Archive for July 2011

Seed Crazy

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

I came to Saudi Arabia with a few dozen plants, but I left behind more than 100 others. I'm used to having groups of different plants with various care requirements and forms, not just a few scattered plants. I have had very little problem bringing any type of plant material into Saudi Arabia via airplane, but what about through mail order? I don't think I want a live plant waiting around for inspection, so I tested out an eBay seed order. Then made a few more orders. Part of being a plant addict.

Most of the seeds I ordered are succulent-types that I think will do well here, inside or out: Stapelia, Agave, Aloe, Duvalia, and the like. Others are just for fun.

Actinidia deliciosa

Agave filifera

Agave schidigera 'Durango Delight'

Agave stricta var. rubra

Agave victoriae-reginae

Agave mix

Aloe fosteri

Aloe vaombe

Anigozanthos manglesii

Aristolochia pilosa

Aristolochia ringens

Caralluma retrospiciens

Cereus forbesii var. spiralis

Clematis hirsutissima

Cordyline australis

Dianthus barbatus 'Sooty'

Dicentra eximia

Dinteranthus vanzijlii

Dioscorea elephantipes

Drosera mix (possibly but almost certainly not including all of the following: D. aliciae, D. anglica, D. auriculata, D. binata, D. brevifolia, D. burkeana, D. burmanni, D. capensis, D. capillaris, D. coaicaulis, D. collinsiae, D. curvispata, D. deilsiana, D. filiformis, D. formosa, D. intermedia, D. natalensis, D. nidiformis, D. rotundifolia, and D. villosa [I was not about to convincingly verify the validity of some of these species names {coaicaulis, curvispata, and formosa}])

Duvalia 'Woodbridge' (I cannot confirm this name.)

Dyckia fosteriana

Dyckia marnier-lapostollei (I apparently ordered this in duplicate, from different sources. Clearly I want this one bad!)

Dyckia mix

Echeveria agavoides

Edithcolea grandis

Gibbaeum mix (possibly but not necessarily including G. album, G. comptonii, G. dispar, G. haaglenii, G. heathii, G. nuciforme, G. pubescens subsp. shandii, and G. velutinum)

Hechtia sp. 'Tehuacan' (a best guess at presentation--seed originally acquired in Tehuacan, species unknown)

Hechtia texensis

Hechtia mix (possibly but almost certainly not including all of the following: H. argentea, Hechtia sp. 'Colima,' Hechtia sp. 'El Mate,' Hechtia sp. 'Cuernavaca,' Hechtia sp. 'Miahuatlan,' Hechtia sp. 'Nizanda,' Hechtia 'Nova Oaxaca,' Hechtia sp. 'Pena Blanco,' Hechtia sp. 'Perote,' Hechtia 'Rio Zapotitlan,' Hechtia sp. 'Tehuacan,' and H. texensis [I'm not sure how to confirm these any better than with the collection site names])

Houttuynia cordata

Huernia leachii x Huernia keniensis

Huernia hystrix

Juncus filiformis

Laurus nobilis

Leuchtenbergia principis

Lycium chinense

Manfreda maculosa

Musa sikkimensis 'Manipur'

Musa sikkimensis 'Red Flash'

Ocimum basilicum 'Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil'

Passiflora edulis

Phormium tenax variegated

Phormium mix (possibly but not necessarily including P. colensoi and P. tenax)

Pittosporum tenuifolium

Mini Sinningia (unknown parentage)

Stapelia gettleffi (According to The Plant List, Stapelia gettleffii is just a synonym of Gonostemon gettleffii. But tell the rest of the world that, eh?)

Stapelia mix

Strelitzia nicolai

Viola sororia 'Freckles'

Extra seed packets in packages:

Agave colorata

Agave guiengola

Ariocarpus fissuratus (Extra information on this seed packet was provided as "var. gracilis TERLINGUA." I can't confirm the variety, but Terlingua is the town in Texas that this was probably collected from.)

Hechtia sp. 'Miahuatlan'



Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

Standards are different here in the Kingdom. Tiny, bulbous, shiny black insects can burrow and tunnel in your huge glass jar of chili powder; little beetley insects can camp out in unopened plastic bags of pasta from the supermarket; and plant labels can have obviously incorrect names on them.

Not that that's any different from the states, however. Exotic Angel, anyone?

But seriously, this Aloe variegata, which I purchased at Tamimi supermarket on campus for 20 riyal to remind me the one (lovingly purchased for me in New York City) I killed, is labeled as Mammillaria spinosissima, which is a cactus. I wanted to chalk it up to just being put in the incorrect pot--there are cacti available for sale right next to the mislabeld Aloe, after all. But another was labeled as Cupressus (you know, cypress!) and had a flower glued onto it. I don't necessarily expect the imported workers to know what label they're sticking on a plant or why the heck it's wrong to glue a fake flower that looks nothing like an Aloe flower (or Cupressus flower, for that matter), but someone in the operation probably should. Then again, saying that, it seems like I assume I have some sort of high ground to stand on, but the same ignorant, shady stuff happens back home, too.

It's much more common, and for some reason less offensive, to me that these fake flowers are glued to various prickly cacti. It may be because I usually don't have an inclination to buy these, anyhow. With my care habits, I usually end up rotting these babies out in weeks.


New Growth

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

Many of my plants are, well, doing things. For example, the Hoya pubicalyx has been sending up new shoots and leaves since I potted it two months ago, calamity notwithstanding. But some plants I could only hope not to kill, whether I moved them internationally or not. So when they are showing signs of growth and happiness, it makes me squeal with joy.

Of particular note is my orchid Radrumnia x Tolumnia 'Charlie.' Its real name and parentage is much longer and complicated, but I named him 'Charlie' just to simplify things for me and everyone else. I purchased 'Charlie' at Al's Orchid Greenhouse back in January. It was potted in hydroton and was in bloom then--beautiful purple flowers with white markings. There were also many more leaves. I put it in hydroton when I got it here, too, but it has been losing leaves left and right. This is the first indication of new growth since I brought it to Saudi Arabia, so I'm quite happy!

The Streptocarpus genus and I have a rocky history. Mostly, I keep them alive long enough to get cocky and then kill them after assuming they'll do well in my standard care routine of overwatering. S. 'Crystal Ice' has survived more than any other Streptocarpus I've had the sadistic pleasure of growing, and it's rewarding me with new leaves! Originally, this plant was one crown, I think. The few months I had it in Washington, DC, it was sealed in a large food-service catering tray with a clear plastic lid, so I barely had to water it--it stayed the perfect level of moist without being wet. It grew new leaves and seemed happy. When I unrooted it to travel here, it split apart into two plantlets. Now, those plantlets are growing new leaves. They aren't under a humidity-retaining dome, but the crowns seem healthy, and new leaves equal happy plants, right? Perhaps, perhaps they'll flower? I have not had gesneriads flower for me other than various Sinningia, Saintpaulia, Episcia 'Coco,' Nautilocalyx pemphidus, and the occasional Chirita (now probably in various other genuses). That may seem like a long list, until you figure out how many gesneriads I've tried my hand at through the years. Through various mishaps, I have killed probably three times as many as I've been able to flower successfully. Hopefully, the ones that were able to survive are still doing so in the care of those I left them with.

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Taking Tomatoes

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

Last Thursday, a neighbour posted on the community group list offering large tomato plants, as he and his wife will be leaving campus soon. I jumped on the offer immediately and acquired this nice-looking tomato plant. It might be a roma-type. It might not. In a few weeks, after it flowers and fruits, I'll know for sure! I'm excited about this--I have tomato seedlings on the way, but it's nice to have something more established!

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Sights At The Shop

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

These beautiful plants were for sale at a shop in San Francisco. I remember the shop was in/near The Haight, but I don't remember the name or what street it was on. It had cool knickknacks and jewelry, as well as a bunch of really well-cared-for plants that I always thought were difficult, particularly indoors. There was a very nice metal-framed glass terrarium, as well. I think if I lived in San Francisco, this shop would be a nice special treat to go to and purchase a plant or fancy gardening accessory. Good thing I live on the other side of the world!

This small Clematis was in a pot underneath a table. I can't imagine it spends all of its time there--it's blooming like crazy!

I ran into a whole lot of Fuchsia while in San Francisco. It seems the climate there is pretty amenable to its growth. All were in bloom, and this one seemed quite happy inside the shop.

I was pretty much warned away from Masdevallia at Al's Orchid Greenhouse once--instead, I ended up getting a variegated Dendrobium loddigesii and a Sarcoglottis sceptrodes, among other plants and cuttings at various points. It may have been that particular species available at Al's that was more tricky (rotting out in a few years despite good care--something about temperature issues, I believe), but this one in San Francisco seems to be doing quite well.

I spoke with the shop owner--she says she takes care of all of the plants in the store. I only took photos of these three plants, but there were perhaps 30 or so individual species (mostly single representation, not many duplicate plants), and all looked exceedingly healthy. Most were blooming. Whoever this woman is, she sure knows how to take care of her plants!

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Seeds A-Growin'

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

About two weeks ago, I plants a few pots of seeds. The seeds I picked up from roadside trees, bushes, and other plants in California haven't sprouted yet. They ended up in a plastic baggie with apparently a moist paper towel and got a little fungusy. This happened after I got back to Saudi Arabia, however--I'm not sure why I did that, but I hope some of them will germinate. The other seeds were ones I collected here on campus through various means.

For example, the Adenium seed pod I tweeted about the day before leaving for a conference in Qatar. I seem to have hundreds of the fluffy seeds, but I stuck only three in some soil mix two weeks ago, and this is what they looked like yesterday (bottom left in the photo). They germinated in about a week, and they're already growing leaves! Above them are swiss chard seedlings from a seed packet I bought at the Tamimi supermarket; to the Adenium's right, there are black cherry tomato seedlings from the seed I saved weeks and weeks ago; to the top right, there are seedlings from seeds I saved from these tiny tiny tiny tomatoes, also given to me along with the black cherry tomatoes on my first weekend on campus. A few days ago, I also planted some chayote seeds and a ripe date palm fruit, which are all over campus.

I discovered chayote through a recipe post on Plant Zone, and I was delighted to find the vegetable in the grocery store here! If I can grow a vine, I'll be quite happy, because these veggies are much more expensive here than they are in North America--40 riyal per kilogram (about $5 per pound), so I paid about $10 for three of the buggers, which only made one batch of stew. It tastes like beef stew, which is a magical feat, because there are no animal products in the recipe I made (I only generally followed the one I linked to, as is a common happening in my kitchen).

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Settling In

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

After a calamitous plant disaster and some trial-and-error figuring out which plants might succeed out-of-doors, I think my plants are organized as appropriately as I can make them and settling in a little bit. Only a few were lost during the tragedy during the move, luckily, and most plants are now getting over the trauma and moving on.

Outdoors, I have my two Pandanus; the grey-variegated Yucca guatemalensis; the majority of my Plectranthus amboinicus; the Philodendron bipinnatifidum; the green bell pepper seedlings; Cryptanthus; cuttings of Carpobrotus chilensis I "acquired" from a beach in Ventura, California, last month; and various Sanseveria, Haworthia attenuata, Aloe 'Dorian's Black,' and Agave desmettiana planted together in two pots.

Most plants should probably be watered every day or two in this environment. There's some nice breeze to help keep them free of mildew and such, but the environment is very dry. The porch faces east, so the sun only shines on them for a few hours in the morning, but even so, some of the plants are showing signs of either heat or sun damage. I need to be a bit more careful about watering these plants more regularly (it wasn't a problem back in DC, but then, the plants were right next to my bed and much more visible). I used bottled Aquafina to water all of my plants--it's 40 cents (1.50 riyal) for a 1.5 liter bottle, so it adds up, but I don't want to test the desalinated water on my plants, no matter how hardy some of them may be.

Everything else is a few feet behind the outdoor plants, on my shelving unit that I had shipped over from DC. Yes, it only cost $100--but there was a shipment allowance, and as long as I didn't have to pay to have this shipped over, then why not bring it with me? I brought two smaller units as well, but they are in use in the kitchen, which has such shallow cabinets that they can't even fit a plate. So those are holding bulk items (spices, pasta, and other bits in glass jars; pots, pans, baking dishes; and the like).

But this shelving unit is devoted to plants. I don't have fluorescent tubes for my shop lights, so the plants only get what sun comes in through the 20-foot-tall window. You can see the Amorphophallus are doing quite well. The large corm, which I had to cut down to bring here, is maybe dormant already, but the two smaller ones are healthy and soaking up rays. The mixed succulents pot (with Stapelia gigantea, various Haworthia, a Gasteria from my horticulturalist friend at the National Arboretum, and my Cryptanthus 'Volcano') was previously outside, but it came in because I think the environment was too intense for the Haworthia.

On the right of the middle shelf, there are some white pots with seedlings in them. Those babies will be an update for later!

I have many more-focused updates in the works. I have been negligent of The Expat Garden(er), really. I still have photos from California and Doha, Qatar, for The Tourist and Plant Photography posts, as well as more Garden Reports, New Acquisitions, and a few Local Plant Profiles in the works. Those last ones may take more time than I had hoped, but hopefully they'll be interesting and informative.

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Variegated Pandanus

Originally posted on The Expat Garden(er)

In my catastrophe post, I briefly introduced one of my new plants: the variegated Pandanus. Pandanus is one of those plants that I have a fondness for for many kind of backward reasons. First, the plant was introduced to me through Mr. Subjunctive on Plants Are The Strangest People. Besides the humour and excellent writing style, Mr. Subjunctive is also very informative and a great reference when trying to figure out how to take care of the latest batch of impulse buys at the local nursery or garden centre. Second, my fondness for Pandanus is for its utility and misanthropy--some species are edible, but many have spines on the leaf edges and midrib. And the things can get huge, pretty fast, too. All of these things were pluses for me--I like a plant that's dangerous, useful, fast-growing, and huge. Pandanus certainly fits that bill!

So I bought one from eBay back in January 2010, because I couldn't find one locally and the man from Hawaii offered the cheapest one I found online. When I got it, I excitedly unwrapped it from its packaging, and daintily planted the small pup in its own pot with a mix of soil that was free-draining but also water-retaining. What I've learned about it since then is that it could probably have withstood a lot less awesome soil and a lot less pampering--Pandanus is one tough cookie!

So when I came upon a group of small, variegated plants with little teeth on the leaf margins and along the midrib at the campus landscapery/greenhouse, I wondered what they were. I asked the nice man who tends the plants in the greenhouse, and he said "Pandan." I swooped down, grabbed the pot of variegated Pandanus, and said "Done. It's mine." For 10 riyal! That's $2.67 US. There are many other plants I'd love to give a home to from that greenhouse.

Here is my new variegated Pandanus with the nonvariegated P. veitchii that I've had for at least a year and a half. P. veitchii would have looked better had I not chopped off half of his lower leaves and completely unrooted him for travel to Saudi Arabia, but he's doing quite well now in his new home. This photo was taken a few weeks ago, actually--P. veitchii's leaves have mostly unkinked themselves, straightening out from when I folded them to fit them into the duffel bag for the airplane.

Here's the variegated Pandanus's leaf spines. They don't look that large, but rub a piece of finger, arm, or leg up against this, and it hurts like heck!

I won't be trying these in any edible concoctions, because I'm not sure whether they are actually the edible varieties. But it's good to know I have a plant that's a potential weapon, a potential food source, and a pretty vigorous grower. It's also a bonus that these plants grow well here--I've seen lime-green-coloured Pandanus in planters around the university, as well as these variegated ones in the greenhouse. I like to believe it's a positive sign of environmental compatibility when I see plants available for sale and installed in landscapes in an area.

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