Monday, July 30, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: How Are We Changing Them?

It's hard to believe this little guy is the direct descendant of the mighty wolf. Grrr....

(photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Yorkies are everywhere here. In my neck of the woods, even Yorkies have pet Yorkies. They are absolutely adorable, from the human standpoint. I have no idea what wolves think of them, if they think of them at all.

Now many of us are "domesticating" our favorite plant species as well. Think of roses old and new. How have they changed? Here's the current state of a domesticated Lithops:
As we grow and develop our Lithops and other favorite plants, how are we changing them to make them more desirable and attractive to ourselves (humans)? I do think they are becoming more tolerant of excess water. That's because the only ones to survive from the nursery to the big box store to our houses are usually capable of dealing with a lot of excess watering. The others all rot away before they can be sold. And of course, a lot of them are well-watered once they get to a home as well. So those of us who cultivate Lithops from seeds from our own collections may be encouraging the more water-tolerant versions. Who knows?

And I know I love colors and patterns! I notice Lithops growers have grown some amazing cultivars with beautiful colors and new, unusual patterns. This has happened with most of the plant species we domesticate. Think tulips. New colors and more variegation, that's what we generally go for as we domesticate.

(watercolor "Seashore Abstract" MR 2012)

So my guess for Lithops would be, 50 years from now, we'll see more water-tolerant, colorfully patterned Lithops than what we see now. New colors not seen in nature. And of course, I'm not even getting near the topic of Genetic Engineering in the Cozy Home Garage Lab-- I'm just not there yet.... What do you all think?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Monstrose By Any Other Name....

Introducing the Ming Thing! Cereus forbesii monstrose to be precise.

Why is this cactus so weird-looking? According to the Cactus and Succulent Society of America, monstrose growth is caused by a mutation (genetic, viral, or bacterial) that causes every growth tip to think it's the dominant one. So instead of slowly growing into a nice barrel or cylinder, it just...grows everywhere. Fast.

In Cereus, the mutation happened quite a long time ago, in nature, and now it's deliberately cultivated. It didn't escape from some lab in West Texas. That's a relief.

Monstrose cacti can be a little more rot-prone, but can also be propagated by cuttings, which is a big plus.

So what do you think of the Ming Thing? Fabulously freaky or just URGH?

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Just before I went on vacation, I purchased this lovely Senecio. Whenever I buy a plant, I go through the same routine...I inspect the roots for health and pests, get rid of as much old soil as I safely can, then repot in cactus/succulent mix in one of my ceramic pots. This fellow was a little rootbound, huh? It's now safely repotted with lots of nice new soil, resting and healing its roots before a watering next week. I'll show it again when it blooms, since it had a few buds growing.

What's your typical routine for taking care of new plants? Do you immediately repot? Change soil? Dust with rooting powder or anything else? How long after repotting do you wait to water? So many questions....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

(Very) Short Hiatus

I'm visiting some art museums and botanical gardens this week. Some are very well known to me, visited annually, others are new. There's lots of inspiration in gardens, isn't there? And this very hot summer, lots of perspiration, too! See you all again this weekend, hope you're having a good week.
PS: Bought a "Ming Thing" cactus (Cereus forbesii monstrose), couldn't help it, it's just so gorgeously weird....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: What Fascinates You?

So what has been fascinating, charming, or mystifying you lately? For me, it has certainly been the Lithops seedlings. Their progress is something to observe (photos next week, I'm trying to improve my macrophotography). They are larger, some have different colors from the others (it's a mixed lot of species) and they are developing clear fissures. Just amazing how they can grow so quickly from something that is practically invisible, and appears lifeless, into such unique denizens of the plant world.
(painting, "The Seedlings" by me, 2012, mixed media)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Beauty in What is Old

The flower is now old and decomposing, becoming a seed pod. Still so much beauty! The entire lifecycle from bud to seed pod is enthralling, when you really look at it....

Friday, July 20, 2012

Babytoes Blooms!

I really love Fenestraria. It's a much tougher plant than its lookalike, Frithia, much easier to care for, and has a beautiful flower as well (though it's not showy magenta, like Frithia's). It's a monotypic genus, all out there alone. The subspecies aurantiaca has yellow flowers. They hail from South Africa and Namibia. They are known as "Babytoes" here and are very popular; new shipments usually sell out in a couple of days at the local nurseries. Do any of you like or grow Fenestraria?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Introducing Petrapots!

The ancient city of Petra in Jordan inspired this new batch of pots,  made of red earthenware and fired at Cone 04. They're pinched, stamped, carved, and burnished, but not glazed. Plenty of small holes in the bottom to permit drainage without soil loss.  I think they'll look great with cacti and succulents that don't need the deeper Lithopots. I'm very excited about them! Once a few plants are in there, I'll show them again, these are just out of the kiln....

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: House Lithops??

I was thinking today, because it's Tuesday and I have to limit this sort of thing to one day a week, about how quickly summers are heating up in many parts of the world. Death Valley, California hit its own night-time temperature record yesterday of 41.7C.  Most of my area has been sweltering in heat and drought. A couple years ago it I remember how bad it was in the Moscow region, and horrible fires joined the mix. Ditto in your part of the world?

Can Lithops help us adapt??

What would a house inspired by Lithops/Mesembs be like? I had a chin wag with some friends the other day about it, and we came up with a few ideas:
1. Instead of flimsy windows and flimsier walls, cubed translucent walls filled with photosynthetic gel. Could that work?? It could be like adobe, but allow light in and make food/energy as well....
2. Contractile "roots" so the house could descend into the earth during extremely hot spells to stay cool. Lots of mesembs do this and it works well for them!

3. Lovely solar panels and attractive skylights, of course, in amazing designs and colors, like the Lithops!

4. Water storage supreme. Saving water when heavy rains fall, catching dew, etc...  What do you think??

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lounging Lithops

I don't Run with Wolves and I don't Prance with Penguins. I'm too lazy for that. Instead, I Lounge With Lithops. Here's what some of my lounging Lithops are up to.... (Particularly slacking are Dorothy and The Brains, can you spot them?) These party animals do most of their growing at night; during the day, they just like to lie out in the sun and soak up some rays, as do most of the tourists at our beach, coincidentally.  Hope you're having a relaxing day (or evening), too!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Tillandsias: A Favorite

Tillandsias are locals. They grow here in the SE US, and through Central America. A lot of folks think "air plants" don't need any actual care, but in fact, they do need a fair bit of diffused light, and a lot of humidity and water. They just use their leaves instead of their roots to get the water and nutrtion that any plant needs to grow. Many people grow them in beautiful glass orbs to keep the humidity high. I don't mind misting mine morning and evening, so I keep them in homemade ceramic pots, on top of some orchid mix, which is mostly bark and perlite. I give them a good soaking twice a week in a bucket of water with a tad of vinegar and fertilizer added. The Tillandsia in the center of the photo is one of my favorites; it's small and very feathery, fun to hold in my hand. Basically, it's a cutie of the Tillandsia world, and it has a great name, filifolia. Say it ten times fast! Its roomie is a Tillandsia caput medusae (cool name!) which is soft and fuzzy, not monstrous at all. You can look at it straight on, and, unlike Perseus, you won't need a shiny shield to see it.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Not a Lithops, But Pretty

This is an incredibly busy week for me with a lot of school prep (starts in less than a month), so I'm not posting as much as usual. Today, just a couple of photos unrelated to the blog. This is the last flower of my one and only orchid, a phal. The plant is growing well and hopefully, there will be more flowers soon, they're quite pretty! Epiphytes are lovely, my favorites are Tillandsias, I have quite a few of those.

And here's our rainy beach with some beachcombers; we're finally getting some normal summer precipitation and cooler temps, phew.

Have a super Thursday, weekend's almost here!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: Why Do We Do It?

Here's our beach. See the hint of rainbow and those nice, blooming yuccas? Great stuff for Pensive Tuesday! My question today is, "Why do you grow them?" Why do you collect, grow, and nurture the group of plants that particularly charm and fascinate you, whether it's mesembs, epiphytes, succulents or cacti, etc.? Why not just have a picture book, or one small pot growing on a windowsill? What are your motives?

One of my big motives is that I see the climate and natural landscape changing very dramatically and very fast, everywhere I live in the world. With my own eyes I saw the Alpine and Alaskan glaciers and permafrost melting away. I've seen various native species disappear without a trace within just a few seasons. I've seen massive bird populations shrinking to remnants in just a couple of decades. It's frightening.

I know that mesembs' natural habitats (mostly in S. Africa) are tiny and fragile patches of gorgeous land. I've read and heard from people who see them that those patches are changing; some are losing what little rainfall they have, others are under siege from invasives and land loss. Those of us who grow special plants can feel good, I think, in that we're caretaking species that are in danger, and that someday, somewhere, even if their native habitat is no longer habitable, these amazing plants can find homes and continue their life cycles.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Tiniest Lithops: Seedlings' Progress

I ordered a mixed packet of Lithops seeds about a year ago, and this June seemed like the month to try them out. Various sites/books recommend auspicious sowing seasons, and yikes, there's very little agreement out there. Probably because different times have worked for different people and different Lithops.

Not to mention, we've got mesemb growers in the Southern and Northern hemispheres, and if we're reading about months instead of seasons, we have to remember to mentally flip the calendar 180 degrees to translate if we're in the opposite hemisphere! Some days, my sandy ol' brain has trouble remembering that, and sometimes, writers don't specify which hemisphere they are referring to....Most, however, said either summer or early autumn, so I figured I'd give it a go during summer.

These were sown June 20, and most are 1-2mm tall now. No idea about the species. I won't actually buy a mixed packet of anything anymore; I want to know the species, particularly as different Lithops species have different cultural needs. But I was young and naive (ah, youth!), so we'll see how it goes.

They are the cutest little green guys, though a magnifying glass helps to see them clearly. Already you can see the fissure in most of them, and they have the classic Lithops cone shape. Each has an amazingly long root given the size of the leaves. This germination pot is several centimeters deep, so it should last for awhile. They get morning sun outdoors, then a quiet indoors spot after about 8am so they don't scorch. Lots more water than the grownups, too, they're quite thirsty!

If you've ever grown Lithops from seed, how did your first try go?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lithops: The Effect of Light

When I first bought this Lithops, it was a strong gray-green color, the same green they used to paint institutional walls in the 70s. It was also living in semi-shade at the nursery, under a large donkey-tail succulent. Now that it's been here awhile, getting several hours of strong morning sun (eastern) every day, it's turned a lovely green-gold on top, and pale green on the inside.  The "windows" are particularly nice in the light, almost transparent, you can look inside them and see the inside of the Lithops glowing vibrantly. Regular morning sun seems to intensify or change the colors of Lithops.  And I's a marmorata! Really. This time I'm right. I know it....
Have you seen your Lithops change colors with different amounts/types of light?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Out You Go!

I have two Aloinopsis malherbei. Bought at the same place, cared for identically by me. Yet one prefers to live indoors, and the other is a wildnerness lover.  Who says plants don't have personalities? Here's my indoor Aloinopsis:
All peachy flowers (gorgeous!), new leaves, as happy as can be. But my other Aloinopsis was sort of yellow (it was yellow when I bought it, but I wanted 2), not really growing, just skulking about. So as an experiment I moved him outside. I'm Zone 9, and they are Zone 10/11 plants, and these dunes are harsh. So he has a north-facing spot which still gives plenty of sun down here, and we only freeze once every few years, and never a hard freeze, either. So we'll see. He gets extra waterings from me with acidified water, and I upped the acid content of the outdoor soil. He's definitely been perking up, a few new leaves showing, not nearly so much yellow now, the leaf tips have gone green. Maybe he just likes living next to that cute Nananthus....

Speaking of which, what is going on in the Wild World of Plant Names?? I know DNA studies have been changing everything, but it seems like Nananthus and Aloinopsis are used interchangeably at the moment, what's up with that?

UPDATE: I am just starting to educate myself on the workings of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (more discreetly known as the APG)- the third paper came out about 3 years ago, so I'm catching up, and it does seem as though Nananthus and Aloinopsis are indeed related, but not interchangeable.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Cryptkeeper

Do you remember the Cryptkeeper? Well, lately, my Argyroderma has been emulating him....
 Poor Argy. But according to a couple of my books, a wrinkled Argyroderma can be healthy. It might be growing its new leaf set, and that set is starting to absorb the outer leaves. So I'm keeping it on its regular (minimal) watering schedule and seeing what happens. I'm a newb with just one argy, so I hope the books are correct. Any Argyroderma growers out there who want to comment on my Cryptkeeper?
UPDATE: According to several more sources I've found, and kind readers who have left comments, my lovely Cryptkeeper is perfectly normal, and I am to resist the temptation to water it! Thanks, everyone!