Nentes Plantarum Spinalong

Nentes Plantarum Spinalong
(Spinning Plants Spinalong)

You may have noticed, HipStrings and The Homestead Hobbyist like each other. Like, BFF like each other. We’ve supported each other over the years both professionally and personally, bounced ideas off one another, shared our thoughts on fiber and equipment suppliers, and bought so much of the other’s fiber that it’s a bit ridiculous.

And now, we’re taking our friendship to the next level: We’re collaborating together for a spinalong this fall!

We worked together to design a custom blend of fiber: Polwarth/Natural Tussah Silk/Flax 62.5/25/12.5. The natural, unbleached tussah and flax gives the undyed fiber a wonderful creamy color that adds lots of depth to the dyed braids.

Because we both also share a background in plant research (and because of the plant fiber—flax—included in the blend) we chose to create colorways inspired by plants for this spinalong. We are each offering three colorways based on plants with connections to our lives. With six unique colorways, we’re looking forward to spinning along with everyone and sharing our love for plants.

Sinningia (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photographed by me

Sinningia are relatives to African Violets, but since I can’t grow African Violets to save my life, Sinningia are my jam! Most of them produce tubers (underground or mostly underground storage organs—like potatoes, which I spent a year studying at the USDA (well, I was doing research on a “biocontrol agent,” a microbe that produced proteins that killed Colorado potato beetles, which can be devastating pests to one of our nation’s primary crops)), so if I forget to water them for a few months, they’re still alive when I get around to taking care of them. Most of them have a winter dormancy, which is perfect for an apartment gardener who has to move plants inside in the fall. (If there isn’t a ton of foliage that will be shocked by the transition or unhappy with the lower light levels, the plants will be happier in the long run!) Sinningia flowers come in a wide range of colors—lots of reds, oranges, and shades of purples, even some white! I was introduced to Sinningia by my friend Kyoko and other gesneriad enthusiasts in Washington, DC, so they hold a particular fondness to me.

Plants that inspired this colorway are: Sinningia defoliata, Sinningia muscicola, Sinningia sellovii, Sinningia hybrids (“Florist’s Gloxinia”)

Amorphophallus (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photograph from Plant Delights Nursery

The genus Amorphophallus translates into “deformed penis.” If you look at photos of the flowers, you’ll see why it’s called that! Amorphophallus are aroids, related to Philodendron, Jack in the Pulpit, and Peace Lily.

The name Amorphophallus makes children of all ages titter, and when the plant flowers, it smells like rotting meat! (Not all species—but many.) The most famous Amorphophallus is the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum, which flowers once about every decade, with a flower up to 10 feet tall with a strong aroma of dead, decomposing flesh. Amorphophallus and its close relatives are some of my favorite plants-with-underground-storage-organs to grow, along with Sinningia.

The ripening fruit and moo-cow patterning on the peduncle (flower stalk) of Amorphophallus kiusianus inspired this colorway.

Dyckia (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photographs from Green Meadow Growers, Dyckia Brazil, bryan69 on GardenWeb, Chris Nguyen, and Fine Gardening

Dyckia is another genus that makes the little boy in me giggle. The plants themselves, though, steal my breath away. They are absolutely gorgeous, and dangerous—many species have jagged saw-like spikes on the edges of their leaves, which makes them almost impossible to repot without thick leather gloves. Dyckia is a bromeliad, like pineapple and Aechmea fasciata. There are many bromeliads that are epiphytic (they grow in trees), but Dyckia is a terrestrial bromeliad, like Cryptanthus (another of my favorite bromeliad genuses).

The variety of leaf color, primarily from Dyckia fosteriana cultivars and hybrids, inspired this colorway.

Stargazer Lily (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

This is totally a sappy love story about how Stargazer Lilies are Nik and my “thing,” about how when he proposed, he named a star “Neustro Amor,” how he asked me to look into the sky to find our star, and gave me my engagement ring as my “star.” As you can guess, Stargazer Lilies hold a special place in my heart.

For this colorway, I used a dye technique to layer the same color over itself, resulting in a tonal colorway with lots of depth.

Lithops sp. (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

In the undergraduate lab I worked in, I remember my advisor giving instructions on how to take care of the various plants in his office before he left for a trip. A collector of “odd” plants, among his collection was a pot that contained what seemed to be uniquely colored river rocks. I was surprised to find out they were little succulents that had very cool camouflage.

This colorway is low immersion vat dyed, which means it will be a little different with every batch, with lots of variegation and different combinations of color as the colors mix—a wide variety of greens and browns, just like the Lithops.

Nymphaea cearulea (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

One of my early graduate career missions was to figure out which waterlily had the smallest genome (and would be best to use as a model for genetic studies for one of the earliest branches of flowering plants). Well, the waterlily with the smallest genome is Nympheae cearulea aka Egyptian Blue Lotus. It also happens to be difficult to get a hold of because of its hallucinogenic properties. (For a while I was convinced that my advisor was only sending me on exploratory missions to find out more about hallucinogenic plants ... after the blue lotus I was sent to do research on Papaveraceae, home of Opium poppy.)

This colorway is a four color gradient going from bright yellow, to sky blue, light teal, and then light amethyst.


Samples of the colorways will be released on Tuesday (August 23), and you’ll be able to pre-order your favorite colorways then!

HipStrings will be offering up a custom set of Bitty Batts inspired by your favorite plant as a prize for the spinalong.

The Homestead Hobbyist will be offering an eco-printed silk scarf as a prize for the spinalong.

Posted in , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Plant Inventory

I know this isn't a really sexy post, so here's a photo of Habranthus robustus flowers.

In preparing to move to Seattle, I culled my plant collection severely. The nigh-constant moves to new apartments (I left my beau in January 2015, a little more than a year after we moved to a new apartment) and the resultant plant stress and neglect were pretty helpful with that anyway, but I wanted to start my collection with a different focus in my new city. I have discovered a love of tuber/corm/etc. plants with a winter dormancy, such as Amorphophallus and Sinningia. These plants survive my neglect best, and they're just darn cool.

So I carefully unpotted and wrapped up the tubers/corms/etc. in newspaper and took a cutting of my Yucca guatemalensis from Mr. Subjunctive/Plants Are The Strangest People. I carefully packaged them for transport--and then somehow packed them in a box that was destined for the movers, instead of my luggage. Two weeks in a moving van is not what these plants wanted. Most of them were dead on arrival. A few survived (the little bulblets from the Hippeastrum seedlings I had grown, for example), and some are questionable. We'll see whether anything else survives. But I'm basically starting from scratch here in Seattle.

I put in a few orders from nurseries and bought some plants at local events. I've updated my plant inventory; you can find it in the navigation on the right, if you're ever curious in the future. I don't plan to expand the current collection much; I'm happy with what I have at the moment, considering the lack of sunlight I have available. I would have more, but my downstairs neighbor who threatens people with guns doesn't want me walking on the gravel on the side of the house because he doesn't want to have to keep checking to make sure it's not nefarious elements. ::shrugs:: I want to do it just to fuck with him, but it's not worth a hole in the chest.

Posted in , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting Ready for Spring Festivals

I moved (again), this time to Seattle. Boss-man decided to shut down the company and laid everyone off, so I thought, what the heck? I'm getting outta here. I have very few plants now; I'm trying to keep the collection to a more reasonable level.

After I moved here last month, I got offered a spot to vend at Maryland Sheep & Wool. I wasn't planning on doing a show so soon after my move--I wanted to find a day job, but since I accepted the spot at MDSW, I have to spend basically all day every day getting ready, since I'm starting from scratch after selling off all of my fiber to help pay for the move. I'm trying to dye at least a few pounds every day; if I do, I should be ready for the two shows I'm vending at.

If you're in Virginia or Maryland, come visit me!

Powhatan's Festival of Fiber, Powhatan, VA, April 30

Maryland Sheep & Wool, Howard County Fairgrounds, MD, May 7-8

I have a target for hand-dyed braids, and I need some accountability to reach it, so I'll be updating this post and the progress meter below every once in a while as I continue dyeing.

Update: 1 April 2016

A little behind where I wanted to be; this week was full of non-dyeing-related activities (a spinalong I'm providing fiber for, contract work, and I'm going away for the weekend), but I made a little progress. Next week, I should have a bit more time to dedicate to dyeing.

Update: 12 April 2016

Still pretty far behind. I keep having contract work eating up my time; for example, all of today and tomorrow will be spent on one project, no time for anything else. Yesterday was eaten up entirely by labeling and shipping spinalong fiber. But I think I'll be ready for the show. I still have a week and a half of dyeing left, and as long as I have three or four good days of dyeing, I should have plenty of braids!

Update: 25 April 2016

A bit behind, still. Contract work. Godsdamn. And I have 200 braids that aren't fully dry, prepped, or packaged; and most of the Savage Blends haven't been weighed. I have plenty of work ahead of me for the trip.

Update: 17 May 2016

The festivals have come and gone, and I'm back in Seattle! The drive across the country and back wasn't as horrible as I feared it would be, but it was certainly long (4 days straight of driving each way). But I really enjoyed the festivals, and I can't wait for next spring!

I had plenty of hand-dyed and blended fiber for sale. I could have gone with a little less, in fact, but I am happy I had the variety of fiber I had. Next year, I want to have a lot of colorways, but fewer overall and larger quantities on the same bases (at least a pound to a pound and a half for each base, dyed on multiple bases). I have plenty of time to plan my approach for next year. I'm definitely looking forward to it!

Posted in , , | 2 Comments

Backyard Garden: A Virtual Tour

Because I haven't updated about my own plants in a ridiculous amount of time, I thought I'd share an update about plants that used to be mine and are now thriving in someone else's garden.

Two years ago, when I vacated my plot at Newark Street Community Garden, I ended up giving a bunch of my fruit plants to a contractor I work with at the day job (we talk pickling, canning, and gardening a lot when she's in the office working for us). She picked up strawberry plants, a grape vine, blackberry and raspberry canes, rhubarb, and more from me--and they are super-happy to be living with her now.

This spring, she has sent me a couple series of photos; I've even been the lucky recipient of some of her bounty (she had very, very tart strawberries--I loved them!).

Here are the strawberries in May, growing next to the raspberries:

She's been having some issues with the raspberries--they are vigorous growers! I'm sure she'll get a wonderful harvest next year. They and the blackberries look really happy now, next to the grapes and strawberries.

Here is what the rest of her backyard garden looks like--tomatoes, dill, cucumbers, beans, radishes, squash, and so much more!


Posted in , | Leave a comment

Hippeastrum Getting Ready

The Hippeastrum I grew from seed I crossed are ready to bloom again this year! They grew out front last year and had quite long, luscious, green leaves. I brought them into my office in December, stopped watering them, and waited for all the leaves to die back. Last week, I saw some new leaves trying to pop up, so I decided to start watering again; and this week, the flower stalks started shooting up! This will be the second year these babies bloom.

The second Hippeastrum's main bulb rotted out--it stayed too wet for too long.

But look! One of the side bulbs it had produced is sending up a flower stalk!


Swedish Greys - a WordPress theme from Nordic Themepark. Converted by