Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trip Report: Myriad Gardens in bloom

In December I visited the OKC Myriad Gardens and wrote 2 different posts about my trip, along with a photo album.  Last weekend I went back to the garden and was surprised to see that there were lots of different plants in bloom from 2 months ago.

I have added another photo album of my pictures from this trip.  This time I took more pictures of blooms than the previous trip.  I tried not to take a lot of duplicate pictures from my last trip.  If you would like to see the pictures from the first trip, you can that photo album here.

Here are some of the blooming highlights:

Stromanthe sanguinea 'Triostar' in bloom
Hoya blooms
Heliconia inflorescence
Anthurium veitchii (King Anthurium) with inflorescence
Anthurium warocqueanum (Queen Anthurium) inflorescence.
The dark leaf with prominent veins (upper center) belongs to Anthurium,
the spotted leaves in the foreground are from a Dieffenbachia.
Solandra maxima in bloom
Paphilopedilum orchid in bloom
There are a lot more great plants to see, and quite a few more orchids in blooms, so I suggest you look at my photo album.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Plant Find: Philodendron 'pincushion'

About a month ago I was surfing the internet and decided I should look around on eBay to see if there were any interesting plants for sale.  That was a bad idea, because of course, there were.

I came across a very attractive Philodendron hybrid that I had never seen before.  It was labeled Philodendron 'pincushion.'  Its primary catchiness comes from its small, tight-nit growth habit.  The leaves measure about an inch in length at their largest and the plant will form a small clump of leaves that look like a pincushion as it matures.  Many Philodendrons have leaves that change shape as the plant grows into a more mature specimen, but this particular hybrid stays petite for its entire life.  The foliage is a really nice glossy dark green with prominent red stems.  When I purchased the plant it was being marketed as a holiday plant since it was red and green.

I wasn't sure if the name Philodendron 'pincushion' was a valid botanical name for my plant, so I sent a couple of pictures to the Aroid-L mailing list and had several members confirm that the name was valid.  I also found the name listed on the International Aroid Society's list of registered hybrid names (Aroid Cultivar Registry).  You can see that list here.

The plant arrived in less than advertised condition.  I really should have expected as much since I ordered the plant in December, but the seller had convinced me they knew how to keep their plants free from the elements.  I have to give them credit for packaging the plant well - in damp peat moss inside a well insulated Styrofoam container.  The heat pack was even warm when I received the plant, but somehow it had still gotten nipped.  Either that, or it had gotten burnt by the heat pack.  It's hard to say.  About half of the leaves had turned yellow and orange.

My Philodendron 'pincushion' upon arrival and transplanting
I divided the plant into a couple of clumps, putting one clump in a small spherical terrarium that had been emptied of its previous occupants and put the other clump in a small pot.  I'm really glad I divided the plant, because after just a couple weeks it was obvious that the terrarium was a preferable growing environment.  I went ahead and transplanted all of the plant to the terrarium, where it is doing much better than I expected.

My Philodendron 'Pincushion' as it looks now
New, glossy green leaves have emerged and I have removed the old leaves that died.  I'm hoping that this little Philodendron will fill the terrarium and I can occasionally take some cuttings to transplant to other locations.  This would make a really interesting "groundcover" in some of my larger container plants.  Maybe I could get some cuttings to take root in the soil surface of my Philodendron bipinnatifidum...

My Philodendron bipinnatifidum (tree philodendron)
Now that my plant has recovered I have some hope that it could one day serve as a ground cover in some of my larger pots.  It is a rather slow grower though, so I will have to be patient for it to fill out the area.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Second Chances

I like to grow all kinds of different plants.  Some plants I pick for their foliage, others for their blooms, and still others for their unusual appearance.  Some plants thrive in my care and some others don't.  Occasionally some even die.  Whether it was my fault or simply a plant destined to death because of an unseen illness when I purchased it.

Every plant deserves a second chance, right?  [With the exception of Coconut palms.  I don't think I can ever grow one of those things.]

I have given quite a few plant species second chances in my care.  Last week I posted about my Philodendron 'Xanadu', which is just one species of plant I gave a second chance.  The first 'Xanadu' I purchased died about a month after I purchased it.  My second seems on it's way to a long and happy life in my care.

This post is about three particular plants that survived when given a second chance.

Scindapsus pictus - Silver pothos, Satin pothos
This is one of my very favorite plants is it's on my 2nd chance list!  How about that?  Actually, this plant would be one of my very favorites even if I had to give it a thousand chances and never succeeded in growing it.  It's just one of the most beautiful plants I've ever seen and no amount of struggle in growing it would ever dampen my admiration.  Thankfully, I haven't struggled too much to grow this one.  I just had a bad first experience with the plant.

Scindapsus pictus
Many small houseplants are put in stores mere days after being potted.  That's right, most houseplants are grown in big factories where they place cuttings in hydroponic chambers and force roots to develop.  When I bought my first Scindapsus pictus, I promptly repotted it when I got home.  I think it is possible that I tried to repot the plant when it still had rather immature roots.  The roots that grow in water have to adjust to actual soil conditions once they are transplanted.  The trauma of two transplants within a couple of days might have been enough to do this plant in.  The other problem was that I probably didn't have the plant in enough light.  I'm sure it was being grown in a greenhouse in Florida.  Believe it or not, a greenhouse in Florida receives more light than a shady windowsill in Oklahoma.  That's just how it goes.

Now that I have given the plant a second chance, I have a really nice specimen that has been growing at my desk at work for about a year and a half now.  I have taken some clippings from my office plant and potted them in a pot with a stake, hoping to train the plant to climb the stake.  About a month ago, I bought a large hanging Scindapsus for home.  It's the plant pictured above.

Ficus elastica 'Burgundy' - Burgundy Rubber Plant
I bought a small burgundy rubber plant a couple of years ago.  I think there were 3 or 4 stems in a small 4" pot.  I knew that they were fairly common houseplants and therefore probably not very hard to grow.  I expected mine to get large and so I repotted my little plant in a much larger pot shortly after I got it.  I didn't know at the time, but this is not a good idea.  Ideally a plant should be in a pot that is about 1-2 inches wider than the plant's root span.  Most people understand that when you water your plant, the roots absorb the water from the soil.  But what I didn't realize is that when you repot a plant in pot that is much wider than the root span, the roots will not absorb the water in much of the soil and the soil will stay wet much longer.  I'm almost certain that this is what happened to my first rubber plant, which showed signs of root rot before dying.

The second time around, I purchased one single little stem in a tiny pot.  How can you not take a chance on an attractive $2 plant?

Ficus elastica 'Burgundy' - Rubber Tree
This time around, I have kept my single stem in a small pot.  I have had to resist the temptation to pot several plants in larger pots, having learned from my experience with the rubber plant (and a couple of others that had the same problem).  After a month or two of stagnancy, my rubber plant has finally starting producing some new leaves.  This is exciting because the new leaves are very glossy and dark red.  Over time the leaves thicken and deepen into that unique color of purple green.

There are some large specimens of this plant in the hallways of my office building that I enjoy looking at each time I have to go upstairs.

The Ficus genus is an interesting group of trees, ranging from the small, very common Ficus benjamina houseplant tree and all of the fig trees to the unique rubber tree and the gigantic Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis).  There are some Banyan trees that cover acres.  One such famous tree is located in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.  Another one is located at the Indian Botanic Garden.  I will be visiting the Hawaiian Banyan tree this Spring and will hopefully have some pictures to post here.

Alocasia amazonica - African Mask
I had one of these plants probably about 8 years ago.  I can't even remember how long I kept it alive or how it died.  I remember seeing it for the first time in a little houseplant store that opened on Main Street here in town.  My first reaction was that it reminded me of a Pterodactyl.  For some reason, the store had decided to start a plant business and buy about 100 of each of 3 different plants.  I'm not kidding - they had about 100 pots of 3 different plants (4 at most).  At least, that's how I remember it.  One of the plants they had decided to sell was Alocasia amazonica.  I'm not sure what their business plan was.  I guess it was to turn everyone in town into a fan of those three species.  Needless to say, the store didn't last very long.  Unfortunately, neither did my plant.  The two events were unrelated.  At the time I wasn't all that interested in plants and I think mine just got neglected.

Since then my plant habits have changed quite a bit.  I'm more likely to overcare for a plant now than to ignore one.  I bought a small pot with two Alocasia amazonica bulbs/stems just a couple of months ago.  My plant hasn't changed much - just grown taller - but I don't seem to be having any trouble keeping this one alive.  I imagine this summer my plant might produce a couple more bulbs and leaves whenever it is in happier growing conditions.  One of the two stems sort of collapsed recently, but it has been growing okay with a thin dowel rod as support.

Alocasia amazonica, or as I like to say, the "pterodactyl" plant
Alocasias are from the Aroid family, of which I am a collector.  They are pretty closely related to Colocasias (another Aroid genus), which are the plants commonly called "Elephant Ears."  There are approximately 70 species of Alocasias and quite a few cultivars.  They are grown for their stunning, and often very glossy, foliage.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Crocuses Emerge

Before I say anything else, I should note that this is my 50th post! :)

Our corner garden is sprouting.  A week or two ago I raked some leaves over the flowerbed to give it a little insulation.  This week I gently raked some of the leaves aside with my hands and noticed there were blooms underneath!

A couple of Crocus blooms in the corner garden
I planted these crocus bulbs about 3 years ago after creating this flower bed.  I really like the purple blooms with their orange centers.

Group of Crocus blooms
The daffodils will be blooming next - probably in a week or two.

Daffodil stems and Crocus bloom

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flowering Quince - my earliest bloomer

I have a flowering quince bush in my backyard that has been there - probably - since shortly after the house was built in 1956.  During most of the year it is a nice, full green bush.  But for one month of the year, it is absolutely beautiful, covered in pink blossoms.

Quince blooms
Quince blooms
By the last week of January, the bush is covered in little round beads of pink.  The bush is attractive enough at this point.  The buds are nearly as attractive as the actual blooms.  Then, a couple of weeks later all of the buds begin to open and will continue for about a month.

Full quince bush in bloom
The bare limbs and pink blooms have a wonderful artistic look.  The branches remind me of Asian art that incorporates so many blooming trees.  You can already see the first of the green leaves coming out.  The pink blooms will stay on the bush for a week or two after the leaves have come out before falling away.

Quince blooms
I love that this bush blooms before anything else in my yard.  Other than this bush, my backyard looks like it is the dead of winter, but this bush declares that Spring is not far away.

Already I have some Daffodil buds visible and tulips are starting to break through the surface of the soil.  It won't be long.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Philodendron 'Xanadu' gone wild!

In December I posted about my new Philodendron 'Xanadu' plant.  This plant has been growing very successfully for me (this time around) for nearly 3 months, which is longer than I kept the other one alive.  Now I know the trick: don't water it - ever.  Well, that's a little harsh.  Don't water it unless you're certain you haven't watered it for a month.

I imagine that trick will get modified slightly when I take the plant outdoors this summer, but for now, that works pretty well.

Recently I discovered that not only can I grow this plant, I can grow this plant like no one else can!  What I mean by that is that my plant has some weird mutations.

Mutation #1:

Two stems of my Xanadu are fused together all the way from the base of the stem to the first lobe of the leaves.  [Xanadu leaves have 6-8 lobes on each side.]

Fused Xanadu leaves and stems
I just checked the photo I took of my Xanadu when I bought it and I can see the 2 fused leaves.  So they were there from the beginning and just slipped my notice until now.

Mutation #2:

The other odd mutation is a small "leaflet" that is rising from the midrib near the base of one of the leaves.  I don't think this leaflet was there from the beginning.

tiny Xanadu leaflet
Neither of these mutations appears anywhere else on the plant.  What are the odds that both of these two mutations would occur on the same plant?  [Don't try to calculate that.]

Mystery solved

I sent pictures and explanations of my two "mutations" to the International Aroid Society mailing list and received a response from none other than Julius Boos.  Julius first described Philodendron 'Xanadu' as a new species back in the Aroideana #25 in 2002.  He said the odd features are common deformations seen in this species and he suspects they are caused by the method by which the plant is propagated and produced.  Millions of these plants are grown by tissue culture and treated with different chemicals.  In volume 31 of Aroideana Julius describes the various chemical treatments that are used on 'Xanadu', their purpose and their suspected side effects.  It turns out that it is not all that rare for either of these deformations to be seen on Xanadus.

Julius said that in time (maybe years) my plant might grow out of the deformations.  I guess he is assuming that I don't care for them.  However, I find them fascinating and the oddity just adds to the appeal of the plant.  I don't really mind if my plant never grows out of them. :)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Bouquet

For Valentine's I got my wife a traditional gift - a bouquet of flowers - but not a traditional selection.  I'm sure my wife likes red roses, but I think she appreciates creativity and originality a little more.  [At least, I sure hope she does, because she ended up with me.]

Dutch Iris
The first bouquet of flowers I got my wife might be considered a hodge podge.  It was a combination that I put together at the grocery store: purple Dutch Iris with silver Eucalyptus branches.   Call it a hodge podge, call it an arrangement; I just know that I liked the combination.  Speaking of combinations, my wife sometimes compliments me on my "outfit."  I always say, "My what?"  Then she says, "Oh yeah, I meant to say that I like your random smattering of clothes."  That's more like it.  Guys don't have outfits.  But I think guys can make flower arrangements for their wives. :)

I've liked Dutch Iris flowers for a long time and they were a favorite of my grandmother.  I was unfamiliar with the Eucalyptus branches, but I liked the contrast when I held them up to my Dutch Iris blooms.  So I wrapped them in tissue and took them to my future wife.  That was nearly 9 years ago.  (We've been married for almost 4 years.)

This year, I was trying to figure out what to get my wife for Valentine's Day and whether I should resort to the oh-so-common gift of flowers or not.  I remembered the first flowers I gave my wife and decided I should try to find them again.  I called a local grocery-store florist (actually the same one I originally used) and asked about the availability of these two items.  They told me to try a different branch and the florist was very helpful.  She specially ordered 8 stems of Dutch Iris and a half-bunch (5 stems) Eucalyptus branches for me.

Valentine's bouquet for my wife - Dutch Iris and Eucalyptus branches
She loved them!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Review: Toki No Hana

Doesn't that title just draw you in?  No?

Well, maybe that explains why everyone was rolling their eyes when I opened this Christmas present from my parents (which I had requested, by the way).  The Japanese book "Toki No Hana" is a 45 page monograph (book with one subject) with 480 photographs of plants from the genus Asarum.

Toki No Hana cover
Although I have only grown one species from this genus, I greatly admire the genus and I have plans to start a small collection.  In the United States, Asarum are grown most often as groundcovers in woodland shade gardens in the north.  There are a couple of species native to North America.  You might run across their mottled foliage in the woods of the northern states and in Canada.

In southeast Asia, it's a completely different matter.  For thousands of years, the Japanese have cultivated different varieties for their variable foliage and subtle, but beautiful blooms.  The foliage can be anywhere from solid green to almost completely silver.  The blooms vary from yellow with red centers to solid purple.  They are treasured plants, grown in small pots where they can show off their blooms most easily.  You see, the inflorescence of an Asarum is at the base of them stem, literally lying on the surface of the soil (or pebbles in the pictures below).  One of the most recognized blooms looks like a little panda bear, being white and a deep purple that looks black.
Asarum pictures from Toki No Hana
The book was compiled by the Japanese Asarum Preservation Society and is a collection of pictures of all of the different varieties that have been cultivated there.  It is fascinating to see the variation.  Some are stunning and others are... well, not so pretty.  After all of the pictures are several pages of notes on the identification and origin of the different species and cultivars presented in the pictures.  Of course, the notes are in Japanese:

Notes on Asarum species - did you get all that?
Thankfully, my parents purchased this book from a US source (Asiatica Nursery) that had grabbed a bunch of these books in Japan and translated the notes to English.

Ah, much better. Asarum notes translated from Japanese to English by Barry Yinger.
This Spring I will be checking the Atwoods store here in town where I have purchased Asarum splendens in the past.  I will probably get three or four plants to start with.  Since Asarum are actually a cool climate plant and will do very well in dimly lit, cool rooms, my plan is to start my collection in earnest this Fall by purchasing several more varieties from Asiatica Nursery, an online retailer that specializes in Asarum.  They usually have about 70 different varieties available.  I already have a short list of the plants I plan to purchase:

  • Asarum kiusianum var. tubulosum - solid white flowers, low clumping leaves

  • Asarum maximum Green panda wild ginger - one of the most famous species

  • Asarum splendens Chinese wild ginger - the variety I will buy at Atwood's in town

  • Asarum subglobosum - pink/beige flowers, green leaves have center white stripe

  • Asarum takaoi ‘Ginba’ - solid silver leaves

  • Asarum wulingense

  • It will be great fun to watch my plants mature into specimens as beautiful as those pictured in Toki No Hana and to see my plants produce some of these amazing inflorescences.

    Stay tuned for pictures of my plants as I collect them!

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Grapefruit tree on vacation for the winter

    A couple of month ago I was bragging to my in-laws that I have had a total of 500 visitors from 50 different countries visit my blog.  My father-in-law asked if I had told my faithful readers that "every time I try to take a shower I get attacked by your grapefruit tree."  I'm pretty sure there were some expletives in there, but I removed them to keep my G rating.  Also, I don't think he knew it was a grapefruit tree...

    My grapefruit tree
    The grapefruit tree has some pretty mean thorns all up the trunk and down all of the branches.  They are mean when they're green and meaner when they're dead and brown.  My parents-in-law have been kind enough to overwinter my grapefruit tree at their house the last 2 years, since they have lots of room and I have very little room.  My tree has been very happy there, because they also have a lot of large windows to let light in their house.

    The grapefruit tree was a gift from my granddad who grew it from the seed of a grapefruit he bought at the grocery store.  He gave it to me 2 years ago and it was already about 4 1/2 feet tall.  It tends to lose some of its leaves in the fall and winter but gets bushy again each summer.  He recently gave me another grapefruit tree he had grown (this one only about 5" tall).  Neither of the plants have bloomed yet, but hopefully they will be able to pollinate one another some day.

    Monday, February 9, 2009

    My little Jade Bonsai

    Bonsai is one of those plant sub-hobbies that really interests me.  I enjoy the simple, pristine artwork that combines nature and creativity to create something that, in the end, looks like a miniaturized version of nature itself.  Bonsai is a lot like some of the other plant sub-hobbies that I enjoy.  Just as I enjoy setting up terrariums and aquariums, little worlds of life - bonsai mimics nature on a small scale.

    I haven't really had much experience with bonsai, but I do have a couple of empty bonsai dishes.  Those containers are reminders of gifts that didn't work out.  Twice I have received small Gardenias that were formed like bonsais and I lost them both.  I decided I simply don't have the right growing conditions for Gardenias. Having these great shallow pots, I decided to try starting a bonsai myself.  After reading through a really informative, short book (Bonsai: 101 Essential Tips by Harry Tomlinson) with lots of pictures for inspiration, I thought I would like to try a small cotoneaster.  I knew that the local Lowe's store carried these during the growing year.  I bought the smallest cotoneaster I could find in the fall of 2006.  I think it was in October, maybe.  I cut back the limbs and roots as I had been instructed in the book I read and potted the cotoneaster in my bonsai container.  Unfortunately, I think the little plant had already gone dormant and it was really not a good time to be doing any pruning.  I didn't ever see any life out of him.

    I decided the next time I try a bonsai, it will be from a seedling or a very young plant that is healthy.  Either that, or I will purchase a bonsai that has already been started.

    So, when my mother-in-law gave me a handful of Jade plant pieces that could be rooted, I knew that I had a good candidate.  I chose the smallest little piece and potted him very carefully  in one of my bonsai containers.

    My little Jade bonsai start
    I have seen some really nice Jade bonsai trees in books and on the internet.  I hope to gradually learn more about the art of bonsai as this Jade plant slowly grows to size.  I can shape and prune the plant carefully and hopefully end up with a strong, thick-trunked little Jade bonsai tree in the future.

    Jade bonsai inspiration - from
    Jade bonsai inspiration - from

    Wednesday, February 4, 2009

    Winter Falls

    This is just a quick post to show how my garden waterfall looked most of last week with our winter weather.

    My garden waterfall in winter
    We had ice pellets, sleet and just a little bit of freezing rain that resulted in a good 3-4 inches of ice accumulation that stayed for more than a week in many places.

    The waterfall slowed to a trickle for most of the week, as much of the water was frozen.  By the end of the week, it became a roaring waterfall again as melt water from the roof flooded the waterfall and caused even the ice in the shade to melt.

    [For any curious readers, I leave my waterfall on a timer year-round.  It clicks on and starts running around 7:45 am and turns off around 7 pm or so.  During the summer I extend the time so that it turns off around sunset (as late as 9 pm).  I don't have to worry about freezes because the pump that recycles the water is about 3 feet down and even when the temperature drops down into single digits overnight (on a rare occasion), the water usually stays liquid at a depth of 3 feet.]

    If you missed my post on building my garden waterfall, you can read it here.

    Monday, February 2, 2009

    Kalanchoe in bloom

    My Granddad gave me a Kalanchoe last fall.  He had been growing it for quite a while and it was pretty large and very healthy.  My Granddad has always had a greenthumb and is one of my family members (including my mother and grandmother) who inspired my interest in plants.

    I have seen some small Kalanchoe in bloom before and I am vaguely familiar with them, although I have never had one before myself.  Initially, when I received the plant I mistook it as a member of the Crassula genus - some sort of Jade plant, I thought.  I did some searching and couldn't find a species that looked like my plant.  It was a couple of months later before it dawned on me that the plant was actually a Kalanchoe, which is, admittedly, at least in the same family as the Jade plant (Crassula genus).

    At least a month ago my Kalanchoe started producing buds - a lot of them.  At this time, I still didn't know the identity of my plant.

    Now, the identity is certain and the buds have opened.  It might be a little hard to tell by the picture, but this is a pretty large plant.  The pot is 12 or 14 inches in diameter.

    My Kalanchoe in bloom
    My Kalanchoe has been extremely easy to care for.  It is one of those plants that thrives in neglect.  I haven't neglected it in a negligent manner, though.  :) I have simply left it alone, knowing that it didn't need a lot of care.  I look forward to seeing this plant bloom on a yearly basis now.