Monday, June 24, 2013

Back Next Monday, If Not Before

I'm waiting for my improved and repaired computer to come home, so I can blog properly again! This was not my chosen way to take a vacation from the virtual world, but it's been interesting, and I can sleep a little later in the morning.

Still, I'm very much looking forward to Computer coming home. Lots of posts are waiting, and some good photos to go with them. See you all next Monday, if not before that, and happy gardening!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Computer crash!

Yep, my computer crashed. I'm working on it and I'll be back with new posts as soon as I am technically able.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Weekend Blooms, and the Sad Tale of a Cornsnake

I can't believe it yet, but my Russian Sunflowers are actually blooming on a sand dune. My sand dune!

Sunflowers need so much water and nutrition, and we have neither. But I've put a lot of effort into them, and they bloom. It's interesting that they are dwarves, even with lots of fertilizer and water given by me every morning. They know their environment, and know that they should bloom at 1.25m height, not 3m. The flowers are smaller, but they don't topple over in our high winds. How do they know this when they are genetically programmed to be 3m high, with 0.5 meter wide blooms?

A species more used to harsh conditions is blooming, also. Here's a lovely magma-colored aloe flower spike:
Gorgeous against the grey of the Panda Plant behind it. So it's been a good week, flower-wise. But we've had a sad story here, about a beautiful Florida Cornsnake named Jerry.
RIP Jerry
Jerry appeared in our garden this month. He was a beautiful Cornsnake, about 4 feet (3.3m) long, and very gentle and friendly. Everyone in the neighborhood knew him. He went after lizards and rats, and since we don't really like those in our attics, we all thought Jerry was OK. But as it turned out, Jerry was not a wild snake (they are natives here in Florida), but a captive snake abandoned by someone in the neighborhood. He was no longer nocturnal in his habits and was only a little bit shy to humans. A wild cornsnake is someone you'll never see up close in the daytime! We didn't know what to do for Jerry, we were all talking about him...but then one morning we found him in the middle of the street, run over by a car in the night. Everyone felt awful. Please, people, if you have a pet reptile and can't keep it anymore, find out where he/she can be sheltered until a new guardian can be found. "Freeing a pet into the wild" is a death sentence. RIP Jerry.

NOTE: I've received some emails about Jerry, offering condolences and letting me know that in the US, Animal Control will have info on reptile-friendly shelters, and that they can capture snakes. Jerry was a conundrum for us in that cornsnakes are natives here, and fairly common. We thought Jerry was a former pet because of his unusual behavior, but we had no way to prove it. Still, next time I'll certainly call Animal Control and make sure any pet snake "released into the wild" gets to a shelter!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Cactus You Can Write On: Opuntia papyracantha

Opuntia papyracantha, Tephrocactus articulatus

I've never found a cactus with so many names before. You can see the two main ones up there in the caption. But there are many others! Everyone seems to agree it's an Opuntia of some sort, and it's really cool. But that's about it. If you Google either name, you'll find a list of names that goes on and on. If a botanist would like to comment and clarify, I would be very pleased....

At any rate, the colloquially titled Paper Spine Cactus is a real gem. It's the only Opuntia I'll allow in my garden. That's because I really hate glochids, those tiny micro-spines that Opuntias grow in such abundance. Even careful gardeners get them everywhere, and we all fear to get them in our eyes! They're like little nanotubes of pain.

But this Opuntia has such wonderful papery (and harmless) spines, it's hard to resist. Mine is a just a baby, but they can grow up to a foot high. They can be brittle in the wind, but since they are grown from cuttings, you can simply repot any bit that breaks off. The glochids are restricted to small bundles that are easily avoided. It's not the most common cactus at the nursery, but well worth finding.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lithops Lessons

Anyone who grows Lithops knows they are not "easy care" plants! They really do have their unique ways, an unusual growth cycle, and very particular needs. But as we all know, they are rewarding and quietly spectacular, in a petite, camouflaged sort of way....
Quietly spectacular. (Photo: MR 2013)
Here's my yearly compendium of Lithops lessons, in the hopes it helps other gardeners, or provokes interesting comments, or comforts other Lithops growers (yes, I lost a couple this year, too).

Overall, my Lithops have had a good year, and nearly all have successfully regenerated. I've got about 10 seedlings that reached maturity, and so overall, I've got about 20 more to take care of. I don't actually buy Lithops anymore, I've got enough!
(This is just one herd. A herd of Lithops? A gaggle? A pack?)
So here are my observations:
1. If you want to cultivate true patience, grow Lithops from seed.

2. Lithops never do anything fast. Talking to them, singing to them, exhorting them to accomplish more with their time, no effect, ever. And that's a good thing.

3. It seems to me that a Lithops' most vulnerable time is during active re-leafing, as the new leaf set or sets actually emerges from the old pair. They just seem more sensitive to everything at this time.

4. When a Lithops is unhappy for whatever reason, it goes into stasis. The annoying thing is, it won't tell you why it's gone into stasis. Grr!

5. When a Lithops is really miserable, it turns to mush. That's the only thing a Lithops will do quickly.

6. Watch out for heat! Lithops like full sun, particularly morning sun, but if they are in pots, not in the ground, the entire plant can heat up very quickly.  You won't know you cooked your Lithops for several days to a week. Then, mush and regret. During our hot months (March through November), my potted Lithops don't go outside at all.

7. Every Lithops is an individual. You can put them all on the same schedule, but that won't always work out. They are stubborn individualists!

8. Finally, the longer you live with Lithops, the more amazing you will find them. Keep trying, and you will succeed!
The Bloom of Success.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Sun Comes Out On Fridays....

Hurray for weekends without hurricanes or tropical storms! We all came through just fine, and TS Andrea is now roiling around somewhere near Virginia. Lost some more bits from the roof, but it'll be repaired next week. A few seriously leaning palm trees, but my Russian Sunflowers made it through the winds and rain:

Sunny as a Babytoes!
I'm writing up my "Lessons from Lithops" post and it will be here soon. In the meantime, happy Friday!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The First Tropical Storm of the Season....

We are getting hit with fast-moving Tropical Storm Andrea today. It spun up very fast last night in the Gulf of Mexico and is now crossing Florida. Will get back to blogging as soon as I can. We are having intermittent power outages and strong, nasty rain bands. A small part of the roof is kaput! Wish us all good luck....

"Lithops in Rain" MR 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pensive Tuesday: A Big Thank You!

It's been one year since I began this humble blog about my journey with Lithops, Tillandsias, and other unusual plants. I'm happy to report that this blog is now read in over 63 countries, and on every continent except Antarctica (there's got to be someone down there at a research station who's interested in Lithops, so I'm waiting). I've "met" people who treasure these plants all over the world, and I'm having a great time, gardening here on my sand dune, and blogging about it.

So to all my readers, thank you so very much!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tillandsia capitata (Peach Variety)

I will probably feature several Tillies this month instead of just the one, because this is their blooming season, and when they bloom, they color up and do all sorts of other wonderful things. Take Tillandsia capitata, for example---
Tillandsia capitata, peach variety, MR 2013 

That is some lovely color! T. capitata hails from Mexico and Cuba and was named in 1866; it means, "Tillandsia with a head." OK, I don't get that name either, but I'm sure Botanist Grisebach, who named it, thought it made sense at the time, and the local tequila may or may not have been involved.  At least it's one of the easier names to pronounce. (I'm looking at you, Tillandsia chaetophylla.)

There were only two varieties known for quite a while, one that colored up a nice dark red before it bloomed, and one that tinged chartreuse in the center before blooming.  I believe this peach variety is a newer cultivar. Bright, tubular flowers with gold stamens eventually appear after the color change. The entire rosette can grow to about 15 inches in diameter. Mine are about 6" wide.

T. capitata normally grows on cliffs and rocks, so it doesn't like to be too damp. The only problem one needs to watch for is rot at the base. It should be drained after a good soak, then left where the base has lots of air circulation. Normal Tillie care of filtered, bright light, and twice-a-week waterings should be fine. I have found them easy to grow.
See you on Tuesday for my pros and cons of growing Lithops from seed. Have a great weekend!