Saturday, April 30, 2011

Trip Report: Renovated Myriad Gardens

Last week the Myriad Botanical Gardens and Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory in Oklahoma City reopened after a year of renovations.  The purpose was primarily to replace the 20-year old panels that were past their prime.  While they were taking the place apart, they went ahead and repainted the structure, revamped the layout of the interior a bit, laying new walkways and completely redoing the behind-the-scenes staff and educational area.  For now, only the publicly seen area is finished and the rest still needs a lot of work.  During the year that the renovations were being done, most of the plants were covered with tarps, protecting the plants while also blocking out the light.  Some plants survived and others did not.
[Note: I apologize up front if my pictures are not up to snuff.  I just got a smart phone recently and all of these pictures were taken with my phone, since I didn't have my camera with me.  Although it takes pretty good pictures, I don't have as much control over focus, flash or exposure.  Some of the images are out of focus and I didn't realize it at the time.  Others are a bit grainy, due to the exposure.  Others (especially close-ups) look pretty decent.]

Miniature Powder Puff (Calliandra emarginata)
A couple of the many flashy Bromeliads planted all over the place.
I had the opportunity to be in the Crystal Bridge (CB) on opening day this last week as a volunteer during the Arts Festival.  I was happy to see that many of the special plants in the CB were still there and in decent condition - the Jamaica Poinsettia Tree (Euphorbia punicea), many tall Palms, the spoon-leaf Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia parvifolia), the Golden Chalice vine (Solandra maxima), many Cycads, several prize Aroids, and many Euphorbias and other succulents on the dry side of the CB.  In fact, those Cycads are all doing really well - almost all of them are "in cone" right now, which is cool if you're a Cycad-person, and even pretty neat if you're not (like me).  Kenton, the education director at the Myriad, pointed out to me that one of the Cycads was producing smaller leaves than normal, but also making some offsets.  The last year probably stressed this plant into making offspring in ways that it usually does not.

Cycad that looks like bamboo.  Notice the prevalent cones at the base!
Since I don't know my Cycads and didn't bother to look at the identifying tags (when available), I'm just calling these like I see them.

Very grassy-looking Cycad. There are cones at the base of this one too, but it's pretty impossible to see in this picture.
One of the larger Cycads at the CB. This one is about 8-10' tall and has cones hanging down, as you can see on the right side of the picture.
For now, the empty space where plants were lost has been filled in with TONS of Bromeliads and Orchids.  It's very pretty and colorful, but has a different feel from what it used to have.  It is kind of like 50 each of 8-10 different species, rather than 400-500 different species, like it used to be.  My guess - especially after talking with Kenton - is that this choice of plants was just to fill up the space to get it started with.  Some of the more unique and interesting plants that were previously here (and will be here again) take longer to track down and acquire.  I look forward to seeing the CB evolve over the next 10 years or so.  I imagine it will become a jungle once more!  But I was thoroughly enjoying looking at all of the different orchids tucked into every crook and cranny.  I know that even if these plants are ignored, in the wonderful growing environment of the CB, these plants will continue to grow and bloom every year.  Even though there were a lot of Oncidiums and a couple of Cattleya (both common), there were also some less common orchids, like Zygopetalums, Phaius, Bletilla and others whose names I can't think of right now.

A really nice Zygopetallum orchid.  I just love the mixture of colors in these flowers.
Unknown Dendrobium orchid
Interesting orchid blooms resting on a bromeliad leaf
Unknown orchid - maybe a Dendrobium. I have to say this is my favorite picture from my two days in the CB. The scene is just perfection.
I only know Bletillas well enough to realize this was one. I don't have any ideas on the species or hybrid name. It's a pretty plant, though. Bletillas are terrestrial, along with the Phaius which are planted in the CB.
As always, there are many Gingers and Begonias planted in the CB.  There are a couple of mature Begonias that I can tell were salvaged from before the construction.  These are mostly tall cane-like Begonias that are probably true species.  Most of the new ones are clearly hybrids - very colorful and unusual looking things.

An unknown Begonia, probably a hybrid.  The silvery blue foliage is a winner in my book!
Another unknown Begonia with vibrant and rough leaves.
I leave you with one picture of the Myriad just before closing time.  They now have colored lights installed in the CB, which show off the cool structure from the outside at night.  You can see from this picture how wide the walking area is now, since they widened the path and the plants are not yet pushing their bounds.

View from inside the Myriad Crystal Bridge at night.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bird's nest Rhaphidophora

If you grow many aroids you may be familiar with the bird's nest Anthuriums, but have you ever heard of a bird's nest Rhaphidophora?

Rhaphidophora tetrasperma beginning to climb the bark pole
I set up this tall bark wall for my Rhaphidophora tetrasperma to climb last year. This spring, while my greenhouse door was open, a bird built a nest nestled at the base of the plant.

Bird nest in the pot
I'm not really up on my bird identifications, but I have seen two tiny birds in my greenhouse - presumably the parents.  I think they were both pretty plain brown except for their beaks, which were orange.  Can anyone identify the bird from the egg?

Unknown bird egg - any ideas?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mouse in the garden

It seems there is a mouse in my plant!

Arisarum proboscideum bloom
Ever since I saw a picture of Arisarum proboscideum a couple of years ago, I have wanted some of my own.  This little plant is commonly referred to as "Mouse Tail Plant" since the blooms look like the hind quarters of a little mouse.  Christie is very fond of mice, and as you can imagine, she really likes this plant.

Arisarum proboscideum
Arisarum is a genus in the aroid family and many of the species are hardy in my zone, including this particular plant.  I purchased two of these little plants and one of them came with a mouse (bloom) on the plant.  I have planted them in our new flowerbed that we just installed around the greenhouse.  Hopefully the pups won't step on them too much while they are small and fragile.  Eventually the might spread out a bit and form a colony of mice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Plant Find: Pleurothallis stricta

The Oklahoma Orchid Society (of which I am now a member) hosted their annual orchid show in Oklahoma City this last weekend. I visited on Saturday and really enjoyed the show. The exhibits were excellent with lots of orchids I thought I had never seen before.  Of course, I got home and was looking through my pictures from last year's show and found that several plants that seemed entirely new to me I had actually photographed last year, as well...

Pleurothallis stricta
These shows are just so over stimulating with so many different orchids to see that it is really hard to take them all in.  I try to mix simple enjoyment with snapping tons of pictures so that I can even further enjoy the orchids more later when I have more time to sit down and look through all of the different plants.  After I have a chance to sort through my pictures and eliminate the less than great ones, I'll post a photo album.

Pleurothallis stricta blooms
There were not very many vendors at the sale this year, but those that were there were really great.  I spent quite a while talking with a man from Prairie Orchids, out of Kansas.  I ended up purchasing a small Pleurothallis stricta from him and I really like the plant a lot.  It has really interesting little blooms (picture above) - and I mean these are really quite tiny.

Pleurothallis stricta. Front and center is a leaf with finished bloom stalk. To the left is a keiki (new plant) forming from the center of another leaf.
The blooming stems emerge from the center of the leaves (see picture above), which is very different from any of my current orchids.  Also, the new leaves are a really pretty red.  They emerge folded in half and then pull apart into a really glossy bronzy red that eventually turns dark green.

Pleurothallis stricta new bronze leaf unfolding
Pleurothallis stricta new bronze leaf
This is a neat plant and I hope I can keep it happy.  It appears to bloom pretty continuously since the blooms are born on the constantly emerging leaves.

Pleurothallis are among some of the tiniest orchids in the world.  Speaking of tiny orchids, I ran across a picture last week of one of the world's smallest orchid blooms.  The picture shows a toothpick for size comparison.  The bloom is so small the toothpick looks like a large piece of lumber!  Check it out! Thankfully the blooms of my Pleurothallis are large enough to enjoy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dracaena really in bloom

Previously, I posted pictures about my Dracaena deremensis blooming.  Well, truth be told, it hadn't actually bloomed yet.  The pictures I posted were just the flower buds - and lots of them!  I didn't realize that at the time.

Dracaena deremensis bloom open
Since then, the buds have been opening and filling my greenhouse with what can only be described as a controversial fragrance.  To me, it smells bad.  To some, it apparently smells good.  It actually smells a lot like some perfume fragrances that I don't care for, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it does smell good to some people!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Five new orchids

One of my best Christmas gifts this last year was a gift certificate to Oak Hill Gardens. I made up a list of the orchids I wanted to order, but waited until the weather was reasonably frost-free before ordering them. Two weeks ago, it was quite warm here in central Oklahoma and I had to leave my greenhouse door open to keep the temperature below 100 F. Of course, as soon as I placed my order for the orchids, a cold front moved through and sent the overnight lows near freezing again. Thankfully my orchids got here safe and sound.

Bulbophyllum scaberulum
I used my “Field Guide to Ethiopian Orchids” (also a Christmas gift) to cross-reference the plants available from Oak Hill Gardens and found a couple of neat Ethiopian orchids to purchase. One is Bulbophyllum scaberulum, which came in a 6” basket (pictured above). This is a really neat orchid, whose pseudobulbs form along a creeping root. The blooms of this plant are very strange. There is a tall maroon-purple bract that is quite thick that more-or-less covers and obscures the little red, yellow and white flowers, which later peek out of the scabbard. I think the species name scaberulum refers to something else (not scabbard), but it seems appropriate for the blooming bract, too.  You can see a picture of a blooming plant here.

Polystachya paniculata
The other Ethiopian orchid that I ordered is Polystachya paniculata (above). This one has a post impressive blooming bract, which is paniculate, which is to say that it has a branched blooming bract (not just a single straight stem) with lots of blooms. It’s like an upwards pointing chandelier of blooms.  You can see a picture of a blooming plant here.

Sedirea japonica
This mounted orchid (above) is Sedirea japonica. I had admired the blooms of this plant before when I had thumbed through the Oak Hill Gardens catalog, but then I recently read about it in “Bizarre Botanicals,” and it is apparently one of the best smelling (sweet) plants on the planet. I don’t typically collect plants for their scent, but combining the fragrance with the cool flowers, it makes for a very interesting plant. The blooms hang beneath the plant, like those of Gongora or Stanhopea, so it is mounted to allow the blooms to fall from the plant freely. They are creamy white in color with bands of purple on the lower petals and pink splashed on the tongue.  You can see a picture of a blooming plant here.

Dendrobium stratiotes
I have several Dendrobiums in my orchid collection and so I feel pretty good about my ability to grow them. I added one more with Dendrobium stratiotes (above). This Dendro has a super-cool bloom, with petals that spiral upwards like ram’s horns. Check out the picture of a blooming plant here.

Encyclia polybulbon
My last little orchid is Encyclia polybulbon, which is also a mounted plant (above). This plant will produce really neat looking flowers that are kind of burnt-yellow stars with a white lip. You can see a picture of a blooming plant here. This is actually the second Encyclia in my collection. The other one I added a month or two back, but haven’t posted on my blog yet because I was hoping to get a bloom soon and show pictures. If I don’t get something soon, I’ll just go ahead and post pictures of the plant as-is. First, I am going to try moving my plant into some brighter light to see if that encourages a bloom stalk.

How do you like my new orchids?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Plant Find: Nun's orchid

Christie and I visited one of our favorite local nurseries recently and were surprised to find an orchid mixed in among the usual flower garden plants.  Although this nursery has very good quality plants, they don't have houseplants or generally anything too unusual.

Phaius tankervilliae
The Nun's Orchid or Nun's Cap Orchid (Phaius tankervilliae) is so named because if you look up into the flower tube you will see this (below).

Phaius tankervilliae
See the nun with her head bowed down in prayer?  It's actually not easy to see in person.  You have to look up into the tube, which is quite long (as you can see in the next picture).  The camera flash really helps illuminate the feature.

Phaius tankervilliae
You might just look up and see this.

Phaius tankervilliae
This is a truly beautiful plant and makes the 2nd giant terrestrial orchid in my collection now.  I haven't had any experience with terrestrial monstrosities like these before, but I'm hoping that they will be happy in my greenhouse, being treated much like my other tropicals.  I guess we'll know this time next year, if they decide to bloom again.

Phaius tankervilliae