Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hi Everyone!

Haven't posted in a while, but I'm still lurking about. Last Friday I had a table at the University of Maryland at Baltimore craft show, where I got to meet lots of plant and knitting- interested folks. I enjoyed talking to you all. I'd like to remind you all that I'm happy to help, so don't be afraid to send me your questions. :)

I also got to test out my awesome new banner. Check it out there, all glossy and whatnot. Isn't it cool?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pest control: Meet "George"

Meet "George", my new pest control manager. George: Keeping our Cattleyas safe from stink bugs since... yesterday.

Notice the discarded leg on the petal below. George does a good job, but he's a bit sloppy at the table.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In Bloom: A Study of Dendrobium bowmanii

Dendrobium bowmaniiDendrobium bowmaniiDendrobium bowmaniiDendrobium bowmaniiThese are Dendrobium bowmanii, synonym mortii, synonym Dockrillia bowmanii. I have five of these and four are currently in bloom. As you can see in the photos, they grow on long, spindly stems with needle-like leaves perhaps 3 inches long and very narrow, flowering from the nodes at the base of the fleshy leaves like other Dockrillas. Notice also the flowers are held up-side-down, another Dockrilla trait. The flowers are vaguely fragrant with a minty odor, matching nicely with their yellow-green color, and last about 2-3 weeks.

According to IOSPE, the species is native to mangrove swamps in Australia, and prefers warm to hot temperatures year round with a slightly drier winter rest.

I also have a Dendrobium rigidum blooming right now. I think I'll go off and introduce them to each other to see if we can't get something interesting...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Bloom: Random Orange Stuff

It's Autumn, and we here on the East coast have been enjoying the fall foliage. It is ephemeral, fleeting, beautiful but ever-changing and far too temporary. But believe it or not, with the waning of Autumn color marks an increase in the number of blooming activity at our house, especially orchids, but I've got some other things as well. In honor of Autumn color, here are a few orange selections.

Sophronitis cernuaSophronitis cernua blooming out of season. Supposedly they are Spring bloomers, but this is not the first time I've seen one have other ideas. This species is native to Southeastern Brazil, in warmer and brighter locations than you would typically find the other Sophronitis species. Hence, this one may grow for people that have had trouble with its cool and shady -growing relatives.

Clivia x CrytanthifloraThis is Clivia x Crytanthiflora, a naturally-occurring hybrid between two species miniata and nobilis. I've shown you this plant before, but I rather like her so you get to see her again. I did a major repotting of most of my clivias (it was kind of like, "when did I get SO MANY!?") this summer, and attempted to repot this one. Note: "Attempted." I couldn't get it out of the pot. When happy, Clivias have a rather aggressive root system consisting of thick, succulent, tentacle-like structures, a style which is consistent with certain other plants of South African origin, such as Strelitzias, and bearing some similarity to the structure of certain beefy orchid roots. I had two options with this plant: Break it out of the pot or leave it be. I wasn't in the frame of mind to crack open a very thick clay pot, and if the root system was that dense I wasn't sure I had an appropriately sized pot for it to go into, so I took option B.

Aloe bellatulaAloe bellatulaI love aloes, especially the little ones with cool leaves, but this is perhaps my favorite. This is Aloe bellatula. That is a 3 inch clay pot. I divided this plant this spring, selling one division, and keeping this one and one other. I had fully intended to sell another division, but they're just SO CUTE. Give me time, I'll either produce more divisions or will finally reconcile giving up my extra. Its like meeting a litter of kittens...I just want to keep them all. Anyway, its easy to grow and a reliable bloomer, though not as prolific a bloomer as some of the little Aloes, it does bloom at least once every year with these adorable bell-shaped orange-peach flowers. I'm not terribly knowledgeable on succulents, but I'll tell you what works for me. I keep the plant with my intermediate-growing cattleyas, meaning it lives in my unheated basement during the Winter and gets watered a lot less than during the Summer, but does still get watered a least a little bit every 2-3 weeks. In summer it gets watered every 2-3 days, especially when it is very hot and sunny.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How I got started

The following is my entry for participation in the EtsyCREST Blog Carnival, Nov 2010. The prompt is, "How did you get started in your art/craft?"

Cirrhopetalum Elizabeth Ann 'Jean'As many of you are already aware, I'm involved in a variety of endeavors, but my main thing is still plants, primarily orchids. I've been interested in horticulture since I was a kid, dazzled by my Granddad's enormous houseplants and extensive vegetable garden. I grew a number of things, and still have a few of the Dracaenas I got back then as wee cuttings. They're shrubs now. By the way, if you have one of these and it doesn't do much for you, try moving it (gradually) to a very bright South-facing window. These things are trees in the wild.

But I digress. I would page through and read generic houseplant books, making lists of things I'd like to try. Orchids seemed the gold standard. They have that reputation of being a challenge, but the promise of spectacular success is unrivaled - large, long lasting flowers in a variety of shapes and colors. Little did I know just how much variety.

I received my first orchid as a gift, which died a spectacular death of rot as a result of bad advice. As a plant enthusiast, I had to try again, this time armed with better resources. As luck improved, so did the desire for more plants and information, as is so often the case. While in college, I joined AOS and began attending NCOS meetings, and you could often find me on the weekends at Arbec Orchids. Working at Arbec resulted in an exponential increase in orchid-growing experience and trivia, including some tutelage from Roger Cole in orchid breeding techniques and lore.

Arbec has since moved and become a smaller business selling only at markets and shows, but some of you will still see evidence of it in my plants as I still have a couple rolls of the outdated Arbec plant tags... I really should get my own.

My research projects in college and for several years after focused on plant gene expression, providing handy access to laboratories with quality equipment and the experience for sterile culture. Given that I always enjoyed growing things from seed, the next logical step then seemed to try growing orchids from seed.

These days I have moved on to work on bacterial pathogens, but the clandestine Friday night use of the labs for orchid seed sowing is simply accepted as one of my quirks. My house is crammed with plants, and these days, flasks and young seedlings.

Are you looking to get started with orchids? Here's some orchid culture articles to get you started, and always feel free to drop me a line through Etsy or by email!

See how my other teammates got started:
The Dragon Nthly
raine studios
Birch Tree Jewelry
Twisted Cow
CT2 Designs
Sandi Volpe
Sew Artsy Amy
Purple Clover Art
Turquoise Angels
Of Cats and Crafts

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Rabbit Disaster of 2010

This is Rosalind, born here at the farm New Year's Eve 2009. In addition to the photo at left, we have extensive evidence of her cuteness. But *do not be fooled!*

I was away a couple days, and I came home to mass destruction. Example below.

There was much munching on several cattleya plants, some blooming size, some compots, like this one. This pot was the worst of the compots, and one of the in-bud plants was reduced to a few growths from about 8. Needless to say, I was angry. Hairy monster.

Note to self: Do not keep rabbits and orchids on same floor of house.

I suppose in retrospect I should have suspected she was not the angelic fuzz-producer she passed herself off as. I did, after all, witness this chummy water-cooler discussion between her and the local daemons.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

In Bloom: Happy Halloween

Stapelia giganteaStapelia giganteaStapelia giganteaStapelia giganteaWhat is it??? Dead things, hairy things, fake dead things with fake worms? Ew. It sure smells like dead things.

This is Stapelia gigantea, with flowers easily 10 inches across and up to 12 inches across. The buds take weeks to develop. By the time they're the size of a small lemon you think, "It's sure to open soon!" But alas, it will still have several weeks to go. They pop (litterally) open when they get to about the size of an average orange. Then they proceed to stink and attract flies.

Most people will grow these in well drained soil, but ever the oddball, my approach is to grow it in sphagnum moss, allowing it to dry out completely between watering. Obviously, you can't keep it in constantly wet sphagnum, but regular wet/dry cycles works out just fine. They'll want bright light to full sun, such as the conditions in which you might grow Cattleyas. This beastie was grown from a cutting rooted about a year ago, and during that time it has doubled in size (and weight! heavy plant). They're easy to grow and very interesting to look at. Certainly a plant worth having, just don't put it on the dining room table when you have guests.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In Bloom: Blue(ish) Things

Hi folks! I'm still alive in my little cave. Been busy around here, but life with the plants keeps trudging on as well.

Today I thought I'd share two sort-of blue things in bloom. The first is Lc. Cariads Mini-Quinee (C. intermedia x Lc. Mini Purple). I bought a small group of these seedlings a little while back because I rather like Mini Purple, though my favorite clone is 'Tamami', which isn't blue. This was most likely bred from one of the many coerulea clones. For those of you checking your monitor color, no, it isn't blue as in cobalt, blueberry, or anything else of that nature. Blue in orchids is this funny purple way off into the cool color spectrum.

I'm rather pleased with this plant. It is nice and compact, like you would expect from that parentage. Higher flower count would be nice, but Mini Purple being L. pumilia x C. walkeriana, you can't expect it to be too high. It is also a first bloom, so maybe on the next we'll get two or three flowers. It is very lightly fragrant.

While taking pictures of it, I realized it has about the same colors as my current weaving project. I'm going to pretend that was on purpose. :)

Our second plant only does the vague impression of blue, and is actually pink. It is Phal. Equalacea 'Leesburg Sky' x violacea v. coerulea 'Nancy's Gift'. It could have been blue, but it isn't. I've decided I don't care. This one opened kinda funny, but in general they're cute, novelty type flowers with sweet fragrance, and it intermittently throws flowers throughout the summer. I tried to breed it earlier this Summer but it didn't take. In general it hasn't been a good summer for breeding orchids for me - lots of failures which I'm rather cranky about. So instead I have some flasks on the way from Florida. Nothing beats instant gratification.

In other news, I've got ten overgrown compots of cattleya seedlings to plant out. Heaven help me. That's a lot of untangling...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Foliage in the News: Fighting off a 'Case of the Mondays'

A study published in Feb 2008 cites keeping plants at your desk may result in more satisfaction with your job. Based on surveys, the study finds that employees with live plants or windows in their offices had more positive and mellow responses to a range of questions vs. those who lived in a basic cube. Basically, they tended to feel more like people with good jobs rather than rats in a maze with bad food.

This makes me wonder if the move Office Space would have gone differently if the plant on Milton's desk wasn't dead. (check out this clip on YouTube, upper right hand corner)

Moral of the day: fix up your desk with a snazzy new plant and have a better day!

Read more about it:

The original journal article:
Dravigne, Andrea, Waliczek, Tina Marie, Lineberger, R.D., Zajicek, J.M. The Effect of Live Plants and Window Views of Green Spaces on Employee Perceptions of Job Satisfaction HortScience 2008 43: 183-187 [link]

Science Daily Report

LA Times Article

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pocket Guides for Bugs & Healthy Foods

Just wanted to share a couple useful pocket guides.

The first one is the Organic Essentials guide to help you with your grocery shopping by showing which foods pose the greatest risk of high pesticide concentrations. Some plants absorb various toxins differently, and may hold more in the tissues than others. Other plants may not absorb toxins, but may be constructed such that washing away the pesticides is more difficult. Still others may require higher application of pesticide for good crop set. Regardless of the reason, this guide will help you make educated choices for your family when you can't always choose organic. (Please note, you should still wash all fruits and veggies, even organic ones.)

The next one is an indispensable guide every gardener should see. It identifies various predatory insects that will help clean out any pests that may be attacking your flowers and veggies. I heart predatory insects! :)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Armchair Traveler - Photos of the Longwood Estate

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA.

Dogwood fruit

Although I usually go to see the plants, and mainly those in and around the conservatory, occasionally I wonder the grounds at Longwood as well, and I always wonder what it would have been like to live on the estate. While specimens like this Dogwood tree in fruit are spectacular in their own right, there is much more to the place than the cultivated portions.

Here is a virtual tour of just a few of the highlights.


A lovely Italian style portico off the pump house at the main fountain garden, one of a few enormous fountain systems on the property built in the early 1900's. The portico includes built in benches, were you might sit and rest from the sun, while considering the peace of the trees and birds.

Fountain heads

Also part of the Main Fountain Garden, these fellows are getting on in years. Currently they are not in use pending restoration, but the surrounding fountains are still in operation. This garden includes colored lights, used in flashing patterns set to music during their Festival of Fountains. According to the Longwood website, the most powerful jet in this garden reaches a height of 130 feet.

Imagine having a picnic here on the grass, complete with a bottle of Chianti and gentle violin notes on the breeze. Perhaps after you might retire to the portico to relax against the benches and discuss the day's events, or the upcoming evening.

Ballroom ceiling

Among several architectural and foliage wonders, the conservatory includes a large ballroom, lavishly appointed with (walnut?) parquet floor, fabric paneled walls, marble trims and etched glass ceiling (above), not to mention its breathtaking views of the conservatory (below). The conservatory also houses an Aeolian Pipe Organ, with the console instrumentation in the ballroom itself and the pipes behind one wall of the ballroom. The wall has openings into the pipe chambers, hence the fabric wall coverings. It is...nothing short of spectacular. The custom-built monster consists of over 10,000 pipes and is the largest of its kind ever constructed. It is currently being restored. You can see the pipes but they do not play it. Personally, I would love nothing more than to hear it played, and can't wait for the opportunity.


Perhaps after attending the ball, you may take a stroll through the Conservatory...

Anemone tomentosa (Chinese anemone)

...And then out into the grounds. While pausing to admire the Chinese anemone (A. tomentosa), you might look up to discover you have left behind your European vacation, only to find yourself in a fairy tale.


Rapunzel would have been proud of this tower. The Chimes Tower houses the Longwood estate's Carillon, which was also fairly recently restored. For more information on the history and construction of the organ and carillon, check this page.

Perhaps, though, you may find this tower is not Rapunzel's home, but home to the mythological beings. Whatever am I on about? Well, the place seems to be infested with nymphs (see below).

I suppose hemlock trees attract them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Ironweed and Lobelias

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower)How often do you take time to look at the "weeds"? Most likely, if you were to pass a patch of Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) (left) you would take notice. They are shockingly red, and in a colony they are exceptionally striking. There's almost no way you wouldn't notice them. But oddly, before this patch I don't think I've seen live ones before - only photos. According to the USDA Plants profile, the plant is native to wetlands across most of the US and Canada. It is only listed as under watch in a few states, so perhaps I have just not ever been at the right place at the right time. This particular stand, in partial shade in a mildly swampy, low lying area right next to the road, was quite breathtaking. They are attractive to hummingbirds, and an interesting variety of uses recorded in the Native American Ethnobotany Database.

IronweedNestled in with the Lobelia were a few plants of Ironweed (left). This is another very common genus throughout the USA and Canada. Some species have restricted range. Based on the Plants Profile maps, I think it is most likely Vernonia noveboracensis, but could also be gigantea. Either way, I think most folks would consider this member of the aster family a weed, but it is actually quite attractive with its royal purple color and compliment of butterflies. Once again, the species (assuming correct identification) has several medicinal uses listed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Seedy Action

Pardon my blurry cell phone images. Doing this post in the quick and dirty style.

I took a little time this afternoon to surface sterilize a ripening seed pod and to sow seeds today. The cross was Paph (victoria-regina x lowii) x fairrieanum (I'll post a photo of the fairrieanum at another time, it was a nicely marked, slightly fragrant one) made January 31st. I thought the pod should stay on the plant another 1-3 months, but it started to dry out, so I harvested it. I somewhat expected the pod to contain nothing, so I decided to use some nearly year old media I had stashed in the lab rather than making fresh. Much to my surprise, the seeds actually look reasonably decent. They have a nice dark umber color, but weren't very 'fluffy' in the pod, making me think they weren't quite mature. Possibly the heat caused the plant to abort development early. Hopefully they'll germinate anyway and be FABULOUS.

And here's another fuzzy cell phone pic of some intermediate stage Lc Green Veil x June Bug seedlings. To see these guys as wee seeds, see this post. I'll need to space these out onto new replate media soon for their final flask development stage. If all goes well the flasks will be ready next Spring/Summer. Green Veil is a bright lime green with a white & purple lip and great flower count, and June Bug (as you can see from the link above) is yellow with a red lip.

I also did a quick "spread plate" of some recalcitrant Phal taenialis protocorms which have been refusing to develop. Hopefully this will kick start them.

If you're interested in learing more about orchid hybridization, flasking, and seedling development, join me at the Susquehanna Orchid Society meeting this Sunday at 1:30PM in Camp Hill, PA. If you can't make it, ask your society's officers to schedule me to give a lecture in your home town! :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

In Bloom: Huernia and Fire Magic

Before you get offended, we're not talking about embarrassing personal products today. :P

Huernia schneideranaHuernia are among the Stapeliads, a jungle cactus type succulent group. They like approximately phalaenopsis type light and temperatures. I basically grow mine just like a phalaenopsis, but remember I grow on what most of you consider 'the dry side,' so maybe water a bit less for those of you who grow more wet. It can take cooler temperatures in winter but doesn't seem to require a dip in temperature to bloom. I do water them a little bit less in winter, but don't let them get dessicated.

This came to me unidentified, but I believe it to be H. schneiderana. Nevertheless, these are easy to grow and cute. As they get longer and start making branches they become great plants for hanging baskets. Often the lower branches are programmed to come off naturally, as a pre-programmed propagation method. When that happens, you can root them into the original pot to make the basket more full, or into a separate pot and share with friends! I have one such rooted plant in the shop.

Slc. Fire Magic 'MAW'Slc. Fire Magic is a great cross. It has pretty much everything I like to see in a mini-catt cross. It is small and compact, easy growing, can be bloomed under fluorescent light (but you have to grow them fairly close to the tubes for best results) or in windowsills of course, and they have wild colors and patterns. The one shown is even lightly fragrant. It might be better if they were more strongly fragrant, but I can be satisfied with lightly fragrant, and not everyone always likes the style of, "nice perfume, must you bathe in it?" that you often sniff in Cattleyas.

I bought a good size batch of these seedlings a while back, but they've been selling well. Everyone seems to agree that they're exciting, so I only have a few left. See the listing for more examples of Fire Magic flowers.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

My sister and I recently visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. According to the garden's website, the place has a slightly unusual history. The property started as a club, progressed to a convalescent home then eventually a private residence, from where it passed by will to the city's possession in 1968, with the stipulation for it to be developed into a botanical gardens. In 1981 this was finally realized. (see LGBG website for more details)

All that's lovely, but what does it mean? The garden and its collection is young and still in development. They have, however, done quite a nice job with the modest grounds. I would also point out, they have a lovely library on premises, which is open to the public and full of books and periodicals on plants, gardening, and birds. Not to mention a fantastic place to escape from the heat. Richmond might as well be Savannah for the weather they get there.

But I digress. Here are some highlights of their collection.

Washington HawthornOne of the first areas you pass through in the garden is an herb garden display, showcasing some well known as well as less known plants of medicinal interest. Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) for example, at left. Hawthorn species are native to the United States, and the berries were/are used to prepare a heart tonic, but due to my lack of experience in the matter I couldn't tell you if all species are used or only certain ones. There are ~200 species. Washington Hawthorn, despite what the name suggests, does not originate from the Pacific Northwest. According to the USDA PLANTS profile, this species is found all over the Eastern half of North America, from Florida into Canada.

Paph. Lynleigh KoopowitzThey do have a modest conservatory, with a few orchids of mainly rather ordinary selections from the view of an enthusiast. Enough, though, to be educational to the novice, however. I thought this Paph. Lynleigh Koopowitz was rather attractive.

While they may have little in terms of unusual orchid species, they did, however have this nicely executed glass sculpture of a 'ghost orchid' (Dendrophylax lindenii, a.k.a. Polyrrhiza lindenii). This endangered leafless species is native to the Southwestern reaches of Florida. The plants have been under propagation for several years now, and laboratory-propagated stock are often found for sale on eBay. If you by one, please make sure it is laboratory-propagated.

Polyantha Rose 'Orange Morsdag'There is a picturesque pavilion, no doubt frequently rented for weddings, surrounded by a variety of roses in varietal blocks. The most unusual to me was this Polyantha rose, 'Orange Morsdag'. I don't recall reading about Polyantha roses before, but if this one is certainly worth note with its adorable multitude of blossoms reminiscent of the Old English style. Googling it I find the shape of flowers varies among Polyantha roses, though floriferous nature and compact size is common, and they vary in their hardiness. Investigate varieties of interest before planting them in your landscape.

There were many other things of interest in the garden, including a nice variety of Japanese Maples and other trees, carnivorous plants, and woodland perennials. Overall, worth the visit when you're in the Richmond area.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Upcoming Events

Fellow plant geeks: Just a quick note to let everyone know I will be speaking at the Brookside Gardens Orchid Club tomorrow, Sunday June 20th at 1PM on the topic of hybridization, flasking, and seed development.

Some of you may have caught the talk last month at the Maryland Orchid Society. Those of you who did, thanks for coming & hope you enjoyed it.

For those of you who have or will miss both of the above, I will also be giving the talk to the Susquehanna Orchid Society soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baltimore Wildlife: Fledgling Kestrel

For a densely urban area, Baltimore has a pretty decent diversity of wildlife. Much of it is likely owing to the tree count and proximity to water, but just as many critters have adapted to the city itself. From our building in downtown Baltimore there is just such an example. For two years in a row, we have witnessed pairs of kestrels nesting in two different locations within 2 blocks of our building in the nooks and crannies offered by the old architecture of the city. I have on several occasions sat on this very balcony and watched them come and go, tending their chicks, sometimes witnessing one passing within ten feet as it buzzed past the building.

Yesterday evening, I got to meet the next generation. This handsome young fellow, a fledgling chick by the look of his still visible downy feathers peeking out all over his head and body, rested his wings for a while on the very balcony from which I often watch his parents. From inside the building I watched and snapped some cell phone photos to share.

Fledgling Kestrel in Baltimore, MD
Fledgling Kestrel in Baltimore, MD
Fledgling Kestrel in Baltimore, MD

Good luck, little buddy, and thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

In Bloom: Dendrobium hercoglossum

Dendrobium hercoglossumToday's in bloom is a Den. hercoglossum. I purchased this plant a couple years ago at the SEPOS show from Andy's Orchids, and although for some reason I sometimes kill stuff I buy from him, this plant has had no problems. Likely because it likes a drier winter, so my cycle of abuse & good care suits it just fine. Oh, wait, did I say that out loud?

Yes, well, Den. hercoglossum does indeed enjoy a slight rest in Winter, with less water and fertilizer, and slightly lower temperatures are also acceptable. In the Summer I put this plant outside in a medium bright location, and water nearly daily as it is mounted.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 ASM Conference in San Diego

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, CA
I recently attended the ASM conference in San Diego, CA. It was a good conference, I attended several interesting lectures both related and unrelated to my own research, and also enjoyed just being in San Diego in the few off hours I had. My traveling companion and I stayed at the Hilton in the Gaslamp Quarter, which had the lovely advantage of being directly across the street from the center point of the massive conference center, making for easy access. The hotel was, sadly, otherwise rather ordinary and middle-of-the-line at best. If you go, swanky places to stay in the area seem to be the Marriott on the North end of the conference center, the Hard Rock hotel (which you can see in the photo), and the Embassy Suites.

Incidentally, we could see the terrace of the Hard Rock hotel from our room in the Hilton, and on Sunday night they had a raucous party up there, complete with loud music, not very talented go-go girls, and grid of these large queen sized beds for people to chill out on. Might have been some fire pit action as well. It really looked like fun. Then, while milling around town that afternoon looking for Gluten Free food, we heard that the Gaslamp Quarter used to be a red light district. Don't know if its true, but I fond it amusing, so now I refer to the Hard Rock terrace as "the den of iniquity". (Note to folks of the Hard Rock - I mean that in the nicest/most fun way. :P )

Anyhow, I have lots of photos to share with you, most of them plants.

This is a mall we stumbled across on First Street, I think it was. It had an odd feel, multilevel with haphazard construction sort of jammed between two other buildings. I thought I was walking around in an Escher print. Very fun!

This is, obviously, the Dole cargo ship. It was hanging out in the bay behind the conference center. I wanted to grab a bottle of rum and storm the boat for pineapples, but nobody else seemed interested.

As far as plants go, about the strangest thing I saw were these three very large Platycerium ferns (sorry kids, not sure which, possibly superbum?) hanging on the side of a building. I was totally weirded out by this, since it seems like (a) too bright a spot, (b) too dry a climate, but there they were. There were also a couple smaller ones just by the door.

On the front side of the conference center, near the atrium (or whatever they called that giant, permanent tent-like room), the stairs were decorated with an array of what I think were very nicely grown Aloe ferox.

Some random succulents from the same area. Incidentally, they had whitefly.

Strelitzia nicolai
Strelitzias were a common sight in the area, along with cycads and palms. This is a very nicely grown Strelitzia nicolai that was on the back (West) terrace of the conference center. I basked in the sun for about an hour one day back there, while watching the birds repeatedly land on the flowers. I assume they were after the copious amount of sap that always seems to be all over strelitzia flowers.

Agapanthus africanus
I don't know what this is, but they were lovely. I assume based on the flowers and plant form that they're in the Amaryllis family. Please leave a comment if you know what it is. Note: They were purpleish, not blue, my camera doesn't seem to understand that particular shade. I fixed the color balance as much as I could, but it might still be a little off.

NOTE: This has been identified as Agapanthus africanus by Beverly. Thanks Bev!

As above, I don't know what this tree is, but they seemed popular in the area. Please leave a comment if you can identify it.

I'd like to go back sometime and experience more of the area. The weather was phenomenal, 65 and sunny every day (glad I checked the forecasts before leaving, that's a good 20 degrees F less than MD!!), and it just seemed like a quiet, easy going area. Incidentally, Sammy's Woodfired Pizza, located on Fourth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter, has the BEST GLUTEN FREE PIZZA EVER!!! Sammy, when are you opening a shop in the state of Maryland!? I miss you already.