Archive for August 2012


...a blogcation!

Through the years writing The Indoor Garden(er), I've been involved in a ton of various projects, both on my own and with others. Introducing and expanding greening efforts to Capital Pride, co-founding DC State Fair, starting new blogs, losing 100 pounds (and then silently gaining a not insignificant portion of it back after international travels and job-seeking strain)--it's been an adventure and a half!

Sometimes, I let a lot of my other life events bleed into The Indoor Garden(er)--I wrote recipe posts, I shared details about Weight Watchers, or I wrote about volunteering activities or other personal things. I occasionally took conscious steps to keep The Indoor Garden(er) at least plant-related, and at times, I forced myself to blog about indoor plants at least once for every outdoor plant or recipe post. I'm not trying to hide anything or take away fun posts from people, but I have just always wanted my blog to be focused on the very general topic of indoor gardening.

I've often gotten side-tracked with The Indoor Garden(er)--both in terms of the content that shows up on the blog and the lack thereof. I recently wrote responses to a friend for a Q&A; interview about this blog. He runs Stories in Content, a website devoted to telling the story of how web stories are told. While writing my responses to him, I realized I was just 2 posts away from hitting 500 published posts. So I shared a semi-regular community garden update and was planning on doing something special for this, my 500th blog post--but instead, I ended up going on an unintended hiatus for almost two weeks.

But that's not a bad thing. In fact, as I talked about in my Q&A; (which will be posted at some point when my friend settles into his new life in Taipei), taking a little vacation from blogging can be a good thing. It lets the blogger get a better sense about where the passion for the blog is developing--where it should travel next. I'm still in life-intensity mode at the moment, and several factors (physical [phone got smashed and can't use it], financial [no job, can't afford to replace phone pieces], and temporal [lots of unpaid things and potentially-might-pay things such as job interviews and such really detract from blogging time]) disallow me from spending much time posting even just photos. I have some choice photos set to autopost once a week for the next month or so, but I'm not certain how much I'll be able to share until after DC State Fair.

In the meantime, just know that there are several non-indoor-gardening-related things in the works that you'll be dying to hear about, and several completely indoor-gardening-related things you'll find pretty cool, too.

And to show you that I care, here's my first blossom of Saintpaulia rupicola.


Monday Plot Post: NSCG

I'm still waiting for armfuls of summer bounty--I think there's much for me to learn about gardening before I get to the point where I can't carry my daily harvest in one trip. One lesson I have already learned, however, is to get rid of the plants you aren't happy with. I ripped out the beans, corn, and more of the pole beans at my Newark Street Community Garden plot a week or so ago. I sowed some parsnip, dill, beet, cilantro, carrot, and daikon radish in their place--my first attempts at fall crops! Some of them have already germinated.

Right now, I'm mostly waiting for things to ripen and trying to avoid looking the weeds in the eye--if you acknowledge them, then you have to bend over and pull them out.

My grains are doing well. On the left in the back are my 10- to 12-foot sorghum stalks, all a-flowerin' up top. On the right, the red plant with the fluff of bloody flowers, is my amaranth. I have some smaller versions along the fence line, but they're nothing as amazing as that one beast.

This vining creature is Passiflora edulis 'Black Beauty.' As an infant, he has lanceolate leaves. As an adult, he'll have pinnately trilobed leaves and gorgeous flowers. He's growing on the west side of my trellis arch tunnel, with the jicama between him and my other Passiflora and right next to my 'Sugar Pie' pumpkin on his other side.

But then, everything on the west side of the trellis arch is near my 'Sugar Pie'! It's growing on the entire side, as well as over the top of the trellis, along the ground, and up into tomato trellises. It's almost as crazy as my butternut squash.

The only thing perhaps slowing 'Sugar Pie' down is the powdery mildew. It's only on the portions of the plant that get the least light--the leaves that are lower on the trellis, which only get evening light. Morning and afternoon light is blocked by the chayote and hops on the east face of the trellis. Next year, I think I'm going to switch the two--perennial vines on the west side, vigorous annual crops on the east.

Speaking of vigorous annual crops, my butternut squash is fruiting! I have several little baby butternuts--and just like 'Sugar Pie,' this vine is growing everywhere, up in tomato trellises, on fences, across paths, wherever it likes!

I have to say, I love gourds of all kinds. I'm just hoping I get more of them than I have tomatoes this year. 'Sungold' will make a return next year, but I have no idea what slicing, canning, or baking tomatoes I'll grow next year!


USBG: Pinguicula agnata

This red-leaf butterwort, Pinguicula agnata, has some pretty flowers, reminiscent of violets and gesneriad flowers. Spotted at the US Botanic Garden on 4 July 2012. USBG is featuring a carnivorous plants exhibit through the summer, with a series of events as well.

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Cactus & Succulent Show

Two weeks ago, I went to the National Capital Cactus & Succulent Society show and sale. Unfortunately (or not, depending on whether you look at it in terms of space/expense or addiction-feeding), not all of the sales plants had arrived by the time I got there. That also meant that the entire show wasn't set up yet, because all sales vendors were required to enter at least three show plants. I went on Friday 3 August, which was supposed to be open to members only (but I just joined in June, so that's fine), but there was a communications mix-up in advertising the event, so it defaulted to general admission. I'm sure Saturday and Sunday were fuller, but I was out of town on a birthday jaunt!

Although not all of the show or sale plants had arrived, there were some nice specimens on display!

A 32-year-old Copiapoa cinerea grown from seed.

Melocactus azureus

A seed-grown Echinocactus texensis.

This Mammillaria albilanata looks like it was the inspiration for a nice berber carpet pattern.

Jatropha berlandieri in bloom. All 15 of my attempts at photographing the flowers were horrendous blurs.

Adromischus herrei

And some stapeliads! Huernia thuretii

H. thuretii flower. If you zoom in a bit, inside the tube it looks like a little kitty face is peaking out from the shadows.

Stapelia gigantea


Setting Seed

Some of my plants have started making seed pods! My Sinningia pusilla are constantly blooming and setting seed, but most of my other plants are less fecund, so developing seed pods excite me.

Phalaenopsis 'Venus,' which started flowering for me just a few weeks ago, already has a well-developed seed pod on it! I tried crossing my two Phalaenopsis NOIDs (the New York City Gala one and the Dinner Party Harlequin)--but the going hypothesis is that their pollen is too big to properly pollinate 'Venus.' 'Venus' is perfectly fine selfing, however--this seed pod is from the only flower I selfed on the plant. I'm hoping this one stays on!

My Streptocarpus NOID is also setting seed, but only about 10% of the flowers are making seed pods. (The photo in the post from last week was old, but the best one I've taken so far. The plant has been in pretty constant bloom, sending up new buds every week or so.) I like how the pods twist like a corkscrew as they develop.

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Trading Plants

A few months ago, I offered some Stapelia seed to Zach in a comment on The Variegated Thumb, but I sowed most of them before I heard back from him last month. So we decided on a swap--I sent some sections of Stapelia grandiflora, Stapelia variegata, and Carralluma NOID; a Stapelia gettleffii seedling; and a Sinningia pusilla tuber.

In return, I received two Amorphophallus paeonifolius seedlings, Plumeria 'Orange Butterfly' and 'Black Cyclone,' and Stapelia gigantea cuttings.

Young though they are, the A. paeonifolius seedlings are already sending up second leaves!


Monday Plot Post: NSCG and Wangari

A twofer this time, both Wangari Gardens and Newark Street Community Garden plots--and I'm writing this in a middle of a busy week, so a low-text version! I have a surprise at the end that'll make up for it if you're disappointed with my lack of verbosity.

Let's start with the NSCG plot.

I am really fond of my cotton plants--both pink and white blooms!

And they're making fruit! I can't wait to spin the fiber I'll get from these bolls.

Now that I chopped back all the corn, this cowhorn okra might start getting a bit more light. I abandoned the plot for a week during birthday festivities and came back to find superlong okra--I prefer to take them when they're young and fuzzy.

My first pumpkin! It wasn't labeled when the seeds were sown, so I'm not completely sure what it is, but I suspect it's a sugar pie pumpkin.

My borage decided to put out a pink flower. It isn't the only one, either--other plants did, too.

Now over to Wangari Gardens, my black sesame decided to join the party. I suspected it might not have been a weed (it wasn't grass or lambsquarter, which are the only weeds in the plots so far, it seems), so I let it grow.

And I'm happy I did! It's flowering!

Jaunting back over to Newark Street, I had a visitor to my pole beans--which may be the only reason I allow one or two pole bean plants to survive in my plot. I whacked back a bunch of them, but after I saw this, I let a few keep on--a hummingbird was visiting the pole bean flowers! (It's hard to see, I know, but this is your surprise reward. Enjoy it!)


Slippery Streptocarpus

This is one beautiful Streptocarpus, isn't it? You might think so--but despite its outer beauty, its insides are squishy and rotten (in the metaphorical sense). The little deceptive harlot snuck into my home under false pretenses--I thought it would be a purple-veined flower, based on the scant information on the tag (I assumed "Streptocarpus Blackberry" would be 'Franken Blackberry Lace'). But the plant tricked me--it decided to be a beautiful raspberry smoothie maroon.

I don't completely mind such a gorgeous deception--especially because it was free and I've done nothing to deserve this beauteous display the plant's been giving me for weeks now--but I can't seem to figure out what hybrid this plant is. Which means its only value to me is aesthetic. On those merits, I might keep it around. As long as it doesn't slip in another surprise.



My Stapelia grandiflora in a mixed succulent planter near the front entrance decided to bloom. It only has a couple of stems, but it sent out about half a dozen buds the other week. Wednesday last week, the first one opened. It smelled a bit--but after a day in the hot sun, it smelled much worse and had a bunch of little visitors. It's now withered--but hopefully the little visitors did their job and I have some S. grandiflora seeds to play with! If not, there are plenty of other blooms that'll open throughout August, and I'm sure at least one of them will set seed.


Not Quite Done Yet

The birthday plant-grab bash continued throughout the weekend.

The boy surprised me with a rented car and a country ride. Our first stop (after getting coffee): Al's Orchid Greenhouse. I visit Al's every couple of months, but the beau had never seen the place (I wanted him to get a good idea of what size yard we'll need to hold a similar setup in the distant future). I also did a little shopping--and was surprised again when the beau knocked my hand out of the way to pay for my meager selection. If I had known he would be paying, however, I might have been more frugal.

I picked up an Anthurium scandens (back), my second-ever Anthurium (the first is a seedling that Mr. Subjunctive started); a Dendrobium rigidum (front left), my first-ever Dendrobium, because it'll grow in a nice clump and will probably do quite well on the rim of my Phalaenopsis 'Venus' clay pot (an orchid-growing friend suggested to me that I find something to do that 'cause it would look cool--I liked the idea); and a Bulbophyllum plumatum (front right), which has some lateral red colouring on the leaves and enjoys being moist--a perfect combo with my love of watering! A three-node section of Ceropegia woodii ended up coming home with me, too.

I'm not quite done sharing all of my recent acquisitions, but I'm certainly done acquiring for a while. Birthdays are fun and all, but they have to end at some point!


USBG: Paphiopedilum 'Mendocino'

Paphiopedilum 'Mendocino' at the US Botanic Garden in late February 2012. Nice flower in nice "foggy" water feature.

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A Prickly Haul

Yesterday, I headed over to the National Capital Cactus & Succulent Society's annual show and sale at Brookside Gardens. I joined in June, but I don't get the e-mails for some reason. I should have brought some plants to sell; I didn't see any tuberous Sinningia, although I totally feel there should have been some there! But I went before all the plants were dropped off.

Even though not everyone had brought their sale plants, I did end up walking home with quite a haul--my birthday presents to myself. In an updated order by request, I bought (from top left going clockwise in a swirly upside-down "e" shape with a dent in its head) a Dyckia 'Red Devil,' Euphorbia greenwayi, Neoalsomitra sarcophylla, Sansevieria ballyi, Ornithogalum caudatum (this plant has a lot of synonymous genus and species names--The Plant List says Albuca bracteata is its true name, but I'll go with O. caudatum because that's what I've been calling it on here for all of these years), Stapelia NOID (I think this might actually be a Huernia, but I'll have to wait for it to flower before I know for sure), Tephrocactus articulatus (although The Plant List says this is actually Opuntia articulata and Tephrocactus isn't a genus anymore, I think Tephrocactus is used often enough for this particular plant group that people might get confused if I called this an Opuntia), Sedum hintonii, Hechtia scariosa, Euphorbia NOID, and Sansevieria fasciata 'Moonglow.' All for $24!


Amorphophallus titanum Surprise

I chat with @TindaraOrchids on Twitter occasionally. They're a garden supply company in Massachusetts, and they have frequent auctions for Amorphophallus titanum on eBay. I have, of course, tried to win one of the corms--even a teensy tiny one--but to no avail. They're just too popular a plant! So I declared my intent to own one of those corms, someday!, to Tindara. And then last week, this showed up in front of my door.

It was packed quite well and included growing instructions.

For this plant:

And here it is without its protective helmet. Yes, the friendly people over at Tindara have sent me an A. titanum of my very own--not just a corm, and not even a small one! The leaf is almost three feet tall.

There's some nice spotting on the petiole.

I put A. titanum near my Colocasia esculenta and Canna indica 'Red Stripe,' where it'll get more sun than my Amorphophallus konjac, A. bulbifer, and the others. That's not to say it gets a ton of light, no, not at all--but it will at least get some rays dappled onto it before sunset.

This is shaping up to be one of the best birthday months ever!


Blooming In The Front

Many of the plants in front of my basement apartment are budding, blooming, and otherwise being attractive and interesting.

This Abutilon seedling is a few months old but suffered greatly in my hands--it dried out a few times while I was away. But it's still deciding to flower, small and ill-formed though it is. I'm uncertain whether the colouring on the new leaves are actual variegation or just random chlorosis.

My Cyclamen 'Neopolitan' is flowering, too--and it looks like it could go head-to-head with a spiky Agave and win.

My Stapelia grandiflora has several buds developing yet again--this is the largest of the bunch.

My new Aechmea recurvata 'Blackie' is also blooming.

The whorl-leafed Achimenes 'Ambroise Verschaffelt' buds are starting to open! I'm quite a fan of it and certainly plan to start more rhizomes next year.

I had some Puya berteroniana I started from seed. One of them was an albino--it died before the rest did. Its death was probably due to lack of any photosynthetic food supply--the others died from water issues during monsoon season earlier this year, I suspect. This photo is weeks and weeks old--I recently rediscovered it.

One of my Schlumbergera has a siamese phylloclade--it has three "wings" instead of two. Some Schlumbergera can do that, Wikipedia says, although it's more rare, and my assumption is that it's more of a general growth habit than an infrequent occurrence. Most of the phylloclades on this plant are two-winged. And I really think this one is two multiwing phylloclades fused together--the bottom has four "wings" and the top has three.


Urban Homesteading

I can't deny it any longer--I'm an urban homesteader. It's not something I really want to deny, but I'd prefer to be a homesteader without adjectival modification (that is, I want a small farm with a house in the burbs).

Anyway, last weekend, I decided it would be a good idea to buy 25 pounds of canning tomatoes (and then pick up another dozen or so pounds of heirlooms for variety) and 10 pounds of cucumbers.

I made about 3.5 gallons of salsa on Saturday (well, half on Saturday, the other half on Sunday--I worked about 8 hours, from 8 PM to 4 AM, which is why I didn't make it to the mushroom ID nature walk at 9 AM on Sunday) and 10 quarts of dill pickles on Sunday afternoon.

The salsa recipe I followed calls for 15 pounds of tomatoes to make 8 pints of salsa. I figured that meant the tomatoes reduced a lot during preparation--and I didn't read the note that said the recipe expected 15 pounds of tomatoes to make about three quarts of chopped tomatoes. I doubled the recipe, figuring it to be reasonable (ignoring all the preparation, of course). But then I ended up using almost all of my quart, pint, and half-pint jars in the house to can the salsa--because the recipe made 8 quarts, not 8 pints, and I had doubled it. The pounds of tomatoes left over were sliced and dried in a borrowed food dehydrator.

So on Sunday morning, I had to go buy more jars so I could make 8 quarts of pickles from the cucumbers I had soaking in saltwater overnight. They turned out quite delicious--although next time, I think I'll up the dill (I went on the low end of the suggested amount of dill seed because I could find only a limited supply) and decrease the mustard by a little. These pickles are certainly crunchy and pickley with a nice dill flavour--but they're also a bit more mustardy/spicy than I'd like.

No, my urban homesteading doesn't end in the garden or the kitchen. Yesterday morning, I headed to the garden plot with a friend. She's a friend from the local Gesneriad Society chapter and had given me a bunch of Sinningia tubers to plant in the plot so they could enjoy the sun and heat. They's certainly doing quite well at the plot, as is most everything else.

Besides plants, my friend has many other hobbies, including photography and fiber arts (spinning, dyeing, and knitting). Because I'm growing cotton, we've been talking about dyeing the bolls--perhaps with the woad I'm growing in the plot, dead tomato plants, mugwort, or any number of other plants I have available.

While she was photographing the cotton, she noticed that one of the plants has pink flowers, and another white--I've only ever seen the pink one in bloom, so that's exciting to me! They are all Sea Island brown cotton grown from seed, so there's some flower colour variation in the species.

Although I am growing cotton and plants that can be used to dye fibers, I haven't ever dyed my own fiber or spun my own yarn, but I do knit scarves and crochet toques. My friend decided that I need to up my involvement in the fiber scene. She gifted me a spindle and different types of fiber to practice spinning with (cashmere from a goat named April, some batt [60% Merino wool/40% neon-coloured nylon], five cotton bolls, and some pima cotton).

And I practiced for a few hours last night--my spun wool is irregular and thick, but I'm getting better already!

We're already planning spinning lunches so she can help me practice.

I can grow food, I can prepare food for long-term storage, I can build structures, I'm working on making cheeses, I can make articles of clothing, and now I can make the yarn that can be turned into clothing. Other than making fermented beverages (yum!), what other type of skills do I need to be a homesteader? Perhaps mixed martial arts, and I'll be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse!



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