Archive for April 2011

Deconstructing The Indoor Garden(er)

The garden is in such a state of disarray. I could use an extra few weeks to prepare myself for my upcoming move, but I don't have that kind of time. So, last night I took apart my shelving units so the movers would be able to pack them for me today--luckily, I had something of an open house yesterday, and a lot of the plants I hadn't shipped to friends elsewhere in the U.S. walked away with other people I love. There are some I'm keeping to be inspected for a phytosanitary certificate so I can take them with me to Saudi Arabia, and most of them are sitting on my windowsill right now, basking in the swampy environment that DC is famous for, because the apartment building only just turned on the air conditioning and it's crazy humid and hot on the top floor still. A little something to look forward to when I move--from what I see of weather reports, it's a lot of the same along the coast of the Red Sea.

I didn't take photos of everything I got rid of, but one visitor to the open house yesterday walked away with about three dozen plants in a box--most took only one or two, plus a few books or a lint roller. I don't get why people are so timid to take others' belonging when people say "Free! Please take it off my hands or I'll have to donate/trash it!"

But today, I posted on DC Urban Gardeners that I was giving away houseplants, seeds, fertilizer, etc., and those folks were not timid at all! Within minutes, the remains of my garden were spoken for, so for the next couple of days, I'll be meeting with area gardeners to hand over my precious babies into their care.

One of those precious babies is my Philodendron bipinnatifidum. It had two growing points, so I sawed off (yes--sawed!) one of them to take with me (it will be a long time before it gets sizable, but it's a good nugget and I think it should last until I'm able to pot it). The main growing point has a wicked-long root that I found as I moved the plant from from the top of my computer table hutch to the top of my dresser, for ease of access to visiting gardeners who may want to take it home.

Look how crazy this thing is! It's almost 10 feet long, I'd wager. It was hard to get a photo, so I took a video.


The P. bipinnatifidum grows horizontally like that because that's where the light came for it--it was about six feet away from the window, set pretty high up. If I had had it maybe on the floor, the leaves would have grown at a more-pleasing angle, but... Oh well.


Moving To Saudi Arabia

I accepted an offer of employment at King Abdullah University of Science & Technology. I'll be an "English Writer" in the communications department. I fly out of DC to Saudi Arabia on 8 May. I'm still working out what this means for things I'm involved in here in DC, but I know I will attempt to maintain my garden blogging. I am working on figuring out how to ship some of my plants to Saudi Arabia. There are a few that I'd rather not give up, addict that I am. Some have sentimental value, some are truly one-of-a-kind, some may actually do better in the Kingdom (outside, possibly--indoors is air conditioned pretty much 24/7/365), and some just rock my socks! The rest? Well, I'm working on that, too, as well as divesting my other worldly goods (does anyone want a huge bedroom set?).

With changes in every aspect of my life, it seems a good opportunity to change how I blog as well. I will be mothballing The Indoor Garden(er) and blogging as The Expat Garden(er), for various reasons. You'll always be able to access your favourite posts here. I'll be taking a few weeks off before starting to post on The Expat Garden(er), at least until I get more settled. I am also thinking of becoming more regular once I return to blogging, or at least having well-defined post categories, which will give me better direction in generating content for the blog and you readers better direction about what to expect when you come by.

Local Plant Profiles will be irregular but hopefully full of depth and interesting information for people both in the Middle East and elsewhere. I envision myself stumbling upon a new-to-me plant and then trying to do research on it to figure out what it is. Maybe I can find someone in the area who is a native plant expert, or maybe a good reference book.

Plant Photography posts will probably occur with regular frequency, but text presence/amount would be irregular. I have slacked on my photographic education and exploration in the past year, and this would help me continue learning and improving. I imagine these could be photos of desert plants that may be additive to a previous local plant profile or foreshadow an upcoming profile, or plants from gardens at the university or elsewhere during my travels, or even my own plants. I'd try to make them pretty, unique, or interesting in some fashion.

New Acquisitions posts would probably very infrequent. I imagine I'd try to keep minimal (heh, restraint? Me?), because the assumption is I'm not staying in Saudi Arabia for the rest of my life, and any acquisitions would have to be shipped back (and that's just a huge hassle) or left behind (but I want them...!).

Plant Updates would be irregularly regular. That is, maybe not every week, but you can probably expect one with some frequency. This will cover how my plants are faring in their new home, whether anything interesting is going on--the same types of posts I do now labeled under "Die Pflanzenfortschreibung."

Culture Through Cooking will be recipe posts of food I'm learning how to make. I may or may not focus on regional cuisine--in DC, I tended to focus on Japanese, Korean, and baked goods. Who knows what I'd end up concocting in Saudi Arabia? My cooking has always been intermittent, with long gaps between periods of experimentation, and I usually have to plan ahead if I want to blog about a recipe I'm preparing, so I wouldn't think I would post recipes more than once every month or two.

The Tourist posts will be exactly what they sound like: posts about my travels from the region, whether to nearby towns or to other areas (even the U.S.). Every trip won't be posted, probably only those with some exceptional cultural information, food experience, or plant-related adventure. I anticipate at the very least monthly trips, so these posts would be once per month at the most.

I think this works out to be an average of two or three posts each week, possibly, during a busy month. I will not even attempt to maintain a post schedule (such as "Artsy Garden Photo Monday" and "The Tourist Tuesday"), because I know I would never be able to live up to that. It seems I anticipate about 1/3 of the posts to be Artsy Garden Photos--I hope you're all okay with that!



When one grows more than 100 plants in a small space, it's often easy to overlook the things the plants are doing. What the plant shows to me on a regular basis isn't necessarily its true face. I have a lot of shady plants that do pretty darn interesting things on the down low--if I don't keep up in their grill, they'd go completely unnoticed!

This is how my Eucalyptus grows in the window--away from me. (Yeah, that's right, I grow Eucalyptus indoors. "HOW?", one blogger friend queried? "Not well," is my answer.)

But even though the Eucalyptus is all like "shunnnnnnn!", I noticed that it's sending up new growth!

This is the "front" end of Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender.' A nice plant, to be sure.

But the back end is like a party! Yes, Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' is the mullet of the plant world!

The Salvia elegans looks almost dead in this photo. But this was before I actually killed it.

Because when I took this photo, it had this growing hidden near the window.

This is a finger-blocked-the-flash top-down-through-the-metal-shelving-unit photo of my pineapple. I just thought it looked a little dangerous, a little frightening, and a little sexy!

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U.S. Botanic Garden: Pretties

I went to the U.S. Botanic Garden with Kyoko a few months ago, my first time using a "real" camera, and again with a visiting friend a few weeks after. These are some of the nongesneriad photos I shot on those days. They are unedited photos, so I would have lightened some or adjusted colour slightly, but I think they are pretty enough!

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' in flower, just like mine isn't.

This Rhipsalis flower is attractive to me--kind of cactus-y.

This Rhipsalis is more disappointing than pretty. But also interesting!

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Comparing Cameras

In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to use a real camera (Kyoko's Olympus E-5) rather than my own FinePix F60fd. It is a challenge to learn a new camera, especially one that can be incredibly different to use with different lenses. I would need much more practice--because I'm new to manual cameras, I'm only just learning about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and the relation they play in taking the photograph I want. I'm used to my point-and-shoot autofocusing digital camera. I enjoy the ability to manually focus on Kyoko's camera, but the rest of it has a much greater learning curve!

While at Al's greenhouse with Kyoko a few weeks back, I attempted to get good close-up photos of flowers on this Aeschynanthus.

With Kyoko's camera, I think the overall image is nicer, because the photo could be taken without flash and allowed me to focus where I wanted, although I think this particular photo could have been in better focus--the aperture should have been a little higher, I believe, to have the entire inflorescence in focus.

My camera, on the other hand, is a bit better focused in general, but the flash really makes it look shitty. It would have been blurry without the flash, because manual adjustment of shutter speed and ISO on my camera isn't as readily accomplished as on Kyoko's. In fact, I still haven't checked to see whether I can do these things.

So... I'm still debating what to do with the whole camera situation. Getting my F60fd really made my photography better, because my old camera was, literally, a piece of junk. It's more rewarding and encouraging to take good photos--I see a lot of opportunity in having a digital SLR camera. But I think there's untapped potential in my current camera. Also, I'm trying to convince myself not to drop a few thousand on a new toy--but we all know how hard it is for me to resist temptation!


Exploding Into Spring

Spring works fast, almost like liquor on a frat boy. One second, it's cold and barren--the next, it's wild and explosive.

Last month, give or take a few weeks, the garden at Mr. Yogato went through a brief awakening: the Crocus and Scilla siberica bloomed and a few things came slightly out of dormancy. The plants are hitting their stride, now, and are working on ramping up their growth at an ever-increasing pace!

The Fritillaria camschatcensis 'Black Lily' isn't dead! In fact, it's coming back from beneath the plant-refuse pile. From several spots. I didn't think it did as well last year as this growth seems to indicate--it sent up a few leaves and then kind of disappeared. With more than one growing point this year, my assumption is that it actually stored a lot of energy. Maybe it'll flower? I'd be so pleased!

Speaking of being pleased, my columbine is sending up flower buds! I look forward to seeing these open in the next few days.

My broccoli is growing true leaves. I'm worried about the mint taking over, however--that stuff is quite invasive.

Oh, no, I meant this mint! Although the other mint and such things are pervasive.

I have a random Rudbeckia seedling popping up in the bulb garden--it's in a great place to grow, if no one's bum or bag crushes it as they did most of my tulips last year, which is part of the reason why they're coming back so weakly this year. That, and the compact, wet soil may play a role too. Maybe. But I'd prefer to blame bums and bags.

The rosemary is leafing out even more. It's right next to the flowering arugula I blogged about yesterday. Actually, it's right next to almost every plant, because the Mr. Yogato garden is pretty tiny. Or maybe I just try to cram too many plants into it.

The lavender is growing leaves, but it looks a little more scraggly than the rosemary. It'll bush out this year, I'm certain!

This is the Heuchera 'Caramel' I put here last year. It's doing fine, now; last year, it was barely chugging along, because I had broken my collarbone so many times it was hard to keep it happily watered during the dry, hot summer. It seems this spring is trying to make up for last year's lack of rain, however.

The Heuchera is planted at the base of my 'Flame' red seedless grape vine. This is its third year in this spot, and the vine grew incredibly last year. The buds are leafing--I can't imagine how wild it'll get this year! I'm hoping for grapes.

Closeup shot of the buds opening on part of the grape vine.

The hops isn't growing terribly fast, yet, but the fact that it's getting larger and sending out more leaves is a positive sign to me! If it takes a year or two to get established before generating a measurable harvest of hops, I'm fine with that--I mean, I've been waiting for the grapes for years, right? I think I can give the hops the same opportunity!

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Arugula Blossoms

Last fall, I scattered a ton of arugula seeds at Mr. Yogato. No reason, I just had a ton and felt that there should be something growing in the area after the Datura died (although it took a longer time than I expected for the Datura to kick the bucket). Most of the arugula died off during the winter, but some stuck around, and now they're flowering!

I like the flowers, but the plant looks like other people would consider it to be a weed rather than a tasty treat. Something about the slightly serrated elongated leaves, I think. Maybe it'll set seed and naturalize here, but it'll face a lot of competition with the mint and strawberries!

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Photographic Plant Pornography

I attended the local Gesneriad Society chapter meeting today. My fellow chapter member and friend Kyoko had a presentation on plant photography, with tips and tricks, as well as comparisons of photos printed from different print labs. It's amazing the difference between print labs, even if you use the same photo file!

I also met for the first time John Boggan, the hybridizer of one of my recent plant acquisitions, Chirita 'Dreamtime' (which is, by the way, trying to flower again). It's wicked-cool to be able to meet people like that here in DC. The local plant crowd is not a small community, and it's full of some pretty big hitters. I can only hope that someday I may have produced one or two plants that are worth speaking of in such company!

But, going back to photography, I have a lot of pretty pictures I've taken at various places in the past few months. I was going to do, like, captions and such, but I find myself lately with a lack of time. So, please enjoy the photographic plant pornography from the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History orchid exhibit!

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Sexing Up Sarcoglottis

The Sarcoglottis sceptrodes I got from Al's in January was just starting to bloom when I picked it up. Then it kept starting to bloom. It kept starting to bloom so high I had to rearrange the plant so the flower spike could ascend two and a half feet or so through two shelves on my metal shelving unit. Once the flowers opened, I was less impressed with the plant. I mean, the individual flowers are okay and all, but they're green and small, and there aren't enough of them on the inflorescence to make a statement.

See? Nice stripes and all, but the colour doesn't distinguish it well enough from the rest of the plant, to be honest. Plus, some of the leaves died back after I removed the plant from a more congenial environment (Al's greenhouse), so it's not even that pretty below, either.

And yet, I decided to pollinate them. I ripped one flower off and opened it up to figure out how pollination works with these orchids. It's pretty easy--an insect (or The Indoor Garden(er)'s exploratory forefinger) approaches a flower, and a sticky thing attaches to whatever surface it touches. That sticky thing holds the anthers and pollen, which slides into a slot below a fold in another flower to pollinate it. So I grabbed a few sticky things and slid them in and out of the slots in the flowers. Almost immediately, I noticed the tips of the flowers withering--it's a sign of "something happened, probably fertilization." Or, at least, attempted fertilization. A lot of orchids do things like this, I believe, to inhibit fertilization or to prevent insects from trying to fertilize them again. They got what they wanted, they don't need any more pollen! I was initially heartened by the fact that most of the flowers hadn't entirely fallen off--if fertilization had been unsuccessful, I would imagine the withering would extend beyond just the petal region. But then it did. Now, all of these flowers have browned and seemingly dry-rotted off the spike. What teases!


On The Inside

My dwarf banana never went dormant--it has been growing leaves all winter! I guess I never blogged about ever getting this, but it's considerably larger than when I acquired it just under a year ago.

My pink Cryptanthus is making offsets after flowering. I don't think any of those flowers were pollinated, unfortunately, but at least I'll have some babies!

Speaking of babies, my Cryptanthus cf. bromelioides is offsetting as well, but I'm more hopeful about getting seeds from this one too!

The Cissus quadrangularis I received in trade last year has been hot and cold with me. Like Katy Perry. Just sayin'. But although random stem segments die left and right on me, sometimes they send out new growth, too--and that's what I have right now!

My florists' Sinningia is getting huge, as is its wont. I dug the tuber out at the end of the fall last year, let it rest for a bit, and potted it in new potting soil this year. I hope it'll reward me with a floriferous display!

The one-leaf Syngonium cutting I got from my sister at Thanksgiving is doing quite well in the windowsill. It's sending up a second growing point, also. There must have been something in the soil--another plant germinated. I have no idea what it is!

My larger pot of Sanseveria 'Bantel's Sensation' is doing well. This individual plant actually fell out of the pot with the other spikes, so I potted it up by itself. Now, it's sending out new growth!

New Sanseveria 'Bantel's Sensation' to grow and share with friends.

My Tricyrtis 'Samurai' is sending up new growth as well, but this new growth has lime-green leaf edges!

My Amorphophallus konjac didn't flower, yet again, but I still enjoy the huge leaf it puts out.

I also enjoy the petiole's variegation--cute pink with brown splotches! Kind of like the cow that makes strawberry milk. Yeah, what of it? I used to love that stuff.

The Selenicereus chrysocardium I received in trade has sent out multiple leaves in the few months I've had it. Maybe in the next year or so, it'll start looking like a plant!

Canna musifolia in a way too small plastic pot. 'nuf said. But I'll say more anyway! I got a few last fall via the DC Urban Gardeners Yahoo group. I only planted a small clump in this pot, just to see what would happen--and something sure as heck happened! It's breaking my pot and growing insanely tall, even without lots of light and space. I will probably try to use the other clumps in guerrilla gardening installations in the coming weeks. This beauty may have the dubious pleasure of being planted at Mr. Yogato. Somewhere.



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