Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Clovers from seed

I couldn't have grown these intentionally...

Crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum) blooming in our yard.
Remember the beautiful red clovers that I found growing on the side of the highways across Oklahoma last year?  Remember how I brought a small clump home and planted them in a pot on my front porch?  Well, they didn't last long very long in the pot.

However, the seeds must have blown from the porch into our yard and managed to germinate this spring.  Thanks to our vacation to St. Louis a couple of weeks ago and our busy schedule when we got home, we didn't have time to mow the grass weeds for almost 2 weeks.  This gave our little clover seedlings just long enough to produce some blooms before I plowed them over.  I'm glad we weren't going to get around to mowing to give them a chance to flower!

Crimson clover contained once more.
I have removed the little plants from our lawn and moved them to a pot.  This year maybe I will try to collect some of the seeds and scatter them in an area where I would like to see them next year.  Think I'll be as successful as Mother Nature was?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Plant Find: OKC Orchid Show

The SouthWest Regional Orchid Growers Association (SWROGA) held their annual orchid show and sale in Oklahoma City on April 28-May 2.  This was one of the show and sales that the American Orchid Society supported, making it a big event.  There were probably 10-15 different vendors there selling orchids and a good 30-40 exhibits of orchids.  It was quite overwhelming!  Each exhibit had anywhere from 30-100 orchids on display, I would guess.

The variety of size, colors, growth patterns in the orchid family is just astounding.  Even within a particular genus, I was surprised to see growth habits that were very different.  The particular one that I noted was Dendrobium, which I am familiar with.  Of the 3 orchids I had at home, when I went to this show, 2 of them were Dendrobiums.  But I saw two different growth habits from the ones that I had.  Mine have the more typical tall cane structure.

Anyway, these events are wonderful because you can get right up next to these amazing, award-winning orchids and take tons of pictures.  I was telling Christie I could probably make a good ten years worth of calendars based on my best 120 pictures I took that day!  These events are also great because you can buy some really nice orchids for a reasonable price and talk with the growers about how to keep them alive.  After much debate, I decided on three choice orchids to bring home with me:

Maxillaria tenuifolia

Maxillaria tenuifolia

This is one of the first orchids I saw in the "sale" area.  One of the growers asked if we had ever smelled the coconut orchid.  He held up a really cool looking orchid with bulbs and grass like features and a handful of red and yellow blooms near the base of the plant.  We sniffed and were amazed at the strong scent.  I was surprised to see an affordable price tag on this unusual blooming orchid.  As we walked around, we noticed that two other vendors had the same orchid - each a little smaller than the previous and each a little cheaper, but all three blooming.  Since I wanted to buy multiple orchids, I went home with the smallest and cheapest of these plants.  Since then, my plant has put out a new bud, which is really exciting!

Stanhopea wardii

Stanhopea wardii

While we were looking at the exhibits I would point out specific unusual genera and tell Christie that we needed to look for these genera in the sale area.  While Phalaenopsis, Oncidium and Dendrobiums are beautiful flowers, you can find those pretty easily at Lowe's.  I wanted to buy some more unusual plants at the sale.  Two of the genera on my list were Stanhopea and Gongora.  I found both, but the one that fit my budget best were the Stanhopea.  I bought a full hand full of Stanhopea plants that were taped together for only $5!  These plants weren't blooming and might still have some a couple of seasons before they get to blooming maturity, but I'm willing to wait it out.  Stanhopea blooms hang down below the plant on long peduncles, so they are usually potted in a hanging basket.  I potted my plant in orchid bark mix and stuck the pot in one of my orchid hanging baskets in the top of my greenhouse.  I need to remember to stay on top of watering this plant, since it is in a quick-draining mix and in a warm place in the greenhouse.

Macodes lowii

Macodes lowii

I have admired "jewel orchids" for quite a while.  Most people on first glance don't realize that it is an orchid.  The dark, velvety foliage doesn't look like other orchids.  And the subtle while flowers don't look very showy, like many orchids that people are familiar with.  One vendor had these little jewels available for just $10 and I knew I would be leaving with one.  I chose a Macodes and have placed him on a shaded shelf in my greenhouse.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Trip Report: Summary of the St. Louis Aroid meeting

On Saturday, April 24, we held the 2nd meeting of the MidAmerica chapter of the International Aroid Society at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.  Being the primary organizer, I was very happy to see a large attendance for this event.  The 35 attendants included plant enthusiasts who traveled from the distant states of Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia - as well as nearby states of Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Illinois.  There were even a couple of international visitors that were in St. Louis at the right time to attend the meeting - one from Germany and another from French Guiana.


The meeting included two presentations by Dr. Thomas Croat, a leading researcher in the Araceae family; a talk by Steve Lucas, a hobbyist who has a wonderful rainforest in his backyard in Arkansas; a talk by Steve Marak, who spoke about growing hardy Aroids in the temperate part of the central United States; and a talk by Joep Moonen, who showed slides of his Philodendron pictures from Brazil, including the collection of Roberto Burle Marx.

Dr. Croat's first talk was "Review of Monographic and Revisionary Studies with Neotropical Araceae."  In other words, he talked about the current research of Aroids in the the western hemisphere, specifically tropical Central and South America.  He gave a nice outline of the number of species and genera present in each South American country.  Ecuador and Colombia are especially diverse, but Colombia no longer allows exploration, so many unknown species are disappearing there without ever being cataloged or appreciated.

Dr. Croat's second talk (after lunch) was titled "An introduction to aroid genera" and covered every genus of Aroid and their relative size (number of species) and distributions (where they occur in nature).

Steve Lucas talked about the creation of his tropical atrium and showed some really nice pictures of the growth of his plants through the years.  Since I have seen his atrium in person, it was really neat to see the atrium when first planted.  It looked rather barren in comparison to the full mature look that it has now.

Steve Marak gave a great presentation (often humorous) about his successes and failures with growing hardy Aroids outdoors in a temperate climate.  He showed pictures of many of his plants: Arisaema, Amorphophallus, Typhonium and others.  He has a certain fondness for the "unusual and fragrant" or, as others say, "bizarre and smelly."  This was the first time I've met Steve Marak and I enjoyed getting to know him and his plant interests.  Less than a week later we found ourselves both at the orchid show in Oklahoma City.

Joep Moonen's presentation titled “A preview of the Philodendron from some arid areas of Brazil and a visit to the Burle Marx Collection in Brazil” was a collection of pictures from his home country of French Guiana, where he leads ecotours, as well as pictures from around Brazil.  Among his Brazil pictures were those of the Roberto Burle-Marx sitio.  Burle-Marx was a wonderful Brazilian artist who had a great fondness of tropical plants.  He had a huge garden around his house where he mixed his art with his many collected plants.  After his death, he left the gardens to the country of Brazil and Joep visited the gardens and allowed us to follow along through his pictures.


After the talks and lunch, we headed over to the Missouri Botanical Gardens main grounds for some tours.  We got to go into the Aroid greenhouse (which is not publicly accessible), the Climatron (which was currently closed in preparation for a new exhibit), and finally the Herbarium (which is also not open to the public).   These behind-the-scenes tours were led by Dr. Croat and his staff.  It was a great opportunity for interested Aroid growers to ask questions about the conditions in which these plants grow in their native habitats and to discuss correct names of plants and the focus of current research.

The Climatron is a lot like Oklahoma City's Myriad Garden tropical conservatory, with collections of Gingers, Bromeliads, Aroids, Begonias and Marantaceas (my favorite).

Hopefully you can attend one of the future meetings and see things in person!

Many of my pictures have been posted here.

I'll be posting more details about this meeting over the next week or so.

Monday, May 10, 2010

A place for Irises

Christie and I live in the house in which my mom grew up.  My grandparents were the first owners of the house and my grandmother lived here until she passed away, about 6 and a half years ago.

My grandmother planted a number of lavender, mixed white and purple & solid white Iris in the front flowerbed.  They have multiplied over the years and there are quite a few of them now.  Christie's grandmother also really likes Irises and had given us some a couple of years ago that we planted in the same front flowerbed.  Whenever my wife and I decided to rework the front flowerbed - removing several bushes and installing the garden waterfall - we chose to relocate most of the Iris.  They were too tall for the flowerbed and did not have the right feel.

Purple and white Iris in front of our garden waterfall.

White Iris and Lavender Iris (background) in our front flowerbed.

Of course, we couldn't just throw them away.  But at the time, we couldn't really find a good place for them.  We dug them up, tossed them in buckets and they sat in the shade under a tree for over a year.  Without soil and sun they were almost dormant.  Thankfully almost all of them survived and a couple of them even bloomed in that state.

Rusty pink Iris given to us by Christie's grandmother.

Royal blue/purple Iris given to us by Christie's grandmother.

On one of our road trips last Spring we visited the log cabin home of Sequoyah, who invented the Cherokee syllabary (cousin to the alphabet).  The grounds of this National Historic Landmark are very well kempt.  My wife was in awe of the rings of Irises around their trees.

Iris planted at Sequoyah's cabin

Finally, we had found inspiration for all of our beautiful Irises!  Christie thought that the Irises would look neat around the base of our Sycamore, but I wasn't sure if they would bloom very well there since they would be in such dense shade all day long.

Lonely light post ready for work.  Pip is scoping out our new Iris garden.

In the middle of our backyard is an old lamp post that was once fueled with natural gas.  The gas has been disconnected, but we would like to have it wired with electricity some day.  We decided that this lamp post would look really nice with Iris planted around it.  In addition to being pleasing to the eye, it will help prevent kids blindly running into the lamp post while playing in the backyard (something I've done before), if there is a bit of a flower bed around it.

Completed Iris bed

What do you think of our dedicated Iris bed?  A couple more Iris pop up in our front flowerbed around the waterfall every year.  As soon as they are finished blooming, I will relocate them to this location in the backyard with the others.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

2010 Edition of "corner garden additions"

This seems to be a recurring post for me, as I have planted some new things in our corner garden every year.  First we planted it with shade items.  Then the ice storm hit and removed the shade trees for us, so we had to plant some full sun and heat tolerant plants.  Every year some things come back and others don't.  So we fill in the spaces with new trial plants.

At this time of the year the garden looks really full because the Tulip and Daffodil stems are still all laying around.  But they will soon be gone.  Near their empty spaces, we have planted several different perennials: Gaura, Baptisia, Salvia and Centaurea.

Passionate Rainbow Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri ‘Passionate Rainbow’)

I love Gauras, and these two particular Gauras have great foliage, even when they aren't blooming.  The Crimson Butterfly Gaura (below) has been blooming constantly since we bought it, though.  We went to Marcum's Nursery in search of Gauras and we found two real winners.  I just need to stay on top of watering them in the heat of the summer this year and they should be well established from here on out.

Crimson Butterflies Gaura (Oenothera lindheimeri ‘Crimson Butterflies’)

I have been wanting to grow Baptisia for the last couple of years, but haven't found one for sale anywhere locally.  I was just about to purchase one from a catalog when I realized they were for sale at Bustani.  So I picked up this pathetic little Baptisia.  I hope that he puts out some major growth soon.  I saw my first Baptisias in person at the Missouri Botanical Gardens a couple of weeks ago and they was awesome!  Right now mine just looks like a little clover that came up by mistake.  Here's a good picture of a mature plant, if you've not seen one before.

Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis v. minor)
This Salvia was impossible to pass up when we saw it at Bustani.  Christie and I both felt like it was the most bang  for the buck.  And since it is a perennial Salvia, we were all in.

Pink Preference Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Pink Preference')
I have never tried Centaureas (Bachelor's Buttons) before and don't know much about them.  The blooms of this particular plant look so exotic I'm surprised that they can be hardy in my zone.  I ordered these plants through Bluestone Perennials and the plants look like they have been chopped off at about 6 inches in height.  There is a lot of new growth coming from the base, so I think these plants are really robust.  Bluestone's website says the plants can be cut back after blooming, so I'm not sure if my plants bloomed before they were sent to me or not.  They are supposed to bloom from spring to early summer.  I'm crossing my fingers for some blooms.

Bachelor's Buttons (Centaurea 'Amethyst Dream')

And here's an update on a plant we added last year.  This Potentilla was a healthy plant when we purchased it.  I thought it had really neat foliage that looks like a strawberry plant and the bloom on the tag was really cool, so I thought I'd try it out.  Well, it never really did much of anything.  However, this year it is growing like mad and I think I even see some buds embedded in the clusters of new growth.  We shall soon see!

Miss Willmott Potentilla (Potentilla mepalensis 'Miss Willmott')

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

My little collection of Ethiopian plants

This week my wife and I announced some very exciting news to all of our family and friends: We are adopting our first child from Ethiopia!  We're 3 months into an 18-month process.  Lots of waiting ahead.

In the meantime, we have been learning a lot about parenting, about adoptive parenting and about Ethiopian culture.  As you might imagine, I couldn't pass up the chance to learn about (and purchase) some new plants.  The wonderful Bustani Plant Farm, which I discovered last Spring, has a great selection of rare plants from Africa.  Before going to Bustani this year, I did some research on several plants that were labeled "East African" in their catalog.  I discovered that at least three different plants they had for sale grow natively in Ethiopia.  Is it important that my children grow up around plants from their home country?  Probably not.  But I like them! :)

Barleria eranthemoides

Barleria eranthemoides
The owners of Bustani collected this plant in coastal Kenya in 2002.  It has bracts of salmon-orange blooms.  The bracts look similar to my Justicia shrimp plants before the blooms emerge.  The foliage is dark and very attractive.  The stems are covered in spines that are quite prickly but not very noticeable to the eye.  I forgot about these when I was repotting it and grabbed the plant in a way that I would not have if I had remembered about the spines.

Ecbolium viride

Ecbolium viride
This plant was also collected in coastal Kenya in 2002 and has blooming bracts that look similar to my Justicia shrimp plants.  Indeed, both of these plants are in the same family (Acanthaceae).  The blooms of these plants have the most awesome color.  I tried to photograph them at Bustani and just got frustrated because they came out white!  They are a really cool teal that glows.  It is the same color as the Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), if you've ever seen one of those in bloom.  If you haven't, finish reading this blog post and then go and do a google search on "Jade vine."  The blooms of this plant have the same teal color.

Leonotis leonurus, commonly called Lion's Ears or Lion's Tail

Leonotis leonurus
This is really the only plant with a common name, since the others aren't grown very often in the horticultural world.  [I mean, it's the only one that has a real common name.  I don't consider Green Ecbolium to really be different from Ecbolium viride.]  It's not surprising that this plant has been used in gardens for some time.  The blooms are very unique, bright orange and fuzzy.  Apparently this plant has some medicinal and "recreational" properties and is used for treating a variety of ailments in southern Africa.  What I mean by "recreational" is that wikipedia says some people smoke the leaves when there's not any marijuana around.  It is also found in California, Hawaii and Australia - though I don't believe it is native to all of those places.

These three plants will all have to be moved into the greenhouse over the winter, as they are only hardy to zones 9 and 10.

What do you think of my little Ethiopian collection?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Plant Find: My first Helleborus

I bought my first Helleborus this year.  In fact, it was the first one that I have seen in person.  They are all the talk on plant blogs in the early Spring, it seems.  But I had yet to see one in anyone's garden in Oklahoma.

I really like the blooms, which remind me of those from a Dogwood tree.

Helleborus bloom
And the foliage is awesome!  Red stems lead to serrate dark green leaves with a really nice pattern on the top.

Helleborus leaf pattern
I have placed this Helleborus on the side of the house in a new part-shade garden that is slowly taking form.  The only other plant I have for this garden right now is a Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum).  I would also like to add some Mouse Tails (Arisarum proboscideum), which will almost certainly be Christie's favorite plant ever if I can get them to bloom.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Repairing my neglected bonsai ficus

I received a Ficus bonsai a couple of years ago as a gift from my sister.  But I didn't know much about Bonsai and just let it do it's own thing.  The tree grew pretty well, but also went through some periods of dropping leaves.

My bonsai Ficus before the haircut
Recently I decided to put my recent Bonsai education to work and see what happens.  So I hacked my tall and lanky stems back, hoping to thicken my tree with 2 or 3 new shoots from each one of these cuts.  I probably should have cut it back even further, but I'm starting slow.  I didn't want to accidentally kill the tree!

My bonsai Ficus after the haircut
I'll try to remember to give an update in a couple of months, when the new growth is popping out.