Archive for September 2011

Growing Streptocarpus

During the National Capital Area Chapter (NCAC) of The Gesneriad Society's semiannual show and sale two weeks ago, I got the chance to hear Dale Martens talk about taking care of and propagating Streptocarpus. Dale is a gesneriad hybridizer--if you see anything named with "Dale's ..." or "Heartland's ..." or "Texas ...," it might have been hybridized by her!

She was a right raucous woman--I laughed through her Streptocarpus seminar (and not like I laugh when I watch movies like "Machine Girl," but like I laugh when an intelligent, talented person presents something in a unique and engaging way).

I wrote a big long post on Petal Tones, NCAC's blog accompaniment to their monthly-ish newsletter. I'm planning on a couple more posts as well: my experience entering the show for the first time; clerking for the first time (and clerking for judges who were judging one of my own entries); and the other seminar I was able to attend, by Brian Connor on propagating gesneriads).

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New Digs

It has been one month and three days since I returned to the US, and I have only just set up a plant-growing area today. Oddly enough, the way it worked out, there's more space in the living room in the apartment I now share with my beau; I sold the TV last week, so I moved the "TV stand" into the kitchen to store cooking supplies, rearranged the three bicycles in the hallway, and rotated the couch and recliner so now we even have some empty floor space!

But this isn't about furniture placement. It's about plant placement. Unfortunately, where I wanted to put the grow shelf (which would have kept the previous living room arrangement almost undisturbed except for the "TV stand") was in the direct path of the only air-conditioning unit in the apartment. I didn't want all that air blowing directly on my plants. Where they are now isn't exactly far away from the window unit, but they don't get direct drafts that I can feel.

The top-top shelf holds one shop light that will shine on the second shelf, where seed starting will occur; the third shelf is the only one with fluorescent bulbs at the moment, so most of the plants are there, with the humidity grow chamber (a clear plastic storage tub from Target) on the fourth shelf to catch any excess rays; the fifth shelf will hold propagation material (potted-up seedlings, rooting stolons, leaf cuttings, etc.) for sharing, planting, and such. The bottom shelf has a bunch of random supplies: sphagnum, peat, vermiculite, little pots, and the like.

Soon, I'll have all the fixtures full of fluorescent T-12 tubes (on a timer from 7 AM to 7 PM) and the shelves full of fun and funky plants that are completely reasonable to grow in a basement apartment! (I'm trying this new thing whereby I grow plants that do reasonably well in my environment. It's not a new concept to me, but it's amazing how rewarding it is to see a plant thrive instead of just survive!)


Gesneriads On Broadway

This past weekend was the National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society's semiannual show and sale, the theme being "Gesneriads on Broadway." Behnke's, in Beltsville, played the most amazing host for the show (and yeah, they're also a prize sponsor for DC State Fair!).

It was a really great experience for me--I was there most of Saturday and Sunday, volunteering, hanging out, learning about gesneriads, and, of course, buying plants!

I brought three entries to be judged: a monochrome print, a terrarium, and a dish garden. The plant material came from Kyoko's plants at Al's Orchid Greenhouse two weeks before the show (seeing as how I didn't have anything good enough from Saudi Arabia [and the USDA read my blog and confiscated my plants last week, anyway, so it's a good time to have a plant show and sale--I needed to rebuild my collection]), and the photo was of Chirita 'Dreamtime' from earlier this year--grayscaled and cropped. It printed a lot less in focus than the digital version made it seem (I mean, I knew it was out of focus, but the print version was much worse).

I got a "healthy but mislabeled plants and no design concept" for my dish garden, a second-place ribbon for my photo, and a third-place ribbon for my terrarium--as well as People's Choice, which came with a $25 gift certificate to Behnke's! I plan on posting my experiences on Petal Tones, NCAC's blog version of the monthly-ish newsletter I used to co-edit, so I won't go into too much detail about it--but I have a few fun stories to share!

But let's get to the new plants:

  • 6 Saintpaulia:
    • 'Newtown Grape Suzette'
    • (#)'Northern Attitude' leaf
    • 'Mystic Mermaid'
    • Saintpaulia confusa
    • (*)NOID, normal-size rosette, purple flowers with white edging, dark green almost purplish leaves
    • (*)NOID, miniature rosette, purple flowers with white edging, purplish leaves
  • Saintpaulia 'Optimara Little Ottawa'
  • (+)Columnea colombiana
  • 2 Streptocarpus
    • 'Bristol's Moose Stash'
    • 'Christmas Morning'
  • Achimenes 'Tiny Red'
  • Smithicodonia 'Heartland's Joy'
  • (+)Codonatanthus 'Sunset'
  • (+)Nematanthus 'Cheerio'
  • (+)Smithiantha 'Pat's Pet Donkey'
  • 9 Chirita:
    • (#)Small-leafed tight rosette-shaped Chirita from Kyoko (2 different ones)
    • C. angustifolia (+)leaf and (#)plant
    • 'Rachel'
    • 'Gotham'
    • 'Stardust' (+)leaf sections (2) and (#)leaves (4)
    • C. sinensis
  • (#)Hoya curtisii
  • Sinningia defoliata
  • (#)Umm... A vine of some sort. From one of the artistic displays. I need to ask Jim what it is.
  • (#)A plant that looks like Ledebouria socialis but almost certainly isn't.
  • (*)Mimosa pudica
  • (*)Coprosma
  • (*)Aeonium tabuliforme (Really doesn't look like tabuliforme, but that's what the label most likely meant to say. Definitely Aeoniumish; I don't necessarily care about the species yet.)
  • (*)Basil
  • (*)Lavender
  • (*)Rosemary
  • (*)Scilla siberica (15 bulbs)
  • (*)Plectranthus glabratus
  • (*)Mum (Behnke's had a sale: spend $25, get a free mum. Mine didn't fit in Kyoko's car [what with her two free mums!], so I gave it to Barbara, who had given me the 4 Chirita 'Stardust' leaves earlier)
(*) Bought from Behnke's using gift card/coupon/and a little bit of money
(+) Received during propagation workshop
(#) Received through various means (people sharing or just walking around asking "Does anyone want this long-ass-Latin-name?" during clean-up)


Going To See A Show

I'm using Blogger's new iPhone app while on the train to hit the National Capital Area Chapter of The Gesneriad Society's semiannual show and sale that starts today. I entered a photo, a dish garden, and a terrarium (actually it is a glass butter dish! I was going for the "Gosh, that's cute" reaction).

I am volunteering as well--as a clerk (I will write judges' comments on the forms) and at the sales tables.

I'm looking forward to an awesome show!

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Canning Like Whoa

I recently started canning. It was something I always intended but never got around to. My relocation to DC and complete lack of employment has given me the chance to finally try my hand at it.

Over the past five days, I have canned (in no particular order):

Canned productEstimated value
Peaches in syrup, 12 pints$1.76 per = $21.12
Apple butter, 2 pints$1.25 per = $2.50
Apple jelly, 2.5 pints$5.12 per = $12.80
Superspicetastic habanero jelly, 2.5 pints$4.67 per = $11.68
Superspicetastic habanero jam, 0.5 pints (the leftover after straining the juice for the jelly)$4.67 per = $2.33
Peach marmalade, 2.5 pints$4.96 per = $12.40
Boozy blackberry jam, 3.5 pints$4.16 per = $14.56
Pear-ginger-lime marmalade, 2.5 pints$4.96 per = $12.40
Roasted apple-rhubarb puree, 4 pints$1.28 per = $5.12
Pear compote, 2.5 pints$4.96 per = $12.40
Roasted pear-parsnip puree, 3.5 pints$1.28 per = $4.48
Hot salsa, 3.5 pints$1.99 per = $6.97
Dried Asian pear chunks, 3 cups$2.33 per cup = $6.99
"Sun dried" tomatoes, 2 cups$3.99 per cup = $7.98
Total generic value of canned products: $133.73

The estimates of most of the products come from average price per ounce from Giant grocery store's Peapod service. Prices of products from other websites are linked--pear compote and habanero jam are just kind of winged. Which pretty much means the funky-freshness and organicality of my products aren't reflected in the prices. I'd probably add a couple of bucks on top of most items, ratcheting up the market value of these products to about $160 or so, I'd wager--farmers' market value would be even higher, likely around $200.

That's not a terrible price. And I had a bunch of apples and pears that weren't used in these products.

Now let's check out the expenses:
Total cost for canned products: $229

Not included in the expense report are spices (that were already available or used in cent-quantities) and the hour value of my work (about 22 hours over 4 days could add up to several hundred or several thousand dollars, depending on how much I think my time is worth). Certain items, such as the jars and water bath canning kit, will not have to be repurchased, so future expenses will not include them. Taking those out, the total is about $169 for the stuff I made. Which, I guess if you factor in the organicosity and supercoolness of the recipes, it's totally worth it to me. As long as I can buy in bulk for cheaper produce (I really took a hit on those "on sale" blackberries from the supermarket), I'd say this is a pretty good use of my money.

Now I just need to figure out what the heck to do with all of these goodies!


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