Showing posts with label Gesneriads. Show all posts

Nentes Plantarum Spinalong

Nentes Plantarum Spinalong
(Spinning Plants Spinalong)

You may have noticed, HipStrings and The Homestead Hobbyist like each other. Like, BFF like each other. We’ve supported each other over the years both professionally and personally, bounced ideas off one another, shared our thoughts on fiber and equipment suppliers, and bought so much of the other’s fiber that it’s a bit ridiculous.

And now, we’re taking our friendship to the next level: We’re collaborating together for a spinalong this fall!

We worked together to design a custom blend of fiber: Polwarth/Natural Tussah Silk/Flax 62.5/25/12.5. The natural, unbleached tussah and flax gives the undyed fiber a wonderful creamy color that adds lots of depth to the dyed braids.

Because we both also share a background in plant research (and because of the plant fiber—flax—included in the blend) we chose to create colorways inspired by plants for this spinalong. We are each offering three colorways based on plants with connections to our lives. With six unique colorways, we’re looking forward to spinning along with everyone and sharing our love for plants.

Sinningia (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photographed by me

Sinningia are relatives to African Violets, but since I can’t grow African Violets to save my life, Sinningia are my jam! Most of them produce tubers (underground or mostly underground storage organs—like potatoes, which I spent a year studying at the USDA (well, I was doing research on a “biocontrol agent,” a microbe that produced proteins that killed Colorado potato beetles, which can be devastating pests to one of our nation’s primary crops)), so if I forget to water them for a few months, they’re still alive when I get around to taking care of them. Most of them have a winter dormancy, which is perfect for an apartment gardener who has to move plants inside in the fall. (If there isn’t a ton of foliage that will be shocked by the transition or unhappy with the lower light levels, the plants will be happier in the long run!) Sinningia flowers come in a wide range of colors—lots of reds, oranges, and shades of purples, even some white! I was introduced to Sinningia by my friend Kyoko and other gesneriad enthusiasts in Washington, DC, so they hold a particular fondness to me.

Plants that inspired this colorway are: Sinningia defoliata, Sinningia muscicola, Sinningia sellovii, Sinningia hybrids (“Florist’s Gloxinia”)

Amorphophallus (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photograph from Plant Delights Nursery

The genus Amorphophallus translates into “deformed penis.” If you look at photos of the flowers, you’ll see why it’s called that! Amorphophallus are aroids, related to Philodendron, Jack in the Pulpit, and Peace Lily.

The name Amorphophallus makes children of all ages titter, and when the plant flowers, it smells like rotting meat! (Not all species—but many.) The most famous Amorphophallus is the Titan Arum, Amorphophallus titanum, which flowers once about every decade, with a flower up to 10 feet tall with a strong aroma of dead, decomposing flesh. Amorphophallus and its close relatives are some of my favorite plants-with-underground-storage-organs to grow, along with Sinningia.

The ripening fruit and moo-cow patterning on the peduncle (flower stalk) of Amorphophallus kiusianus inspired this colorway.

Dyckia (The Homestead Hobbyist)
Photographs from Green Meadow Growers, Dyckia Brazil, bryan69 on GardenWeb, Chris Nguyen, and Fine Gardening

Dyckia is another genus that makes the little boy in me giggle. The plants themselves, though, steal my breath away. They are absolutely gorgeous, and dangerous—many species have jagged saw-like spikes on the edges of their leaves, which makes them almost impossible to repot without thick leather gloves. Dyckia is a bromeliad, like pineapple and Aechmea fasciata. There are many bromeliads that are epiphytic (they grow in trees), but Dyckia is a terrestrial bromeliad, like Cryptanthus (another of my favorite bromeliad genuses).

The variety of leaf color, primarily from Dyckia fosteriana cultivars and hybrids, inspired this colorway.

Stargazer Lily (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

This is totally a sappy love story about how Stargazer Lilies are Nik and my “thing,” about how when he proposed, he named a star “Neustro Amor,” how he asked me to look into the sky to find our star, and gave me my engagement ring as my “star.” As you can guess, Stargazer Lilies hold a special place in my heart.

For this colorway, I used a dye technique to layer the same color over itself, resulting in a tonal colorway with lots of depth.

Lithops sp. (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

In the undergraduate lab I worked in, I remember my advisor giving instructions on how to take care of the various plants in his office before he left for a trip. A collector of “odd” plants, among his collection was a pot that contained what seemed to be uniquely colored river rocks. I was surprised to find out they were little succulents that had very cool camouflage.

This colorway is low immersion vat dyed, which means it will be a little different with every batch, with lots of variegation and different combinations of color as the colors mix—a wide variety of greens and browns, just like the Lithops.

Nymphaea cearulea (HipStrings)
Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

One of my early graduate career missions was to figure out which waterlily had the smallest genome (and would be best to use as a model for genetic studies for one of the earliest branches of flowering plants). Well, the waterlily with the smallest genome is Nympheae cearulea aka Egyptian Blue Lotus. It also happens to be difficult to get a hold of because of its hallucinogenic properties. (For a while I was convinced that my advisor was only sending me on exploratory missions to find out more about hallucinogenic plants ... after the blue lotus I was sent to do research on Papaveraceae, home of Opium poppy.)

This colorway is a four color gradient going from bright yellow, to sky blue, light teal, and then light amethyst.


Samples of the colorways will be released on Tuesday (August 23), and you’ll be able to pre-order your favorite colorways then!

HipStrings will be offering up a custom set of Bitty Batts inspired by your favorite plant as a prize for the spinalong.

The Homestead Hobbyist will be offering an eco-printed silk scarf as a prize for the spinalong.

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New Plant Inventory

I know this isn't a really sexy post, so here's a photo of Habranthus robustus flowers.

In preparing to move to Seattle, I culled my plant collection severely. The nigh-constant moves to new apartments (I left my beau in January 2015, a little more than a year after we moved to a new apartment) and the resultant plant stress and neglect were pretty helpful with that anyway, but I wanted to start my collection with a different focus in my new city. I have discovered a love of tuber/corm/etc. plants with a winter dormancy, such as Amorphophallus and Sinningia. These plants survive my neglect best, and they're just darn cool.

So I carefully unpotted and wrapped up the tubers/corms/etc. in newspaper and took a cutting of my Yucca guatemalensis from Mr. Subjunctive/Plants Are The Strangest People. I carefully packaged them for transport--and then somehow packed them in a box that was destined for the movers, instead of my luggage. Two weeks in a moving van is not what these plants wanted. Most of them were dead on arrival. A few survived (the little bulblets from the Hippeastrum seedlings I had grown, for example), and some are questionable. We'll see whether anything else survives. But I'm basically starting from scratch here in Seattle.

I put in a few orders from nurseries and bought some plants at local events. I've updated my plant inventory; you can find it in the navigation on the right, if you're ever curious in the future. I don't plan to expand the current collection much; I'm happy with what I have at the moment, considering the lack of sunlight I have available. I would have more, but my downstairs neighbor who threatens people with guns doesn't want me walking on the gravel on the side of the house because he doesn't want to have to keep checking to make sure it's not nefarious elements. ::shrugs:: I want to do it just to fuck with him, but it's not worth a hole in the chest.

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Sinningia canescens In Bloom

Sinningia canescens

I started this plant from seed in, say, late 2011 or early 2012. I'm not entirely sure the start date--but I know they were still only small seedlings when I sold most of them at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gesneriad Show, Sale & Symposium in fall 2012.

I'm hoping it gets hairier as it ages, as that is one of the things that I like about this species. There's going to be some variation, of course, and this is only 2.5 years old at most, so it has plenty of time to put grow out its hair!

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The New Yard

The beau and I moved to a new apartment last October. I don't believe I mentioned that. Surprisingly, most of my plants survived the winter indoors--I think it helped that I upgraded to T8 fluorescent fixtures and got a better case/misting system for the humidity-loving plants (although they are unhappy with me now). I've been really trying to cull the herd and focus on plants I can grow well and couldn't live without. I've been better about that, and about purchases--I make fewer purchases of plants I know won't work for me. It's taken a long time, but I'm starting to learn!

The new apartment is south-facing, so it gets more sun in some parts of the yard where I keep my plants. My landlord says she loves coming home and seeing these plants looking so great, so I'm happy they seem to like their new home.

I took these photos on a cloudy day last week, thus the poor lighting. Over the next little while, I'll share some snippets of what I'm growing from photos I took this past week. And hopefully after that, I'll have more new things to share (and the time to post them).

Front view

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Stopping By Al's Greenhouse

I picked up a friend from the airport this weekend, and we took the opportunity to stop by Al's Orchid Greenhouse, just a few minutes from the airport. We potted up and/or transplanted a bunch of gesneriads growing in the greenhouse, then I wandered around shooting a few photos. A lot of beautiful orchids are in bloom right now, although it seems I didn't photograph many of them.

Oncidium Wildcat 'Golden Red Star'

Oncidium Wildcat 'Golden Red Star'

These two photos were taken special for Mr. Subjunctive--a NOID Anthurium growing on the floor of the greenhouse. The new leaves seem to be a shiny bronze green.



Ficus bonsai

Ficus bonsai planting

Adenium grown from seed (about 2 years old)


Sinningia leucotricha

Sinningia leucotricha

Sinningia leucotricha

Sinningia leucotricha

Ascocentrum pusillum

Ascocentrum pusillum

Ascocentrum pusillum

Unifoliate Streptocarpus growing epiphytically on a cinderblock. The leaf is about 2 feet long, and the abscission zone is really obvious.

Unifoliate Streptocarpus

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Reminders Of Spring

It's been raining almost daily for the past several weeks, and although the temperatures are in the mid-80s to mid-90s every day, it feels like it's still spring--which is nice, because I feel like calendar-spring disappeared way too quickly for my liking.

So, what have I been up to that's kept me away from blogging for so long?

In September, I got a new full-time job (no more freelance reporting/part-time contract work! Although, feel free to check out the Agritate label to read what I wrote on a blog I started to focus on science and journalism--I imported most of those posts into this blog, and will likely continue reading articles and writing about them here when I start blogging again. I mean, I've been saving dozens of them to review and write about in the past several months, I've just never gotten around to it.). My start date at the new job coincided with the culmination of DC State Fair 2012, a regional plant show I was participating in, and a book proposal I was putting together. A month and a half later, I got a car.

DC State Fair went off really well, despite a few glitches.

We got T-shirts last year! I'm here with chef Alli Sosna, who judged several of the vegetable and fruit contests.

I won a blue ribbon in the Novice class at the plant show.

Gloxinella lindeniana at Mid-Atlantic Regional Gesneriad Show, Sale, and Symposium
My Gloxinella lindeniana won me a blue ribbon at the first-ever Mid-Atlantic Regional Gesneriad Show, Sale, and Symposium.

I was also offered a contract for the book proposal, but realized all the time I currently don't have and decided to turn it down (I don't have a picture for that).

The car is great for weekend errands--but it also opens up a lot more possibility for weekend travel, to visit nearby family or just to get out of the city for a while. That takes a surprising chunk of time when we do get out and about.

My beau shot this photo, our first of the car, because our first-ever load was a bale of hay to use as mulch in the garden plot.

I've made my goal for 2013 to cut back on volunteering and other projects by the end of the year. That means I'm working to hand off DC State Fair to new leaders, refraining from taking on more leadership roles, and in general focusing on my own hobbies and life. It's been nice, but almost more difficult than volunteering all the time was!

Since making that my resolution over the winter, I've filled my time with new hobbies for some reason. I learned how to spin yarn, on supported spindles, drop spindles, and a wheel. You may have read about the yarn I made from my cotton and the silkworms I raised. But it's not like I stopped there.

Cleaning a Raw Fleece
I've purchased and washed three raw fleeces. This is the first, from a Finnsheep named Beatrice, laying out to dry after washing.

"Tuscan Sunset" Handspun Yarn
I've spun what I consider to be a lot of yarn. This, for example, is 465 yards of merino/yak 50/50 dyed in "Tuscan Sunset" colours--yellow-oranges, pink, purple, and red. It was a random-contest freebie, and a beautiful yarn. So beautiful, I had to knit a shawl with it (because what else do you do with such fine yarn?).

Grouchy Geisha at Sunset Shawl
From start to finish, this took me two weeks. I am addicted to knitting lace, now.

My First Dyed Braid
I've tried my hand at dyeing fiber myself (and learned a hell of a lot from that one botched job--one of the lessons being that even botched jobs can be beautiful when spun).

This is the start of spinning of my hand-dyed fiber. The colours are less muted than I thought they would be based on my inexperienced dyeing and the white patches that show through everywhere. It'll certainly be an interesting yarn when I'm through!

Textile Museum Celebration of Textiles
I participated in the Textile Museum's Celebration of Textiles in the spinners' area, where I helped kids learn how to spin with supported spindles and drop spindles. Plus, I got a few yards of cotton spun up on my tahkli!

But it's not like fiber arts have been the only thing I've been up to. I'm still all plant-oriented, too.

I started a cotton trial plot at Wangari Gardens this year, to measure the fiber staple length of the 7 varieties stocked by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This photo is from a few weeks ago, when the cotton first germinated.

I've been struggling to keep up with my community garden plot, where weeds dominate and my Concord grapes are fruiting.

I went to several plant swaps this year.

I've been to Al's Orchid Greenhouse a bunch of times, helping to spread epiphytic and other gesneriads throughout. This is a unifoliate Streptocarpus growing in moss on a cinderblock that holds up a display surface.

I've been busy. It's been a fun several months, but I feel like my blogging should be closer to the front burner than it is. (Right now, it feels more like it's cooled off and stuck in the fridge, not even on the back burner!) I keep delaying blogging because I no longer have time during my commute (I like to knit, and when I'm not knitting, I'm driving because I have to move the car for weekly street sweeping) and I want to revamp the look and feel of the blog. So it just sits here, languishing. But I'm making more of an effort to plan and write; for example, I kept telling myself I wanted to feature each and every one of the above in their own blog posts, as well as other events and topics. But let's be honest--I'll never find time to do all of it the way I want it to be, so snippets it is, and now I can move forward!

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