Saturday, December 5, 2015

Random plant event: Dracaena fragrans

After hearing for years and years about Dracaena fragrans blooms and how drippy / strongly-scented / etc. they are, I have finally experienced it for myself for the first time. It's true: Dracaena 'Indonesian Tracker' and D. fragrans have both bloomed for the first time, within a few months of one another.

The process is surprisingly quick. I noticed the developing flowers for the first time on 7 November,

a couple flowers opened on 25 November, and then a whole bunch of them opened on the evening of 26 November (U.S. Thanksgiving). The blooms are difficult to photograph, since they're only open at night, so I only managed one good picture on one of the two spikes, but it's enough to get the idea.

What I was most interested in was the fragrance. I've heard people say that the smell was so strong, it filled their whole house, and they had to cut the blooms off because they just couldn't stand to live with the plant while it was blooming. This turns out to be an exaggeration. Or maybe we just have insensitive noses. Either way, the husband and I agree that it's pleasant, and although it does carry quite a ways into the house from the plant room, the odor isn't overpowering or incompatible with human habitation or anything like that, even with two spikes in bloom at once. I can't even smell it in the basement. The husband likened it to the smell from the Murraya paniculata, both in character and intensity, which sounds right to me. I mean, if I tried really hard and had both of them present to compare directly, maybe I could tell a difference between the two, but if I didn't know the Dracaena was responsible, I would completely believe someone who told me the odor was from the Murraya.

The smell starts up at about 4 PM, when it smells very much like cut grass, with a hint of lilacs. That gets stronger and stronger until about 6:45 PM, when it abruptly switches to the heavy Murraya smell. I have no idea how long the smell will last; individual flowers don't seem to last very long, but there are so many of them. (I'm writing this on 29 November; the show may be completely over by the time you read this. I don't know.)

I've also read a lot of complaints about nectar dripping from the flowers and what a pain it is to deal with; that hasn't really been my experience either. There's nectar, yes. And it does drip. It just doesn't drip in the quantities I've seen described, and as far as I can tell, what little nectar has dripped has mostly landed on the plant itself, or other plants. Which isn't ideal, of course, but it isn't really a problem. Maybe it gets worse later. In any case, the plant room floor is concrete, so even if it does get thoroughly coated in Dracaena nectar, cleanup should be pretty easy. Overall the whole thing has been a lot less of a catastrophe than I was expecting.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Schlumbergera seedling no. 074

Sometimes I wind up just liking a seedling without having any clear idea why. 074A is one of those. So I'm hoping for a particularly good name this time. We'll see how it goes.

I found 32 possible names on TinEye, of which only 6 seemed like they could be good enough for this seedling. I'll break with tradition and give you all six, with their pros and cons, all at once:

Blood Sugar
Pro: Name evokes sweetness (sugar) and gets the color sort of right (blood). Relatively intense and extreme without being all LOOK AT HOW INTENSE I AM! SNOWBOARDING! MOUNTAIN DEW! RAAAAAAAAR!.
Con: Name also evokes diabetes, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Not that I hate the Red Hot Chili Peppers exactly. My feelings on the RHCP are complicated and difficult to explain. (I'm pretty firmly anti-diabetes.)

Pink Disco Trilobite
Pro: Trilobites are (were?) awesome; disco trilobites, or trilobite discos, would surely be even more awesome. References the color explicitly.
Con: Long, and hard to type.1 Doesn't make much sense, in or out of context. Flowers do not actually resemble trilobites in any way. I like it now, but could it continue to amuse me in the long run? Color may be more red than pink.

Princess Shopping
Pro: I like the ambiguity between "a princess who is shopping" and "shopping for princesses to buy." And the first one of those is plausibly pleasant, depending on how you want to look at it.
Con: "Shopping for princesses to buy" is kind of an icky thought. And who cares what princesses want to buy?

Tom Waits
Pro: Mule Variations.
Con: Possibly too pretty for Waits?2 Maybe too many musicians / music references already?3

Pro: Short / easy to type; unlikely to be in use already; evokes movement and power.
Con: ?

Watermelon Rose
Pro: A pretty straightforward description of the color.
Con: Possibly an overly straightforward description of the color. Not good to name plants after other plants. Kind of boring, compared to most of the other options.

So okay. After writing all that, I've narrowed it down to three: Pink Disco Trilobite, Tom Waits, and Vroom. And then a couple days passed after the previous sentence, and I have decided that this is indeed too pretty to name for Tom Waits, however much he deserves to have things named for him. And after having to hand-write a short list of some of the existing seedling names, I've decided that Pink Disco Trilobite, though I still really like it, is too long.4 Which leaves Vroom, so: Vroom. Not sure this is as especially awesome as I had been hoping for, but oh well.


1 (I feel like shortening it to "Pink Trilobite," "Pink Disco," or "Disco Trilobite" makes it significantly less awesome -- all three words are necessary.)
2 Though if this is too pretty, what kinds of plants could you appropriately name after Tom Waits? A Yucca? Green beans? A Euphorbia?
3 022A "Sad Tomato" (references REM's "Crush With Eyeliner"), 028A "Phil Collen" (Def Leppard guitarist), 028B "Neon Like" (Björk song title), 073A "Laurie Anderson," arguably also 099B "Karma Cobra," since it's close enough to a Massive Attack song title to get the song stuck in my head
4 As was 105A "Berry Rhubarb Fool," but it's too late to change that now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pretty picture: Lycaste x balliae

This is a terrible photo, but in my defense, it was sort of in rough shape to begin with, judging from the sepal margins, and it was in a weird location, too. Backlighting helps make colors more saturated, but then lens flare becomes a bigger potential problem.

Lycaste are uncommon in the orchid show. Not sure if that's because they're difficult, or just not to the tastes of the people in the Illowa Orchid Society, or what. I've never seen any for sale in garden centers or whatever, even garden centers like my ex-employer's, that occasionally brought in unusual genera. I've seen two other Lycaste in the show, both last year: Lycaste Dainty; Lycaste Alan Salzman.

This was tagged as "Lyc. Balliae," but the orchid registry says it's a naturally-occurring hybrid of Lycaste macrophylla x Lycaste virginalis (Ref.); described 1898 (Ref.), so it seems to me like "Lycaste x balliae" would be more technically proper. The registry lists both versions, though. One also occasionally sees it described as Lyc. skinneri x Lyc. macrophylla; Lyc. skinneri turns out to be an obsolete synonym for Lyc. virginalis, though, so this isn't actually in conflict.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Unfinished Business: last year's Schlumbergeras, Part 1

So the big lesson this year, when it comes to the Schlumbergeras, is that although most of them will look the same from year to year, a few won't. This is possibly because the plant room is different this year (different light, different temperatures),1 and there's always some variability with the photography, but it's also possible that some of them are just genetically that variable. I've seen 'Caribbean Dancer,' the seed parent, do at least three types of blooms so far this year.2

There were a few questions I had at the beginning of Schlumbergera season, and I'm now in a position to give you the answers. This isn't going to be an exhaustive list of every single seedling I've got, just the ones that are doing something worth commenting on.

008A "Frightened Dog" and 008B "Candor"

I now believe that 008A "Frightened Dog" and 008B "Candor" are probably the same seedling. I haven't seen any "Frightened Dog" blooms from that pot this year, anyway, and "Candor" has produced both orange-orange and red-orange blooms, so it's probably just that variable. This screws up the bookkeeping considerably, but 008B "Candor" is now the name for the whole pot, and 008A "Frightened Dog" never existed.

012A "Sofa Fort"

012A "Sofa Fort" hasn't bloomed very much this year, and the first couple flowers were more orange/white than orange/pink, which was disappointing to me, since I really like this particular seedling's orange/pink. Later blooms, like the one in the photo, were more in line with what I was expecting.3 It's also kept the narrower, more sharply pointed petals that it had last year.

021B "Birthday Dinner"

I don't remember being particularly impressed with "Birthday Dinner" last year; it didn't bloom very much, and didn't stand out from the crowd when it did. But this year, wow. Lots of blooms, and many had such strong pink on the "tubes" that it's practically magenta. As a result, I now think of it as one of my best seedlings, instead of merely average.

022A "Sad Tomato"

022A "Sad Tomato" did bloom this year, and the blooms were consistent in color and shape with last year's, but there weren't very many. I took some cuttings from it late in the summer, which may have contributed to this; it's also in a different location than it was in last year, and is probably not getting as cold.

025A "Clownfish"

025A "Clownfish" is still the only seedling to have graduated from a 4-inch pot to a 6-inch one, and it's begun to fill in quite a bit. Lots more blooms than last year. (I don't have a photo of the whole plant to show you: I did try to take some, but my photo set-up is badly-suited to taking pictures of larger plants.) Not all of them were orange/white this time around; there were a few orange/pink. I was pretty sure last year that the whole pot was a single seedling, and I still think so, so I'm not sure why the change. Though even in the cases where the tubes were pink, it was a pretty light pink.

027A "Kiln"

027A "Kiln" has bloomed quite a bit, but all of the blooms' petals do what they're doing in the picture above -- they kind of curl up toward the tips, making them look narrower and sharper than they really are. That, on its own, could be interesting, but "Kiln" is also an unappealing color -- not pale enough to be a pretty pastel, but not dark enough to be a vibrant, full-saturation orange, either. I haven't actually thrown away any of the 4-inch Schlumbergeras ever,4 but as the blooms pile up,5 I'm starting to look at them with a more critical eye, and 027A "Kiln" is at the top of my "maybe I should throw this one out" list.

028B "Neon Like"

(photo is from April)

028B "Neon Like" has not bloomed at all this year, as far as I can tell, and I think the reason is that I took too many cuttings of it last year. It was only ever just one branch, I think, and not only did I cut it back a lot, but its pot-mate, 028A "Phil Collen," has gotten bigger in the meantime. So it may be the first seedling to bloom and then die of natural(-ish) causes. I still have two pots of cuttings, though, so even if the original plant dies, it's not lost forever.

030A "Diwali"

One of the questions I was hoping to answer before the Schlumbergeras began to bloom this year was whether 030A "Diwali" was genetically inclined not to open its flowers fully, or whether it was just bad luck or poor care that was causing it to do so. It bloomed early and abundantly for me this year, and all the blooms looked perfectly normal, so apparently the answer is bad luck / poor care.

Also, the first bloom from "Diwali" opened on 11 November, which is either exactly on-time for Diwali or a day late: Wikipedia says it was 10 November this year in South India, but otherwise 11 November. (I didn't read the article closely, but I didn't see it explain anywhere why South India was different.) This is unlikely to happen in subsequent years (this year's Diwali was unusually late), but it's nice that the timing worked out.

057A "Pyrotechnic"

057A "Pyrotechnic" has gotten really large -- nearly as big as 025A "Clownfish," and it's still in a 4-inch pot. This is actually a little bit of a problem, since it's also a lot less vertically-inclined than most of the seedlings, so it's been leaning on its neighbors pretty hard, and probably suppressing their blooming. I should move it into a bigger pot, if for no other reason than to get it away from its neighbors, but I don't have room. Going to have to relocate a lot of plants soon. It's not going to be pretty.

061A "Leather Fairy"

Finally, 061 "Leather Fairy" was peach and white last year, but came back peach and pink this year. The blooms are prettier than last year, and it's also produced a lot more flowers than it did last year, so I really shouldn't complain, but it was also the only seedling I had that was peach and white, so I'm a little disappointed with the color change, too.

In a week and a half, on 11 December, I'll have the second part of this post, covering seedlings 064 to 113. There will be a lot of pictures of 083A "Psychedelic Bunny," so if you need to prepare yourself for that, start now.


1 In particular, cooler temperatures are supposed to lead to redder/pinker blooms. I don't know whether this is true, but it's what they say.
2 There's the regular red petals and magenta tube that it's supposed to look like, a streakier version of the same, with stripes of the magenta extending up into the petal quite a ways, and then a lighter and oranger version that resembles 055B "Fort Venus." They're not different plants in the same pot; it's all the same plant. The paler version often occurs right next to a normal-color version, a segment or two away.
3 Very early and very late blooms seem more prone to atypical colors and forms: one of the last blooms from 026A "Brick Wall" last year was unusually pale, and didn't open fully. 088A "Cyborg Unicorn" got streaky toward the end of the year last year as well. 008B "Candor's" first bloom of last year was less red than the ones it would produce later, and the petals were overly reflexed. That sort of thing. There doesn't seem to be any consistency to the way the blooms are unusual: they're not necessarily smaller/oranger/overreflexed/paler. But it does seem like if they're going to do something weird, they'll do it as one of their first blooms, or one of the last ones.
4 (Though I did give away 060A "Wet Dog.")
5 (Almost literally -- I try to pull dead blooms when I can, but sometimes they fall off without my help, and wind up on the floor in a spot that's tough to get to.)

Monday, November 30, 2015

Schlumbergera seedling no. 099 (again)

099B is more exciting by comparison with 099A than it is on its own. They would have been plenty different regardless, but 099A ("Dessert Room") has come back a lot lighter in color for the 2015-16 season, so the contrast is even sharper. I find the new, pale "Dessert Room" pleasing enough that it's suddenly become one of my favorite seedlings.1

Foreground: 099B. Background: 099A "Dessert Room."

Which is not to suggest that I have any real complaints about 099B, which is a perfectly decent orange-red / pink, along the lines of 028A "Phil Collen."

So, what to call it? I got 36 possible names from TinEye, and chose 6 that seemed like plausible real names. In order of elimination:

Lasertag kind of works, in that lasers are frequently this color, but actual laser tag is played with invisible infrared lasers. Also I'm a little concerned that it might seem dated at some point in the future. I mean, there are worse things -- dated things are often actually cool things which have become momentarily unfashionable2 -- but it's enough that I don't want to use this as a name.

Lighthouse was unexpected, but lighthouses are occasionally this color, at least partly. The name doesn't get me especially excited, though.

Vintique is not at all applicable here, but an interesting word. (It's a portmanteau of vintage + antique. I don't know why we needed a word for this, since vintage and antique are pretty similar in meaning already, but there it is anyway.)

My personal color associations match this seedling up pretty well with Chinatown, though I'm not sure that's a great reason. Plus I'd prefer not to even appear to be endorsing Roman Polanski.

So that leaves Cobra (also), and Dichohecho, which as best as I can determine translates from Spanish as "said done;" the idiom "dicho y hecho" is approximately equivalent to "no sooner said than done" in English, and for some reason the Flickr user left out the "y." Either that, or the y-less version means the same thing.

Either way. "Cobra" certainly seems appropriate for this picture,

though I have some concerns about the G. I. Joe connection,3 and it looks considerably less cobra-like when photographed from the side:4

On the other hand, I don't know if "dichohecho" is accepted Spanish usage or not. "Dichoyhecho" would solve that problem -- I know that gets used as-is -- but then it becomes weirder to type it as a single word. "Dicho Y Hecho" would solve that problem, but I like it a lot less, for some reason.

Attempts to combine the two -- "Dicho Y Cobra" or "Cobra Y Hecho" -- are nonsensical, in a bad way ("said and cobra," "cobra and done"), though I was pleased to at least learn that the Spanish word for cobra is "cobra." So . . . crap. I've eliminated all the name options.

> Y

The pun generator gave me a few things I found funny (Diabetic Cobra), mostly based on "soda" (Scotch and Cobra), "coma" (Pediatric Glasgow Cobra Scale), or "yoga" (Cobra For Beginners). I sort of like Karma Cobra, maybe by connection to the Massive Attack song "Karmacoma."5 Also Cobra Jerk amuses me enough to consider as a name, because cobras are jerks.6

So, Karma Cobra, or Cobra Jerk?

Karma Cobra. I think. It'll get the song stuck in my head every time I read it, but it's more euphonious and less negative-sounding.


1 This year, I've decided to try to do a reciprocal cross with each possible pair of my founding Schlumbergeras ('Caribbean Dancer,' 'Exotic Dancer,' NOID lavender-pink, NOID magenta, NOID peach, NOID red-pink, NOID white, NOID yellow, 'Stephanie,' and x buckleyi), as well as a select group of seedlings (012A "Sofa Fort," 023A "Stoked," 024B "Bryce Canyon," 025A "Clownfish," 026A "Brick Wall," 054A "Helpful Gesture," 055B "Fort Venus," 057A "Pyrotechnic," 082A "Strawberry Madeleine," 088A "Cyborg Unicorn," 099A "Dessert Room," 105A "Berry Rhubarb Fool," and 107A [not named yet]).
The way Schlumbergera genetics work, only half of the 'Caribbean Dancer' x [seedling], NOID peach x [seedling], and [seedling] x [seedling] crosses should be able to produce fruit, and there's a good chance that there are other incompatible pairs among the founding varieties, so I'm unlikely to get two fruits from every single possible cross. Also, the plants aren't all producing enough blooms to make it possible to cross everything with everything: I'll be lucky to get one x buckleyi bloom this year; the NOID yellow already appears to be finished blooming until the spring; some of the seedlings are probably only going to make half a dozen blooms at most. So I might only wind up with 200 fruits. However, if each fruit then produces about 110 seeds, and I get 60% germination, I'll have 13,200 seedlings to pot up and try to grow out for two years before I know what color they're even going to be.
This is the very definition of counting your chickens before they hatch, and I truly don't have room for 400 flats of Schlumbergera seedlings even if I threw out everything but the Schlumbergeras, so some selection will have to happen at some stage of the process. But you see how quickly things could spiral out of control. By comparison, the Anthuriums are downright restrained.
2 Though not always. Sometimes things seem dated because something undeniably better has superseded them.
3 The name of the bad guys' organization in the G. I. Joe mythos is "Cobra."
4 In fairness, cobras don't always look like cobras either: without the spread hood, they look like ordinary, boring snakes.
5 The pun generator was building off of "karma yoga," though. Whatever that is.
6 At some point in my childhood, I don't remember when or where (I suspect Minneapolis ca. 1984), I was at a zoo, and a cobra struck at me from behind the glass. Obviously it wasn't strong enough to break the glass: it bounced off amusingly. Remembering it now, I feel a little bad for the cobra, who I imagine was either scared (all these gigantic animals passing by it all day, and it without a good place to hide -- that's got to be sort of stressful) or frustrated (Every time I try to bite those assholes, some invisible hard thing deflects me! Which just makes me want to bite them even harder!). But at the time, I was startled, amused, frightened, and angered, in that order. Hence, "cobras are jerks." I mean, it didn't even spread its hood first.