Archive for March 2011

First Terrarium, First Flowering

My first-ever terrarium (well, maybe not first ever, but the ones I attempted as a child didn't turn out remotely this successfully) is insane with growth. I have cut back the Pellionia pulchra, Fittonia, and Nautilocalyx pemphidius once each and shared some at a gesneriad society meeting. I need to do so again! Luckily, such a meeting is in only a week and a half.

The N. pemphidius has been flowering for weeks. I haven't tried to pollinate the flowers for some reason--they're inside a glass jar, I always forget to.

The ailing Pilea depressa I received in trade is rejuvinating in the terrarium--it's not quite thriving, but it's not dying either. Success!


Chirita 'Dreamtime'

My cutting of Chirita 'Dreamtime' tried to flower, pretty unsuccessfully. I had a request to share the blooms when they open--which never happened. They kind of developed, but then twisted and dried up. The photo I took didn't focus well, but you get the idea.

I revisited the original plant earlier this month, and it is, of course, looking wonderful and even blooming still/again!

I had also e-mailed the hybridizer, John Boggan, who said he hadn't anticipated this Chirita's size when he released it--his underwatering, underpotting habits apparently had it growing to a more reasonable size for him, but others (including myself!) really enjoy the giganticism of the plant.


When In Rome

Rather, when in New York City during Christmas, at a Whole Foods with friends before heading to an Upright Citizens Brigade show (I want there to be an apostrophe somewhere in "Citizens," but the website doesn't show any. Damn lack of grammar.), one absolutely must twist off a piece of a random Schlumbergera, stick it in one's pocket, forget about it for a week after one returns from the big city, and then attempt to root it.

Months later, this little stem hasn't died, hasn't dried, hasn't done shit. But because it's not withering and rotting, I'm hopeful that I'll get a little plant out of it! I'll always remember my less-than-stealthy thievery and that special night I spent with my NYC-relocated friend and my boy. And, of course, who could ever forget "Forest Hills State of Mind"? ...yes. "Forest Hills State of Mind," Schlumbergera, and babka are among the wonderful memories I retain from my New York City trip, and there are so many more to make when I next go!

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Special Pan-Asian Night of Deliciousness

One of my goals this year is to have monthly dinner parties. My first one, in January, involved roasted marinated beet salad, carrot and sweet potato puree soup with pear slices, white chocolate risotto that I learned how to make at Cilantro Cooks in Nova Scotia, and mixed berry crumbles for dessert. I had forgotten to prepare and/or serve a lot of things I had planned for that gathering (such as a side for the risotto and the ice cream for the dessert), but I think the dinner party went well enough.

On the last weekend in Feburary, I went further abroad than Nova Scotia for my menu--Korea! I know I called it my "Special Pan-Asian Night of Deliciousness," and I planned on making Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese dishes (at least), but other than the spicy mango chutney and garlic naan, most of the recipes I ended up using were from Maangchi, my favourite Korean cooking blogger.

This is the aforementioned mango chutney. It is also the dish that led to the revelation that I'm incredibly allergic to mango. The lymph nodes under my armpits were huge; I had red, hivey, swollen patches all over my body; and my eyelids puffed up so much that it was hard to watch Xena on my computer while I was preparing some recipes a few days before the dinner party. Luckily, I was off work; unluckily, I had to skip my personal training session last-minute.

A lot of food allergies, at least the ones I'm used to having, are side-stepped when a food allergen is cooked. Not so with mango, as I found out during the dinner party--I had a tiny bit of the chutney, and then had a tiny bit of the allergic reaction. It was tasty, but maybe a little too caramelized--I was distracted by a series of work-drama-related phone calls and the beginnings of my allergic reaction, so the chutney was on the stove a bit longer than it should have been.

These were my own creation. I had a lot of leftover rice from other dishes, so I rolled some into balls, coated them with cinnamon/sugar, powdered roasted black sesame/sugar, and coconut flakes and baked them. I liked them, but others' opinions varied widely.

This was perhaps one of my favourite dishes I prepared from one of Maangchi's recipes: kongjang, or caramelized-soy-sauce-and-sugar soybeans of delight! I've already made a second batch. They taste teriyaki-ish, and sometimes they remind me of jerky, in a pleasant carnivore-turned-vegetarian way. Who needs meat when you can eat kongjang? I think everyone liked Maangchi's broccoli pickles that I made, too, but I didn't photograph those.

I didn't take a photo of the sigeumchi namul, the sauteed garlic spinach side dish, before we all dug into it. The boy said he'd like more of this--it was so quick to prepare that that's not hard to offer!

I really enjoyed the musaengchae, or raw radish salad. It was another easy-to-prepare dish that had an excellent mixture of sweet and heat. Also, hell, fun with chopsticks!

The kimchibokumbap, kimchi fried rice, was one of the last-minute-decision dishes. I wanted to use the new batch of mak kimichi I made, but I wanted to try something different from the kimchi pancakes I always make. The kimchibokumbap was tasty, sure--but it wasn't as spicy as I had hoped, nor did I fry the rice as much as I wanted to. I think drier rice would have been better--I used a mix of sushi, jasmine, and brown rice (there was an accident with the rice when I got some glass containers a few months ago), and sushi and brown rice both get a little bit wetter than I think would have been best for fried rice. I let the rice dry overnight in the fridge--which really only offered a crusty top layer, not an evenly dried bowl of rice. Next time, I'll just cook different rice for my kimchibokumbap.

The main dish was japchae, because I had never made it before. I didn't use the beef the recipe called for--I substituted cubes of tofu. I also added some radish (I had a little left over after making the musaengchae). This was quite a tasty entree! It's one of the few nonspicy Asian main dishes I've ever cooked, and I know I'm going to try it again.

I have made Maangchi's maejakgwa before, for my (now award-winning) strawberry soup. These were tasty after-dinner snacks, along with the chocolate creme pie that Jenna of ModernDomestic and DC State Fair brought (which I didn't photograph, unfortunately, although it was tasty!).

I had planned on making some of Maangchi's jatjuk (pine nut porridge), but I nixed the idea after everyone claimed to be overfed. It is truly filling, if you eat an entire pot of it! I seasoned mine with cinnamon and sugar--it tasted amazing!

These would have been desserts, too, but I ate them all prior to the dinner party. I made Maagnchi's gyungdan recipe days in advance, but later, when I snuck a taste, I realized that they don't exactly store well--they need to be fresh-made before serving. I liked them enough to eat after they were refrigerated for a few days, but I wouldn't serve them to others. They are coated with cinnamon/sugar, powdered toasted black sesame/sugar (best topping ever!), and powdered sugar and flour (not great... Coconut is better). I made some for coworkers, too, and they seemed to be a hit!

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Chirita 'Dreamtime' Bein' Crazy

The Chirita 'Dreamtime' cutting I got back in January has decided to start blooming! The cutting--which was about a foot and a half long and only a little branch from the main plant, which you can see with me on the first page of last month's issue of "Gleanings" from the Gesneriad Society--may have set roots already, but it has dropped most of the older leaves (with no roots to support it and a drastic change in environment, no wonder!) and only just started growing new ones. I don't anticipate being able to grow it as large as Al is able to do with his huge, humid greenhouse, but if I don't kill it, that would be awesome for me! It was hybridized by John Boggan, a local plantie who works at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. So I try to treat this cutting nicely, and I think it's doing alright. It could probably use better care, however--more humidity might be nice for it. Maybe in time, every member of the National Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society will have a cutting to try? I think that's an achievable goal.


New Plants From Al's

I went to Al's Orchid Greenhouse with Kyoko again over the weekend. I got to use her camera to take photos, and I was offered cuttings of some pretty awesome plants! (If you're getting a sense of foreshadowing, you're right on the money--of course I did something with these beasts.)

Unfortunately, a lot of photos remain on my camera, and I can't access my old ones, because my computer is going verrĂŒckt. So, we'll see what I can cobble together--the half-dozen or so posts I have waiting in the wings will have to remain that way!

In the meantime, y'all should also check out the latest DC State Fair "State of the Fair" newsletter that I put together. If you're in the DC area, come out to the seedling swap on 14 May. It'll be a hoot! I'm starting extra seed that I bought from Renee's Garden, mostly, for those who don't have seedlings already.

Here's the spread. Most of the cuttings/seedlings/what-have-you are small, and many will remain small. Others, however, will potentially get rampant.

Dischidia sp. 'Nova' I don't think 'Nova' is actually the variety name, it's just the location in which this plant was originally found, according to the one source Kyoko found while at Al's.

Dischidia variegata (left) and Dischidia hirsuta, which I saw at the US Botanical Garden the previous weekend.

Hoya retusa (left) and Rhaphidophora celatocaulis

A Sinningia leucotricha cross

Some mini Philodendron

A creeping groundcover Ficus

And some ferns! Al says he thinks these may be hybrids of the weedy ferns he has growing in his greenhouse. I'm more than happy to take weeds off his hands!


Pregnant Onion Babies Growing Up

My sexually propagated Ornithogalum caudatum seedlings are sending out their second leaves and doing well inside on my metal shelving unit. In my office, however, an asexually produced bulb that had, at one point, tried to grow a leaf and then (I thought) died has sprouted anew! In the past two or so weeks, the tiny bulb (hidden under the Ledebouria socialis) resprouted a leaf and has grown many inches tall. In time, it'll take over this pot, which also contains some Crassula ovata, so I'll have to split the plants up at some point. But there's plenty of time before all that!

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The Indoor Garden(er)'s Setup

I live in a studio apartment. I have a lot of furniture. I also have upward of 150 or so plants, although I guess most of them are pretty small (I used to have larger ones, but they either died, got smaller [pruning], or were bulbs/corms that went dormant and are only now resurfacing).

How does one fit huge furniture, a bicycle, tons of kitchen supplies and appliances, and a crazy-person garden in one's apartment that's smaller than many community garden plots?

Shelving. Lots and lots of shelving.

Here's the back of my bed's headboard--the bookshelf and the desk with the hutch. You can just see the end of the defunct garden box on the left with a pot that contains some Episcia I'm rooting. The orchids on the headboard and the Canna could probably use more light--they're about 10 feet from the window. But, really, where would they fit...?

Here's the other end of the garden box on the right, as well as the window sill and my apartment's all-purpose temperature-control mechanism, which I never have on because my plants live on/near it. The couch is blocking a few plants (namely the Aechmea fasciata, a fern, Aloe 'Grassy Lassie,' Aglaonema, and a couple others) that would otherwise be visible. Since taking this photo, I realized I have been doing a disservice to a few plants (mostly 'Grassy Lassie'), so the plants got shifted a little. Other plants got potted up or shifted to accommodate the movement, but generally everything's pretty similar.

The couch also blocks my germinating seedlings on a heating pad (all of which was finally just adjusted to be closer to the lights), a catering tray that I use for small plants that like extra humidity, some Crocus, a coleus, and more! But you can see most of the shelves with my lighting and plants. They're kind of slap-dash arranged, but I like how easily I can whip the couch out of the way to gain access to my plants to water or tend them--it gives me a lot of extra floor space! It's not like my lemon verbena really cares that it's up against the back of my couch. The fluorescents also provide some bottom heat for starting seeds or for plants that may like a little extra warmth.



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