Sunday, December 21, 2014

Plant Portrait: Tillandsia crocata

Tillandsia crocata is a rather humble Tillie when not in bloom. It's sort of a dull green-grey, somewhat fuzzy and out-of-focus looking, definitely not a diva. Until it blooms. No wallflower then!
Tillandsia crocata "Copper Penny", MR 2014
Only a few Tillandsias have scented blooms. And a saffron-colored bloom is very unusual for this genus. The perfume of T. crocata is rich and ebullient. It fills the room with its heady golden scent. It's not an easy Tillie to find, but if you find one, do give it a try.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Miniature African Violets in Winter

Miniature African Violets aren't that hard to grow. I've found that they need a location with several hours of medium indirect light. They like to be watered from the bottom every other day with just a teaspoon or two of water. They die if they sit in water for more than a few hours. They burn quickly in direct sun. They like occasional applications of dilute violet fertilizer. That's about it! They are only about 5-8cm in diameter, but really cheer up a room in winter; I call them Fairy Flowers:
Mini African Violets, MR, 2014
I'm particularly excited about the mini violet on the right. The buds are bright green, and the flowers are yellow-centered with white petals with green edges. Gorgeous! I have seen these new cultivars on web sites but they are even more captivating in real life.
Green-blooming mini African Violet, MR, 2014
I hope you'll be seeing them soon in your town!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kitten Paw Plant: Cotyledon tomentosa

My regular readers know how much I love fuzzy plants. One of my favorites is the eminently cute Cotyledon tomentosa, also known as the Kitten Paw Plant, or Bear Paw Plant:
Cotyledon tomentosa, the Kitten Paw Plant, MR, 2014
This is a small, shrubby succulent from Africa. They like up to a half a day of full sun, and weekly waterings, or whenever their leaves begin to shrink and soften. They don't like soggy roots. They can tolerate brief periods of frost, but grow best in warmer climates. Adorable!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bloomin' Babytoes Returns

It's been while since I posted a photo of one of my very prolific Babytoes (Fenestraria), so here goes:
Fenestraria in Bloom, MR, 2014
These cheerful mesembs never fail to make me smile....

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Can This Phalaenopsis Be Saved? Yes!

A few months ago, I found a tiny, bedraggled, miniature Phalaenopsis orchid at a big box store. It was on the nursery "Death Cart" for a buck, or was it $3? I can't remember, but I wanted to practice orchid care, so I bought it. Its roots were a mess, with only 3 little ones left intact, but I potted it up anyway. And here it is now!
Not only does it have fresh new roots growing, it also has a flower stalk with five buds on the way. I was under the impression that a rescue orchid needs more time to recover than a month, but I don't want to cut off the buds. I'll keep watering daily and let it go about its business. In general, I don't recommend rescuing orchids with rotten roots, but in this case, things went better than planned.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Argyroderma Blooms!

Not much has been happening in the World of the Mesembs lately, but today is watering day, and look what I found!
Argyrodermas, or "silver skins", are lovely, utterly unique mesembs that I've been growing for several years. Some have gone through leaf regeneration, but this is the first one to bloom. Argy flowers can also be yellow or white. They mostly live in dry quartz fields of coastal Namaqualand in an area known as the Knersvlakte. They need 2-4 inches of winter rain per year, and fog. I will try growing some in crushed quartz someday perhaps. They proliferate well in their native habitat but are notoriously fussy here in the tropics and most people I know who grow them seem to have given up on them. If you grow Argies, what's your opinion?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Weird Wednesday: The Wild Patch

I don't know about you, but I'm sure getting fed up with all the construction and land clearing going on around here. I know it's part of Crowded Planet Syndrome, and who am I to deny someone their new condo, parking spot, or strip mall, but at this point, I'm just grossed out. Does every inch of land have to be under the (opposable) thumbs of humans?

So I made a Wild Patch. In my yard. No destructor-landscaper can touch it. Kids are free to come and observe all the critters that live in it, but no marauding, land-ravaging adults unless they've convinced me they mean no harm. That's my rule and I'm sticking to it.
It only took a week or two after the lawn mowers, Round-Up sprayers, and weed-whackers were banned for the Wild Patch to emerge. It's only about 3m by 2m. Yet within those 6 square meters, there are over 20 insect species, five reptile species, and several kinds of arachnids, including a Red Rump Tarantula I've named Delilah. The flowers are pollinated by all sorts of bees and (beneficial) wasps. Dragonflies and butterflies come and go by the dozens. The troublesome fire ants are long gone, and most of the invasive plants have left, too. I grow several basils at one end, and they are growing abundantly, and very much pleasing the bees. I also grow a native mint called Horsemint, which makes a highly pungent and energizing tea.

A close-up of the Wild Patch.
I've even got Tillies growing out there, though it is a little too sunny for some species. It's become my favorite place to meditate, and just feel peaceful about Gaia's powers of rejuvenation. Does anyone else out there have a wild patch in their garden?