Saturday, December 29, 2012

A visitor

Unidentified Crab Spider
This little lady was found laying in wait on some mounted plants.  Due to her color, she is nearly invisible when she is curled up on the back of a piece of cork.  On the front, she is more visible.  I was unable to figure out what species she is, but due to body type and her habit of sitting down and folding her legs up so that she looks like a wee spot of mud on the cork tells me she is a crab spider.  These are hunting spiders, like jumpers, and don't weave webs.  Crab spiders are also often called flower spiders, as many species are colored to blend in well on flowers, and prefer to hide among petals to wait for a chance to catch bugs.

To see more cool bugs and learn about them, I recommend visiting What's That Bug?

I hope she eats stink bugs.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays

Aloe barbadensis (vera)

We like an alternative Christmas tree.  Every year, one or two unlucky plants get pulled for ornament duty.  :)

I believe this to be Aloe barbadensis, or some near similar hybrid.  It came to me without a tag.  Its a large, beastly plant, and I have divided out many pups from it over the years in a vain attempt to manage its size.  The normal blooming season for these would be around early Spring, attracting hummingbirds if it was outside.  However, frequently this guy blooms for me in the late fall, soon after it comes inside.  I assume the sudden change from exposure to temperatures of 45 or 50F (7-10C) overnight to constant 68 (20C) makes it think spring has come early.  That scape is nearly 5 feet high (150cm), but that includes the height of the pot. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Paph concolor v chlorophyllum

Paph. concolor v. chlorophyllum 'Buttercup'
Responding to an OGD post regarding a request for Paph concolor photos, I dug up what I had to share.  This is a photo of a plant formerly in my collection.

Yes, sadly, formerly.  I lost it when I ended up with a resistant, rampant mealybug infestation in a stand of paphs.  I finally destroyed them rather than continuing to spray, as the best I was able to do was keep it in check.  It was a liability.  So after a couple years of fighting it and keeping the plants isolated, I decided that rather than risk sharing such pests with anyone who got plants from me, I should put everyone who was infected into a black plastic bag.  It still makes me ill to think about it.  I had several very nice things in there.

This, kids, is why some people quarantine newcomers.  I didn't, and I paid for it.

But back to the plant.  Paph concolor is a lovely species, with butter yellow flowers and lovely, thick, crystalline tessellated foliage.  It and things like it really love calcium, and I always thought my success with them was a result of having hard water.  (See?  There is an up-side to hard water.)

The irony of this situation is that this flower smells like pesticide.  Not everyone can pick it up, its faint, and also, easy to mistake for pesticide residue.  However, this plant bloomed *before* the major infestation began, and so nothing else was stinky at the time.

I maintain that a lot of plants have some fragrance and we never hear about it.  People are convinced "Paphiopedilums have no fragrance", so they never check.  But I have come across several that are.  So don't feel silly, sniff every flower to see if you can detect something that someone else missed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In Bloom: Pumpkin Colors

Three lovely orange flowers, for your enjoyment.

Clivia cyrtanthiflora
Clivia cyrtanthiflora, a natural hybrid between miniata and nobilis.  I don't know if this particular plant is a natural hybrid or a man-made "remake," but the effect is largely the same.  A large, beastly plant, it already has 3 pups, one of which bloomed for the first time this year.  Division of this plant would likely require a hacksaw, the root mas is so solid.  Clivias tend to tell you they want a bigger pot by pushing themselves up out of their current pot an inch or so.

Lc. Jungle Eyes
Lc Jungle Eyes (Jungle Elf x aclandiae) is a compact cattleya bearing thick, spotted flowers heavily influenced by aclandiae, which makes up 75% of it's ancestry (example flower photo shows C. aclandiae). The rest of Jungle Eye's heritage comes from a miniature yellow laelia species, esalqueana. Both species are small, and Jungle Eyes matures at about 6 inches tall.  This is the first of a batch of seedlings to bloom.  Younger plants of the same cross are available here.

S. cernua
Sophronitis cernua is an awesome little miniature plant, popping buds out of a maturing growth as it finishes out its growth.  Its a creeping plant, easiest to manage on a mount due to its habit of hugging its substrate.  They grow perhaps a little brighter than a Phalaenopsis, otherwise similar requirements, but are highly tolerant of lazy watering habits.

Also, a couple orange bugs - some woolly bears I found hiding under an empty pot outside.  They were grouchy about being disturbed, and vacated shortly after this photo was taken.  These are ground-dwelling caterpillars that eat grasses and weeds, and hibernate during the winter, then spin their cocoons in the spring.  Good luck little fellas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A stinky bouquet

Stapelia gigantea, or Carrion Flower, Starfish Flower, and several others.
The species originates from South Africa, but has been in cultivation for a long time.  Ironically, though called Carrion Flower and reported to have a very foul scent, I have never noticed it.  I have no explanation for this, really.  Perhaps it is only horribly stinky early in the morning when I am not yet alive.  That said, it is always popular with the flies, so I might have a different story if I had to be in a small, enclosed space with it.

I have recently learned that his succulent-type plant is actually a member of the milkweed family.  This perhaps gives reason for its vigorous growth, a habit well known among that family.  The plant is really easy to grow and flower, though newly rooted cuttings sometimes must establish themselves a year or two before they will bloom.
The plant is well known for the flower size, with a 10-12" wingspan.  Here's a wine cork for comparison.  The flowers in the photo are very reflexed, having all their sepals folded back, which in this case gives the impression of a smaller flower.  So, natural spread is not always 10-12".

Yes, those are sepals.  The petals are the tiny doodads in the center.

As mentioned, the plant is a weed, and scrambles over the edges of a pot in no time.  These flowers were all on one section of stem that was well over the edge of the pot and the basket in which it was sitting.  Their combined weight got to be too much.  You can see it breaking off below.
But, no worries.  These are really easy to root.  It actually already has little pimply 'nubs' where the roots are prepared to pop out.  After the flowers are gone, I'll break it off, give that piece a few days to heal the wound, then set it on something fluffy, fertile, and relatively well drained.  It'll be a brand new bushy succulent in no time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eager Clivia Seed

Today I learned that Clivia seeds will germinate when they are ready, even if the fruit hasn't been picked yet.  I saw that little root poking out of a fruit I had procrastinated picking.  Here it is with the fruit cracked open.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A proper web

Argiope aurantia, or yellow orb weaver, is possibly my favorite spider.  The females are large, dramatically colored, and spin the most impressive webs.  When they are young, if you get close to their web they freak out a little, and rock their bodies to make their entire web flap, making themselves more visible in hopes that you won't destroy their careful weaving.  Males are much smaller and easily overlooked, but sometimes you'll see one actually hanging out on the female's web in an unobtrusive spot.  I enjoy monitoring their progress throughout the summer, occasionally helping out by tossing them a grasshopper.  I count myself lucky that these accomplished pest control agents can be found in my yard every year. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Promises of Lazy Gardener Tales to come...

I plunked a fig into my yard this summer and the little guy is already gifting fruit.  It is a lovely little Chicago Hardy which I had in an 8" pot for the previous year.

Why the "Lazy Gardener" tag? a fit of genius *cough* I decided to do a hack job of preparing the bed, and made a smallish one very close to the patio, completely ignoring the sheer mass a fig tree can attain.  I know this, but I chose the lazy way out.  A couple weeks after, while visiting my brother, I had an up close look at his fig tree.  I know this tree to have been viciously pruned last fall, yet by the end of June it was already about 8ft tall and perhaps as much in diameter.

I sense I'll be doing a lot of battle with my "little fig tree" in the coming years.

On the bright side, I'll have lots of cuttings to root and share, and perhaps this means the Passifloras have finally met their match...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dischidia ovata seeds

Dischidia ovata seeds!  Though I have been interested, I have never figured out how to hand pollinate Dischidias.  Their floral structure is not obvious, I have never bothered to stick one under a dissecting 'scope, and have yet to find any useful information.  But as you can see, some kindly bug must have finally taken pity.  I was gifted a wee pod about an inch and  a half long and very narrow.  It recently ripened and released the prizes.

Dischidias are a close relative of the Hoya genus, which places them in the milkweed family.  You might have suspected this by the appearance of the seed pod.  If you've ever grown either genus, you'll also have noted that any cut or damaged plant parts exude a white, sticky sap, also reminiscent of milkweed.
I have a few Dischidia species and I find them all to be easy to grow and flower.  Dischidia ovata, though, is by far the easiest.  With almost no encouragement it will creep, crawl, twine and climb all over the place.  It also seems to bloom for much of the year when kept indoors.  I have never found this sort of success with Hoyas.  Actually, sadly, I have yet to have a long term relationship with any Hoya.

Want some cuttings?  Drop me a line via the shop.  I'll probably root some to sell, but they're easy enough to get going, so if you're interested, no sense in waiting on my account.

I have sown my Dischidia seeds in a plastic bag of damp sphagnum.  They germinated within a couple days.

The method is also effective with Anthurium seeds.  Oh by the way - you can expect Anthurium scandens seedlings to become available soon too...

Saturday, July 28, 2012

In Bloom: Summer Miniature

Dyakia hendersoniana, formerly known as Ascocentrum hendersonianum, is a very adorable miniature species.  These bloom on an inflorescence up to 6 inches high covered with wee, purple-pink flowers with a white lip in late Spring or early Summer. They can be grown along side Phalaenopsis, pretty much the same conditions but with maybe a little bit more light.  I am keeping mine in slightly stronger light than the phals right now, but they spend the Winter in a slighty shadier spot.  Great plant for those of you looking to branch out, and great plant for the miniature collectors out there too!  Now available in the shop!  :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

In Bloom: Isn't she lovely?

Cattleya aclandiae

I'm quite happy with this.  No, it could have a flatter lip, and my camera could have been less recalcitrant about the color of the lip.  It is actually a very nice deep red-purple in real life, but that shade is just not in my camera's repertoire.  Overall, the color is very dark and rich, which is the form I like most in this species.  As a bonus, it is wildly fragrant from morning through early afternoon, with a fragrance resembling a very nice rose, but a good deal more potent.  

I had a few aclandiae, and after being told they like it dry and hot, I proceeded to mount most of the plants I had.  They did well during the summer, but of course, during the winter I sometimes ignore stuff, and several croaked.  Turns out, if you're lazy with the watering in winter, they're a lot happier in a pot...(see photographic evidence above!)

I do very much like these dwarf Brazilian bifoliate cattleyas, and I'm pleased as punch that I've finally bloomed one of these seedlings.  So much so, that I trolled around here singing "Isn't she lovely!  Isn't she wonderful?"  blah blah blah.  Several comments were made in regards to my probable over-consumption of caffeine.  This of course prompted me to sing louder and put more effort into singing off-key.  This was rewarded with the 'stink eye'.  Now I'm extra pleased with myself.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

In Bloom: Albizia julibrissin

All over Maryland Albizia julibrissin trees have been in bloom for the past few weeks. These are also known as Mimosa or Silk Trees, though the former more properly belongs to a related genus to which the diminutive Mimosa pudica (sensitive plant) belongs. I've you've seen those, you'll recognize the family resemblance.  The plant in the photo is a volunteer, which admittedly came up a little close to the house, but they don't get that big and I like them so it stays.   I have carefully protected this thing from 'helping hands', sloppy lawnmowing, and grazing horses since it was a wee, weedy sprout.  Finally it has bloomed.  I am quite pleased with its depth of color.

This species is found in much of the Eastern and Southern ranges of the US, but it is not native.  It is actually introduced and naturalized, and also considered a weedy, invasive pest in certain areas, notably Florida and Tennessee, according to the USDA PLANTS Profile.  Such is often the lot of plants in the pea family.

Yes, this is actually in the pea family.  Family resemblance is more obvious in the structure of the foliage and the bean-like seed pods, less so the flowers due to lack of petals.  Interestingly, however, if you look closely at that flower you'll notice that each of those pink filaments is tipped with yellow.  Those are stamens.

I understand the species is highly susceptible to Fusarium wilt, and so can be short lived in the Northeast as a result.  My mother used to tell me there were many of these trees 30-40 years ago in the DC area with fantastic color.  Then they almost all died out, tragically leaving only the ones with pale color.  Well, fortunately, they're weedy, and so are making an excellent comeback.  They sure seem to be all over the place now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Bloom: Moth Diner

Following much personal change and a good deal of procrastination and total distraction with mad knitting, I've decided its time to start posting to the Plant Geek Chronicles again (and, uh, paying more attention to the plants...yep, had some survival of the fittest experimentation).

I'm starting easy, by showing you some goodies in bloom. First, we've got a lovely variegated Neofinetia falcata, tagged as 'Higashidemiyako'.

I'm very pleased with it. It might not be an extremely rare form, but I still think its awesome. Neofinetia falcata is a Japanese species, and all the most interesting plants are still Japanese in origin or recent ancestry. These plants are also easier to grow. I've had trouble with the ones that have been bred in the US for several generations. Likely those are all horribly inbred. But so far I have four that I believe to be of Japanese origin, and not only are they of more interesting varieties, they're so adaptable and easy to grow!

They're also sweetly fragrant, somewhat reminiscent of honeysuckle. As the flower form includes a long spur and the plant displays increased fragrance at dusk and dark, I suspct the plant is probably moth pollinated in its natural habitat. I don't know this for sure, if you have any data on this please chime in.

The other goodie I have to share is a Brassavola acaulis, which I am sure is moth pollinated.

This plant is also cool, and surprisingly sturdy. The 'leaves' are long, sticks in appearance. Almost based on the appearance and the placement in genus Brassavola you'd assume *Super High Light!* But nay. On the advice of the ever knowledgeable Al, I've kept it with the large mounted phalaenopsis plants, so low-medium light (by orchid standards, mind you ::shakes finger::), and decent watering. Though, to be fair, through the winter I tend to not water enough. The phals were a little crabby about that but they're still alive. Some sources suggest 3-4 hrs light for this species, but mine lives in an East window just fine. It is possible it will adapt to either situation. In any case, it bloomed.

Here again, like most moth pollinated species, it isn't very impressive in the day. As soon as it gets dark, though, you can smell it from across the room. It has a vaguely citrus-y rose-y scent. Very pleasant.