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.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pensive Tuesday: Armchair Travel Through Gardening

I'm probably like most people in that I have a list of places I want to visit, but probably never will. I am very fortunate in that I've been able to travel to many countries and places in my life, but hey, there are always more! This is not a phase of my life when travel is likely, however. Which is OK, because I can be in those places, a little, through my garden....

Photo: Mimmo Jodice, "Mediterranean"
I can't at this moment visit Greece or return to the Mediterranean, but I can grow many of the plants that I love from that region. Immortelle, lavender, and rosemary, for example. So I can smell the plants of Mediterranean Italy or France, even if I'm not actually standing there.

I've always wanted to visit the Karoo, and many other places in South Africa, and to see Proteas growing wild. That trip is a ways in the future, but until then, I can grow many of the plants from the Karoo, and that makes me happy. Sadly, Proteas are not possible for me here but I'm working on it!

I miss the US Southwestern desert of my youth, but I am reminded of it every day when I see my "Amigos"- the cacti from that part of the world. By growing these cacti, a little bit of my favorite place on Earth lives with me right here and now.
So "garden-bench traveling" is my mode these days. Do any of you travel via your gardens??

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Weekends Are For Watering!

How do you water your collection? I have to divvy mine up into thirds-- Saturday, Tillandsias and Lithops, Sunday, other Mesembs, Monday morning, Cacti....
Not entirely organized....
Of course, sometimes, I'm not so clear cut, my collection gets ahead of me....

Too many happy Tillies....
That's a full table of fast-growing Tillies-- But overall, my system is working, mas o menos. Since Sandy ate my outdoor garden, I have more time for the indoor plants.

How do you organize your gardening?

"Water Me Now!"

Friday, November 2, 2012

Seedlings' (and Pup's) Progress

My Lithops seedlings are finally showing their secondary, adult leaf pairs! I have to say, since this is my first crop, it's exciting:

Lithops Seedlings at 6 months
You can see the most prominent pairs at the bottom left and right of the photo.

Many of my Tillandsias are busy growing their pups. My smallest Tillies, T. funckiana, are about 5cm when adults. One has a pup that just fell off, and it's doing fine. But so tiny and wee!

It's slightly less than 1cm long, can you believe it? But it's taking water, and has just about doubled in size in a month. I'll feature its parents later- T. funckiana is a fun and funky species (of course, it's right there in the name!).

Have a super weekend, and for those in NE USA and Canada, the Carolinas, and the Caribbean, I hope your recovery efforts from Sandy are going well and your power is back on (or comes back on very soon). My outdoor garden took a fair bit of damage from Sandy, but nothing like what happened to your gardens up north, and to our east.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Just a Pretty Lithops Flower

So pretty! Fall is a great time of year for Lithops. This white flower on one of the new French blues made my day. I just had to share it.