Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture, except without any pictures of Sheba or Nina

Well, Sheba's run of twenty vomit-free days came to an end this week, on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. On the one hand, this is a new record, but on the other, we were really kind of hoping for longer. Maybe the baby mice she found and ate on Tuesday morning's walk didn't agree with her, or maybe it was the sponge she tore apart on Monday (she didn't get all of it, or even very much of it, but I doubt the pieces we recovered afterward would have been enough to reconstruct the entire original sponge), or maybe we just went a little overboard with the treats Tuesday night. The treats thing seems most likely, but I have to explain that one by way of a story.

Parodia microsperma. Was tagged P. herzogii, but says that's a synonym for P. microsperma.

The husband and I were going to go to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, because I hadn't been to Frontier in a while, and I needed clay pots. Once we got to Iowa City, though, the "CHECK ENGINE" light came on, and it suddenly seemed like a bad idea to go all the way to Cedar Rapids, so we decided not to. I bought pots at Lowe's and my ex-work, as well as *coughcoughcough* some plants (Agave, Mammillaria, Parodia; photos throughout the post). Then we stopped at the grocery store so I could buy some cactus-repotting tongs -- 'cause you gotta have cactus-repotting tongs -- and when I got back in the car, I suggested that we stop by the animal shelter.

It wasn't that I wanted to get another dog; the shelter is on the way home, and I wanted to check up on Fervor. I can't exactly explain why. I just did. So we went.

Any guesses as to the ID on this Agave? I'm inclined to say it's a variegated A. attenuata, but that's mostly because it's the main Agave I know without marginal spines -- the leaves don't seem wide enough to be attenuata.

He was still there. Got very excited when we paid attention to him, talking to him through the cage and stuff. I stuck my hand through and rubbed his stomach (neither I nor the husband could remember him rolling over for stomach rubs when he was living with us), and he jumped around and wanted to play and all that. I'd been fairly certain, the last time I'd seen him, that he remembered us, but I was less sure about that this time -- I mean, maybe he did, but it's also possible that after five months in the shelter, he'd have been just as thrilled with attention from a total stranger. I don't know.

I hadn't really planned on staying a long time, and I didn't want to have them go to the trouble of getting him out, especially since I knew there was no chance we could adopt him, but the temptation was there. (The husband and I found out after we left that we'd both been thinking well maybe we could take him and he could just live outside some of the time, or maybe the allergy thing wouldn't be such a big deal now that he's not shedding anymore, or endless variations on surely there's some way we could make it work. . . .)

Anyway. So I went in and asked the shelter people whether anybody had even applied to adopt him since we'd brought him back, whether there had been any interest.

Mammillaria elongata 'Pink Nymph,' according to the tag.

And no. It turns out that there has not. In six weeks. So then I felt kind of awful again.

The point of relating this story -- or at least the first reason, because I think there are two -- is that then when we got home, finally, we may have over-doted on Sheba a little, which makes very little rational sense but seemed like the thing to do, emotionally. The emotional logic, I think, was that if we couldn't take care of Fervor, then we'd take extra-super-good care of Sheba. You know, like, love-her-'til-she-pukes kind of good care.

Which in this case turned out to be literal.

Plus I'd given her a couple treats when we left, as an apology for leaving, so it seems likely that the treats are, and maybe always have been, a lot of the problem.

And the second point is, if you're in or near Johnson County, Iowa, and you're looking for a really big but basically well-behaved and sweet dog, I can recommend one. And if you're not looking for a dog, perhaps you ought to be? Maybe? Think about it? I'm really not going to rest easy until someone adopts him.

Fervor, who the shelter people insist on calling "Jebediah." Picture from 16 Mar 2010.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Question for the Hive Mind: Dahlia NOID

A PATSP reader writes,

I recently found your website while looking for growing information on some cacti- but after browsing through many past posts, I noticed that you and your readers help a lot of people with various plant ID. I fell in love with a Dahlia [in] a public garden about a year ago, and have not been able to figure out what kind it is. I was hoping someone might recognize it and know what it is called! It is a huge blossom, probably about 10-12” wide if I remember correctly. Very beautiful, rich jewel tone pink. The blossom seems to face downward, but there are so many frilly, wavy petals it all looks like a big messy ball. I have attached pictures (the last picture is of a soon-to-open bud), and greatly thank you in advance for your help!

Anybody have any guesses? Or know of any good Dahlia-centric sites that might be useful?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pretty pictures: Tulipa cvv.

I'd pretty much thought that the last batch of tulip photos would be it, but they keep coming up, and I keep taking pictures of them, so I have another batch to show. Plus, everybody likes tulips. So.

This first one I really like: it's pink and orange at the same time. I've seen them in a couple different places around town.

And then another flower of the same (?) variety, from a different garden:

It took me forever to get a decent picture of a yellow tulip. They're all over the place, but people have this thing about planting yellow tulips right next to their house, usually under a window, and I do not want to have any conversation which begins with the question "Why are you standing outside my five-year-old daughter's bedroom window with a camera?"

I see a lot of purple tulips around town too, but mostly they seem to be going for a darker, more somber kind of purple. Nothing wrong with that, but this guy's lighter hue stands out and seems somehow more appropriate to the season.

And yet another reddish one. It isn't the greatest photo; it was overcast when I took it, and the colors all wound up kind of washed-out. I did the best I could to get them more or less the way they appeared in person, but it kind of didn't work.

Only a couple houses have "black" (actually more of a very dark red-purple) tulips. This particular one is planted in a tire, which you can kind of see in the photo, along with some Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica). The combination works surprisingly well, in part because the color of the tulips and the color of their "planter" echo one another. This is possibly the first "black" tulip I've seen since reading about them in Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire. (I bought some 'Queen of Night' bulbs in the fall of 2007, along with some hyacinths and maybe something else, for a planter on the landing outside our apartment door, but nothing came up; I never figured out why.) They are, indeed, pretty dark.

"Parrot" "Fringed" tulips, those with fringed petals, don't seem to be very popular: this is the only one I've seen so far.

And, finally, another sighting of the highly-coveted (by me) viridiflora tulips. (I've actually seen one other one, a white one, but didn't take a picture because it was deep in someone's yard and Sheba can be trusted not to trample stuff only up to a point.)

In this particular case, I even know the cultivar name, because the tag happened to be there. This is Tulipa 'Greenland.' Of more interest to me than the name is how and why the tag happened to be there. (It looked like it was just lying there on the ground, not stuck upright into the soil. Except there's no way it could have just been laying there since last fall, not after the wind and the rain and everything. But if it had recently been dropped there, that doesn't make any sense either, because why would you put the identifying tag for a plant down after the plant had already come up and bloomed and was obviously whatever it was? Isn't that when you least need a tag telling you what the plant is? And even if you were going to try to mark the spot, you'd still want to push it into the soil vertically to keep it from blowing away, right? So it's a mystery.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Random plant event: Furcraea foetida 'Medio-Picta' offsetting

As ridiculous as it might be for me to be growing a full-sun, non-cold-hardy succulent that can potentially reach 8-10 feet (~3 m) in diameter, and to be doing this in Iowa, and indoors, I do really love my Furcraea foetida. I worry about it sometimes, too, like for example this winter it lost several leaves, and I don't know whether that was something that was going to happen regardless, or if I was watering it too much, or not enough, or whatever. But apparently I haven't been too terrible, because it looks like it's reproducing!

I'm really surprised by this; it hadn't really occurred to me that it was capable of offsetting (none of my Agaves have offset, or even looked like they were thinking about it), much less that it might go ahead and do so. No idea how long it might take for this to become a viable plant on its own. Pretty stoked about it anyway, though.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pretty pictures: Schlumbergera 'Caribbean Dancer'

I've posted pictures of 'Caribbean Dancer' before, more than once, even, but felt obligated to post some again because my plant is putting on quite a show all of a sudden. Or not "all of a sudden" -- I don't think Schlumbergeras do anything suddenly except drop buds -- but you know what I mean. There have been buds building for months, and finally they started to open around mid-April. I think the peak is basically now, but there are still plenty of buds left, so I could be wrong.

These are the same plant, a few days apart. The picture above was taken indoors on I think 29 April, and does a better job of showing the overall shape of the plant, but the color reproduction was better on the picture below, which was taken outside on May 2.

The timing is a little off: normally Schlumbergeras are supposed to bloom around late November, with maybe a smaller bloom in March or April. Close enough, I suppose, but this is definitely a bigger bloom than I got in November.

How did this happen? Well, after the pathetic November show, I moved the plant from the north window it was in to a prime spot in the southwest corner of the plant room, where it gets light from both the south and the west windows. (It's obstructed/filtered light in both cases, but still, there's a lot of it. Many of the other plants are extremely jealous.)

Also, when it stopped getting ridiculously cold outside at night, I stopped heating the plant room, which means that the temperature likely dropped a bit, maybe into the low 60s (F; this would be 16-17 C) instead of around 70F/21C like I'd been trying to maintain it during the winter. This, it happens, is just right smack in the middle of the temperature range recommended by the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, in their page about Schlumbergera, and happened at more or less the exact right time of year, too. (Schlumbergera decide when to bloom partly based on how long they're dark at night; they need a night around 12-13 hours long to set buds. In the fall, this would happen in late September into October, and the blooms appear in late November; in spring, the night length is right in February and March, with the flowers appearing in April.) So it was all sort of an accident, but I was lucky and did everything correctly, it would seem.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mouse and Trowel Nominations

PATSP has been nominated for multiple Mouse & Trowel awards. Which is kind of weird. I mean, I'd thought maybe one nomination.

But instead, I'm up for:

Best Container Gardening Blog
Best Indoor Gardening Blog
Best Writing1
Post of the Year (for the Zombie Apocalypse list)

Obligatory Gazania of Celebration. Gazanias are the official celebratory flower of PATSP since, like, forever.

Or maybe it should be we. "We" are up for four awards. I mean, there's only the one of me, but it sounds classier if it's plural, right? More meaningful somehow? Or does that just make me sound like a crazy person? (Or, more accurately: does that make us sound like a crazy person?2)

The competition on Indoor Gardening Blog is going to be especially painful, as I know (in the internet sense) three out of the four non-PATSP blogs on the list: Plant Zone, Indoor Garden-er, and Nature Assassin. Even more painful is my sudden realization that, of my previous ten posts, only two of them were even remotely related to indoor gardening.


(In my defense: it's spriiiiiiing, with all the flowers outside that other people have worked so hard to grow for me to take pictures of! I can't disappoint those people by not photographing their plants, can I?)

Anyway. Final voting goes through 17 May. Be careful about impulsive clicking: once you vote, it appears that you can't change your vote. Or maybe you can, and I just can't figure out how.


1 (!!!)
2 People? Persons? We're all agreed on "crazy," right?

Question for the Hive Mind: two different orange-flowering NOIDs

Got an e-mail last night from someone interested in an ID for this plant, which was spotted in a Northern Minnesota state park three or four years ago. The photo isn't the clearest (it should help to open it in a separate window), but you should still be able to make out the main features: low rosette of leaves, prickly/hairy flower stalk and leaves, red-orange flower with lots of yellow stamens.

I'm fairly certain I haven't seen this growing as a weed or wildflower anywhere; I'm less sure whether it might have been something we had for sale at the garden center. All of that was sort of a blur at the time, and it's even more so after a year away.

And then as long as we're here, I've got another orange NOID for you. This second plant is one I saw growing in someone's yard recently. I'm pretty sure it's there deliberately. It seems familiar, somehow, but yet it's not ringing any of the I-used-to-sell-those bells for me.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pretty pictures: Pulmonaria 'Raspberry Splash'

Well, I have a favorite perennial now. I bought two of these last spring, and they were among the lucky purchases which got planted somewhere (along the north side of the garage, in this particular case). I wasn't feeling especially optimistic about them coming back, but they have, and one of the two is now in full bloom, while the other is heavily budded but not actually flowering yet (as I write, last Wednesday).

I bought them without having seen the flowers, so this display is . . . well, I can't say completely unexpected, because I knew they were going to do something, but I didn't expect anything quite this dramatic.

The only thing I don't like about them so much is that handling them at all makes my hands really itchy. I suppose this is why they make gardening gloves.