Friday, October 23, 2015

Anthurium no. 0147 "Denise O. Deanefew"

As October rumbles along, I'm getting more and more excited about the Schlumbergeras. Sixteen previously-unbloomed seedlings have buds now,1 and most of the plants that had bloomed previously also have buds. It looks like the first bloom this year will be from 082A "Strawberry Madeleine." Which is a fine seedling to begin the season with, and this pleases me.

I've also moved some of the more vigorous 3-inch seedlings to the plant room (the only place in the house where the temperature and day-length requirements can be met), in hopes that some of them might flower. It'd be early: they were sown on 23 February 2014, which makes them about 20 months old now. But it's possible (025 "Clownfish" made its first bloom at 19 months), and if they flower, I should have a much wider range of bloom colors this year.2

I'm also a little excited about some of the repeats from last year, because I should finally be able to answer some lingering questions. Does 030A "Diwali" always stop just short of opening its flowers, or was it just having a tough time last year? (Can 113A "Helper Dog" ever stop opening its flowers? It'd be worth growing, if it would just relax its petals a little.) Can 054A "Helpful Gesture" produce more than one bloom in a year? Will I ever be able to take cuttings from 083A "Psychedelic Bunny?" Are 008A "Frightened Dog" and 008B "Candor" actually the same seedling?

So there's a lot to look forward to, with the Schlumbergeras. In contrast, I'm . . . well, I'm getting sick of the Anthuriums lately.

There. I said it. The actual blooms can still be pleasant, shitty, and everything in between, same as ever, but I've spent a lot of time lately thinking and worrying about the Anthuriums (not to mention taping the Anthuriums3), and the balance has tipped more to Anthurium-related aggravation than Anthurium-related enjoyment.

The timing makes me feel bad, because Denise is okay. This first bloom has a pretty tiny spathe, and it's pink. Now that I think about it, those are both strikes against her, though.

Well, and then there are the brown spots, which I assume are probably thrips-related.

I think I'm talking myself out of "okay," actually. I mean, the leaves are somewhere between yuck and meh, closer to meh:

And the plant as a whole distinguishes itself mainly by being smallish, like the bloom.

So yeah. Actually Denise isn't great. She photographs pretty well (it helps that the spadix is slightly yellow-orange, instead of the more common darker pink), and she could be worse, but she's not great.

So probably not a keeper. I don't know. I shouldn't make decisions about the Anthuriums when I'm angry at them.

The next Anthurium (0380 "Ewan Watarmi") makes me a lot happier, though, so how about we forget about Denise and meet back here on Sunday?

P.S. I think I'm done with the daily posts for a while -- fun though they were, it was a lot of work to keep up with them, and I'm pretty much out of events to celebrate for the moment anyway.


1 All 16 pending new blooms: 018, 033, 034, 056, 074, 077, 089, 093, 100, 102, 103, 105, 106, 107, 112, and 114.
2 I believe that all (or at least most) of the seedlings to have bloomed so far were probably the result of a 'Caribbean Dancer' x NOID peach cross. In all cases, 'Caribbean Dancer' was the seed parent, so that part's pretty easy to pin down, but also most of the orange and orange-pink blooms could be explained by the orange pigment from the NOID peach being expressed at the intensity of the red pigment in 'Caribbean Dancer,' plus a variable amount of the magenta pigment from 'Caribbean Dancer' near the petal bases. And it doesn't hurt that one seedling closely resembles the NOID peach. (061A "Leather Fairy")
The 3-inch plants I just moved have both 'Caribbean Dancer' and the NOID peach as seed parents, plus two others: the NOID white and NOID magenta. So there are five more possible crosses. ('Caribbean Dancer' x white, 'Caribbean Dancer' x magenta, white x peach, white x magenta, peach x magenta) I'm not expecting a lot from one of those (white x peach seems like it could only lead to really light peach, which is tough to get enthused about), but surely we'll see something new from the other crosses.
3 If you're just now joining the program: I'm trying to use adhesive tape as a pest-control method, by sticking it firmly to plants' leaves and then pulling it away, which when done correctly can result in scale and thrips getting pulled off of the leaves too, even if they're too small to see. It is not likely to be effective, and I don't recommend it, but I ran out of actual ideas a while ago.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Well, that was quick. . . .

The Polyscias fruticosa seeds in fact have begun to germinate. Only two so far, and they're so tiny that it's difficult to get a good picture, but this is probably enough to get the general idea:

Sown on 26 September 2015, and I first noticed that something had happened on 18 October, so 22 days from sowing to germination (for the fastest ones). It remains to be seen, of course, whether any others will germinate, and whether I'm competent to keep the seedlings alive long enough to turn into proper plants, but this is at least proof of concept.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Pretty picture: Brassostele Tarantula

We used to get spiky orchids pretty routinely at the ex-job, in assorted-orchids shipments, but I don't very often see them for sale anymore, at the ex-job or anywhere else. Though they never seemed to sell as well as rounder (Phalaenopsis, Dendrobium) or daintier (Oncidium) orchids, which I suppose explains why I never see them anymore.

This was also, I think, the first time an orchid name has ever actually made me laugh out loud. The names usually aren't quite so on-the-nose.

Brassostele Tarantula = Brassia aurantiaca x Brassostele Summit (Ref.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The garden: Cannas

I have apparently managed to grow large numbers of Cannas outside, for a few years, and managed to take large numbers of photos of them, without ever showing you those pictures in a post here at PATSP. How did this happen? It is a mystery. (Weirder still: I appear to have deleted most of the photos I've taken, so I don't have that much to show you even now.) But since the subject's come up:

The fence bed, 2014.

As best as I can remember, I got the first Canna rhizomes in 2010, from a friend in town, and we planted them in the spring of 2011. Since then, every year we dig them all up in October, store them in the basement for the winter (probably too warm, but the best we have, and they don't seem to mind too much), and then plant them outside again in May. I then spend a couple months trying and failing to keep them weeded, until they get big enough to block light from competing plants and become essentially self-weeding. In July, they start to bloom. In August, I see a hummingbird. Also in August, I start collecting seeds from them. And then it's October, and the Circle of Cannas begins all over again.

The fence bed, 2014.

Before 2015, we've always planted all the Cannas we had in a bed along the north edge of our property (the "fence bed"), as in the first photo, above; in 2015, we found we had so many of them that they wouldn't all fit there, so two new beds were created. We put one of the new beds along the far west edge of the property (the "west bed"), where they sort of blocked the view of the cornfield. (Ordinarily, this would have made me mildly unhappy, because I like the cornfield, but 2015 was a soybean year, and soybeans can blow me.) The other new bed was a square maybe 10-15 feet on a side a nearly square rectangle, 93 inches by 113 inches (2.4 x 2.9 m), the "square bed," located along the south side of the property, where the previous owners had a garden, and where we have experimented with outdoor gardening in the past, with mostly-dismal results. (Cannas work just fine there, though.)

The square bed, 2015. The cinder blocks did go all the way around it, before the husband took them away for some project or another.

The west bed has never really seemed to reach its full potential in terms of growing the biggest, baddest Cannas possible, but it was interesting anyway, in that it more or less turned into a living graph:

The west bed, 2015.

The left side of that row is right under the neighbors' maple tree, so the plants there get more shade than the ones on the right end. There's also probably something of a rain-shadow effect going, since the maple hangs way over the fence. I suspect that the rain is the more relevant problem, since the square bed is also in shade for most of the day and got a lot taller: it was close enough to the house that we occasionally watered it ourselves, and it didn't have a tree overhanging it and stealing its water.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of enthusiasm for Cannas in Iowa, from what I can tell. Nobody seems to have very many, and there are two main ways I see them used around here: 1) in a row, to hide a fence or cover the side of a building, and 2) as The Tall Thing in a group container. Maybe if they were winter-hardy here and one didn't have to dig them up every fall and re-plant them every spring, people would use them in regular gardens more often. Or maybe it's that (digging/replanting aside) they're too easy to grow, so Iowa gardeners just don't respect them. (Maybe just gardeners in general: DCTropics recently wrote a Canna-celebratory post that nevertheless characterized them as being for lazy gardeners.1)

We have sometimes had bug problems: 2015 was terrible for Japanese beetles. I dumped hundreds of them into jars of soapy water, for weeks, and never felt like I was even making a dent in the overall population.

And there was one year (I think 2010) with incredible whitefly swarms: some years I don't see any, most years I see a few, but that one year was like a never-ending snowstorm.

Candy-striped leafhoppers (Graphocephala coccinea) hang out on them from time to time, but don't seem to be causing the plants any serious problems, and they're never in huge swarms. We've had quite a few grasshoppers in 2015 after the Japanese beetles left, but they didn't seem interested in eating the Cannas; they just liked to hang out on them after they finished eating other plants (mostly Iris).


In 2015, for the first time, the Cannas also attracted remarkable numbers of spiders, of a species I wasn't previously familiar with and couldn't identify even after a good hour of online searches.

My best guess is Neoscona crucifera, which is at least hairy, known to live in Iowa, and a builder of vertical, orb-shaped webs. Still uncertain because N. crucifera is supposed to be nocturnal, and these didn't appear to be (I saw them both hiding and out in the middle of their webs during the day; they didn't seem to have a strong time-of-day preference), and because the ones on my Cannas had a consistent, distinctive, and vaguely octopus-/Cthulhu-looking way of folding their legs up over their heads, whereas the photos of N. crucifera on-line frequently show them with all legs stretched out wide.

Whatever they were, there were a lot of them.


My personal dream for the back yard, which the husband is aware of but not particularly enthusiastic about,2 is that we replace the lawn in much of the back of the yard with a meandering path, with Cannas on either side. (If we had more yard, I'd want a Canna maze, but the property is too long and narrow for that. Also this year's experience with the west bed suggests that we couldn't count on the Cannas reaching a uniform height, which would ruin the maze effect.) I intend to try to sell the meandering-path idea hard this winter as a "but think how much less lawn-mowing you'd have to do,"3 and we'll see if that works. If not, I suppose I can encourage the incremental expansion of the existing beds until we reach full lawn-replacement.4


1 When it comes to outdoor gardening: guilty as charged.
2 (because he's the one who would actually have to plant it and dig it up)
3 (The husband does the lawn-mowing too. I'm not actually opposed to lawn-mowing or Canna-digging, but I overheat too quickly to be much good at either. I mostly handle the weeding and the strawberry-picking, though, so it sort of balances out.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Anthurium no. 0575 "D'Arcy Drollinger"

D'Arcy winds up a keeper, I think, based mainly on the strength of the unusual bloom color:

It's not that there haven't been other red / pink or red / lavender blooms before, but they're uncommon, and the previous ones all have some problems.1 So if I have a fourth option, that's probably a good thing. And at least the thrips seem to be leaving D'Arcy more or less alone, so far.

The leaves are fine, maybe slightly better than average. And the plant overall is floppy, and kind of a mess, though not to the point where I want to throw her out or anything.

Haven't managed to pollinate D'Arcy yet, but there are some indications that she might be a pollen-shedder, and pollen is probably more valuable to me at this point than seeds are. So not the most exciting seedling I've got, but worth hanging on to.

Meanwhile, first-time budding on the Anthuriums stopped very abruptly at about the end of September, which is kind of jarring, since I'd been seeing a new first bud about once every two or three days there for a while. A lot of the first-time buds that did appear have subsequently aborted -- sixteen of them! -- which was sort of disappointing, but also sort of a relief; most of them didn't look like they were going to be that special. Presumably most of them will try again soon.

Currently, 12 seedlings have first-time buds in progress,2 a few of which have potential: 0333 "Isaiah Littleprayer," 0406 "Tricia Nullmaritch,"3 and 0547 "Cate Sedia" all look, at this point, like they're going to either be purple-red like 0035 "Alyssa Edwards" or purple-purple like 0386 "Violet Chachki,"4 and I was excited enough about Isaiah that I went ahead and moved him up to a 6-inch pot already.5

It's fine if the Anthuriums want to slow down for a while, though I'm not convinced that that's what they're doing. It will soon be time to roll out new first-time Schlumbergera blooms,6 and I can only write posts as fast as I can write them.


1 0144 "Graham Reaper" is a reluctant bloomer. 0213 "Nadya Falt" seems not to be doing well, but there's no obvious reason why. 0334 "Jean Poole" is both doing well and blooming her head off (plus the blooms last a really long time and are fairly thrips-resistant: Jean is amazing), but she's also enormous.

Top to bottom: 0144 "Graham Reaper," 0213 "Nadya Falt," 0334 "Jean Poole"

2 As of 17 October:
• 0091 "Bob Sharunkle"
• 0152 "Jay Love"
• 0333 "Isaiah Littleprayer"
• 0406 "Tricia Nullmaritch"
• 0408 "Tex Messich"
• 0459 "Heather Marie Rose"
• 0499 "Libby T. Belle"
• 0512 "Landon Sky"
• 0532 "Amber Alert"
• 0534 "Celia Putty"
• 0537 "Bridgette of Madison County"
• 0547 "Cate Sedia"
3 (my own name, which I am unreasonably proud of)
4 (The remaining nine seedlings all appear to be pink or pink-red.)
5 I also did this with 0115 "Erlene Adopter," who produced a bud in August, shortly after I mentioned her here, but she dropped the bud after getting promoted. All indications were that it was going to be another orange/orange, so I haven't really lost anything, but the space on the shelf probably should have gone to a seedling with a better work ethic.
6 At which point I will have to switch from finding orange exciting, and red or pink boring, to finding red or pink exciting, and orange boring.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Materials and techniques: Polyscias fruticosa

This post is probably a little premature, since nothing has actually happened with these yet. But since I'm doing non-Anthurium posts sometimes now, I figured it was better to say something, and have this post to remind me later, than to say nothing and possibly forget about the whole business entirely. So.

What happened was, both the original Polyscias fruticosa of mine and a cutting I took from it decided to bloom this summer, which I wrote about in June. At the time, I wasn't sure whether they would be self-fertile or not, but it turns out that they are. So far, so good.

The berries are sort of grayish (previously); they vaguely resemble blueberries.

The resemblance gets a lot stronger when you crush them:

(Though, weirdly, the color in that photo is more or less accurate: the juice is dark purple until it soaks into the paper plate, or dries, or something. Then it turns basically gray. I don't know how many times I had to look at it over and over before I realized that the color was fading from the juice, not that I was losing the ability to see in color.)

At this point, I didn't know what one was supposed to do with the seeds in order to get them to germinate. Searching the internet was unhelpful, so I shrugged and did what I would do with Anthurium: how different could they be, right? So I cleaned them off as best as I could, stuck them in water to rinse and clean them further,

and then sowed them on damp vermiculite in a clear plastic container. If a batch of Anthurium seeds intends to germinate, they'll usually have done something within about 10-14 days; the Polyscias seeds have, as of 15 October, been doing nothing at all for 19 days now. This is hardly enough evidence to conclude that they're duds -- in the same situation, Spathiphyllum seeds treated the same way will germinate immediately, after six months, and all time spans in between, and Schlumbergeras will germinate in nearly-perfect unison after about 3-5 weeks. So the Polyscias seeds might be fine.

Well. I notice a handful have some fungus on them. Those ones aren't fine, obviously.

But so we'll see how that goes. If this doesn't work, I think there are more fruits still on the original plant, so I have the option to take a new batch and let them dry overnight before sowing, and see if that works any better. Or just forget about it, which might be the best thing: I just started like 1500 Schlumbergera seeds;1 more seedlings surely won't be helpful.


1 From 'Exotic Dancer,' plus five of my own seedlings: 088A "Cyborg Unicorn," 082A "Strawberry Madeleine," 023A "Stoked," 026A "Brick Wall," and 057A "Pyrotechnic."
Which reminds me: soon Schlumbergera seedling posts will start showing up instead of / in addition to the Anthurium seedling posts. Already got a few previously-unbloomed Schlumbergera seedlings with buds on them (so far: 018, 034, 056, 103, 106, 107), and there's a chance that 083A "Psychedelic Bunny" might finally be blooming as well. If it is, I could possibly take cuttings and have "Psychedelic Bunny" available next year. I mean, possibly not, too. I still go back and forth about whether I want to try patenting it first. But the first step in doing any of those things would be to know which of the plants in pot #083 is "Psychedelic Bunny," so here's hoping I can find out.