Sunday, January 17, 2010

Random plant event: Hoya lacunosa flowers

It amuses me to see people on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day1 apologizing for not having anything blooming in December and January and pretending this is inevitable. ("Nothing blooms in the winter! What am I supposed to do?") It's even funnier when they get creative with the definition of "flower" and try to pass off photos of sundresses, wallpaper, or used Kleenexes as flower substitutes.2

I suppose the people who do this probably don't mean to be insulting,3 but I am a little bit insulted, because comments like that basically tell me that not only are these people not growing anything inside, but growing stuff inside isn't even part of their reality, not even an option. Which means, more or less, that I am not part of their reality either.

Flowerlessness is far from an inevitable winter condition. As PATSP readers have seen over and over and over and over and over and over again this winter, flowerlessness is completely evitable.4 Granted, not all of said flowers are particularly pretty. But they are still flowers. And if pretty is what you're looking for, there are any number of plants out there which will give you gorgeous indoor winter flowers if you are so inclined. Paphiopedilum, Phalaenopsis, Aeschynanthus, Schlumbergera, Eucharis, Cyclamen -- my gods, there are retailers all over the place who would love you forever if you were to walk in and buy a couple Cyclamen this time of year, when nobody buys anything -- whatever. Winter is not an excuse. It never was. Now go buy an African violet before February 15 or I will come to your blog and kick your ass.

I've never been able to get it together to post for GBBD, since by the time I realize the 15th is coming up, I either have a post scheduled for it already, or it's the 14th and I'm scrambling to find something quick and easy to post. Running around taking pictures of all the flowering stuff would be neither quick nor easy. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't have flower pictures to show, if I ever were to get organized enough to participate.

The above is a photo of the Hoya lacunosa flowers whose buds were heralded on New Year's Eve. There is a smell, too, which is floral-perfumey. The husband and I sat around trying to come up with a good way to describe the smell, and batted around various comparisons ("Jasmine?" "Hyacinth?" "Murraya?") until finally he said, "It smells like the inside of a florist's refrigerator." Which was dead-on. Working backwards from there to figure out what florists' coolers smell like, that means it smells mostly like roses, or roses cut with some lily or hyacinth.

There are seventeen plants blooming in the house right now, and this is the only fragrant one: besides it, we've got five different Anthuriums, two different Nematanthus cvv., two of the Spathiphyllum cvv., and then one each of Saintpaulia, Hatiora salicornioides, Tradescantia zebrina, Euphorbia drupifera, Cyanotis kewensis, Plectranthus oertendahlii, and Abutilon 'Bella Pink.' Most of which have had their own posts previously. (The Spathiphyllum-flower post will be coming soonish. I think.)

So there you go, outdoor gardener people. Seventeen flowers in January. Now join me, or I will be forced to scold you even more sternly. And none of us want that.


1 (Celebrated every month on the 15th, GBBD is when garden bloggers from all over post pictures of whatever is blooming in their gardens. It was popularized by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, who also collects links from participating bloggers to their respective blogs: the GBBD list for January is here.)
2 Exaggeration for comic effect: I have not seen anybody use any of those three specific examples I used. Though I have seen somebody come terrifyingly close to the wallpaper one.
3 And just for the record, Carol herself does not engage in any of these shenanigans herself, and had very nice pictures of Hippeastrum and Ludisia discolor to display for the most recent GBBD. So we are not mad at Carol. Which is good, because Carol is a bigshot garden blogger who could, if angered, crush PATSP like a mealybug.
4 The word "evitable" is courtesy of Mutant Enemy Productions, and was first used in the show "Angel," Season 3, Episode 7 ("Offspring"), in the following manner:
Fred: Can I say something about destiny? Screw destiny. If this evil thing comes, we’ll fight it, and we’ll keep fighting it till we whoop it. Because destiny is just another word for inevitable. And nothing is inevitable as long as you stand up, look it in the eye and say, “You’re evitable.” [beat] Well, you catch my drift.


Mae said...

Love the smell description! I have anosmia (100% lack of smell) so I always like people to describe scents to me in unique ways.

Also, I have my sugar snap peas blooming outside! Granted, I live on the Central Coast of California but still, I was starting to wonder if we had some sort of photoperiodicity (??) going on because they hadn't bloomed yet.

Mae said...

By the way, do you have any photos of your whole plant room? I've looked at your FAQ and made a cursory look through your archives but would love to see what the whole setup looks like. It's something I'd like to start here but I have no idea what's required.


Julie said...

Oh, God, those gorgeous blooms!!!

ScreamingGreenConure said...

Mr Subjunctive, I want to obey you and go buy an African violet before February (this is not an excuse to buy a plant, honest), but I lack artificial light and I am worried that the kitchen, our only east window, may be too cold! I'll do my very best, but please forgive me if it all goes to hell.

Carol Michel said...

I agree, so many gardeners think they can't grow indoor plants or for someone reason they prefer that their garden be outside. I have to have plants inside, too.

In fact, I am going to make it a point to buy a flowering plant or two today, if at all possible, because I do want to be loved forever and I do not want you to have to kick my *ss! Plus, I could just use more blooms right now. Couldn't we all?

Anonymous said...

Oh what a lovely sight. And the description of the odor - right on. I can't boast of a whole lot going on now, but the Senecio rowleyanus is doing its bit, and Tillandsia, and a terrific basket full of Primroses, pink and yellow and blue and lavender. You're so right though - there's no excuse for going through the winter without flowers, not with a huge industry built on providing us with stuff gleaned from the entire world. When we're covered in snow and ice here, what could be more cheering than to see some drab, sub-standard home sweet home in the puckerbrush flaunting its straggly bright geranium in the window?

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

You go, Mr. S. Most of the people that say no flowers bloom this time of year indoors are most likely only outdoor gardeners, so what do they know?

The greenhouses near my home are overflowing with flowering plants, especially the cyclamen, as you say. And let's not even mention the African violets.

Nell Jean said...

You were not addressing me. I had blooms inside; outside, too. I think some the lack of blooms may be an childhood environment thing. My mother always had something in bloom: forced bulbs, hardy houseplants like begonias in a cold window, hardy perennials in old tubs in front of a south-facing chimney along with some lettuces, in the coldest weather.

The inside of a florist's refrigerator has a definite note of that staple, carnations, too.

Unknown said...

Hilarious! Also true. I think a lot of people have problems with plants in the winter because their houses are too hot, too dry, too lacking in light (I'm thinking of apartments especially)...or too drafty, too dry, too dark. I manage to have plenty of things blooming here in winter usually. Right now the cyclamen are drawing a breath getting ready for another round of blossoms, but there are saintpaulias and other plants blooming. Alas, nothing from the hoyas. I'm thinking about having you talk sternly to them. Or at least telling them that it's you talking sternly to them.

mr_subjunctive said...


I don't have any photos that cover the whole plant room yet, no. Part of this is that it's difficult to get a shot that takes in the whole thing at once (not that it's that big: the problem is that the angles are difficult), and part of this is that it's not fully finished yet (we've been working on putting a tub in for something like eighteen or nineteen years now) so it's also kind of a mess. Perhaps someday relatively soon.


Well it doesn't have to be an African violet. A Cyclamen or Clivia might be better for a cold spot. Or you could get a small desk lamp, fishbowl, and compact fluorescent lightbulb and have a nice African violet set-up. You probably already have at least one of those things already, yeah?


Well I wasn't going to kick your ass in the first place, since you're not one of the people saying this. Though I'm always happy to provide excuses for people to buy more plants, so whatever works for you.

I'm mildly jealous of your Ludisia, by the way: I lost mine to a well-intentioned but badly-timed repotting this summer, and I never even got to see it bloom.


Well, and Senecio rowleyanus has a pretty cool smell of its own.

Are the primroses scented? We had a couple primroses in the greenhouse last spring that did a really great impression of a box of Froot Loops.

Water Roots:

And it's not like I care if a gardener wants to take the winter off from gardening and live without blooms for a couple months. It's the disingenuousness of saying that the reason you don't have any is because nothing blooms in the winter. Utter rubbish. I can think of ten plants that will bloom at any time of year, just off the top of my head. If you don't have flowers, it's likely because you don't want flowers.

Nell Jean:

Yes. Definitely some carnation in there too. And in the smell of the Hoya. In fact, rose/carnation is more or less exactly the smell, though the rose seems more prominent at night and carnation is more prominent during the day.

Something I neglected to mention, too, is that the flowers are incredibly potent: the spray of flowers in the photo is only the diameter of a quarter, give or take, but it still manages to scent my whole office, at certain times of the day.

jodi (bloomingwriter):

You may not want me talking to them; the lacunosa is the first Hoya bloom I've ever had, and it's not clear whether it will ever happen again. The trick seems to be giving them "too much" light. The Hoyas where I used to work all started blooming like crazy right after I left (ingrates), and they were also all getting sunburned. The lacunosa didn't start blooming until I put it under a set of shop lights. I used 4 48-inch bulbs, 2 cool white and 2 warm white, which were on a shelf about six inches (15 cm) above the leaves. The leaves started to bleach out a bit, but right after that I got flowers.

ScreamingGreenConure said...

Wow. A fish bowl with an African violet would look really, really nice on my desk in this little dark corner next to my laptop. On the other hand, I just looked up clivia and it looks gorgeous.

mr_subjunctive said...


Happy to enable. :^)

Karen715 said...

Indeed, had I known, and had I not been sick, I would have posted something for bloom day, and I will from now on. I've got about nine plants in bloom right now.

Love the Hoya!

ScreamingGreenConure said...

Enabling is right! Since I found this blog I have gained 2 hawarthia, 1 aloe, 1 schlumberga gaertnere, 1 rhipsalis cereuscula and a goddamn mint plant!
And a hedera helix but in all honesty I can't blame you for that one.

mr_subjunctive said...


I refuse to be held responsible for the mint as well. I would never encourage you to buy mint. I accept partial responsibility for the Haworthias, Aloe, Schlumbergera and Rhipsalis, though.

Ginny Burton said...

Speaking of Murraya, mine is blooming with such intensity that it's giving me a headache. It seems unusually sexual in its perfume -- conjuring up the back seat of a '57 Chevy on Senior Prom night.

ScreamingGreenConure said...

But when I get tired of it, I can eat it! Can you say that about many of your plants?

Kenneth Moore said...

I plan to finish reading the comments, but I can't right now. Brain hurts almost as bad as body. Gym class = fun, ouchie.

That Hoya is ridicupretty, Mr. S. I want it. And, y'know, I always forget about the GBBD thing too, but I somehow managed to post a Maranta flower that day. I also have Cyclamen and Alternanthera "Party Time" blooming. And that was the day I noticed this pokey-leaf bush thing with cascades of yellow flowers a block away from work when I was coming back from lunch. It's not like it has been particularly warm here in DC this winter. Not exactly Canadark, but not as warm as it can be either.

So: agreed. Peeps need to open theys eyes and smell the florist's refrigerator!

Melanie J Watts said...

lovely, My husband swears he is allergic to the smell of Hoya flowers. sometimes they bloom, hidden under the foliage, for a couple of days until he sees them and snaps them off. Notice I didn't dsay he smells them !

Anonymous said...

Mr.S, yes the primroses have a fragrance - but not all of them. I find that they're rather like violas, where I choose the yellow "no face" kinds because of the strong perfume. So anyone shopping for primroses should give them the sniff test. It does seem to be color related, and the ruffly double sorts don't ever seem to have any odor at all.

Unknown said...

Re: Husband swears he is allergic to hoya blooms. I found this comment while searching "if you can be allergic to a hoya plant!" I have a plant in full bloom -at least a dozen and am experiencing an odd smell, if you can call it that and burning eyes. Curious what 'husband' is feeling as I couldn't find much else on the net....

mr_subjunctive said...


I'm sure it's possible to be allergic to Hoya flowers, though this is sort of a bad time of year to be trying to pin down any specific allergy, as much pollen as is flying around. The smell is also really strong, particularly at night, so there's also the possibility that it's not so much allergies as just being irritated by the fragrance chemicals. Especially if there are twelve clusters of flowers right now.