Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Assorted Stuff / Hiatus Announcement

SPECIAL NOTE: I try not to go two consecutive days without a post, but a bunch of stuff popped up on Monday that made it impossible for me to get one together for Tuesday. And then Tuesday was complicated as well (malware on a computer -- not mine, but one I use for Sims and Hulu -- plus unprecedented levels of family drama1 and the usual barely-doable-within-the-time-available watering), and none of those problems have been resolved yet, so we may as well treat this as the beginning of another long hiatus, 'cause that's what it's going to turn into whether I like it or not. (You can't say you weren't warned.)

Orchid pictures will probably continue to go up about every four days, with minimal commentary, since they're already uploaded and scheduled.

Previously-arranged plant sales, blog comments, and e-mail correspondence should all continue to happen, albeit possibly a bit slower.

So here's the last regular post for a while. I was trying to make up for missing Monday and Tuesday by cramming lots of little fragments of posts together into one (Sort of like a blog-post McNugget.), until my Tuesday went to hell and I ran out of time.

1. Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips'

Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips' is the first plant I've bought in two months, and only the third plant I've purchased in the last six months. (The previous two purchases were the Salvia elegans, which I'm now thinking was a bad decision,2 and the Ananas lucidus, which is doing quite well.)

Manfreda undulata 'Chocolate Chips.'

I wouldn't have gotten this one either -- it was on the pricey side,3 and is a genus I haven't tried to grow before -- but I've been wanting a Mangave to try for a very long time, and this is the first thing I've seen for sale that was even close to a Mangave. So we're trying it. So far, so good, though it's lucked into one of the outdoor spots, so I really won't have any idea what it's like to grow indoors for another six months.

2. Amorphophallus konjac

I got an Amorphophallus konjac bulb from a reader at the end of last summer, as part of a trade. Stored it in the plant room on a low (cold) shelf, then potted it up this spring, around the end of April. And then there was a lot of waiting for it to do something.

It still has a ways to go, but I should be seeing an actual unfurled leaf fairly soon. Kind of excited.

The one bad thing about Amorphophallus is that plants with pronounced dormancies, that need to be stored dry during the winter, make me really nervous -- I'm always scared that I'll kill the plant accidentally and not find out until I go to start it again. I don't know why this is more scary to me than the plant-killing I do all the time, but it just is.

3. Grocery Store

Saw some unusual houseplant-related items in the produce section of the grocery store last week; Hylocereus fruits --

-- and Aloe vera leaves.

I knew Hylocereus ("dragon fruit") were sold, though I don't think I've ever seen any around here before. Didn't see a price on them. The opposite is true for the Aloe -- I've seen plenty of Aloes, but never expected to see the leaves for sale without the rest of the plant being attached.

4. What Fresh New Hell is This?

From the ex-job:

The plant looks fine -- some kind of NOID Rhipsalis, I'm guessing -- but what the hell is it growing in? Is that all coconut fiber? Can epiphytic cacti live in something like that?

5. Zea mays

One way to know that you live in Iowa next to a corn field is to check your lawn for . . . hmmm. I don't know if there's a term for these or not.4 I'm going to call them "cornweed," until I hear a better name.

There's also a few in the garden along the fence, though you can't see them clearly from this photo.

Squirrels drag unharvested corn cobs from last year's crop into the yard, then scatter the seeds around as they eat them. The corn these will produce isn't likely to be anything we'd want to eat (field corn is gross), so it's kind of pointless to leave it, but all the Iowanness in me rebels at the idea of pulling up a cornstalk, so they stay.

6. Gomphrena 'Audrey White'

In other news, Gomphrena now comes in white. Maybe it always did. I wasn't aware of it until this year, though. I don't know how I feel about it.

I guess that's it for now. See you when I see you.


1 I and the husband are personally fine, and don't expect to be directly affected by any of what's going on. Just in case you were worried.
2 I had a bunch of cuttings going in the basement, which were doing fine, and then I let them get too dry and lost 4 out of 5 of them. There may have been spider mites as well. This is exactly what happened to the previous batch of S. elegans, as I described back in April, so it's possible that it's just not a plant I can grow anymore.
3 ($14.99 plus tax for a 5-inch pot)
4 (There's "volunteer corn," which are the seeds that fell into the soil instead of getting harvested, which come up the following year and are generally removed, but I'm looking for something more specific to the situation of having corn spontaneously appearing in one's lawn.)


Paul VA said...

You might be able to leave the manfreda outside. What zone are you in? I've brought mine in for the winter and it loses its spots and wavy-ness. In colder zones they die back to the ground, but are quite hardy if given good drainage

mr_subjunctive said...

Paul VA:

Both and the tag that came with it say it's only hardy to zone 7; I'm in zone 5.

Ivynettle said...

I wouldn't be nervous about the Amorphophallus - I keep mine dry all winter, and it's fine, and my boss keeps his watered, and we only lost one out of the 15 we had (we're actually selling them this year - I wish my customers were as excited about this as I am!)

CelticRose said...

Sorry to hear about the computer troubles and the family drama. Glad you and the husband are doing okay.

The dragonfruit is cool, but aloe leaves in the produce section?! As far as I know aloe isn't edible due to its laxative effect.

Diana said...

Hiatus, again? Sniff. I miss you already.

Bret said...

Sorry to hear about all the computer and family stuff. Enjoy the hiatus. It's summer, almost everything goes on hiatus in the summer. We'll all await your return.

Did you try the Hylocereus fruit? I love them. They can be a bit expensive though, I only get them when I see them cheaper at ethnic grocery stores. I've seen aloe leaves for sale before. Never had them though I have had aloe drinks with aloe chunks in them which are tasty.

It's think that epiphytic cacti could grow in pure coconut fibers since I have seen soil recipes using high coco coir. Still, it does seem a bit odd and might hold too much water than the plant would like.

mr_subjunctive said...


Aloe vera juice is edible if prepared correctly; the laxative part is concentrated just under the leaf surface, so with a big enough leaf and a sharp enough knife, you can cut the aloin-containing bits out. I don't really get why anybody would bother going to the trouble, but then, I'm not an adventurous eater.


I know, I know. The actual problem is the plants, not the blog: I have too many, and they need too much of my time. I've been a bit more ruthless than usual lately, throwing out plants that I'd been holding onto in case they made a comeback, or plants that I had too damn many of to ever have any hope of selling: not only do I still have too many; I actually wound up with more than I had when I started trying to be ruthless. (Since the beginning of April, I've sold or given away 82 plants, threw away another 77, and still somehow managed to have a net gain of 92 plants. Which means I've added 251 in that time, 190 of which are Anthurium seedlings.)

I recognize, of course, that all of the plants aren't necessary. But:

* some do well,
* some used to do well, and might again someday if I could just find the right place for them to go,
* some I don't want, but would be really difficult or expensive to replace if I ever changed my mind so I keep them anyway,
* some have sold well in previous years,
* some have sentimental value,
* some are so easy to propagate that it seems like a shame not to,
and so on.

Exactly how this situation is to be resolved, I don't know. And keep in mind that I was actually wanting to keep writing the blog while writing something to sell at the same time. I mean, it's clear that the plan is not working; I just don't have another plan.


No, I didn't try the Hylocereus; I actually threw out my plant a while back because I got tired of it (it didn't look good, and needed more light than I was giving it) and had no interest in getting more. Also there was no price on the fruit, so I figured it was probably outrageous, and I'd heard the flavor wasn't very exciting anyway.

Anonymous said...

Don't Amorphophallus plants get really huge? Or are there those that stay small? Anyway you say "plants with pronounced dormancies, that need to be stored dry during the winter, make me really nervous" and that made me laugh. I wore myself out once with indoor plants who did well and left me only a cow trail width to weave through the front third of the small dwelling I had at the time. Couldn't give them away. I ended up committing a mass murder when a really hard freeze was predicted and I spent a couple of hours hauling them out for full exposure. I was a bit sorry later about a couple of heirloom plants, but felt liberated nonetheless. So now I like achimenes and eucodonias and stuff like that have a definite and complete winter dormancy. It's the stuff that won't do that and somehow have to survive my complete neglect in the winter that are more at risk.

Texas anon

mr_subjunctive said...

Texas anon:

Google says they get to be 5-6 feet tall, eventually. Other Amorphophallus get bigger. The one you're probably thinking of is A. titanum, which gets flowers to 10 feet tall and leaves to 20. (According to Wikipedia, anyway.)

I can appreciate the value of getting a break in the winter. Having thought about the matter some more, I think what the deal is is that I had a bad experience in high school with a Caladium, where when it began to die back, I didn't know if if it was doing so because it was unhappy or because it was going dormant. I didn't have a place to store the tuber, so I never had to wait to find out, but the whole business of not knowing if I was witnessing dormancy or death, both of which were plausible because it's not like it had ever done that great to begin with, sort of soured me on the whole idea.

r said...

the Amorphophallus will be fine. much light, water and fertilizer (if you want more impreesive annual growth).
when the leaf starts to die, later in fall, you can stop watering and let it go dry. don't cut the leaf - it will fall off, or can be pulled off once it's completely dry. then you either leave the tuber in the dry soil or you can take it out and store it in a dry place. no cold is required, i guess, as i keep them at room temperature in the cupboard. darkness seems sensible to me, but maybe they could even stay out in the light (never tried that).
it's better to take them out, i think, cause the plant will form small satellite tubers and it's better to pot them up separately from the large one next year. (and soon you'll have an Amorphophallus farm.. :p )
then in the spring you just wait for the eye of the tuber to awaken, and even then there's no hurry potting it up.. you can let the sprout grow a little bit and then put it in soil.

Julie said...

The Audrey White is gorgeous. The little white sort of puffs (what do you call these???), are similar to what I will see on my Alternanthera dentata, (Purple Knight) plants! Can't wait!