Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday morning Nina picture

One of the more interesting things about this particular shot is that it's the first one I've taken by setting the camera physically down in the terrarium, on a timer. It's possibly also the last one I'm going to do that way, because when I took the camera back out, it had maybe twenty very tiny crickets crawling all over it. (The adults apparently lay eggs in there on a regular basis; I've seen very tiny crickets off and on, though they don't seem to reach adulthood.) I found this kind of alarming.

On the plus side, it's a very interesting pose. The words "elegant" and "haughty" come to mind. Though that actually happens with most of the Nina photos. I think she just has an elegant-slash-haughty face.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pretty picture: Wilsonara Lisa Devos

I haven't posted any orchid pictures in quite a while, because I just haven't been seeing anything terribly new or interesting lately. I'm not actually especially thrilled with this one either, which either means that I've become jaded already or that the orchid supplier for my ex-work is getting repetitive. Or maybe both!

Still, it's a nice picture, I guess. And actually the growers may not have had a lot of choice: with the recent weather in Florida, I understand a lot of producers lost a lot of plants. Selection is perhaps not what it used to be.

Wilsonara ("Wils.") is a man-made cross of plants from three different genus of orchids: Cochlioda ("Cda."), Odontoglossum ("Odm."), and Oncidium ("Onc."). I don't know anything about how they are to grow. As best as I could determine, the flowers don't have a scent.

The picture gets much bigger, if opened in a separate window. For those of you who are into big orchid pictures.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I firmly believe that the world needs a hybrid variety of Ficus named 'I Said To That's Fy.'

I'd also be pretty happy about a hybrid Fuchsia named 'Tense.'

Or a Fuchsia 'Rama.'

DISCLAIMER: Preceding jokes are contingent upon use of the American pronunciation for the genera involved and may not work for people in other countries or speaking other languages.

Question for the Hive Mind: Cordyline fruticosa 'Kiwi'

I got an e-mail a couple weeks ago from someone who wanted to know if I could tell what was going on with her newish Cordyline fruticosa 'Kiwi.' I did answer, but didn't have a lot of confidence in my answer, and offered to post the photos here and get some second/third/fourth/etc. opinions. So here's the situation.

The plant is getting holes in the leaves which forming in straight lines, in no particular spot on the leaves. Also, the leaf tips are drying out and turning brown (though the brown tips were cut off before these pictures were taken), and some of the leaves are getting brownish patches.

There are no visible signs of mites or other bugs. There are a few whitish spots on the underside of the leaves, but they don't wipe off.

The plant was purchased about three or four weeks ago. It did get repotted shortly after arriving. The home does have a cat and dog, but they are not near the plant, nor is the plant in a high-traffic spot for people.

They're in Tucson, AZ. Another plant at the same store (unclear about whether it's also a Cordyline or whether it's another kind of plant) had the same problem.

The plant is continuing to do the same things even after a few weeks at the house, so it's probably not entirely something the store did (though it could be partly, maybe).

These are the only pictures I've got.

I'll tell what my guess was after we get a few people making guesses of their own, because I don't want to bias people's guesses. I'm sort of hoping that someone will say oh sure, I know exactly what that is; I see it all the time, but everybody should feel free to speculate wildly.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Walkaways Part 8 / New Plants

On Valentine's Day, the husband and I went to Cedar Rapids. The decision was complicated, but in essence, boiled down to: Nina needed crickets and wouldn't be able to wait a week for them, we were going to have contractors in the house all week (turned out not to be the case, but that's what I thought at the time), and so we had to get her crickets on Sunday. And as long as we're going out anyway, why not Cedar Rapids?

We went five different places (Pierson's, Lowe's, Frontier, Home Depot, and Earl May, in that order). Earl May didn't even have enough plants to sneer at,1 and Home Depot had tons but they were all buggy, half-dead, or buggy-or-half-dead-adjacent, so I wasn't tempted there. (Seriously, Home Depot: when the plants are so buggy that they're brown, shriveled, and sticky to the touch, give up. They're not going to sell. Please get this right or stop trying.) So this post is about what I found at the other three places.


Pierson's is making me sad lately. I understand if they don't want to focus on the tropicals right now, because none of the other independent garden centers are either. Late winter and early spring are about propagating, starting seeds, bringing in plugs. That sort of thing. Plus it was Valentines Day, which requires a certain period of preparation beforehand. So maybe they hadn't had time lately.

However, it seems like Pierson's has been ignoring their tropicals and houseplants for a lot longer than just the last couple months. Everything looks . . . scruffy. Unkempt. And the tropical selection was terrible, just as it has been the last two or three times I've visited. I know they're capable of better.

Nevertheless, I was tempted by one plant, sort of on Nina's behalf:

Selaginella uncinata.

There's no way I could grow this in the house (inadequate humidity), but I thought maybe Nina would be interested, as a replacement for some of the plants that have failed in the terrarium. She has been saying she wanted me to put in carpet. (Also a hot tub. And something about a formal dining area with a "built-in, stainless steel cricket warmer," whatever that is. Save your allowance, I tell her.)

However, I didn't buy it for her because it was right next to some 3/4-dead-looking Selaginella specimens, and I didn't know if this was actually in good shape (as it appeared) or in bad shape and just not showing it yet. Plus, I haven't yet decided whether Nina's getting a new place. If she is, then I should probably wait and buy the new plants and the new terrarium at more or less the same time.


From Pierson's, we went to Lowe's, which had apparently just gotten in new stuff. I got two hanging baskets of semi-unusual plants there.

Dischidia ruscifolia.

I've seen Dischidia ruscifolia around here and there and not really known what to make of it. We had one for a while where I used to work, and it didn't ever give me any trouble, but it also didn't stand out: I'd worked with it for eight months before I even noticed it was there. Lowe's had 6-inch hanging baskets for $9-something, which was cheap enough to take the gamble. So go ahead, Dischidia, wow me.

(Thus far, since getting home, all that's happened is that it's dropped a few leaves.)

Hoya polyneura.

The second plant from Lowe's is Hoya polyneura, which was also $9-something for a 6-inch pot. I'd seen one of these a while ago, where I used to work (it wasn't for sale: WCW brings a few plants into the greenhouse to overwinter every year, and it was hers), though I didn't have a name for it at the time.

WCW had offered me cuttings, but I didn't take her up on it (more a matter of timing, I think, than not wanting one: when I thought of it, she wasn't there, and when she was there, I wasn't thinking of it). Clearly the universe wants me to have one anyway, though. So okay. Twist my arm.


Then to Frontier, where I saw an odd Philodendron.

Philodendron NOID.

No ID on it, and when I asked, they said they didn't have a name for it either, just some hybrid Philodendron. It's not that it's particularly beautiful, but it's something I've never seen before. It kinda looks like 'Imperial Red,' and kinda looks like 'Autumn,' and kinda looks like 'Congo Red,' but the color is wrong for 'Autumn,' and the overall shape and size are wrong for the other two. I suppose it could be a young 'Imperial Red,' possibly. I dunno. Any ideas?

Frontier also had a kentia palm (Howea forsteriana), which I've been wanting for a while, and it was even more or less reasonably-priced ($60, for maybe a three- or five-gallon pot)2 and about five feet (1.5 m) tall. Unfortunately, it also looked like it had a light spider mite infestation, and for $60, not only do I expect that there will be no bugs coming with the plant, but I expect the plant to actively roam the house seeking out and destroying bugs. Like a Roomba. So that was something of a heartbreaker.

But the real heartbreaker, the one I'm still thinking about more than a week later, was Calathea zebrina:

Calathea zebrina.

I'd never seen one of these in person before, much less see one for sale. Much less see one for sale for about $11.

If not for previous experiences, I would have grabbed the plant off the table, clutched it tightly to my chest, and ran to the parking lot with it as fast as I could, chittering happily like a squirrel all the while.

And then at some point I would have realized that I hadn't paid for the plant, and I would have gone back in the store and done so.

But it's a Calathea. I don't think bringing it home with me would have been fair to either of us. I'm not over the Calathea ornata experience yet, it would seem.

But oh.


If only.


1 If you're in or near Cedar Rapids: the Edgewood Road one has been pretty good for me for houseplants on occasion: it's where I got my Astrophytum ornatum. The one on Northland Avenue, though, has been just pitiful every time I've been there.
2 Again, for folks in or near Cedar Rapids:
Frontier is always very reasonably priced. A hypothetical Dracaena that would cost $20 where I used to work would be $23 at Pierson's, $20-30 at Earl May, $25-30 at Peck's, three-quarters-dead and sticky at Home Depot, $9 at Lowe's, and $10-15 at Frontier depending on whether or not they were on sale (they are almost always having 30%-off sales). More expensive than Lowe's, true. But it's an independent, locally-owned business, the owner is nice, they don't follow you around constantly asking if they can help you, and it surpassed Pierson's some time ago as my favorite place to shop for plants in Cedar Rapids, mostly because Pierson's got worse, not that Frontier got better.
The down sides to Frontier: 1) don't go with your heart set on getting a particular plant. Turnover is pretty fast, and they have very limited display space, so if you go there intending to get something specific, they will not have it. Unless it's Cissus rhombifolia (grape ivy), which for some reason they always seem to have. 2) Check for bugs. Multiple times. Every leaf. They have better days and worse days, with the bugs. 3) They're closed Saturdays.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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

Here's something I bet you didn't know: I wrote this post a week and a half ago. I mean, I had the pictures well before that, even, but somehow, at the beginning of February, I had this crazy productive period where I had nine, ten, eleven new posts stockpiled and ready to go all at the same time. This never happens. Or at least it had never happened before.

As I write, on February 12, I'm borderline hopeful that maybe by the time this post goes up, I will have a bathtub/shower in the plant room, which I can use for watering (the contractors for that are here right now, though the plant room shower doesn't appear to be the first item on the agenda), and that I'll have written the Phalaenopsis profile by the time you see this and it will be good, and I will have stopped discovering new scale infestations on beloved plants. This kinda seems like a lot to be hoping for, and I'm sort of tempted to get sarcastic at my own expense and be all like, why don't you hope for a billion jillion dollars, too, as long as you're wishing for stuff that's never going to happen. Idiot.


Huh. I think I've hurt my own feelings.

Anyway. I'll let you know how those predictions turned out, at the end of the post, once this publishes. Meanwhile, to build suspense, we have more transmitted light photos. It's a pretty good batch again. At least the most colorful in quite a while.

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

Schefflera ("Dizygotheca") elegantissima. Fairly difficult picture to get -- those leaves are narrow -- but it shows more detail than I thought I'd be able to get, so I guess it was a success.

Haworthia limifolia var. ubomboensis. Not particularly interesting, but another one that was technically challenging.

Codiaeum variegatum NOID. That sound you're hearing is the sound of all the spider mites looking over your shoulder and drooling. Not everybody knows that spider mites drool audibly, but they do.

Philodendron hederaceum 'Brasil.' (Sometimes 'Brazil') I've done this one before, but this is a better picture than my first attempt.

Calathea NOID. I think probably a cultivar of C. roseopicta, but I couldn't find anything that looked enough like this plant to be certain. In any case, an edited version of this photo has been used as the PATSP header in the recent past, and I'm very pleased with the photo.

Codiaeum variegatum 'Mrs. Iceton.' What I like about this is the secondary veins, coming off of the midrib. Something about that bright, glowy green, set against the yellow and darker green, is deeply pleasing to me.

Begonia NOID. Begonia photos rarely turn out the way I expect them to.

Fittonia albivenis 'Pink Vein.' I hope, someday, to know whether it's albivenis or argyroneura or something else. I am currently deeply confused about Fittonia taxonomy. UPDATE: Pretty sure it's always F. albivenis.

Codiaeum variegatum NOID. Sometimes Codiaeum pictures just look sort of angry.

Calathea 'Moonlight.' This is one of those cases where the transmitted-light picture is significantly better than the way the plant usually looks. Or at least I think it is. This is my favorite from this batch.


Plant Watering Station: So far, no, despite considerable dust and noise. Though I am assured it will happen just any day now. As I have been assured for the last three months.

Phalaenopsis Profile: not even close. You'll probably see a profile for Dracaena reflexa 'Riki' before the Phalaenopsis one goes up. (UPDATE: Yep, that's how it happened. The Phalaenopsis profile is here.) I'm really starting to hate Phalaenopsis. Not that I was nuts about them to begin with.

Scale Infestation: there's been one full round of watering since finding scale on the Ficus and Neoregelias, and I didn't find any new ones. Of course, I was kinda focused on getting everything watered before it died, so maybe I wasn't doing a particularly close inspection, but I was trying to look for scale. So this is kinda good news.

Billion Jillion Dollars: Maybe. If "jillion" means something really, really small.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Random plant event: Callisia fragrans flowers

We saw a flower bud beginning to form on this plant in January, and ever since, I've been patiently waiting for the flowers to appear. I hadn't seen this before, even online (not a clear and detailed picture, anyway), so I wasn't sure what to expect, but based on its relatives (Tradescantia, the other Tradescantia, Cyanotis), I was expecting little three-petaled flowers that would last for a day, and based on its name ("fragrans"), I expected the flowers to be scented.

Some of this turned out to be correct. The first flowers opened for real on Valentine's Day, and were not three-petaled (at least not obviously so), and I'm not sure how long they actually last.

But they were scented. It's a lot less intense than I had expected. Three sites on line claim that the flowers smell like honey, which . . . um . . . no. I don't think so. I mean, maybe they develop a honey smell over time or something, but at least for the first few days, they smelled more or less like hyacinths, though much less intense. Hyacinths that are very far away, maybe.

The flowers also open and close daily: I'm not sure when they open, but by about 4 PM, they look more like this:

Also, scent production seems to shut down around 4 PM too, though you can still smell it a little. It's not clear whether new flowers open and close every day, or if some of these are opening and closing several days in a row. (Individual Tradescantia flowers, I believe, are only open for one day: they just make a lot of them, in the same place, over and over, so it appears to be the same flower multiple times.)

The Callisia flowers are on a long stalk (maybe 18 inches / 46 cm?) that bobs around relentlessly if there's even the slightest breeze, so they're a pain to photograph. To get the two pictures here, I had to take about 60. They're also so small by comparison to the plant that there's no good way to take a photo of both plant and flowers simultaneously, which is why there isn't a picture like that here.

Little bunches of flowers appear at intervals down the stalk; so far, there are two on the stalk that have actually opened, and another two that look like they're still developing.

That's about it for the report. If they start smelling like honey, I'll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Blogs of Interest

Or maybe that should read "Blogs of New Interest." The blogs aren't necessarily new, but my interest in them is. Neither phrasing is very clear. Maybe "Interesting Blogs of the New."


Letters and Leaves is the relatively new blog from longtime PATSP commenter Ivynettle, who writes from . . . . (Have you said where you write from, Ivynettle? 'Cause I'm just now realizing that I don't know.) Topics include indoor plants, plant-related employment, and more indoor plants, so far. Found via her comments here at PATSP.

Terra Mirabilis is written by Penny McCrea from somewhere in the depths of South Florida. Frequent topics: the outdoor growing of tropicals, wild wildlife, domesticated wildlife, her neighborhood, food plants, weather, and the various topics where the above overlap. I ran into TM via James Missier's Garden Chronicles.

Watching the World Wake Up is written by Watcher, from Salt Lake City, Utah, and is fairly difficult to categorize as far as subject matter. Plants, animals, bicycling, Utah, science in a general way, science in a specific way. WtWWU is frequently very wordy, digressive, and sciencey (and this is me saying!), but with enough naughty words to keep it readable, and there are often footnotes (including footnotes in the photos, occasionally, a level of footnoting I've never achieved before, so I'm impressed), so PATSP readers should feel more or less right at home. I think the sequence by which I encountered WtWWU is, I went to Phytophactor, which was hosting Berry-Go-Round #24, which included a link to a post at WtWWU that made extensive reference to triploidy, which happened to be something I was very interested in at the moment.

I can't imagine there's anybody reading this who wouldn't already be familiar with NellJean's Secrets of a Seed Scatterer, but I've recently added it to my Blogger reading list, so it counts. NellJean writes from Southwestern Georgia, primarily about outdoor gardening there. There's also quite a lot of nice photography, some meta-blogging (blogging about the process of blogging), frequently interesting polls, and a bit of houseplants. I don't remember how I became aware of it first; probably Blotanical. After a certain point, it no longer really matters.

Our Little Acre is another sort of surprising long-term omission. I don't have an explanation. It's written in Northwest Ohio, by Kylee, and has lately been about houseplants quite a bit, but there are also posts about travel, meta-blogging, food gardening and ornamental outdoor gardening. You probably already know all this. This is another one that was probably found through Blotanical, but it doesn't matter because I could have run into it ten thousand different ways, had Blotanical not been there.

Far Out Flora is written by, well, "faroutflora," (Megan) but also mattisalomaki (Matti). They write from San Francisco, California, primarily about houseplants, and the plants that can be houseplants or outdoor plants in San Francisco, which is apparently most of them. Particular emphases include bromeliads, succulents (but not cacti so much, for some reason), carnivorous plants, and a recent-seeming (?) enthusiasm for vertical gardening. Also considerable photography of plants: indoor, outdoor, retail, landscape, whatever.