Friday, March 29, 2013

Weekend News For Lithops

For many of us, this is a holiday weekend, with lots of socializing and time with the family. And what would a spring festival be without regenerating Lithops?

Regenerating...or not.
My mulching is finished. I'll be starting some African daisies, Berzelias, and Cotyledon orbiculatas this weekend. What are you all planting/germinating/propagating in your indoor and outdoor gardens?

For those of you who celebrate Easter/Pasqua/Paques/etc.. have a very blessed holiday!
Collage by Judy Hutson, Texas,USA
And for those who do not, have a wonderful weekend, and yes, you get bunny love, too!

by Helen Campbell, WA, USA
 And because there's no such thing as too much bunny love....

"The Bunns" by MR, 2011

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lithops Releaf-a-Rama in Full Swing!

Lithops aren't the most dynamic plants in the nursery. They mostly just...sit there looking pretty. And weird. But once they get into their regeneration cycle, there's just no stopping them. It's Releaf-a-Rama!

Lithops Re-leafing Party
 The change can happen very quickly. The old plant looks dull, faded, a little wrinkly, as though it's not really paying attention to anything. That is deceptive. Within just five minutes, they can POP! and new leaves appear, looking fresh, colorful, and lively. It literally took just five minutes in the sun for this particularly enthusiastic Lithops to come out:

Lithops grow and change mostly at night. I suppose releafing can be an exception.  All this sunny growth reminded me of my favorite Haitian painter, Levoy Exil, and I painted a sun in his distinctive style to mark the start of growth season:

Le Soleil (Hommage a Levoy Exil), MR, 2013
  Hope your week is going well, and see you for the Weekend News for Lithops!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Gardener's Pratitya-samutpada

A long and difficult-to-pronounce word that means something simple for gardeners: causes and conditions.  It's a Sanskrit word for "dependent arising", which means that nothing happens without something else causing it, and if conditions aren't correct, that thing won't happen no matter how hard you try to Make it So. That's my view of it, anyway.

In gardening, I think about this principle a lot in the spring. The old annuals are getting tossed into the compost heap, and new plants are planted. The old mulch is out, the new mulch and compost are going in. Eventually, the old garden becomes the dirt, and the dirt becomes the new garden.

And of course, the best part of spring, when causes and conditions come together in the most beautiful way, is flowers!

Babytoes: "I don't care about causes and conditions: I just like to BLOOM!"

For me, spring's the time to contemplate what worked and what didn't, which plants had the correct conditions, and which did not. And of course, for causes and conditions to come together to form a beautiful garden for the year, there's a lot of hard work. But it's my favorite time of the gardening year, so I'm enjoying my ruminations, and the mulching.

"Causes and Conditions" /MR/2010

When all the bits and pieces and effort come together to make a beautiful new pattern, I know I've done my job well.
And when it all falls apart, I know there's more gardening, and more learning, down the road.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Cryptkeeper Regenerates, and a Cameo by Opuntia

Do you remember my crumpled and wrinkly Argyroderma, the one I dubbed the "Cryptkeeper"? Well, I followed the advice of my alert readers, and did not overwater it to make it plump up again. After a few months, and only monthly waterings, Argy is regenerating.

You can see the tiny new leaf pair in the cleft. So thank you, good readers, and Argy thanks you, too.
On my walks this week, I've seen so many plants come into bloom. Spring has sprung, and my camera is busy. Here's a wild Opuntia in bloom. We call it "The Prickly Pear", but the fruits are only tasty after the glochids (tiny needles) have been removed...otherwise, that's one scary dessert!

Have a great weekend, and happy gardening.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Lithops Regeneration: Lithops Inspire Art!

I've been teaching and coaching pretty much forever, it seems, but my two favorite subjects have always been creative writing and art. I particularly love working with people who have very little confidence in their artistic abilities, because they are always wrong, and I get a real buzz when they realize how creative they truly are. Lithops are inherently artistic and creative. Mine are mostly in regeneration/re-leafing mode now:

L dorotheae and L. julii in Regeneration Mode

I find them quite inspiring, so I wasn't at all surprised when one of my young students gifted me a beautiful ceramic sculpture he named "Spirit of the Lithops". He wishes to remain anonymous, so we'll just call him "The Lithops Sculptor".

"Spirit of the Lithops" by the Lithops Sculptor
I'm very happy to see my favorite denizens of the plant world inspiring art in kids. I may have to try a Lithops sculpture myself....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Lithops, Not Lagomorphs

Easter season and Spring Break are upon us! Just a public service message from Lagomorphia today:

I support our local rabbit rescue shelter, so I am sending out the word at this time of year, don't buy someone a pet bunny as an Easter gift unless you know they can handle a ten-year commitment to a pet that is as wonderful as, and as high-maintenance as, a cat or dog. Most pet Easter bunnies are soon abandoned to be killed by a car or predator, or die quickly because they are fed the wrong diet (they eat hay and greens, and that's it), or are confined to solitary prison in a small cage in a backyard or garage. That's just so wrong. Instead of a bunny, how about a chocolate bunny, or better yet....

A blooming Babytoes! Or even...

A cheerfully flowering Mammillaria! Or even...

Lithops! Those leaves do look a little like bunny ears, now that I think about it. Let's start a new gift-giving tradition for the spring holidays. It's sure to catch on eventually....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lazy Sundays Never Last Long....

But I sure wish they did! This weekend, just hanging out with the exuberant Babytoes Family,

and replanting the Panda Plant, because it's doubled in size and doesn't fit even my biggest indoor pot anymore. If it can't fit on the windowsill, it must go outside! Fortunately, kalanchoes of all sorts do very well outdoors here. Three daughter plants are growing out there already.

And what would this time of year be without elementary school science experiments in preparation for the Annual Science Fair? Here is the infamous "Celery Experiment" percolating in the window. Pretty colors!

And finally, more garden sculptures, newly formed and drying in the sun. Off to the kiln next week, wahaha! My garden grows stranger all the time. Must be all the oxygen I get to breathe with so many plants around. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tillandsia of the Month: T. concolor

March is a tough month. First lovely warm weather is here, then it's rudely taken from you by Mother Nature, to be replaced by more tiresome winter. If you're in the southern hemisphere, reverse that. If you're in the tropics, you may not care, or even notice that it's March. I don't know. I'm subtropical. Anyway, March is a transitional month. It's prickly and often difficult. And so is the Tillandsia for March, T. concolor ("with color").  Or sincolor ("without color"), as it started out on my Tableful of Tillies....

Tillandsia concolor, in sincolor mode.
T. concolor comes from Mexico. It has exceptionally brittle leaves that are very sharp and pointy. They can break like spun glass, or poke your eye out (never play catch with a T. concolor)! So they are trickier to care for then most. But they are supposed to have wonderful red coloring and huge crimson bracts and flowers. Mine was clearly languishing indoors, so I moved it outside a month ago.

Now it has its true yellow-green color, red edges, and it's blooming! While most of my Tillies can't bear to be outside in the harsh sun and salt spray, T. concolor loves it. Every species has its ways. Tillandsia concolor is beautiful and tough.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: Dishin' the Dirt

Well, actually, I mean topsoil, not dirt. Topsoil is the top 5cm of the Earth's dirty crust. It's full of microbes, broken down organic material, worms and ants, and hopefully, some water and not a lot of salt. It's where everything good in the plant world happens. And it's leaving us.

Not much topsoil here....
This picture is from near where I live. We used to have nice topsoil, not a full 5cm, but more than this. Our weather has gotten more extreme, with more drought, more monsoon-type deluges, and many more days with very high winds. Our topsoil has vamoosed! And buying more and laying it down over this dry silty sand doesn't help, as the winds and heavy rains just wash it away again.  My patches of garden with vetiver are doing much better. Vetiver has deep, extensive roots that really keep the soil locked in. So anchoring plants are great. Mesembs offer many species of anchoring plants; iceplant is a big soil saver in California. Carpobrotus edulis is one fine plant!

Carpobrotus, on the job saving your soil.
 Worldwide, the topsoil situation is pretty much the same as where I live. Drought is drying the topsoil, then wind or sudden deluges carry it away. "Black blizzards" of topsoil are getting more common, as they did in the 1930s in the US...

Historical photo of the 1930s US Dustbowl
And in Australia, their "Angry Summer" has brought fire, drought, and floods all together. Yeesh! Here's a picture from the floods in Queensland- you can see that topsoil just washing away to wherever.

Queensland flooding
No topsoil, no plants, no plants, no us.  It's not very fashionable these days to be thinking of, and talking about, dirt, but it would be wise to do so.  And I'm thinking of more ways to protect the little patch of dirt that's under my stewardship.  More vetiver and iceplant, anyone?? And how about a bag of worms?

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Mammillaria For Monday

Mammillaria zeilmanniana, MR 2013

Mammillaria zeilmanniana is a real beauty with hot pink flowers and bright red, crazy-curled spines. Many Mammillaria have hooked spines, but they are especially prominent on this species, and the color really glows.

M. zeilmanniana is on the CITES list (App. II) of rare and endangered plants.  Though it's grown in cactus nurseries all over the US, and is very popular with gardeners, wild specimens are extremely rare, and limited to a small area in Mexico. Less than 250 remain in the wild today. This little guy came from a local commercial nursery.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Repotted and Lovin' It Part II

So for Thoughtful Thursday, I decided what to write for next Pensive Tuesday. It will be about...dirt.

But strangely, my post on re-potting has proven to be one of my most popular. People from about 20 different countries have read it. OK, so re-potting is good fun, it's action-packed, it's a special time for me and my plants. And since I've finished quite a few more pots recently, I've been doing a lot of it. The one above is for 3 of the young cacti I started from seed last year. The seeds were labeled "Cactus", but I think they could be Mammillaria. Let's hope so.

Here's a repotted Crassula. Though it was only re-potted about 10 days ago, it's grown so much in that time that I've already started its next, larger pot. Good grief, curb your enthusiasm, Crassula!

These Lithops marmorata, aka "The Brains" look symmetrical and tidy in their new pot. And this tiny julii (about 1.5cm tall) was so exuberant, it got its own tiny pot (about 5cm tall) as well:

This next pot is here simply because I'm proud of it. No idea what's going in it yet. It's the terracotta clay with malachite glaze; I'm quite smitten with this combo.

And finally, more malachite glaze, this on white stoneware. The sculpture on the right is part of a family project. Any family member or friend that visits me on my sand dune is encouraged to (ie: strongarmed into) making a garden sculpture for my garden. This one is my father's first sculpture ever. I love it!

For Repotted and Lovin' It Part III, I'll probably show the incredibly messy areas where I actually re-pot these guys, and make the pots! You may be shocked....

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Pensive Tuesday Postponed

I apologize. There is too much illness in the house today to write Pensive Tuesday. I will try for Thoughtful Thursday instead.

Hope your day is going better!

Desert Dawn, MR 2012

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Weekend News For Lithops

Here's a real beauty of a Page 3 Lithops, repotted at last....

L. lesliei albinica
This is Lithops lesliei albinica, and despite the unusual golden/green coloring, these are fairly easy to grow. This one has just finished re-leafing, and deserved a new, bigger home. The pot is is terracotta earthenware with a malachite low-fire glaze.

And here are the seedlings that are just about a year old now:

Some of these will be ready for new pots with deeper soil in just a month or two. So off I go to make more mesembs/cacti soil mix. Have a great weekend!