Archive for September 2009

Coco Goes Loco

Crazy for flowering, that is!

Remember when I said "Oh, wow, I think my recently acquired Episcia "Coco" is flowering" about a month and a half ago?

Well, it is! There are a ton of what I had photographed previously (tiny flower buds thinking about being full-on flowers), but only this one has expanded to full-fledged about-to-open flower status, so far.

In addition to that, I took those two stolons that were on the plant to work last month, chopped 'em up, and potted them there with an amazing rooting success rate--even single leaves have rooted.

Episcia, you rock my world.


Survival Not Guaranteed

Remember when I bought this brown rabbit's foot fern, Davallia trichomanoides, I said "I can see huge potential for death and mayhem in our future."?

Psychic have I proven to be.

I am almost certain it's a problem of overwatering. I bought this and left for my hike pretty soon afterward, and I was overattentive before leaving--it was still moist upon my return, because I watered everything pretty well the day before I left. The tag says to let it dry out before watering... I am really not good at letting plants do that. So, then this happens, and all the leaves fall off, like what happened to those rhizomatous Begonias that I separated (although, in that case, there was clearly other stuff going on, too).

But, on both counts, at least I have signs of recovery! In this pot is an offset South African squill, Scilla violaceae (those offsets are making their way everywhere as I pull them off the larger plants); a rhizomatous Begonia; and a small section from the rhizome of the brown rabbit's foot fern. The Begonia, you can see, has a leaf and a few more on the way! It has taken a long time, but they're finally coming back from the trauma I exposed them to--not only being roughly separated, but also overwatering issues.

The rabbit's foot is also showing signs of life--despite the mother plant not being happy with me, this little rhizome bit is growing new leaves! Maybe I'll just take a lot of rhizome bits and stick 'em in this pot to remake what I had destroyed. It seems strange that I can successfully propagate (once, at least) something that I can't seem to keep alive as an adult plant.

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Barton The Beast

Hm, I feel like Swimray scooped me on passionate purple plants, but at least they're completely different ones!

Back in early April, I purchased Barton, my about-one-foot-tall Gynura aurantiaca. He has quietly been thriving in the window, growing behind the blinds and up against the screen. To be honest, I don't notice him much--I water him when it's time to water him, but the blinds, well, blind me to his presence.

I had to move him because I was closing the window (it got cold one night and I was freezing), and I was almost in shock at how tall he had grown, despite having clipped him back a few times to root the cuttings. I didn't measure him, but he's clearly four to five feet tall. You can see at the bottom he has lost leaves--I need to pay more attention to his watering schedule. In the middle of the area where he has leaves, the leaves are fairly small--that might have coincided with the period of less watering after my purchase of the moisture probe. I have since gotten out of the habit of using that, so Barton gets a bit more water, and his leaves are larger. Another hypothesis may be the decreased humidity and increased temperatures around the same time, or maybe all of the above. But his leavse are larger now, and it looks like he has one of those much-sought-after pinched waists. I should buy him a corset and a ball gown so he can go out on the town.

I think I'm going to chop him up and make babies. He has a couple shoots coming up from around the soil line, so he'll look fine in a few months, but he's just so ridiculously top-heavy at the moment! Any locals want a cutting?

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Pollination Sexcess

There are tons of methods out there by which tomato plants are said to be easily pollinated.

Most of them are complete crocks of shizzat.

I tried shaking; I tried misting (as per "The Indoor Kitchen Garden"); I tried using a paintbrush; all of this to no avail, until I found that to get my flowers to release their stream of excitation, one must get them in the mood with a little vibratory action.

Not having an electric toothbrush, I used my beard trimmer (as evidenced photographically by my little beard hairs all over the cherry tomatoes). It worked very well for the peppers, but at first I was a little perturbed by the continued bloom drop of the tomatoes. But they've warmed up to me and come around to the idea of procreating!

Well. Ace has. Cherokee is still pouting. I'm cool with that--he'll come around in his own time.

Just for those who have a thing for voyeurism, here are a few clips of me using my beard trimmer to get a pepper flower and Ace bush flowers pregnant. You should be able to see the pollen escaping from the flowers at some point during the vibration, but the decreased quality due to uploading to Blogger doesn't help matters.


More On The Away Days

I took pictures during my hike, of course. I didn't pull a Sanford, although now I almost wish I had. It would have been more exciting.

Here's a cow. She's not terribly exciting. But she's much less unfriendly than the ones I ran into in Belgium, who, I think, wanted to headbutt me and get me out of their field while I was trying to find some concert during a farm festival in Bellingen (oddly enough for the band named Milk Inc.). There was rain and hitchhiking involved afterward. This trip was not completely dissimilar in that regard (just without the rain and the hitchhiking and the music).

Yeah, because this is exactly the festival I want to be attending! ::snorts:: I'd rather minimize my exposure to noroviruses, thank you very much!

Side-note to those who are interested, there was a total fun Norwalk "outbreak" in the Maritimes while I went to school there. I blame the media hype--people get diarrhea all the time, big whoop, it's nothing special, but they chose to focus on it at that time, and there were actual lab-confirmed cases, so it was a Big Deal (tm). I helped spread the media coverage, so I blame me, too, but I blame me a lot less than I blame real news outlets.

There's just something about beaming sunshine on Datura blooms that gets me all worked up. They're so beautiful!

Pit bulls are such begging babies. "OMG please? Food?! See how nice we are? Don't we deserve that treat you have in your hand?" Doesn't matter that it was just a piece of English muffin (I think? Actually, I don't recall. It might have been anything.), but if the humans were eating it, then by the gods the dogs wanted it. Pictured here is seven-year-old Puppy, my pit bull (I call him mine, but he lives with my mom in Winchester--he's really hers, but I'm his best buddy), on the left, and Remi, my sister's pit bull, on the right. My sister's arm and what I assume are some other body parts of hers are also pictured here.

The Wal-Mart Caladium I bought and planted for my mother on Memorial Day aren't exactly lush. They came up, at least, and my mom was a fan, so that's all that matters. The Vinca was preexisting. (I figured I should include something plant-related, this being a gardening blog and all, y'know?)

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I'm Not Dead Yet!

Yes, I appologize to all (one) of you who was clamoring to know whether I was alive or not. I have been incredibusy since my return, and I hadn't set up any autoposts. I do, however, have quite a few on the way, if I get around to them. It turns out that the end of summer is a wicked-packed time with lots of volunteering, hanging out, birthdays, et cetera. My garden is, thankfully, chugging along--I might have a tomato set on Ace. He has been in bloom for a few weeks (determinate my ass!), and although I have been vibrating him dutifully, a lot of the flowers just wither up and fall off, as is their wont in my little plant dungeon of death. But I think I see a few determined to stick around, just like the couple of cherry tomatoes! I have a few green peppers, too, on the way--I think it's "King of the North," but I won't be sure until they get bigger. The edamame and kidney beans are alright, and I decided to try the chickpeas again--they seem to enjoy the cooler weather now. Cherokee is still being a big pouter, refusing to put out for me until I make up for what I did. But I don't know what I did. He says if I don't know, he's not going to tell me. So I'm just like "Fine, whatever, sit there and mope for all I care!" So he does. At least Ace likes my attention!

Tomato love triangles aside, my hike was pretty awesome, and will be even more awesome when I actually complete the entire thing (route can be found here). I took the MARC train from DC to Martinsburg, West Virginia, on a Friday night, slept in a hotel, and left around 5:45 AM on Saturday. I was planning on getting to my mom's apartment in Winchester, Virginia, at 3 or 4 PM on Sunday (the route doesn't show where she lives, just what Google considers to be Winchester). I don't think it was impossible--47 miles in 2 days. No biggie. And I was stopping every so often at places with food and water, so I didn't have to carry as much on my person.

I didn't count on the bag I had being so bad, however. I'm not a practiced hiker, nor was my bag a hiking bag. My legs were fine, but my shoulders and nipples were taking a beating. My nipples almost started bleeding because the bag pulled my shirt tight against them, and there was constant rubbage--bandaids took care of that. The bag, however, could not be fixed. It didn't distribute weight well, and my shoulders were not used to carrying weight in such a way.

So, I walked through Boyd's Gap in some sort of mountain ridge (dogs barking all the while, cars careening up and down the pike, and me peeing on a rock at one point). The above picture was the scenery along Tuscarora Pike while I was climbing/descending the ridge. I made about 15 miles--I got to my first checkpoint a little after 11. (It says it's 14 miles, but I got turned around in Martinsburg for a bit, so I add a mile.) About three miles per hour, but I also stopped a couple times (breakfast sandwich and coffee, pee break, water breaks, et cetera--I'm high-maintenance). For my first "hike," even though it was along roads and such, I think that's cool.

But anyway, once I made it to Shanghai Grocery a little after 11, I caved and called my mom to come pick me up. I was so bored. No entertainment other than wiping sweat off my face and looking at plants. I'm too ADD. I didn't even bring my MP3 player, because I thought that it would be unnecessary weight and encumbrance.

My mom showed up with my sister, who just moved into town near my mom. They had an adventure of their own--it took them almost three hours to find me! When they picked me up, we went to Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, to hang with my mom's friend. It's a nice little town, but I have lived in a tourist town before. "Those folks" can be annoying, y'know? Alright, yes, I was one of them on that day. But I was looking at "for rent" signs... Yes, crazy I am, what with the two-hour-each-way commute and the not-being-in-DC-on-weekends problem. But I miss living in a small town.

I just have to get the out-of-the-way feeling while still living in DC. I'm planning to explore Rock Creek Park, finally, this Sunday. If you don't hear from me for another week or two, it's because I met the same fate as Chandra Levy.


Super-Size My Squash

I'm about to leave for a few days on a hike through West Virginia and Virginia, but I don't want anyone to feel lost! So I am putting up this picture of the trombetta squash from outside of Mr. Yogato--this one is even larger than the last! After I picked it, I walked to the bus a few blocks away and heard "Whoa, what is that?" and "Honey, look at that huge squash!" and "Daaaaammmmnn!" I felt like a hooker from the '80s.

On the bus, I met a few nice people who were commenting on my almost-four-foot-long squash ("Is it real? You grew it yourself?! Where??"). A child even followed me from the street into my building asking me about plants.

It was kind of ridiculous. I loved it. Walking around the city with a four-foot squash is not something people do right after work. Most people see vegetables that are meant to fit in plastic shopping bags--and they are meant to be in those bags, not out in plain view. But the shopping bag was full of a foot-wide sunflower head (I clipped Titan's head off to hang to dry), so there was no room for trombetta. People's reactions amazed me and made me, well, really happy. Maybe those few kids, or even their parents, who saw my squash will think "Oh. I can do that." and they will. Get 'em while they're young!

Oh. Then I peeled and chopped it all up (took an incredibly amount of time), boiled it, and turned it into a mystery "Apple" crumble that I took in to work. People liked it, so I was happy. My mantra: put enough cinnamon and sugar in it and anything can taste good!


Playing In The Dark

This has been sitting in my blog entry list for a long time--I wonder why it never got posted? Well, here it is, folks!

On Monday, 3 August, I went on a moonlit tour of the National Arboretum. This was a very special tour. Visitors can pay to go on a moonlit tour three times each month during a full moon period (they are all filled up for the rest of the year, too), but the tours have never before been run in July or August, because it's always too hot. Our tour was also a small group formed only of National Arboretum volunteers. We had a picnic together near the koi pond, ate dessert, and then started on our six-mile-or-so tour as the sun started setting. I had never been around the Arboretum before (when you volunteer, you don't have much time while you're there and little energy when you're done).

It was an awesome, unique pre-birthday experience, even if I didn't know almost anyone there. I guess that didn't matter, much--the tour guide, Lynn, told us at the start that talking was not allowed. It messes up the magic that is the Arboretum by moonlight.

We got to feed the koi with little food pellets. At first, they were slow to come to our sprinkled bits, but then masses of multicoloured monsters came gaping up out of the depths, sliding their slimy scales over one another, contorting themselves to be the one to gulp down the tiny glob of sustenance. Like, they were totally jumping all over each other.

The capital columns for some reason reside at the National Arboretum. Lynn told us the story about them, but to be honest, by the end of the hike I had forgotten. They have been there for a few decades--I think the capital building or whatever was renovated and the government for some reason decided that the Arboretum would be a good place to put the old columns. It is in the middle of a meadow. It looks oddly out of place and towers over the wildflowers.

Lynn explained to us what a blue moon is--it is the second full moon in the same month. It happens every two and a half years or so, and the next one is this New Year's Eve, during with the Arboretum will be having special tours and a celebration. This moon is only 93% full.

This is Dawn Redwood, a species thought to have been extinct. The Arboretum has a small grove of them, about 60 years old if I remember correctly. These trees are ancient in lineage and related to the famed redwoods in California. I have a fascination with overly large plants, of course, so growing redwoods has been a dream of mine for years. The wrinkling of the trunk apparently means that the tree is starting to become mature--it's hard to think that only in the past few years has this tree reached adulthood!

Here is a more indicative picture of the Dawn Redwood's growth habit. It is hard to take pictures in the dark, but if you click on the photo, you can see better detail.

These are aerial roots of... Um... Some sort of tree. Lynn explained what is happening here--basically, the tree is (intentionally) so close to a pond that the roots that would grow in the dirt there would have no oxygen (oxygen diffuses poorly through water--that's why loose soil is better, it lets air in with the necessary gaseous compounds plants need). So some plants have adapted to have roots that can grow up to acquire oxygen for growth.

But, wait, what the heck? Oxygen for plant growth? The roots use oxygen to produce energy by breaking down sugars via cellular respiration. It's the same everywhere else in the plant, but I guess I just focus on the "plants make their own food" so much that I forgot it's really breaking those photosynthetically produced sugars down via cellular respiration that gives the plants energy. I clearly need to brush up on my plant biochemistry--but, never having had a class focusing on that, I don't feel too bad about having to Google why roots need oxygen.


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