Friday, October 31, 2014

Yes, You've Seen it Before, But....

I only get to post this photo once a year!
Happy Tilloween!
This is a great way to foster public appreciation of Tillandsia xerographica. Let's all wear our Tillies with pride tonight! ;-)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tillandsia crocata: a fragrant diva Tillie

Avid Gardener Baker catalogued and named the unusual Tillandsia crocata in 1887. It means, "the Tillie that is like saffron." Most Tillandsias have purple blooms, and a few have scarlet or lilac blossoms. Crocata has a gorgeous (wait for it) saffron-colored flower. And it smells gorgeous, like honey and mimosa.
Tillandsia crocata, MR, 2014
T. crocata is a clumper. The leaves are fine and thickly coated with trichomes, which make it not only silvery, but so fuzzy it's practically pet-able. They are higher altitude tillies (1000-2500m) from Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. There are three main types, of which T. crocata "Copper Penny" is the most sought after; it has copper colored blooms. All crocatas need more mistings than other Tillies; they can't handle prolonged drought at all.
Tillandsia crocata, MR, 2014
Mine like to grow close to other Tillies, as this keeps their environment more humid. I also give them extra mists or soaks during the winter months when our humidity is below 50%. On the other hand, they cannot tolerate being cold and wet for long. They have to thoroughly dry between waterings and need good air movement. So yeah, they are high maintenance divas. But when in bloom, they go to the living room, where they scent the whole area for a week or more. Gorgeous sopranos of the Tillie world, crocatas are definitely worth the extra effort!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Weekend Walkabout: Just a Pretty Dawn

Not much to report today, except a really beautiful sunrise:
Dawn, Zone 10, MR, October 2014
This is my favorite time of day, so peaceful. I'm going to walk on the beach and play my crystal singing bowls on the patio. Oh, yeah, and do some gardening. The green zinnias and snapdragons are blooming. Have a wonderful weekend and happy gardening!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chef Riccardo's Taste of the Garden: Pumpkin Soup

Chef Riccardo knows his way around a soup pot, and my favorite of his recipes is one he made for me every autumn: Pumpkin Soup.  This is a very hearty, delicious dish best served with crusty artisan bread, and a few sprigs of fresh dill. It's an Italian specialty:

1 kg fresh pumpkin
2 potatoes
2 leeks
1 onion
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Peel and cube the pumpkin and potatoes and  boil in 2 litres of water, chicken, or vegetable broth until soft. Blend or puree the broth when cool. Fry the washed and chopped leeks and onion in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Add to the pumpkin broth.  Heat gently and add a bit of nutmeg. Stir in ½ cup of cream. Serve with shaved parmesan and a little drizzled olive oil. Eat with your favorite type of crusty bread.
Pumpkin Soup
Of course, down here in the Tropics we add a dash of habanero sauce, but I think that may be an aquired taste. ;-)

Thank you, Chef Riccardo, for a wonderful and warming autumn recipe!
Chef Riccardo

Monday, October 13, 2014

More Plants Now: Online Stores

Alert Gardeners tend to specialize in particular types of plants. This inevitably leads us to the online nursery. As with all plant shopping venues, this one has pluses and minuses. For me, the pluses are all about acquiring uncommon plants, and the minuses are all about the weather. Let's talk Tillies:
T. caliginosa, available online

Tillandsias travel very well in a box for a week. They can be soaked prior to shipping, carefully wrapped, and sent on their way. As long as they don't freeze or cook, they will survive the trip. Not needing dirt is a very good thing! Other plants are much more fragile and can only be shipped during narrow time windows because of weather/temperature concerns. Some just don't like to travel; Lithops are a good example of plants that really prefer to say in one spot, and can freak out and collapse into goo when shipped. 
Lithops prefer a quiet life.

Another down side is that you cannot inspect the plants for diseases or pests. I've never had a problem with either from my online plants, but it happens. So it's imperative to find a dealer you trust who will address any problems that come up. 

I've purchased about a third of my Tillie collection from online dealers, and they are all thriving. I collect some pretty obscure species, so online sellers are high on my list. What have your experiences been?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekend Plant Portrait: Phal and Tillie

Tillandsia crocata makes a very subtle, silvery background for a flashy Phalaenopsis....
Phal and Tillie, MR, Oct 2014
However, the Phal has no scent, and when T. crocata blooms, its gorgeous perfume fills a room. Have a wonderful weekend in the garden!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It Stares Into Your Soul....

Oh my, Huernia zebrina had a surprise for me this week, a double bloom that was a little...disconcerting.
Huernia in Bloom, MR, Oct 2014
Any strange creatures staring at you in YOUR garden??

NOTE: Alert Gardener Jim asked me if I posed the flowers. I did not. It has been blooming like crazy and two of the blooms were in that exact position when I watered it. They still are!