Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some Amusing (?) Botanical Anagrams

Rearrange the letters in the following to spell the names of houseplant genera. Some of the genera in question are more obscure than others, but twelve (or thirteen, depending on how you count one) of them have been the subject of plant profiles before, which narrows things down somewhat. The others have all been mentioned here on multiple occasions.

Answers at the end of the post (highlight to read).

1. A LEO











12. E-MAIL TO:









1. ALOE (UPDATE: Jordan points out in comments that this could also be OLEA.)

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

No! I won't clean my room!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum Wossner Kolosuk

Not very different from the other Paphiopedilums I've seen, as far as shape and proportions go. The yellowish color is interesting, though. I like the look of paphs, but my personal experiences with them so far have been disappointing.

My Paphiopedilum is still alive, and grows, but it's smaller than it used to be: all but two of the original big, mottled leaves have died, and in their place the plant is growing smaller, unmottled dark green leaves. And obviously it's not reblooming, though that's not a big concern for me: I'd be perfectly happy if it just grew some pretty, large, mottled leaves. (The orchid that I really want to see blooming is the Brassolaeliocattleya, which has produced some excitingly large leaves recently, but there's no sign of blooms yet.) Does small, dark green leaves sound like anything specific to the orchid growers in the audience?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pretty pictures: Blue

I know. We've done this already. Very recently, in fact. But hey, can I help it that suddenly all the flowers are blue lately?

Commelina communis. Very pleased with how this photo turned out. The new camera has a tendency to de-saturate the color; things often look washed-out and dull, especially after they've been uploaded to the blog. I can pump up the color saturation if need be, but that doesn't always work out that well. This photo didn't need much modification.

Okay, this is a cheat. (Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica? Scilla sibirica) It isn't blooming now. But I had the picture from this spring that I never used, and it fits here. So.

The park closest to the house (there are at least three in town, which is two more than one would expect for a town this size) has a bunch of chicory growing along the edge of the parking lot it borders. Said chicory is apparently being deliberately encouraged; I'm pretty sure it could have been mowed or weed-whacked if this were a priority. And it is awesome.

Really this whole post was an elaborate excuse to post lots of pictures of Cichorum. I really like it. If I can figure out how, and if it's left standing long enough, I intend to take seeds and start them in the back yard somewhere, though that's a lot of ifs.

This is a partial cheat, in that this photo wasn't taken this summer, or even this year. In 2008, well before we'd even seen our current house, the husband tracked down an old schoolhouse that was for sale out in the country southwest (?) of Iowa City somewhere, and we went and looked at it, but nobody was home when we got there, so we settled for just looking around the outside. These were planted outside, along with pink Achillea, and I have never had any idea what they were. We visited in early July, so they're something which should be blooming now, though I haven't recognized them anywhere in town, and these are, unfortunately, the best pictures I have.

The owner actually pulled up while we were milling around aimlessly outside, and showed us around the inside, and it was extremely charming -- one neighbor, across the street, and then no others as far as the eye could see. It was up on a hill, with a beautiful view. The floor plan was weird: basically there was a tiny kitchen you walked into, a tinier bathroom just off the kitchen, and then one big huge room with maybe 16-20 foot (4.9-6.1 m) ceilings, hardwood floors, tall windows all the way across the south side, and part of the west side. It was amazing. The owner was visibly anxious about selling it, and I remember her asking whether we were really serious about it, and not to say we were if we actually weren't. We said we were, and in the moment, this was honest, but after we left, when we were talking about it, we realized that there was no way we could -- it was lovely, but needed too many repairs, especially to the basement. I've hoped ever since that ride home that she managed to sell it. She was really nice.

But so anyway. If you know what the flowers are, say something.

UPDATE: Kitty, in comments, suggests that it could be an Anchusa. From looking around on-line, I'm thinking possibly A. azurea?

SECOND UPDATE: Or perhaps Delphinium grandiflorum, says Don. Hard to confirm or reject either of these absolutely, since both Anchusa and Delphinium would fit within the range of photos kicked up by Google and The Delphinium looks a little closer in overall size and foliage.

THIRD UPDATE: Okay, okay, geez, it's Delphinium.

Okay, this is a Delphinium, right? I mean, I thought that's what it was when I first saw it, but then when I went to verify this from on-line pictures, I couldn't find anything that had foliage that matched this. Then I was going to call it a NOID, but that seemed stupid, since the flowers matched a lot of the Delphinium photos so well. It seemed really obviously a Delphinium, just with the wrong foliage. So could someone please assure me that I got it right? I don't care about an exact ID; I just want to know that my instincts about genus were correct.

Animals: Bufo americanus

Nothing super-special about toads. I like seeing them around, I think they're sort of neat, but by this point in my life, few toads or toad-related phenomena surprise me.

Adult toad, just passing through the yard. Photo is from a couple months ago.

However. Sheba scared the tiny little guy below out of the grass onto the street on a walk earlier this week, and s/he held still while I took a picture. And I was surprised, because I did not know that toads could be adorable.

Body length was roughly 1 inch (2.5 cm). Those are individual little grains of sand in the concrete, if that helps with the sense of scale. S/he could fit in a dollhouse and be nearly proportional to all the furniture. Like, "Barbie's Dream Toad™" or something.

Plant-related post to follow this afternoon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Random plant event: Anacampseros rufescens flower

I've yet to try growing an Anacampseros rufescens; they're not available very often, and so far when I've seen one for sale, there were more interesting plants to be bought, or it had bugs, or the price was bad. It's not an urgent, must-acquire plant for me anyway: it looks like one of those succulents for which no amount of light is going to be enough (like Pachyphytum, or some of the Euphorbias and Sedums). I've had enough of those.

But, it does flower, and the flowers are kind of cute. This is a plant from the ex-job, from a very long time ago when I still worked there. I realize that the photo doesn't show the plant itself very well: this was back when I could only take a tiny number of pictures before the batteries died. That sort of thing gives a person a very narrow focus. Things are better now. (Now, I likely average 75-100 pictures per day, the overwhelming majority of which you never see.)

I haven't seen any others in flower, but this particular plant was a lot larger than any I'd seen before or since (6-inch hanging basket, I think, as opposed to the usual 2- or 3-inch pot), and therefore probably also quite a bit older. Which likely has something to do with it.

Have you ever had an Anacampseros? How did that work out? I ask in case I happen to see one for sale again.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

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

About 25% of my blog hits have just . . . evaporated since May. This hasn't happened in previous summers. Christmases, yes (last Christmas there was a 30% drop, for about a week), but not summers. And it's not like it was a sudden drop because of the 4th of July holiday, where it'll rebound again quickly: it's been a slow, steady, increasingly alarming decline, spread out over eight months weeks. I can only think of two explanations that fit the numbers:

1) One or both of the Mouse and Trowel awards is cursed.
2) I have been writing posts since May that happened to suck.

If it's the curse thing, I'm guessing I just have to wait. If current trends continue, PATSP will be getting negative numbers of page views by the beginning of December 2010, but then in May 2011 (possibly), there will be a new Mousie awards, and the curse will be passed to someone else, and I can start climbing back upward again. I admit to being slightly curious about how negative page views could work.

If it's just that I'm sucking, then I apologize, and will try to do so less intensely and/or often. Hopefully these transmitted light photos will be to your liking. Also, have you lost and/or gained weight? You look terrific. And I really like what you have done and/or neglected to do with your hair.

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

Strelitzia nicolai. Not what you'd call stunning, maybe, but it's still kinda cool. Reminiscent of the wake of a boat, maybe?

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender.' The underside of the leaves of my plant are purple, and the tops are green, but unfortunately this mixes to produce brown, when viewed by transmitted light. If I were growing this in full outdoor sun, like it would prefer, then both sides of the leaves would be purple and we wouldn't have this problem. I think.

Dieffenbachia 'Tiki,' dead leaf. I haven't done dead leaves before, that I can recall. I mean, I've taken the pictures but then not used them, because often along with the deadness, there are also scars and spots. Plus dead leaves have a tendency to be wrinkly, which makes it hard to get the camera to focus properly. I don't know that this picture worked out that well either, but I have to experiment occasionally.

Cordyline fruticosa NOID. The color is off on this one -- the plant is actually more of a dark red-brown. It looks more orange because this plant is in a west window, and the geometry of the back yard is such that it only gets direct sun when the sun is already pretty low in the sky, making it more orange.

Cryptanthus 'Elaine.' I'm surprised at the color -- by reflected light, 'Elaine' is pink, white, and brown -- but the photo turned out pretty well.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis NOID, petal. I guess we've got sort of an orangey-brown theme going in this set of pictures.

Anthurium "hookeri," very new leaf. This plant makes me feel guilty, because I know it's not getting as much light as it wants, hence the large, pale, thin new leaves like the one in the photo. But part of me also quietly cheers when a new leaf forms and starts to inflate: how big will this one get? That, and the fact that I don't have any spots big enough and bright enough to improve the plant's situation right now.

Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Kong Aline.' (joke name for sport of 'Kong Rose') 'Kong Aline' is still with me, though it hasn't produced any leaves big enough for me to find out whether it's remembered how to make hot-pink pigments or not. (q.v.)

Zingiber malaysianum, older leaf. I don't know if Z. malaysianum is a particularly good transmitted-light subject, or if I'm just oddly obsessed with it, but it's going to come up a lot in the batches to come, so you should probably accustom yourself to seeing it.

Caladium 'Carolyn Whorton.' I considered trying Caladiums outdoors again this year, but money is an issue, and I wound up not planting anything outdoors that I didn't have already. (Though the Salvia elegans and 'Glennis' coleus do look very nice together, so that much worked out.) I think this was mostly the right choice, given the situation, but then I see this picture and . . . question the decision, for a moment.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Random plant event: Neoregelia NOID flowering

Well, it's finally happened: the dark purple Neoregelia I bought in August 2008 (the one with the scale problem) has decided to bloom. This is sort of bittersweet. Though it's nice that the plant's growing up, it also means that we're going to see its long, slow decline and death over the next year or two.

Yes, it will produce offsets before it goes, but my track record with rooting Neoregelia offsets is . . . not inspirational, let's say. I've managed five rooted offsets with N. 'Gazpacho,' but in two of those cases so far, the original offset actually died on me. I only managed to get a plant out of it because the offset that was dying itself produced an offset. Which is weird.

The flowers aren't especially decorative, though the structure from which they emerge pleases me. It looks sort of like a very tiny circular lawn.

I will, of course, try to get new plants out of this anyway, by trying to root the offsets. Maybe this will be the plant where I finally figure out how that's done. I've always liked it, problematic though it's been. (I don't care so much for getting stabbed by the marginal spines, especially since this particular variety's spines seem exceptionally prone to break off under my skin.)

If you were wondering -- neem oil does appear to have fixed the scale problem. It appears that using actual neem oil, instead of a neem oil extract, is important. I'm now using neem quite a bit around here. The smell still makes me want to gag a little, but I'm getting used to it, apparently. The only remaining issue is that when I've been doing a lot of neem spraying, I find myself sneezing a lot, for quite a while afterward. Natural product or not, I suspect this is probably a sign it's not good for me, but I haven't figured out a better way to do it. The product itself works well, though. I'll have to write a post about this sometime.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

Materials and Techniques: Selenicereus chrysocardium cuttings

This post might be a little premature, but even if we're not quite at the endpoint yet, enough has happened that I think a post can be built around it. So here we go.

I decided a while ago that I wanted to propagate some of my Selenicereus chrysocardium cuttings, both as insurance against a potential Selenicereus disaster and also to have on hand to trade or sell, should the situation arise. I wasn't sure quite how to do this, so I . . . basically just guessed.

The first step was to decide how many cuttings to take, and of what size. When we'd done this at work, we just cut the ends off of some long "fronds" (actually stems) and stuck them in soil. Which worked. I couldn't really do that, because my plant is only just so large, and and I didn't want to hack it to pieces just for propagation. So what I did was, I tried to make multiple cuttings from a single stem, which I did like so: I cut the -- I guess you'd call it the "midrib?" -- in multiple places, dividing the stem into multiple pieces which all contain some of the midrib.1 The pink lines in the below photo illustrate where I cut.

I planted them in vermiculite, in a plastic salad-mix container. Why vermiculite? Well, I was concerned about fungal problems if I planted in potting mix, and vermiculite is a sterile medium. It also tends to be really good for rooting things, even things that are ordinarily difficult. This may not have been completely necessary either: like I said, when we did this at work, we just used soil directly and it all turned out fine. But I wanted to be careful. Thus:

I think it looks sort of like a rib cage.

Very little has happened since then. I initially left the top of the container off, for fear of fungal problems. After it'd dried out a few times because I forgot to water it,2 I tried putting the top on. This turned out to be a bad idea; the next time I opened it up to check, I had botrytis growing on the cut ends.

Botrytis, sometimes also called gray mold, is a grayish fungus that attacks many, many types of houseplants, and I saw it all the time in the greenhouse at work, usually on leaves that had died and fallen on top of wet soil. It's unusual in a home environment because it's unusual for a home to be humid enough to keep an infection going. I removed the cover from the plastic container, sprayed the cuttings with neem oil, and haven't seen any Botrytis since.

Notice that the botrytis is only located where the plant was cut; it's not ordinarily able to attack uninjured tissue.

Extreme close-up to show the structure. But also because extreme close-ups are cool. (I still want a microscope so bad, y'all.)

I'm a little impatient for something visible to happen -- it seems like I should have at least one of these producing new foliage by now -- but I know they're doing something, because they don't pull out of the vermiculite easily like they used to, so there must be roots in there, and I've actually seen one root so far:

So it should only be a matter of time before I get foliage. And then I can pot them into separate pots, and they will thrive and grow and life will be perfect forever. Or that's my plan, anyway.


1 This may not be necessary, strictly speaking; I am unsure whether one can propagate from pieces which don't contain the "midrib," never having tried it. I think they did try it at work after I left, but I don't know how that turned out. So I was basically hedging my bets here -- I know that you can at least do it the way I'm describing, and if it turns out that a person can also propagate from smaller pieces of the plant, then that's great. Let me know if you know.
2 Wet vermiculite looks exactly the same as dry vermiculite, so I can't just look at the plants and know whether they need water. Which means that sometimes they dry out. Fortunately, Selenicereus chrysocardium handles drying out quite well, so long as it's for a reasonable amount of time.