Saturday, April 10, 2010

Saturday morning Nina and/or Sheba picture

Well. It looks like Sheba's name is going to stay Sheba. This is not because it did well in last week's poll (though it did, getting twice as many votes as the second-place "Anya") so much as inertia. We're used to calling her that, she doesn't respond incredibly consistently to it but she responds better to that than to anything else, and whether I like it or not, it seems like her name. The husband concurs.

So that's that. But next time, we won't let the shelter people name the dog for us.

This past week, nothing huge happened with Sheba, though she wouldn't eat anything but grass from Tuesday night through Wednesday afternoon. She's not a huge fan of the dry food. Mix a tiny amount of canned food into the dry, though (like 1/4 of a can), and Sheba will eat them both alarmingly fast.

Also, on Friday, we took her with us on a short trip into Iowa City and she got carsick. Again. So now four pukings in sixteen days. Perhaps she has a quota or something. I don't mind so much, but if I'm going to go to the trouble of cooking for her (mixing counts!), I wish she could meet me halfway and at least try to digest what I prepare.

Nina, meanwhile, trucks along in that stoic reptilian way of hers. It's recently occurred to me to wonder how old she is. In lizard years, I mean. Even by the most extravagant estimates of her potential lifespan and the most optimistic guess of her current age, she's at least 13. More pessimistic guesses yield a human-equivalent age of about 40, minimum.

I'm not any good at guessing the ages of humans, so I'm not going to look at her and try to make a guess. But if you can guess anything about her maturity level from her facial expression, hey, go right ahead.

Sheba, of course, is in her mid- to late teens, at least going by the method that says to count 14 for the first year and then seven for every year thereafter. Which seems about right. I know sometimes she has to be thinking, Dad, you're embarrassing me in front of my friends.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pretty picture: Muscari sp.

I found out while preparing this post that there are several species of Muscari which are all called "grape hyacinth," something I did not know before. I don't know which of those this plant is, but it was planted at the Catholic church in town.

I don't really know Muscari very well. None planted around the house when I was a kid, no amusing garden center stories involving them. They seem like nice people, though. Maybe a little invasive, I hear, though I can't imagine many folks minding.

It occurs to me that just to mess with people, someone needs to name a variety of the regular hyacinths Hyacinthus x 'Grape.' Then when people go into the garden center and ask for a "grape hyacinth," amusing misunderstandings may happen.

Probably someone's done that already, though.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Being Robin Ripley

A couple weeks ago, there was a multi-garden-blog kerfuffle that resulted from, as so many multi-garden-blog-kerfuffles do, a guest post at Garden Rant. The post in question was written by one Robin Ripley, blogger and published author, on the topic of "ugly" vegetable gardens. A number of bloggers then responded to the post with their own posts,1 and it was all very exciting for two or three days, and then the whole thing kind of petered out.

Last summer's vegetable garden, before anything got planted in it. There are no after photos.

I don't have a vegetable garden at the moment, and probably won't this summer, either. I had one last year, and not only was it ugly, it also didn't produce anything but a few ears of barely-edible corn (I think I waited too long to pick it off the stalks), I didn't enjoy any part of the process and was left with no particular desire to do it again. We've gotten as far, this year, as buying a few seeds and having conversations about how one might plan a garden on our small and oddly-shaped lot, which conversations invariably end in me getting so overwhelmed by the details that I throw up my hands and declare that it's all too complicated-sounding, and, you know, what the hell, I don't even like being outside during the summer and can never remember to water anything outside, so why are we even talking about this in the first place. So I don't really have a dog in this fight; my vegetable garden will probably be both immaculate and imaginary.

However. Being sort of a sucker for drama,2 I followed the links and read the posts and everything, and think both Ripley's defenders and detractors are aiming at the wrong things because people don't want to talk about the real reasons why her piece was obnoxious. Ripley herself claims to be "baffled" that people would take issue with her point that "that gardens take work, need maintenance and can be improved overall with some attention to design." So I thought that maybe there was still some value in dredging the whole thing back up again. To explain. Or possibly I just need to vent about it. Either way.

If you're sick of the whole argument, as I expect a lot of people are, you should probably skip this post and come back tomorrow.

'Super Beefsteak' tomato flower.

The reader may read the article in question for him/rself, if s/he doesn't trust my summary,3 but here's how it plays for me:
A. Americans are planting vegetable gardens in greater numbers than before, due to the recession.
B. However, some of these gardens will be ugly.
C. They're ugly partly because some gardeners don't know what they're doing, or they don't care what they're doing. They don't weed, mix in compost, plan out the design of their gardens in advance, buy good equipment, or try to make it look pretty.
D. These people are bad.
E. People who plant vegetable gardens and then don't take care of them make the rest of us vegetable gardeners look bad.
F. I'd rather these people didn't garden at all, than make me look bad.
G. Sometimes my garden looks bad too, but when that happens I fix it, because I pay attention to things [unlike these other, bad people, who do not4].
H. In conclusion, clean up your vegetable garden or you suck.
Ripley backpedaled (barely) once the negative responses started coming in. What she was trying to say, she says, is:5
A. I was just over-stating things a little; I got carried away, I exaggerated, I didn't mean all those horrible things you think I said. And also I didn't even say them.
B. I wasn't talking about your garden; I was talking about those other people's gardens, the ones abandoned because people took on more than they had time for.
C. If those other people (not you!) would pay attention to them and do a little planning ahead of time, their gardens could look really nice.
D. Probably they don't tend their gardens properly because they're so stupid and lazy that they think gardening is, or should be, as easy as pushing a button and getting instant vegetables.6
E. You probably shouldn't start a vegetable garden if you're not willing to work hard at it and keep up with it for the whole season.
F. People were angry with me for telling them they sucked, and will probably be mad at me again for telling them that gardening takes effort, because everybody is always so mean to me and I don't know why.
'Copenhagen Market' cabbage leaf, by transmitted light.

Now. Some of Ripley's defenders have tried to defend her using the argument well the title of the blog is Garden Rant, so she was supposed to rant about something, and she did, so what's everybody getting so bent out of shape about? This is a highly-efficient, time-saving approach, because it enables the speaker to excuse the post without having to read it first. But obviously there are a large number of super-offensive garden-related rants which nobody would excuse on the grounds that they're rants and the blog's name is Garden Rant and therefore it's okay. So I feel like this excuse is ridiculous on its face, as is the similar everybody's-entitled-to-their-opinions-and-isn't-it-great-that-we-can-all-have-different-opinions argument.7

I am told, and more or less believe, that Robin Ripley is a nice person, in person.8 And I doubt very much that she sat down to write the post with the intention of pissing off a large segment of the gardening blogosphere. Hence her surprise. But I'm baffled by her bafflement: what reaction could she possibly have expected to get?

Corn "tassel" (male inflorescence). From my own personal garden.

It's not only that her piece is likely to discourage any rookie vegetable gardeners who happen to come across it, as many people pointed out, and that's unfortunate; it's not even that she's ego-tripping on the subject to the point where she thinks that every unsightly vegetable garden is somehow a reflection on her vegetable garden, though she is.9 It's that she appears to be completely unable to even imagine that there might be people out there who want to grow a vegetable garden but don't have the money to buy better than a cheap Wal-Mart tomato cage, who don't have a husband they can draft for weeding duty at a moment's notice, who lack the experience and knowledge it takes to do these things correctly from the beginning, who don't have years' worth of gardening equipment stockpiled in their garden shed (maybe they don't have a garden shed at all, not even a little one) or the free time to weed as often as they know they should, much less the free time to be -- for fuck's sakes! -- making their own bread, cheese, wine, and pastries by hand, as the author bio at Garden Rant states.10

She is, in short, forgetting to appreciate that she has things really damn good, better than most of the people reading her post. She has more experience, help, equipment, time, land, and money than most people who want to grow a vegetable garden have, and then she's telling these other people that if they can't grow a garden that meets her exacting specifications, they shouldn't bother to try.11

Flower and developing fruit of 'Golden California Wonder' bell pepper.

And then she's surprised when they respond that she should go fuck herself. If someone came up to you on the street and told you If you can't do any better at dressing yourself than these rags you're wearing, you should stop going out in public, what would you do? Smack them? Tell them to go fuck off? This is that. The offense readers of the Garden Rant post registered is offense of this sort. And they're not going to accept "What? Dressing yourself is something to take seriously, and it takes thought beforehand and effort. You can't just throw anything on and expect people to shower you with fashion awards. And maybe if they're not going to take it seriously, maybe they oughta stay inside," as an apology.

We do all have these moments where we forget that things are easier for us than they are for other people, and usually we can just be embarrassed about that in relative privacy and then go on, as opposed to having it publicly dissected across Twitter and a large chunk of the gardening blogosphere by a number of otherwise total strangers. So I do feel for Ripley a bit.

But it's hard to feel for her very much. I mean, I'd sympathize more if she had, anywhere in the original post or its defense, acknowledged that her particular situation makes it easier for her to plant and maintain a large, attractive vegetable garden than some other people's lives permit. Or even if she'd recognized that other people's ugly vegetable gardens are only her problem to the degree that she wants them to be. Instead, she complains about six-year-old soccer players getting trophies for showing up, because six-year-olds thinking they're good at soccer when they're only mediocre RUINS EVERYTHING.12 Or something.

The basic point about scaling your garden to the size you can reasonably manage is, no doubt, a good one. It's too bad Ripley was more interested in berating the new gardeners who will get this wrong than she was in providing information that might help them get it right, all for the sake of . . . whatever she got out of it. Publicity, I suppose.

Corn stalks at sunset.


1 The ones I've run across so far, in the order I ran across them:

2 My original reaction to the article was to skim it and conclude that there was nothing relevant to me in it; my initial response to the controversy was bewilderment that anyone was taking it seriously. So many people were reacting so strongly, though, that I took another look.
3 Which is blunt, but I think accurate.
4 This part isn't stated that directly in Ripley's post, of course. But I don't know how else you're supposed to interpret sentences like "When [random unprettiness] happens, I move into action," and "Above all, we pay attention," in context of the rest of the post.
5 This abridged version is a little less accurate and less blunt, because, okay, I was amusing myself a little. But see if you can't find more or less these exact sentiments in the linked post anyway.
6 Because I expect people to object to this particular item more than the others, and to say things like but I never said anybody was lazy or stupid! I didn't even use those words in the post: Ripley says this in the follow-up post:
Our instant gratification society has led some of us to believe that any effort is a good effort and everything should be as easy as pushing a button. I believe we do a disservice to would-be gardeners by perpetuating the myth that they can grow luscious rows of bountiful vegetables without putting in some effort.

     Both these sentences are pretty transparent straw man arguments. W/r/t the second sentence, do you know any garden blogger who has ever suggested that vegetable gardening is effortless? Can you even imagine someone doing so without being roundly mocked by all the other garden bloggers? I mean, maybe the occasional marketer will gloss over the less pleasant aspects of growing a garden, but, you know. Fish gotta swim, marketers have to mislead.
     The first sentence bothers me quite a bit more, not just because it's a straw man, but also because there's something kind of icky about the psychology there. Any effort is not a good effort, Ripley would have it. Some effort is bad, is insufficient, is failure. This is an interesting perspective. I wonder about the interior life of a person who believes that there's no amusement or learning to be had even from a venture that fails to produce the expected results.
     As far as I'm concerned, any effort is a good effort if you get something out of it: maybe you had fun doing it, maybe you learned how to do it better next year, maybe you learned it's not for you. I'd argue they're still valuable even if you can't eat them. By the same token, tremendous effort resulting in an enormous harvest of food isn't a good effort if you hated every second of it or plan to do it all exactly the same way next year, as far as I'm concerned. Would Ripley agree? I have no idea.
7 It's true. Everybody is entitled to their opinions, and to say them if they wish. But sometimes expressing stupid or offensive opinions has negative consequences. Most people have learned this by adulthood, and express or hold back their ideas according to the kinds of consequences they're likely to have. I note here for the record that Ripley herself has not, to my knowledge, tried to defend herself this way, though some of her defenders elsewhere around the net have, which at least tells me that she's smarter than some of her supporters.
8 Though one suspects that now that I've posted this, she wouldn't necessarily be all that nice to me, were we to meet. That's fair, though. Also I wonder about the niceness of anyone who can talk about our "instant gratification society" non-ironically. The phrase was practically invented to dismiss, insult, or claim superiority to whole populations of people, typically either younger people or Americans, for the crime of . . . what? Wanting things to be less frustrating, painful, or time-consuming? Have humans ever not been after instant gratification?
9 The stench of it's all about meeeeeeeeeeee permeating both the original post and the response to its criticism is pretty damn off-putting. We all have moments of thinking that the universe revolves around us (though most of the time people recognize the truth, which is that it revolves around meeeeeeeeeee, Mr_Subjunctive) and I'm tempted to give Ripley a pass on that basis. However, neither the original post nor the defense of the post mention why any of us should care what Robin Ripley thinks of our garden's appearance. I mean, yes, perhaps people would have a better time vegetable gardening if they planned things out first, and maybe people should know ahead of time that it's going to take a lot of work. But Ripley's life is going to be pretty much the same whether the vegetable gardens of the world are visions of heaven on earth or monstrosities that need to be burnt to the ground and covered with concrete so nothing can ever be grown there again. The only points she makes in either post that might pertain to other people in a non-aesthetic way are, one, that abandoned gardens may harbor pests and diseases which could spread to other gardens, and two, some people can't grow vegetables in their front yard because some homeowners associations prohibit them, because abandoned gardens look ugly.
     These are both semi-legitimate, but I'm not sure the damage in either case is so severe that it justifies telling people not to try if they're not going to do it right. I mean, one is likely to deal with bugs and diseases regardless of who's gardening near you. Bugs and diseases are part of gardening. And homeowners associations are not static, unchanging facts of nature: they're people, and the opinions of people can be changed. Changing the rules of homeowners associations would be a lot easier if there were a lot more people in your neighborhood who also wanted to garden. If all the people who would stand with you against the homeowners association have been told that they may as well not try planting a garden if they're not going to get it right the first time, then no, you're probably never going to change the minds of your HA, but that's not exactly the fault of people who grow ugly gardens.
10 There is, of course, nothing inherently wrong with making your own cheese. We should all be so lucky to have resources and time that permit us to do so. No doubt we'd be a lot happier, eat better, and so forth. The point where making your own cheese crosses a line is when one starts throwing phrases like "instant gratification society" at the people who don't have those resources or time, as though they could make their own cheese but are just too lazy to do so.
11 There's an interesting moment in the original Garden Rant post where Ripley segues subtly from actual things anybody probably should do in a vegetable garden, for best results, like enriching the soil with compost before planting, weeding early and frequently, and designing gardens with paths that will enable them to tend the garden comfortably, into a list of things which are clearly only personal preferences and aren't even necessarily relevant to the aesthetics, like including edible flowers for color, adding artwork and sculpture, and planning for chairs in which to sit and contemplate the garden. I'm sure these things are nice things to have, if they're the sorts of things you like, but they're also a matter of taste and opportunity. Also: we do not all live on "small" (21 acres = "small") Maryland homesteads and consequently do not necessarily have space for some of that crap.
12 Please. They're six. At six years old, half of them think they're going to grow up to be Big Bird, for fuck's sakes. If they truly can't play soccer, they're going to figure it out sooner or later.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

List: Houseplants Which Can Be Propagated From Single Leaves

It seems like being able to reproduce from a single detached leaf would be so convenient that you'd think every plant would have figured out how to do it, but it's actually a pretty rare quality, limited mostly to succulents, most gesneriads,1 and a few random others.

One of the big problems when starting regular stem cuttings2 of a plant is that until there are roots to take up water from the soil (or rooting medium), the cutting will transpire3 a lot of water through the leaves. For some plants, like Ficus elastica, it's actually recommended that you either remove most of the leaves before trying to root the cutting, or that you cut the leaves in half, so that they'll be able to hang on to more of their moisture instead of transpiring it away.

My theory is that plants that can propagate from single leaves have this same problem, but even more so: they don't even have any stem in which to store water, so they run an even bigger risk of breathing all their water away. Therefore, the plants which are already adapted to hang on to their water, i.e., succulents, would be the ones that would have the easiest time getting by while they wait for roots to start. It's just a theory, and it doesn't account for some of the plants on the list so it's obviously not the entire story, but it seems more or less logical to me, anyway.

As ever, I'm open to additional suggestions, if the reader thinks of something I've left out.

Aeschynanthus speciosus, goldfish plant. The process is slow, but we stuck individual leaves into vermiculite at work, watered the vermiculite when we thought to, and they did eventually root and grow into new plants. Can't remember how long that took; I want to say we planted them in winter and they were putting out new growth by the following fall, or something. I assume this would probably also work for other Aeschynanthus spp., like A. lobbianus (lipstick plant), but I haven't tried.

Begonia NOID (angel-wing begonia). This particular type of Begonia is usually propagated through stem cuttings, but they'll also grow from leaf section cuttings or a single leaf's petiole4 stuck into damp soil. For best results, keep the leaf in an enclosed container of some kind to keep the humidity high, until the plant shows new growth.

Crassula ovata (jade plant). This tends to be a much slower process, in my experience, than rooting a stem cutting, but a single, healthy leaf, removed from the stem and allowed to dry for a day or two, will usually start to grow roots almost immediately, whether or not it's lying on soil. For best results indoors, bury the base of the leaf in a gritty, fast-drying medium, place in bright light, and water sparingly.

Echeveria cvv. Process is basically the same as for Crassula ovata. Leaves will root in almost anything; I had crazy wild success with vermiculite at work.

Kalanchoe orgyalis. Also as for Crassula ovata.

Pachyphytum spp. (moonstones) As for Crassula ovata.

Peperomia caperata. New plants will emerge (if they're going to) from the point where the petiole contacts the leaf. The best way I've found to propagate these is to dig a small, narrow trench in a 3-inch pot containing a regular potting mix, cut most of the petiole off the leaf, place the leaf vertically into the trench with the petiole side down (the leaves are more or less heart-shaped; you're putting them into the soil "upside-down"), and cover the pot with a clear drinking glass, or put the whole thing into a closed container of some kind -- the added humidity will help. New plants will appear from what used to be the underside of the leaf. If the leaf goes black and crispy, it's dead and you'll have to try again.

Saintpaulia ionantha cv. (African violet). African violets propagate very much like Peperomia caperata, though a few details are different. You don't want to cut off the petiole; leaving an inch to an inch and a half (2.5 to 3.8 cm) is good. I've had the best luck with planting them in vermiculite, at about a 45-degree angle, petiole end down. Cover and place in a warm, bright spot out of direct sunlight. You may need to remoisten the vermiculite from time to time. A single leaf may produce more than one new plant; if this happens, divide the plants and pot each of them separately. In many cases, the leaf can be cut away from the new plants and its petiole re-buried, where it can produce more plantlets.

Sedum morganianum (burro's tail). As for Crassula ovata. Leaves fall off very easily.

Zamioculcas zamiifolia (ZZ plant, eternity plant). The actual stem of a Zamioculcas is usually mostly under the soil; each stalk is actually a single leaf that's been divided into leaflets. The individual leaflets each have the ability to produce new plants, though the process takes a really long time. Remove leaflets from their stalks and plant in a fast-drying potting mix with the base of the leaf under the soil. Water thoroughly when the soil is almost completely dry, then let dry again. Protect from cold (below 60F/16C). Sunlight may speed the process along. Leaflets form small tubers below ground, so unlike Peperomia caperata, the new plant is not necessarily dead even if the original leaflet turns brown and dies.5 In my experience, new leaves will begin to appear after about 12-18 months, if they intend to.

Not pictured:

Crassula arborescens
Episcia cvv? (flame violet) -- ought to in theory, though I've never seen anybody say they did it, so I'm not sure about this.
Haemanthus albiflos (shaving brush plant, elephant's tongue)
some Hoya spp. -- by rumor only. Species like H. kerrii (sweetheart hoya) will root on individual leaves fairly easily, but I'm unclear about whether they'll produce new vines from a single leaf, or if so how long that might take.
Kalanchoe beharensis
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (flaming Katy, florist's kalanchoe)
Kalanchoe bracteata 'Silver Teaspoons' -- see post.
Kalanchoe tomentosa (panda plant)
probably most Kalanchoe spp., really
Nematanthus cvv.? -- like Episcia: it's a gesneriad, so it ought to, but that doesn't mean it actually does. (Nematanthus leaves tend to be small, so they may not be able to store enough water for this to work.)
Peperomia argyreia (watermelon peperomia)
Peperomia scandens (false philodendron)
most Pinguicula spp. (butterworts)
Sansevieria trifasciata cvv. -- though some variegated varieties won't come true from leaves and can only be propagated via runners.
Sedum burrito, Sedum rubrotinctum, most other Sedum spp.
Streptocarpus cvv. -- usually propagated by leaf section cuttings, as for Begonia. New plants can only arise from the leaf midribs, so usually leaves are cut into chevron-shaped pieces and planted in vermiculite or a similar medium.


1 Gesneriad = one of the plants in the family Gesneriaceae. African violets (Saintpaulia) are the most commonly-encountered gesneriads, but Streptocarpus (cape primrose), Aeschynanthus (lipstick plant, goldfish plant), Nematanthus (guppy plant, goldfish plant), and Columnea are also sold pretty routinely.
2 Stem cutting = most commonly a short (3-4 inch / 8-10 cm) piece of stem, plus leaves or side branches or whatever, rooted in soil, water, or a sterile medium like vermiculite or perlite, for propagation. The most common method of do-it-yourself plant propagation.
3 Transpiration = the loss of water through pores on the leaf surface. Most plants have these pores (called stomata) open during the day, where they can take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Along with oxygen, a certain amount of water is also lost, depending on the temperature, humidity, wind, and so forth. In a plant which is growing normally, the roots replace the water lost to transpiration by taking new water up from the soil.
4 Petiole = the "stem" connecting a leaf to the plant's main stalk.
5 It's not a particularly good sign, but it doesn't mean that everything's lost, either.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Assorted random plant events

When I quit smoking, some years ago, one of the things I missed about it was having an excuse to go stand outside for a few minutes at a time, several times a day. I'm not otherwise that motivated to go out. Also the nicotine. I still, sometimes, miss the nicotine. The down side of smoking was that it was giving me asthma. (Possibly lung cancer, also, but that wasn't motivation to stop. I bet very few people ever see their lives saved by asthma.) And it was increasingly expensive (I noticed about a week ago that a pack of Marlboros is up over $6.50/pack, around here; it was $1.40 or so when I started, which wasn't even that long ago.), too. But it wasn't without its benefits: there's something to be said for any activity that gets you outside looking at the weeds, bees, phases of the moon, etc.

So now, I take the dog out a couple times a day (first thing in the morning just to the yard, in case she has to go, and then for a 30-60 minute walk a couple hours after that), which leaves me in a really excellent position to notice not only the things that are happening in my very own yard, like the flowers on our maple tree (I suspect silver maple, Acer saccharinum) --

-- but also things happening in other people's yards. Like for example, I have no idea what tree this is (anybody know?), but the flowers are kind of neat:

I saw a bunch of Pulmonaria in full bloom in someone else's yard, so I checked the ones I planted here at the house. No flowers yet, but I have buds.

Being out and about with Sheba also means I saw my first dandelions a bit earlier than I probably would have otherwise, on April 1:

Nothing particularly showy and gorgeous in this post, but it's interesting anyway, I think. In particular, I don't very often get to look closely at tree flowers, and would almost certainly not have checked out the Pulmonaria at home, if not for the walks. So there's some horticultural benefit to having a dog. Unintended consequences.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Question for the Hive Mind: Euphorbia NOID

Wondering if anybody knows of any Euphorbia species which have milii-like flowers like those above, but much larger. The flowers in the picture were maybe an inch, inch and a half (2.5 to 3.8 cm) across, and the stem looked less like Euphorbia milii and more like Pachypodium lamerei: sort of silvery-shiny, and a good inch and a half (3.8 cm, again) thick, with longer but sparser thorns than on the E. miliis I've seen. I didn't get any pictures of the stem, and am now wishing I had, but I'm hopeful someone will know anyway. Is this probably still a milii cultivar? Are there hybrid Euphorbias like what I've described?

It's probably too late for me to buy one (this was some time ago, at Frontier Garden Center in Cedar Rapids), but I'm curious about how variable of a species E. milii might actually be.

(EDITED because for some reason I am unable to remember that it's miLii, not miLLii.)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Random plant event: Stapelia gigantea flower

The Stapelia flower bud I told you about last week opened on Wednesday. I was a little disappointed to learn that it was only an S. gigantea; I knew that was most likely (the pot had a newspaper clipping taped to it, about S. gigantea, so I knew that's what the previous owner had thought it was), but I was secretly hoping for something a little more unusual.

Which is pretty unreasonable of me, as I'm sure if it'd been some other Stapelia, I'd have been disappointed that the flower wasn't bigger, or something like that. Some people just can't be made happy.

The smell is more or less what I was expecting: it's in that whole dog shit / rotten flesh neighborhood, but not strong enough to make the whole house stink. The biggest smell-related surprise for me is that Sheba appears not to care. Maybe it's just that she can't actually reach it, so she has no reason to get excited. Or, more frighteningly, maybe she just thinks this is how houses are supposed to smell.

Anyway. So here are various photos of the flower. They all blow up much larger if opened in a separate window.

The entire plant. The pot is six inches (15 cm) in diameter.

Close-up of the important part of the flower. Hard to believe that the entire huge stinky production is all just to get a couple flies to visit this.

Close-up intended to illustrate the hairiness of the flower.

Close-up on the hairs around the outside of the flower.

The flower one last time.