Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday morning Sheba and/or Nina picture

I am occasionally impressed by Nina's ability to stick to glass surfaces, but then I remember 1) all the hard-water buildup probably makes the glass a bit rougher and easier to stick to than I'm thinking it is, and 2) I bet if I only weighed three grams (0.1 oz), I'd stick to lots of stuff too.

The lid is not normally open on the cage; I opened it for the picture because I can't get good pictures through the screen. I don't get good pictures without the screen either, but try to ignore that.

(Side note: if you are one of the many, many people to whom I owe e-mail currently, I am very sorry. Don't hold your breath.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Walkaways Part 17

A few interesting plants from the ex-job:

Calliandra emarginata.

They were selling Calliandra emarginata as a bonsai (or at least a bonsish; I don't think they've ever had actual bonsai bonsai), which guarantees that I will never buy it, but it's an interesting plant. No clue what they're like to grow indoors; I don't even have any idea what they're like to grow outdoors.

Kalanchoe 'Fantastic.'

I've had mostly-bad experiences with the Kalanchoe genus in general, and consistently bad experiences with Kalanchoe luciae specifically, in the past, so this wasn't particularly tempting, but it was new (to me), and I can't argue that it's not a cool-looking plant.

I don't know whether this is K. luciae or K. thyrsiflora, and it appears no one else does either: Google results are split about 50/50. The tag, for the record, said K. thyrsiflora, not that that means much.

Loropetalum chinensis.

Loropetalum chinensis is another bons-ish; I include it here mostly because I'd never heard of it before and it's kind of pretty.

Polypodium formosanum var. cristatum.

I intend to try this plant someday. I've had some ups and downs lately with footed ferns (two of my three Davallias have taken a recent hard turn for the worse, over nothing in particular that I can see; one has died as a result), but Phlebodium aureum is one of my favorite plants, and Polypodium grandiceps seems to be working for me so far, so P. formosanum seems worth a try even so.

It's possible that the correct name is Phlebodium formosanum, not Polypodium formosanum; Glasshouse Works gives both names but appears to favor Phlebodium. If that's the case, then I'm even more interested.

Philodendron 'Pink Princess.'

Finally, Philodendron 'Pink Princess.' For most of the last few years, I haven't seen it for sale anywhere around here (I think I saw them at Wallace's once), and now all of a sudden the ex-job has gotten them on two separate shipments, as 6" (shown) and also as 4". It's an interesting-looking plant, but I'm not terribly interested in 'Pink Princess' because it's super expensive, and everything I've heard about it suggests that it's really slow-growing. The two things are probably related.

I don't remember what the ex-job wanted for the 4-inch plants, but it was definitely over $10, maybe something like $15. They paid a lot to get them in, I understand (don't know how much, but I know how they calculate these things, and the retail prices reflect wholesale), but $10 for a 4-inch tropical plant is never going to seem acceptable to me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Random plant event: Aglaonema 'Maria,' with special guest star

This could also have gone into Tuesday's unfinished business post, but it seemed special enough to warrant its own. In this case, the news is that one Aglaonema seed I started around December1 has actually germinated. Not that it's particularly interesting to look at yet:

But even so. I didn't expect this to work at all, so having anything happen is pretty neat.

I planted the seed in a mix of soil and unchopped sphagnum moss, per the instructions from the University of Florida. The soil/moss was put in a clear plastic cup, covered with saran wrap (held on with a rubber band, because it wasn't staying on by itself -- saran is less sticky when wet), and left on a shelf with a shop light overhead and another underneath, giving it maybe a little bit of bottom heat.

It actually gets better (and weirder) than that, though, because the first thing I noticed happening in the plastic cup was not that the seed was sprouting, but that the sphagnum was sprouting. Not only did I not expect this to happen, I wasn't even aware that it could happen: I thought the sphagnum was dead by the time it got packaged up and sold.

I've seen plenty of claims on-line that peat moss2 is being harvested at an unsustainable rate from the wild, mostly for garden soil and related gardening products, though the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association, unsurprisingly, disagrees. It would therefore be interesting to produce my own, I guess, though 1) I doubt the husband would permit me to build a sphagnum bog in the basement and 2) even if I did, I'm guessing proper habitat reproduction would require a fair amount of energy, which might negate the environmental benefits of having a home bog. Though I'd get to tell people I had a sphagnum bog in my home, which gives coolness points3 which would partly negate the increased energy usage, in the sense that I'd mind less about destroying the environment if everybody thought I was cool.

But whatever. The sphagnum sprouts are kinda neat-looking. I'll probably try to keep the stuff going in the cup after I take out the Aglaonema,4 just to see what it decides to do next. I mean, why wouldn't you?


1 Not sure of the exact date. The first Aglaonema seed I started was in December, but this is the second one. The first was planted in vermiculite, and hasn't done anything yet. So we may be looking at a germination time of around 8 weeks, give or take, depending on exactly when the second seed was started. There's a third seed as well, currently still on the plant, though the berry is starting to shrivel up a little so I should probably hurry up and do something about that.
2 Wikipedia explains the difference in terms thusly: "sphagnum" is the live organism that grows on top of the bog; "sphagnum peat" is the decaying old growth underneath. It then becomes "peat moss" after decaying, compacting, and being packaged up.
3 Fine. Eccentricity points, then.
4 (Which will probably be whenever the Aglaonema hits the top of the saran wrap.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Unfinished business: various

Excoecaria cochinchinensis.

I asked the question earlier, whether Excoecaria cochinchinensis (Chinese croton) is particularly susceptible to spider mites, like its namesake Codiaeum variegatum (croton). The answer is a pretty emphatic yes, as my plant somehow managed to attract an advanced mite civilization (They were already making steam engines!) despite not having any mites visible on the adjacent plants.

I figure I'm pretty committed to keeping the Excoecaria I have, for however long that lasts, but I won't buy another one.

The moral, I guess, is: don't buy any plant that's called a croton, whatever adjectives are in front of the word.

Dischidia ruscifolia.

Y'all didn't know that this was a question, because I didn't mention it (aside from a glancing reference at the end of this post), but I've been wondering for a while whether Dischidia ruscifolia was easy to propagate. I sent cuttings to a reader last summer, and s/he said yeah, piece of cake, just stuck them in water when they arrived and potted them up when they had roots, but I hadn't tried it for myself.

Well. I've tried it now, and if anything s/he overstates the difficulty: there were short roots visible within a week. I didn't bother letting them get longer; I figure anything that starts rooting in water that easily will root in soil even easier. I am now, as I said in the post, fond of D. ruscifolia at least on principle, and maybe even in actuality. It's impossible for me not to like a plant that causes no problems and propagates well.

Hatiora NOID.

The Hatiora NOID from this post, which shattered on me, and then flowered once while dying, is apparently not done for yet: I started four pots of shattered pieces of the plant, and all four have at least one rooted fragment growing in them now. It's still a serious decline from how it looked when it first got here (above), but at least I managed to salvage something:

It's possible that this is just setting me up for an endless cycle of shattering and regrowth, and I'd be better off if the plant had just died and been done with it, but until the plant demonstrates otherwise, I'm going to interpret this as an apology.

Ananas lucidus.

A very, very long time ago, I saw an Ananas lucidus for sale at the ex-job, which I found very, very appealing. I wanted it, but I didn't have any place to put something that big, and I think they wanted some completely ridiculous amount of money for it, like $50ish. So I told myself no, ignored my piteous cries and foot-stomping tantrums, and kept my fingers crossed that 1) they wouldn't all sell, 2) the unsold plants would eventually begin to offset, and 3) someone at the ex-job would separate off the offsets and sell them in a more manageable size and price.

Well, all of these things happened, though I'm afraid my crossed fingers are permanently deformed: I had to wait two years. But as of January, I now have one of my own. It's a little green, because they had it in too dark of a spot for most of the time it was there, but it's been coloring up again since I stuck it under a light:

Now that it's here, of course, I'm remembering how large they get, and questioning my judgment. But. You know. I'm always questioning my judgment.

Last, I am pleased to announce that I have finally been successful at germinating Schlumbergera seeds, following one failed attempt. The only thing I did differently was, I let the seeds dry out overnight after I separated them from the fruit pulp; in the first attempt, I planted them immediately.

It took longer than I was expecting -- for some reason I was thinking they were supposed to germinate almost immediately, but instead, I didn't notice seedlings until 5 March, sixteen days after sowing. In fact, it took them so long that I'd already written this part of the post bemoaning my inability to sow Schlumbergeras from seed, and having a sour-grapes reaction ("Like I need hundreds of Schlumbergera seedlings anyway -- I already have hundreds of Anthuriums, and it's not like the house is that big.") to my failure.

So now we have an interesting problem, which is that the Schlumbergera seedlings are supposed to be uncovered once they start to develop, and the Anthurium seedlings seem to do better if they have the higher humidity of an enclosed container, but they're both in the same container, and both are too small to withstand transplanting. Odds are, I'll let them fight it out and hope that one or the other grows fast enough to transplant. I have plenty of Schlumbergera fruits left, after all. And it really is true that I should probably focus on one genus or the other.

This isn't even all the seed-sprouting news I've got, but I have to leave something for later posts.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Other: tentative sell/trade list

Just calling your attention to the first version of the 2012 availability list, titled "Likely sell/trade offerings (2012)" and linked above, just under the header photo. I expect it to go through a lot of changes before I'm ready to begin sending things out (mostly additions for the next month or so, followed by a rapid flurry of subtractions as I realize that some of the plants aren't working out as well as I thought they would), and there are presently no photos or prices, but I thought some of you might be interested in an advance peek anyway.

Random plant event: Crassula perfoliata var. falcata

Crassulas and I do not work well together, as a rule. My Crassula ovatas get spots of fungus on them, the Crassula arborescens barely grows (and what growth it has is disproportionately small, and it drops leaves a lot besides), Crassula rupestris (or maybe C. perforata) lived for years without ever growing a root, and Crassula muscosa just dies over and over.

They're all my fault, to some degree or another: the C. ovata problems are likely because the way I water -- in the tub, with a shower head -- makes it impossible to avoid getting water on the leaves; I suspect the C. muscosas weren't solidly rooted when I bought them;1 the C. arborescens is likely not getting enough light. But still. This seems like a lot of problems to be having, for a genus that's supposed to be easy.

Crassula perfoliata var. falcata2 has been the exception, so far: no fungus, it has roots, it grows, the new growth looks like the old growth, etc. It's never even had a setback, in the almost two years it's lived here (I got it in June 2010).3 On the other hand, I was getting a little nervous, watching it get taller and taller: what was the end game here? How much taller can it get before something . . . happens? And what something will that be? Is it going to tip over? Branch? Bloom? Rot?

And now I have an answer:

That's a teeny-tiny offset (branch? Is there a technical difference?), beginning to grow from the base of the plant. So not only does it have no immediate plans to die, but it's actually interested in expanding. Nice to know. Here's a photo that shows a bit more context:


1 There's a good chance that this could have been overcome if I'd had a nice south window to put it in, but there's very, very little south-facing space here, and much of what there is is blocked for some of the day by our neighbors' house.
2 This plant is still better known in the horticultural world as C. falcata. I'm basing the ID off of information from The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World (Fred Dortort), confirmed by Plant List.
3 In fairness to my other Crassulas, C. perforata var. falcata has one of the rare and coveted south-window spots. So it has unfair advantages.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum NOID

*sigh* Orchids just make me sad now.

Pretty rocking picture, though, if I do say so myself.