Bow chicka' bow bow...

Happy spring, my bishes! It's is officially here, and it seems that roughly half of the inhabitants of the household have decided to get busy with the babies. Not the Monsieur or myself, thank you very much. I will casually defenestrate a plant at the first sign of obstinacy, so I shudder to think about what I'd do with a baby. Maybe my plants saw the death strokes that befell the two sickly ferns during the recent repot, and they decided to put on some new growth to please me. This was rather intelligent of them, I think.

Et tu, Nephrolepis?

So here's what we've got. My little tiny Aloe "Dorian Black" now has a pup. "BUT SHE'S SO YOUNG!" I know, I know. I told her the same thing. I can't say I'll be sad to have another one of these, though... I mean look at it! It's stunning, almost completely white.

My Meyer lemon seeds have finally sprouted! Do you see my thrifty invention? I took one of those clear egg cartons and made a little incubator out of it. It's always moist and gets plenty of sun, plus it sits between the window and the radiator, so it never gets chilly. I opened it up for this picture:

The Epipremnum aureum "Marble Queen" immensely enjoyed its repot. I also rooted this winter's cuttings, which are doing fine. It's in a really fast-draining medium of mostly pumice and pine bark fines. Rapidly, it became bushy with new growth.

Here's a better shot of the color. The new leaves are almost completely white, probably because they're getting more sun.

Here's the baby crosiers from my Nephrolepis "Emina." Now in a slightly peat-ier medium.

My teeny-weeny Philodendron "Moonglow" has put on a new leaf after I gave it a much-needed soil change.
The beastly Philo "Black Cardinal" has finally adjusted and is putting out this beautiful new leaf:

Strelitzia Reginae is now completely mealybug-free and putting on tons of new growth after being potted up:

Sansevieria "Bally" has made a baby offshoot:

And as usual the cats are all up on it. We keep telling them that they are both fixed, and will never consummate their love, but do they care? No, they just continue making out on the couch when we have friends over, which is awkward for everyone. 

K thx bai


In Memoriam

As a practicing nature assassin, I try not to get too emotionally involved with my targets. However, I feel it is only fair that I commemorate some of those houseplants that put up bold struggles before hitting the landfill. To the friends and families of these specimens I offer my condolences... believe me when I say that I am trying to quit. I just can't help that I'm good at what I do.

The following plants were excommunicated, and hopefully are living well with their new craigslist families.

Variety and Sin:
Philodendron "Xanadu" - scale insects
Ficus elastica - scale insects
Dracaena Warneckii - extreme deliciousness towards felines
Cycas revoluta - too angsty

Crassula Ovata - too vain

Successful Assassinations of 2008:

Variety and Cause of Death
Hedera helix variegata - spider mites
Rosemarinus officinalus - suicide
Ficus microcarpa "Green Island" - cat attack

Successful Assassinations of 2009 (so far):

Asplenium nidus "Osaka" - fungus gnats
Arachnoides simplicior - thirst
Chamaedorea elegans - cat attack
Neprolepsis exaltata "Suzi Wong" - root rot
Cupressus macrocarpa "Wilma" - shame

Congratulations to my Norfolk Island Pine, who is now the longest surviving member of the team! Keep up the good work, Araucaria heterophylla, and you just might be spared from next week's scheduled abusive overfertilizing!


Nancy Drew and the case of the Meyer lemon

Never have I encountered such a mystery as finding the proper procedure for growing Meyer lemons from seed.  Two friends and I recently undertook this sowing project, and after two weeks the results have only flummoxed me further. Here's a little documentation.

Clue number one: The Meyer lemon, a citrus clouded in obscurity. Though elusive, you can sometimes find them at specialty grocery stores. Like so much modern-day produce, most lemons will not "come true" from seed, nor would they be suitable for indoor culture. Meyers are an exception. These little guys will (as the rumors have it) grow happily in bright indoor light and fruit after about four years. The fruits are a golden, buttery yellow and slightly smaller and rounder than the grocery store variety. Presumably this is because Meyer lemons are (allegedly) a cross between regular lemons and tangerines... who can say for sure? I would buy this, because the flesh of the Meyer lemon is incredibly sweet and delicious, great for cooking and garnishing. My manfriend and I even ate a couple of them like oranges, sprinkling on just a bit of demerara sugar. Reserve the seeds. 
Myself, I tried a couple of different things with the seeds because I found so much conflicting information on sowing citrus. Some seeds I simply rinsed and planted straight from the fruit. Others I scored gently with a sharp knife. I removed the outer shell from a couple others. Finally, I soaked a few in moist paper towels for several days before sowing. We'll see what combination works.
Clue two: the deceptive Peat Pellet. You can usually buy these by the bagful from your local garden store. They are small compressed pellets of peat (duh) encased in a mesh bag, with a hole on one side. When dry, as several people have mentioned to me, they look like little cookies, but do not be fooled. Soak them in lukewarm filtered water and they will reveal themselves to be 2-inch long plugs of rich-smelling dirt. You should easily be able to find the hole in the pellet. From there, simply pop the seed in, and cover it with a bit of peat using your finger. Opinions seem to vary (oye) on how deeply Meyer lemon seeds prefer to be planted. 

From there on, place them in a clear container of some kind with a lid. If you notice the pellets seem dry after a few days, give them a little spritz. I am trying ziplock bags, clear tupperware, and glass jars to see what will coax out the little bastards. I'm also placing them in different spots around my apartment to see if they prefer high or low light. In any event, most people agree that warmth will speed germination, though some people seem to think they prefer a chilling period in the fridge (it's like finding a primary resource on the mating habits of unicorns, I swear). Here's my whole operation mid-process, with my gardening partner acting as supervisor. 

Each jar was later meticulously labeled, so I know what is what. The final question is, when will they sprout? And the answer is.... wait for it.... no one can say. I have a book on growing indoor plants from seed that says Meyer lemon seeds sprout in about 2 weeks. However, a very kind and sage GardenWebber advised that I not hold my breath for this deadline, and just leave the seeds alone (I peeked at a couple of them this week and probably destroyed the whole process). 

So I'll bide my time. With any luck, my little soggy brown cookies will one day look like this (image from Dave's Garden). For now, I'll keep Grissoming along. 


New growth for the new season

I've never been great with sitting meditation, but I imagine that the deep feelings of calm and well-being that come from working with plants must be an equivalent exercise. This week I found time to do one of my favorite chores: a deep cleaning of my plant room. I try to do this once a month, all the while practicing deep breathing and compassionate thinking. 

Occasionally, compassionate thinking is really aided by drinking chocolate milk and reading lolcats, but I'm not sure if that is as "spiritual" of an endeavor. Anyway. 

First I remove all the plants from my sun room and put all the cachepots and trays in the kitchen. Then I clean the room thoroughly, including my three humidifiers and my gardening/bonsai tools. Next, I take all of the pots and trays and scrub them down in hot, hot water. The pebbles from my humidity/drip trays get rinsed in a colander. I love observing what gets built up in a month, because it tells me so much about the plants. For example, my super dwarf banana had some small crawling insects in its tray, which means it probably needs its soil changed very soon (I neglected to change the soil when I brought it home from a commercial greenhouse, which is sort of a no-no).

Finally, I spend time with each of my plants. In bright light, I check the leaves, fronds, inflorescences and what have you, the soil, and the roots. I trim back dead growth when it is appropriate, and I made notes in my garden book concerning the future needs of each plant. I sometimes take photographs as well, to document improvement or decline. The close contact is good for both of us, I like to think... I enjoy their various smells, colors, and intricacies, and presumably they appreciate my CO2. When I'm finished cataloguing everything, the plants are all arranged back in the sun room according to their light preferences. 

Obsessive? Perhaps. Now you may be thinking, the chocolate milk and lolcats would be healthier than this.

Well, what did I observe that was particular interest? First off, my dracaena massangea is on its last leg, but I don't feel like getting into that now. If it can survive until spring, when a repotting is in order, this plant will be fine. Otherwise, it's the dumpster for this puppy.

Speaking of which, my Aloe "Parvula Jacobsonii" has pupped! I'm fairly surprised, given the condition this plant is in. I bought it at half price because it had been tucked away and forgotten at the greenhouse, and consequently most of the lobes (what is the term for an aloe "leaf," anyway?) had dried up and snapped off. I couldn't pass it up because I love the powdery blue color it acquires with age. Here is a photo of the pup, which I hope to separate in a few months:
Here is the other good news. In early December, I visited the superb family-owned greenhouse "Ahners" in St. Louis. I brought home a variety of nephrolepis colloquially known as "Jester's Hat" or "Curly Boston." Unlike the average Boston fern, this ("emina") has a completely upright habit with tight curls. Here is a healthy example from Dave's Garden.

I have not been able to find much info on this fern, except that they are somewhat difficult to satisfy and grow very slowly. I would agree with both of these points. Mid January, in a fit of pique, my fern almost completely shed its leaflets, leaving it a bundle of sticks. I was disappointed, but I learned my lesson about letting these guys dry out for even a short time. Since then, I have patiently and conscientiously watered and waited. When I was cleaning this week, I noticed four new crosiers popping up! Not only this, but when I checked the root system, look was was going on below the surface:
Look at all those little guys making their way up! Hooray! So here's a question for the fern pros... would you say this could use a potting up, come spring? It's currently in a 4-incher, but it looks to me as through the rhizome is pushing for more room. Any thoughts?

Enjoy the warm weather and the rain!