Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

To all my wonderful readers, have a fantastic New Year's Eve celebration, and a Happy 2013!

Polar New Year, MR, 2012
 May your gardening in the New Year be both joyous and weird! There's always something new to learn when it comes to our chlorophyllian friends....

The Ever-Joyous Babytoes

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Tilly For the New Year: Tillandsia butzii

Ah, Tillandsia butzii, one of my favorites, and one of the "creepier" Tillies. They grow mostly in Southern Mexico and Panama, and they like their humidity and water. The outer leaves form pouches that usually house ants in the wild. The ants will leave detritus which gives food to the tilly, and the leaves protect the ants, so the relationship is symbiotic. Of course, when you grow them indoors, the tropical ants aren't so welcome! When you water indoor butziis, you have to be sure to drain those outer leaf pouches, or the plant can suffocate or rot. You can see a tiny pup on the lower left of the left-hand butzii.

You can see the lovely mottling of the leaves in this closeup as well. Beautiful!

Monday, December 24, 2012

We Three Lithops...

Wish You a Very Happy Holiday!!

The Three Lithops
See you all after the holidays! Have a wonderful time! And don't forget to show your weirdest plants off to your family and friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lithops' Progress

Lots going on with the Lithops Gang this winter! Summers are so blistering hot down here, that most are fully active in midwinter, when it cools down to about 80F or so...sheesh!

Here are a few highlights.

Lithops karasmontana "Top Red"
Top Red is blooming, that white flower contrasted with the brick and pink is going to be lovely.

Many of the Lithops are "re-leaving" now. Sadly, humidity here is always about 50%, and usually around 80%, so even without watering, it takes my Lithops a long time to absorb their old leaves. I think this one will be OK. Audrey the francisci didn't make it, I would have had to put her in a dehydration chamber....

Lithops seedlings, 10 months
 The seedlings are doing well, about half now have their first adult leaf pairs. Each one looks quite different from the others, and I've even got a Conophytum calculus growing at the lower left. Party crasher!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: Who Doesn't Fit In??

Sometimes, I have to take a look at my growing collection and think, who's not fitting in here??

Not that any of my plants are in any way disagreeable to me, not at all! It's just that some seem to need to be...somewhere else. That's what my outdoor cacti/succulent garden is for. That's what friends are for. For some plants, like the Mother of Millions, that's what other planets are for!

Happy Somewhere Else....
How do I define if a plant isn't doing well with the others? Well, of course, if it's ailing, I try to figure out where it would be happier. Often, that's outside. Sansevierias, for example, do better outdoors. They even bloom out there, which they pretty much never do inside a house.

For some, I just have too many. Kalanchoes grow so quickly, and every leaf can be the start of a whole new colony. That's what friends are for, right? That's what holiday gifts are for! I think everyone I know has at least one baby Panda Plant from my garden....

How do you manage your collection so that your house doesn't become a full-time greenhouse? Or are you busy knocking holes in your walls so you'll have more windows and windowsills for your plants??

Monday, December 17, 2012

Another Bloomin' Monday!

Not just another pretty face, my Mammillaria hahniana is now in full, crowning bloom. Wonderful!

Many Mammillaria cacti have a distinct "crown" of flowers, usually in the pink-to-purple range. Here's a closer look at the crown:

And never one to say "No" to a flower party, my Fenestraria is...doing what it always does. I love that delicate shade of peachy pink with the bright yellow center. The other Babytoes is getting ready to bloom as well; they usually bloom in tandem.

More Lithops are starting to bloom also, as are some of the Tillies. So more flowers to come, stay tuned.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Smelly Plant of the Month: Senecio kleiniiformis

Senecio kleiniiformis
Senecio is a huge genus, but there aren't too many succulents to be found there. I have an S. serpens, whose white blossoms smell exactly like stinky gym feet. Yuck.

But this Senecio is different. S. kleiniiformis, also from Southern Africa, has bright yellow blossoms the same shape and size as S. serpens. But they smell...good! A beautiful perfume of honey-lemon wafts from these all day. It reminds me of the honey-lemon drops people suck on during the winter to keep the flu away. Since we're having an awful influenza season, and an early one, S. kleiniiformis seems like a good plant to be growing on the windowsill. It's a tough and hardy plant that likes full to filtered sun, waterings when its soil dries out, and lots of admiring humans to smell its flowers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: You Think You've Got a Plan....

And then something unexpected happens. I had a serious, comprehensive Pensive Tuesday post all worked out, but then I noticed something strange on the windowsill....

Fluffpuff is blooming! Is this the face that launched a thousand ships??

Fluffpuff, blooming.
Fluffpuff is a Mammillaria hahniana (I am quite certain now because it blooms in a magenta ring). No, I didn't name this cactus Fluffpuff, a child did, and frankly, he looks a little grumpy. But that's OK, it's been a tough month for everyone I know. His funny "face" made me laugh, and so he pre-empted the post I'd planned. Sometimes, life hands you a nice little surprise when you need it....

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tilly of the Month: Tillandsia ixioides

Tillandsia ixioides hails from Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It's massively coated in silver trichomes, so its usual color is silver except after being watered, when it turns green.

It's a difficult one to find, because it is extremely hard to ship anywhere. This is because its spiky leaves are as brittle as glass. The leaves could probably be used as weapons by smaller creatures, they resemble jousting weapons.  But if you find one, do give it a try, as it's quite beautiful and unique. The flowers are yellow, which is unusual for a Tilly (most have magenta to purple blooms).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: The Living Household

Today I'm introducing a few new additions to the household. Meet Sourdough Starter "Mick"!

Sourdough Starter Mick
He got the name Mick because he's so...hyper! Sourdough starters used to be much more common around the world, particularly in the USA. Most kitchens kept one, and made bread from part of it at least twice a week. Now, keeping a starter means you are part of the "artisan bread group"- mostly gourmet cooks, locavores, and off-the-gridders. But starters are easy to keep and make the most fragrant, soft breads! The only problem with my new sourdough bread is that it's eaten within a few minutes after coming out of the oven. So there's a problem with a lack of leftovers.

The second addition is a Kombucha SCOBY (a starter, like a vinegar mother). I'm working on the first batch of delicious Kombucha, I do hope the fermentation goes well. So far the SCOBY looks good....

Kombucha SCOBY at work.
A kitchen full of useful critters, and rooms full of plants, mean the home is truly a living household (and don't forget pets!). What's growing in your house? And are you glad it's there? I've got to go now...the house keeps trying to walk to the beach....

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bloomin' Sundays!

Here's what's blooming, or pupping, around my garden this weekend....

Bloomin' Lithops!

Bloomin' Mammillaria!
 Fenestraria (Babytoes)--Yes, AGAIN!

And some extremely small Tillandsia pups:

What's blooming around your garden?? Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Key Lime Pie Plant: Adromischus cristatus

Succulent expert Fred Dortort says the Adromischus genus comprise " ...a low-key but significant portion of the South African succulent flora." (Succulent Plants of the World, pg. 52) Crassulas will take over the world, bwahhahaa...! But seriously, these are tough little plants, beautiful, and easy to grow. This one is known as the Key Lime Pie, Pie Crust, or Crinkle Leaf plant, depending on where you live. Since Key Lime Pie is our state dessert (yum!), that's its name here.

Adromischus cristatus
 The leaves are fuzzy, wedge-shaped and plump, with lovely crinkles at the end. The crinkled edges turn slightly red when it's getting enough light. A. cristatus grows bright red, adventitious roots along the stems.

It likes bright light, but too much sun and heat will cause it to bleach and wrinkle in a very sad manner. It needs to be watered when the soil dries out, and should be planted in standard succulent/cactus soil with excellent drainage. You can grow new ones from leaf cuttings.

I made a few new drainage trays for my succulent collection. They are stoneware with Ancient Jasper glaze, which seem to suit the plants well.

New trays for the Key Lime Pies! (plants, that is)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: How Far Would You Go...

For your collection??? For that rare plant, the new cultivar that looks so amazing?

If you couldn't find what you wanted, would you grow them from seed?

 Or engineer them in a lab so that they glow in the dark??
Would you collect it in the wild? How far would you go to get it? What risks would you take?

As for me, I'm willing to go about 50 miles or so to a specialist's nursery, or order on the Internet, but I don't collect wild plants. I'll try growing them from seed if I can't find any locally. But that is not always successful! I tried growing Argyrodermas from seed, both in soil mix, and in wet paper towels. The seeds came all the way from S. Africa, but I grew nothing. My Lithops seedlings, on the other hand, seem OK

I've read fascinating stories about botanists going through real Indiana Jones adventures in the Karoo and Argentina, looking for rare succulents and epiphytes. I'm not willing to go quite that far...but how about you??

Friday, November 23, 2012

Just Some Good Ol' Spanish Moss

I don't shop Black Friday. Seething, angry crowds crazed by greedy delusions of savings is sort of a Hell Realm for me. I stay at home, do a little shopping on the Internet, and play board games with the family like chess and Loteria (Mexican Bingo). Call me an introvert....

Tillandsia usneoides can be either a shy introvert, hiding in a tree trunk, or a showy diva, covering every tree in the bayou with silvery drapes that could fatally entangle Godzilla (now there's an image). It's being used for interior decorating, also, as window screens that filter pollutants and give oxygen. Here's a little bowl of it for you all:

T. usneoides, aka Spanish Moss
 It's got the unwieldy name "usneoides" because it supposedly looks like usnea, or beard lichen. But it is not a lichen at all, it's a Tilly. Its flowers are barely noticeable, and it branches more than pups.

Source: Wikimedia
 Most Tillies don't harm their hosts, and some actually help them. But Spanish Moss can grow so heavily that it can take whole branches down, and block the tree's own photosynthesis. Most trees manage well enough, however. Spanish Moss grows all the way from Virginia, USA, to Argentina. It's a remarkable Tilly.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nothing Pensive This Week....

It's a holiday week with lots and lots of cooking, so I haven't had enough time to be properly pensive. Pensive Tuesday will continue next week!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Progress of Tillandsia ionantha: Bloom!

The pretty and petite, silvered Tillandsia ionantha hails from Nicaragua. It's a hardy and beautiful Tilly which is frequently crossed with other species because the results are so lovely. (Many crossed Tillies are rather dull by comparison.)

I have several ionanthas and crosses.  This is the first to bloom. First phase, it blushes pinkish red, and here comes a bud!

T. ionantha in bud
More buds follow:

T. ionantha, with ionantha fuego and friends
 And finally, a triple bloom!

T. ionantha in full bloom
On the left is another ionantha, T. ionantha fuego, very fiery indeed!  Once the bloom is over, the plant itself will continue blushing for a while, then a pup will appear at the base. Once the pup is about half the size of the parent plant, it can be removed to grow on its own. And so on it goes....

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Lithops of the Month: Karasmontana "Top Red"

One of my very first purchases was also one of my very favorite species of Lithops, karasmontana. Now the naming of Lithops species, as all Lithops enthusiasts know, is maddening on a good day. On bad days, I've been known to just give up trying to figure out which Lithops belongs to which species. With some species, like L. dorotheae, it's pretty easy to figure it out. Ditto "Optica Rubra" and some others that make it easy for us to identify them.

The species L. karasmontana is particularly maddening in that its members often look nothing like each other at all. "Top Red" and "Avocado Cream" belong to the same species??? Gedouttahere!

Here's my lovely "Top Red". It's an easy one to grow, very tough, and gorgeous, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: Mysterious Trichomes!

Lithops and other succulents conserve water using many ingenious methods. They can quickly grow fine roots to pull infrequent rain into their succulent leaves. They use CAM photosynthesis to prevent water loss. They have tough skins that resist evaporation. They can be dormant for months and need no moisture at all. They can use their longer taproots to literally pull themselves underground.

But how do Tillandsias do it? Well, they also use CAM photosynthesis. But Tillies have a unique contraption to hold and keep water. The trichome.

Many plants other than bromeliads use a variety of trichomes for a variety of functions, but the Tillandsia trichomes are my subject today. They look  like flowers or shields on the surface of the leaves. The top-facing trichomes are different from those on the undersides of leaves. Tillandsias facing more sun and drought have more of them, and are more silvery/fuzzy as a result. Shady Tillies that are used to more moisture have fewer trichomes, and they look more green and smooth.


T. magnusiana has lots of trichomes!

Tillandsia trichomes can open and close like trapdoors. They can reflect up to 45% of sunlight, keeping the plant cool and moist, and they can quickly pull in water from either fog or rain.  When this happens, they essentially "lock" to prevent the water from escaping. The plant turns green, and soaks up some sun. Good air circulation resets the trichomes and the cycle can begin again. Amazing!

A mix of Tillies, a mix of trichomes.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lithops' Weekend Update

Most of the my Lithops are now getting pretty active. Fall and winter are their growing times, after a long, hot summer. My marmorata have doubled in size, but no signs of blooming yet.

Lithops marmorata
 Others are blooming wildly, or getting ready to bloom.

I'm working mostly with red earthenware and Bluebell glaze, it seems especially pretty in the autumn:

Red Earthenware with Amaco Bluebell glaze, MR 2012
Hope your weekend is peaceful and fun, and, if you're from the USA, thank a veteran on Monday!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Today's Special Tilly: Tillandsia filifolia

T. filifolia
The lovely, delicately glowing Tillandsia in the center of the bowl, next to the T. caput medusae, is a Tillandsia filifolia.  Filiform, or threadlike, leaves grow from a spherical base. It's a very small Tilly, only about 15-20cm diameter on average.

Filifolias come from higher elevations in Central Mexico and Costa Rica.

Wikimedia Commons

They like medium to low filtered light, and a lot of humidity. Their flowers are a lovely lavender. They live in zones 10 and 11, or indoors. The key to happy filifolias is a lot of humidity and air movement, though some people grow them successfully in glass orbs. The tips of their leaves turn brown and shrivel if they are not getting enough watering or humidity.

I try to keep my filiform Tillies in the center of the group, where the humidity is highest, and I mist them whenever I think about it, which is fairly often.  They get a good soaking in a bucket two or three times a week. They are a lot of fun to hold in the palm of your hand, and always get compliments from guests.