Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pretty picture: Phalaenopsis Mistral's Sunrise Flame 'Mendenhall'

This is a very strong contender for my favorite orchid from the whole 2013 orchid show. (Other contenders: Dendrobium pierardii, Caulaelia Snowflake Northland, Rhyncholaeliocattleya Dick Smith 'Aloha Spirit,' Vanda Fuchs Cherry Chips, Cattleya amethystoglossa) Not sure what the appeal is exactly, other than it being sort of an unusual color. But it was the first time in a long time that I looked at a Phalaenopsis and said wow, I'd really like to have one of those.

It doesn't hurt that it co-ordinates nicely with the current blog colors, though that couldn't have been why I liked it at the show.

Phalaenopsis Mistral's Sunrise Flame 'Mendenhall' = Phalaenopsis Golden Bells x Phalaenopsis Habsburg

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Random plant event: Cereus peruvianus

I have two very tall, weak Cereus peruvianus. They've been with me since 2004, and for some of that time, I have just plain not had a good bright spot to keep them. Because of the lack of light, they get tall and weak, and because they're tall and weak, the number of possible locations is reduced, so it's this whole unhealthy-cactus vicious cycle.

Currently, the only location available to them (without cutting them down, anyway) is in a corner of the plant room, where the ceiling is 10 feet (3 m) high, as opposed to the 8 feet (2.4 m) or less everywhere else in the house. (More on that decision here.) The cacti have been okay there -- they're not growing much, and they're covered in cobwebs, but nevertheless they stay alive and grow and stuff. So occasionally it happens that, because they're right inside the door, we accidentally knock them over when we're bringing big things in or out, and because they are weak from being a little light-starved, when they get knocked over, it usually doesn't end well for them. Or for us, either, because there are not a lot of things that will ruin your day like a cactus falling on you.

So the last time this happened, it was with the taller of the two plants. When it hit, it landed on the edge of a shelf, so it basically snapped itself off at the point of impact. I straightened it back up, threw out the piece (I was tempted to propagate it, but I already had one cutting, from when the same thing happened with the shorter of the two plants, and I didn't see much point to doing another. I think this was also during a period when I was feeling unusually purgey w/r/t the plants, because of scale, or because I was tired of moving them in and out all summer, or something like that.), and waited for it to resprout. Which it did, in two places, up at the very tippy-top of the plant. And now one of those branches has reached the ceiling, meaning that I need to make a decision again about whether or not to start a new plant from it BUT WAIT THAT'S NOT WHAT THE POST IS ABOUT:

The post is about this:

One of the new branches is also producing roots, about nine feet in the air.

I knew that lots of plants (Monstera, Crassula, Chamaedorea) can produce aerial roots, including quite a few cacti (Selenicereus, Hylocereus, Schlumbergera), but it had never occurred to me that this was something that Cereus might do. How often would it really get the opportunity in the first place? It's not like they grow next to trees that they might attach themselves to, or anything.

So I figure I pretty much have to try to propagate now whether I want to or not. I mean, this is meeting me way more than halfway.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Elsewhere on the Web

Three things, arranged in order of increasing plant relevance:

The first has no relationship to plants at all, but I include it because 1) I sort of felt like I needed a third thing, and 2) it makes me chuckle every time I look at it: Straw Feminists in the Closet, from Hark! A Vagrant. (Specifically, I usually lose it when I reach the frame where the dad is swatting at the feminists with the broom.)


I'm still spending quite a bit of time with Sims 3. Because objects in Sims 3 are rendered as a mass of polygons, with a texture painted over it, complicated branchy objects like trees and shrubs would be really difficult to render well if they tried to be realistic -- even if you rendered a leaf as being completely flat, a tree with hundreds of leaves would exhaust the computer's ability to process them all as individual objects. So what they do instead is, some plants are rendered as a few flat polygons, and then transparent sections get cut out after the polygon is painted, like so:

Ordinarily, this all happens fast enough that you don't really notice, though when I'm really pushing the limits of my computer, occasionally everything appears in gray like this and then sloooooooowly gets colored-in, one object at a time.

A lot of medium-sized plants like shrubs just don't get rendered at all until you're up pretty close, which is . . . tough to get used to, actually. You're just out, you know, running around like you do, and then all of a sudden, FWOOM, these shrubs suddenly appear. And I say FWOOM rather than BAM or POP because they don't just blink into existence; they start out tiny and then get larger as you get nearer. But not the usual way that things get larger as you get nearer. They actually get larger relative to the other things near them. I'm not describing it well. I couldn't make it happen when I tried to get screencaps, or I would have pictures. (I suspect the issue must be specific to certain graphics settings.) You can kind of get the gist of what I'm talking about from looking at these two shots of a dandelion:

First, you see from the bottom photo that most of the foliage is in three vertical planes which intersect in the center of the plant, and then the leaflike shapes get cut out of those planes and colored in to look like leaves and Bob's your uncle. But the flowers themselves are a flat image that rotates to face you, regardless of the viewing angle. (Notice how it's the same five flowers, in the same positions relative to one another, even though the top picture is being viewed from the side, and the bottom picture is being viewed from overhead.) This is, I'm pretty sure, known in computer graphics nerdery as a sprite or billboard.

Shrubs and trees both are mostly made by pasting a bunch of copies of the same sprites together, and then rocking them back and forth independently to make it look like the leaves and branches are moving in the breeze. It can be a pretty convincing illusion if you don't look too closely at it, though it does get kind of disorienting to spin 180 degrees around a hydrangea and find yourself looking at the exact same flowers the whole time you're rotating.

Game designers can also just let you paint the image of something vaguely plantlike onto the terrain without even trying to be three-dimensional about it, which saves the most processing power of all:

That works pretty well from far away, when a large area of terrain is painted. Up close, like in the photo, it looks kinda silly.

For a lot more of this sort of thing, there's a tumblr devoted specifically to video game foliage (there's a tumblr devoted specifically to everything), which is called, appropriately enough, Video Game Foliage. Even if you really don't care about the gaming, some of the art is really neat, and it's plant-focused.


Finally and most importantly, Joseph Tychonievich has a podcast, Grow ALL the plants!, and the first episode is up. The guests this week are Rick Schoellhorn, former new products director for Proven Winners, and Julia Hofley, formerly a garden center manager and buyer. This particular episode is about the process of finding new plant varieties, and how they get from the breeders to the store.

It's more interesting than I'm making it sound. Plus it's short (~20 min.), and you'll finally find out how to pronounce Tychonievich. (We've all wondered. You're not alone.)

It's also worth keeping an eye on the site because there's a really, really high chance you'll know one of the guests on the next episode, which will publish Saturday the 22nd.

Actually you might know several of the guests, I suppose: I don't know how connected you are in the whole plant-writing/-blogging universe. But there's one guest in particular.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Unfinished business: Haworthia NOID

About a year ago, I posted about some odd behavior from a few of my Haworthias. They're some of my oldest plants, and had never done anything particularly weird before, but all of a sudden they decided to go from looking like this --

-- to this --

and I wasn't sure what was going on. I still don't know, but a recent comment on that post prompted me to share an update. This is what they look like now:

Which I guess is improvement, kind of. It at least seems like a more natural look than either of the first two photos. But the whole process was a little scary, and I'm not sure what to do with them now. Perhaps I ought to propagate?