, both because I do not want to have to continue searching, and because "ubomboensis" is a fun word to say in my head. Too bad it's not H. l. var. udabomboensisnoudabomboensis, which would have been even more fun to say.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


I have another idea for a cultivar name that needs to happen. The ideal name for the next hot variety of Ajuga should be . . . Ajuga 'Jamaica.'


Or possibly Ajuga 'Jamaica Ooo I Wanna Take Ya,' though that's harder to fit on the tags, I suppose. And perhaps puts too fine a point on the joke. I have difficulty knowing where to stop sometimes.

This needs to happen. Ajuga breeders, please take heed. Thank you.

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

Went to Cedar Rapids yesterday because I desperately needed to get out of the house. Wound up going everywhere else, too, which kind of sucked (hot), but in the process I managed to get a new Haworthia.

It was labeled H. coarctata but is definitely not, if Google is to be believed. It might be a Haworthia, though, still. Either that or an Aloe. I'll put up a picture sooner or later. Anyway. Even though it's both a liar and a plain-looking plant, I kind of like it. New plants are always good for a short-term pick-me-up, and it has a certain subtle je ne sais quoi about it that I like.

Of course, the je ne sais quoi in question could be mealybugs. One never knows, with je ne sais quois, which is why the quoi is so hard for je to sais.

And anyway, it could have been a much more outrageous liar: I found some Asplundia 'Jungle Drum' plants at Lowe's that were tagged Calathea something-or-another. Every one of the five or so they had: it's not like a customer just switched a couple tags around. Someone gave them those tags, on purpose. Lowe's is so bad at getting the right tags on the plants that I marvel that they're even still trying.1

Anyway. There are pictures!

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

Anthurium crystallinum 'Mehani.' Disappointing picture, given that the plant can be pretty cool. My own plants (I have two) are currently having some problems with repeated and prolonged droughts, which I feel bad about but can't really help right now, things being what they are. They were nice prior to this, though, and they may be nice again.

Cordyline glauca. Primarily of interest for the thin streaks of purple.

Spathiphyllum 'Golden Glow,' or similar cultivar. Spathiphyllums get weirder as they age (like a lot of people), as they develop trunks and stuff. I never know what to do with them when they hit that point, and the plant this picture came from hit that point some time ago. I suppose if I really loved it, I'd let it spend some time outside this summer. (Or maybe, given my tendency to forget to water the outdoor stuff, I'd do that only if I really hated it, not loved it. Whatever.)

Ulmus sp. I really like this one (it is, in fact, probably my favorite from this batch), though it doesn't look like much unless it's full-size.

Beaucarnea recurvata variegata. The impressive thing here is not the venation, but the fact that I was able to get a picture at all. The leaves are both very thick (low transmission of light) and very narrow (easily washed out by ambient light).

Pedilanthus cv. 'Jurassic Park 2.' I am much prouder of this one than you would expect me to be, just because it's a thick leaf, and those are hard to get good transmitted light pictures of. 'Jurassic Park 2' is looking like a good plant, though it hasn't really filled in much from what it looked like when it got here.

Tropaeolum majus 'Alaska.' Another case of the enlarged picture being better than the reduced picture. Though the reduced picture is okay. We had these at work, though I'm not sure I ever saw a flower -- due to space issues, most of the nasturtiums had to go under a table for a lot of the spring, so they weren't really getting the kind of light they wanted, and didn't flower until the season was pretty close to over already.

Phalaenopsis NOID, petal. Yeah, this one didn't really work out so much. But I tried. Oh, how I tried.

Pelargonium x hortorum 'Vancouver Centennial.' Nice enough plant, but it has not worked well for me indoors. When I wasn't forgetting to water it, I was shoving it in a spot that wasn't providing enough light. Most of the new growth since I've had it has come in without the reddish color, and most of the old growth that did have the reddish color has dried up and fallen off. Now it is in the plant room, and there are some signs that things may be looking up: I saw a new leaf with some red in it a couple days ago.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Glennis.' Doesn't really do the variety justice: I think I needed to lighten the photo a little, and/or find a way to photograph it that keeps the shadows off better. Maybe I'll try again this summer.


1 It may actually be Exotic Angel that's taking the tag, schmag approach to plant-labeling: almost every outrageous example I can think of was with an Exotic Angel tag. I'm not saying that they don't maybe have a lot going on at EA, and that there might be things that are more important to them than having all the plants identified correctly, especially considering that a lot of customers won't care anyway. And I know that it can't be easy to meet the considerable needs of the nation's big box stores, and it's also true that the plants -- at least the tropical foliage plants -- are generally in pretty good shape, and attractive, and they don't just poof into existence that way, they have to be watered and transported and fertilized and all that. But they're so bad with the ID tags that I wish they would stop trying, if they're not going to be any more conscientious about matching them up than this. It's not as though there aren't ways to tell them apart.