So, this is my latest casualty list, Scottish-style. I guess I'm feeling a little gaelic. Like the black plague sweeping through the highlands in the 1300s and 1600s, I have swept through my indoor garden, leaving death in my wake. Seriously, look at how long this list is.

Abutilon striatum 'Thompsonii' - Ah fergot to water et!

Alocasia infermalis 'Kapit' - Ah fergot to water that, too!

Araucaria heterophylla

Adantium pedantum - good riddance, ye misbegotten bastard of a fern!

Breynia nirvosa 'nana' - poor wee little bonsai.

Citrus x meyeri (Meyer lemon) seedlings

Citrus hystrix (Makrut lime) - It's DEED, DEED and a doornail.

Codiaeum 'Picasso's Paintbrush'AHM STILL GLAD YER DEED, YE NEEP-HEIDED 

Coprosma noid, possibly 'Evening Glow'

Grevillea robusta

Juncus spiralis 'Variegata'

Mandevilla splendens - To hell with ye, ye great barmy vine.

Nematanthus wettsteinii 'Variegated'

Neoregelia 'Kimberly'

Nephrolepis exaltata 'Emina'

Passiflora noid

Podocarpus 'Bird's Tongue'

Sansevieria rorida - Ah'll never ferget you. Ah'll play a doleful tune, on me pipes, o'er yer grave.

Sedum spp. cuttings - FECK YOU, APHIDS

Tillandsia (various)

Yucca elephantipes

Now, keep in mind that this group has been accumulating for several months. It's not as though one weekend I just went on a massive killing spree. And I did manage to re-home several other plants on craigslist before they contracted a fatal case of kitten, otherwise this list would be longer. But you have to admit, it's still a pretty impressive death toll. I'm that monster in the scary story that plants tell their plantlets, to keep them in line. Hopefully some experiential knowledge was gained from all this, hopefully these failures have taught me more about success.



Euphorbia Yum Yums

Being in need of flowers and a project, I thought I'd try my hand at oversummering cyclamen tubers. Unfortunately, when I went out in search of a specimen/victim, none of the cyclamens I encountered really called out to me. I was looking for something small, simple, and pretty, and all I could find were giant fluffy freaks that were all bedazzled to hell. And yet, on my way out the door.... 

Euphorbia pulcherrima NOID, a.k.a. poinsettia

What?! Dude, I don't even like poinsettias. At least, I thought I didn't. But something about this particular coloration was just so goddamn festive. I looked at it, and suddenly I was tasting candycanes and hearing Bing Crosby music and feeling all warm-towards-humanity and stuff. It called to me. And as I was arguing with myself about dropping hard-earned kizzash on some disposable holiday bullshit, a counter-argument surfaced. It is possible... kind of... to oversummer poinsettias. And if there's one thing I enjoy, it's an irritating botanical project with little chance of success. So, I was sold.

Out the door I went, with a big stupid Christmasy smile on my face. And then suddenly...

Day-yumn! Look at that awesomeness. It's Euphorbia trigona 'Red,' my poinsettia's nasty cousin from down south. Euphoriba trigona can get pretty big, and the idea that I could eventually have a giant RED one in my apartment made me quite pleased. 

It does have this weird little blister on one of the stalks. I don't know what that is... I'm half expecting a small, phallic baby alien to burst out of there. More likely is it will rupture and just become scar, which would be no biggie. We'll see.

So that's all for now. Coming soon, I kill a bunch of plants, and brew some Kombucha. And possibly die from drinking homemade Kombucha. I guess if the posts stop altogether, you'll know why. Send someone over to water my plants.

Parting Gift: I try to base my plant-shopping etiquette on this clip. Robbed from the film "The Room," which was robbed of the Oscar for Best Picture.


Whoopsie Doodles, and Other Projects

Hey y'all, remember that Homalomena that I just rescued from certain death?


Damn, I'm good! Now come up to the lab, and see what's on the slab.

Agave parryi is back inside, beginning the adjustment to winter quarters. This is my first experiment with tender perennials. Will it survive? We'll see. Is the cat tail more a photobomb or a derp?

Dieffenbachia (noid) had to be rebooted. I don't know what went wrong... maybe it was a watering problem, because all the leaves went chlorotic. In any case, this is still an open project... after being cut back to square one, new leaves are sprouting nicely!

Amaryllis hippeastrum 'Sydney.' Man, I really should put a cute soil cover on that to hide the plastic. By the way, if you want to have an Amaryllis bloom in time for Christmas, you need to get started... well, a couple of weeks ago actually. But there's no harm in starting now! You may get a bloom in time for the holidays, and if you don't, think of it this way: won't you be needing a little botanical cheer in your life come January, when the christmas lights are all down, and there are no flowers to be had until spring? With this in mind, I'm staggering a few bulbs for continuous bloom. Including...

Narcissus tazetta (paperwhite); an oldie but a goodie. DANG I need to get some soil covers going on. Maybe I'll buy some of that heinous neon-green dyed moss.

And finally, a mixed grouping of sedum cuttings, plus some sempervivums and one opuntia. Don't ask me why I keep growing different opuntias, because I don't know. "Opuntia: A Genus of Assholes." Anyway, I'm hoping to have them all rooted in time for spring container planting! 


Botanical Magic

Like John Fortune in China, like John Tradescant in Russia, I will gladly cross faraway lands in search of plants. Last week, I went on just such a mission. At Grand Street Gardens, I obtained several cute Peperomias and an Auracaria araucana (a.k.a. Monkey Puzzle Tree). Emboldened by success, I threw caution to the wind and ventured south from my kingdom, into that lawless wasteland, The South Suburbs. 

Forging through an ocean of K-Marts, subsisting only on Portillos, I finally arrived at my destination: the Black Gates of Ted's Greenhouse. It is appropriate that this unholy garden center be located in Tinley Park, for Tinley Park is a godless and inhospitable backcountry, providing the perfect protection for Ted and his minions. Yes, I have returned from this journey with plants, and with the truth of the matter: Ted is guilty of witchcraft most foul.

Ficus rubiginosa 'Variegata' 

"Alright, what are you talking about," you ask. I will tell you. They are just too good. Their level of expertise may be partially explained by green thumbs and horticultural degrees, but at least part of it has got to be Black Mass. Not only does this greenhouse grow FOUR kinds of passionflowers, including a PINK one, but they have got fruit. FRUIT! Upon this observation, I basically ran around until I found an employee, and made him look too just to be sure I wasn't crazy. No, he explained, those dozens of juicy, perfect orange spheres really were passion fruit. But, he continued, they are empty fruits because we don't have the correct pollinators in this area. He grabbed one off the vine and opened it for me to see... it was totally hollow. That's when I really began to suspect that Satan was involved. 

Agave NOID.

I saw many other plants which confirmed this suspicion. They have got variegated things there that... well... just SHOULDN'T be variegated. Their cactus and succulent department has shelves marked "Not For Sale," and the plants on those shelves are CLEARLY the product of the Dark Arts. 

Pachypodium lamerei

Obviously I could not resist the pink passionflower, ficus, or pachypodium. I also brought home a really amazing lithops, a stapelia hirsuta, some hard-to-find abutilons, and a gorgeous grevillea robusta. Another employee told me a wonderful story about the days when grevilleas were a popular holiday plant. Before poinsettias were improved to their modern state, grevilleas were used to fill the middle of circular plantings of poinsettias to obscure their legginess. Nice try, guys. You may have sold holiday poinsettias, but I think at this point we all know that you were acutally celebrating WIZARD SABBATH.

I'm lucky I escaped with my soul... and all these awesome plants. 


Oh Nomena, Homalomena!

Only because it was exotic and cute, I purchased a Homalomena (wallisii, possibly 'Camouflage') from Helm's Deepot. Literature on this houseplant was pretty scant, but I should have known better than to let it dry out, since I had just read exactly that advice via Mr. Subjunctive. But what can I say... when it comes to screwing up plants, I have a very special gift. So, after only a couple days in my house, the poor Homalomena was ready to give up the ghost. 

The first emergency care step was to rehydrate the soil and shower the leaves in the sink.

Then I employed a humidity bag. This is a really useful trick whenever your plants are suffering from dry air, are recovering from spider mites, or recently wilted from underwatering. Any clear, roomy plastic bag will work. Make sure you let your pot drain thoroughly before you bag it, to protect against drowning and rot. For example, I use a rubber band to affix the bag to the sides of the pot, so the drainage holes are still uncovered and breathing free. I also inflate the bag before I seal it up, so that the leaves aren't laying against moist plastic. Who knows... the plants may appreciate the carbon dioxide as well.

And look: by morning light, satisfactory bounce-back! The humidity-bag treatment has a certain window of efficacy; given too much time without water, and there is no possibility of recovery. I have tried to revive many a wilted Abutilon with a humidity bag, without success. And as you can see, a couple of the lower leaves on the homalomena died (they will have to be removed). But all in all, a successful crisis intervention.


A Halloween Photo Essay

Part One: In Which Nature Assassin goes to some Interesting Parties.

Part Two: In Which I Stumble Home, Eat Candy, and Collect Seeds.

Happy Halloween Everybody!


Snack time

So, what's in the fridge?

Collected seeds* in the vegetable drawer... any vegetables whatsoever?

If you go hunting in the freezer, watch out for the container of flies. Sarracenias gotta eat too.

*Holler if you're interested in trading. 
I've got mainly annuals and perennials, some houseplant varieties. 


The Heat is On!

Crap, crap!!!

You know, I never worry too much about my outdoor plants getting cold damage in the fall. I'm conscientious enough to start bringing them in early, one by one, and lackadaisical enough that if a couple get left outside too long, I don't stress out.  Today... tomorrow... I'll make it happen.

The outdoor crowd, back from a poolside-summer. The chlorotic Datura will be overwintered, dormant, in my basement. The others are in for a long haul.

But my great fear... my redoubtable fear... is heat. My apartment has radiators, which are controlled my my landlord. He is a kind and benevolent overlord not to freeze our asses out, and also the heat is free, so I really can't complain. BUT, here I go. When I first heard that bubbly hiss of the radiators kicking on this morning, I went directly into amber-alert.


Just in time, my 30 gallon seedling incubator was re-appropriated to serve as a winter humidity chamber, so any fern or tender plant less than five inches wide and twenty inches high has a real shot at surviving this winter. The others had better evolve REAL fast.

Good luck, Maranta. You're gonna need it.

Meanwhile, I finally found a greenhouse that was willing to babysit my Philodendron ('Black Cardinal?') for the winter, or as they call it, the "semester." The price, while very reasonable, was still too steep for yours truly, and so the philodendron is staying home once again (Sorry, buddy, no semester abroad in a tropical spa for you).

photo credit to my Tweesy, taken with her i-phone. Holler from yer girl, Twees!

So folks in the Chicago area... get 'em inside. Get 'em quarantined and treated for pests.... then get ready for the humidity crisis. 


Congratulations, it's an Anarchist!

Well, I've added another minion to my crew. This fearsome beast is Remy LeBeau... six months, and five pounds, of pure destruction. Like any baby, he eats several times a day, wakes me up in the night crying, and constantly wants to be held. Unlike a baby, he is agile, lightning fast, and really sharp at the corners. He's a fanged, concealed-razor carrying ninja-baby, and my whole apartment is his dojo. The houseplants and stemware have sustained massive losses. Needless to say, I think it's cute.

You learn well, young grasshopper.

Felines, I have found, have a natural affinity to plant murder... or just murder in general, I guess. Also, being independent and low-maitenance means that they themselves are resistant to accidental assassination. You don't see any puppies or parakeets around here. Evil scientists don't have the necessary skills to keep most pets alive. Flying monkeys? Yes. Goldfish? No.

Meh, I guess I didn't need that Yucca anyway.

Speaking of lack of nurturance, my other henchman (henchwoman, actually) is less-than-thrilled with our new acquisition.

Now that she's laid the smackdown on him a few times, they're getting along really well. He understands... she's alpha minion, he's beta. She's Bellatrix Lestrange, he's... I don't know, Fenrir Greyback or somebody.

Anyway, look what he did to this Calliandra, and the Monstera beside it. I'll never put the vacuum away again. Not even in kindergarten, and he's already defoliating at a third-grade level! I'm so proud. 


Are You Guys Ready For Fall?


  I know I yam! Get it? Yams? Oh man, the seasonal hilarity!

It's time to bust out the traditional paraphernalia! Me, I decided to buy a houseplant that had some nice fall color: Codiaeum 'Picasso's Paintbrush,' aka Croton. Flaming orange, red, and yellow leaves... how could I resist? I don't have a picture, because it started to go downhill the minute I got out my credit card. Let me just tell you, I have never disliked a plant so venemously; finally I just stopped watering and let it die. And I enjoyed every minute of that. Of course, I wrote a letter...

Dear Codiaeum 'Picasso's Paintbrush;' 
You are a piece of crap, from the bottom up. From your inbred, genetically-inherited sissyness to your low-quality growers soil, you have been nothing but a disappointment. I'm glad you're dead. I'm going to hire a voodoo priest to raise you up, just so I can kill you again. Then, I hope Russell Edgington gets you, and then Voldemort, and then a Rancor, and then a Terminator. And I mean a T-1000, not some fluffy Arnold Terminator. Ugh, you disgust me!
You broke my heart. I curse each one of your offspring to live in a novelty pot covered with puppies and inspirational messages about grandchildren, with an aquaglobe on top. Here is your eulogy song. 
Nature Assassin

Well rampant hostility aside, Happy Fall Everybody!! Coming soon... kitten pictures!


Party At?

I'll start posting again, right after I watch a few more episodes of Archer. Did I say episodes? I meant seasons. In the meantime, if you've been wondering where the party at, get a load of these upcoming Chicagoland houseplant events:

datura noid

September 11 + 12: Lakeshore African Violet Society Show and Sale. Chicago Botanic Garden, 10am to 4:30pm.

September 11 + 12: Gethsemane Garden Center Annual Sidewalk Sale - This is a great time to get pottery, out-of-flower orchids, and more on the cheap. Between you and me, they have tradescantia, ferns, cyperus, breynias, and many other indoor-friendly plants marked for sale as outdoor annuals. Time to stock up! 9-6pm.

September 18: Hawthorne Garden's Houseplant Seminar. Acclimatizing your pre-existing plants, and adding new ones. 10am.

October 3: Lurie Garden Workshop, "Garden Blogging: Porting Your Garden Journal to the Digital Age." Lecture by Mr. Brown Thumb, hosted in the 1st floor Garland Room, 10am to 12pm.

October 9 + 10: Illinois Orchid Society Show and Sale. Chicago Botanic Garden, time TBA

October 20: Sprout Home's Terrarium Building Class. Registration required (info@sprouthome.com), cost approximately $35-$75, depending on selected materials. 6pm.

Everyone's invited over to my place before these events for pregaming, BYOB


New Plant Roll Call


You sure do need a lot of water. And I'm not sure I like you as much as I like my two Abutilon thompsoniis, River and Simon. Nevertheless, your flowers are very cool. Carry on.


Keep in mind that you are here as a long term investment. You want to grow slowly? Fine. Carry on.


You have proven yourself to be of high aesthetic quality, while requiring minimum maintenance. Also, the new leaves are looking swell. Carry on.


It has come to my attention that you are a fern. Also, you are not dead. To exist under this botanical dualism in my home is rare indeed... most impressive. As a caveat, I must warn you... I've had bad luck with indoor-outdoor ferns. If I find a single scale or mealybug on you, I'll make you wish you'd never been germinated. That is all, carry on.


I can't trust anything with such... racy looking flowers. I've got my eye on you. Just keep those tendrils to yourself!


Never met a Peperomia I didn't like. At ease.


Don't think that you get special treatment, just because you were a gift cutting. We don't take kindly to begonias around here. You better keep that growth habit bushy and compact or I will equalize you, for serious.


You are climbing that hoop like a champ. Great job. Take five.

That's it, now everyone, BACK TO WORK!