Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

In the basement. The photo is somewhat misleading, because it implies that the shelves on the right side of the photo are just as full of plants as the shelves on the left: in actuality, about 1/2 of the space on the right shelves is still empty, because I don't have it lit yet. But soon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Random plant event: Senecio mikanioides

I've never tried growing Senecio mikanioides, indoors or out, but I do occasionally see people talking about doing so (mostly in books). The flowers aren't anything special to look at --

-- but I was struck by the fragrance, which was fairly strong and pleasant. (If memory serves, it was in the jasmine / gardenia neighborhood, but this was a while ago, so I may be misremembering. Or mis-describing.) The fragrance is honored by the new name, Delairea odorata: as I have just gotten it into my head that it's spelled mikanioides instead of mikanoides, I'm not going to give the old name up yet. (C'mon, taxonomists -- meet me halfway at least, eh?)

It's also an invasive species in places where winters are mild. Apparently it's particularly bad in California and Australia. (One source says Montana as well, which confuses me a bit, since Montana is not known for balmy winters.) It doesn't appear to be a serious problem elsewhere so far, though the Mediterranean coast, the Atlantic coast of the U.S., southeast England, and similar climates ought to keep a look out. I don't see the appeal of the foliage anyway:

But I could understand being tempted by the flowers' fragrance, I suppose. Anybody out there ever grown it indoors? Is it easy to keep alive and/or bring into flower? Would I have to have direct sun? I can't buy the plant in the photo, for . . . reasons, but I see it for sale once in a while around here in the spring, so if I should get one, now's the time to tell me.

If it helps with the recommendation: I've had a Senecio macroglossus for quite a while and have decided that it's probably not worth my time, even if it doesn't actually die.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Specialists and Generalists

Two things have happened lately that have gotten me thinking about the plant collection and which plants are and are not valuable to me. One, I've been doing a lot of complaining about how much time it takes to water everything, so someone finally did the obvious thing and asked me, straight-up, whether all the plants were in fact necessary, whether I even enjoyed having them around. Two, I'm preparing to propagate some stuff for selling/trading season,1 and since in the past, I've rarely sold out of any plants I offered (last year, I think the only one I sold out of was Ledebouria socialis), I'm doing the propagation this year with an eye towards which plants I have that I might actually want to have extras of at the end of the summer. No point in having thirty pots of a plant I don't even like sitting around when October arrives, after all.

What this has done for me, then, is it's made me focus pretty hard on which plants I like and don't like, which plants are and aren't working for me. Hence Monday's anti-orchid outburst, and my new realization that I never want to own another African violet, which I hadn't told you about until now.2

I've always been fairly indiscriminate in my plant purchases: there are a few plants that have just never appealed to me,3 but of the 128 options in the Rumble Among the Jungle list, I've attempted all but 19 at one time or another, and I've never felt like specializing in any particular family, genus, or species. But I'm starting to see how that could happen. Orchids and African violets are off the table today. Maybe I decide I've had enough of ferns (which have also been having a rough year here) next week. In a couple months, I finally accept that I don't have adequate light for desert cacti. In the fall, I decide no more Hoyas because of their tendency to suddenly disintegrate for no obvious reason.4 And so on.

The question is: is this process of gradually shrinking the field of possibilities how specialists come to specialize, or do most plant specialists only ever care about one thing to begin with? And how often does it go the other direction, where a narrowly-focused African violet person dabbles in a few Episcias and Streptocarpuses, then a Pilea or two, and eventually becomes a generalist? I'm guessing generalist --> specialist is more common than specialist --> generalist, but I don't actually know.

So I submit the question to the group for anecdata. Are you a specialist or a generalist? (If a specialist: what family / genus / species?) Which direction have you been moving, over time? Could you see yourself moving from specialist to generalist, or vice-versa?5 Is specialization more common among outdoor gardeners? Etc.


1 (Look for an announcement around mid-April.)
2 Because I know there are fans of orchids and African violets reading: it's not the plants themselves, not exactly. Obviously I've found them interesting enough to buy them over and over in the past. But I cannot keep them alive here, in my current situation, and after a certain point, buying more and more of a plant you can't grow stops being admirable perseverance and becomes stubborn refusal to acknowledge reality. Also, it's tough to like a plant when all you get to do is watch one specimen after the next slowly run downhill and die, so even if my situation changed, I wouldn't try growing them again. I'm over them. (Orchids are so 2008.)
Should maybe also note that I still have three orchids and two African violets, and I don't intend to get rid of any of them unless / until it becomes obvious that they're not going to work for me either. I have a very, very difficult time discarding healthy plants, even when I don't like them. They don't even have to be that healthy.
3 Examples: Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, Opuntia spp., Lithops spp./cvv., Nephrolepis exaltata, Rhododendron cvv.
4 Which has happened again in the last couple months, this time with H. polyneura.
5I'm not likely to get a very narrow focus on any particular group of plants anytime soon; there are too many plants already here that I like and that do well for me, but if I were going to specialize, I suspect I'd focus on the genus Anthurium. For the past nine months or so, I've been crossing plants and starting seeds every time I get an opportunity to do so, to the point where the basement now holds six plastic containers of seedlings. I don't have a particularly good sense of how many individuals are actually down there right now, but I'd ballpark it at around 150.

One of the containers. This particular batch was started in November 2011, and have 'Gemini' (medium-sized red-pink spathe with yellow spadix) as the female parent. Don't know for sure who the father was, but 'Pandola' (large medium-pink spathe with medium-pink spadix) is the one I'd guess.

Odds are that all of these Anthurium mongrels are commercially worthless, but I won't know until they get old enough to bloom, around 2016. I'm going to continue to cross them and start seeds anyway, because doing so amuses me, so the possibility is there that randomly-crossed Anthuriums will make up a larger and larger proportion of my plant collection as time goes by. At the same time, I can't imagine being without Aglaonema, Dracaena, Synadenium, Schlumbergera, and half a dozen other things. (In fact, I'd probably lean more toward Aglaonema instead of Anthurium, if only they were easier to flower, cross, and germinate indoors.)

Another shot of the same container of seedlings.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Pretty picture: Psychopsis Mendenhall alba 'Yellow Butterfly'

Since I last complained about my orchids, I've lost two more (both Potinaras). For those keeping score, that means I've attempted eleven orchids and lost six, with two more deaths likely by May:

Ludisia discolor. (Jun 2007 - Nov 2009; overpotted. There might also have been some problems with the mix I repotted it into.)

Dendrobium 'Karen.' (Oct 2008 - Dec 2011; potting medium likely too water-retentive)

Brassolaeliocattleya Helen Brown. (Oct 2008 - STILL ALIVE!)

Dendrobium "Humphrey Bogart"1 (Oct 2008 - STILL ALIVE!)

Paphiopedilum Supersuk 'Eureka' x Paph. Raisin Pie 'Hsinying' x Sib (Nov 2008 - April or May 20122)

Phalaenopsis NOID (Mar 2009 - STILL ALIVE!)

Oncidium NOID. (May 2009 - Aug 2009; attempted salvage of rootless plant from work that unsurprisingly didn't take)

Sophrolaeliocattleya Hazel Boyd 'Debbie.' (Dec 2010 - May 2011; thrown out due to scale)

Potinara Eye Candy 'Mellow Yellow.' (Dec 2010 - Feb 2012; slow death over a long period for no obvious reason)

Potinara Eye Candy 'Sweet Sensation.' (Dec 2010 - Feb 2012; also a slow death over a long period for no obvious reason)

Oncidium Tsiku Marguerite NN #1 (Dec 2010 - any day now; another long slow decline, and the plant is down to about 1/6 of its original size and number of pseudobulbs)

And the few plants that have survived aren't interesting to look at; the only orchid to ever rebloom for me is dead. So I am getting pretty disgusted with the Orchidaceae, to the point where I was seriously considering skipping the Illowa orchid show this year. It's just going to be all the same plants as last year, I can't afford to buy any of them, if I could buy plants they'd just die on me anyway, the pictures often don't turn out that well and need a lot of after-the-fact manipulation, and maybe I just don't want to look at fucking orchid flowers this year.

But. We're going to go anyway, assuming cooperation from the weather, vehicle, and venue, because:

1) I'll probably be less mad by then. (It's scheduled for March 10, at Wallace's Garden Center in Bettendorf, IA; see their website for directions.)
2) There will be other plants there too -- probably not very many, but enough. (Last year I saw my first Pinguicula!)
3) I haven't been to Wallace's in forever, and feel bad about it.3
4) I can't really pass up an opportunity to take 30-40 posts' worth of blog photos in a single day, however I may feel about the subjects.

So if you're there and you see a guy taking close-up pictures of the flowers with kind of a sour, contemptuous expression on his face, say hi! Just don't start talking about how wonderful and easy orchids are to cultivate, or I will have to kick you in the shins.

Unsolicited orchid-troubleshooting advice will also result in shin-kicking.

And I will probably be wearing boots.

In fact, you're probably best not to mention the orchids at all. I realize this will be difficult under the circumstances, but do say hi anyway.


1 My name for it; it was a NOID.
2 I know the approximate date because if it survives to April or May, I'm sending it to someone else. Details to be announced.
3 I like them; we just don't have compelling reasons to go to the Quad Cities very often.