Monday, February 8, 2016

Aquatic Plants for Betta Bachelor Pads

Since my last post about my Betta fish (aka Siamese Fighting Fish), I may have purchased a few more.

All you have to do is look at the plant stand in the window to see that the houseplants have disappeared and the Betta bachelor pads have increased.

Today, I want to introduce some of the plants I keep with the Bettas.

Bettas do enjoy plants to lounge about on in their living space. The bowls I use are on the smaller size, so I do weekly water changes to keep them happy and maintain good water conditions. We are fortunate to have good water quality right out of the tap here in Portland.

The height of the container also restricts some of the plants I can use. Several of the taller vases at the top of the stand have Amazon Sword plants (Echinodorus amazonicus) in them.

Below are the three true aquatic plants I have had the most luck with, although your results may vary.


Anubias is a slow growing African genius of aquatic plants named for Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld. 

They have broad thick leathery leaves, generally grow in low light, and are suitable for most fresh water conditions.  

Anubias barteri, Anubias nana, and Anubias nangi are common varieties often seen in aquarium stores. The plants vary in size, some being quite large and some dwarf (2-6" tall).

A small potted plant might cost $6 and a large potted plant $25 or more. Look for healthy plants with nice unblemished leaves (no algae) and thick rhizomes.

Anubias come in different sizes.
Anubia have a flower similar to a tiny underwater Calla Lily or Peace Lily, but it's not much to look at.

Plants can be tied to a rock or piece of driftwood to help keep them submerged. Leaves will sometimes grow out of the water too and will be fine.

I buy plants potted and generally remove the pot and glass fiber "soil" they come packed in from the aquarium store and half submerge the roots in the gravel. The top of the rhizome should always be above the gravel line.

Plants with multiple rhizomes can be carefully cut apart with a sharp knife and planted separately.

Tina (the only girl) and Anubias

Anubias - there is a flower bud in the middle back.

Horacio just chilling

Java Fern

Microsorum pteropus, aka Java Fern is from Indonesia. There are several different kinds sometimes available at the aquarium store. I have the best luck with this smaller sized one.

They cost about $5-7 for a little piece. It seems like a lot of $ when you buy it for what you take home. The larger narrow leaf and trident varieties can cost more.

Sizes vary, growing to 4-8" tall, with a creeping rhizome. It likes moderate light and does well in poorer light and water conditions.

Java Fern reproduces by making adventitious plants on the tips of its leaves. Eventually the baby plants get large enough that they can be separated. I move the babies around to different bowls as needed.

The Betta Boys tend to uproot these, so they are generally free floating in the bowls, which is exactly what the plants like anyway.

Plants can be tied bare root to driftwood or to a rock if desired to keep them in place.

Romeo with Java Fern

Java Moss

Vesicularia dubyana, aka Java Moss, is one of the easiest plants to grow in a Betta bowl. It is native to SE Asia. 

It doesn't require much care, but enjoys warm (70 to 75 degree) water and good light.

Java moss also likes to float in the bowls, or it can be attached to a rock or piece of driftwood with fishing line.

It can be a prolific grower and sometimes needs some tough love removal. It is easy to pull the strands apart in big clumps to place in another bowl or to replace less healthy clumps. Sometimes you just have to throw some of it away.

If the light is too high, Java Moss can get algae on it, making it unattractive. Time to throw it away then.

Jean-Luc with Java Moss

One last piece of advice, is to please be sure you're purchasing an actual aquatic plant for your Betta bowl. Sometimes the big box pet stores will package house plants that are not true aquatics and sell them as aquarium plants. These plants die a slow watery death and that's not good for the plant or your fish.

Please give these plants a try, your Betta fish will be very happy!


Sword plant

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Oh Crap!

Sure feels good getting out in the garden!

I was out there this weekend for many hours, dodging the sprinkles and the showers when I could. If it was just sprinkling, I stayed out. 

I'm still cleaning up fall mess. I'm past the "big chunks" phase.

I would say, I'm halfway to getting the beds looking pretty decent. But it still feels a little too early. Also with everything soaked, it's a little hard to get some things cleaned up. I have to peel layers of compressed leaves off the top of the bark mulch by hand. It's a soggy mess.

I've been dragging around my big blue handled bucket, filling it with handfuls of leaves and what not. Trimming down plants here and there. Doing some selective pruning too.  I'm trying to get a sense of what needs to be done this year. 

I found some good things while wondering the yard, but there are definitely a couple things I didn't need to know about.

The snowdrops are up, doing their duty to make me happy and make it feel like spring. 

My early peony is poking it's head out. I always love it's little pink clove scented blooms. 

Paeonia mascula (Balkan Peony)

Even the Mouse Tails are blooming, which seems really odd. The leaves are from the adjacent Daphne bholua that aborted some leaves after our last bad weather. 

Arisarum proboscideum (Mouse Plant)

The two big Daphne and Skimmia are both ready to explode into bloom. There are a crazy number of buds on the Daphne.
Daphne odora 'Zuiko Nishiki'

Skimmia japonica

Agave bracteosa 'Calamar'

A happy Agave and Chief Joseph is looking fine and yellow, but in a good way. 

Pinus contorta 'Chief Joseph'

The fish are hungry and active. 

The Sarcoccaca is fragrant with lots of little seedling babies popping up. I'll have to pull them out, but I'll save the largest babies to give away or relocate. 

Sarcococca ruscifolia (Fragrant Sarcococca)
Trachycarpus wagnerianus (Dwarf Windmill Palm)

This palm was moved last fall and seems to be happy. It was hidden under a barberry before. 

On the bad side, my front gate is about to fall apart. Many of the boards are rotted and the nails are pulling out. 

One Osmanthus has gotten funny. Not quite sure what to do with it? The back side died out. It's been doing this for a while really. It's just more noticeable in winter. If I cut the front to match, I'll have a lollipop shrub.

Osmanthus delavayi (Delavay Osmanthus)

The Agave babies seem to have been injured by the cold spell we had. Some of the leaves have turned dark and squishy. The babies will be fine, it will just take them a while to make new leaves. 

Agave parryi var. parryi
The ugly is bad! I don't want to think about it...

There are big sections of my fence that need replaced. Another pole is completely rotted at the base. Many of the upright boards are rotted at the ground. I'm afraid of what having to replace this fence will cost and I can only imagine workers stomping all over my plants in the process.

My lawn looks like hell... Don't tell anyone, but I think I might have grubs!  Huge areas are patchy and dead. I even have a lawn service, which makes me feel like I might be wasting my money when I see it like this. 

The rain or perhaps bugs have done a number on the lawn!

I guess I will take the ugly one step at a time. 

At least there are more good things than bad. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter Frogs?

Sunday was our first bad winter weather of the season.

The day started off pleasant enough. I was sipping my morning coffee on the sofa and watching the flurries start.

It wasn't much. It was "cute" snow.

The gods above were just tossing snow around like pizzeria Parmesan cheese out of the shaker.

Nothing to worry about really.

As I looked out the window at the cute little sleeping Redbud tree, I could hear my resident frogs croaking.

It's snowing and my frogs are croaking outside? They are Pseudacris regilla (Pacific Chorus Frogs) and they seem to stay around all year.

If my assistant Yvette had been home, she would have head tilted and then started running around barking at the air like a crazy pooch, wondering where the croaking was coming from. 

The ponds have been frozen for more than a week, after a weeks worth of weather in the 20s. So I was surprised they were awake and making noise.

In my mind, I'm sure the frogs were singing "Do you want to build a snowman?", just like Anna from Frozen.

Later on the snow turned to rain and the rain to ice. For once I didn't "plant" panic. I didn't cover a single plant in the yard.

I just crossed my fingers and let mother nature do her thing.

Mother Agave (Agave parryi var. parryi )

Poor Grevillea x 'Neil Bell' with frozen flower buds
Cercis canadensis 'Merlot' (Eastern Redbud)
Osmanthus x Fortunei 'San José' bent over
Shedteau Yvette's first snow scene
Trachycarpus fortunei (Windmill Palm)
Pieris japonica 'Valley Valentine' (Lily of the Valley Shrub)

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Hand of Buddha

David, the gardener at my office, was kind enough to bring me a Buddha Hand - Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis. Also called a 佛手 (Fuo Shou) in Chinese. He knows I'm a plant nerd with a love for weird things.

Curious coworkers have been asking me what it is and I like to tell them it's a "Frankenstein Squid Lemon." What it really is, is an ornamental Citrus.

It has a beautiful aroma, it's not quite like a normal lemon, but more like floral citrus flowers. It easily perfumes the area around my desk just sitting on the counter top.

They are often used in temples or on shrines as offerings to the gods or Buddha. The fingers of the citrus are said to resemble the hand of Buddha.

Having spent time in China and living in Taiwan, the smell of this fruit always takes me back. I would often see and smell them at the temples I would visit. One temple in particular, Longshan Temple, was near my near my home in Taipei. I would visit often just to soak it all in and commune with the gods. Longshan has a god for every need. 
Longshan Temple 龍山寺 - My favorite temple in Taiwan.
An alter with offerings at Longshan Temple.

It is an auspicious fruit representing good fortune, happiness and long life.

These fruits are not like regular lemons, as they are mostly peel and pith and not juicy at all. The rind can be used to flavor foods and alcoholic drinks and it can be candied. I think it's often used in traditional holiday fruitcake - The lead bomb Christmas kind.

If you see one at the store, be sure to check it out.

At least give it a sniff.

You might get some funny looks, but it's worth it.

Everything is better with googly eyes!

After a few days, my Frankenstein Squid Lemon got soft and was clearly on its way to rotting. 

I pried it in half and opened it up to expose the pithy interior. Not much in there, as you can see.

My squid lemon had now turned into a "crab lemon".

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fall - Here We Are Again

Oh Fall...

I have to say, I haven't missed you much.

While on the one hand, I'm glad the hot and dry summer is over, I sure wish the other hand didn't have a rake in it.

Juglans nigra (Black Walnut) making a mess of things.

I haven't been blogging much.

I'm uninspired these days.

And quite frankly, I'm sitting out fall rainy days in the garden, trying only to get done what I can on the weekends or by streetlight. I have to have something in the compost bin on garbage day or I feel like I have failed.

With the year almost over, I feel good about all the changes in the garden this year.

The patio went in and the area around the patio received several shrubs that were already in the yard, but needed moved to a better location. The rest of the space was filled in with more perennial flowers and peonies. 

The Shedteau was built, painted, finished in the interior and decorated. It's now a little cabin oasis in the backyard and getting lots of use.

I bought more trees in one year than I probably should have. (4 - Lagerstroemia, 2 - Eucryphia, 1- x Gordlinia grandiflora). I will have the joy of watching these little baby trees grow up in the coming years.

I took out enough lawn/grass to feel like I expanded the garden in a thoughtful way. 

My eye is already on a few garden projects for next year. I'll mull them over for a while. 

Hamamelis virginiana (American Witchhazel)
For now, I'm counting the weeks until the Winter Solstice (December 22nd), watching the days get shorter until then.

I'm glad the Holidays get in the way this time of year. A whirlwind of holiday cheer is a good distraction.

I'll be inspired again by spring.

I promise!

"One love. One heart."
Callicarpa americana being beautiful.
Daphne x transatlantica 'Eternal Fragrance' is still full of summer blooms.
A floppy Chrysanthemum 'First Light'