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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unidentified Zamioculcas-Like Object--What Have I Got Here?

I have long been a fan of Zamioculcas zamiifolia, aka the ZZ plant. I've written about my large plant before.  I've had it since 2001, and it is still going strong.

My old favorite Zamioculcas zamiifolia. It has responded to being repotted by
 producing 12 new leaf stalks.
Then, last summer I purchased a new plant, at either Home Depot or Lowe's. (I don't remember which.)  It looks very much like a miniature ZZ. However, upon doing some web-searching, I have been unable to identify this plant. This surprises me, because neither of the above places are known as a source of horticultural oddities.

Unidentified Zamioculcas-like Object, hereafter known as UZLO.
Close up of UZLO, showing new growth very much like
 that of the species ZZ.
UZLO with ruler, to show size.
Zamioculas zamiifolia with ruler, and my husband's arm,
 to show size.  Thanks, Bob!

Searching for dwarf or miniature Zamioculcas, one gets hits for "Zamicro," which has thinner stalks and less succulent leaflets, but isn't smaller in growth habit.  The leaflets are just as large as those of the usual ZZ, and it seems to have the potential to grow just as tall, so I've concluded that my plant isn't one of those.  UZLO is petite, and the leaves are proportional. I considered that maybe I just have a juvenile ZZ, but I have seen pictures of new plants started from standard Zamioculcas leaflets, and the new growth, which has leaflets smaller than those of their parent plants at first, still seems generally larger than those of UZLO. I could be wrong about that, though.

So, I'm putting it out there, in hopes that someone knows what I have. If not, I rather like the name UZLO.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Impatience Rewarded: Blooming Clivia

Quite a few years ago, (seven seems about right) when I had a short-lived passion for growing houseplants from seed, I bought six Clivia miniata seeds on eBay. I dutifully planted them all, each in separate pots.  Surprisingly, all germinated.  At first, I tried to find an optimum location for the six pots, but frankly, they got shunted about quite a bit in favor of plants that I liked better.  Locations that were both cool and brightly lit were at a premium in my house.  Clivia seedlings aren't the most exciting plants in the world, and I figured it would be several years until they got big enough to flower, if indeed they ever did.  And the six pots were a pain. After a while, I stopped caring. They were in lousy soil, and needed to be repotted. I frequently forgot to water.  They spent years under lights in the basement.

Finally, I decided to plant the four healthiest seedlings in one big pot, and just be content with a large plant with dark glossy leaves. Then last spring I put the pot outdoors, mostly to get it out of the way.

This is what happened:

Clivia blooms from one of four separate plants in the same pot.  Three different views.

I'm curious to see if any of the others bloom, and what the colors will look like.  According to the seller of the seeds,  the parent plant had dark orange, nearly red flowers. But even if they are the usual orange, like the blooms pictured above, I'll be happy.  The plant will be happy too. It has a nice spot in my kitchen window this winter, with good soil and regular watering.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Things I Learned While I was Away, Part I--Chipmunks Love Astrophytum

This is the first post in a series that will likely have several entries.  Quite a bit happened while I was on blog hiatus, and I did learn a few things. Some of the lessons were pleasant, and some were a little harder, like this one.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post featuring "Chippie," a Tamias striatus who lived in my front yard, and was inclined to strike cute poses on the fairy sculpture near my front porch.

Well since then, probably because we've set up some bird feeders, our property has become home to two more of the delightful creatures.  A second made its home in the side yard, and a third in the back yard. And yes, I do mean delightful.  Unlike the marauding gray squirrels, the chipmunks take a relatively modest amount of seed from the feeders, and are as cute as the dickens while doing so.

In 2011, I did notice that Chippie was partial to a plant in the Crassula family that was summering on the front porch, but I still didn't mind that much.  It was the only plant that was damaged, and I figured "What the heck, I can get another."

Chippie chowing down on a Crassula

 But last summer, the chipmunk brigade started to try my patience.  I found small bites taken out of some Echeveria and Jade Plants. But the Astrophytum plants sustained the worse damage: Front yard Chippie went after my Astrophytum asterias, side yard Chipwich found the A. ornatum to be the nom, and backyard Chipster went cuckoo for A. capricorne.

From the top: A bite out of A. ornatum; the result of the repeated ravaging of A. asterias; chewed circumferance of A. capricorne

The A. asterias was a total loss.  I found another, but I absentmindedly watered it during the darkest days of winter, and it rotted.  I've decided to hold on to the A. ornatum and the A. capricorne, despite their less than perfect appearance, and they've survived well.  And to console myself for their loss of beauty, I bought myself these: 

Astrophytum asterias 'Super kabuto' varieties in a dish with gypsum "desert roses"
I purchased them from an eBay seller in Thailand, (along with the proper phytosanitary certificate, and CITES permit.) I couldn't resist arranging them together in this shallow dish, and so far they've done fine.

From now on, every Astrophytum will be summering indoors, as I think they'll get plenty of light in the sunroom.  And I'll be keeping a close eye on anything in the Crassulaceae that I put outdoors.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Here's to New Growth in the New Year!

In the 1930s, upon her return to her book review column in the New Yorker after a two-year absence, Dorothy Parker wrote: "Maybe you think I was just out in the ladies' room all this time, but there isn't a word of truth in it."  She was in Switzerland, as she put it, "Getting Away from it all...coupled with a wistful dream of Trying to Forget."

Well, I don't have the excuse that I was touring Europe.  Even though I was metaphorically running away from it all, trying to forget, I was right here, among the leaves, as usual.  I was just lacking the motivation to write.  I've written previously that I struggle with depression, and that it has taken a toll on my feelings towards my plants.  For a long while, I just wasn't experiencing any joy in caring for my plants, and the feeling of deep connection I have had with them seemed lost.

Well, I'm back for another try. If anyone is still out there, and interested, I'm thrilled to have you reading my blog.  If not, I understand.  I've come to realize that blogging can be something I do for myself.

Anyway, something exciting has happened here among the leaves:

The beginning
Step 2

Foolishly, I didn't think to photograph Steps 3 through 1,000,000, but here is the final result:

My brand new sunroom!

I've been wanting a sunroom for my plants since I moved here almost ten years ago, but we didn't have the wherewithal to do it until recently.  I think part of the reason I became disenchanted with caring for my plants was that it was so hard to do so, with them all crammed into every available window and shelf space in the house each fall and winter. Now with the additional space, I can see and appreciate every individual plant, and check on them more easily.

Some pictures of the interior from various angles:

Most of these pictures are only from a few days ago, and I've already been changing things.  I'm hoping these changes with give me lots to write about.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tales from the Cryptanthus

Well, more like tales of the Cryptanthus, because while I may be a Crazy Plant Lady, I am not under the impression that plants talk to me. (Nor do I talk to them; if they want extra carbon dioxide, they can get it themselves.)

Anyway, I find the Earth Stars to be cool plants, so I've accumulated a few more this summer. I believe that these are all varieties of Cryptanthus bivittatus:

Cryptanthus bivittatus 'Ruby'
Cryptanthus bivittatus 'Pink Starlite,' I think
NoId Cryptanthus bivittatus varieties

All of the above were purchased at Home Depot, where I also saw what has got to be the worst example of plant marketing I've ever seen. Plant hucksters have been gluing strawflowers on cactus for years. Recently, they've been dyeing Phalaenopsis orchids blue. And now, they are giving us painted Cryptanthus:

Cryptanthus varieties defiled with pink and red enamel. These photos were taken surreptitiously in the store with my cellphone, (try saying that 5 times fast) hence the blurriness. These were in dish gardens, and in the one with the red paint, there is a naturally pink Crypt on the left.

This is ridiculous. I doubt the leaves will stay healthy with that stuff on them. Also, the painting was quite slapdash, and the result was ugly and totally unnatural-looking. It looked like a toddler had run amok with Mommy's nail polish.

But there are cute and clever things one can do with Crypts, as seen here in a couple of pics I took at the Chicago Botanic Gardens last week:

Flamingo topiaries in the Sub-tropical Greenhouse

Closer view of one of the flamingos, showing how densely the Cryptanthus are planted

I'm not usually a topiary fan, but I found these to be fun and fabulous uses of both form and color. Not something I'd try myself (where would I get enough crypts, let alone enough patience?) but definitely something that I can appreciate and enjoy sharing.