Saturday, May 6, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 165

Seedling 165 was actually one of the last Schlumbergeras to bloom this year, but three of the last five were magenta and I figured it would be good to spread them out a little instead of having a bunch of the last posts all be about more or less identical-looking seedlings.

The problem with moving a seedling up many spaces in the post queue is that I hadn't yet come up with any possible names for it, and I had almost no time in which to try. I tried grabbing a list of random word combinations to see if that would get me something usable, and possibly it eventually would have, but I kind of ran out of time to deal with all of them. So I decided to pick some names related to significant people in my life1 and figure out which of them worked best for the seedling.

So, our finalists are: Assertive, In The Moment, Magic Words, Our Lady of Assumption, Some Clowns, and Swoss.

And Swoss is gone immediately, because the Urban Dictionary says it means either a blow job or (as a verb) to smoke a joint.2 The other five options are all pretty solid, though, which means I have to come up with dumb reasons to eliminate some of them. So:

I really like Some Clowns, both because the name appeals on its own and because it's a really good name for the person it honors. However, this isn't really a color I associate with clowns much; it might be better for a red-blooming seedling.

Not only is the seedling not especially magical, but I'm not completely sold on Magic Words for the person it honors. So that one can go. And while Our Lady of Assumption is perfect, perfect, perfect for its honoree, I feel like magenta's the wrong color for the name.3

Which leaves us with only Assertive and In The Moment, and it's not so much that In The Moment is wrong as that Assertive feels really right. So 165A Assertive it is.

I just remembered to note that 165A Assertive is the first of three offspring of the NOID peach to get a blog post this year. One of the other two (167A) looks just like this, except maybe a little less frazzled; the other (042A) is peach. Just one more bit of evidence that Schlumbergera genetics is not really built to produce new color combinations, and beginning with a 'Caribbean Dancer' cross was ridiculously lucky. I would not have kept doing this if the first hundred seedlings had all been either magenta or peach.


1 I don't know if I need to be explaining this every time it comes up or not, but: for unknown reasons, it amuses me to occasionally name a seedling after a significant person from my life without actually using their name. (The ideal is actually to find a name that the person in question wouldn't even recognize as honoring them, though I don't always manage that.) So far, the seedlings honoring specific people from my life are: 023A Stoked, 075A Pushover, 082A Strawberry Madeleine, 095A Perturbed, 096A I'm Really Sorry, 101A Julius Erving, 180A Miss Emma, and 217A Blood Frenzy.
These sorts of names are especially appealing to me now, because, as I said earlier, I'm going through my old journals lately. People from my past are a lot more on my mind than usual.
2 As far as I was aware at the time, the person from whom I learned "swoss" had invented it themselves, like 20-25 years ago, and it was synonymous with "good" or "cool," nothing to do with sex or drugs at all. So now I have to come up with some other name to use for that person, which sucks because it was otherwise kind of perfect for them. Damn it.
3 As the name is, on its face, a reference to the Virgin Mary, it really belongs on a blue flower, but that's not going to happen with the Schlumbergeras. The next best option is white, so I'll consider it for seedling 290 in a couple months.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Anthurium no. 1271 "Boy Child"

So "Boy Child"1 is an unexpected name for a drag queen, though after I thought about it for a little while, I decided it was pretty clever. And then I discovered that she's not even a drag queen, she's a drag king, if anything, and probably more accurately a performance artist, not really drag at all. I couldn't decide if that made it more clever or less clever.

Internet searches for "boy child," as you can imagine, don't get you very close to learning anything about the performer, but I did find some YouTube videos that way. Not great video or audio quality, but good enough to determine that what she's doing is not at all to my taste (NSFW examples 1 and 2). Found better stuff looking for "boychild," including (also potentially NSFW!) a couple interesting interviews. Not really for me, but not everything has to be for me.

As for the Anthurium seedling, well, she's produced a lot of blooms, but they've all been pretty small,2 they don't last very long, and the thrips are a problem.3

Though, strangely, the thrips don't bother the leaves much.

She's also notable for being the first seedling of 'Joli' to produce a bloom; so far there have only been three. 1171 Chris of Hur is less interesting, and 1325 Dixie D Cupp is more interesting; Dixie might end up being a keeper due to her spathe color.

In any case. Not great overall; I'll probably toss it the next time there's a purge.


1 I'm using the version of the name I found first for the seedling, since the alternative is to change a bunch of spreadsheets and blog posts and whatever, but the performer apparently prefers "boychild," all one word, no caps.
2 Though not all as tiny as the first couple, one of which is the flower photo in this post. Apparently I didn't consider the later, slightly larger blooms photo-worthy. Sorry.
3 I guess it took the thrips a while to find the plant after it bloomed, so the first couple spathes were fairly clean, and I'm asserting something that the photos don't actually show again. I swear it's true, though: the later blooms have been slightly larger and riddled with thrips scarring.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Schlumbergera seedling no. 244

Seedling 244 is primarily notable for being the most interesting seedling of 025A Clownfish to bloom so far. 239A is fine, but it's not like I've never seen an orange/white bloom before, and 240A Schwa was notable mostly for its crappy execution of a boring color combination. But 244A I like.

Name finalists: Adrenaline, Fire On Babylon, Sinead O'Connor, and That's My Purse.

I don't know why this seedling evokes singer/songwriter Sinead O'Connor specifically. Best theory: I was listening to more of her music around the time I was coming up with names (including, particularly, her song Fire On Babylon), and sometimes that sort of thing bleeds into the naming process.

And I realize that people may have strong feelings about O'Connor, particularly if the last you heard of her was during her 1992 appearance on Saturday Night Live, when she tore up a photo of then-Pope John Paul II. It's certainly true that she could have done a better job at explaining herself: I kinda feel like anyone could have told her ahead of time that "fight the real enemy" was going to be misunderstood.1 But, as we've learned in the 25 years since, there really were some problems in the church: it's not like she was just some crazy person who attacked the Pope for no reason.

Anyway. Fire On Babylon is a Sinead O'Connor song, one that I was finding oddly soothing last winter. (My understanding is that it's about her abusive mother, which connects to the Saturday Night Live stuff.)

That's My Purse was previously considered for 057B Oxomoco; I rejected it on the grounds that it was maybe a little too much of an inside joke, but now I'm thinking maybe it doesn't matter.

And Adrenaline is just the hormone; there's no real connection to the flower, except insofar as the color is intense, and so is adrenaline, and I've kind of always liked the word.

So as much as I (obviously) like Sinead O'Connor, she kind of has the Joycelyn Elders problem of being divisive. I imagine all the people after whom I've named seedlings are villains to someone,2 but some people are obviously more problematic than others. So I'll reluctantly drop that option. (I can always bring her back if I reconsider.)

And Adrenaline seems a little plain. Maybe I'm just in an odd mood.

So that leaves Fire On Babylon and That's My Purse, and . . . surely Iraq has enough problems at the moment. Which gives us 244A That's My Purse, though process of elimination. Which is not where I thought this was going to end up, when I came up with the list of options, but there you go.


1 Not that she would necessarily have listened, of course. This was intensely personal for her. There's a really good article in The Atlantic about this, which is worth reading if you're interested in what O'Connor was getting at, and why, and why that specific image of the Pope instead of some other one, etc. The article might even be worth reading if you're not interested, as far as that goes.
And it kinda sounds like O'Connor had one of the better experiences with the Magdalene laundries: here's an article about some of that.
2 Well. It's hard to imagine anyone having serious problems with Yayoi Kusama or Dolly Parton. Though one should never underestimate the ability of people to find reasons to object to other people.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Germinating Clivia seeds

This is the process to which I referred in last Saturday's post, the one that got me ~91% germination on a batch of gift seeds. (This is the last day to request your own Clivia seeds.) It works a lot better than the process I used on my Clivia seeds in 2013.

You will need: ripe Clivia fruits, a germination container, vermiculite, vinegar, a pot in which to boil water, a bowl, paper towels, a warm but not hot surface on which to set your container.

(EDITED to add photos, 4 May 2017)

1. Get ripe fruit that contains seeds. I'm not actually super clear on how you know when a fruit is ripe, but I figured it out in 2013 so I'm going to assume it's pretty obvious.

2. Boil some water. (Tap water is fine; softened tap water is not.) This is mostly for your germination medium, so how much water you need depends on how many seeds you're starting, but, you know, it's just water, and it's about as easy to boil a lot as it is to boil a little. Once that's done, cover it, set it aside to cool, and hope that it will be cooled down enough to use by the time you get to step 6.

3. Open the fruit. I just kind of squeeze it until it comes open; this is kind of messy, but not as messy as you'd think, since almost the entire volume of the fruits is dedicated to seeds, so there's very little pulp.1

4. There is a thin membrane or skin covering each of the seeds individually, which will likely tear as you separate the seeds from one another. You need to remove all of the membrane from the seeds. It's fairly easy to see and feel the difference between covered and uncovered seeds, as the membrane is a little bit fibrous, and thick enough to be visible. It also peels off of about 80% of the seeds really easily, and is impossible to get off of the remaining 20% because the whole thing is kind of wet and slimy and the seed itself is round so there's no easy way to get a tear started. (I had some success with setting down a paper towel on the work surface and rubbing one particular spot on the seed lightly against the paper towel until a hole started.)

This is the most annoying step of the process; it's all downhill from here.

5. Next you'll need to get a container to start the seeds in, and a growing medium. I used vermiculite for my growing medium, and strongly recommend that you do too.2 For a container, I used the same clear plastic containers I use for germinating everything else,

but there's a lot of leeway there. Mostly what you need is a container that allows light in, but not air (or at least, not a lot of air -- you don't want the seeds to dry out), and is deep enough to accommodate 1-1.5 inches of vermiculite at the bottom while still leaving a couple inches of room for leaves to grow.

6. You need to moisten the vermiculite. If your boiled water has cooled off to 90F/32C or below, go ahead and saturate the vermiculite. (90F/32C is a guess; I'm pretty confident it's safe, but that doesn't mean 95F/35C is necessarily not.) Pour off any excess water, then cover the container.

7. Rinse the seeds in dilute white vinegar. I was told 2% vinegar, but I didn't actually measure it out when I did it: I just filled a clean large bowl with water, added a couple splashes of the vinegar, and dropped the seeds in.3

8. Pour the vinegar solution off the seeds, rinse with more of the boiled water and pour that off too, then set the seeds in the vermiculite, eyes down. (The eye is a slightly-raised bump on the seeds; it's easy to locate because it's the only distinguishable feature they have.4)

9. Cover/close the container and set it in a location with bottom heat (on top of a refrigerator or hot water heater; maybe on a heat mat specifically for seed germination if you're fancy5) and wait.

I saw the first leaves and roots begin to appear after about two weeks. They won't necessarily all germinate at once. Some small percentage are likely to be duds, that do nothing at all (about 6% of the total, in my case), and a few others germinate but then just stop developing (about 3%). Since so many did work, I didn't bother trying to figure out what was wrong with the ones that didn't.

10. Seedlings are ready to transplant to individual pots of potting soil (about 2-3" diameter) when the roots are about an inch long. Usually you see the surface of the seed shrivel and dull a little, too.

It's fairly obvious where the soil level should be: the plant starts growing out of the side of the seed, with leaves going one direction and the root going another. Plant it so that the root is below the soil and the leaf is above the soil. The seed will usually wind up mostly above the soil.

My source recommends a mixture of orchid bark, perlite, and a little bit of time-release fertilizer like Osmocote, though I didn't follow most of those suggestions6 and my seedlings seem to be fine.7

11. I set my potted seedlings on a low shelf in the living room (which means strong air movement, cool temperatures, and brief morning sun) but I don't think they're super-picky about location. I do watch them pretty closely to see whether the soil is drying out, and so far have been watering them about once a week; if we didn't have the ceiling fan going, I could probably get away with less frequent watering.

And that's pretty much it. The tricky part, for me, is getting Clivias to bloom: they need cooler temperatures than we have in the house. I may try keeping some of them outside this year so they're properly chilled.

This is not the only process that people have gotten to work; my source reports being able to start them in damp paper towels sometimes, and that some people soak them in water until they germinate though that doesn't seem to work as well. A few people just plant the whole fruit in potting soil without doing anything else, and apparently get seedlings out of that sometimes. My source says that on at least one occasion, she didn't have time to sow the seeds after stripping the membrane off of them, so she put them in the bottom drawer of a refrigerator, in perlite, and forgot about them, and a substantial percentage of those germinated when she checked them later. But I can vouch for the method outlined above, not the others, so it's what I'm recommending.


1 Also, if you have problems with getting gross stuff on your hands from time to time, boy are you in the wrong hobby. I'm just saying.
2 I've tried perlite and potting soil previously. Perlite doesn't seem to work for me, though some people apparently can use it successfully. They'll germinate in potting soil, but the main obstacle to germination is fungus, so things work out a whole lot better if you use a sterile medium like vermiculite.
3 I'm told it doesn't necessarily hurt anything to rinse the container out with some of the vinegar solution, followed by boiled water, at the beginning of step 5, but I was pretty confident that my container was clean already, so I didn't bother.
4 I'm not convinced that the direction of planting makes that much difference, personally, since the roots are bad at burrowing into the vermiculite. What winds up happening is that the seed scoots around on the surface of the vermiculite, or turns itself upside down, or whatever, as the root tries to grow downward but can't penetrate the surface of the vermiculite. I include it anyway because it was in the instructions I got, and I'm not sure it doesn't make a difference, either.
5 The light fixtures on the shelving units in the basement are warm enough that I just set my Clivia seeds on the shelves and let the light for the shelf below them provide the heat.
6 The roots were 2 or 3 inches long on most of the plants. (I potted them up on 30 March, about 7 weeks after sowing; some of them were probably ready to go after 4 weeks. Compared to Anthurium and Schlumbergera, Clivia seedlings grow very quickly.)
I did use 2.5" pots, but I used my regular potting mix (about 45% composted bark and 40% chopped sphagnum moss), and I fertilize with the Miracle Gro I use on my other plants.
7 I did lose a few. A couple were, I think, late germinators that weren't developed enough to pot up yet. I broke the tip off the root of one of them, which either set it back or killed it. (I'm not sure which one of them it is.) A couple got knocked out of place when I watered, buried under the potting soil, and may or may not be able to grow enough to dig themselves out. I'm still going to end up with about 60-65 seedlings, from an initial 77.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Anthurium no. 0929 "Asia Persuasia"

NOTE: this is a reminder that there are Clivia seeds on offer and time is running out quickly.

A little uncomfortable with the name here, but I'm giving Asia the benefit of the doubt that she knows what she's doing. Which she probably does: per this article, she has an MBA and a Masters in Gender Studies, and as of 2015 was pursuing a Ph.D.1

The flower is less interesting than the queen, alas, and is probably not going to be a keeper. All the blooms so far have had a lot of thrips damage, and the second one was so screwed up that the spathe only partly unfurled.

The leaves are interesting, in that they're longer and narrower than average,

though those have problems with thrips (and Xanthomonas) as well.

So overall, not great, and she's probably gone with the next Anthurium seedling purge, whenever that is. I'll recycle the name, and maybe the second Asia Persuasia will be better.


1 Not that being knowledgeable about gender issues necessarily makes you knowledgeable about racial ones, but Asia is, herself, Asian, so it's safe to assume that she's, you know, spent some time thinking about it. If a white queen were performing under this name, I'd have a different reaction.