The Garden of Live Flowers

Tales of the bintgoddess and her zone 5b garden in Chicago, Illinois

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

February: Houseplant Census

February 2. It's Groundhog Day! This is an important day at the McC house. Groundhog Day is our movie, "I Got You Babe" is our song. Every year TMCH and I set the evening aside to watch the movie and say the lines along with the actors. Such as:

"Morons, your bus is leaving!"
"What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't today."
"He might be okay." (truck explodes) "Well, no, probably not now."

If you haven't seen it a hundred times, you are missing out.

o o o

But I digress! According to Mr. McGregor's Daughter, today is Houseplant Census Day! At the McC house, censusing the plants is no small task. Luckily I maintain a list so it just needed to be updated. I had no idea how many plants I own, so I looked forward to learning the total.
This picture of the plant room/breakfast nook was taken a year ago. The room is nowhere near this orderly anymore.

How many houseplants do I have?

  • Only 86?! Well, that's kind of disappointing. Guess it's time to go shopping! All but a handful are in two rooms, so at least the local density is high. The total does not include various cuttings in water, or the ginger and avocado experiments, or the hibiscus overwintering in the basement. If I include those, I'm right near 100.
  • Most common families: Araceae (10) and Gesneriaceae (9); also Ruscaceae (7) and Cactaceae (6).
  • Oldest plant: No idea! but probably one of the pothoses or spider plants or the larger of the two Ficus benjaminas. We went through a bottleneck in 2000 during the home remodel and I know the ficus is one of the few plants to survive that tumultuous time.
  • Newest plant: Dracaena deremensis 'Lemon-Lime', purchased a couple weeks ago on clearance at Home Depot.
  • Favorite plant: Aww, I love all my babies equally! But I love Bowiea volubilis, the climbing onion, especially equally.
  • Least favorite plant: The orchids. The flowers are too fussy and overengineered, if they bloom at all. Also not crazy about the Scheffleras, although I do love the new leaves when they emerge, like tiny grasping hands.
  • IMG_4460Plant I used to hate but have learned to love: African violets. They were too frilly for my taste, like peonies and roses, but after discovering I'm good at them I decided they are worthwhile after all and now I have five. Runner-up: I have learned that I don't hate all Sansevierias, just the ones with the yellow margins. Those are so ugly. The Hahnii above, now that's a cutiepie.
So there you have it! Thanks to Mr. McGregor's Daughter for suggesting the idea, and for giving me the motivation to update that list!

ETA: It's less than a week later and the count is already up by 8, plus I spent part of the weekend taking cuttings and dividing clumps. I would worry that I'm plant-OCD but there are whole parts of the year (usually late summer) where I don't much care about plants, indoor or outdoor. It's seasonal OCD, and I can live with that.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

January: Growing an avocado from seed

The January/February 2010 edition of Chicagoland Gardening Magazine has an article about how to grow an avocado (Persea americana, Lauraceae) from seed. I know a lot of people have done this but I don't think I ever even saw an avocado when I was a kid, and now we don't like avocados so we don't keep them around. However, I have been known to grow things I don't like to eat, including strawberries, hops, and green beans. Sometimes TMCH eats the results, and sometimes I just like the plant. I tried to grow a mango last year, but instead I grew a nice crop of mold. The avocado will go better, I just know it!
The first step: wait for the avocado to ripen. I am using a Hass avocado, and today it was black and soft, definitely ripe. I cut through the rind and the two halves fell apart easily. The avocado fruit is a berry.
I scooped the seed out from the pericarp with a spoon and washed it with water and a sponge to get all the icky off it. The surface of the seed is beautiful, like marled wood. It's about 1 1/2 inches long and slightly egg-shaped.
I then poked three toothpicks into the soft surface of the seed, about 1/3 of the way from the top, the top being very slightly more pointy than the bottom, and suspended the seed over a glass. I filled the glass so the water is 1/3 of the way up the bottom of the seed, and wrote the date on the glass.
I put the glass in a south-facing window. It needs 6 hours of daylight a day. If it doesn't sprout roots in 6 weeks I will have to start over, but hopefully something interesting will happen soon!

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Monday, January 25, 2010

January: Events in the indoor garden

The snow melted over the weekend and I went into the garden to peer hopefully at places where bulbs might be. No joy yet, and today it's cold and snowy again. Luckily the indoor garden is purring along nicely. I don't use grow lights so winter growth rates are slow, but I have African violets and crown-of-thorns and two species of Aeschynanthus in bloom.

IMG_4617 IMG_4620The Peperomia ferrerae > and Gasteria NOID >>, mostly dormant in summer, are putting on new growth, and the Kalanchoe daigremontiana is growing so fast I have to keep raising the mini-blind to keep above it. I will deal with that one in a later post. There will be a knife involved.  o_O


My pre-Christmas amaryllis is finally starting to sprout. I seriously overwatered it during the Bt fungus gnat treatments so I hope it's okay. It's a Smith + Hawken from Target; I didn't really want another amaryllis, but I could not pass up that cool metallic pot.

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Bowie, my so-cool Bowiea volubilis, is once again on its January trek towards the ceiling. The first vine emerged around Christmas Day. Then I...broke it. Oops. Luckily, a second shoot emerged on Jan. 18, and I promise not to touch it. I love this plant and am excited to see that the bulb is finally getting fat and interesting. I will have to repot it this spring into a wider, shallow pot, and give it a support less pathetic than that bit of dogwood stick.

Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa, not doing anything interesting, really; I just wanted to show a picture of it. I am developing a deep affection for the leafy-looking cacti.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

January: The ongoing quest for surface area

I tend to keep all my houseplants in two rooms of the house because they have the best light and I'm more likely to take good care of them if I don't have to walk a mile to water them all. Thus there are houseplants crammed onto every available surface in my dining room and the-room-that-we-used-to-call-the-breakfast-nook (now called the plant room). I've resisted the urge to cover the dining table itself with plants although sometimes one or two or five find their way there, "temporarily," and then end up on the floor if we want to do something crazy like eat at the table. (The breakfast nook table hasn't been breakfastable in about five years and we've long since given up on it.) I spend a lot of time searching for solutions to my ongoing space problem. Last week I ordered two plant stands that match the dining room furniture perfectly, and tonight I put them together all by my little self.


"But that's only two more square feet!" my readers protest. Never fear, I have a plan! I am going to scare up a nice oak board or maybe order a piece of glass to make a table top and turn these two stands into a 4.5-foot wide console table. I am excited about the prospect of displaying a photo or even un objet d'art. Or maybe I'll go plant shopping and fill the new table from end to end and find myself back where I started. This is of course according to the houseplant corollary to Parkinson's Law: The number of houseplants increases to match the amount of available surface area in the house.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

December: Coldest day since February

The greyhound puts on a lot of miles just looking for her morning pee-spot

Today we had a high temp of something like 5 degrees.  I peeked out the window at the snow and remembered that I never did bring the hose in.  I should do that one of these days.

Houseplant season is in full swing and I love it!  Unfortunately I'm contending with more problems than ever before, possibly because I have more plants than ever before, and from more sources.  The Stromanthe has mealybugs, which I've been attacking with a flashlight and alcohol with good results so far.

The Alocasia has spider mites and is also losing its older leaves just for fun.  And the Clerodendrum x speciosum appears to have thrips, of all crazy things.  What a great word, "thrips."  One thrips, two thrips, a hundred thrips!  The Clerodendrum is doing terribly and I should just pitch it but it's not a plant I see for sale often so I don't want to give up.  And yet just as I typed that sentence I realized I'm being silly and it's getting tossed tomorrow.  Goodbye, Mr. Thrips!  (ugh...I swear I didn't plan that)

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My Saintpaulia collection has recently grown from one to five plants.  One thing I've learned from my fellow bloggers:  if you're good at a certain plant, might as well own a lot of them.

The other major problem is fungus gnats.  I've done everything I was supposed to and yet there are gnats flying up our noses, landing in our water glasses, and generally making nuisances of themselves.  It's hard to believe they're coming from the plants since I don't see them on the soil when I water, and yet where else could they be breeding?!  I finally sucked it up and bought a bag of Bt from Gardens Alive.  First of three weekly treatments was Monday.  I have my fingers crossed because the next step is a bug bomb and nobody wants that.

Tradescantia zebrina 'Red Hill' cuttings.  The root hairs are so beautiful I want to pet them.

Senecio rowleyanus.  I killed one of these earlier in the year but am vowing to ignore this one for its own good.

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