Archive for 2010

Growing Gesneriads

I am in New York City right now, enjoying my holiday with the boy. But my plants are still doin' what they do--the Ramonda seeds I got from Jim of the Gesneriad Society are germinating in a Chinese-food delivery container. I have tried other gesneriads from seed, but have not previously had success because of poor environmental conditions (low humidity). Now that I'm getting into enclosed-container plant growing, I'm excited to try more! I'm also excited to see what these seedlings/smudges of green will grow into!

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Blustering And Blooming

It's cold out. Not insufferably cold, but almost. I used to be able to handle -10 C, but after losing so much weight, I don't have the padding I used to, and clothing really isn't as good as fat was. Drinking a liter of cold water, let alone going outside, requires me to put on a hoodie just to keep warm. And don't get me started on this frakkin' wind we've been having lately (although I do approve of today's snow!).

At least I keep warm mentally by the show of love and approval my plants give me! Although the blooming Sedum was mutilated as a result of the mealy bug infestation, there are still some other plants a-blooming right now at The Indoor Garden(er).



No, a blooming Saintpaulia isn't exactly a big deal to most people, but I'm still always thrilled when such plants, y'know, not only don't die under my care but reward me for my efforts at keeping them alive! Also, I kind of like these flowers. When I got the plant, I didn't know what type of flowers it would have--it was free from one of the Gesneriad Society meetings, it was fairly large already, and I thought "Why the hell not?"


Another gesneriad I've had for a while; I purchased this Chirita "Deco" in March at the NCAC Gesneriad Society show and sale, and it promptly dropped every single flower it was developing. So I'm pleased to report not only does it have offsets, it's also making what seem to be inflorescences!


And, y'know, the purple-blooming mini Phalaenopsis I've had for almost a year has sent out another inflorescence, too. I'm looking forward to finally getting a good photo of the blooms!


Maybe a little passe, now, but my monstrous Ornithogalum caudatum is whipping out another flower-tail. I'm almost to the point of exasperation with this--it's too much of a good thing. I might just snip the inflorescence. It keeps knocking smaller plants off the windowsill as it wiggles its way into a better light situation.

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Battling Bugs

I mentioned in my last post that I was exhausted after trying to get rid of the mealy bugs I found, and this photo is where I found them--on my Sedum I "acquired" from the Washington Youth Garden early this year. (Really, it was a little bit that I found on the ground, it's fine!) I had spider mites at one point, so I chopped it down, and it regrew admirably in the window and then under fluorescents, until the mealy bug issue.

I'm sad to say that this happy inflorescence is no more--I mowed it down again, sprayed the entire shelving unit full of plants with neem while keeping them quarantined in my bathroom for two weeks, and treated everything (except the edibles) with imidacloprid. I haven't seen a mealy bug in a week, but that doesn't mean they aren't still there. I haven't reinventoried, but I lost a couple plants (a Kalanchoe NOID and some other things that I don't mind losing and/or have replacements of and/or can grow from seed again if I want to).

If you click on the photo, it'll open larger in a new window. Even so, you can't fully see the tiny buggers, but trust me, those were little mealy bugs. They were all up on my Agave NOID, my Streptocarpella, and others on the two plant shelves.

Gah. It's a war I'd rather not fight in my living room, and it's much more nerve-wracking than having fungus gnats flying around or the stink bug I found last night curled up and sleeping in the crease between my Ornithogalum caudatum leaves.

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It Comes In Waves

Usually when I'm very absent from blogging on here, it's not because there's a lack of blog-related happenings. It's because one of the other balls I juggle demands more attention, and recently, more than one ball decided to say "Toss me higher, higher!"

I don't begrudge the balls their fun--I do, in fact, relish managing multiple responsibilities and being involved in my community in various ways. I enjoy those many other aspects of my life that sometimes take up my time and take me away from blogging; sometimes it's work, sometimes it's vacation, and sometimes it's volunteering. Lately, it's been a mix of all three.

Volunteering is something I do a lot of, and I blog about it here (sometimes even complaining that I do too much). My volunteering, however, has evolved a bit in the past year or so--although I still get down and dirty with hands-on work, mostly I'm involved in running groups or being on boards of directors. And thus, I have exciting news on that front. Remember DC State Fair, which I helped organize in August along with Jenna and Amelia, two local DC food and/or garden bloggers? Well, it was incredibly amazing and the community clamoured for DC State Fair to repeat and expand--so in October, we incorporated as a nonprofit in DC and formed a board of directors along with Sylvie, another local food blogger, and David (who blogs, but not predominantly about food or gardening, although he often tests my cooking creations, generally with noises of approval). At the end of November, DC State Fair had a bake sale to help raise funds to cover the costs of filing forms with various government agencies to allow us to operate fully--those filings can get pretty pricey! But I'm looking forward to being DC State Fair Board President and helping build a community around showcasing and engaging DC residents' gardening, culinary, and artistic talents. There are a lot of things to do in the coming months before we even think about next year's fair, but I'm already stoked about it!

Another kind-of-work, kind-of-fun, kind-of-volunteering involves the garden community website DigTheDirt. I was contacted by Kaarina about guest posting on the site as an indoor gardening "expert" (I add quotes, 'cause, well, it's such a strong word. Yeah, I might grow things beyond the average indoor gardener, but I know I know a lot less than I should to successfully grow the plants I have, so I have difficulty calling myself a for-real expert.). I thought about the opportunity a bit and discussed it with Kaarina, and we finally settled on me writing a post on the first and third Mondays of each month. Of course, I will likely end up doing more at some point, but the twice-monthly posts would be more in-depth than the infrequent other posts (maybe updates, interesting tidbits, etc.). I am going to have to think exceedingly hard about content, however--I think the format I'm planning is different enough that I wouldn't be sniping from myself. My plan is that The Indoor Garden(er)'s content wouldn't change (not that I'm exceedingly consistent with it, anyway!). My first DigTheDirt post went up on Monday, and it includes my experience and suggestions about growing tomatoes indoors--there are a few more "do not"s than there are "do"s, of course, but I find those to be just as valuable! I have a few ideas for future posts--it's still an evolving website, but there are almost no houseplants whatsoever, so I have my work cut out for me for a while!

I'm juggling other balls, as well, but there is also, of course, The Indoor Garden(er). And I spent about an hour and a half early Tuesday morning (when I wrote most of this) neeming one-third of my more than 120 plants when I found minuscule mealy bugs on my Sedum. I had been taking pictures to be all like "Happy news, happy things going on, happy pictures of happy plant events!" (The Sedum in question was flowering under the fluorescents, and it excited me, also because there was some tag-along grass flowering behind it and the Aloe "Firebird" flowering in front of it. Also, I was going to show pictures of a flowering Saintpaulia, Phalaenopsis, Chirita, and Ornithogalum caudatum, as well as other plant happenings, but the whole mealy bug adventure drained me too much. They'll just have to be a separate post.) I poked myself on an Agave spine, too. I bled a little.

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Plant-Unrelated: Weight Watchers And Plant-Related: Aloe "Firebird" Flowering

I started attending Weight Watchers meetings on 17 June 2008. I've been on that journey for a little more than half a year longer than I have been blogging on here--but, I cannot doubt that by having this blog, my weight-loss efforts were maintained and encouraged with photography forays (walking!), cooking challenges (cooking for myself instead of eating out!), and constant exposure to thoughts of fresh fruit and veggies grown locally and organically (healthier things in my mouth!). This blog and the ones I read encourage me to keep my health at the forefront of my mind.

At my first Weight Watchers weigh-in, I clocked in at 278.2. I had been having a "biggest loser" type of contest with two friends (we were doing a percentage, because I, clearly, could kick their butts if it were just absolute value of pounds lost) and had already lost about 15 or 20 pounds. At the time, I'm not sure whether I cooked at home at all--I think most of my meals came from Papa John's or one of the many local Chinese-food delivery places. (That hasn't exactly changed that much, but what I order and how often have.) Eventually, my two friends kind of let the contest slide--but I kept going. I had incentive, I was getting great results, and it was just awesome to see what small dietary changes such as substituting whole-wheat pasta for the regular kind can do to one's waistline.

Eventually, however, those small, intermittent, incremental, or other changes built up to a significant shift in how I approach what I allow into my body. I still eat Chinese delivery, sure--but, instead of General Tso's chicken, crab rangoon, fried rice, egg rolls, combination lo mein, and wonton soup (I might be exagerating by implying that I ate all that in one sitting, but that wasn't always necessarily untrue), I order steamed broccoli with brown sauce and steamed vegetable dumplings with that yummy spicy/sweet/garlic/soy sauce from this one place I like. Better yet, I try to prepare my own meals in bulk and portion them out for later eating, but y'know, the life of a bachelor in the city often involves not cooking!

But then, also, these tiny, incremental changes in diet and behaviour that led to the weight loss happened to include a gradual shift to vegetarianism. I have been (mostly) vegetarian since January 2009, purely by accident. The moment I realized I had accidentally been vegetarian for an entire month, I ordered sesame chicken--and felt ill beyond belief. I still eat meat, occasionally (such as turkey, pot roast, shrimp, etc. at Thanksgiving), but those are exceedingly rare occasions. I'm not vegetarian for any political or ethical reasons--it's purely calorie-related. I can eat more vegetables prepared in a more healthy fashion than I can eat meat. I get the same amount of full, for longer, with fewer calories. Win-win!

So, about a month ago, on 26 October, I reached goal on Weight Watchers, weighing in at 185. "Goal" means I had reached the weight that was healthy for me and stuck within range of it for six weeks (maintained). (Although my goal weight is about 15 pounds outside of what Weight Watchers would consider a healthy weight to be for one of my height and age on the basis of Body Mass Index calculations, my body fat percentage is in the "athletic" range, and I would have to lose muscle in order to reach what BMI says is healthy for me--and I'm not willing to do that. In fact, I am working on building muscle. And losing skin. No one ever tells you about the massive amount of excess skin you'll have after losing over 100 pounds, do they...? It isn't too horrible on my legs and arms, but the stomach area makes me self-conscious.) Most of my weight loss can be directly attributed to the change in diet, but this past year has been more toning--I have only lost about 20 pounds since New Year's, and the only way I was able to do that was by being physically active (hence repeatedly broken collarbone!). Now that I'm a Lifetime member of Weight Watchers (I reached goal and maintained, so now I don't have to pay the monthly fee!), I got a personal trainer at the gym to improve upper-body and core strength.

Having Thanksgiving with my mom and all of my siblings for the first time in almost a decade gave me a weird feeling, and part of that was recognition of how much I've changed through Weight Watchers and my other endeavours. Only one of my siblings was interested in going for a walk post-binging, and after half of a mile, he started complaining about how long we had been walking. Walking a mile in freezing weather is nothing to me. In fact, it's irritating--I could be jogging, when it's such a short distance.

But, even as my eating and activity habits have changed drastically in the past two or so years, so has my gardening changed. In the past half of a year, I've lost only three or four plants, despite acquiring about 50 new ones. My ability to keep a large variety of plants alive has increased, and with time, I'm sure I'll even be able to help them thrive! For example, this Aloe "Firebird" that I picked up in August seems to be doing pretty well (or suffering horribly and trying to make babies as fast as it can to continue the existence of its species). Either way, it's flowering!

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Ginkgo Gardens

A few weeks ago, around the beginning of October, I decided to visit Ginkgo Gardens for the first time. The store was having a sale--and I picked up a few winners! I was extremely pleased with the selection, both indoor and outdoor, (at least, in relation to the amount of space they have available) and the staff were helpful. I spent about $50, I think, but early October necessitated heavy plant therapy.



Salvia elegans, pineapple sage--to replace the cuttings I killed from a previous plant trade. I figure if I get one already rooted, even though it looks like death, I might have better luck at keeping it alive!


Sisyrinchium montanum, Blue-Eyed Grass. It's related to Iris, I think. I don't know how well it'll like my apartment.


Tricyrtis hirta "Samurai." I let the cat out of the bag early on this one!


Asparagus densiflorus


Asparagus meyeri


Eucalyptus


Aglaonema "Maria"


Dracaena deremensis "Warneckii"


This Sanseveria trifasciata is, I believe, "Bantel's Sensation." It wasn't labeled, but it looked so amazing, and there don't seem to be many varieties like this, so I'm pretty sure of the identification. It had a spent flower spike on it--never having had any of my Sanseverias bloom, this excited me almost as much as the variegation!


A close-up of the leaf variegation. The vertical white/cream stripes are accented by a marbled green variegation. AWESOME.


These aren't from Ginkgo Gardens; I picked up Philodendron "Prince of Orange," Adenium obesum, Tillandsia, and Coffea from Garden District about a week after my Ginkgo Gardens visit. So far, everything seems fine, except A. obesum, which drops a leaf or two every once in a while, after its initial halfway-defoliated-from-shock-or-something-else event when I first brought it home.

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Sweet Success

This is my 300th post. Yeah, that went hella fast! My first-ever post was on 9 February 2009--that's an average of one post every other day or so. Well, averages are a whole lotta bull, because two-thirds of my posts were all in 2009, so I was clearly more active then, but still, that's a lot of writing, a lot of time, a lot of my life committed to the Internet and plants. I imagine all the posts that were going to happen but never did due to time constraints or just plain old timeliness issues. It's a bit whelming.

But as I sit here baking homemade jalapeno poppers and reeling from the implications of the Halloween scare I received, I would like to think of the positives and successes. It's nothing I really plan, but it seems that for both my 100th-post anniversary and my 200th-post anniversary, I thought along the same lines. When important dates or events happen, I like to remember them for the good that comes out of them, what inspiration I can glean from them, what happiness they bring me. And there's plenty here at The Indoor Garden(er) to be happy about, inspired by, and all feel-goody toward/with/etc.!



The dwarf lime tree I bought via mail order wasn't doing amazingly on my windowsill, so it spent a few months outside at Mr. Yogato, where it proceeded not to do amazingly because of drought and people's butts. I recently brought it back home, and now it's sprouting a great deal of new growth!


Have I seriously never, ever, EVER posted a picture of my little purple-flowering Phalaenopsis? I purchased this last winter sometime (December? January?). Well, heck. Anyway--dude had a flower spike on him when I bought him a little less than a year ago, I got him home, and the almost-opened buds withered and fell off. A few months later, the remaining four or five matured and flowered, which was nice, and I can't believe I didn't post that occurrence, but it may have coincided with my multiply-broken collarbone or my niece's death, so whatever. Anyway! My miniature Phalaenopsis is growing well, has a crazy root system, and is now sending out a flower spike! That means it likes me! It really likes me!


These have had some frequent coverage here on The Indoor Garden(er), and on Twitter, where I post photos every two weeks or so (for example), but...it's November, and I have tomatoes ripening on the vine on my windowsill. Despite only having about eight or nine small tomatoes from this one plant (not a high-yield baby at all, what with it being grown in the living room), they are some of the tastiest and most rewarding I have ever known! Yeah, maybe I'd get more and tastier ones from a garden out-of-doors, but then I wouldn't be able to tell people "I grow tomatoes on my windowsill. Suck it, landowners!"


This is a complete unknown! It's in my trailing-succulent mullet planter. It started popping up last week, and I have no idea what it is or even what it could be. I don't remember planting anything in this pot other than the succulent and the Sempervivum. For scale, the leaves are about half of an inch long.


My Aloe "Firebird" that I acquired in August started sending up an inflorescence! The focus was difficult, but the blooms haven't opened yet, so I didn't try all that hard. I always take flowering as a sign of a happy plant--but it could also be an "I think I'm going to die so I better procreate now!" sign. But, regardless--flowering! Yay!


And, speaking of flowering, I can't seem to get a better picture of this Tricyrtis formosana "Samurai" than the one I posted on Twitter. That photo is the background of my phone right now. The one above I find to be cool, however, because if you click on it, you can see little individual trichomes on the underside of the flower petals. I think that's wicked-cool!

Also, I bought this a few weeks ago at Gingko Gardens here in DC. I bought other plants, too, but that's a post for another day, and one of the last in my series of recent plant-acquisition posts. This one gets on here 'cause it's prettier than the rest at the moment (but don't tell them I said that, or I'll have a riot on my hands...!).

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A Halloween Scare

With all the plant acquisitions I have made in the past few months, it was almost inevitable. I mean, nothing is inevitable, I guess, but I don't always wash every plant or quarantine them for long enough before I stick them in the midst of the jungle in my studio apartment.

And so, when I returned home from dinner with a friend on Halloween night, after weaving my way through screaming parents, screaming children, and people in costumes for the occasion, too, I was greeted with this fright: mealy bugs.

They were exclusively on my Hippeastrum seedlings, situated on the "I like these plants" shelf of my metal shelving unit (these plants get special plant-bulb fluorescents; the other two fluorescent fixtures on subsequently lower shelves have only normal tubes). They didn't have mealy bugs (noticeably) a week ago when I posted about them, but that means nothing--they have them now. So, instead of going to sleep, I spent a few minutes freaking out, thinking I needed to wash every single leaf, sterilize my entire apartment, breathe, just breathe... Okay, I'm better. I chopped all the leaves off of the Hippeastrum and dug up the bulbs. I laid them out to dry. I'll replant them in a month or so, maybe. The "if the plants ever go dormant, I might dig up any bulbs that exist and separate them" came to pass in a way I hadn't anticipated, but I never would have done it otherwise.

I had looked over all of the other plants and didn't see any mealy bugs, but now I'm extremely worried. I'm going to start spraying the shit out of The Indoor Garden with neem. Best get to steppin', you creepy crawlies!

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Crazy For Cryptanthus

I recently purchased a buttload of Cryptanthus and a few other plants from Tropiflora. Plant therapy is a lot more expensive than the regular kind, but I am superexcited about these babies! I have had marked success keeping Cryptanthus alive, so I am a bit more willing to shell out some dough for these guys.



Haworthia longiana


Cryptanthus cf. bromelioides


Cryptanthus "Volcano"


Dyckia "Red Devil"


Dyckia sp. "La Rioja"


Cryptanthus "Ruby"


Cryptanthus "Earth Angel"


Cryptanthus "Chocolate Soldier"


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Beauty In Bloom

The flower of the Paphiopedilum I purchased recently opened shortly after I acquired it. It has stayed open and not withered and fallen off, as is usually the case here at The Indoor Garden(er) (that's what happened to Aloe "Grassy Lassie," Chirita "Deco," my first Phalaenopsis, and others). Maybe, just maybe, the flower will actually stick around for a few weeks! I was hoping that it would be darker than this--there are a lot of light parts in the flower. But I like the shape and the design, and, of course, the variegated leaves, so I'm not going to complain too hard!

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Trading Post

I recently (about two months ago!) ended up trading plants with fellow bloggers/tweeters/plant fanatics, all because of a single tweet. I'm going to not identify the sources because I don't want to be the cause of inundating their inboxes with trade requests, although if you really look stalkerishly hard, you'll be able to guess who traded with me, probably.

Anyway, on to the survivors of the trades! Only three plant units didn't make it (units, because they were either groups of unrooted cuttings or single unrooted cuttings--none of what died were full "plants" yet), and I consider that a huge success.



Stapelia gigantea or grandiflora? I guess I'll know when it flowers! Maybe. Someone will know which species it is when it flowers, whether that be me or a reader!


Stapelia gettleffii


Monanthes subcrassicaulis, labeled as from Strybing Arboretum in San Francisco. Gotta love a plant with pedigree!


Haworthia cooperi var. truncata


Haworthia mirabilis


Ceropegia woodii was acclaimed as a "weed," which I love and always assume to mean "easy to propagate." Not necessarily true--I lost two unrooted cuttings, and these tiny bits are my last attempt at getting this plant to grow. My first mistake was keeping them too wet. My second was not sticking each node directly into the soil. I rectified that using twisty ties to hold down the plant material close to the soil (I'm not sure if you can see it--I removed the waxy paper coating and shaped the wire into U-shapes, pushing it into the soil on the internodal area of the vine). We will see whether this new, actually researched method provides me with a growing plant in the future.


The Gasteria liliputiana is holding on, but not exactly flourishing.


Both Coralluma schweinfurthia and C. piranthoides died with little ceremony. They were like "Um, what? No. Death." I had given up on Ceropegia woodii when I took this photo, but then I upgraded the plant to "not yet dead" when I researched propagation methods and repotted it.


Cissus quadrangularis


Plectranthus amboinicus, or "Mexican thyme," among many other names, but that is the one I learned in Master Gardener class, and that is why I was excited it was thought to be a good plant to share with me! It can be used culinarily, particularly for meat dishes, to replace herbs such as oregano or thyme. I'm thinking pasta sauces, lasagna, and other tomato-based dishes.


Agave desmettiana?


Selenicereus chrysocardium had been rooted prior to shipment and started growing a new leaf almost immediately upon its arrival at The Indoor Garden(er)'s abode.


Aloe "Dorian Black." There's some debate over whether this is "Doran Black" or not, but because one of my Dungeons & Dragons friend's character's name is "Dorian" and he's black, I'm going with "Dorian Black" for the double meaning and the win! Take that, botanical taxonomists! (My friend's character is an elven druid, if you want to know; his last character was Dorian's twin brother, Devin the ranger, but my first character [I'm on my third already, because mine ended up meeting untimely fates] accidentally killed Devin [who was being "grappled" in the mouth of some sort of dragon creature] by shooting an arrow accidentally into his face. Dorian still doesn't know this, and when my character, Komhuus, went crazy from some mystical disease, ran off, attacked some huge swamp creature, and was killed, Dorian performed burial rites for him. My friend feels abused that his character doesn't know he treated his twin brother's killer so kindly, but all of the other characters who would have known details of Devin's death have also died at various times, so Dorian has no way of learning that information--except through Komhuus, who was brought back to life by the gods, along with a few other characters [but not Devin], for some reason or another at some climactic point in the story line. But Komhuus ain't sayin' nothin'. He just wants to bake muffins. Mmm... Muffins...)


Stapelia gigantea


Yucca guatamalensis


The Synadenium grantii is doing alright--it lost a lot of leaves in transition to my care, but they are growing back. The variegation on the new leaves isn't coming in fully yet (see the larger leaf on the left with purple patterning).


Chlorophytum "Fire Flash"


Hatoria salicornioides is surviving and will soon be thriving, is my hope!


Iresine herbstii "Blazin' Rose" started dropping leaves out of the box, but I figured it must have been a rough trip for the plants, and I expected some leaves to be jostled off during transit. But then little Irene didn't stop losing leaves. It's still alive (and more bare), but new leaves are growing, if slowly, so...


This is not what Pilea depressa is supposed to look like. But it does. I was sent a huge load of cuttings, but they aren't faring well with me. I had originally tried rooting them in the same glass as the Salvia elegans, which ended up going all black and rotty, so I wanted to get P. depressa out of there. Although they were dropping leaves, most stems had some roots, so I stuck 'em in dirt and hoped for the best. If this is that, then I fear for the rest of my 124 plants.


I'm less concerned about the eventual survival of the Plectranthus "Mona Lavender," another plant that lost most of its leaves directly after I received it. The leaves aren't nearly the size of the original cuttings unpotted cuttings, but I am going on the hypothesis that this happens when cuttings are taken, shipped, and rooted in a completely different environment.

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