Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Squash in bloom

Invariably when I mention to someone that I have a greenhouse the next question is what kind of food plants I grow. People are always surprised to find that I grow tropical plants (mostly orchids and aroids) in my greenhouse.

summer squash flowers
summer squash blooms

I have tried growing a few fruits and vegetables in the past, with limited success:
  • key lime - few fruits before the tree succumbed.
  • broccoli - my favorite vegetable, plants were destroyed by caterpillars before they flowered.
  • tomatoes - limited success.
  • squash - plants were either eaten by insects or withered in the sun before they flowered.
  • potatoes - actually a decent little harvest, especially considering the spot I picked was shadier than is ideal.
Much of our yard is shaded, which we love during the hot summer months, but there's not a great place to put in a garden. This year I decided to try some squash seeds in a planter box that I can move around to get the right level of sun. Also I figured the planter box is pretty similar to the raised beds that everyone is planting these days. Another change from my unsuccessful attempt with squash seeds last year: I decided to plant the seeds directly in the planter box, rather than starting them in a seed tray and then transplanting them. I started with two different varieties of yellow summer squash - the kind we really like to eat over the summer. I planted more seeds than recommended for the space, but figured I could thin them out if they got too crowded.

summer squash flowers
summer squash blooms

summer squash flowers
summer squash blooms
Things are going really well! The plants have been getting big and produced a bunch of buds over the last two weeks. The flowers just started opening over the weekend and I'm hopeful we'll have a bunch of squash a few weeks from now. I've been monitoring the plants closely for squash bugs and haven't seen one yet.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Update: Native persimmons

You may recall that last year I collected a wild persimmon and planted the seeds. I put these in a pot outdoors and just let them be - no water, no attention whatsoever. I figured the less I messed with them, the more likely they would be to germinate.

Persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana)
Persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana) beginning to sprout from the soil.
It appears my gambit worked! I have one little tree that sprouted from the soil in late March or early April and another one is breaking through the soil now. (And I'm pretty sure it's not a pecan or oak tree planted by a neighborhood squirrel, which is what usually comes up in my pots that sit outdoors...)

Persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana)
Persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana) growing quickly.
The funny thing is that just a week before the first tree sprouted I placed an order from a plant catalog and included two small persimmon trees, so it looks like I may soon have persimmon trees coming out my ears and I don't really have a plan for where to plant them!

I know my mom would love to be able to pick persimmons from her own yard, but I also know that these native persimmons are not the ideal candidates for cooking. And I also realize it will be years before the trees are large enough to bear fruit...

I do have access to land where I can plant these, so maybe I'll start a little grove there.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hard winter strikes a blow

Just a month after posting my Galveston garden update I traveled down there for a weekend birding trip and found that the garden didn't quite look the same. Apparently this winter was a hard one in coastal Texas and a number of plants that had never before seen a hard freeze were zapped to the ground.

Galveston winter damage
Dead plant material where there used to be Natal Plum (top), as well as Duranta and Jatropha (bottom).

The Natal Plums (Carissa macrocarpa) along the front sidewalk had grown really large over the last 5 years but after this winter they were DEAD to the ground. The Duranta (Duranta erecta), Plumbago (P. auriculata), Spicy Jatropha (J. integerrima), White Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai), Esperanza (Tecoma stans), and Bougainvillea were also all dead to the ground.

Galveston winter damage
Dead plant material where there used to be Bougainvillea and Esperanza.
You can see new Esperanza growth beginning.

The good news is that I could see new green stems appearing at the ground level, coming up from the roots, of just about everything. I will have a heck of a job cutting back and disposing of the old, dead growth on my next trip down to Galveston, but thankfully this winter did not spell the end for most of the plants. I guess the other silver lining is that the plants will not be as crowded now that many of them are starting over from ground level.

Plants that seemed to have been unfazed by the winter include: all of the Oleanders, Indian Hawthorns (Rhaphiolepsis indica), Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana), Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus 'Little John'), Yucca, Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana), Buttonwood (Conocarpus erectus), and Cycad (Zamia vazquezii).

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Anthurium llewelynii in bloom

My Anthurium llewelynii is showing off, so I had to share. It has put out a really nice long leaf recently and also has a beautiful inflorescence right now.

Anthurium llewelynii
Nice, long leaf on my Anthurium llewelynii

This is the same plant that I repotted last summer and it seems to be enjoying it's new home.

Anthurium llewelynii
Inflorescence of Anthurium llewelynii

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Update: Plant all the seeds!

A little more than a month ago I planted a bunch of seeds and it looks like I've had good results with most, if not all, of them.

From the pots of mixed cacti seeds, I can see some funny little forms rising from the soil. The germination percentage is low at this point - just three little seedlings. It's quite possible that these three seedlings are just the species with the quickest germination period and others will come up over time. Hard to say for sure at this point. I wonder how long it will be before these little seedlings are recognizable.

Unknown cactus seedling
First signs of life in the mixed cacti pots.
My native butterfly-attracting Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) seeds are beginning to sprout!

Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) seedlings
Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) seedlings

Eastern Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) on Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Eastern Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)
on Common Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
at Lake Texoma (July 2016)
My non-native (south African) butterfly-attracting Hairy Balls (Gomphocarpus physocarpus) have sprouted and are off to the races! Check out the fast growth over just 30 hours!

Gomphocarpus physocarpus seedlings
Gomphocarpus physocarpus 6 days after planting

Gomphocarpus physocarpus seedlings
Gomphocarpus physocarpus 7 days after planting

The other seeds I planted were some Bauhinia (Orchid Tree) and Dietes (Fortnight Lily/Iris) that I collected in Los Angeles in March. I have had luck germinating each of these before, so I am hopeful in both cases, but haven't seen any action yet with this batch. The Bauhinia trees that I grew from seed previously are now about 5' tall and ready to be planted outdoors in an appropriate climate (not central Oklahoma). Unfortunately my previous encounter with Dietes didn't end well. After the two seeds germinated and sprouted tiny plants, they didn't survive long. I'm hoping to do better this time and, with luck, I'll have more seedlings and can experiment a little more with lighting, humidity, and soil moisture.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Update: Native Asclepias

Last year I transplanted some native Asclepias from some family property where they were growing wild into my own flowerbed. A couple of them stayed green for the remainder of the summer, so I was hopeful that they were establishing. At least one other appeared to have dropped dead.

Asclepias amplexicaulis (transplant)
Asclepias amplexicaulis emerging about 9 months after the transplant
I was really surprised to see the one that looked the least likely to have survived sprung up first this Spring! It is also one of the less common species in this area, so I am really happy it survived the transplant. I have confidence I can keep it alive (even with little to no care) now, considering it is an ideal plant for our hot Oklahoma summers and cold winters.

I don't know about all of the transplants yet, but I can see that at least one other plant, Asclepias tuberosa, is beginning to emerge. I'm very excited about having these native, butterfly-attracting plants established in our flowerbed.

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