Saturday, August 30, 2014

What's On My Desk?

Gotta love those big box nurseries. They like to keep us guessing about the mystery plants they sell. I found one this week with no label that looked so familiar, yet I couldn't quite identify it. Can you? It's sitting on my desk now.
The Oddly Compelling... Huernia
That "lifesaver" flower is pretty memorable. Alert Gardeners know this is a Huernia. No, not a Hernia Plant, a Huernia! A Huernia zebrina in fact. Huernia come from South Africa, Ethiopia, and the Republic of Zimbabwe. They are fairly forgiving plants that like life in many areas as long as they get bright indirect light, protection from the cold, and dryness between waterings. A well-draining cactus soil is perfect. Too much water or cold and it rots. Frost is deadly. It grows from seed or cuttings. I'll need to make a particularly spectacular pot for this one!
Miniature African Violets, feelin' pretty.
I admit to enjoying some flowers on my desk, and what says "Pretty!" more than miniature African violets? My favorite local nursery has had some in stock this summer--couldn't resist. They really make computer work more pleasant. I notice they don't last long at most nurseries because they are often watered to death, and allowed to sit in stagnant puddles until they collapse into mounds of smelly goo. They really don't need that much water! My minis are happy with a teaspoon of water a day, or tablespoon every other day, given from the bottom of the pot. They are in 50% humidity and doing fine without mistings. Easy peasy!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chef Riccardo's Taste of the Garden: Porcini Parsley Pasta

Autumn is coming and, in many parts of Europe, that means it's mushroom-gathering season. It's a great time to get a basket of porcini mushrooms, and pair them with parsley from your garden:
Boletus edulis, the Porcini Mushroom, courtesy of Wikimedia
Chef Riccardo makes this incredibly simple but tasty pasta to go with the wild mushrooms. You can use store-bought mushrooms, too....

Porcini mushrooms, sliced
A handful of cherry tomatoes

A handful of chopped parsley 
Ah, Italian Parsley!

Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Small garlic clove, smashed

Put all ingredients into the pan (except the parsley) with a some olive oil. Saute’ for about 20 minutes.  
Add the parsley. 

Choose your favorite pasta or make some yourself. 
Pasta Dough

Cook the pasta according to directions and serve the mushroom mixture on top. 
Thanks, Chef Riccardo!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Addendum: The Zinnia That Died

The Non-Reiki pot of zinnias had a fatality due to the red spider mites that have been gobbling up our greenery this summer. One plant became infested and died after just a couple of days. The other four plants in that pot are mite-free. In the Reiki pot, the smallest zinnia (#7) had a few mites and a slightly curled leaf, but is now mite-free. I am checking both pots daily for any other mites and will kill off any I find, but the trouble seems to have passed and the remaining plants in both pots seem quite robust.
This one died.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Reiki Plant Update: The Zinnias at Day 47

I did not know what to expect when I started my (somewhat) scientific, second round of the Reiki Plant Experiments. I sowed the "Envy" zinnias on July 7.

July 7, 2014, Non-Reiki on L, Reiki on R, MR
 Five seeds were planted per pot. Each pot has received identical care except for daily Reiki treatments for the Reiki pot (R), and no treatments for the Non-Reiki (NR) pot. During early growth, the Reiki pot had plants that were growing closer together than the NR plants:

NR pot above, R pot below, MR
Here they are at Day 44:
Non-Reiki pot on L, Reiki pot on R. Aug 23, 2014, MR
Here are the stats: Non-Reiki Zinnias-- 4 healthy plants total, one dying. Tallest plant is 10cm from soil base to apical meristem, and 7cm across widest leaf pair. Reiki Zinnias, 7 healthy plants, tallest plant is 10cm from soil base to apical meristem, 8cm across for widest leaf pair.

Seven plants? That's just plain darned weird. When the sixth plant showed up, I assumed I had miscounted the seeds and sown an extra. I am still assuming this. But a week later, when the seventh showed up, I was pretty dumbfounded. Zinnia seeds are large, and I had counted and sown carefully. I really don't think I could have goofed up that badly. During the next round, I will have two people carefully count the seeds and observe the sowing to avoid any confusion. I will probably grow peas or beans, which have seeds far too large to miscount. So we'll work this little mystery out on the next round!

(And, as a note, the pots in the above photo are not in their normal places, they are posing on a box. They get identical sunshine time on a special shelf in the house.)

I hope any other gardeners doing this Reiki Plant Experiment will chime in with their results!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Addendum: Clumping Ionanthas

Here are a couple varieties of Tillandsia ionantha that have been allowed to clump peacefully.
Varieties of T. ionantha, clumping. MR2014
These pups are big enough that they could all be separated from the mother plants. Use a clean, very sharp, small knife and cut the pup off at the base. Let the plants heal in plenty of circulating fresh air. Once the wounds are healed, the plants can be watered again. That usually takes just a couple of days. Enjoy your Tillies!

Tillandsia ionantha in Bloom

Tillandsia ionantha and its various hybrids are probably the most commonly sold Tillie on the planet. They are even found in drugstores like Walgreens at the checkout counter, stashed in little shells or bottles. They are tiny and very tough, so they can survive with very little water or light for at least several months. But one should never treat a Tillie so unkindly! With proper conditions, they do this....
Ionanthas need moderate light and a thorough soak once a week, with a mist or two in between. Monthly fertilizer (for bromeliads) once a month helps, too.

The flowers are really amazing, and very weird. They bloom just once, but several weeks after the flower dries up, several pups can be seen at the base. You can break off the pup once it's half the size of the mother plant, and give it to a friend, or, if your friends aren't hankering for a Tillie, just let them grow into a nice clump (the ionanthas, not your friends).  Here's a closer look at the flower:
Tillandsia ionantha blooming, MR, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tillandsia Mass Watering and a Peckish Raccoon

We've finally been getting our normal afternoon rainshowers, and no one likes a rainbath better than a Tillie. In this case, several tangles of Tillies are ready to go outside for a little water....
If you have as many tangles of Tillies as I do, this is the easiest and quickest way to water them. Simply plop them into plastic containers and set them outside just before a rainstorm. After the rain has passed, just drain the container and return your Tillies to their indoor abode.

Prior to the storm, a feisty and peckish raccoon attempted to grab some more palm berries for a snack. They are the most amazing climbers! This one was over 20 feet in the air.
Here's to a peaceful Monday!