Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Plant Find: Ming Fern

I've mentioned before my mom's affinity for Asparagus ferns.  My mother-in-law also has a wonderful Asparagus fern that I was not really familiar with until I saw hers.  Since then I have seen it growing in a couple of other places, but it is not very common for some reason - possibly because it is less hardy.  My mom's plants (Asparagus densiflorus) can usually survive our harsh Oklahoma winters in the garage and will sprout new foliage in the spring.  A little farther south of us, the plants can be left in the ground year-round.  This year, even the garage in Oklahoma got too cold for them.

My mother-in-law's Asparagus macowanii two years ago.
My mother-in-law's Asparagus macowanii now.
The plant my mother-in-law has is Asparagus macowanii and is sometimes called Ming Fern.  She has had the plant for many years, but it has only been the last couple of years that it has really started to take off.  It has broken several pots open with the force of it's ever-expanding root system!

Stems and roots of the Asparagus macowanii.  The greenish stem in the bottom left corner is the newest growth.
Recently when I was at my parents-in-law's house I saw this huge stem growing out of the pot.  The new stems do look very much like edible Asparagus (see the picture below).  After this thick stem grew several feet long it produced blooms, followed by the regular fine foliage of this interesting plant.

New shoot from the Asparagus macowanii at the Myriad Gardens. You can see how much this looks like the edible Asparagus.
Asparagus macowanii new leaves or flowers
There was a small division of this plant that I easily removed and have potted for myself.  Maybe someday I will have a monster plant to match!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

2011 Edition of "corner garden additions"

Each year we plant new stuff in our corner garden.  It's always a bit of a test to see what can become established, what we will remember to water, etc.  We always start with good intentions, but somewhere along the way it gets really hot and dry in the middle of the summer and we forget to water for a week or two and before you know it, we've lost some of our new plants.

This year we have started off with really good habits.  During this time of year we are normally allowing nature to water our garden, but this spring has been particularly dry.  To top it off, we laid out some Fescue grass sod about a month ago, so we were forced to be vigilant with our watering efforts.  Since we have been watering our sod and our new garden around the greenhouse, we have also been dragging the hose out to the corner garden and watering those new and established plants - to give them the water they are expecting at this time of year.

Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica)
A plant that I have admired in some flowerbeds around town is the Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica).  After first seeing it blooming and subsequently producing blue berries in the flowerbeds in front of my office building, I searched online to find out what it was.  I read that it was sometimes a challenging plant to grow, but I observed that no one was giving it special care in the flowerbeds at the office.  In fact, I saw it growing in several other flowerbeds that receive irregular attention through the year.  When I saw this plant being offered pretty cheap at Lowe's, I snatched one up to try in the corner garden - saving my receipt, in case it doesn't work out.  (I hope you know that Lowe's has a 1 year guarantee on their plants...)

One of the new Gauras, in bud but not yet opened.  Sorry for the fuzzy picture.
We have planted Gauras (Oenothera sp., sometimes called "Butterfly Weed") in the corner garden before and lost them.  They are mildly drought tolerant, but need to become established first.  In other words, if you toss them in the ground, squirt them with the hose and then let them sit in the baking sun for the rest of the summer, they probably won't make it.  But if you give them some TLC for a year and then leave them to nature, they should be much more successful.  We got two beautiful mature Gauras this year and planted them in our brick garden around the greenhouse.  They have been growing steadily and blooming up a storm, since we have been watering them regularly.  So then I saw some smaller Gauras for a really good price ($2.49) and I snatched up two of them for the corner garden.

New Kniphofia, which is still quite small. Again, sorry for the fuzzy picture.
One of the really cool plants native to Ethiopia that we can actually grow outdoors in zone 7 is the Kniphofia.  My granddad actually had one of these growing in his front flowerbed a couple of years ago.  I saw a large one up in Seattle last year and it is really a cool plant.  My plant is tiny for the time being, but I'm hoping it will grow enough to produce the really neat red, orange and yellow blooms this summer.

New light pink Salvia
We also added some of the purple/blue creeping Phlox, Christie's favorite spring bloomer.  We have had a couple of them in the corner garden, but a couple didn't come back this year.

Salvia greggii which we planted last year.  It's getting bigger this year and has been blooming constantly.
I'm really happy to see that a couple of our additions from the last two years are thriving again this year - the Pink Preference Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii 'Pink Preference') and Elaeagnus.  The Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis v. minor) from two years ago is still just a tiny plant.  I really home this is the year that it takes off and blooms!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sarcoglottis in bloom

My friend, Warren, gave me a jewel orchid (Sarcoglottis sceptrodes) at the IAS meeting in Fort Worth last fall.  Over the winter, several leaves turned brown and mushy and I had to remove them.  I asked Warren for some advice and he suggested I might need to increase the humidity.  I repotted the plant, having to cut the plastic pot apart to get the plant out.  Now it is in a larger plastic pot sitting inside a ceramic pot, where the humidity is a little enhanced from the rest of the greenhouse.  I was upset about the lost leaves because I really hadn't seen any replacement leaves coming.  But then recently I saw some new growth, an offset, and also some new leaves(?) emerging from the center of two of the plants.  About a week later I could tell these weren't leaves, but the emergence of blooming stems.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes first bloom stalk starting - April 11, 2011
The bloom stalk grew pretty quickly in height and another started a couple weeks later.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - April 28, 2011
About 10 days after the stalk reached it's full height the buds began to separate from the stem and start to open, from the bottom up.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes buds - May 16, 2011
The flowers area small, so all of these pictures are close-ups.

First open Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom - May 16, 2011
First Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom from the front - May 16, 2011
First Sarcoglottis sceptrodes bloom from the side - May 16, 2011
I realize these green blooms aren't the most magnificent thing you've ever seen, but I think they're pretty neat anyway.  And I really like the way the "fuzz" shows up in these pictures.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - May 24, 2011
Now the first stem is in full bloom and the other stem is starting to get taller.  It will probably be another 2-3 weeks before it starts to open.

Sarcoglottis sceptrodes - May 24, 2011
Warren, who gave me this plant last year, just last week sent me two more small jewel orchid cuttings to start.  I'll be posting photos of those soon.  Thanks, Warren!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Plant Find: Ginkgo biloba trees

I have long admired the Ginkgo tree. I can pretty much name every place where I have seen one now - the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, the Missouri Botanic Gardens and two here in town (one small tree in my neighbor's backyard and one near a park by our house). I have even been inspired by the Ginkgo to paint my first piece of art (maybe - it may or may not look like art once I'm finished).

Even though these trees are well known and well loved, they are really hard to find around here. The only ones I have seen for sale were very expensive at a local nursery. I got some seeds from a friend, but none of them have sprouted for me. Then I came across a real deal on eBay several weeks ago! For $14, I got two saplings between 18" and 24" tall each - shipping included! That's much better than the $150 I would have had to pay for a 6 foot tree here locally!

Leaves just beginning to emerge from the tip of the tree planted in the ground.
So I have two Ginkgos now. What will I do with two of these things? Not sure. For now, one is planted in our backyard near the corner garden. I have put a tomato cage around it to keep the pups from running it over while it is still small. The other is in a pot, where it will remain for the time being. I don't know how long it will be happy in a pot, but I imagine it is doable, considering some people train Ginkgos to be bonsai specimens. My two trees are already too big to be trained as bonsai, but maybe this one will still make a nice container tree. Of the two trees I now have, the one in the pot is growing more quickly than the one in the ground, possibly because it is in partial shade and just quicker to establish.

Ginkgo biloba leaves out and mature. This is actually the tree I potted.
The two plants were sent to me bareroot, wrapped in moist paper towel and had not yet produced any leaves, but they are already starting to pop out now, as you can see in the pictures above. Ginkgo trees have the most amazing leaf shape and really beautiful color in the fall, when they turn solid yellow. I am looking forward to that show every year.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Plant Find: Orchids from friends

This weekend my orchid collection grew without much impact on my wallet.  My aroid friend and fellow blogger Jason was in town, so he came over for dinner on Saturday and we got to hang out in the greenhouse and talk plants for a long time.  That was a lot of fun because most people that come over and see my greenhouse are like "Oh, that's neat - there are some green things in there."  It's not very often that someone comes over who has a real interest in plants and specifically the plants that I grow.

Cirrhopetalum cuminghii division from Jason.  It is a very small plant, shown here in a 2" (maybe smaller) pot.
Jason gave me a cutting of an orchid (above) he bought recently and I shared some cuttings of my plants, as well.

Blc (Lc Time-Life x Blc Lisa Irene 'Melinda') from Oklahoma Orchid Society meeting.  This one is pretty large and healthy.  I have it hanging on it's side in my greenhouse to encourage growth on the other side.
Then, on Sunday, I went to my first Oklahoma Orchid Society (OOS) meeting and came home with two new orchids.  Both of them are in need of some TLC, having been neglected for a while by a former OOS member who doesn't have time for her plants now.  She had donated 15-20 plants to the group and they raffled them off and ended up just giving them away by the end of the meeting.  I put in $2 in raffle tickets and came away with two orchids.  Not bad.

Dendrobium NOID from Oklahoma Orchid Society meeting.  In need of some TLC, but you can see there is a new little cane starting down there at the base.  This picture is kind of crummy.  I apologize.
I learned that these meetings are a good way to grow your collection without spending too much money.  There was a giant Dendrobium (D. Candy Apply x. D. something-or-other) that was still in bloom and was auctioned off for $30 or $35.  A real steal considering the size of the plant!

I had a good time hearing about other people's orchids and growing methods.  It reminded me that our aroid meetings should include more presentations concerning horticulture.  At our meeting in Fort Worth last year there were some really good conversations in the group whenever horticulture came up.  But we could have encouraged this even better by making it part of the agenda.

At our OOS meeting, someone proposed that we have a troubleshooting time of about 15 minutes built into our meetings from now on.  People could bring in an orchid that they are having trouble with and allow other members to comment on how they might be able to combat the problem and get the orchid happy and healthy.  I think this is a great idea and the other members were all for it, too.  It should be interesting for all involved, even if I am just a spectator for that portion at some meetings.

Zygopetalum syd monkhouse from Leslie.  A nice, healthy offset from a large plant she has.

One of my aroid friends, Leslie, recently sent me a large Philodendron cordatum plant that she no longer had room for.  She snuck an extra plant in the box, too - a Zygopetalum orchid, one of my favorite genera.  The flowers of this orchid are dark purple and brown - really cool.  You can see a picture here.  I wonder where the name came from.  Does anyone know?

I'm thankful for terrific friends who share my interests and are happy to share plants with me.  Of course, it goes both ways, and I always send plants or shipping reimbursement in return.

I also bought a couple of orchids on eBay last week and they came in the mail yesterday.  I'll be posting pictures of those soon!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

New iris bed in bloom!

Last year I transplanted all of our Irises from various places in the yard to one central location around the light post in the middle of our backyard.

Two tone iris - Sorry I don't know the name.
At the time, it looked pathetic, but I knew all of those rhizomes would sprout new leaves and fill out the area. This year, the irises definitely filled the area with green. There weren't as many blooms as I would have expected, but we did get two Irises to bloom.

My pups sure know how to stop and smell the irises
Simple white iris
I'm hoping for considerably more to bloom next year!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Brick garden complete

The last time I showed you the brick garden path, it looked like this:

Brick path back in mid-March
Here are some updates, now that the sod has been laid and plants are established.  Right around the brick path and along our back porch, we laid fescue sod, which is doing really well.  We also seeded in the area surrounding that and our grass seedlings are starting to blend in with the sod so the harsh corners of the grassy area are now rounded off and extended to a broader area.

Completed brick path and garden around the greenhouse
In the garden between the brick path and the greenhouse we have planted Blue Star Junipers (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'), Gauras (Oenothera), Pieris (Pieris japonica 'Valley Rose') and mouse tail plants (Arisarum).  You can also see in the picture above that I have pulled out many of my plants from the greenhouse, my potting bench is in getting use and there are pots all over the place.

Blue star juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star')
The Forsythia is all green now, with the yellow blooms of Spring gone.  But the Gauras (Oenothera) have established themselves well and are covered  in really nice pink blooms.

Gaura (Oenothera), Juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star') and Forsythia
Opposite the Forsythia bush is a variegated Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense 'Variegata'), which I think really helps carry the feel of the garden around the corner with the brick path.  The Privet is in the olive family, Oleaceae.

Privet bush (Ligustrum sinense 'Variegata'), which helps your eye round the corner
The Privet has been blooming, although you wouldn't know it unless you were looking at it as closely as I have been.  The flowers (pictured below) are tiny and have a sweet fragrance if you get your nose right up on them.

Extreme close-up of the Privet bush (Ligustrum sinense 'Variegata') blooms

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Trip Report: Oklahoma Orchid Society show

I already told you about the orchid I purchased at the OOS show and sale a couple of weeks ago.  I promised pictures of the show, so here they are!  I wasn't quite as snap-happy as I can be sometimes, so the number of pictures is not overwhelming.  Just 64 decent pictures of some really nice orchids.

Oklahoma Orchid Society show and sale 2011

I'm getting my photo album posted to the blog just days before attending my first OOS meeting.  When I was at the orchid show, I decided to join the OOS.  Hopefully I'll have something to post about the meeting next week.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Anthurium pallidiflorum seedlings

A friend of mine from the International Aroid Society recently offered seeds from his Anthurium pallidiflorum plant.  He sent me a package of about 10 seeds and I took them out to my potting bench to get them started.  It was a windy day and before I knew it I was searching the ground on the back patio for these seeds.  They aren't small, but they also weren't easy to find.  In the end, I could only find two of them.

Anthurium pallidiflorum seedlings - April 9, 2011
I started the seeds on March 21 and started seeing signs of growth just a couple of days later.  When I received the seeds they were still coated in a bit of fruit, so I first removed that by squeezing until the seed came out.  Then I sifted my potting soil to remove any large particles.  I moistened the soil and then laid the seeds on top.  Next I put the entire pot in a ziplock bag and sat it on the kitchen window sill.  Every couple of days I open the bag and mist the soil surface with my sprayer which includes a couple drops of apple cider vinegar.  This keeps destructive mold from growing in this very humid environment.

Anthurium pallidiflorum seedlings - April 23, 2011
It wasn't long before I realized another lump of green on the surface, so I brushed the dirt aside and found that there was a third seed in the pot.  The third seed has been sprouting a little more slowly, having been partially covered by the soil.  You can see the hint of green in the picture above.

Hopefully these seedlings will continue to grow at a rapid pace, but I have noticed they are already slowing down.  When Anthurium pallidiflorum is a mature plant, it grows long, pendant leaves.  You can see a picture here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

DIY orchid basket

I'm not quite sure what sparked this project, but on Friday evening when I got home from dinner I was feeling creative, so I made good use of some sticks in our yard.

My homemade orchid basket

First I broke sticks by hand into similar lengths. Then I used a pair of pliers to snip the ends so they were a little more regular. I searched the garage for a while until I came across an old roll of wire. This was perfect because the wire was rusted and blended in with the wood even better - one of the advantages of living in an old family house!  After just about 30 minutes of work I had made a hanging basket for an orchid.

Edge of the orchid basket, where you can see the wiring a little better.

I think it turned out pretty nice for my first one and that I'll make some more soon.  The orchid that's in the basket in the picture above is Stanhopea wardiiStanhopeas are ideal for hanging baskets because they produce blooms that hang below the plants.  Other orchids actually produce their bloom stems from the roots, hanging down, which makes the open slats in the basket perfect (assuming the plant is directly in the basket, without a pot).  I really only have one or two orchids that require (or appreciate) a hanging basket like this but we have a lot of limbs and sticks in the backyard and I would like to hone my skills.  I think I can make the next one sturdier than the first model.  Maybe someone in the orchid society will want one...