Sunday, January 31

January Birth Notice (Meyer Lemon!)

Okay, this is technically a multiple birth notice, since I have more than one baby lemon... but they all seem to be on different branches, so I can only take a photo of one at a time.  But I'm very excited about ALL of my new babies.

On the downside, eagle-eyed gardeners may notice the presence of little green aphids on the stem below the new baby.  I didn't notice those until after I took the photo, but they are were only on a couple of stems and I don't see any of the telltale "honeydew" on any leaves just yet.  So I'll be taking care of them (hopefully) with a daily spraying of the leaves to knock them all off... thank goodness that I have one of those pullout spray nozzles on my kitchen sink to make that Rx a little bit easier!

Saturday, January 23

Winter in Madagascar: Darwin Orchids, Voodoo Lilies, and "Crack Plants"

It hasn't just been my own garden (and housecleaning!) that have fallen by the wayside this year.  I haven't been able to spend near as much time volunteering at the Botanical Garden as I would have liked.  So on Thursday, during a rare day off, I decided that I needed a little dirt therapy more than I needed extra sleep or time to vacuum... and I headed east to put in a few hours at the glasshouse.  Little did I know what excitement awaited me!

Before we get to that, though, I have to show another photo of the HUGE Bismarck palm that always leaves me a little bit in awe:

See the little window in the "cliff face" in front of the Bismarckia?  The glasshouse also includes some native denizens of Madagascar, like these two yellow plated lizards:

Okay, you're right, one photo of the Bismarck palm isn't really enough.  This second one shows how friendly it is... see it getting all touchy-feeling with its (sometimes prickly) neighbors?

Alright, alright.  I know.  Time to move on.  Let's go to another one of my other favorite areas of the Madagascar Glasshouse.  Here's the "reef" that Joe built for this past summer's feature on succulents:

I was a little surprised to see it still existed (sans a few large potted succulents that filled the two gaps you see in the front) but Joe said that it was pretty popular, so it will probably stay and just be reworked.  A few of  the plants in it are currently blooming:

Above the reef, you can see some of the many plant pockets that were built into the plateau/cliff faces.  When Joe leaves me directions to water these, he calls them the "crevice plants" or something else a little more proper, but I am amused to think of them as "crack plants" instead.  See the little square thing on the wall in the right side of the photo?  That's a moisture sensor of some kind... I'm not sure what they do, really, I just know that I have to be careful not to water them or they'll be ruined.

Some more crazy crack plants for you to enjoy:

Yes, those last four photos show the same pachypodium in flower.  I couldn't decide which photo I liked the best, so I posted  them all!  By the way, don't some of these "crack garden" succulents remind you of sea creatures, too?  This looks like a bunch of lobster claws all strung together:

I love the delicate beauty and varying colors of the euphorbia blooms.  Here are a few more, followed by a whole pot of them set out for Christmas decor:

Until you turn the corner, you might think that this gorgeous urn full of the Darwin orchid, angraecum sesquipedale (an-GRY-kum ses-kwee-PEE-dahl) must be the piece de resistance of the potted  plants in the glasshouse today:

This gorgeous orchid has a 12-inch-long nectar spur, which led Charles Darwin to theorize that it must have a pollinator with a 12-inch-long proboscis.  (Hence its common name of "The Darwin Orchid.")  Recently, this moth was discovered by humans, proving Darwin right.  But his orchid still isn't the most interesting potted plant in the garden.  These plants win that contest, if only by a nose:

 I know...  *groan*... but I just had to indulge my punny bone and go for the cheap laugh!  These are, of course, amorphophallus.  Also called corpse flowers, voodoo lilies, and all kinds of other interesting names, you definitely smell them before you see them.  But when you see them, you can't help but be fascinated by these Seussian beauties.  Here are a few more (fragrance-free) looks:

So how bad did they smell in person?  REALLY bad.  Like a whole sack of rotting potatoes with a little bit of country roadkill thrown in.  I kept thinking that I would get used to it while I was cleaning up these pretty blooming kalanchoe of a few mildewy leaves...

... but I didn't.  Just when I thought I was winning the "mind over matter" match, I'd get a fresh whiff of eau de rotting flesh and felt my nose wrinkle in reaction.  So let's just take one more closer look at the kalanchoe blooms (oops, the plant formerly known as a kalanchoe, I mean--I think that Joe said this one got shifted around on the botanical family tree recently) and then move on:

As I mentioned earlier, there are some creatures included in the Madagascar exhibit, and not all of them are behind plated glass.  Just past the tortoise enclosure is one of the bird feeders that starts out clean and full at the beginning of each day... and it was here that I finally--FINALLY--captured one of the tiny birds stealing a late afternoon snack:

A baby bird in the Costa Rican rainforest glasshouse had fallen out of its nest in the late afternoon and had to receive some attention from Joe.  But in a happier wildlife encounter... I got to water this girl today:

See her in the middle of the frame, facing left?  She's one of the chameleons on exhibit (they're switched in and out of the exhibit, one at a time) and while I was working, she had climbed down much closer to the pathway.  Joe let me water her--which basically involves spraying her with a fine mist until she either starts drinking the beads that form on her snout or walks away to let you know she isn't having any of this watering business.

I have to say that was the highlight of my Thursday afternoon at the Botanical Garden!  All in all, the time spent volunteering did me good on a great many levels.  It will be a couple of weeks before I have a day off again... but when the next day off comes, I pretty much know where I will be.  :)

Sunday, January 17

Foliage Follow-Up - January 2010

Outside, there are still a few areas of interesting foliage to showcase for Foliage Follow-Up, like the pink hues of 'The Blues' little bluestem shown below.  In the front yard, the oakleaf hydrangea's leaves are dry and curled but still look interesting.  And 'Chubby Fingers' green sedum peeks out vibrantly from a receding blanket of snow.

'The Blues' little bluestem next to orange-berried pyracantha. In the interest of full disclosure, this pic was taken earlier in the winter, before the last few heavy snowstorms.  Today's photos of the bluestem all came out too blurry to post, but the pink blades are still as shockingly pretty next to the pyracantha... just a little more horizontal!

But the real foliage show for this northern gardener is happening indoors.  Here, in no particular order, are a few highlights:

A huge jade plant with an interesting backstory--coming soon, I promise--towering over a fancy hoya with some of the largest leaves I've ever seen.  I think it's a variegated hoya kerrii, but am not 100% sure on that ID. To give you an idea of the scale, green jade pot is 18" in diameter.

An orchid cactus that I rescued from the clearance table at the garden center where I work part time. The rest of it still looks like it's "recovering" but this newish red shoot is encouraging.

"We're not gonna take it..."  Detail from sansevieria 'Twisted Sister'

From left:  Thanksgiving cactus planted in an old cast birdbath with shell mulch, a passalong blue agave (which is throwing out a new pup!) from Joe (my boss at the CBG glasshouse when I volunteer,) a funky lipstick plant in a tall tom pot, and purple cordyline with various pieces of succulents scattered around its base for rooting.

(For those who are especially observant, the green-and-gold leaves in the lower right corner of the photo above are from a variegated ginger that I am also overwintering here on my stair landing.)

Staged on a trashpicked end table at the top of the same stairs:  Trailing sedum, leaves from the jewel orchid that has been flowering for more than a month now, and the smooth pot of the ficus shown below.

I love the undersides of these ficus leaves.  They remind me of a magnolia or something, all soft and rich-looking.

More experiments in overwintering:  A multi-colored phormium anchors a pot with marjoram, asparagus fern, sedum and 'Icicles' helichrysum.

I don't know why, but I like the impressionistic quality of this blurry helichrysum/phormium photo a lot... so I'm sharing it, too.

I do NOT like that this photo is blurry, but I couldn't get a clear picture of the sedum spathulifolium 'Carnea' in natural light--and using the flash washed it out.  So this is the best I can do to show off its glowing beauty.  Next year, I hope to have enough of this to divide--part will come inside to overwinter, and the rest will stay outside to see whether it comes back here a la 'Cape Blanco.'  Hardiness reports online vary, so I didn't want to take a chance with my little specimen this year.

Hybrid paphiopedilum (a 'Macabre' cross) that enjoys showcasing its speckled leaves on my grandma's milk glass cake stand.  To keep this vignette on grandma's marble-topped wash stand from looking too old-fashioned, I added a bright art glass vase from the thrift store--and there's an old church music sign (the kind you put hymn numbers on) hanging behind with random photographs.

Detail from one of the leaves of a variegated monstera that lives in my kitchen.  See the 'Autumn' philodendron leaves below it?

And a fuller view of a single monstera leaf.  This is another thing that I picked up at the garden center this year... one of those weird and cool plants that the devil on your shoulder knows you're going to buy... even as the angel on your other shoulder protests, "But really, Kim... where on earth are you going to keep a monstera?!?!"

Okay,  so that was more than just "a few highlights"... but photos are like plants for me.  Sometimes, I just can't stop!

Hope you all are enjoying this mid-January weekend.  And yes, really, the story of the "Jade Plant from Hell" (the name comes from its previous owner, not me!) will be posted soon.
I resolve promise.

Friday, January 15

Garden Boggers' Bloom Day: January 2010

Here is the only "new" bloom for January 2010... a delicate, beautiful, passalong abutilon from Kylee at Our Little Acre, which she graciously shared with me when I was lucky enough to visit her this summer:

There are a few other blooms gracing my house right now, including a dragon wing begonia and abutilon megapotanicum that are supposed to be dormant in the attic, and the zygopetalum that I showed off last month.  But outside, this is as close to a "flowering plant" as I can get:

Yeah, blogging wasn't the only thing that I allowed to fall by the wayside this year.  I didn't get nearly as many fruits and vegetables planted this year--and some of what did get planted, I failed to harvest.

My Gardening Resolution for 2010 is twofold:
To be a better "urban farmer," and to be a better garden blogger.
The former will simply require a dedication of time to planning and planting, and I can definitely handle that.  The latter will be more difficult, as I sometimes feel like I have said everything already and simply don't have any new and fresh ideas for posts.

If you have any ideas or words of encouragement for me in my resolution, feel free to leave them below.  And make sure to check out May Dreams Gardens and Carol's January 2010 Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post for links to what's blooming all around the world today!