Friday, March 16, 2018

Recording: A Video of my Sunroom

These days, nearly everyone with a smartphone fancies themself a videographer, and your blogger is no exception.  Actually scratch that; after many attempts, I know I am definitely not a videographer.  But still, I try. And try. And try again.

I have written a bit about the sunroom where I keep the bulk of my houseplant collection, and I have shared photos.  But I thought a video would give a better sense of what the room looks like, and why I love it so.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Returning: A Trip to the Garfield Park Conservatory

In the spring of 2011, my husband and I paid a visit to the Garfield Park Conservatory.  Not too long after our visit, a freak hailstorm devastated the conservatory, particularly the Fern Room.  I was devastated myself, as I found the Fern Room to be one of the most magical places I had ever visited. If one needs convincing that ferns and their allies are incredibly beautiful plants, seeing so many varieties in one place should do it.  I love the color green, and I couldn't believe how much variety and impact ferns provide. I was afraid that even with restoration, the place would never be the same.

Well, on Friday we paid another visit, our first since 2011, and I found my fears to be misplaced.  The Conservatory is as gorgeous as ever. Because I've blogged about the conservatory before,  I'll just let the photographs do the talking.

View from the entrance to the conservatory

Below is a series of photos taken in the Fern Room:

Platycerium elephantotis Angola Staghorn Fern

Blechnum gibbum Miniature Tree Fern

The next series is from the Palm House:

I couldn't find a label for this lovely palm

A number of Bromeliads were used as groundcovers below the palms. Above is Neoregelia 'Fireball', below are an unidentified Guzmania cultivar and Neoregelia 'Gazpacho'

From the Desert House:

Eve's Needle, Austrocylindropuntia subulata 'Cristata'
Euphorbia lactea 'Cristata'
Euphorbia enopla
This crested Euphorbia looks almost like a sculpture

From the spring flower show:

I loved seeing all the Azaleas (Rhododendron species and cultivars)  It reminds me of springtime in New York.  They aren't common where I live, probably because the soil is too alkaline.

And finally, because it is good to be blogging again:

Life in front of the leaves: Karen 715

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


On the occasion of starting to write again, I took a little trip down memory lane.  I started looking at the photos of my plants taken for this blog, starting in 2009.  It was a tad depressing to see how many plants I've lost over the years, especially in the last two. First there was the scale infestation that took my large White Bird of Paradise, (Strelitizia nicolai) two variegated Alpinia zerumbet and a few other small plants in the sunroom.

The Strelitzia nicolai that once anchored the northwest corner of my sunroom

Far worse has been the ongoing Great Mealybug Incursion, which began some time in 2016.  This devasted my succulent collection, particularly the Echeverias, Aeoniums, and other Crassulaceae. I also lost several tropicals, including a mature Piper ornatum, a large Dracaena reflexa 'Song of India' and several Phalaenopsis orchids. I still do battle with the mealies on a daily basis, to the point where I just put a spray nozzle on a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I carry it with me when I inspect my plants and zap the little white demons whenever I see them.

It broke my heart to get rid of this Dracaena

But there were some pleasant surprises. I was was thrilled to see how much a few of my plants have grown and changed over the years. This picture of my Euphorbia lactea crest is from 2008.

Euphorbia lactea with two other Euphorbias I had at the time.
The grafted one is the same one I dismantled in my 2013 post. The answer
to my question "How will you make is on your own?" is: Not Very Well.
Both parts of the graft died.
Here it is today, very much alive and quite a bit taller. Compare the distances between the crested portion and the top of the plant.

Euphorbia lactea, flanked by Crassula ovata varieties
Those Jade plants (Crassula ovata) seen on either side of the Euphorbia have done also done quite well.

Crassula ovata 'Gollum' in 2010
The same plant today

Crassula ovata in 2010

The same plant today

Both of these plants survived mealybug infestations, and have continued to grow and thrive, I am happy to say.  

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Last year, I visited a local orchid nursery (Orchids by Hausermann in Villa Park, IL) on the occasion of their annual open house and sale.  Among my purchases was a beautiful yellow Cymbidium. I had owned two Cymbidiums in the past, but had to discard them due to a scale infestation. (I have learned, the hard way, that it is best to get rid of plants with scale.  This doesn't mean I always do; as a matter of fact, I have rescued both my much loved Monstera deliciosa and my ZZ plant from scale, but it wasn't easy.)

 My yellow Cymbidium as purchased 
last February. It had two bloom stalks.

Another view, from Feb. 2017, at night

So I bought this plant wondering if, after the blooms faded, I'd ever see it bloom again.  Orchids are finicky, I thought. I haven't been the most diligent of plant caretakers, especially these past few years.  But the care sheet made it seem simple enough: Let the plant spend the summer outdoors in dappled light.  The cooler night temperatures as fall approached would encourage rebloom.

Did I do that? No, I didn't. I left the plant in my sunroom.  I repotted it after the flowers died. I used the special Cymbidium mix I bought for it, but I didn't put it outdoors.  I fed it a couple of times when I remembered.  But I kept it indoors. My sunroom does undergo a natural cool down at night. In the cool months, I keep the heater set at 60 degrees Fahrenheit.  During the day, the sun warms the room to at least 70 degrees, and oftimes warmer.

The results:

The Cymbidium on Jan 30 of this year, with three bloom stalks

Close ups of the blooms and buds.

I have to admit that I don't know if the plant bloomed again because it liked my conditions, or because of the professional care it received previously. Next year will be the test.  I plan to repot it again after the blooms fade. I'm not sure when that will be. The plant started blooming in January, and is still going strong in March. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Will You Make it On Your Own? Degrafting a Euphorbia

Several years ago, I purchased this crested Euphorbia lactea, which I think is the cultivar E. lactea 'White Ghost.'  Since this plant has enough green growth, i.e., chlorophyll, to survive on its own, I assume it was grafted to help promote faster growth. Both crests and variegated plants can be rather slow-growing if left to their own devices.  Whatever the reason, I've never been fond of grafted plants, but since I wanted a white Euphorbia really badly, I accepted this marriage of convenience.

Euphorbia lactea crest scion grafted onto an unknown (to me) Euphorbia stock
But just as it did for Mary Richards, (the title of this post is from The Mary Tyler Moore Show season one theme song) the time came for this plant to break free from its ill-suited union (an engagement in Mary's case) and put down roots of its own.  It even showed me the roots:

Close-up of roots formed by the Euphorbia lactea scion, independent of its host

So I set to work with my knife and pruners, as well as safety glasses and gloves, to protect myself from the potentially caustic sap that the genus Euphorbia is known for.

The patient, prepped for surgery, along with a pot of well-draining potting mix for the severed scion.

I made the first cut straight through the rootstock plant, as close to the scion (the E. lactea) as possible.

Severed scion.  Note the white foamy sap on the cut edge of the rootstock
Another view

I then used my knife and pruners to cut away as much of the stock tissue as I could.  Since I am not experienced with grafting or degrafting plants, I didn't want to attempt actually separating the two plants.  I was afraid I might damage my crest.

Euphorbia scion with as much of the green tissue from the rootstock pared away as I could manage.

Finally, after letting the stump dry a bit, I potted up my newly independent Euphorbia:

Euphorbia lactea 'White Ghost', free at last

 And as for the poor rejected rootstock?  I'm going to keep it and see what happens. I have no idea what kind of Euphorbia it might be, but now that it's free, it could turn into a star in its own right.

The NoID Euphorbia rootstock, potted on its own

They both might just make it after all!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cats in the Sunroom--A Pictorial

Our cats have been enjoying the sunroom as much as we have, almost from the first. So I thought I'd share some photos of them in the room, along with a couple of extra shots showcasing some of the plants.

Peppermint atop a tall ladder in the finished, but not yet painted sunroom

Maybe he wanted to help.

After the room is finished, Luke strolls in like he owns the place.

Northwest corner of the Sunroom, with Strelizia nicolai: White Bird of Paradise.

Luke and Peppermint seem far too interested in this Ledbouria socialis.

Southwest corner, with blooming Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.

"Hmm, let me see."
 Luke examines a rug I received as a Christmas present, which I've decided to display
 in the sunroom.
"Nope, doesn't look a thing like me."
In this picture, Peppermint seems pretty sanguine about his lookalike pillow.
That wasn't quite the case earlier.