Saturday, June 20, 2015

Question for the Hive Mind: Trifolium pratense

There's nothing new going on here at the moment -- believe me, I tried to find something better than this to talk about1 -- so I thought this might be a good moment to ask a question that's been rattling around in my head for a couple years instead.

Why do people not deliberately cultivate red clover (Trifolium pratense) in their gardens?

I mean, yeah, I get that it's weedy and would tend to take over, given enough time, but gardeners overlook that in other plants, so it doesn't seem like that would be enough to disqualify it. And rabbits like it, but again -- that doesn't stop anybody from growing lots of other stuff. And it has good points. The flowers are pleasant, and numerous,

and even mildly fragrant. Bees love them. They improve the nitrogen content of the soil. There's a medicinal use for them.2 The plants quickly reach a mature height of about two feet tall and then stop getting taller, which seems to me like it should be a good quality for an outdoor plant.

So I'm just wondering. Last year, I let a couple grow in the Portulaca bed, and that seemed to work out fine for me,3 so I'm just wondering why nobody else does it. I assume there's a reason. Or several.


1 There have been a few new first-time Anthurium blooms (0335 "Donna Fanuday," 0346 "Lois Carmen DiNominatre," 0360 "Heidi Gosique," 0373 "Shangela Laquifa Wadley," 0597 "Raven"), but Shangela is hideous, Donna, Lois, and Raven aren't fully opened up yet and have so far photographed terribly, and Heidi is basically a repeat of 0357 "Rhea Litré." I mean, I'll get to all of them eventually, I'm sure, but as a group they're kind of underwhelming. And in any case I'll have to sort through a bunch of photos first.
2 I'm not generally that impressed by claims that a garden plant can be used medicinally, because I really kinda feel like people are better off not gambling with self-administering unproven chemicals they don't really understand, at an unknown dose, with no supervision by a medical professional, but some people consider it a point in a plant's favor if it's "useful" for something, so that seems like it should be a point in favor of deliberate cultivation.
3 Didn't this year, because they were getting so big so early that they threatened to shade out the reseeded Portulaca grandiflora before it even had a chance to germinate. And yes, that means I've had a lot of seedlings to pull up. But the Trifolium is a much easier weed problem to deal with than, say, dandelions, maple tree seedlings, Oxalis, lamb's quarters, or crabgrass. If not for the Portulaca, I would have been perfectly happy to let the clover have the bed this year.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Pretty picture: Isochilus linearis

I panicked for a second yesterday morning. Oh, crap, I need to do a blog post for tomorrow and I don't think the plants are doing anything, what can I write a post about? And then I looked at the queued posts and saw that there was an orchid post scheduled, so I didn't have to come up with something, and was relieved.

And then I looked at the photos, and was concerned again.

The notes I wrote down in March say that I found this one somehow "friendly and fun-seeming" despite its odd appearance. (It must be true -- I mean, I wrote it down and everything -- but I can't say these qualities translated to the photos very well.) I went on to note that the foliage was a lot stiffer than you'd think from looking at it, which I do remember (one doesn't expect to be stabbed by an orchid), so "friendly" seems even less appropriate, but whatever.

Isochilus is a new genus for the blog; I. linearis seems to be the main species in cultivation, though I did find some I. aurantiacus (orange flowers) references around as well. I. linearis is, I think, not supposed to be as yellow as the plant in the photos, either -- most of the photos that come up in an image search show green leaves. Some of that could be my camera's fault, though I remember thinking at the show that the leaves were pretty brown, so it can't all be the camera.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Random plant event: Neofinetia falcata "Amami Furan"

It's getting to the point where I can't even say I'm unable to grow orchids anymore.

Let me first admit that Neofinetia falcata "Amami Furan" is not especially interesting to look at.

That's it. Solid white flowers, stiff dull olive-green leaves, orchid-type roots. The most interesting thing about its appearance is the long spurs on the flowers:

Which don't seem that interesting either, granted, but the way the plant suddenly grows them is sort of neat. The earliest stages of bud only have short, stubby spurs:

And then all of a sudden they start shooting out the back of the flowers. Which is interesting to watch, but not, like, beautiful.

However, Neofinetia does have one non-obvious feature that totally makes up for the plain appearance. You know it doesn't look like much, but how does it . . . sound?

(No. I'm kidding. It's fragrant, not noisy. I just wanted to surprise you for a second.)

And what a fragrance! It changes a little bit from hour to hour and day to day, but it usually smells like vanilla, a Gardenia, or something in between the two. It's not overpowering like the Hoya lacunosa:1 I can only detect it if I'm within 3 or 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) of the plant, and even then only if the air currents are exactly right. It's also only fragrant at night, after about 6 or 7 PM.

I don't know how long to expect the blooms to last; they opened up on June 3, and aren't wilting or browning as I write this on June 12, so there's nine days right there. I'd be surprised if they lasted a month, but then, I haven't had this happen before, and couldn't locate any information about bloom lifespan on-line, so for all I know, they last forever. (Don't spoil it for me if you know.)

Even if they are set to die pretty soon, the plant has produced a second spike, about 2 or 3 weeks behind the first --

-- so that'll extend the life of the scent a bit further.

I'd given up on ever growing an actual Gardenia indoors a long time ago, and had mostly given up on growing orchids since an unhappy Oncidium / Sophrolaeliocattleya / Potinara / Dendrobium experience in 2011 and 2012, so having an orchid bloom for me for the first time,2 and having it smell more or less like a Gardenia, is . . . well, "miraculous" would be a bit strong, but it's still two impossible things happening at the same time. So whatever the word is for two impossible things happening at the same time. Which I suppose may as well be "miraculous."


1 The Hoya is not actually that bad, though when multiple peduncles are in bloom simultaneously, the smell does get pretty strong.
Recently, with the Neofinetia smelling like a gardenia in the kitchen, the Hoya smelling like a florist's display case in my office, and the Murraya paniculata smelling like musky orange blossoms in the plant room, the house has had a pretty complicated scent landscape lately. A week ago, it was even more complicated than that, as Sheba chose to roll in some fresh shit (her own? neighbor cat?) she found in the yard and got a thick streak of it on her back, which necessitated an emergency bath.
2 I ought to acknowledge here that I received this plant for free, in a plant trade in May 2012, and that I had specifically encouraged the sender not to send it to me, on the grounds that sending it would be a waste of an orchid, as I can't grow orchids. And they sent it anyway (potted in the softest, fluffiest sphagnum moss you have ever seen -- I wanted to, like, sleep in it), and here we are, three years later.