Sunday, December 21, 2008

Update: Hippeastrum reticulatum seed pod

Back in October I reported on the blooming of my Hippeastrum reticulatum var striatifolium, which I hand pollinated at that time. Fortunately one flower took and managed to produce 4 fat seeds (top). I find this interesting because other Hippeastrum seeds I have handled are flat and papery. You can tell by looking at the seed pod, which is rather lovely inside, that there are ova for many more seeds. I'm not sure why we didn't get more seed, but it could have been poor self-compatibility, not ideal timing for pollination (ova or pollen getting old or not completely mature), or maybe its just not very fertile. But at least we got a few! I'll pop them in pots tomorrow morning and we'll see what happens.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sing Along!

You know the tune. Sing along with me!

My rabbit has a first name, its F-R-I-T-Z!
My rabbit has a second name, its C-A-T-T-V!

Friday, November 28, 2008

In Bloom: Phalaenopsis hieroglyphica

Phal. hieroglyphica, first bloom. The flower is a good size, maybe 3" across with nice heavy substance. The species was considered a variety of lueddemanniana at one point, and may still be by some folks. I can't tell if this one is actually a hieroglyphica or if it is actually a lueddemanniana. Its markings look more like luedde., as hieroglyphica generally has faint markings that do not extend all the way to the edges of the petals, but actually color and markings have little, if anything, to do with species identification. For times like these, it would be great to have a copy of Christenson's book, Phalaenopsis: A Monograph, which has a compilation of technical descriptions. Why does it matter, you ask? Well, if I breed a plant its important to know what it is so that the hybrids are correctly identified, and all recipients of seedlings get what they're expecting. I don't want to slap just any name on a plant.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Success! I think.

These are new protocorms of Paph (Puck's Apple x gardineri). And so many! I have 4 plates like this. It's a little odd that they're not green, but maybe this is normal for paph protocorms. At least I hope it is. I had not checked them for a while, so I hope they weren't green to start with then turned brown because they're going to die!! This is actually my first experience with Paph protocorms - any words of wisdom out there? I suspect they're fine.

For comparison, (although not easy to see) the second photo shows a more advanced stage of Phal (Newberry Snowdrops x (Neon Spots x Soroa Wild Thing)). Germination rate was low on these, but they were harvested as a split pod and perhaps the bleach killed some. They looked like the paph protocorms to start with, but green, then they expand and start producing a first leaf. These are at the stage of having their first proto-leaf, and will soon have wee little roots starting.

The real test, of course, is to see if any survive to other stages of growth - no contamination in the replate flasks where they'll get bigger, survive through the community pot transition, then grow to flowering size. Let's hope for a real success of fun and exciting flowers down the road! :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How do I know if my orchid is in spike?

If you're new to orchids or just don't have too many, you might not yet know the early signs of flowers to come. Let me give you a short pictorial of how to tell if you Phalaenopsis is in spike with promises of blooms to come.

When the inflorescences ("spikes" in orchid geek slang) first emerge on a Phal they look like the top photo. Usually one, sometimes two protrusions, somewhat flattened on the apex and a bit upwards facing. Here you are looking at a Phal. mannii v. flava with two spikes just starting to emerge. They are marked by the red arrows. At such an early stage, it will still be a couple months before there are flowers.

Spikes of this age can easily be mistaken for young roots. In this second picture, an emerging root is circled. Notice the difference in shape and orientation. The emerging root is rounded along the length, and points slightly downward. You may also notice a difference in surface texture. Please note, however, not all emerging roots are purple. Many are green. By the same token, not all emerging spikes will be green - some are purple.

Soon enough the spike will show above the leaves. Generally it will grow in the direction of the best light source. The young tissue is pliable, so if you plan on staking it to train the spike straight now is the best time to start, adding new ties as it grows up. This is not a necessary action for most plants, and is in fact impractical for some species and hybrids that have naturally short, horizontal spikes (like Phal. bellina or violacea and some other waxy star types).

After what will seem like a FOREVER wait, you will finally see wee little flower buds start to emerge from the bracts (joints) on the inflorescence. It is very exciting. :) There's still a bit of wait for flowers, but it is SO worth it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

In Bloom: Paph wardii ...and seeds!

Paph. wardiiThis is the first of a group of Paph wardii seedlings to bloom. They're cute little guys. The flower has a natural spread of around 3 inches and great dark color on the petals and clear stripes on the dorsal sepal. Also has great foliage. I think it looks sorta like a Muppet though. I don't know what it is, just needs a couple eyeballs and it's all set.

Also today I did time at the table separating seeds from fluff. When you're in the right mood its not bad work. Just space out a little and it can be quite satisfying.

I cleaned seeds of Passiflora capsularis, edible chrysanthemum, and Thai basil. There are already P. capsularis seeds listed in the shop, but I'm deciding if I should keep the others or share. Have a little hair-brained idea of broadcasting assorted herb and wildflower seeds in a section of my yard to make a meadow.

Also, Fritz got half a haircut. Notice how much hair there is vs. how much rabbit there is. He looks kinda like a sea slug doesn't he?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In Bloom: Dendrobium gonzalesii

Dendrobium gonzalesiiI recently picked up this nifty little guy from Al Pickerel. It is a miniature species named Dendrobium gonzalesii. Its a skinny plant about 6 or 7 inches tall with nobby stems (photo below). My plant is a seedling blooming for the first time on a leafless cane, so it may actually get little taller in the coming years.
Dendrobium gonzalesiiFor more info, check out the ISOPE page.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In Bloom: Dendrobium tetragonum v. giganteum

Dendrobium tetragonum var. giganteumIn the past year or so I've developed an obsession with dendrobium species that is gaining in momentum. Toward the beginning of this phase I purchased several seedlings of Dendrobium tetragonum var. giganteum. This is the first of them to bloom. The flowers are maybe 4-5 inches tall and vaguely fragrant, but not in a sweet and yummy way.

Dendrobium tetragonum var. giganteum

The plants are about 8 inches long - semi pendant in a pot. Possibly their coolest feature is the square pseudobulbs. The flowers are neat too.

I grow this species along with Phalaenopsis plants in small pots with a mix that is essentially the same as my paph mix. It would also be an appropriate choice for mounted culture since the canes want to grow in a pendant fashion.

Several dendrobium species and hybrids with thinner leaves seem susceptible to mites, so keep an eye out for the little buggers. I actually believe that mites come as a result of having African Violets around, as my infestations always seem to begin in the areas where I'm keeping AV's. So I now suggest preventative spraying of the violets to avoid mites.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Meet Fritz, our new German Angora rabbit! And before you say, "he's huge!!", please keep in mind that he is covered with several inches of poufy hair. He's just a giant cotton ball. His favorite activities are rearranging the bowls in his cage and freaking out the cat by sniffing it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Featured Seller: Dottyral

Buy Handmade

Dotty is a fellow Marylander who makes adorable pincushions in often fanciful shapes. Look for her peapod cushion both in her etsy shop (above) and her very easy to use website! She is also an active member of the Capitol Region Etsy Street Team, and is participating in their team sale. But that sale ends today, so check out what she has and maybe buy some gifts!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

In Bloom: Phalaenopsis equestris 'Keiki Monster'

Phal equestrisSorry I've been a bit incommunicado folks, busy busy! Thought I'd take a moment to pop up an 'in bloom' for you, so you'd know I was still alive. This is Phal. equestris 'Keiki Monster', one of Al Pickerel's clones. Its a typical form of equestris. You may also recall the equestris alba of a few weeks back. Why 'Keiki Monster'? Because equestris is a notorious weed that produces lots of keikis. There's one listed in my shop here, that is in spike!

Monday, October 13, 2008


DC CRAFT MAFIA SHOW: Saturday Nov. 1
Come & see me - I'll be selling orchids at this event.


Montgomery Village Holiday Craft Bazaar

Saturday Nov. 8
Come & see me there too! I'll be offering hand-made luxury for any budget, including hand knit and hand dyed scarves, fingerless mitts, and a few sweaters. For more preview on that, please check out my new Etsy shop, November Air Boutique, but keep in mind I have much more to bring than is currenty listed - I'm just getting that one started. I'll also be sharing space with Drag'n Rags. Check out her offerings below.

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

A trip to the USBG

I did a couple things this weekend. One was to attempt to sell plants at the Old Town Village Marketplace in Fairfax, where a large crowd was anticipated for the Fairfax community fair. It didn't work out very well because the large crowd at the fair didn't know we were in that building. This was another lesson learned in selecting a venue and why I shouldn't do a show last minute - I wore myself out preparing. Oh well. On Nov. 1st I'll be selling again at the DC Craft Mafia show in Bethesda. Come out & see me!

Aloe feroxThe more exciting news was a trip to US Botanical Gardens adjacent to the Capitol Building to genuflect at the plants. It was a very nice day for it. The NCOS show was this weekend too, but for the first time in years I skipped it, so I can't report on it for you.
In one room they trotted out a number of succulents and put up cards with a list of their traditional uses. As you might expect this display included several aloes with their well known uses. However, some had some interesting details I'd never heard of before. For example, this A. ferox apparently is used to make snuff. ??? Thats a new one by me!

Paph. Transvaal 'Orchid Loft'I also took a moment to muse about how a clone name can identify the origin of a plant. This Paph. Transvaal 'Orchid Loft' is a fairly obvious example, in that the original plant must have been owned by Orchid Loft at the time it was awarded.

Phal. Valentinii 'Harford'This Phal. Valentinii 'Harford' is a little more subtle, but anyone familiar with The Little Greenhouse will recognize Harford as their location and a name they use quite frequently with their clones. Incidentally, if you've never been to Little Greenhouse, which is North of Baltimore, make the time to visit the next time you're in the area. It's a charming greenhouse with lots of little goodies tucked away all over the place.

I think I should pick some names to tack to all my plants. I'll have to think about that one.

Globba winitiiThere were lots of other interesting things there as well. For example, this Globba winitii, which is in the ginger family. I used to have an alba form of this species. They're pretty easy to grow as long as the bulbs don't stay too wet during the winter months.

Oncidium onustum or Zelenkoa onustumFinally, I'll leave you with a photo of a nice cactus-mounted Oncidium onustum (a.k.a. Zelenkoa onustum). I don't remember seeing the plant there last time I visited, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there. In any case, its nicely bloomed out!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In Bloom: Hippeastrum reticulatum var. striatifolium

Hippeastrum reticulatum var. striatifoliumHippeastrum reticulatum var. striatifolium is an amaryllis species with a white stripe down the center of each leaf. Flowers are smaller than typical hybrids, and the foliage is not necessarily deciduous for this one. I keep it with my young clivias, so its in pretty low light, but as some of you recall from my previous posts all other amaryllis are kept in near full sun. I don't actually know if this species can handle that much light, but given that it has flowered for me with two spikes on one bulb I'm betting it isn't necessary. I pollinated the two open flowers. Let's hope for seeds!

In other news, I gave the safety of my fingers a substantial risk today by man-handling the sour puss. I was trying to get him to hiss for the camera but it didn't work. Looks funny but needs an 'lolcat' caption...

Friday, October 3, 2008


Fungus attack is not fun! These are some Phal seeds I sowed one week ago. I found the pod had split earlier than I expected at a couple weeks shy of 6 months. Seems to me the previous pods have all gone to 6 or 7 months with no trouble. Must be the stuff I'm breeding now. Although, most of my previous years' efforts have used plants heavy with section Zebrinae (violacea, luedde., tetraspis, etc.) genetics as pod parent. Maybe they take longer to bake.

I don't know how long the pod was open, but certainly a good 30% of the seeds fell out. I gave them a 24hr sugar soak, but admittedly I've never worked out what a good concentration of sugar is for that approach. This was followed by a bleach treatment, then the seeds were sown on a pretty standard germination media. Three days later there was one fungus colony on each plate. I carefully excised them off. Either they had already sporulated, or there were just unused spores in the mix. I hate contaminated seeds.

For kicks I'm going to try a last ditch attempt to save them. One plate will get a Daconil spray, and I'll have a go at the other one with oxidative stress (hydrogen'll probably kill the seeds but I'm going to try it anyway). w00t.

*BUT* there is some good news today. In fear that another pod would split early, I snatched it off today and sowed it. Its a cross of Paph (Yellow Butterfly x fairrieanum), pollinated back in March. Sounds fun, yes?? It was a smallish pod, but it really came through with a lovely crop of dark sable brown seeds. I've got one plate in the light and 2 in the dark as I do not know which this cross will respond better to. Next week sometime I'll be taking the Puck's Apple x gardineri for sowing. You may remember those contestants from March.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Phalaenopsis for your health

Phal. violacea alba(Left: Phal. violacea v. alba at The Little Greenhouse)

Recently a news article was cited on the Orchid Guide Digest by Viateur, who finds all the interesting stories for us. The article makes two claims that are interesting, but unsupported (references are not cited). Do any of you know if these are accurate statements?

"Translucent pots allow light to reach the roots and algae to form on their
surface [is that desirable ?] ? this helps with moisture and nutrient uptake.
Moth orchids are effective in removing xylene (chemical emissions from
adhesives, computer VDU screens, paints, photocopiers and varnishes) from
the atmosphere [really ?]"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gluten and Camelid Fiber

Observe the tastiness...
Last night I made a gluten-free pumpkin spice cake using a recipe I found through a newly discovered blog, called the Gluten Free Blog of course! It might be my new favorite blog for a while!

Modifications I made to the recipe:
(1) Used Rob's Red Mill gluten free flour blend instead of the individual flour types listed
(2) Omitted the nuts, didn't want
(3) Substituted 1/2 cup of the plain sugar for brown sugar

It is most tasty served with ice cream or cream cheese. It would also be wonderful with a cream cheese buttercream frosting. mmmm...

The texture of the cake is wonderful. You'd never know it wasn't a "normal" cake. Mike Eberhart over at the Gluten Free Blog really knows his medium. Its much better than the gluten free zucchini bread that I made last week using the recipe on the back of the xanthan gum I purchased. Either I did something wrong or the recipe is poor, but the stuff did not rise. It sayed as flat as when I put it in the pan. It tastes ok, especially with liberal application of creme cheese, but the texture is flat and a little gummy. The cake on the other hand - fabulous! I think I'll have to buy a copy of Mike's book.

In other news, I've had a small milestone with my spinning activities, thanks to some nice mostly camelid fiber. This is "little bunny", the finest 2-ply yarn I've ever spun and I'm quite pleased with it. The fiber was prepared just right and so was quite willing to be spun fine. The result is 50g of ~16wpi yarn, making it fine or sport weight. It is a blend of llama, baby camel, silk, and flash. The name is simply based on the way the pile of yarn in the photo looks like a perky little bunny sitting on his haunches.

And so that we are not without flower photos in this post, here is Lc. Green Veil 'Dressy', currently in bloom with 2 flowers on each of 2 growths. Its a wonderful shade of green with a delightful contrast in the lip, don't you agree? I'm going to pollinate it with my Sc. June Bug 'Venice Sunshine'. Not that I really have any business making cattleyas, but you know, they really are easy to grow. I think they're about the easiest thing to grow from seed next to phals.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Bloom: Kingidium deliciosum

Kingidium deliciosumKingidium deliciosum, also known as Phalaenopsis deliciosa, is a miniature species. The name 'deliciosa', which means "delicate", refers to the appearance of the flowers. They have a very crystalline, thin appearance. They are typically born singly or twos on an inflorescence in sequential fashion, much like Paph. Pinocchio, and can have more than one inflorescence at a time. Individual flowers don't seem to last long, but the plant does produce many over time. Also, the leaves are interesting thanks to a slightly ruffled margin.

I find it to be easy to grow and flower. This one lives on a cork mount and seems quite tolerant of the occasional drought.

RHS uses the name Kingidium for registration purposes. Only a few hybrids are attributed to the species. Many of the small species have been left behind for hybridization, probably because of a combination of size (little ~ not impressive or easily overlooked?) and in some cases difficulty of growing and breeding them. For this one, there is also the somewhat undesirable characteristic (for a Phalaenopsis) of not carrying many flowers at once. I have no idea how easy this one is to breed, but I'm going to give it a shot using the Phal. equestris alba from my previous post. If it works, we'll get little plants perfect for windowsills, and more flowers than deliciosum, though maybe not as many as equestris. That's ok, equestris does produce an obscene number of flowers! I pollinated the plant today. Let's all cross our fingers!

Monday, September 15, 2008

In Bloom: Phalaenopsis equestris alba

Phalaenopsis equestris var albaMain reason why Phal. equestris is cool: TONS of flowers. This is a first bloom seedling with a 3-way branched spike. I've seen some make 2 spikes like this. And they just go on and on, making new flowers. Many of the 'multifloral' hybrids have equestris somewhere in there history, contributing the multitude of flowers characteristic. This plant is about to join the ranks of pollen donors in my house.

Phal. equestris var albaThey are also a species that is prone to making keikis. An individual fan of leaves will stay relatively small, but as they mature and produce a mountain of keikis the plant can become quite impressive. Alternatively, you can remove the keikis and share them with your friends like so many summer squash! For more information on growing phalaenopsis, see this post.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Bloom: What is this?

A weed that I neglected to remove all summer has finally come into bloom. It is quite attractive. The flowers are pea shaped (= legume family associations?) and small, less than half an inch. Its not a bad looking critter overall.
Do any of you know what it is?

UPDATE: With fluffnflowers comment plus a few from the Orchid Guide Digest I now believe the plant to be either Lespedeza cuneata or bicolor, both of which look very similar to my plant, are found in the whole of the Eastern half of the US, and, unfortunately, are listed as invasive weeds by one or more states. Hm.. I don't suppose anyone would want seed from my pretty little friend then.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In Bloom: Passiflora capsularis and sanguineolenta

Passiflora capsularisPassiflora capsularis is a wonderful species. As you can see it has lovely white flowers, approximately 2 inches across with a strong scent of warm vanilla. It is wholly easy to grow, even flowering in comparatively small pots (4") in partial shade, so would be an excellent prospect for a hanging basket. I find they're slow to start from seed though, at least with the one batch I tried. I tried to start them in early spring with a heating mat from seed that came from my plant last summer. They absolutely refused to come up until mid-summer, by which time the pot had been moved outside. I'm lucky I hadn't dumped the pot in the compost heap.

Passiflora sanguineolentaPassiflora sanguineolenta is closely related to capsularis, and indeed their leaves and flowers are very similar in size and shape. Obviously the flower color is different and sanguineolenta has very little scent (at least this is true of my plant). In my more limited experience with this plant I'd find it is also similarly easy to grow, but I have not as yet tried to grow it from seed. I'd like to self pollinate my plant, but I seem unable to catch it at the right time of day to find it with ripened pollen still on the plant. The flowers change so quickly!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I was looking through my images today and found this one, taken July 4th, when the blueberries stared to ripen. I had intended to post it to the blog but never did. I have a 'Sunshine Blue', which is a self-fertile dwarf blueberry, who I keep in a large pot. It is an easy to grow variety. Its not a very big bush (and is not very mature at that!) but it had a good crop of berries this year that were most tasty.

Now and then I fantasize that I'd like to plant my whole yard in blueberries and make dry blueberry wine. Two years ago while vacationing in Bar Harbor, ME, we picked up a bottle of locally made, oak aged, dry blueberry wine from the
Bartlett estate. mmmm...good stuff. Unfortunately you can only get it in Maine. Wish I could get it here in Maryland. Unlike many non-grape wines, it wasn't cloyingly sweet. Instead it was more like the best Merlot ever. If you're ever in Maine, do yourself a favor and get a case of the stuff!! (and drop one off at my house! thx!)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Contents of an Orchid Seed Pod

This is a phalaenopsis seed pod that recently split on its own. Fortunately I found it before it sent its charges to the wind and there was plenty of seed remaining. The pod was only about 5 months, but the seeds are a nice straw color, which suggests that they are ripe and viable. I didn't inspect them any more than that though. the remnant of the pod is there on the left. It is still very green as you can see. The contents come easily out, maybe with just a little coaxing.

The fluff shown here is what remains of the pollen tubes. It serves just like the silks you see on corn. In the photo you can see there is a darkened area of the fuzz, which is where there are seeds trapped in the matrix. To give them "the red pill" and free them from the matrix, I just grasp them in the forceps and rap sharply on the metal. They fall free easily onto the paper.

Here you can see the fuzz is free of seeds now.

And finally below, my nice crop of seeds ready to be sterilized and plated on a nice, rich media.

Dry seed sowing has some challenges. A split pod allows a chance for fungal spores to get into the seeds. Spores are rather difficult to kill. So as an added measure with dry seed I use the trick of soaking the seeds 8-16hrs in a mild sucrose solution with a little wetting agent. This can encourage the spores to germinate, essentially bringing them out of their protective shell, making them much easier to kill with a quick, low concentration bleach application (I use 7% of a high strength bleach (~6 or 6.15% hypochlorite) for 7min). This is followed by several washes with sterile distilled water and then the seeds are ready to plate on media. Too high a concentration or too long an exposure will kill the seeds, so you have to balance between the best sterilization you can get with the least collateral damage.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Protocorm Proliferation

For those of you who have heard the term, but never seen the animal, this is what protocorm proliferation looks like. For those of you who are no confused, I shall define as best I can.

Protocorm: This is the primordial bit of tissue that forms as an orchid seed germinates. The initial thing is a little ball of undifferentiated tissue (tissue who's function is undetermined and can generate any part of the plant) that after a couple months starts forming wee leaves and then roots.

Protocorm proliferation is a phenomena where the protocorm replicates itself like a stem cell forming what is called a callus in plant tissue culture. I can't explain why it happens as I don't know. Generally in tissue culture we make them with application of excess hormones.

Personally, I've seen this most often in Phalaenopsis flasks, but it can happen with any genus. Such structures will not survive outside the flask. However, they can be divided and continued in flask until they grow normally. This results in clones since the replicated protocorms from a clump are identical. This is generally how the only successful paph clones are made. The downside is since you're starting with seed, you might find later that you've propagated a plant that has dopey flowers.

Veggie Folk has reservations about this.

Veggie Folk comes from gobbledygookdecor. Check it out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Spiderman, Spiderman!

Kids! Soup's on!

This nifty wasp, decked out in spiderman colors (her wings are metallic blue at the correct angle) isn't doing battle with that wolf spider who is three times her weight. That spider is paralyzed. He will be dinner for several youngin's. Blech. Creepy thought - getting eaten alive.

I don't know where exactly she was going with her prize, but he was certainly in a hurry. She was also quite flustered when she dropped the meal, but soon found it again and resumed the climb. Soon there will be little eggs destined to eat that spider.

By the way, I think what you are looking at is a Spider Wasp (Tachypompilus ferrugineus or related) with Rabid Wolf Spider prey.