Thursday, January 6, 2011

Newish plants

This batch isn't very interesting until you get to the last one, and the last one isn't as interesting as it could be, in the context of yesterday's post, but, you know, they can't all be exciting plants you've never seen before.

Alpinia zerumbet variegata. Lowe's, Coralville, $3.25.

I have such mixed feelings about Lowe's. I wish they didn't have to mistreat the plants so badly, but if I'm honest, that's the main reason I still check to see what they have: I get curious about whether they have anything interesting marked down because it's on the brink of death.

I got a division of this variety of Alpinia from a reader last summer, and potted it up, and it did so well that I decided it would be worth it to try to revive this one. Ominously, when I asked about the price (it wasn't marked, but was on the distressed rack, so I figured it was discounted: I just didn't know how what the new price was), the employee asked, "gonna nurse it back to health, are you?" and laughed. I'm not sure if the idea amused him because he assumed I wouldn't know what I was doing and was therefore throwing my money away, or because he knew that it didn't matter whether I knew what I was doing because the plant was already so thoroughly destroyed that there was no bringing it back possible, or if he's just the kind of person who thinks everything sounds friendlier and more customer-servicey if accompanied by a laugh ('Twas the season to be jolly, after all), but in any case I was kind of disturbed by the reaction.

Since the photo was taken, mostly I've just cut off more leaves, but there are a few new ones opening. I should probably try to find a better spot for it, too: right now it's sort of in the path of a heater, which is likely not helping.

Asplundia 'Jungle Drum.' Lowe's, Coralville, $0.75.

Same thing, though in this particular case they had about seven or eight of these discounted, and this was the only one that looked like it was going to survive. The others were all soaking wet, standing in about an inch of water, and the emerging leaves were black. If only I'd gotten there sooner.

Not that I need more Asplundias: I just like them, and they're still rare enough around here that I feel sort of obliged to pick one up if I see one. Particularly when they're only $0.75.

Euphorbia ingens? Lowe's, Coralville, $9.

Yet another Lowe's rescue. They had bigger specimens of this same plant for $27, which I declined to buy the last time I was there because it looked like they'd gotten pretty beat-up in transit, but I have wanted one of these (whatever it is) for a while, so now I have one.

Dizygotheca elegantissima 'Olympia.' Lowe's, Coralville, $2.68.

This wasn't a rescue: I actually paid full price for this. Dizygotheca elegantissimas still make me nervous, even though I've had one at home for three and a half years now. It's been fine (though it did drop a ring of leaves from the very top of the plant recently, which was odd), so I'm pretty sure I can do this, but even so.

'Olympia' is the name Exotic Angel gives this variety: it's basically the same as the species, but the leaves are shorter and stubbier. I don't know that I like it, but it was different, the plants looked like they'd just come in, and it was under $3, so I'll gamble.

Saintpaulia NOID. Ace Hardware, Iowa City, $5.

More bravery. The 'Shimmer Shake' I bought in Cedar Rapids a month ago (see previous new plants post) is flowering abundantly now,1 and the one I've had for years, the only survivor of the 2009 mass death, has been doing well and flowering continuously for over a year now,2 so I figured I'd push my luck a bit further. I don't know what flower colors to expect here; it didn't have any when I bought it, and hasn't produced any flowers since, but it's only been three weeks or so.

Schlumbergera NOID. Lowe's, Coralville, $2.50.

Schlumbergera NOID. Lowe's, Coralville, $5.50.

Well I said I was going to grab some Schlumbergeras when they started marking them down. I was hoping to wait until they were cheaper than this (last year I saw several for $1, so I assume the same happened / is happening this year), but there were almost none available that weren't 'Caribbean Dancer' or something that looks like 'Caribbean Dancer,' so I panicked and bought early. The pink/magenta one is a 4" (10 cm) pot, and the white is a 6" (15 cm) pot.

Sophrolaeliocattleya Hazel Boyd 'Debbie.' Orchids and Moore, Iowa City, $22.44.

Orchids and Moore is a one-woman operation at the Sycamore Mall in Iowa City. Jacklyn Moore has been selling orchids there for about nine years there, but the hours are weird because it's a side job, so a lot of the time when I think about going, she's not there. I don't actually get into town that much, and to the Sycamore Mall even less, so I think I've only actually looked at what she's got twice.

Both times, I really wanted a Masdevallia, O&M being the only place I've seen them for sale,3 and both times I talked myself out of it because I knew if I bought one I'd be dooming it to death by underwatering.

The first time I looked at what she had (a long time ago -- I was still working in the garden center then), I didn't wind up buying anything, but this time, I have a few years of keeping a Brassolaeliocattleya alive under my belt,4 and I'd just bought the two Potinaras, so I was feeling more adventurous. It took a long time to rule out the Masdevallia, and then there was a scented Epidendrum or Epicattleya (some kind of Epi-something or another, anyway) that I thought about for a long time, but then at the end I grabbed this Slc., which I hadn't been considering particularly, or even thinking much about, because apparently my subconscious was working out the decision while I was dithering about the Epiwhatever.

It's a ridiculously difficult flower to photograph, because the color varies a lot depending on the lighting. Sometimes it's a bright orange-red, sometimes a satiny pink-red as in the picture, occasionally it's a deep wine-red. And then the camera sometimes makes colors up besides, so I wouldn't say the above is a particularly good representation of the flower, but it's the best I'm going to be able to do.


1 Though, disappointingly, the color is not what I thought I was going to get: the spent flowers that were still attached to the plant looked like they were light pink or lavender with dark blue-violet flecks, like a variety I used to have, so I bought it because of that, and instead I've got a plant with monstrous, huge, ruffly, doubled things that are a solid color somewhere between blue-violet and lavender. No flecks at all. For the moment, it's flowering so robustly that I don't mind that much, but even so: not the variety I thought I was buying, and I'm puzzled as to how I could have been that far off.
2 (Though it needs to be root-pruned and re-potted.)
3 It's possible that someone was selling them at the orchid show at Wallace's Garden Center last March, but A) if anybody was, I don't remember seeing it, and B) it wouldn't have mattered, because I have a very clear and distinct memory of not having enough money to be buying orchids at the time, so I actually sort of tried not to look too closely at the stuff that was for sale.
4 And not just alive, but getting bigger and stuff too. I knew when I bought it that it wasn't of flowering size yet, but figured that was the only way I could afford to try one out. It still hasn't flowered, but there are some interesting, tiny buds as of the last couple weeks, which are either leaves or flowers. Since I've never even seen the flowers, except in photos online, this would be very exciting news, if they turned out to be flower buds, but I think they're probably actually just leaves. But leaves would be sort of exciting too. I'm just tickled that it's not dead, really.


Ivynettle said...

Sheesh - Schlumbergeras in 10 cm pots costing $ 2.50 after they've been marked down? I'm reasonably sure that size costs € 1.49 (a little less than $ 2) here at full price. *feels lucky*

Then again, I'm also jealous because you can buy plants and I can't, not until I've built my extra-broad windowsills and painted all the walls. Which means I'd better get back to that.

Pat said...

The Alpinia is more interesting to me but I am a ginger nut. A. formosana would be even more interesting but this is a lovely plant. Pretty orchid, too.

Liza said...

I wonder if the Lowe's guy laughed because he's used to little old ladies wanting to nurse plants back to life, not young men with big arms. Pretty lame.

Tom said...

Ha. I was just at Lowes talking myself out of a hanging basket of Parthenocissus stricta. I think it looks like a good haul, they're all plants I'd never turn down! Well maybe the Asplunda but that's just because I've never had anything resembling luck with those.

Sentient Meat said...

Maybe the Lowe's guy was laughing because he was really surprised anyone would want a product in such obviously bad shape.

Anonymous said...

Alpinia are pretty easy to nurse back to health. I love that elagantissima! I never saw one like that!

Garden Hints said...

Congrats on your new orchid! They are the purchase that is somewhat hard to decide on - because of the price and maintenance difficulty. Our local grocery store put out new batch of orchids and this time they are not the usual phals but lovely flowering dendrobiums at $30. My husband had trouble dragging me out of the store without buying one yesterday, but I am going there today again:)...

Paul said...

Funny you should have bought Aralia 'Olympia' -- I was at Lowes dithering as to whether to buy one to try in my 55 gal terr. But I talked myself out of it since:
1) my luck with Ming aralias has be disastrous; and
2) I feared that if it turned out to like the terr conditions, it might quickly outgrow the space.
(Perhaps you might try it in Nina's pad so I can find out. LOL)

It is possible that one of the warmth tolerant Masdies might do well in Nina's tank, depending on the moisture and light levels.

The Lowes guy may have the same 'weakness' for rescuing plants (or knowing someone who does) and thus laughed knowing how that is. *shrug*

Nice Catt. Btw, if you post a pic of your chid you think may be budding, I very likely will be able to tell you if they are flower buds or leaves.

mr_subjunctive said...


However Exotic Angel has it labeled, it's not actually an aralia (Polyscias), it's a false aralia (Dizygotheca, now officially Schefflera). So you history with ming aralias may or may not be relevant. It's possible that 'Olympia' grows faster or slower than the species, but the species is slow enough that it would probably work in the terrarium for at least a couple years: mine went from about 8 in / 20 cm tall to 38 in / 96 cm tall over the course of three years and five months.

It might have been faster in a terrarium, of course. But still.

For the moment, there's no good temporary spot to put a Masdevallia until I figure out what I'm doing with Nina's place, but it's fairly likely that Orchids and Moore will have one the next time I'm there, so if I decide Nina must have one, I haven't completely missed my chance yet. If I were to put an orchid in with Nina, though, I think I'd be more inclined to go with one of the jewel orchids instead.

I got pictures of the buds a while ago, but I have posts planned a couple weeks in advance already, and a fairly ambitious amount of writing to do, so by the time I got to posting about it, it would probably already be clear what was going to happen. And odds are it's a leaf anyway: I couldn't be so lucky as to get three or four simultaneous bloom spikes on a three or four year old Blc., could I?

nycguy said...

Mr. S,

Do you hsve a strategy for getting masdevallias through the summer?

Here in NYC they are famous for looking alive and healthy until you happen to touch them---then they immediately absciss all their leaves at once. You're left looking at a pot of leafless stubble. Even the alleged warmth-tolerant ones seem to do that.

I understand that they like San Francisco weather the best---cool and foggy.

mr_subjunctive said...


Sorry, I don't. I've never even had one.

And now that you've said that, I think I'm less likely to ever have one.