Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Algaonemas and Dieffenbachias

Just a month before the IAS show, where I expect to be purchasing some aroids, I was sent a box from my fellow Aglaonema addict and friend, Russ.  He sent me 8 wonderful plants: 5 Aglaonemas and 3 Dieffenbachias.

Aglaonema 'Brilliant'
Several of these new Aglaonemas have the distinctive white petioles (leaf stems) and center ribs.  This includes Aglaonema 'Brilliant' (above) and Aglaonema 'White Rain' (below).

Aglaonema 'White Rain'

Christie's favorite plant out of this batch is Aglaonema 'Key Largo', which has relatively wide leaves that are deep green, with a lot of silver in the middle of the leaves and some small patches of silver/green mixed in there.  I wonder if Christie has a subconscious favoritism here because of her excitement about our trip to the Florida Keys next month!

Aglaonema 'Key Largo'
One of these plants comes from a seedling that Russ acquired from Aglaonema breeder and author Frank Brown.  The seedling is from 'Queen of Siam', but it has green petioles, whereas the registered hybrid 'Queen of Siam' has white petioles.

Aglaonema 'Queen of Siam'
Aglaonema 'Cassandra'
The first Dieffenbachia is actually a species, the only species Russ sent this time.  It is Dieffenbachia tarabitensis, which is native to Ecuador.  It is primarily a dark green, but there is a very small amount of variegation near the center rib.  The most distinctive feature is the mottled petioles.  Can you see how the stem leading to the leaves is not solid in color?

Dieffenbachia tarabitensis
Dieffenbachia hybrid.  Probably D. 'Paradise'
These last two are somewhat unknowns.  Russ thinks the one above is probably the hybrid Dieffenbachia 'Paradise' but he doesn't know whether the other is even a species or hybrid.  Maybe I can get some help figuring out that one.  It's actually my favorite plant in the batch since it is so unique.  The leaves are almost entirely silver, with a white midrib and a couple blotches of white and green on the leaves.  You can also see the parallel veins in green, arching away from the midrib.

Unidentified Dieffenbachia.  Could be a hybrid or a species.
It's so great to have friends interested in growing these plants.  While an Aglaonema is not impossible to find, it is really hard to find one with the correct name attached and to find a location with much of a selection.  The species and older hybrids are found only in collections.  And with generous friends you can grow your collection without spending a lot of money.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Aglaonema infructescence

Sometime in late December or early January I had an Aglaonema bloom.  I was planning on collecting some of the pollen and using it to pollinate future blooms on my other Aglaonemas, but I didn't get any after all.  I have left the inflorescence alone and was surprised to see a couple weeks after the spadix was "finished" that berries were beginning to form on the lower half of the spadix.

Aglaonema commutatum berries
Aglaonema commutatum infructescence - Feb 3, 2011
Time ticks by and the berries begin to get larger and darker green.

Aglaonema commutatum berries
Aglaonema berries - April 28, 2011.  Notice that a couple berries are getting large.
At the same time, the 2nd inflorescence on the plant began to set fruit as well.  But these berries were a little behind the other set and eventually this infructescence shriveled up and fell off the plant.

Aglaonema commutatum berries
Aglaonema berries on 2nd infructescence - April 28, 2011
The berries on the original infructescence stayed large and firm with very little change in color or size over the summer.  Then, all of the sudden, I noticed the berries were orange.  I reached down to feel of them and the first big berry had become soft and fell right off the spathe.  This is the sign I was looking for.  I plucked the berries off and here they are.

Aglaonema commutatum berries
Aglaonema berries - August 18, 2011
The berries vary greatly in size.  There are a total of 11, 3 of them of decent size and the others pretty tiny.  I'll get these cleaned and planted this week, knowing they need to be fresh.

Now I have another Aglaonema setting berries, Aglaonema Decora.  Wish me luck with all of my aroid seedlings.  I'm going to need it with these extreme temperatures!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New orchids, new blooms

I have 5 orchids in bloom at home right now, which is wonderful. Two of them are new orchids that I purchased while they were in bud. While they aren't "earned" blooms, I am glad to see them.

Dendrobium 'Little Green Apples'
I have more Dendrobiums than any other orchid genus. I would like to concentrate on species, but I did buy this hybrid 'Little Green Apples' which is a huge plant - easily my biggest orchid plant right now.  I saw a picture of the plant next to a yard stick for comparison, but somehow it seemed even bigger once it arrived in the mail.

Dendrobium 'Little Green Apples'
This hybrid is made from D. Green Elf x. D. convolutum, and Green Elf is made from D. convolutum x D. alexandrae, which means that the plant is 3/4 convolutum and 1/4 alexandrae, if that makes sense.

Bpl. Golden Peacock 'Orange Beauty'
My other new orchid is just beautiful, in my opinion.  I really like the color of this one.  And the simple shape of the flowers.  And the speckling.  And the foliage - tall, thick stiff leaves.  Just a really cool orchid.  Not surprisingly*, this orchid is also a hybrid. This one is called Bpl. Golden Peacock 'Orange Beauty.' Why the excessively long name? I don't know. I consulted my handy dandy orchid hybrid abbreviation directory to learn that Bpl. stands for Brassoepilaelia. The parentage is Bl. Richard Mueller x. Epi. vitellinum, and Bl. Richard Mueller is from Brassavola nodosa x. Laelia milleri.

Bpl. Golden Peacock 'Orange Beauty'

* I am noticing that the more familiar I become with orchids, I am starting to identify hybrids and species as having a distinctly different quality most of the time.  Not always, but a lot of the time.  It's sort of like how someone that knows dogs pretty well can see a dog and know if it is a full breed or a mix, even if they haven't seen that particular breed or mix before.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Unusual Ginkgo tree

You may already know, I love Ginkgo trees.  I pretty much have the handful of Ginkgo trees in my town mentally mapped out.  I can count them.

Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba tree with undivided fan leaves
I know that the Ginkgo genus is monotypic, meaning that there is only one species in the genus, Ginkgo biloba.  However, there are a number of cultivars, which are consistent variations from the normal species.  They are not distinct enough to be considered a new species, just some variations on that species.  Some of these are called "sports."  Typical Ginkgo variations include the size of the tree: some sports are grown as small shrubs or bushes, some even weeping.  I have been very interested in growing one of the small shrub types.  I have even seen a Ginkgo bonsai tree, which was wonderful.  Other variations include the leaf shape.  Some have very narrow fan shape leaves; others are curly.  Most of the Ginkgo trees that I see have the same classic look to them.  But there is one here in town that looks different.

Ginkgo biloba
Closer view of the small, undivided Ginkgo biloba leaves
This Ginkgo has leaves without the split in them, making the leaves just a perfect little fan shape.  Also, the leaves on this tree are quite small.  For comparison, my 3 foot tall tree has leaves that are 2-3 times larger than the largest leaves on this 15 foot tree.  The leaves are also somewhat curved, especially when they are new and first emerging.

Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba in front of my favorite Thai restaurant
This tree is growing in front of my favorite Thai restaurant.  I will happily go back to visit it - and have a bite to eat while I'm there.   Massaman chicken, here I come!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Trip Report: Orchid Greenhouse Tour

Last Sunday, our Oklahoma Orchid Society had its annual potluck, raffle, greenhouse tour and open house at the house of a couple of members.  This was the first meeting where Christie has come along and gotten to meet some of my new orchid friends.  We got to eat some good food, enjoy a greenhouse tour and we even came away with the door prize, a gigantic blooming Phalaenopsis!

Phalaenopsis door prize
The greenhouse is a really nice size - probably 15 feet by 30 feet, as a guess.  About 2/3 of the space is occupied by orchids and the other 1/3 is empty for now.  As with any collector, I imagine that vacant space shrinks on a regular basis. The first plants you see when you come in are the Vandas, which Lowell, the owner, grows hanging without any substrate or pots.  They seem to be doing really well for him.

Coppery-red Vanda
Another Vanda in bloom
Lowell has a lot of Dendrobiums in his collection.  Two really neat ones were in bloom, the species Dendrobium antennatum, and a hybrid which has Den. antennatum as one of it's parents.  It was surprising how close the hybrid looked like the parent species, in this case.  I couldn't see any differences in the flowers themselves.

Dendrobium antennatum

Dendrobium hybrid
Another Dendrobium that was in bloom is Den. bifalce, with a weird little flower coming out of the top of the characteristic Dendrobium canes.

Dendrobium bifalce
The most unusual Dendrobium in the collection is a very large and old plant which has grown from the basket to form a sphere.  Apparently it just finished flowering, so we didn't get to see the flowers.  But the plant, Dendrobium anceps, is really cool.  Lowell is justifiably proud of this one.

Very nice Dendrobium anceps
There are probably 5 or 6 different pots of Vanilla planifolia growing in the greenhouse and the plant is climbing up the supports and running all over the place.  This is the plant that produces the vanilla flavoring used in cooking, which is an extract from the beans that form after a flower is pollinated.  Lowell was kind enough to give me a piece about a foot long, so I have it in some soil and am trying to root it now.  Lowell grows his in regular potting soil, not an orchid mix.  He said his Vanilla orchids flower regular, but he has yet to get one to pollinate.

Vanilla planifolia
Lowell grows most of his Bulbophyllums in coconut fiber baskets now.  He said it contains them well and they seem to like it.  One exception was this little Bulbophyllum which was mounted and in bloom.

Bulbophyllum species - probably tingabarinum
There are also quite a few slipper orchids, Paphiopedilums and some other genera I am not familiar with (not Phragmipediums).  I have to admit that the patterned leaves of these orchids are enticing to me - more so than the big, odd flowers.

Paphiopedilums and other slipper orchids

Hybrid slipper orchid
Some tree frogs (Hyla versicolor) have taken up residence in the greenhouse and one was perched out on an orchid leaf for easy photographing.

Tree frog (Hyla versicolor) living in the greenhouse
Next are the two largest plants in the collection (not counting the Vanilla orchid): Sobralia and Grammatophyllum.   The tall Sobralia decora was about 4 feet tall with beautiful stems.  I really liked this plant and would be happy to grow it without any blooms.  Apparently the blooms are very short lived, though, as expected, a mature plant does produce a plethora of them when it is in flower.

Sobralia decora
The genus Grammatophyllum is referred to as the "Giant Orchid."  It has a very tall,  long-lived bloom spike.  Lowell's Grammatophyllum plant is not all that big, but the bloom spike was a good 4 feet tall.  We saw a huge Grammatophyllum at the Foster Botanic Gardens in Hawaii a couple of years ago.

Grammatophyllum in bloom
I think the one plant I came away from the tour thinking I had to find is Maxillaria lankesteri.  This is a weird one that in many ways doesn't look like an orchid.  Maybe that's why I like it.  It's a fringe orchid.  The flowers, from what I've seen online, are unmistakably that of a Maxillaria, but the stems are wandering and woody looking - not like other Maxillarias I know.  Looking around online a bit I see that there is another species with similar woody-stems, Maxillaria microphyton.  I'll be looking for these plants.

Maxillaria lankesteri
Another oddity in the collection is a Habenaria which has really neat foliage and interesting looking buds.  Apparently the flowers are very colorful.  The buds look more like seed heads of a spent flower.

Habenaria rhodocheila
Lowell brought his beautiful, large Dendrochilum to the last OOS meeting when it was in bloom.  It had finished by the time of the greenhouse tour, so I just have a picture of the plant with spent blooms.  But it's still a beautiful plant.

Dendrochilum just finished blooming
There are a number of different jewel orchids which look similar.  Lowell is growing the common Ludisia discolor, as well as something that looks nearly the same, but is from an entirely different genus.  (Sorry, I didn't write down the name.)

Ludisia discolor
Jewel orchid that looks like Ludisia discolor, but is something different

Well, that's your virtual tour.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did the live tour.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Octopus orchid update

I now have the school of octupi that I was hoping for.  There are now 3 flowers completely open and one more bud that could open in the coming weeks.

Anacheilium cochleata blooms
Anacheilium cochleata blooms
This little orchid has moved up on my list to near the top.  I hope that what I have read about it blooming on each new growth (virtually year round) is true.  The next growth could be just about ready to produce blooms by the time this one finishes.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dietes seedlings

I decided I wanted to try some more tropical African irises, to accompany my Fortnight Lily (Dietes iridioides), but I couldn't find many plants for sale.  So I ordered some seeds of the Peacock Flower (Dietes biflora).  Starting plants from seed is a little new to me.  Or maybe I should say, successfully starting plants from seed is new to me.  I have tried quite a few seeds over the years and haven't had much luck.  Some recent success has encouraged me to try some more.

Dietes bicolor seedlings after 1 month
In just under a month my Dietes bicolor seedlings began to appear.  The amazing thing about these little guys is that they look just like the mature plants, but much smaller.  They already have a little fan of leaves.  For size comparison, check out the pill bug (Armadillidium vulgare) next to the seedling below.  Yes, they are that tiny.

Dietes bicolor with pill bug for size comparison

These plants are not hardy in my zone, so they will have to spend the winters in the greenhouse.  But they can be grown outdoors just 1 zone south of me, and they are considered drought resistant and good for xeriscaping.  So I might have the opportunity to plant some of these soon in a garden in southern Texas.  More about that later.

I'm really glad I had luck with these iris plants.  It is an encouraging success that gives me the option of growing my plant collection without having to spend a lot of money.  Now, I wonder how long it takes these guys to become flowering size...?  If you would like to see the flowers, you can view pictures here.