I've been working on a couple of large posts lately, and I'd hoped to be ready to post one of them today, but I didn't quite finish in time. So, instead, please enjoy this photo of about 250 Anthurium seedlings:
This picture is from mid-September; there are 274 seedlings now, out of 288 started (95% success rate). My plan to give them all drag queen and/or roller derby names is still in effect, though it's harder than you'd think to come up with 274 of those.1
As you can see from the photo, all seedlings are not doing equally well; the ones closest to the center of the flats seem to be happier than those on the ends. This is probably because the ones on the ends dry out faster (the air is more humid if you're surrounded by other plants), and the lights run down the center of the shelves too, so those in the middle get more light than the others. This has since changed for the oldest sets: I've had to spread them out a bit, into every other square on the flat, because they were getting so big that some of them were shading out others. This naturally results in some of them occupying different spots on the shelves, though some of them get to move more than others.
Looking at the first photo, I'm actually struck by how much they've grown in the last six or seven weeks. The oldest ones are now about a year old, and although they're not producing adult-sized leaves yet, there are several individuals with leaves four inches (10 cm) long. The pots are only two inches (5 cm) on a side, so a four-inch leaf does seem pretty big.
It'll be another two years, minimum, before I start seeing flowers. Probably more like four years. Assuming they all live that long. There are already observable differences between the plants: the new leaves of some seedlings emerge plain green; others are green with a little bit of red along the main veins; others come in dark red and slowly lighten up to green. The first time I noticed that, it pleased me, so I can't imagine how I'm going to be with them once they start producing flowers.
Finally, because I know someone will ask if I don't address it now: the tags are handmade, by me, in a really time-consuming process.2
• Nathan Ofithlam
• Frieda Runamuk
• Aurora Boreanaz
• Vanna Rocking
• Zach Treplica
• Phil Endeblanc
• Jay Gerschatz
• Mario Speedwagon
• Yvette Horizon
• Roxanne DeBree
2 1. Cut up milk jugs into more or less uniformly-sized rectangular pieces of plastic with a point on one end.
2. When seedlings are ready to be started, print a piece of paper from the computer listing the ID number, ancestry, and date germination started for each of the new seedlings.
3. Cut up the paper into strips of text.
4. Place a strip of paper on a manageable length of packing tape.
5. Set a plastic milk jug strip over the paper.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until there's no more usable length on the packing tape.
7. Cover the packing tape with a second piece of packing tape.
8. Cut around the plastic and discard excess tape.
9. Repeat steps 2-8 until there are no more seedlings to be tagged.
Though time-consuming, this poor-man's-laminator process was deemed necessary because nothing else was working. It had to be plastic from milk jugs because there wasn't anything else cheap and abundant enough that was also easy enough to shape. Sharpies are the only things that would write on the plastic, but they fade after a few months. So there you go.
When starting seedlings, I make similar tags, but hand-write the information on the paper instead of printing it. The paper tends to get wet anyway (perhaps because of the higher humidity in the germination chamber?), so the ink runs, but the germination-chamber tags don't have to last as long as the individual seedling tags do, and the ink doesn't run to the point of illegibility, so that still works out fine.