lblanchard: (swannfountain)
Some years ago I swapped someone some cuttings of Nopalxochia for cuttings of the ric rac cactus, Selenicereus anthonyanus, because I liked the leaves/stems. Last week I thought about getting rid of the plant because it has ugly aerial roots, its stems reach out like tentacles to grab me when I walk by, and it hasn't bloomed. I think the plant read my mind and decided to earn its keep.

Walking by it yesterday afternoon, I saw this:

Well, hello there, says I. I wonder when you'll bloom and for how long. So I looked it up. Blooms at night, it said. Only one night, it said. Very fragrant, it said. So before going to bed last night, I thought I'd check on it. Well, hello there!

They said it was fragrant. I associate that term with a pleasant odor. Pungent is how I would describe the smell -- strong and sharp and verging on repellent to my taste -- the way old stems of parsley, cut and bruised, might smell if parsley were poisonous and caustic. But that should help it to get the job done in the wild during its one-night bloom -- I could smell it two rooms away and I'm a mere human. And it certainly has lady parts like a landing strip. No way Mr. Pollinator will miss that on its way to the nectar!

A pity I have nothing to pollinate it with, thinks I to myself. But wait! Didn't I read that they'll hybridize with disocactus? And isn't Nopalxochia a disocactus? And don't I have one solitary bloom on the backup Nopalxochia in the second-floor bathroom?

Do I need another hybridizing experiment? On the other hand, what are the chances I will have both these plants in flower at the same time again in my lifetime?

It was the work of a minute to scamper downstairs, pinch off a generous pinch of anthers, scamper back upstairs, and smear them around the lady parts. Time will tell whether I have anything. It being a cactus, it will probably take a year for the fruit to mature if this arranged marriage takes. The ovary is about the size of a big fat supermarket grape as it is -- this ought to be huge, if it takes.

This morning the flower has closed up and the smell is gone. Now I wait.

(In other windowsill and back garden news: I found a new flower stalk emerging on my H. striatum. And when I went a-weeding in my two large annual herb pots out back, I found two, count 'em, TWO forgotten juvenile hippeastrums emerging. They overwintered! In single digit temperatures! O frabjous day!)
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
There are now four sprouting floaters among the hippeastrum seeds, four more than I have space for. I have trouble committing plant infanticide, so I will probably start a new pot for them.

The parsley started to sprout yesterday.

Out back the Class of 2009 is looking a lot better than it has for awhile. I think the plants were self-pruning, sloughing off the weakest leaves, and now some of them are starting some new growth. All the back yard hippeastrums seem to have weathered the heat wave in the space that spared them the afternoon sun.

I brought Valerie's sansevieria out back for a hosing etc. The portion of the plant that had bloomed has died but there's plenty more where that came from. I don't believe there's any drainage in that pot, which makes me nervous. I may turn it on its side and have Roy drill a hole or two.

The matchbox peppers (my mistake, they aren't firecracker peppers) are fruiting abundantly out front. I don't know that we'll be growing a year's supply of peppers out of one big planter, but it's nice to have all we need for now and some for later.

I haven't seen a fungus gnat upstairs for a week. I've drenched the infected plant twice.
lblanchard: (Default)
I've felt a great reluctance to post lately -- although I've been happily microblogging over at Teh Facebooks. But it's hard to search FB for things, so here's a gallimaufry.

Garden Journal:
  • The hippeastrum Class of 2013 is still soaking, and most of the seeds have sunk to the bottom. I am expecting to see some sprouting action over the weekend, or maybe not.
  • Valerie's sansevieria has put up a flower stalk. I hope this doesn't mean it's getting ready to die; if it dies, RoyJr will never forgive me. The rooted sansevieria in a vase on the mantel are still fine. The cuttings from another of those leaves have put out roots and resist an ungentle tug, but haven't put up any stalks yet.
  • The nopalxochia I rooted from a broken piece is thriving on the upstairs kitchen windowsill. The one I rooted and put on a windowsill in our bedroom, not so much. The one out back is growing like a madman so I am hoping for abundant bloom this winter, or next (I don't think they bloom on new growth).
  • The rosemary cuttings have made strong root growth and a little top growth, so I moved them out of the vermiculite and into potting mixture today. Their parent plants are getting to look a little gnarly and yuck.
  • Schlumbergera continue to crowd me out of house and home and I'd better move some of the seedlings to new homes before it's time to bring in the hippeastrums, all of which are looking pretty healthy at summer camp.
  • All three daylilies out back -- two in the ground, one in a pot, look to me like they're going to be Martian Invaders, based on the size and shape of the buds.
  • The powdery mildew on the auntie's rose is getting worse, so I've dosed it with Bayer 3-in-1 and will spray it if we ever get a dry day. I'll also prune off the affected leaves in the next couple of days.

In other news, I've had a busy week. Last Wednesday was the PACSCL retreat; Friday was the Tommy Emmanuel concert; Saturday was Wanamaker Organ Day.

Looks like a friend is going to pick me up and drive me out to the 'burbs so we can see Star Trek Into Darkness together. His idea...

And speaking of Benedict Cumberbatch (which is the reason behind my interest in the aforesaid film), here's a YouTube of Himself reading John Keats' Ode to a Nightingale:
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
I floated the Class of 2013 in a container of water today. I'm kind of hoping I get fewer than 12 viable seedlings. I'd like to cull the collection, and this cross (supermarket selfed) isn't anything I'm wildly excited about.

EDITED TO ADD: I did a little planter maintenance out front. First I pruned the spent flower heads and some other branches from the Aunties' Rose, which I thought was just too big. Then I noticed that there was powdery mildew on the seedling apple. Off with its head -- I yanked it out. Rummaging in the planter full of dusty miller and swiss chard, I spied what I thought was a seedling locust tree. Out with you, I said, and realized that I was holding quite a wisteria seedling, with three leaf segments and a seed that was still encased in its seedpod. Ooops, says I, and I brought it in and potted it up. I may have my wisteria-to-go after all!
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
Looks like there's going to be one. The first of the two pods started to split yesterday and was fully open this morning when I went to check, so I harvested the seeds. There was quite a bit of chaff in the pod (seeds that didn't form), but also about 20 good looking and fully-mature seeds. The second pod will probably open later today or tomorrow. I'll use the floater method to germinate this batch, starting some time next week. I also expect to be a little more discriminating in which young plants I keep. I think I'll go for robust growth and pitch any spindly ones. I have more hippeastrum than I can shake a stick at as it is.


The weather watchers are threatening us with 2" to 4" of rain today. Assuming we get something on the lower range, that will be 7" of rain this week. That ought to fill the reservoirs... The weather watchers were also threatening us with the dreaded derecho, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Still, heavy rain with the possibility of high winds and hail does not thrill me on the behalf of my favorite plants. So I moved all the hippeastrum under cover and brought the nopalxochia indoors last night.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
My second Franklinia propagation experiment has worked -- at least so far. One of the seeds has a visible sprout. This is the collection of seeds unscarified but soaked and strewn on the top of a 5 oz greek yogurt container. It has a vented "greenhouse" consisting of a transparent-ish bag with cut-outs on the corners to allow heat to escape, held up by mini-stakes created from kebob skewers. Further bulletins as events warrant.

On the windowsills, I have only four more plants needing to be potted on -- the sansevieria that was my brother's; the rooted cutting from the dead Sarasota sansevieria; a simple heart-leafed philodendron and a syngonium that has been languishing on top of the third floor fridge for half of forever. I will need to find four big pots and I'm starting to think that I'll need to order some, something I'd hoped to avoid.

The rosemary cuttings are slightly more resistant to being pulled out of the vermiculite. I gave a gentle pull on one of them and much vermiculite wanted to come up along with the cutting. I think that means roots and I think by some time next week I should be able to put these in little pots, or possibly a good sized market pack.

I had taken a nopalxochia cutting, kind of by accident by knocking a leaf/stem off the mother plant, a few weeks ago. It rooted in vermiculite with great alacrity. I potted it up not terribly long ago and it's putting out new shoots already. The mother plant is showing signs of mild sunburn on its newer growth but I think it will get over it.

The last chance at Hippeastrum class of 2013 doesn't look like it's aborting, although the two seedpods are deflating a bit. They do that toward the end, anyhow. Then they turn brown and then they split open. I'm not terribly invested in their success. I am, however, looking forward to getting the planter off the sitting room windowsill and out into the garden so I can move the rest of my sixteen juvenile Schlumbergera downstairs. I think I've now said that about a bazillion times in my garden journal, but it's still true. The Blanchard/Lindau Schlumbergera are growing by leaps and bounds.

I'm at a happy moment in which there's not terribly much to do outdoors except enjoy the garden and swat mosquitoes. We had a record rainfall yesterday so a lot of planters need their saucers tipped, especially all the hippeastrums. There's a tiny bit of deadheading to be done as well as the daily patrol of the creeping jenny to eradicate the virginia creeper seedlings that keep popping up at the rate of six or so a day. But when looking around at the back garden yesterday I realized that it's mostly varieties of green with just a couple of blooming plants as accents and any other color supplied by the coleus tucked in here and there (but not running rampant the way it did in my peak of coleus obsession).

Coleus parade, March 23-24, 2006
Coleus cuttings, back in the day

UPDATE: I went out back, emptied the excess water from the hippeastrum and nopalxochia, identified a spot for the Class of 2009, and moved some creeping jenny and one sempervivum to the pot on Webster Street. The daylilies have died back a bit (probably because I forgot all about watering them in the heat wave) and there's too much bare earth. Creeping jenny will fix that.

I also mixed up a batch of mosquito-repellent homebrew. I didn't feel like measuring, so I poured some lavender oil, lemon oil and vanilla extract into a spritzer bottle, added water, and shook. The resultant stuff smells pretty nice so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
Yesterday it was very hot. But fairly dry and with a good breeze. The two-foot extension on the fence on our western property line, made of reinforced lattice, has given the wisteria enough height that a corner of the garden gets shade from noon on. That's where I've sent the hippeastrum to summer camp so that the hot hot afternoon sun doesn't broil them but they get enough morning sun to feed the bulbs for next year.

There I repaired, noonish, with a lawn chair and a small notebook, and sat and thought. I'm not the reflective sort, as I've said once or twice, and my reflections turned very quickly to daydreams and plans. But I did note and marvel that I had two thoughts that ran parallel, like railroad tracks. One was a set of dreams about what I would do with more space and especially more sunshine. The other was a set of reflections about how all the plants came to be there, and how sad I will be to leave the ones that almost assuredly will be killed when we leave.

Our combined back garden for the two properties is 272 square feet, a little bigger than five average-sized prison cells. The "soil" is brick dust and construction rubble, amended over the years with municipal sludge and mulch. No spot in our garden gets full sun, although there are a very few places where plants will get six hours of sun, divided between earlyish in the morning and lateish in the afternoon (plants raised by being grown in tall pots fare somewhat better). And I don't like to spend money on plants or hardscaping, taking perverse pride in reusing the brick rubble and starting plants from seeds or cuttings acquired from here and there. I collect seeds and take cuttings as souvenirs, so just about every major plant is invested with important meaning to me.

A plant provenance tour )
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
I went to that south Jersey nursery, courtesy of my friend Michael Bruce, who offered me a place in his car if I could get the high speed line to Collingswood NJ. We stopped for brunch at a Vietnamese restaurant before picking up two more people. It was a perfect day for lounging about a nursery, listening to presentations on herbs, and wandering their low-key demonstration gardens down by the Maurice River (a south Jersey blackwater river). I bought two rosemary plants, since mine aren't looking their sparkling best and I'm not sure I'll be able to get any decent rooted cuttings.

I've been 0 for 2 on collecting and starting seeds this year -- both the wisteria and the Franklinia seeds sprouted, put up cotyledons, and collapsed. I have a third botany experiment that appears to be producing at least one offspring. I collected seeds from Liriope muscari in January. I soaked the coatings off them as per instructions on the Internet, sowed them in a yogurt container with a clear plastic lid, and left the whole apparatus out back. Today I took the cover off and discovered a seedling. I'm not getting my hopes up too high.

But look at this pretty thing! I sent some seeds from the Class of 2009 to [ profile] joeysplanting, who doesn't post here much any more. This weekend he sent me a Flickrmail saying that a couple of his plants have bloomed:

Hippeastrum Grown from Seeds

Both of his plants have the thin red edge and the ruffling from the pod parent, and both have lovely coloration. I'm a tiny bit jealous. Of course, he's in southern California, so he has the advantage of me for light and warmth.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
My seedling does not look well. Its first pair of leaves is wilting/shriveling, and the shoot coming up looks kind of brownish. Root rot, I fear... it started looking peaky yesterday.
lblanchard: (Default)
I no longer have any empty windowsills on the third floor. Once I'm sure the schlumbergera are happily settled in their new pots I will probably move them downstairs to the various tables in front of windowsills. I like my office and upstairs kitchen windowsills to serve as the intensive care areas.

Yesterday I took the Class of 2006 out back, and brought it right back in. The leaves are kind of streaky and in case they're suffering from the dread mosaic virus I don't want them near the other hippeastrums. The self-pollination of the last Class of 2009 flower looks promising. Once the pregnancy is completed (or aborted) they'll go out back and then come right back in if they look streaky.

The Franklinia is looking a tiny bit bigger.

The weather has warmed but the mosquitos haven't yet cranked up, so we can sit out back and enjoy ourselves of an evening. The rooted cuttings of coleus that I set out here and there are starting to take hold and lend their color to the corners, and the pansies are probably at their peak.

Tomorrow we volunteer for a Wanamaker Organ concert.
lblanchard: (Default)
Today the weather is predicted to grow sharply warmer and remain so for the rest of the week. So this afternoon's exercise will be the Great Hippeastrum Exodus. I have three of the slightly larger milk crates that I think will serve well as housing for the collection, supplementing the staking I did with their higher sides. The collection will get almost full shade for a day or two and then be moved a few feet to a space where they'll get sun in the mornings but won't be subjected to the hotter noonday or afternoon sun.

I see that LJ is in full meltdown this morning. Another DDoS attack, perhaps. Fortunately, there's Dreamwidth. I should train myself to post here, but I usually read over at LJ...

EDITED TO ADD: And I see LJ is back, so I'll attempt a crosspost. I'll add that the three crates have been brought inside after a good rinsing, and the first crate (the class of 2011) has been set out. The other two crates are loaded and ready to go downstairs. Meanwhile, new growth on Franklinia continues at a stately pace. As soon as the seedling has put down serious roots in its little yogurt container I'll plunk the whole container full of soil in a much larger pot.

If I had a bigger space I couldn't lavish all this attention (and write at such mind-numbing detail) on just a few plants. I'd be too busy doing epic battle with weeds and bugs.

Speaking of mind-numbing detail: I had potted up a couple pieces of creeping jenny a few weeks ago. Today I added them to the gallimaufry in my window boxes out front, and discovered that they'd sent roots clear down to the bottoms of their little pots. I had thought that the plant was very shallow-rooted, but apparently that's only when it's creeping. Once it has a foothold it gets more serious about putting down roots. (That's probably a metaphor for something if I were the reflective type.)

While I was fussing with my plants out front I had the storm door open, using that little flit-gun-like anti-slamming device and a little keeper. The Scamp came out to help. He alerted on a couple of passing dogs and looked positively alarmed at the sound of some smallish diesel trucks. But he was definitely in Mighty Explorer mode and went after my next door neighbors' tree pits. He was still investigating the smells when I had finished my work. I called and he ignored me, so I went out and herded him back inside. Herding cats is an art form -- too aggressive and they say screw you and scamper away, too timid and they pay no attention. Today I got it right and chuckled as I closed the door.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
In the raking light of early morning the wee nubbin of new leaf cast a minuscule shadow. So I guess the new leaf isn't a figment of my imagination. Now, let's just hope that it's actually a Franklinia.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
Yesterday and today have been days of hippeastrum maintenance. After a winter and early spring of low light, my species hippeastrum were flopping all over the place, their foliage lanky and weak. H. 'mandoni' has especially flopsy leaves -- a yard long and ribbon-like. My 'mandoni' were also purchased as juveniles and put into 16 oz solo cups, which they'd outgrown a few months ago. So -- a fine big new pot for both 'mandoni' and some serious staking. I also staked up the class of 2011 ('papilio' x emerald'). Downstairs, where the Class of 2011 is in repose by the living room window, I cut stakes but haven't made the cat's cradle of twine to hold them together. Later today. Today I also staked up my two 'papilio.'

All this is in preparation for moving everybody outdoors, probably next week.

The class of 2006 has short, stubby, sturdy foliage. It will eventually need staking but not yet. The class of 2009 has stakes in place but needs new twine.

Speaking of the class of 2009, here's the delightful out-of-season bloomer, snapped this morning:


Class of 2009, Hippeastrum 'supermarket' (Trader Joe x PathMark or
ProbablyFairyTale x ProbablyAppleBlossom, depending on how you'd like to think of them)

Today's weather is threatening, followed by rain, a good time to set out some transplants, so I set out several rooted coleus cuttings. I paused to admire my fat peony buds. I'm keeping my fingers crossed they don't rot from damp weather again this year, the way they did last year. That was very disappointing.

The wisteria seedling crumpled and turned pale brown yesterday. I threw it away. The Franklinia looks exactly as it has for three days.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
All of this year's hippeastrum seedpods have aborted. I must say I'm sort of relieved -- I don't know what I'd do with any more. My 'papilio' from Valerie isn't looking like the picture of health, either, but better light out back when the weather warms may make a difference.

Other than that, garden life is good. I even bought two more plants this season, from our local Flower Show exhibitor (need to support those exhibitors). They were a little overpriced but gloriously healthy -- a hot pink pelargonium (of the ordinary windowsill variety) that seems to glow, and a white-and-pink verbena that will look good in a decorative pot, crawling around under said pelargonium.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
It was a nice day for something yesterday, and in addition to the walk to the Asian supermarket, we did some garden chores, if the maintenance of a 17 x 17 space, 1/3 paved, can be dignified with such a name.

I have a good sized planter full of potting mix from previous years -- now planted with four dusty miller and four swiss chard. One of my Fairmount Park seedling maples collected last year will go in the center, but I haven't made the choice yet. I have a matching planter in reserve that will get some other ornamentals (probably pansies now and marigolds later); I'll plant that one when the weather settles a bit more and put the apple seedling in the center.

An octagonal wooden planter, which has held my parsley for more than a decade, had rotted out in the bottom. We salvaged the "rocks 'n' crocks" at the bottom of the planter, as well as the potting mixture, and put it in a larger plastic planter, supplemented with additional potting mix and mushroom compost. I put in the second-year parsley -- hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained -- and later I'll put in the parsley seedlings still in the basement.

The coleus came out of the basement and into a protected spot in the back. The basil and pepper seedlings came off the windowsill and went into the basement.

We also went into our next door neighbor's yard (we have access) and pruned two weed trees (paper mulberries) severely. We'll do that once a week until they give up the ghost, although paper mulberries are devilishly persistent, almost as bad as ailanthus.

No signs of any hippeastrum pods aborting -- yet.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
Didn't I just say, a few days ago, that when we move I want to get a wisteria with lovely showy hybrid flower clusters, not the smallish things my vine produces?

Yes, I did, I'm sure of it. So why did I pick up three little wisteria seeds while cleaning on Sunday? And why did I scarify those seeds and put them in to soak? And why, oh, why, am I going to plant all three of them tomorrow? Because I'm a sucker for seedlings, that's why.

Maybe they won't come up. I haven't seen hide nor hair of any little Golden Rain Tree shoots -- fair enough, the seeds were left over from 2006. Nor have I seen any Liriope muscari, a famously touchy seed that I collected and then winter-sowed.

Nothing much to show from the garden, so: here, have a couple hippeastrum photos and a silly one from yesterday's bike ride:


Class of 2006, which I may pollinate with Michael Valentine


Does this hippeastrum look pregnant to you? It does to me


Poor little dragon. A pretty extreme punishment
for picking a few daffodils, don't you think?
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
'Gervase' has one scape well and truly started and a second scape peeking up. I see scape nubbins (I think) on three of the five Class of 2006 that I kept. I'm sure about two of them. I see nothing yet on Class of 2009 but last year the one and only scape came up well after the foliage showed up.

I'm feeling good about being able to pollinate something with my saved 'black pearl' pollen and maybe create "Black Bruce" as the Class of 2013.

No sign of bloom on any of the 'papilio' but I expect they'll bloom if/when they're ready, which is according to some occult schedule of their own.

Class of 2011 ('Trader Joe' x 'Gervase') is still too young to bloom, but is looking good. My 2011 and 2012 'papilio' crosses look puny, but that could be because 'papilio' isn't exactly huge and the cybisters (the pod parents) are comparatively small.

'Mandoni' -- both of them -- have very long but not terribly strong ribbon-like leaves.

In other news, something is struggling to break through the soil in the apple pot -- possibly a second apple treelet, possibly more parsley. Time will tell.

I'm ready to finish putting the living room back together, to enjoy the Flower Show, to do touch-up painting on the front stairs and second floor hallway, and to start deaccessioning.
lblanchard: (swannfountain)
goldenraintreeFrom the seed packet:
Golden-rain Tree, Koelreuteria paniculata.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, packaged in 2006
Golden-rain Tree is a fast-growing ornamental species native to China, introduced to Britain in 1763. Its fine-textured dark green leaves are overlaid with clouds of tiny yellow blossoms in early summer, followed by prominent seed pods that rattle in the wind. Thomas Jefferson received seeds for Golden-rain Tree in 1809 from his long-time Parisian friend, Madam de Tessé. Like the seeds of many woody plants, Golden-rain Tree seeds need to be sown and exposed to cold temperatures before they will germinate. It is simplest to sow the seed in autumn, either in the ground or in a pot left outdoors through winter. Seedlings will appear in the spring. The trees grow best in sunny, well-drained sites, reaching 30 to 40 feet high. Winter-hardy in USDA Zones 6-9.
The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants
P. O. Box 316, Charlottesville, Virginia 22901

These seeds have been kicking around the house for years. I think I bought them at The Seed Source, a booth with specialty seeds at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I don't think we went to Monticello (or Charlottesville, for that matter) in 2006. At this remove, I have no idea what was in my minds when I bought these. Possibly I was still in mourning for the little golden-rain tree I planted in the Michelle Cutner Garden.

They were in my way while I was looking for something today, and something inside me said, you have nothing to lose by planting them now, even though they were packed seven years ago. The worst that can happen is nothing, and that's where you are right now. So I planted all 35 seeds, at depths varying from 1/2" to 1-1/2", in the big planter I use for basil in the summer. If I get good germination I will have a first-world problem on my hands -- what to do with all the seedlings? I'm sure I can come up with something. There are still a couple of community gardens in the neighborhood, and perhaps one of them would let me have a few square feet for a tree nursery. Failing that, I can pot them up, put them in the sunniest spot in the back yard, and then give them away as gifts.

If we actually leave in a year or so, I can take them with me and plant them in our new place.
lblanchard: (Default)

Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
The experiment of planting moonflower in a big pot next to the wisteria and encouraging it to climb has been a success. As a bonus, the wisteria is putting out some extra out-of-season flowers.
lblanchard: (Default)

Originally uploaded by lb_philly.
Last night we were sitting out back. I looked at the crispy maple and told Roy that I was thinking of ripping it out and planting something else.

Today it made a bid for getting a second chance.


lblanchard: (Default)

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