Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mystery Mesemb Radical Surgery Part III

Remember the little mystery mesemb from back in September? The one having such trouble re-leafing?

Mystery Mesemb in Trouble

So radical surgery with a clean X-acto knife was the solution. By mid-October, the little guy was looking healthier.

Mystery Mesemb, Feeling Better

And though I still have no idea what this little mesemb is (I'm still tending towards a Gibbaeum), he's happily tufting and releafing all over the place....

Mystery Mesemb, Feeling Much Better
So when in doubt, cut it out! With a very clean knife, I might add....

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Beauty Versus Health

Today's Pensive Tuesday is part gardening meditation and part book review. The book I'm really enjoying right now is "Succulent Container Gardens" by Debra Lee Baldwin (2010).

Ms. Baldwin has designed some of the most eye-catching, unusual succulent displays I've ever seen. Some of the trends she writes about got me thinking about Garden Fashion. This author clearly knows succulents and cares about the health of her garden. But there are trends in gardening that definitely put beauty before health.

For example, check out these two pots of mesembs:

The top pot is arguably more interesting and beautiful from an aesthetic point of view. But if Lithops were substituted for those Argyrodermas, there would be trouble. Argyrodermas grow so slowly that the tight packing and large river rocks might not bother them too much in the short term. But folks reading the book might only have access to other mesembs that need more space. Lithops particularly need space and air to releaf without rotting. So some of these projects are a bit, "Don't try this at home," you know? You need a lot of detailed knowledge of a species to know what you can get away with in decorating. Nobody wants the succulent equivalent of foot binding!

So how to be aesthetically amazing while keeping your plants in top shape? Baldwin gives an example of how to balance beauty and health when it comes to a wall full of agaves. This is just gorgeous.


Each plant has its own light and air, its own pot and soil, and can be watered and cared for with relative ease. And it's a dazzling display that highlights the beauty of the plant and the garden.

Ironically, if you go back to the cover of the book, you'll see one trend that has me dismayed--cramming lots of different species tightly into one large pot. This is part of the "disposable garden" trend so common to big box nurseries. The idea is, well, of course it's not healthy for the plants and they'll soon rot, but hey, just throw it out and get a new one. I see people buying these almost every time I shop at one of the home improvement stores. Kind of like those orchids meant to be thrown away after they bloom. I can't condone this practice. What do you think of "disposable gardening"? Fortunately, the book has relatively little of that sort of thing. Most of the displays shown are built to be long-term.

Overall, I highly recommend taking a look through the book. You'll most certainly ooh and aah over some of the imaginative and beautiful display ideas for our favorite plants. And you'll have some ideas of your own, for sure! As for me, I'll temper my aesthetic gardening ideas with some serious thought for the health and longevity of the plants.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

More on Tillandsia High-Rise Condos

Just thought I'd elaborate on a very convenient way to grow indoor Tillandsias. I don't hose down my Tillies, because they are in my living room. My floors and carpets would protest loudly. My computer would short out. Someone, probably me, would slip and fall, most likely with fatal results.

But I ran out of space on my little Tilly table about a month ago. They were just getting too big, and pupping like mad. So I found a sturdy old CD rack in the garage.

Here it is again!
 It's stable, rust-proof, and airy. (Tillies need a lot of air movement to avoid rot and fungal infection.) Each cubby has a ceramic bowl with 2-3 Tillies. The rack is near a large, east-facing bay window, so they get lots of morning sun, but shade in the afternoon. They're very easy to take on and off the rack for watering, and friends can get a better look at their favorites, and have some fun rearranging them to vex me.

A close-up with morning sun.
They seem to enjoy the extra air and light they get in their "highrise condo", and obviously, I can collect and grow more Tillies in less space. An inexpensive solution to a common problem for the indoor gardener!
Tillies, with a couple of aloes above.
 What space solutions have you found in the furniture and accessory department? I'd love to see them.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Why Tillandsias?

Tillandsias have been increasing in popularity. Why? Well, I know a few reasons why I love them....

A Table Full of Tillies
They are portable. They can grow anywhere. Time ago, people used to be born in one place, live in one place, and die in one place. These days, good luck with that.  Tillies don't need their native earth to grow. Just some water and sun, anywhere on planet Earth, and they're good to go. No roots required.

They can grow on practically anything. Mine are growing very well on an old CD rack. What have you got? I'll bet there's something in  your garage or attic that would make your Tillies happy.

Garden Spirit, MR, 2013
Tillies are tough. They can grow almost anywhere. They can grow on almost anything. They just need a little sunshine and water and they are good to go. What plants for our age! Why do you love your Tillies??

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekend News for Lithops (and a Conophytum)

Well, it's time for the News For Lithops. Yesterday, Asteroid 2012 DA14 gave the Earth a close shave, and was visible with only a pair of binoculars! Sadly, our sky was cloudy. Couldn't see a thing. It's always like that, isn't it? My sympathy goes out to all the Russians harmed by the meteor which was supposedly not linked to the asteroid. Hmm...I'm giving those astronomers my best Larry David Staredown on that one!

Ah, Lithops, yes! My dish of younglings is growing well. I'm pretty sure the central one is an L. dorotheae. Remember the seed packet only said, "Mixed Lithops"?  So I'm just guessing here. But I'm quite sure its neighbor is not a Lithops at all, but Conophytum calculus. Yikes! Well, welcome to the garden, gate-crasher....

Lithops with Conophytum party-crasher

I've been doing a lot more painting lately, but have some new pendants back from the kiln. I'm using a new series of glazes that look wonderful on red clay. Duncan Artisan low-fire glaze and Amaco opalescents- I particularly like the blues and greens from both series. The green actually looks like aged copper patina and is wonderful on white clay, too. I've even started a little sculpting, something totally new for me.

 OK, time to get fit with a run on the beach, but it's quite chilly today, and I'm a tropical coward when it comes to cold weather now. You may see me out there in a parka and mukluks!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Flower For Valentine's Day

One of my Tillandsia caput medusae (Medusa's Head Tilly) decided to bloom a little early. I thought it made a nice, and rather unusual, Valentine's Day flower:

Tillandsia caput medusae in bloom, MR 2013
Caput medusaes can can be a little tricky, as they are very prone to rot at the base. They are densely fuzzy with trichomes and therefore retain a lot of water. The bottom leaf pouches must be drained after a good soak, because rot can form very quickly in them. The flower is lovely and reminds me of a bird-of-paradise.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Gratitude

"Dandelion I" by Barbara Anne Parker

Today I'm feeling gratitude for all my readers, all over the world! This obscure little gardening blog had its 10,000th page view this week. Hurray! Thank you for all your views, and comments. It's been a wonderful 6 months, and I always look forward to posting here, and seeing what's up with my fellow succulent bloggers.

The top 10 countries for page views are as follows:  1. USA, 2. Australia, 3. Russia, 4. South Africa, 5. United Kingdom, 6. Canada, 7. Spain, 8. Germany, 9. Mexico, and 10. Singapore. And over 35 countries have been represented overall. That's terrific. I feel as happy as a Blooming Babytoes!

Thank you, everybody!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Senecio haworthii: A Felty, Fuzzy Senecio

My regular readers will know how much I love my Senecio scaposus, the Silver Spider:

The white covering on its leaves is very paperlike. It's actually a bit crispy, and peels off the older leaves so they can photosynthesize more efficiently. By contrast, the covering on the leaves of its (also South African) cousin, Senecio haworthii, is more like felt--

It's so soft, it qualifies as an Adorably Fuzzy Plant. It's known as the Woolly Senecio, and likes to grow at between 900 and 1200 meters. Called "tontelbos" in Afrikaans, which means "tinderbush", the felty bits on large plants can be used for tinder. It's yet another wonderful member of a variable and intriguing genus.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Re-potted and Lovin' It!

I've been hard at work with all the gardening tasks I usually do in March and April. Though in theory, mesembs, cacti, and other succulents don't need re-potting very often (like, once every 3 years, if ever), down here in the almost-tropics, they really do grow when they're happy. And they pup, offset, propagate, and bloom like crazy! So repotting actually goes on at a slow rate all year, but most of it is in the spring.

Here are some of the collection in their new swanky digs, most of which are fresh from the kiln:

These cacti are nearing their first birthday, and growing well. They're out of their germination pots at last, and looking spiky!

And how did Babytoes II celebrate her re-potting? I'll give you two guesses, but you'll only need one....

And here's my favorite Senecio, the "Silver Spider". A new large pot (red earthenware with Aztec Turquoise glaze), because it's doubled in size in one year. Those almost-tropical breezes!

Repotting of the Lithops is continuing, and I'll be posting some pics soon. Have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Re-evaluation and Growth

Alright, so I've decided to just accept it. Summer 2012 gave Autumn and Winter a miss, and moved right into Spring 2013. Generally, I re-evaluate, re-pot, re-mulch, and re-design the garden in April. But now I'm doing it in February, because February has become April, weather-wise...even the sunrises are springy now.

Spring Sunrise in February, MR 2013
Some of my plants are screaming for re-potting. Babytoes II, especially, who has completely outgrown her little stoneware pot.

"Need new pot, NOW!"
Quite a few of the re-leafing Lithops are going to need new digs soon, too....

"Yikes, it's getting close in here!"

And even some of the lantanas and vincas for the winter's school science project on botany are begging to be planted in the garden--they are practically done blooming already, and it's not even Valentine's Day yet! They have one more week left in the science project, then into the garden they will go.

"Science, schmience, replant us NOW!"
Sometimes you just have to throw your calendar away and get with the beat! Off I go to buy some mulch. Should it be red or gold this year??

Friday, February 1, 2013


Salve, everyone-- The National Junior Classical League Tournaments are this weekend, so off we go! And then, hopefully, to the beach to celebrate.

Carpe diem--Have a wonderful weekend!