BTW, people, I hope to see you at the International Aroid Society's  Mid-America Chapter meeting this Saturday, in St. Louis!

I'll be in St. Louis for the next week on family business, so blog posts may be suspended. Happily, I get to squeeze in a day trip to the MOBOT for the Aroid meeting, where I have been promised lectures, research presentations, tours, plants swaps, and punch and pie. There better be punch and pie, anyway.

Aroids, for your horticultural edification, compose a huge chunk of the tropical plants commonly grown as houseplants. You probably love them, even if you don't know it! Or maybe you do know it! Whatever, dude, just get thee to the MOBOT!

Growing Opuntia from Seed

I give you Opuntia ficus-indica: The Prickly Pear

         Actually, what you're seeing here is the fruit of the pricky pear cactus. You can find them at any grocery store that specializes in Mexican produce. The other commonly-sold portion of the cactus is the pad itself, typically used it savory dishes (i.e. nopales). Not that the fruit is particularly sweet... it mostly tastes like the bastard offspring of an aloe and a beet. In any case, you'll need to buy one to get the seeds, so you might as well eat it. Who knows, perhaps the seeds are your secondary goal, perhaps you LOVE the taste of cactus fruit and you're just sprouting seeds as an afterthought. Weirdo. 

Anyway, I will show you what worked for me.

Slice your fruit in half, and scoop out the seedy pith in the middle. The outer flesh is what you eat. Give the seeds a rinse in a strainer/sieve to remove as much of the red, fleshy fruit as possible; this material could become moldy and kill your seedlings. The seeds are small, flat, and brown. 

Scatter your seeds over a fine, fast draining mix like peat amended with vermiculite or sand. Dust the seeds lightly to cover, and provide bottom heat. Opuntias take their sweet-ass time with germination... my first seedlings didn't appear for seven weeks! SEVEN! So be patient, and don't toss the batch too soon. 

It's so cute to see a cactus seedling. One day they'll be tough, mean assholes, but for now, they're just sweet little dicotyledons. Ain't life grand? More updates to come.



Coming out of the lab the other day, I happened upon this beautiful sight:

What could this sexy specimen be? A closer inspection was fruitful..... GET IT?!? OMG, SNORT.

A papaya! It was excellent to see a papaya growing so well indoors, because I recently sprouted a few papaya seeds in my plant room. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that my plants will ever be so productive or appealing; my seeds came from a grocery store papaya, while the specimen above was labelled Carica papaya 'TR Hovey,' from Logees greenhouse in Connecticut. We'll just have to see what becomes of my little cuties: 

Welcome to the world, seedlings!
      You should know that there's only one rule in my house: GROW OR DIE. Oh, and try not to fraternize with the Meyer lemon seedlings... they've been experimenting with aphids lately. Citruses are such bad influences.


Update Schmupdate

Recent loot!

Aeschynanthus radicans 'Mona Lisa'

A cultivar of the popular Lipstick plant, 'Mona Lisa' has thick, tough, fuzzy leaves. The flowers are a dark scarlet red and deep, deep purple. Although my specimen dropped ALL of its flowers within 24 hours of moving in, it obliged me by sending out lots of new branches/vines. A classic houseplant, perfect as a partial-shade hanging basket in summer. 

Clerodendrum thomsoniae

Also known as bag flower, bleeding heart vine, and Glory Bower. I'm torn between training this beautiful vine to trail from a basket or climb an arbor. Also a fairly old-school houseplant, but Clerodendrum is seen in books more often then it is seen on store shelves. 

Coprosma x kirkii 'Variegata"

This New Zealand shrub is less common in indoor culture. Commonly known as mirror bush, the original latin name Coprosma roughly means "smells crappy." Luckily this attribution only holds for one type of Coprosma, and the variety I have is nothing but pleasant. I'm looking forward to many hours of happy pruning in our future.

Lithops optica 'Rubra' may not be recent loot, but it's still news. Both of my specimens are growing new leaf pairs. I find it curious and charming.

C+S Super Fun Time

      Today I attended Bob Webb's lecture on C+S (cacti and succulents) at a Gethsemane Garden Center open house event. Bob is the owner of Arid Lands Greenhouse in Tuscon Arizona, as well as a cactus and succulent conservationist. Here are some highlights from my notes on his lecture:

     1) It's all about the roots, so seriously consider your soils. The greater the soil mass, the greater the chances for rot. This means two things: don't overpot your C+S, and use high proportions of coarse drainage material*. Bob uses pumice for this purpose, because it is very lightweight. In response to a question about his soil mix, Bob quipped, "If I told you my soil mix, I'd have to kill you. So, prepare to die." Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn't write down his secret recipe.

     2) When it comes to fertilizing your C+S, go low on nitrogen (the first number on your fertilizer label) and high on potassium (the third number on your fertilizer label). Excessive nitrogen can cause C+S to become leggy, and increases the risk of rot. Meanwhile, potassium provides some amount of immunity to common pathogens.

     3) Don't be afraid of latin names. I nearly shouted a "hallelujah!" when this point came up.

     4) Experiment! Bob apparently went gaga for C+S after killing his first Adenium obesum; accidents will happen, as well as victories. As an amateur horticulture assassin, this advice made me hopeful.

So what did I get away with? This little beauty:

 Anacampseros rufescens 'Sunrise.' What a gem! 
Seems like a perfect indoor plant for a hanging basket. 
Update: Ahh, tartar sauce! It would appear that anacampersos reaches a maximum height of three inches... good for ground cover, no good for hanging baskets. Oh well... dish garden it is!

     *There are exceptions to this rule: Bob noted that different plants prefer different ratios of soil to coarse drainage as a means to absorb the correct amounts of water. Furthermore, certain plants like Pachypodium limereaie will flower better when they are regularly potted up, rather than pot-bound. I could sit and learn the details of these plants all day!


Get Yer Bagged Poop!

     Y'all heard of Milorganite? Am I the last one to find out about this?

     Well, if you were hesitant before about buying bags of baked Milwaukian sewage, don't fear. They have a great video explaining why this stuff is totally cool, and not at all SUPER FUCKING GNARLY.

     Let me just add this... people from Milwaukee drink a lot of microbrews and eat a lot of sausages, in my experience. Are you sure you want to go down this road? Having friends ask you, "What's your secret with your hostas and vegetables?" and you reply, "Why, it's beer-sausage manure. Great stuff!"

     Maybe someone should start bagging our waste, and call it Chicagoite. It would probably smell like PBR, hot dogs, and bad decisions.


Sexy Sexy Gloriosa

     Though I've read of this plant in classic indoor horticulture manuals, I've rarely seen it in cultivation. Until this year, anyway! The Glory Lily (Gloriosa superba) seems to be showing up a lot. I've seen it trained into comely hoops at Home Depot lately. On a previous suggestion from Mr. Subjunctive, I visited the TPIE website website and saw that a new cultivar had won a prize. And, most recently, at the Chicago Garden and Flower Show...

Glory Lily seems to be the flower of the season!


Give Away That Which You Love Most...

Well friends, spring is here. It's is a time of growth and renewal for everything that is alive. Spring is a time for generosity: generosity of time, generosity of material things, and generosity of spirit.

What could be better than receiving a bundle of Passiflora cuttings from my biffle on a gorgeous day?

     So, how will I celebrate spring? Just like I celebrate in fall: by giving away (and buying) a shit-ton of plant material. I'm going to sprout and propagate plants all over the place; I've already started. I've got improved Meyer Lemons, papayas, and Opuntias sprouting, and there are seeds on their way to me in the mail. True, I don't own a scale here that measures shit-tons, so my cubic shit-ton estimate is just that... an estimate. What I'm trying to do is just give you some perspective on the volume of plants here. It's a lot.

     Heathen plantophiles like me adore the Rites of Spring, the secular aspects of Easter ... watching the snow melt, and seeing things start to green up and peek out. Getting our hands muddy and really enjoying the outdoors again. Potting up our root-bound houseplants, moving sulking specimens outside to bathe in the warm light. Potting, pruning, and propagating!

   The natural fecundity of plants during this time is ridiculously enjoyable. Go forth, fellow plant people, and spread your non-metaphorical seeds!

   Then, when warmer weather hits and you have more jars of Pothos cuttings that you know what to do with, give them away. When your plants are generous with bounty, share your good fortune and give away that which you love most. Homemade cuttings, seeds, or spring berries are such great presents! Give them away, friend... give them away by the shit-ton. Amen.

What's Up in Rogers Park?

The crocuses, that's what!

The hyacinths and the daffodils are also up, and any minute now the tulips will be exploding. 

Right behind them will come the lilies. The lily that grows just outside my front door is back again this year, and getting ready to dazzle. Seeing it come up from the ground was like seeing an old friend come back from a long, long vacation. I love spring!!


Is it time?

Is it time to put my plants outside??

     No. Not yet.

But it's gorgeous out there!

     I know, right? But wait just a little more.

The forecast says it's going to stay warm... even thefuckingweather says so.

     Yep. But let's just give it another week or so, to be sure that the nighttime temperatures don't go below 50 degrees. Better safe than sorry! That said, there are some plants that will survive these temperatures:

Agaves, aloes, and several other succulents/cacti
Araucaria (norfolk island pine)
Callistemon (bottlebrush)
Campanula (bellflower, fairy-ear)
most Cissus (grape ivy, kangaroo ivy)
Citrus species
most Hederas (common ivy)
some types of Jasminum (Jasmine)
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (Flaming Katy)
miniature roses
Olea (olive)
Passiflora (passion flower)
Plectranthus (swedish ivy)

And happy spring, everyone!