Thursday, April 5, 2018

Plant Find: Kalanchoe humilis

Not a lot to say about this little cutie. I found him at IKEA a couple of weeks ago and he will be blooming shortly.

Kalanchoe humilis

The plant was actually labeled "Echeveria." After some back and forth with some friends, we found the correct name for this strongly-patterned succulent.

Kalanchoe humilis

Monday, March 26, 2018

Anthurium plowmanii in bloom

I obtained my Anthurium plowmanii as a little seedling from a fellow International Aroid Society member back in 2010. It has grown slowly for me, but is a pretty healthy plant. I just noticed the first inflorescence, which is on a very short peduncle such that the bloom is mostly obscured by the leaves. (Peduncle is the term for the stem on which the inforescence grows.) I don't know if this is typical of the species or not.

Anthurium plowmanii

I have a few other Anthurium that are producing inflorescences right now, as well.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Plant all the seeds!

In my life of botanical interest, I have waffled back and forth on whether it was worth my effort to try to grow plants from seed. I'll try and have limited success, followed by a few failures, and then give up for a while. A few weeks ago I had to go to Lowe's to get something or other and the kids and I picked out some summer squash seeds to try growing. I germinated a couple of squash seeds last year and then planted them outdoors only to see them wither. While I was looking at the available seeds I saw some Asclepias seeds and also a curious package labeled "Cactus Mixed Varieties." I purchased one of each of those just to give them a shot.


While on vacation last week I remembered that it was getting to be warm enough to plant my seeds so I put a reminder on my phone to plant the seeds when I got back from my trip.


I think I have a pretty good setup for the squash plants. I hope they do well for me this year, as the kids will really enjoy watching us grow our own food and we love to cook squash when it's in season.


I'm really curious about the cactus seeds. The back of the package mentions several different species(Saguaro, Hedgehog, Fishhook Barrel, Dollar Prickly Pear, Desert Prickly Pear, Christmas Cholla, Cane Cholla, Santa Rita Pear, and Cardo’n) but I suspect the package is dominated by one or two species that are the cheapest/most easily obtained. The contents of the package reveals some variety in seed size so I think I got at least 2 or 3 species. If I am lucky enough to get some of these seeds to germinate it could be quite a while before I am able to identify what they are.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Galveston update

It's hard to believe I never did an update post on the Galveston garden that I planted back in 2012.  My life did change quite a bit from that trip onwards, as that is when I found out I was going to be a dad.  My blog posts trailed off a lot after that... Well, it's been over 5 years now, so it seems like a great time to check in on my semi-tropical garden. Most of these update photos were taken in October, 5 years after the original planting of the garden.


As with any garden I've ever planted, some plants thrive much more than others, and some succumb to one or more factors.  More often than not, those factors in my home gardens are heat and drought, occasionally to a hard winter.  I can safely say none of those factors have taken a toll on the plants in Galveston.

The garden on the right side at time of planting, October 2012.
Can you even see the Justicia?  It's the lanky little stem with few leaves just below the black Crape Myrtle in the image.
See the struggling Yucca?
It seems my biggest issue in Galveston is competition.  A few aggressive growers have expanded faster than I expected and drowned out all the sunshine from their neighbors.  The biggest offenders are Bougainvillea, Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia bandegeana), Allamanda, Duranta, Plumbago, and Jatropha.

right garden
The garden on the right side, as seen in October 2016, before trimming.
The Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) is still alive, but it is struggling to get enough sunlight because of the Shrimp Plant.  That plant and a Yucca (far left of image above) have really surprised me with their rate of growth.  The Shrimp plant was a lanky little twig when I planted it.  Now it's 6 feet in diameter, and only because I whack it back on a regular basis. The Yucca was about 4 feet tall and only had 4 struggling leaves when it was planted.  Now the base of the tree has enlarged, it is about 7 feet tall, and has a nice head of green leaves.  It even bloomed recently!

Galveston garden
The Yucca has really grown in height and you can see the remains of an inflorescence in this photo.
Unfortunately I didn't get to see it in flower.

Red Shrimp Plant (Jatropha) as seen from above. The mailbox is becoming out of reach.
We visit Galveston a couple of times a year and on most of those trips I have spent an afternoon out in the yard, trimming. One of my priorities is always to cut back all of the growth in front of the mailbox, so that the postal worker can get to the box, which you can see is hard to access in the photo above.

mailbox after trimming
More accessible mailbox after trimming.
The trimming can be a heavy chore with the rate of growth of some of these plants.  And with the nasty thorns on the Natal Plum and the Bougainvillea, it can be a painful chore. The Natal Plums are covered in little white star-shaped flowers much of the year, which are followed by small edible fruits that my mother-in-law has used to make tiny tarts.

Natal Plum
Natal Plum covering the sidewalk. Luckily the sidewalk is just a segment that ends at each end of the yard, so no one used it anyway. It is required by the City of Galveston on all new construction. Who knows when a sidewalk will be installed in either of the neighbor's yards...
One of the Oleander we planted after the initial planting has shot up to the top of the stairs, which is really cool because the flowers are very fragrant and they are at nose level both on the ground and at the landing of the stairs. I still have to spend quite a while trimming the lower branches that grow horizontally.

left garden
Large Oleander towering up to the second story, October 2016.

Another view of the dominating Oleander before trimming.

plumeria and bougainvillea after trimming
Some better definition, exposure of the yard and garden border, after a thorough trimming.
We also have a few invasive vines that I have to keep pulling up.  I gave up on ever ridding the garden of them, so I just try to keep them in check.  Sometimes it's easiest to just find them where they are coming up from the soil and clip them there.  It takes a long time to unwind them from all of the places they are climbing in the bushes.

The prize for plant that I didn't think would make it at all is a Bromeliad that my mother-in-law received as a gift and didn't want to keep growing in a pot in her home.  She planted it in the garden in Galveston and I figured it would surely be a goner in a few short months.  Much to my surprise, it has done well there and even flowered several times since it was planted in the ground.

Pineapple Guava
Pineapple Guava

Late last year we added a couple of new bushes, a Pineapple Guava and a Buttonwood. Who knows if either of these will become monsters? To be continued.

Mandarin update

We just got back from vacation in Los Angeles, where it was actually cooler and cloudier than in Oklahoma. Here at home spring has sprung and our yard is filled with color where there has just been brown for months. We spent some time in the backyard after dinner this evening and I checked on the greenhouse. Much to my surprise, there was finally some action in the mandarin seed pot!

Mandarin seedlings

It looks like two seeds germinated and one of them reached the clear plastic lid and the starter leaves have died. That could mean doom for that seedling. I don’t know for sure. The other seedling looks vigorous and in good spirits. Given that we planted the seeds at the very end of January, I think the germination period was probably about 6 weeks. My daughter was really excited when I showed the pot to her. She may be a bit overly optimistic about our prospects of a bushel of mandarins, but we’ll give it our best shot. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Trip Report: Desert Botanical Garden

I recently traveled to Phoenix for work and managed to get some free time for exploring the Desert Botanical Garden, which was conveniently close to my hotel and the airport. Before going to Phoenix I looked for some good birding hotspots and was really excited to see that one of the best places to go birding in Phoenix is a botanic garden. Two birds with one stone! (plants and birds)

Chihuly glass at entrance


While I'm at it - a bird in the hand is worth nothing compared to two birds in a bush! Who wants a bird in their hand? A bird in the bush is much easier to photograph, and you're photographing the bush at the same time! Plants and birds, that's what I'm talking about!


Phoenix is a beautiful city and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. I'm sure the 79 degree high temperature each day helped, almost 60 degrees warmer than back home.


The Desert Botanical Garden is a beautiful, well maintained garden with lots of interesting plants. The entry garden is awesome and wandering just a bit further in there is a cacophony of sound - Gila Woodpeckers, Verdins, and Costa's Hummingbirds constantly trilling, chirping, and whistling. I really liked the Desert Wildflower Loop, which was particularly buzzing with hummingbirds. The Sonoran Desert Nature Loop is in more open scenery with many Saguaro cacti in sight.


The Cacti and Succulent Galleries are made up of some large metal structures that provide shade and protection for some smaller and more tender plants, such as Lithops, Stapelia, Kalanchoe, and Aloe.


There were several Aloe in bloom while I was there. Their vibrant flowers contrasting with the wide solid green leaves are something to see.

Aloe striata - Coral Aloe

I am not a big collector of cacti and succulents, but seeing these plants growing in mass and in their natural habitat was really fun. There was plenty that caught my eye, from the purple-tinted Prickly Pears (Opuntia gosseliniana var. santa-rita), to the spiny mounds of Jumping Cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida), the cone-shaped Boojum Trees (Fouquieria columnaris), and the towering native Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea).

Opuntia aciculata - Chenille Prickly Pear

Fouquieria columnaris - Boojum Tree

Euphorbia antisyphilitica - Candelilla

I managed to add 13 new bird species to my life list, which is more than I expected.

You can see more of my photos from the Desert Botanical Garden here.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Encyclia spikes in January?

This is the time of year when I usually find several Phalaenopsis spiking or blooming in my greenhouse, but little else going on with my orchids. Most of my orchid collection is from the genus Encyclia and those plants typically bloom for me in the heat of the summer. Appallingly, I never have any of my favorite Encyclia in bloom during the annual local orchid show, so if I enter any plants they are just run of the mill Phalaenopsis. Something is different this year.

I don’t know why, but I have 3 Encyclia plants spiking right now, in addition to 2 Phalaenopsis and 1 Dendrobium. Two of the spiking Encyclia will be first earned blooms for me, so perhaps these species typically bloom earlier, but the other spiking Encyclia is one that bloomed last summer for me. It looks like I might actually have some Encyclia to enter in the orchid show this year!

Encyclia angustiloba
Encyclia hanburyi
Encyclia Faerie Glen (diota x mooreana)
Phalaenopsis NOID
Dtps. Jiaho's Pink Girl
Dendrobium anceps